Sunday, October 28, 2012


Fieldfare everywhere!!
After the excitement of yesterdays 10 Whooper Swans at Brandon Marsh attention today turned to the hundreds of Thrushes which have arrived around the reserve! Saturday's northerlies and clear skies seems to have unleashed the east coast arrivals from earlier in the week upon us land locked counties.

Every Hawthorn bush at Brandon Marsh seemed to have a Redwing, Fieldfare or Blackbird within with a feeding frenzy the like of which I've not witnessed for some years. This of course begs the question, how long will this years poor fruit yield last? With the Beech mast and Acorn crop virtually non existent and Hawthorn well below average there are already reports from around the country of Brambling & Siskin on garden feeders, which of course is fairly early in the season.

Another visitor at Brandon today was a Barnacle Goose which flew in alone and calling during the early morning. I'm pretty sure this is a new bird and not the one which seemed to hang around with the Greylag flock earlier in the year. Speaking of which the recent Egyptian Goose re-appeared once more among the flock mid-morning.

Goldcrest from Saturday's visit!
Another bird which seemed to be on the move today in large numbers was the Woodpigeon with several flocks of well over 100 birds in each moving through the reserve. Starlings are also beginning to group and Fred Stokes reported large numbers moving out of Newlands at first light, along with an Otter sighting on River Pool, lucky boy! Jeff Hoods sighting of a Tawny Owl near the big hide early on is another bird I'll put in my book of 'birds and wildlife I missed today'.

Birds of note I did see or hear today, apart from those already mentioned included: Goldcrest (5), Coal Tit (1), Siskin (26), Lesser Redpoll (7), Bullfinch (4), Goldfinch (11), Greenfinch (1), Chaffinch (15), Linnet (5), Skylark (4 over),  Cetti's Warbler (2 heard), Water Rail (2 heard), Great-spotted Woodpecker (3), Green woodpecker (1), Jay (5), Kestrel (2), Sparrowhawk (1), Kingfisher (2), Wigeon (75), Gadwall ( 35), Goldeneye (2♀ 1♂), Shoveler (36), Teal (22) and Snipe (7)  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Whooper Suprise

Morning arrivals! 10 Whooper Swans dropped onto East Marsh Pool @ Brandon Marsh this morning along with the first Goldeneye arrivals of the Autumn!"

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Normal Service!

Thank you for the emails and apologies for the recent blog outage, all is back to normal now after character assassins and anoraks had me thinking whats the point of blogging at all!

Being a public domain blog leaves you wide open to criticism and debate and in some cases things can be said that are simply offensive, a bloggers every day hazard as I've seen on other friends blogs. There's nothing wrong with debate and constructive criticism, we're all capable of making mistakes and errors of judgement but the important thing is that those debating should get the facts straight before making unsubstantiated comments on this and in particular behind other peoples sites. Anyway we move on.....

Yellowhammer in the gloom!
I'd already planned to give Brandon a miss today (Tuesday) and with so much happening on the east coast at the moment was very close to taking the drive across to Norfolk. That all changed when I looked out of the window to find a blanket of thick fog affecting most of the Midlands and indeed most of the Norfolk coast.

So a decision to stay on patch today and try for some local rarities and after breakfast I made my way across to Napton Hill which as you would imagine on even higher ground was well fogged in. As luck would have it the fog lifted slightly on arrival and after parking at the church I made my way along towards the windmill. Nothing really of note and a brief pause at the Observer Corp Memorial, where I thought the memorial Rowan Tree was looking a little forlorn and devoid of any fruit or leaf, my first sign of life with a drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker emanating from the gloom!

As I emerged alongside the windmill things picked up with a noisy Mistle Thrush high in a Hawthorn bush immediately followed by a Tit flock which after a long wait eventually gave up 8 Long-tailed Tit, 3 Blue Tit, 2 Great Tit and 4 Goldcrest. The fog had cleared sufficiently to see down towards the old quarry and a flock of around 20 or so Thrush, mostly Redwing flew down towards the many Hawthorn below. A Green Woodpecker was also seen in flight.

I tentatively made my way down trying very hard to avoid coming to grief in the mud and eventually caught up with the earlier Thrushes, which as well as several Redwing also contained 6 Blackbird and my first singing Song Thrush of the autumn! By the time I arrived back at the car having completed a full circuit of the area I'd recorded 1 Raven, 4 Linnet, 6 Chaffinch, Kestrel, Greenfinch, Pied Wagtail and 2 more Goldcrest. Try as I might no local rarities today but the weather certainly played its part.

A half hour spent at Napton Reservoir before home was the usual Coot-fest along with various numbers of Pochard, Tufted Duck and Shoveler, plus 6 Great-crested Grebe, 4 Little Grebe, Jay and a flock of around 30 Linnet in the surrounding fields. A single Lesser Redpoll and Snipe over were the other notable's, but the best for me were 5 Yellowhammer seen on top of one of the dead trees. I didn't bother looking at the top end of the reservoir as a chainsaw gang were working around a very inviting fire!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blustery Day!

Collared Dove
Having our friends aboard limited my birding time over the weekend but we did manage to show our esteemed guests around Brandon Marsh on Saturday afternoon. In fact the visit did produce my first Stonechats of the Autumn with two seen on Newlands from the Carlton Hide, so well worth the effort.

Today I managed a full days birding beginning at a very blustery Brandon Marsh. In fact the only element of the previous nights weather bulletin they got correct was the wind, the predicted bright and sunny start to the day didn't in fact materialise until mid morning!

With the blustery conditions I wasn't expecting too much in the way of visible migration as I made my way around my usual route. In fact it was as I predicted with only a few Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Linnet over before things did pick up a little just prior to entering New Hare Covert, firstly a calling Nuthatch and Goldcrest followed swiftly by my first Fieldfare of this Autumn when 6 flew directly over me.

Common Snipe
I bypassed the Wright Hide and arrived at Big Hide just in time to find Jim, Derek and Mike tracking an interesting large raptor at height. Firstly over Newlands reed-bed and then around over the covert before disappearing low over the Baldwin Hide. Certainly not a Buzzard and the general consensus was Harrier, possibly Marsh and possibly the bird seen here on Saturday Afternoon.

East Marsh Pool contained some good wildfowl numbers listed below, the highlight of which was 101 Wigeon, my best ever count at Brandon. No sign of the recent Pink-footed Goose today but the lone Egyptian Goose was among the flock. During the morning other additions of note were: Snipe, Cettis Warbler, Water Rail, Raven, Skylark, Kingfisher, Buzzard, Yellow-legged Gull and Willow Tit.

Of Note At Brandon Today: Egyptian Goose (1), Gadwall (67), Shoveler (17), Wigeon (101), Teal (36), Pochard (11), Tufted Duck (17), Grey Heron (1), Marsh Harrier (*1), Common Buzzard (1), Sparrowhawk (1), Kestrel (2), Water Rail (1 heard), Lapwing (250+), Snipe (9), Common Gull (4), Herring Gull (2), Yellow-legged Gull (1), Lesser Black-backed Gull (18), Skylark (3 over), Pied Wagtail (2), Fieldfare (6), Goldcrest (3), Willow Tit (2), Jay (6), Jackdaw (25 over), Raven (4 over), Bullfinch (2), Linnet (2 over), Redpoll (2), Siskin (8), Cettis Warbler (2 heard), Kingfisher (2)

An hour spent at Napton Reservoir before home threw up a surprise when a Rock Pipit flew across to the bank while I was chatting to some fellow birders. Also present during my visit were a couple of Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, 4 Buzzard, Green Woodpecker and along with around 250 or so Canada Geese small numbers of Snipe, Great Crested Grebe, Pochard, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and 4 Little Grebe were also noted. At the top end of the reed bed a Little Owl was calling briefly from within the Hawthorn in the adjacent field but I never managed to connect. Finally back at the marina a Collared Dove was perched nicely providing one of the few photographic opportunities of the day!

Monday, October 08, 2012


Lesser Redpolls Arriving!
The lighter winds along with a slight directional change over the weekend did manage to bring in more of our winter visitors and indeed on Sunday morning after the fog lifted there was a short spell of visible migration at Brandon Marsh. Having tracked most of the reserve during the morning I was able to record reasonable numbers of birds passing overhead at various points and these are listed along with other notables at the bottom of this post.

Before the fog finally lifted my first couple of Redwings of the autumn were found feeding in Hawthorn near the Sheepfield gate and a final count for the day of six birds wasn't a bad start. There were also a few small flocks of Thrushes on the move over the Newlands reed beds and I'm certain several birds were Fieldfare, although there distinct calls were not heard at the time so I've not recorded them. There's also a large flock of Siskin hanging around the reserve with several Lesser Redpoll within so worth scrutinising if you come across them.

Swallows and Martins are now few and far between and recent reports of 40+ Sand Martins at Brandon are a mystery to me! I managed 2 Swallows passing over the car park as I was on my way home Sunday!

Jays on the move!
Jays are still on the move, an amazing passage of at least 668 were recorded passing over Hunstanton, Norfolk on 6 October, and birds continue to be seen in unusual numbers and in unusual places. The picture is complicated by native birds dispersing further afield from breeding areas in search of food, as the acorn crop seems to be very poor in some areas of the UK this year. I managed a credible 26 birds at Brandon on Sunday, mostly moving south and east, a reserve best for me.

As I reported last week Skylarks are also on the move and at the marina birds can be constantly heard passing through with a decent amount laying over in the surrounding fields.

Also of note was a small flock of around 20 or so Golden Plover which passed over the marina this afternoon.

Brandon Sunday: Jay (26), Skylark (21 over), Meadow Pipit (16 over), Siskin (33), Lesser Redpoll (4), Linnet (8 over), Goldcrest (4), Swallow (2 over), Barn Owl (1), Cetti's Warbler (3 heard), Nuthatch (2), Sparrowhawk (1), Buzzard (4).

Friday, October 05, 2012

Away Day Part 2

Yellow-browed Warbler (Library Image)
Wells Wood Dell is a known migration hotspot and recent reports of Yellow-browed Warbler was the main reason for our visit, although you never know what may turn up, Pete's even had Wryneck here in previous years. Sadly our search for migrants proved disappointing but was brightened by 200/300 Brent Geese which emerged from over the sea wall and a good number of Butterflies which were enjoying an excellent crop of blackberries. Various numbers of Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Large White, Small White and Comma were recorded.

From Wells our next possibility was a Pectoral Sandpiper which had been reported earlier at Stiffkey Fen. This little gem of a reserve is situated east of Stiffkey village just north of the coast road. Parking is available just up the hill to the west of the fen, you then cross to the inland side of the road where a hedge lined path has been provided, keep an eye out for Yellowhammers, Warblers in season and Barn Owls over the meadows. Cross the road by the stream and follow the path up to the sea wall, there is a small House Martin colony on your left and excellent trees and bushes for passerines along the stream. You will start to get views of the fen on your right but it's easier to view from the sea wall. Although Pete and I could see over from here the two shorties Derek and Alan could not, priceless!

In winter if the tide is in you can sometimes see Divers and Grebes in the coastal creeks, a Kingfisher is often around and at low tide estuarine waders can be seen. The fen itself can be excellent during passage times, with Sandpipers, Stints, Godwits and Shanks present. Scarcer species often turn up and Little Ringed Plovers and Avocets also breed. During winter it can be good for Ducks.

Good Numbers of Wigeon
Our second dip of the day after endless scans was indeed the Pectoral Sandpiper but we weren't too down hearted as we enjoyed a terrific hours birding recording various numbers of: Shelduck (pictured above) Wigeon (pictured left), Kingfisher, Greenshank, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Avocet, Little Egret, Sand Martin, Swallow, Linnets, Buzzard and Marsh Harrier. Out towards the sea lots of Common Seal on the sand banks and finally our first glimpse of the recently arrived Pink-footed Geese. Firstly, a single bird which flew in calling from the sea, shortly followed by a huge flock over to the west, stunning with the low sun in the background.

One of last years wintering Pinkies!
A final stop for a look at Holken Fresh Marsh just prior to sunset. Here we walked the short distance off the road down to the farmers gate which overlooks the water at a safe distance. A scan of the small Greylag flock on one of the fields actually came up with a single White-fronted Goose among them, plus a Barn Owl quartering the next field, but the best was saved until last. As the sun was sinking towards the horizon the sight and sound of the Pink-foots, here to winter once again and not in any massive numbers just yet but enough to provide the spectacle of the day! With a credible days total of 94 species in the bag it was time to head home to land locked Warwickshire.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Away Day Part 1

Black-tailed Godwit - RSPB Titchwell
Having not been to the Norfolk coast since as far back as January it was time for another away day and so myself, Pete, Alan and Derek from the Brandon Team headed off at first light on Wednesday.

Our first stop was RSPB Titchwell, arriving at around 9.30am and an opportunity to walk the new Autumn Trail recently opened to the public. The trail, which runs along the far eastern side of the reserve, will only be available between August 1st and October 31st so that the regular roost of Marsh Harriers which is nearby is not disturbed during the winter and breeding times are not interrupted.

The walk offers some great panoramic views across the current reed bed and new areas and our first notables of the day as we approached the first screen were a flock of around 30 or so Golden Plover, a Bittern in flight out towards the salt marshes and at least a half dozen Little Grebe seen from the screen.

Wigeon & Spotted Redshank
There are in fact a number of screens to stop and take stock and I have to say that our walk, although a little blustery, was really enjoyable. As we approached the final screen our first Marsh Harrier and flocks of Brent Geese and Greylag, along with a lone Barnacle and 3 Egyptian were noted coming in. The screen also offers alternate views of the freshwater marsh and being close up to the reed bed we were able to pick out a couple of Bearded Tit, difficult in the windy conditions. No less than 11 Spoonbill were on the fresh marsh today and a good selection of waders to boost our numbers which included: Ruff, Dunlin, Knot, Spotted Redshank, Avocet, Lapwing and Greenshank.

The walk down to the beach along the West Bank Path produced some photographic Black-tailed Godwits (above), Little Egrets and a short session in the Island Hide had more waders with Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Curlew, and lone Little Stint. Various numbers of Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck and Pintail were also noted.

Nosey Wheatear - Gorgeous!
A short sea watch had distant Gannet, several Great-crested Grebe, a single Common Scoter and a brief glimpse of Diver, unfortunately not relocated. From my vantage point on the old brick structure more waders on the shore with Sanderling. Redshank, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit and watching me watching them not 5 feet away a gorgeous Wheatear, which I managed to get on camera!

At this point our official recorder for the day Mr Pete Worthy suddenly discovered he'd lost his note book, records enclosed. Fortunately I'm glad to report that book and recorder were re-united shortly after when said book was discovered still in the Island Hide where he'd left it, panic over! During the walk back to the car park a second Bittern, Marsh Harrier and Water Rail.

From Titchwell an hour spent at Wells Wood Dell in search of Yellow-browed Warbler but more on that in part 2!