Saturday, April 28, 2012

Amazing Brandon!

Record Shot Today Of A Brandon Otter!
Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve has played a considerable part of my life since joining the conservation team a little over three years ago. I spend endless hours on this amazingly diverse reserve birding, working and sadly on occasions acting as warden when certain enthusiasts get carried away.

As a proud member of a committed team of volunteers I'm privileged to be able to access areas of the reserve that the general public don't normally get to see. A wonderful selection of Butterflies can be seen in the summer months, along with and array of other flora and fauna. As a committed conservationist I'm also bound to keep certain things away from the public domain. In the winter months we're lucky enough to have roosting Long-eared Owls and on many occasions while working the more illusive birds such as Jack Snipe and Woodcock are accidentally flushed.

Otter Spraint
As you would imagine I've now developed a deep knowledge of the reserve and over the past several months I've been keeping a keen eye on several areas where Otter spraint has been discovered on a regular basis. In fact Otters have actually been part of the reserve for some time, mostly illusive but I think the secret is finally out! Sightings of these magnificent creatures have increased more-so over recent months and this month Otters have been seen out and about on the open pools more than ever.

This morning I was again lucky enough to watch, in not so quiet awe, as three swam past right in front of Big Hide, much to the delight of Jim, Alban, Fred and I. It's just incredible to think that here in the heart of the English Midlands Otters are now a regular feature. Kudos to Brandon!

As I arrived at Brandon this morning I made my way directly to Newlands, thanks to a text from JR, where a ♀Marsh Harrier quartering the reed bed was finally sent south by an harassment of Buzzard and Crows.

Willow Warbler (best pic of the morning)
East Marsh Pool was an array of Swallows, low over the water, accompanied by a few House and Sand Martin. I'd missed 3 earlier Yellow Wagtail, 2 Badgers and a lone Fox but caught up with a selection of other bird species: 3 Common Sandpiper, 2 Redshank, 4 Oystercatcher, 4 Little-ringed Plover and Cuckoo. Later in the morning and after the deluge a Hobby, Swift and Sparrowhawk over Newlands, Lesser Whitethroat near Sheepfield and the usual selection of Warblers.

As a sub-note, over coffee in the Nature Centre George Wooton, a regular photographer at the reserve, had finally captured a decent shot of the illusive Nightingale, which George tells me was singing happily out in the open at Carlton Hide this morning. Here's the link to George's picture!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Brandon Visits

As yet another cold, unsettled and generally uninspired week passes by I've managed to fit in my usual Tuesday and Thursday visits to Brandon Marsh, despite an otherwise hectic schedule.

Having said that Tuesday's visit to Brandon had it's moments with frisky Oystercatchers, a nice shot of Whitethroat, and when having heard the call of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker as I passed by the Saga sign, an immediate search of the area proved fruitless. Also of interest was an unidentified Raptor distant and high up in the bright morning sky which I'm convinced was an Osprey, but alas my two other birding colleagues were less than convinced, so I yielded to the majority vote. The occasional warmth did bring out a few Butterflies with 3 Peacock, ♂♀Orange Tip and Small Tortoiseshell seen on the wing. Peter and I were also treated to a few bars of Nightingale song while sitting in Big Hide, but the bird still remains extremely illusive!

Spring Is In The Air!
Waking this morning I was under the distinct impression that I was still suffering from last nights wine-fest, having been invaded by our neighbours, who love a glass or two, (Happy birthday Kevin). Turns out that it was actually down to the fact that we were listing slightly by around 10 degrees, this due to yesterdays deluge, which as I hear on the news this morning produced a mini tornado in nearby Rugby.

I arrived a little later than normal at Brandon and had the usual cacophony of warblers on my walk around, including Lesser Whitethroat and a Grasshopper Warbler reeling away near the golf Course. As I rounded the corner to head down to Wright Hide I was positive I'd had my first Hobby of the year as a small Raptor shot over Big Hide. In Big Hide over coffee JR confirmed that he'd had a Hobby over Newlands earlier just as Paul plucked out our first swift of the year! In fact I needn't have worried as later in the morning I had some excellent views of a Hobby over on West Marsh, along with at least another 4 Swift.

5 Shelduck On Site Today!
No less than 5 Shelduck and 2 Cuckoo on the reserve today, along with a fair selection of waders: 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Ringed Plover, 3 Little-ringed Plover, 3 Redshank, 4 Oystercatcher, 1 Snipe and around 20 or so Lapwing. This week has seen a rather impressive passage of Arctic Tern with some excellent numbers at the nearby Draycote Water, unfortunately none have made it through to Brandon but it was still good to see 2 Common Tern on site today.

I saved the best of the day until last, when finally the illusive Nightingale decided to give a good account of himself for a few minutes, much to the delight of the gentleman standing next to me, who'd never seen or heard one before!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weeks Summary

More Sedge Warbler Today!
Although the weather has been challenging over the previous week we finally have a decent spring migration on our hands. Personally the past seven days have been very productive for me, recording some excellent local arrivals and passage birds: Arctic Tern, Greenshank, Yellow Wagtail, Wheatear, Pied Flycatcher, ♂♀Common Redstart, Grasshopper Warbler, Garden Warbler and the cherry on the cake, when along with Alban and Chris, we located the first Nightingale at Brandon Marsh since 2007.

This mornings visit to Brandon added my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year to my spring list, when firstly one was heard in the early morning near the Sheepfield Gorse area, and on a return visit later in the morning a second bird had arrived. This means that I've now happily recorded all the regular Brandon summer warblers.  The Nightingale was still on site but very illusive but to be honest I spent little time this morning trying to relocate.

Yellow Wagtail @ Draycote Water
More Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler have now arrived but personally I'm a little concerned regarding Brandon's Common Tern population. A normal summer breeding bird at Brandon there were none to be found on site today during my visit, although 3 were seen yesterday they don't appear to have hung around and are most likely passage birds. The Cuckoo which arrived over a week ago looks to be a Brandon regular. As you would expect with the current weather conditions very few Butterflies were recorded last week.

Savannah Sparrow - A taste of Canada
Finally, I can't believe that its less than two weeks before Dee and I return to Canada and we spent this afternoon finalising our route. This year the plan is to set off once again from Calgary, where we'll spend a day at the excellent Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. After reacquainting ourselves with our RV the plan is to make our way into Banff National Park for a few days, moving on to Radium Hot Springs and Golden. From here the route takes us south towards the US border and then north-westerly taking in the famous Okanagan region. This area is a major migration hotspot and part of the famous Pacific Flyway, a springtime route of travel for migratory birds in the America’s, extending from Patagonia at the southern end of South America northwards to Alaska.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Nightingale Sang!

Nightingale (sadly a library image)
After a slow start to the spring migration things have finally started to hot up as I discovered immediately I stepped foot off the boat this morning.

Sedge Warbler have finally arrived at the marina with at least one singing from within what remains of our reed beds. Don't get me started on that one again! On the walk up to the car park 2 Common Tern flew over heading north, a Skylark was singing and as I was scrapping the light frost from the windscreen a Whitethroat was sitting atop a Hawthorn happily singing away.

I arrived at Brandon Marsh a little after sun up and took my usual route passed Sheep Field and through New Hare Covert, stopping briefly for a listen at Goose Pool, where at least two Reed Warbler were singing. The usual Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and unprecedented numbers of ♂♀Blackcap were recorded and within the Covert, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest and Song Thrush.

As I passed the golf course two Whitethroat and a Water Rail were calling from the reeds to the right. I paused for a good while in our newly created observation areas to view Newlands, which has now finally sprung to life. At least 4 Sedge Warbler, 2 Reed Warbler and 2 Linnet, plus reeling away towards the back of the reeds, my first Grasshopper Warbler of the year!

Chiffchaff (Only decent picture of the day!)
A coffee with Jim at Wright Hide, who was having a break from ringing near the 'Olive Wood Bench' and then a walk around to the Big Hide produced the usual Waders on East Marsh Pool: 4 Oystercatcher, 4 Little-ringed Plover and 2 Redshank. The walk to Big Hide produced a number of birds gathering nesting materials but no further new spring arrivals, a Cuckoo paid a brief visit to the 'Big Dead Tree' calling for a short time, 3 Common Tern, 2 Ringed Plover and 2 Garden Warbler were also seen.

After a trip to the Carlton Hide and the screen area, bumping into Fred Stokes and narrowly missing out on yet another Otter sighting, Fred seems to have the force with him on that one, I eventually met up with Alban Wincott. We headed for coffee in Big Hide, where we were joined by Chris Wiltshier, another Saturday regular. What followed next was one of those moments that will live forever in my birding memories, a bird suddenly singing from right outside the hide suddenly had Alban and I simultaneously leaping to our feet with the call 'Nightingale'. As we gently opened the hide door we were treated to 30 seconds of delightful bird song, then silence!

We eventually re-located him further down the path towards Carlton Hide, and were once again treated to some bursts of delightful song, at one stage obtaining some brief views from within the Hawthorn, before once again silence reigned. After being joined by some of the local photographers I left them to it with my first Brandon Nightingale in the bag. A later text message informed me that after completing his ringing session I'm glad to know that Jim Rushforth re-located the bird at the back of Teal Pool hide just after midday!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

More Spring Firsts!

Daventry ♂Pied Flycatcher
With further heavy rain overnight I made sure I was at Brandon Marsh just after first light in the hope of more spring arrivals. Unfortunately, although a few more Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat had arrived on site, things are still pretty slow overall and I was unable to add any further species to my spring arrival list.

With heavy rain still falling I decided to give the work party a miss, all of my chain-saw work now complete, and spend the rest of the morning dodging the heavy showers and just touring the reserve. Sunday's Cuckoo had re-appeared and at one stage was calling from the top of the 'big dead tree' on Newlands. However, It wasn't until just after lunch that things picked up slightly, firstly with the arrival of my first spring Greenshank, when one dropped in during a heavy downpour on East Marsh Pool. This was quickly followed by my second UK spring first, a very pristine looking Yellow Wagtail, which seemed to spend most of its stay investigating one of the floating rafts.

♀Wheatear at Draycote Water
On the way home I decided to drop in at Draycote Water and have a short stroll along Farborough Bank to see if I could add to my spring species. As it happens I arrived just after a heavy thundery downpour and although it was extremely blustery, making any photography a little challenging, it remained dry for my hour or so on site. Along the bank and at Farborough Spit two Wheatear were showing well, along with at least a half dozen Yellow Wagtail and 5 White Wagtail were in amongst the many Pied. Good numbers of Meadow Pipit were also recorded and scanning out over the water I managed two Arctic Tern and lone Common.

♀Common Redstart
On the walk back to the car I received a phone call from Kevin Groocock another local birder, who put me on to a ♂Pied Flycatcher, which apparently was showing well at the nearby Daventry Country Park. Luckily on arrival I met Kevin in the car park and thanks to his direction it wasn't long before I had the bird in my sights. Kevin also mentioned a ♀Common Redstart which had also been showing in the same area and I was lucky enough to make contact with yet another gorgeous summer visitor. A number of Common Tern were also recorded during my stay and I eventually arrived back on board after a 12 hour stint with 3 more spring migrants in the bag!

As ever my pictures from today can be viewed in more detail at my Flickr site.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Brandon Tuesday!

Willow Tit @ Big Hide
With heavy rain overnight and strong winds I've no idea why I decided to take a little longer than normal to get to Brandon Marsh this morning, this is ideal weather for downed migrants!

I paid the price when a phone call from Jim Rushforth around 7am asking where I was alerted me to a Little Gull on site. I've seen plenty around the UK but never on my home reserve and suffice to say this was not the best start to my birding day.

I eventually arrived around 30-minutes later in pouring rain and made my way straight to Big Hide. The usual selection of Hirundines were present, a little larger in numbers and several Sand Martins are now beginning to investigate the nesting structure. 3 Little-ringed Plover, 2 Redshank, a pair of Shelduck and 4 Oystercatcher, one of which is now sitting, and a Sparrowhawk were the best of the bunch. Also of note was a Reed Warbler chattering away in the reed to the left and some nice views of Willow Tit in the bramble. My first Common Tern of the year was also recorded when one bird overflew East Marsh Pool before heading off.

Wood Anemone (Rare @ Brandon)
As forecast the weather improved towards mid-morning and so myself and some of the other Brandon volunteers took the opportunity to have a tour of the rest of the reserve in search of more arrivals. At the 'Olive Seat' bench a Common Whitethroat was singing away within the bramble and several Common Buzzard had taken to the thermals. The now summer resident selection of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap were all extremely vocal. As we made our way through New Hare Covert I managed a few images of Wood Anemone, a rare plant to the reserve and something that's only recently come to light. A Bank Vole was also seen deep in the undergrowth as we made our way passed Sheep Field.

A tour of the 'Tip' area and the Farm Pool reed bed produced no further migrants but it was a pleasant enough walk in the sunshine and we did register a couple of Linnet.

Anyone For Golf!
Back in the Big Hide for lunch and another year first when from nowhere a lone Sedge Warbler started singing from within the reeds, offering the briefest of views before ducking back down. A final tour of the Newlands area and New Hare Covert by myself and Derek Bennet prior to heading off home produced: 2 Fieldfare over, a second Common Whitethroat of the day and a Orange Underwing Moth. One of the current resident Oystercatcher was also worming near the golf course bunker and our resident Barnacle Goose was also on the course, sadly limping!. Not the best day for Butterflies but 2 ♀Orange Tip were seen.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Few Additions

Wren - Still singing away!
Having spent the early part of the week meticulously going through the thousand or so images of my recent trip to Spain, I decided that this weekend my attention should return to our very own Spring migration. Having said that I did manage a few early morning midweek trips to Brandon Marsh, which produced White Wagtail, Reed Warbler and Common Sandpiper.

Before my trip to Spain some migrants had been arriving in large numbers, such as Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. However, for other species the arrival locally has been very poor and upon my return the trend seemed to be continuing. For the time of year many of our summer visitors are worryingly absent. There are very few Swallows and Sand Martins around. Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers are also conspicuous by their absence. This is probably down to southern Europe recently experiencing poor weather. Southern Spain and Portugal have had hailstorms, in fact it did hail during my stay, heavy rain and cool northerly winds have also been a factor.

One Of Several Yellowhammer @ Napton
Saturday morning was spent with Jim Rushforth checking out the woodland and pool areas at Brandon Marsh in the hope that a few Common Whitethroats and Sedge Warbler had dropped in. Jim had in fact had his first Common Tern on East Marsh Pool on the Friday and so we were hopeful of more to follow. At one stage near the Olive Seat bench, which overlooks the Newlands reed bed, I was positive I'd heard a Cuckoo call but dismissed it after nothing further was heard. Despite a few reports from other regulars of Whitethroats neither Jim, Martin Durkin, who'd now joined us, or I managed to connect. The morning did produce 2 Little-ringed Plover, all three Hirundines, and the Redshank and Oystercatcher now seem well established, the midweek Reed Warbler was also still singing away within the Goose Pool reed bed.

Distant Record ♂Common Redstart
Today was a much better day all-round! With clear skies overnight there seemed a lot more around at Brandon Marsh Swallow, House and Sand Martin were all in good numbers and it wasn't long before I'd finally recorded my first Common Whitethroats of the year. ♂♀Muntjac Deer were a pleasant sight on the bank at Sheep Field and It probably looks like I did in fact hear a Cuckoo yesterday after all. The first arrival of the year was first heard calling from the Central Marsh, later seen flying off towards New Hare Covert.

Shortly after returning to the marina a nice surprise came when a phone call from Richard Mays alerted me to a ♂Common Redstart showing well at Napton Reservoir. Only minutes away it wasn't long before I had the bird in my sights on an adjacent field, sadly way too far for any distant images! During my half hour or so stay I further recorded of note: 2 Orange Tip Butterfly, 8 Yellowhammer, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Raven overhead and a Curlew, heard but not seen!

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Rio Velez

Yellow Wagtail (Blue-headed)
With our flight time home not until the evening we took the opportunity to visit another interesting birding site. Although I consider this to be one of the best all-round site's I've visited thus far on my trips to Spain, I do have some reservations about recommending it!

The estuary of this particular river is directly beside a naturist beach and close to a naturist campsite. Although the genuine naturist is no problem whatsoever, as Dee discovered, the area obviously attracts a few sordid characters and is also becoming notorious as a gay pick-up spot! Having said that, we did come across a few strange characters but during our afternoon visit we never in any way felt threatened, especially with me being such a handsome chap!! However, the area concerned is only a very small part of a sizeable site and can be avoided.

Beautiful Swallowtail
The Rio Velez is situated approximately 35kms east of Malaga, near the town of Torre del Mar. The estuary of the river is surrounded by extensive reed beds and marshes. When the river is not in flow , the estuary becomes a large lagoon and the remainder of the river dries out and becomes walkable or drivable for around 4kms.

During our visit the river was in slight flow and the lagoon was well advanced. Immediately after parking at least 3 Nightingale were singing in the reeds and giant canes and a number of White wagtail were on the waters edge. A large group of Black-winged Stilt were settled at the base of the lagoon and Monk Parakeet could also be heard.

Woodchat Shrike
As we made our way upstream a couple of Woodchat Shrike were constantly flitting from ground to perch and it wasn't long before we discovered Little-ringed and Ringed Plover. Savi's Warbler and Baillon's Crake could also be heard from deep within the reed bed but we never managed a viewing during our stay. This is also an excellent place to see Spanish Sparrow, with at least 5 recorded during our stay. Further upstream the area is carpeted with wild flowers and the water reasonably well vegetated with reeds, Tamarisk and Oleander. Several Butterflies were on the wing with a number of various Fritillary, Clouded Yellow and my favourite Swallowtail.

Black-winged Stilt
Despite a little early in the season Yellow Wagtail were everywhere, two Hoopoe seemed to follow us around constantly and we finally made contact with the Parakeets. Also recorded of note during a terrific few hours were: Woodlark, Crested Lark, Cetti's Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Lesser Kestrel, Spotless Starling and Crag Martin.

During our long weekend we also visited Gibraltar for the day and although primarily for sight-seeing we did record of note: Blue Rock Thrush. A selection of images during our stay can now be found at my Flickr site.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Laguna de Fuente de Piadra Pt2

Curlew Sandpiper on Small Lagoon
After moving back towards the information centre there are a couple of hides to visit overlooking two further small lagoons and after the long walk a welcome sit down. Northern Shoveler, Little Grebe, Pochard, more Stilts and a very pristine looking Black-necked Grebe in full breeding plumage, but sadly to distant for a decent image.

As we walked up the hill towards the main hide a Collared Pratincole flew through heading towards the main lagoon.

Black-winged Stilt
Gull-billed Terns were constantly moving back and forth from the main lagoon, a few Black Tern were also seen plus a Slender-billed Gull and a Curlew Sandpiper almost in summer plumage. Away from the water and a couple Woodchat Shrike were spotted on a nearby fence, two Red-rumped Swallow, Sardinian Warbler, Linnet and Willow Warbler were also recorded.

Once you've investigated the main part of the site your able to drive around the rest of the lagoon and stop off at the various observation points. We found that its best to do this in an anti-clockwise direction. There's plenty more reed and scrub to investigate too, picking up a pair of Stonechat and although its a little early in the season for the main Warbler population we still managed a few more Reed Warbler and Zitting Cisticola.

One of Many Corn Bunting!
At one point there's a walk which takes you closer to the main lagoon, sadly this was closed during our visit so we had to make do with distant views of Marsh Harrier and a group of Black-tailed Godwit.

By the time we arrived back at our start point we'd finished an excellent bays birding with more Corn Buntings you could shake a stick at, and perched atop one of the power pylons a Booted Eagle to finish the day!

Laguna de Fuente de Piadra Pt1

Wood Sandpiper
A beautiful start to the day and Breakfast on the terrace had the usual entertainment overhead, many Swift which included at least three Pallid, Swallow, with at least two Red-rumped, and several House Martins. In the surrounding Broom, Sardinian Warbler and the usual Serin were a constant. My first Cuckoo of the year, and in fact Dave's first since moving here, could be heard in the distance and yet another visit overhead from one of the local Booted Eagles.

Today's outing was to The Laguna de Fuentes de Piedra, a vast saline lake almost 7 Kms in length and 2.5 Kms in width and is about an hour or so's drive from Dave's villa. The lake, together with the areas of scrub, marsh and reed beds that immediately surround it , has been given the status Reserva Natural and has been fenced off to prevent human interference.

One Of Several Crested Lark
Although the lagoon is fed with water from several Small streams, it's dependant on adequate rainfall in the winter months if it's not to dry out before spring. When we arrived just after lunch I would say that the lake itself was around 3/4 full. There is a modern visitors centre and a chat with the receptionist, who spoke a little English, had us up to date with anything of interest.

Behind the information centre is the first lookout point and here we spent a half hour looking out onto the vast lagoon. On the Lagoon itself Greater Flamingo, accompanied by at least six Lesser Flamingo, plus a healthy number of Avocet and a selection of Gulls which included Herring, Slender-billed, Black-headed, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed. Although a little early in the season plenty of Gull-billed Tern were already on site and one or two early Black Tern were amongst them.

Excellent Numbers Of Cattle Egret
Moving down from the lookout point to a large marsh area and several pools and it wasn't long before we'd recorded Cattle Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Redshank and Common Sandpiper, Fan-tailed Warbler were numerous, constantly zitting overhead. A walk along the Lagoon edge added Corn Bunting, Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler, Goldfinch and a lone Willow Warbler, a small flock of Dunlin were constantly in flight.

The ploughed fields which run adjacent to the lagoon held Spotless Starling and good numbers of White Wagtail along with a number of Yellow Wagtail, which included at least two Blue Headed. At the end of the track a pair of Black-eared Wheatear in a partly ploughed field, plus a singing Reed Warbler in the reed bed, and overhead Lesser Kestrel, plus three White Stork high above probably on passage.

A wooden footbridge runs through the centre of several smaller lagoons and this offers excellent views of some of the Wader species. Wood Sandpiper, Little Stint, Ruff, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Kentish, Ringed and Little-ringed plover were all recorded during our stay.

More to follow.......

Friday, April 06, 2012

Good Friday (Spain)

View From The Terrace!
Although primarily our Easter break in Spain was to catch up with my buddy Dave and especially to check out his new house, birding was obviously going to take centre stage at some point. Little did we realise that in fact our birding was going to take on a slightly different aspect.

After picking us up at Malaga airport the 20 minute drive seemed to take us higher and higher into the local Sierra's, finally reaching our destination after Dave had negotiated a series of roundabouts, at what I thought was breakneck speed, the Spanish way Dee tells me! I'll leave you to decide on what you think of the new house says he.

What greeted us as we made our way up the steps to the terrace was simply stunning. Behind and to the right stood mountains, part of the Sierra range and still extending higher from our vantage point, lights from other villas in the town of Mijas still higher still. From the centre and to the left panoramic views of the town of Fuengirola, the lights of Malaga away off in the distance. This all compounded by a clear moonlit night, the light of which was shimmering off the Mediterranean which lay directly ahead. In fact I could use several more superlatives but I simply can't describe the beautiful setting of his new house, well done Dave!

Up with the Larks on Good Friday morning and an hour on my own on the terrace in beautiful early morning sunshine. It wasn't long before my birding (Obsession), sorry instincts, took over and after leaving the UK in early spring migration, summer had suddenly arrived overhead with Swift, House Martin and Swallow in excellent numbers. A tour of the grounds also produced Sardinian Warbler, Serin, which are a constant, Jay and House Sparrow.

Rock Bunting (Record Shot)
After breakfast Dave took Dee and I on a mini tour of his grounds, which contains a whole diverse habitat of flora and fauna. Some small Lizards were scurrying around, a few Butterflies on the wing (too distant for id) and suddenly directly above two Booted Eagles, possibly a pair! Dave tells me regular visitors to the area. As if this wasn't enough for me to digest another large Raptor soaring overhead after we'd returned to the terrace turned out to be Short-toed Eagle, could this get any better?

In the afternoon a leisurely walk further up the mountains at Refugio de Juanar a vast esplanade of Pine, Olive Trees and stunning views. Unfortunately, being a Spanish holiday the place was extremely busy and noisy too, the Spanish are not known for their subdued conversation. The best of the birding on the walk was Crested Tit, Rock Bunting, Coal Tit and an unknown Raptor which flashed quickly through!

Apologies for the late post but computer problems prevented me from blogging while in Spain and there are more posts to come!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Local & Brandon

Local Tree Sparrow
Yesterday evening I took an afternoon stroll around the marina grounds to see if anything interesting had arrived locally. Chiffchaff have been singing for a few weeks now but I've yet to record any additional summer visitors other than several Sand Martin, which took time out on Saturday morning to skim across the water for a quick drink.

I'm glad to report that our Tree sparrow population seems to be doing well, with several still using the many feeders dotted around the marina. It's noticeable too that these have in fact been joined by a small House Sparrow population but they appear to be living in harmony.

Linnet @ Brandon
With the extraction of a vast amount of reed bed around the marina late last year, a decision that I'd rather not comment on, it remains to be seen what affect this will have on the incoming Sedge and Reed Warbler population. I know that through my observations it had an extremely detrimental effect on what was a very healthy Pied Wagtail roost!

Although at this time of year I'm not entirely happy doing it I'd promised to complete two small chain-saw jobs at Brandon Marsh this morning, so took the opportunity to have a good tour around prior to work. Having had two or three Willow Warblers on my last few visits strangely enough there were none to be found today! Three Little-ringed Plover and a lone ♂Wigeon on East Marsh Pool were the best I could muster, along with a small number of Linnet, a single Swallow and 10 or so Sand Martin. Good number of Blackcaps and Chiffchaff were constantly singing around the wooded areas and a number of Bluebells have flowered in New hare Covert.

Orange Underwing Moth
The 'Tip' area was my final port of call after work and lunch in the Nature Centre and I managed to get my first shots of a mysterious little chap called a Bee-Fly, which has a spectacularly long proboscises, making it look well adapted for taking pollen. I also recorded my first Green-veined White Butterfly of the year and also managed a quick shot of an ageing Orange-under-wing Moth before it took to the wing. Many thanks to Jason for the Moth ID.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Migration Update #3

A Welcome New Arrival (Willow Warbler)
With boat painting matters taking priority over the past week I've still managed to fit in a number of sessions at Brandon Marsh, mostly early morning.

On the migration front the only additions since my last post have been a small number of Willow Warblers, the one pictured above found singing his little heart out near the farm area this morning.

A Fox near the main entrance on my arrival on Saturday morning and with low cloud a good number of Sand Martin had come down with decent numbers around East Marsh Pool, the odd Swallow mixed in!

Today a shock to the system with -5C when I left the marina but the day started off well enough with one of the local Little Owls perched atop the telephone pole. While I was busy scrapping the frost from the car windscreen a Yellowhammer was already singing away and several Skylark could be heard in the adjacent field. Having seen a large black bird land in a field on route to Brandon I pulled off the A425 for a better look to find a Raven, a rare sight to find a local one not on the wing!

I decided to take a different route than normal on arrival at Brandon and having met up with Martin Durkin in the car park we made for the Farm Field area in search of anything interesting, Wheatear, Stonechat or Whinchat, we weren't being fussy. Alas no but the above pictured Willow Warbler bucked up the spirits!

Many more Blackcaps are now on the reserve and after finding my first female♀ of the year near Wright Hide, where a second Willow Warbler was singing, a pair of Blackcaps were also seen near the bench on route to Carlton Hide. Other highlights of the day were 6 Goldcrest, Little Ringed Plover and the two Willow Tits I've been watching for some weeks were finally seen mating, sadly all I got was one blur on top of another when I cracked off a few shots of the happy event.

Another positive for Brandon was the sight of a Buzzard on what looks to be an old crows nest, which these birds are prone to using. If this is in fact confirmed as a nesting bird I'm reliably informed that this would be a first for Brandon. Also seen during my visit to were 2 Swallow, various numbers of Sand Martin, 2 Redshank, 3 Oystercatcher and 3 Treecreeper. No Butterfly records during this visit but with the early frost who can blame them.