Friday, April 29, 2011

More Firsts for Spring!

First Whimbrel of Spring!
I think my Canadian birding buddies are trying to make me jealous with reports of Mountain Bluebirds, Long-billed Dowichers and Black Phoebe and I can tell you, it's working. News too of Rob Catchpole my old Vancouver sidekick, he's still alive and kicking apparently after going off the radar, maybe someone put the toys back in his pram!!

Back to the UK and a couple of visits to Brandon Marsh over the past week and a banishment from aboard the boat this morning due to a certain wedding, which paid dividends with a Whimbrel in the adjacent field, plus a gorgeous ♂ Wheatear on the phone wires. Also around today were Raven, Buzzard, Kestrel, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, Skylark and a good movement of Swallow. Worth a mention were a ♀♂ Tufted Duck who came to visit our resident tame Tufty, it's always sad to see when the other birds depart and poor Tufty with his duff wing is unable!

Brandon as you would imagine is awash with Warblers and with the recent influx of Grasshopper Warbler a prime target for photographers, we have the usual minority of idiots ploughing through nesting areas in search of a shot! New Hare Covert is covered in a beautiful carpet of Bluebells, which is in fact around 2 weeks early and Primrose and Ladies Smock abound! With the colder weather now upon us a lull in Butterfly numbers, but I did manage my first Damselfly of the year with a ♂ Banded Demoiselle on the River Meadow.

Banded Demoiselle
Tuesday saw my first Swift of the spring at Brandon and a Lesser Whitethroat still remains around the Sheepfield area. The first chicks have appeared on East Marsh Pool with 4 Lapwing, said birds were still showing on Thursday thankfully, despite the Carrion Crows best efforts to predate. With responsibility for Amphibians and Reptiles on the reserve it's good to know that Grass Snake are also in good numbers, when checking the designated refugia there's always one to be found basking. Unfortunately our Amphibian populations of Frogs and Toads have been scarce and I'm yet to hear any news on the various pond dipping sessions by the educational teams. Also seen of note other than the usual Warbler’s where: Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Cuckoo, Skylark, LR Plover, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Ruff, Common Tern, Swallows and Sand Martin are now numerous, intermingled with several House Martin.

I arrived early on Thursday to Brandon and was certainly glad that I had the good sense to be wearing my thermals. With a bitter easterly wind the Big Hide resembled an icebox, but the birding wasn’t too bad with two lovely summer plumage Dunlin and a cameo visit from two Shelduck. The long staying Ruff appears to be at home on East Marsh Pool and another count of seven Little Ringed Plover, who really need to get down to the business of nesting! The wildfowl numbers still continue to decline as we approach the summer but still a reasonable number of Teal, plus two ♂ Shoveler and four ♂ Gadwall. As I left the reserve at around 10.30am a Red Kite was soaring over towards the West Marsh area, but despite passing the sighting on to the guys still on the reserve, it wasn’t seen again.