Thursday, August 30, 2012


Back Soon!
Apologies to my reader for my recent lack of posts and thank you to all for your emails. I'm currently bogged down (not literally you understand) with other stuff at the moment and will be back blogging very soon.

Really looking forward to my trip to France next month which should provide plenty of blogging opportunities!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Brandon Tuesday

Common Sandpiper @ River Pool
As I left for Brandon Marsh this morning I was surprised at just how much the temperature had dropped overnight with the on-board weather station showing a chilly 12C.

A number of young Swallows and House Martins are still passing through the marina and when I reached the car I could also hear a Yellowhammer calling and a Kestrel was hunting over the dog walking meadow!

I arrived at an equally chilly and overcast Brandon just after 7.30am noting a Common Buzzard and 2 Green Woodpecker before parking and taking my usual route through New Hare Covert. Here, although generally quiet I managed Treecreeper, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch. The path past the golf course was extremely quiet with the only bird of note a calling Willow Warbler, Newlands reed bed was also extremely quiet.

A first scan of East Marsh pool from the Wright Hide was taken up with the sheer volume of Black-headed Gulls, Canada and Greylag Geese. Sadly nothing unusual among the flocks with the exception of the lone Pink-footed Goose, which now seems to appear daily.

Sunday's Spotted flycatcher @ Brandon Marsh
River Pool held 35 Teal and a lone Common Sandpiper and a stop off at Teal Pool Hide before coffee in Big Hide produced a credible 6 Green Sandpiper!

From Big Hide itself an adult and juvenile Little Grebe, plus 2 Common Tern, 6 Gadwall and 7 Shoveler were the only other additions. A visit to the screen area was very lucrative when a large mixed flock passed through registering: 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Goldcrest, 12 Willow Warbler, 12 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Tit and a Blackcap, Carlton Hide had 5 Common Whitethroat.

Only a few Butterflies and Odanata on the wing today with Gatekeeper, Peacock, Red Admiral and Green-veined White, plus Brown Hawker Dragonfly and Red-eyed Damselfly.

I've also posted a record shot of Sunday's Spotted Flycatcher and for my own personal record I omitted 5 Little Egret and 4 Ringed Plover from Saturdays post regarding Rutland Water!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Weekly Bulletin

Green Sandpiper at Brandon Marsh
With things still pretty hectic for me at present I'm finding it quite difficult to give the blog the time it deserves so another 'weekly' bulletin to follow I'm afraid dear reader.

Despite things looking as though they were beginning to pick up at Brandon Marsh with the recent short visits of 6 Black-tailed Godwits and 7 Greenshank things still continue to generally disappoint on the birding front! The best of the week for me has been the 4 Green Sandpiper which continue to roam around the pools, 2 Common Sandpiper, 3 Snipe and the lone Pink-footed Goose which occasionally drops in with the Greylag flock. Swifts are now becoming much rarer as they head back south, I managed a single sighting on Thursday and 4 Common Tern was my best single count for the week. Thursday's works party managed to strim the two main Islands and around 3/4 of Wigeon Bank but I estimate we'll require another two Thursdays to get the job done.

Mistle Thrush - An unprecedented 28!!
Yesterday's birding was even more dire at Brandon until a tour of the reserve took a few of us along the top reed bed where we managed a Spotted Flycatcher in the dead tree across on Brandon Lane, in fact it was my first on (or near) the reserve this year. Another bonus was shortly after we left the Flycatcher doing what Flycatchers do when no less than 28 Mistle Thrush flew through on passage, a reserve record for me. Butterflies are now numerous in the current warm spell and a visit to any area of Buddleia on the reserve will show lots of Peacock and Red Admiral. Although recently reported and photographed by Jeff Rankin I've not personally managed to connect with any Painted Lady or Purple Hairstreak on the reserve this year.

To other matters and Saturdays visit to the Bird Fair at Rutland Water, where we managed 7 Red Kite on route, was bad timing when we unfortunately picked the hottest day of year! Thoroughly enjoyable but the marquees as you would imagine were at boiling point so after a few hours mooching and lunch we headed to the lagoons for some birding.

The hides at Lagoon 4 as you would imagine were extremely busy and here Alban Wincott and I persevered while Dee stayed outside in the cool. At least 100 or so juvenile Common Tern were present along with Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Shelduck and a lone Little Stint. One of the resident Ospreys also made an appearance during our stay and also perched for a while for some good views. Lagoon 3 held more Green Sandpiper, Wigeon, excellent numbers of Gadwall and two juvenile Black Terns were also a highlight.

On the home front a Green Sandpiper has been hanging around the marina for several days now and a continuing passage of Swallows and House Martins along with the odd Swift. The local Tawny Owls are beginning to call once more and a brief call of a distant Little Owl on Saturday night along with a calling Muntjac Deer!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Long Day!

Sunrise Over Wigram's Turn Marina
I was out just before dawn this morning with the intention of fitting in three different venues. The first stop on route to Brandon Marsh was Napton Reservoir.

It was a gorgeous start to the day and before I'd even reached the car I'd recorded Linnet, Yellowhammer a singing Lesser Whitethroat and around a dozen or so Swallows with a few House Martin skimming low over the water before heading off south. The reservoir was reasonably quiet with more Swallows overhead and the only waterfowl of note was a lone ♀Red-crested Pochard, probably the same bird Richard Mays had mentioned on his blog recently.

Chiffchaff - Within The Flock!
On arrival at Brandon Marsh a flock of around 20 or so Goldfinch were feeding on the various Teasel and in fact I'd no sooner parked the car in the volunteers car park before I'd located a large mixed flock of birds. At this time of year its always advisable to check these flocks with a fine tooth comb as they can often throw up the unexpected. This particular bunch included Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler ♀Blackcap and Goldcrest.
Speckled Wood

♂Common Blue
As I rounded the corner by the Olive Bench at least six Swift were feeding low over the Newlands reed bed along with numerous Swallows and four Common Tern flew onto East Marsh pool. The pool itself held 2 Kingfisher, good numbers of Greylag and Canada Goose and still among the flock was the lone Pink-footed Goose asleep on Willow Island. By the time I reached Big Hide for coffee the River Pool Hide had yielded over 50 Teal, 4 Green Sandpiper and a solitary Snipe. From Big Hide 4 Shoveler were noted and a surprise was at least 6 Sand Martin still using the nesting structure, one of which appeared to be feeding a young bird sitting just inside one of the holes.

Peacock - Good Numbers Today!
Today's weekly Butterfly Transect, completed by myself, Tony, Alan and Brenda was the best of the year thus far and very encouraging. The highlights were 6 Common Blue, very 'uncommon' this year at Brandon and various numbers of: Brimstone, Large White, Small Copper, Red Admiral, Peacock, Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown. Outside of the transect area I'd earlier recorded Large and Small Skipper, Comma and four species of Dragonfly, Brown Hawker, Black-tailed Skimmer, Common Darter and Southern Hawker. Also worth a mention was my first Grey Partridge of the year at the reserve when I inadvertently flushed one near the top reed bed whilst completing the transect.

My final venue of the day was back at the marina where a scan of the top meadow had the usual selection of Butterflies plus a Grass Snake near the grass cutting heap.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Keep Watching The Skies!

Quidditch & Enigma Entering Calcutt Locks!
Unimaginably this weekend is the first time that we've been out and about on the canal! As an alternative to our usual weekend mooring on the Oxford Canal at Flecknoe we were persuaded by the neighbors to try the Grand Union at Stockton.

I have to say that it's not a mooring we've tried before but with less traffic due to the need to complete the three locks at Calcutt it's now become one of our favorites. With Dee working on Friday Kevin and I took the boats down in advance in the afternoon, Kevin making a great job of navigating the buttied-up boats through the locks with his huge Gardner engine, while I did the hard work operating them!

Common Blue Damselfly In Good Numbers!
Another of the reasons for heading out this weekend was to avoid light pollution as for the past several years Dee and I have never missed the Perseid Meteor Shower. It was a cracking weekend of Meteors (over four dozen), three passes of the International Space Station, great conversation, barbecue food, wine, beer and endless Butterflies and Dragonflies!

On the cruise to Stockton a Hobby was was on the prowl taking several Dragonfly in flight, a Kingfisher went through, a delight to see on this stretch and several Yellowhammer and linnet were also recorded.

Grey wagtail
Dee and I took a long stroll back towards Calcutt on Saturday afternoon and after pausing at the locks to watch the mayhem (many holiday boats on the way out) we extended our walk around Napton Reservoir. Here, although a little windy, Butterflies and both Dragon and Damselflies were in good numbers with a great selection: Peacock, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Comma, Small Copper, Large and Green-vein White Butterfly, Brown Hawker and Emperor Dragonfly, plus many Damselfly with Common Blue in excellent numbers. The best of the birding was two Swift, good numbers of House Martin and young Swallows and a lone Grey Wagtail.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Brandon Early Signs!

Hobby On Newlands
As another rainy summers weekend comes to a close there are a few signs that things are finally beginning to pick up on the birding front.

With the water now down to a decent level on the pools at Brandon Marsh there's now plenty of mud showing around the islands and on Teal Pool offering perfect wader conditions. On the 16th of this month the Conservation Team will also begin to clear the excess vegetation on the East Marsh Pool islands and Wigeon Bank. Due to the amazing growth rate this year the work is likely to take place over three consecutive Thursdays after which the viewing will be vastly improved.

During last Thursday's work party a juvenile Cuckoo was seen near the golf course by Martin Durkin, the best I could manage was hearing the bird deep within the vegetation before returning to my strimming duties.

Large Skipper
Yesterday more signs of improvement with three Green and one Common Sandpiper, plus five Common Terns. At least two Hobbies were on site, one offering great views from the screen area, constantly feeding on the numerous dragonflies and occasionally perching before recommencing his attacks. There was also an improvement on the Butterfly numbers with various counts of: Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Peacock, Comma, Red Admiral, Large White, Green-vein White, Ringlet and Small, Large and Essex Skipper. Dragonflies included Brown Hawker, Black-tailed Skimmer and Common Darter.

Today was an excellent day for waders with 4 Green Sandpipers on Teal Pool, a Common Sandpiper still on East Marsh Pool and after missing two early morning Black-tailed Godwits, which nobody bothered to tell me about, I was delighted when six flew in mid-morning!

Wagtail's Under Attack!
With Otter sightings still continuing to come in I managed to locate fresh spraint on several of my known areas, obviously indicating that there constantly around and I'm delighted that the trust have now installed an Otter-cam at a secret location! Two Foxes seen from Carlton Hide, a Muntjac heard in New Hare Covert and several families of Blackcap and Willow Warbler made for an excellent Sunday visit.

Finally, on the home front a Sparrowhawk was having a real go at the Pied Wagtail roost on Friday evening here at the marina, luckily for the Wagtails he left empty handed!