Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dreaming Goshawk!

Goshawk or Sparrowhawk?
Having been struck down with man-flu for the best part of last week I tried to do the manly thing and work through it, only to succumb dramatically after working at Brandon Marsh on Thursday!

Today I'd made a miraculous recovery and took the opportunity at first light to take a good look around the marina grounds before moving on to Brandon Marsh. My birding day started off misty and grey and ended for me around lunchtime in glorious, dare I say it, spring sunshine!

The marina itself had the usual suspects on the surrounding feeders, even at this early hour, and was relatively quiet, a brief call of Tawny Owl in the distance was probably the highlight, and so I made my way to Brandon.

Brandon this morning from a birding prospective was an absolute hive of activity. By the time I'd emerged from New Hare Covert I'd counted: 19-Robins, 4-Dunnock, 4-Song Thrush, 2-Blackbird, 3-Goldcrest and 4-Cetti’s Warbler, all calling or in song! Spring was definitely in the air. East Marsh Pool produced the first two Oystercatcher of the year along with of note: 4-Shelduck, 9-Snipe, 12-Wigeon and 5-Pochard.

Have you ever seen Sparrowhawks in display flight? Well if you have, especially from a distance, you’ll know what a shock it can be to the system when in the first few seconds before you calm down your dreaming of Goshawk! Goshawk at Brandon, now that would be something!

These amazing birds have a great tendency in my opinion to look at first glance like a Goshawk in flight. The typical flight pattern is a series of flaps followed by a short glide, but in display the bird spirals high into the air on a thermal and then performs a series of undulating glides across the sky. This is very unlike your normal Sparrowhawk flight pattern and certainly had Burbidge Bob and me dreaming, well for a few seconds anyway we were in birding heaven, but having returned to reality we were treated to two birds performing in the gorgeous sunshine.

After our fantasy birding a nice walk around Farm Pool reed bed through to the Nature Centre to calm us down had a Woodcock, which flew out of the undergrowth as we walked, and a first Toad of the year for me, which scrambled across the path on Top Reedbed. Now, asked Bob, how do you tell a Frog from a Toad?

Well I said: "Toads and Frogs have many similarities, including the way they look. But there are some basic differences between them. For one thing, toads have dry, warty skin, while frogs have smooth, wet skin".

Another few rules of thumb for me when identifying Frogs from Toads:

*A Frogs back is raised with two ridges down each side.
*Toads have a more flattened appearance.
*Frogs move around by hopping on their strong back legs, but Toads walk.

Birding Afloat, always a good source of information Bob.... lol! Oh and by the way the top one is the Toad.