Monday, August 30, 2010

Glorious Morning

Red Kite
I love these cloudless crisp autumnal like mornings, not the very least because I can see the cobwebs before I walk into them! Up with the Larks as they say, pity there aren't any around at the moment, and I decided to take a pre-dawn look around the marina before heading off to Napton Hill, staying local today.

As I set foot off the boat the first thing to hit was the stiff northerly breeze which made my decision to wear fleece, gloves and hat a wise one. The waning moon was still pretty high up and the Draycote Reservoir Gulls were already starting to pass overhead on route to their feeding grounds as the sun was about to rise. I checked the adjacent fields and had good views of Barn Owl which regularly quarters them, our resident Little Owls were also calling but quite distant this morning. Our roosting Pied Wagtails were already out and about and I counted around 30 as I made my way to the top carpark. Reed Bunting are still around in the surrounding Phragmites but today there was no sign of Sedge Warbler, which I think may now have departed south.

The walk around the church yard at Napton had good numbers of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler once again, around 20 feeding in the surrounding trees, amongst them were 2 Goldcrest. I took the walk up to the windmill, having a good scan of 'Big Field' on route and located the usual roosting Buzzard on a distant fence plus Mistle Thrush, and with the weather being so crystal clear had some glorious views of the surrounding counties when I finally emerged at the top. I was also somewhat amazed to see a chap flying a para-glider this early in the morning which came overhead before heading off towards Coventry.

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Linnet, Whitethroat, Bullfinch, Blackcap and Goldfinch were all noted and as I reached the bottom overlooking the quarry area 2 Raven came cronking overhead. At the bottom of the waste ground a small flooded area has appeared and I was happy to see 2 Snipe feeding near the edge, a further scan also produced 2 Yellow Wagtail which flew as soon as I made contact. At least 4 Kestrel were hunting the area around the canal and a Buzzard also came gliding across but didn't seem too interested in the hunt.

On my trip back up the hill to the windmill I noticed some Badger activity down below, but the best of the day was when I reached the top once more, and looking across a final time noticed a Red Kite heading across from the Napton Reservoir direction, looking stunning in the bright sunshine. Sadly no sign of any Spotted Flycatchers today having had 6 yesterday but the Red Kite certainly made up for it!

Arriving back at the marina around 8.15am a quick scan located several of our resident Tree Sparrow and a couple of Tufted Duck had dropped in but flew off as I walked back to the boat for breakfast.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Birding Frenzy

Pectoral Sandpiper (Library Picture)
Since arriving back from France on Wednesday evening I've continued somewhat of a birding frenzy by making three visits to Brandon Marsh, spending an afternoons sky watch at the marina, a dawn trip to Napton Hill and a twitch at Eyebrook Reservoir this morning! Amazingly, I've also found time to completely upgrade the Conservation Team Blog, which for interest can be viewed here.

After a lay in on the Thursday morning I joined the Brandon Volunteers on a really appalling day to begin the clearing of vegetation on the East Marsh Islands and banks. Despite the weather a good turnout of regulars managed to complete Wigeon Bank and both Willow and Tern Islands. However, more work is still required to clear the remaining Islands and to also clear the area in front of the main hide. More disruption I'm afraid this coming Thursday September 2nd, but the views for visitors once completed will be to their advantage.

Friday I decided to take a closer look nearer home having watched a Green Sandpiper flying up and down the marina early morning while changing a gas bottle. I spent what turned out to be a a very lucrative afternoon on the end of my pontoon sky watching looking for any visible signs of migration. I was truly rewarded with hundreds of House Martin, Swallow and a number of Sand Martin passing through, the main highlights of my count were: 1 Arctic Tern, 6 Common Tern, 6 Swift, 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Common Sandpiper and although not seen, at least 1 Ringed Plover heard overhead, I'll certainly be doing this again.

Saturday a visit to Brandon Marsh and despite the lack of Waders, more likely due to the River Avon running quite high and flooding Teal Pool, I did manage Hobby, Water Rail, 4 Snipe and a single Wigeon, which dropped in on East Marsh Pool early morning.

Today I began with Napton Hill at sunrise hoping once again for that spectacular migrant that might just drop in! Sufficed to say it did not, nevertheless an excellent start to my day with at least 6 Spotted Flycatcher around the church area, a very noisy Raven, Treecreeper, GoldCrest, Coal Tit and many House Martin and Swallows. A walk to the windmill and down to the quarry produced 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Sand Martin, singing Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, Bullfinch, Grey Wagtail and some very active Kestrels, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard.

Kentish Plover (Library Picture)
On to Brandon Marsh and I arrived just in time to witness a Peregrine flying on to East Marsh Pool to threaten what was probably around 400 or so Lapwing, fortunately for the Lapwing he left empty handed. A Common Sandpiper on the Island next to the Baldwin Hide, 4 Swift, 4 Snipe, 1 Wigeon and a Green Sandpiper at Carlton Hide, which I didn't venture down to see, were the other highlights.

As it was reasonably quiet at Brandon myself and a couple of the Sunday chaps decided to twitch the reported Kentish Plover currently showing at Eyebrook Reservoir. Around 45-minutes later we'd joined around 40 or so bodies at the site and had immediate excellent views of both Kentish Plover and a Pectoral Sandpiper which was also showing well. We stayed for around another 45-minutes and logged, along with excellent numbers of Wildfowl, 5 Juvenile Shelduck, at least 8 Yellow Wagtail, many Dunlin and Ringed Plover plus
Common Sandpiper, we left just as a Sparrowhawk had wreaked havoc amongst the large Lapwing flock.

To end the day a coffee back at Brandon Nature Centre turned up a Spotted Flycatcher which was showing very well in the trees behind the centre feeders!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reserve de Cherine - France

Cattle Egrets
The Brenne is a patchwork of fishponds, heaths and red sandstone outcrops. Looking very natural, it's landscape has however been transformed by man, as early as the Middle Ages. Today with more than 2000 man made lakes, traditionally used for farm-fishing, the Brenne is of international importance for it's rich wildlife. The area has many hides and natural trails all waiting to be explored.

This was our second visit to the area but arriving in late August we weren't expecting the cacophony of noise that we experienced last year in early June, with the colonies of nesting Black-headed Gulls, Whiskered and Black Terns now mostly departed. With such a big area to explore we decided to re-visit the specific locations we'd discovered last year, and in particular the Reserve Naturelle de Cherine.

Our first stop was a raised hide at Etang (man-made lake) De La Gabriere which affords good views of the lake and surrounding reed bed. European Pond Tortoise are quite common to this area and a number were basking in the warm sunshine on  the raised logs quite close to the hide. A Kingfisher arrived much to the delight of the photographers ( "le magnifique"), it was like a french version of the Carlton Hide at Brandon! We spent around another 15-minutes and had good views of Great White Egret, Sedge Warbler, a few lingering Black and Whiskered Terns plus Black-necked Grebe. On the small scrape to the left of the hide were 5 Black-tailed Godwit, several White Wagtail and 2 Wheatear.

Walking down many tracks Dee spent most of her time chasing various Butterflies camera in hand, and when something moved within the undergrowth she was there instantly, patiently waiting for whatever disturbed it. We have some excellent record shots of Butterfly which include Silver-Washed Fritillary, Short-Tailed Blue and Grizzled Skipper, plus a number of which have yet to be identified. We also have an excellent record of a lizard as yet unknown, see if you can spot him pictured above.

We arrived at our second destination at Etang Du Gabriere and the walk down to the hide produced Stonechat, Wheatear, Corn Bunting, at least a dozen Yellow Wagtail and a single Black Kite overhead. Just prior to entering the hide there is an excellent area to view the hundreds of Common Green Frogs which sit quite happily in the mud. Last year the Gulls and Terns were in full voice, but today was a peaceful visit with most nesting birds recently departed. On show were all three Egrets, Great, Little and Cattle, which were in constant contact with the grazing cows. Swallow were in great numbers merrily skimming the water and we managed 2 Red-rumped amongst them, House Martins were less prolific but in decent numbers. Swift were not in great numbers but we did manage several.

Purple Heron
On the lake were eclipse Garganey, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, plus a few Pochard and Teal were also present along with with Grey and Purple Heron, good numbers of Great Crested Grebe too. Also recorded of note during our stay were Green Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Snipe, Redstart, Cetti's Warbler, and Cirl Bunting. In other areas of our short trip to France we managed, Short-toed Treecreeper, Tree Pipit, Goldcrest and Honey Buzzard, which are widespread in Brenne and seen frequently.

Back in the UK today with a bump, spent the whole morning with the Conservation Team at Brandon Marsh cutting the summer growth vegetation off the Islands and Banks. Hopefully now when the rarities drop in we'll once again be able to see them!

Monday, August 23, 2010

La Pinail - France

Aerial view of Pinail
Pinail Nature Reserve is situated about 10 miles from the wifes parents house in St Radegonde and is in the Ch√Ętellerault area, this is the only Natural Reserve of France to be found in the district known as La Vienne.

The result of millstone quarrying has given way to a mosaic of 3,000 ponds which are surrounded by moor and heathland rich in rare fauna and flora. Amongst the many bird species you can find here such as Montague, Hen Harrier and Dartford Warbler are 48 species of dragonflies.

After breakfast we took the drive down to Pinail, the weather forecast for the day wasn't looking too good with prolonged periods of rain and quite a strong wind. On arrival the site was extremely quiet, apart from the many Gatekeeper Butterfly and Common Frog, which can be found resting atop the water lily on most pools. We took the main path which passes through the centre of the reserve and gives excellent views of the surrounding heath and moor, on our last visit in June 2009 the area was awash with Linnet and Stonechat, but not today!

Today the birding was extremely hard work, probably down to the weather conditions, but after a slow start our efforts were rewarded with some good views of Osprey, flying quite low over the pools before disappearing behind a small copse. Linnet, female Whinchat, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Hobby and Stonchat were the only other species of note recorded with no record of either Harrier, two birds we'd picked up here last year. During our stay the sun did shine on occasions, raising the temperature and humidity quite quickly and bringing out a number of Butterfly and Dragonfly which included Holly Blue, Wall, Purple Hairstreak, Silver-washed Frittilary Butterfly and Migrant Hawker Dragonfly.

After Pinail we took a drive out to some of the other birding areas we've become familiar with within the vicinity, taking all back roads and had some better luck. Arriving in the village of Monthoiron, we came across Wheatear, more Stonechat and although not in song had excellent views of Nightingale. On one recently harvested field we encountered 5 Yellow Wagtail and sitting up on one of the newly chopped stalks was a nice looking Black Redstart. While we were parked at the side of the road a Sparrowhawk flew straight toward the car inches from the road surface giving some tremendous views before making off into the distance.

On the road back to the house we suddenly spotted what at first sight looked like a Gull sitting in the middle of a field, but after turning around to investigate we were amazed to see an almost completely white Buzzard type species. I'm aware that Common Buzzard come in all colours, particularly the young, but this was by far the whitest bird I've ever seen, after much research I came to the conclusion that it simply couldn't have been anything other than Common Buzzard.

Finally, one absolute bolt out of the blue and totally unexpected was located quite by chance sitting in the middle of sparse open ground quite close to Dee's parents house, and that was the unmistakable sight of a Stone Curlew, what a way to finish what I thought was a slow birding day.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mixed Day

Marsh Tit at Brandon Marsh
Out and about early this morning, firstly on Napton Hill and then on to Brandon Marsh. Napton's visit was a windy affair with a strong south-westerly coming in, followed shortly after my arrival by nasty heavy drizzle, it was also feeling quite humid too.

Napton produced at least 200 mixed Swallow and House Martin, brought down I suspect by the low cloud, and good numbers too of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff in and around the church yard feeding on the Elder and Blackberries, a lone Goldcrest was amongst them. Other notables seen during my short visit were Bullfinch, Nuthatch and Treecreeper, no sign today of Raven or Spotted Flycatcher but the weather was not helping and so I cut short my stay.

My trip to Brandon was not uneventful as when coming through Birdingbury I ended up with a nearside rear puncture, I arrived some 45-minutes later, not in the best of moods. Brandon remains reasonably quiet and I personally missed 2 Ruff by seconds which arrived briefly on East Marsh Pool last Tuesday, I also noticed 3 in the book for Monday, strange I missed these too as I was there for several hours myself. As with Napton Swallows and House Martins were plentiful, plus the addition of Sand Martin and 5 Swift, now well into their Autumn migration, were also noted. On the pools the only other species of note were 3 Snipe with Teal and Shoveler numbers continuing to build, around 300 Lapwing too. The best of the day was my first Marsh Tit at Brandon, when Jim Rushforth and I picked one up amongst a flock of tits in New Hare Covert, quite a rare visitor with only 3 records this year.

A walk around Farm Field produced more Butterfly than I expected with today's weather and included Common Blue, Small Copper (pictured left) and Small Heath, I'd picked up Green-vein White and Speckled Wood Earlier.

It's bed early for me tonight with a flight at 6am tomorrow morning for a 4 day birding break in France which I'm really looking forward to.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back with a Bump!

Napton Windmill
After yesterdays excellent and unexpected birding afternoon at West Kirby an early morning look locally at Napton Hill for migrants drew a blank, with the exception of two juvenile Spotted Flycatcher seen around the church yard.

The usual Raven was cronking away when I arrived and the large Pine Tree to the left of the church grounds entrance produced several Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and a single Goldcrest. The walk down from the windmill to the quarry was interrupted when I went arse over tit in the mud, fortunately no one was around to witness the phenomenon, in fact I don't really know why I'm mentioning it, if I hadn't you would never have known! Other species of interest around the 'Hill' were Mistle Thrush, Bullfinch, Whitethroat, Buzzard, Nuthatch and when I passed the church back to the car House Martins and Swallows were in good numbers.

A business trip into London in the early afternoon reminded me of how lucky I am to be living where I do. Firstly my 11.29 train was cancelled, the next one was then running 55-minutes late and then I finally had to abandon going directly to Marylebone and ended up going via Reading, which was a trauma in itself. Packed with families who had to scramble for the few remaining seats, loud business types booming into their phones, and adolescence being texted every 2 minutes, some with the weirdest ringtones! Thank god this 'grumpy old man' is back aboard now, even though it's pouring down outside and the wind is getting up, lovely.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Unsheduled Afternoon!

Manx Shearwater
Being the dutiful son I usually pay a fortnightly visit to my dear mother in Liverpool, my home town and a place where I spent many hours birding and egg collecting as a kid. Before I get any emails in relation to egg collecting, please remember that I was very young and naive, education is a wonderful thing!

Today though as luck would have it, (mum had visitors), I was able to escape to some of my old birding haunts, and so given this golden opportunity I scarpered to the coast near West Kirby, and what a stunning afternoon I had too.

West Kirby for those who are not familiar with this part of the country is a town on the north-west corner of the coast on the Wirral Peninsula, situated at the mouth of the River Dee and across from the Point of Ayr in North Wales. It's a place where I've spent many happy hours as a youth, particularly walking out to Hilbre Island at low tide, but strangely enough I've not visited for several years.

Arctic Skua with Arctic Tern
When I arrived at the particular area I used as a sea-watch point nothing much seems to have changed after all this time, and after a wander around checking out the tidal area, unfortunately only armed with my binoculars, I managed to pick out at least 75 Black-tailed Godwit, along with 3 Greenshank several Oystercatcher and 11 Redshank. My day got even better a short time later when I met and hooked up with Dave and Steve, a couple of local birders who were armed with scopes, and more importantly up to date information and local knowledge.

I spent an absolutely fantastic three hours with these amazing guys and would like to thank them for letting me tag along, and for the use of their scopes. We began with a sea-watch recording in flight 3 Manx Shearwater, 1 Arctic Skua, 3 Arctic Tern, good numbers of Gannet, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, plus more Black-tailed Godwit. In addition 2 Ruff and 1 Spotted Redshank were seen and within the many Gulls, I estimate in the region of 3000 during my stay, we also managed a Mediterranean in almost full summer plumage, my first in the UK for some time!

Finally a visit to Gilroy Nature Park yielded a lingering Wood Sandpiper, 2 Whimbrel, 4 Snipe, 4 Wigeon, good numbers of Ringed Plover and Knot, plus 1 Lesser Whitethroat. Also recorded in various other areas were 3 Tree Pipit, 7 Grey Plover, 15 Little Egret, 2 Wheatear and 2 Common Sandpiper, an absolutely stunning and unscheduled afternoon out and one to cherish.

Pictures courtesy of Dave Simkins and Steve Piper.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Migration Watch

Raven @ Napton
Since arriving back into the marina on Friday I've spent a good deal of my birding time trying to locate any more migrants that might be passing through the area, the Whimbrel heard passing overhead while watching the Persieds on Thursday night was a definite bonus.

Fortunately for me the marina is located quite near Napton Reservoir and not too far from Draycote Water and affords good panoramic views, so I'm in a prime location for anything passing by. Many House Martins and Swallows are already coming through in large groups each day and I've already registered six Common Tern and one Arctic, along with Spotted Flycatcher and Wheatear on the nearby Napton Hill.

At Brandon yesterday a Spotted Flycatcher was seen by Jeff Hood perched on one of the dead trees across from the Central Marsh Path, unfortunately by the time he'd got back to the big hide to notify me the bird had moved off. I needn't have worried though as later in the day I had probably the same bird at the rear of River Pool Hide. Away from the migration a juvenile Peregrine visited East Marsh Pool, most likely the same bird as Tuesday's, but try as he might he simply could not pick off any of the 300 or so Lapwing.

This morning after a clear night I was on the top of Napton Hill near the windmill at first light in the hope of something special, but sadly after a two hour stint walking down to the quarry and back, I came away disappointed. Having said that more Ravens were showing with 3 recorded, other notables were 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Nuthatch, 4 Willow Warbler and single Goldcrest, Kestrel and GS Woodpecker. When I got back to the church the sun was well up and Swallow and House Martin were plentiful along with a large group of Starlings which passed through.

After Napton village a brief look at the reservoir, which sadly had nothing of interest, and then a couple of hours down at Brandon in the hope of the already late arriving Greenshank. Brandon though was once again very quiet species wise, with the exception of 2 Green Sandpiper and 5 Snipe, the numbers of Teal and Shoveler are now beginning to grow as well. Another visit to Brandon tomorrow to catch up with the Tuesday guys!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Perseids

A Perseid Meteor
Back in the marina after a few days out and I have to say that the weather this morning was akin to winter, I actually wore gloves on the cruise home. Nothing out of the ordinary on the cruise back until I reached the marina entrance when I had a first on the patch with a Spotted Flycatcher, perched nicely for viewing in a tree near the marina entrance. Also around the entrance were the usual small colony of Tree Sparrow.

Well last night was a big surprise weather wise! Watching the heavy showers and thunderstorms rolling in early evening I'd already resigned myself to a blank for the Perseid Meteor Shower. Amazingly though the sky cleared beautifully and we enjoyed a cloudless ninety minutes viewing until around midnight, the peak was due at 4am but I thought we'd get our viewing in now while we had the chance. I've always been interested in astronomy since a very young age and Perseid watching has always been a tradition of mine, unfortunately over the last few years the shower has been disappointing.

Last night however we managed a very respectful 57 meteors in about 90-minutes, with at least a half dozen bright ones producing a two or three second vapour trail. During our watch we also viewed 11 satellites, it must be getting near gridlock up there, and just after 10pm I managed some good scoping views of Jupiter and it's moons rising in the east, the night birding wasn't bad either! A Barn Owl was heard screeching eerily in the distance, a Tawny Owl was also calling and a little migration too with the distinctive call of Whimbrel overhead. What I assume was a Pipistrelle bat also kept us company during the duration of our watch, a very enjoyable if not chilly experience.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Standoff

American Mink
I took the cruise from the marina up to my usual mooring spot near bridge 101 Oxford/Grand Union Canal yesterday afternoon, an open area of countryside which overlooks open fields towards Tibbit's Farm on one side and the disused LNWR railway line on the other, a very idyllic and peaceful location, although the canal traffic at this time of year is at it's peak.

The journey up was very pleasant with the occasional sunny period but strangely enough on this occasion I never managed any Yellowhammer, a bird which more recently has been very common on this stretch of canal. As I passed by Flecknoe Fields Farm at least 100 House Martins were perched on the telephone wires and surrounding farm buildings, a couple of Kestrels, several Linnet and a lone Buzzard were the only other species of note.

This morning I decided to put in a couple of early hours at Brandon Marsh, having placed my car strategically at a nearby bridge, and came face to face with the an American Mink as I set foot off the boat onto the tow path. I'm not sure who was surprised the most but after a few moments standoff  he duly jumped into the canal and made off! I took the back roads passing Grandborough Fields and on into the village in the hope a few Owls but things were particular quiet, the best being Buzzard, Kestrel and a lone Red-legged Partridge, as I passed through Birdingbury the usual House Sparrows were already chirping away.

Brandon was once again particularly quiet, with the exception of three Kingfisher, two Ringed Plover (1Juv) which flew onto East Marsh Pool at around 8am, a single Green Sandpiper was on Carlton Pool. A Water Rail did it's usual run in front of big hide, firstly from the left and then back again a short while later. I did manage a couple of Sparrowhawks too this morning as one came across Teal Pool, and a second went whizzing by my head in pursuit of what looked like a Song Thrush. It was this time last year that Greenshank began to appear on autumn passage and so well worth keeping an eye out, my records show that last year on the 14th a flock of 14 arrived on Teal and River Pools.

Its a nap this afternoon and the Perseid Meteor Shower tonight, something Dee and I always sit out and watch, although the last few years have been somewhat disappointing and the weather tonight looks grim, but you never know!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Local and Brandon

Decided to stay local to start with today and just as the overnight rain subsided I duly arrived at my first stop, Napton-On-The-Hill. I have to say that despite being right on my doorstep, and renowned as a good migration spot, I've made very few visits to this area.

Having spent a good hour there this morning I'm astonished as to why this area has not been high on my priority list!

After parking near the church my first notable of the day was a male Wheatear (pictured) near the church entrance gate, quickly followed by a Nuthatch calling from a nearby Oak Tree. I made my way down the path past the church grounds towards the windmill were Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were being quite vocal, and after a short stop to scan the surroundings I managed to pick up an albeit brief but definite glimpse of Spotted Flycatcher, which flew up into the tree canopy from one of the grave stones, a great start to the day. A walk up to the windmill, which afforded great view across the county towards Coventry, I also managed Raven, Goldcrest, and as I walked back across the meadow, a good number of Swallows were passing through.

After the hill I made my way down to Napton Reservoir which as per usual didn't produce anything of any great interest, although two more Raven passed overhead. Napton surely has to be one of the Midlands best sights to see our largest Corvid, with a good number always being reported in the area.

Having stayed local early on I made my way to Brandon Marsh to catch up with the chaps, and despite the lack of Waders, only one Green Sandpiper on Teal Pool, it turned out to be quite a good day. Before lunch the weather had warmed up sufficiently to bring the Butterflies out and so a good walk around the Farm Pool area produced the usual White's along with various numbers of Brown Argus, Large Skipper, Small Copper, Small Heath, Common Blue, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell plus a very late Marbled White, probably on it's last legs. A walk back to the main hide for lunch produced 5 Pied Wagtail, 10 Linnet near the nature centre and a single Yellow Wagtail, unusual at Brandon for this time of year, which took flight near the top reed bed.

During lunch a Hobby was perched in the left hand dead tree at Teal Pool Hide but the bird of the day for me was a Peregrine which came onto East Marsh Pool at around 1pm, putting the 300 or so Lapwing into a complete frenzy, an excellent end to really good day.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Update Complete

Roosting Pied Wagtail
After too many hours to mention on blogger over the weekend I've now finally completed my new design for Birding Afloat, I hope you like it.

I did manager a trip to Brandon Marsh in the early hours of Saturday morning hoping for something of interest in the early stages of migration, but have to say that I was very disappointed. The only bird species of note were Lesser Whitethroat, Green Sandpiper, but only two on this visit, one on Teal Pool and one on Carlton, plus four Swift heading south. No sign either of the recent Marsh Harrier, a picture of which can be viewed here, looks like a male in moult to me. I did have a moment of excitement in the Teal Hide when Jim Rushforth and I were almost certain we had a distant Spotted Flycatcher, but unfortunately by the time we sorted our scopes out it had gone.

The Butterfly count yielded better results when a walk around the Farm Pool area produced Brown Argus, Small Heath, Small Copper and Common Blue, although with the weather dull but warm these took some finding.

Yesterday evening at my mooring there appeared to be more Pied Wagtail (pictured) in the usual roost than of late, I estimated around 100. These birds have been regular here over the summer months roosting in the surrounding Fragmites (Common Reed). Swallow and House Martin were plentiful too, both last night and today with good numbers now coming through, a good few were perched on the nearby phone lines yesterday afternoon for a well earned rest.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A First

A first for me at Brandon (White Admiral)
Back in the marina now until next week so took the opportunity to meet the Tuesday guys at Brandon Marsh this morning, dentist tomorrow to fix this damn broken tooth!

A quiet start but by the time I arrived for lunch in the Big-Hide I'd managed a decent bird count, the highlights being two Lesser Whitethroat at Carlton Hide, three Green Sandpiper and a Hobby which was hunting Dragonfly when the sun eventually appeared around lunchtime. JR, who was ringing near Newlands reported a reeling Grasshopper Warbler very early on, too early for me on this occasion. Garden Warblers and Blackcap appeared to be more in evidence today and several Willow Warbler were calling. Three Nuthatch in various locations is also worth mentioning and the sight of Brandons Emperor Goose hybrid, normally seen more in the winter months, is an ominous sign that the seasons move on! Snipe are also starting to appear in one's and two's, this will start to build now as autumn approaches, but the usual late July/early August Greenshank have not yet made an appearance.

Mid-morning a trip around the Tip and Farm Field produced some good numbers of Butterfly. The first of which was my first White Admiral seen at Brandon, a not so pristine example spotted on the path that leads past the bottom dipping pool, we did however manage a second in excellent condition (pictured) just prior to leaving. The Tip area will normally throw up Brown Argus on occasions, if you know where to look, but today an exception with four in close proximity. Also seen were various numbers of Red Admiral, Small Copper, Small Skipper, Common Blue, Peacock, Comma, Gatekeeper, Brimstone, Meadow Brown, plus all three Whites!

Back at the marina late afternoon while washing down the roof a noisy Raven was seen heading south towards Napton and several young Tree Sparrow were being quite vocal in the Hawthorn. The best of the day though was around a half hour ago when the calls of an Arctic Tern alerted me to a single bird heading south over the mooring.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Brief Update

Well I've been back out since Friday afternoon but shortly after mooring I managed to break a tooth which hasn't really put me in the best of moods over the weekend! No visits to Brandon since working there on Thursday, which I have to say was extremely quiet on the birding front. I've just stayed close to my current mooring feeling sorry for myself over the rest of the weekend using the boat as my hide.

The farmer has now ploughed the fields opposite which has produced a good selection of Gulls to keep an eye on, nothing beyond the norm yet though but Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard have also been hanging around too. A nice flock of about 50 Linnet with Goldfinch mingled in are in the trees nearby, making constant sortie's to the fields and Yellowhammer are in full song almost all day. In the nearby bramble and Hawthorn while having breakfast I've picked out Whitethroat, Wren, Dunnock, Bullfinch, Green Finch and Sedge Warbler, plus what I think was a bank Vole, a Red-legged Partridge briefly raised it head earlier too but I haven't had any good views thus far. I've also managed two Raven and a Tawny Owl has been close by calling in the late evening, a Piperstrelle Bat has also been buzzing us just after sunset.

A mystery visitor keeps deciding to pay us a visit in the early hours and can be heard scurrying across the roof having a scratch at our log pile, two attempts to discover our visitor have proved unsuccessful!