Monday, February 25, 2013

Scarce Visitor

Green-winged Teal on River Pool
No birding this weekend due to visiting family in Liverpool and you guessed it, while the cat's away! A phone call from JR on the Sunday morning alerted me to a ♂Green-winged Teal he'd discovered on River Pool at Brandon Marsh.

Naturally I was at Brandon at first light today and within minutes of entering River Pool I had him in the scope. After a short while he decided to take a nap to the back of the pool within the Willow but just before leaving around 11am another look found him showing nicely mid-water. Very grateful to the two morons who bundled into the hide just before I left totally intent on a year tick to bother about anyone else, a lesson in stealth and manners might be in order!!

A nice record shot (above) heavily cropped and in crap light but it'll do me! My last personal record was in British Columbia, Canada last May but it's nice to have another UK record. Normally these scarce visitors to Brandon tend to hang around for a few days so I'm sure the 'lenses' will soon have decent images to show.

Also worth a mention this morning during my stay: Shelduck (6), Wigeon (52), Great-crested Grebe (2), Water Rail (1), Oystercatcher (2), Yellow-legged Gull (1), Buzzard (1) and Treecreeper (1)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Hazel catkins!
With a visit to Brandon Marsh in glorious spring like sunshine, an evening stroll around the marina grounds the same day and a visit to Coventry Airport for the reported 200+ Bramblings this afternoon, it's only now I find time to actually sit and compile a post!

First to Brandon on Tuesday morning and after a cold start it wasn't long before the layers began to come off. I started the day at Big Hide and wasn't surprised to find the pool around 80% frozen. A first of the year Ringed Plover, (2) Oystercatcher, (7) Snipe, (3) Shelduck and (2) Great Crested Grebe the best of the hide visit. Unfortunately with so much water lying and even with the sluices wide open it seems to be taking an age for the East Marsh Pool to reduce in level, so patience seems to be the watchword!

A brief visit to Carlton Hide with Martin and Keith #2 and on the return to Big Hide for morning coffee the wonderful sight and sound of around fifty or so Wigeon dropping in.

Bittern - mightily cropped image!
After coffee a walk down to Swallow Pool where at least two Bittern have been frequenting a particular area of late, picking up Goldcrest, Lesser Redpoll and Treecreeper on the way. A short vigil in the area around our last sighting didn't produce anything but as we walked along the path near the golf course one flew straight in to the designated spot. After moving back around and a short search the bird was located, elusive but visible (above).

The Snowdrops and Daffodils are now starting to appear and pictured top-left one of the gorgeous Hazels in New Hare Covert now starting to display a wonderful array of catkins. Back at the volunteer car park the final notable of the visit was a single Grey Wagtail on the ground by the Lafarge works   mixing plant.

Sunset at Wigram's Turn Marina
Tuesday evening was just too lovely to miss and so at dusk I took a slow stroll around the marina grounds in crystal clear skies and not a breath of wind. Only small numbers of Pied Wagtails were in the evening roost and I estimated about 30+ dropped down into the east-side reed bed. At least 200+ mixed Thrushes, Linnet and Starling were in the adjacent fields and although most dispersed several went to roost in the Hawthorn on the canal side. Also seen were around 100+ Lapwing flying over towards Napton Reservoir where they dropped into a nearby field. Sadly no sight or sound of the local Tawny or Little Owls, normally very vocal in these conditions but the silhouette of a local Buzzard could be seen in the Owls favorite Oak Tree.

Finally, I met up with Jim Rushforth at Coventry Airport this afternoon for a brief look at the large Linnet/Brambling flock reported in the flax field opposite the museums Vulcan Bomber. Bad timing on my part really as the now bitter easterly wind seems to have pushed them further back into the field for shelter and they simply didn't come close to the road. Although Jim connected with a few Brambling yesterday I'm sad to say my luck didn't seem to be in. However, one highlight was when around 100 or so Linnet, with a few Skylark mixed in, were attacked by a Sparrowhawk we'd been watching perched in a nearby Hawthorn, so not a wasted visit.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Spring In The Air!

Heavily Cropped Marsh Harrier!
Spring has certainly been in the air this weekend with plenty of activity both around the marina and at Brandon Marsh. Song Thrush, Blackbird, Great Tit and Chaffinch were all heard in full song.

In relation to Brandon we suffered another setback last week in our efforts to reduce the current water levels, particularly on East Marsh Pool, when more heavy rain plunged the River Avon back into flood and thus scuppered our earlier attempts.

Notwithstanding the sluices are once again operating to capacity and with a forecast of a short dry spell we live in hope! Reports on Saturday of both Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher means that it's even more critical to retrieve Willow Island form its current watery grave as these species are yearly breeders to Brandon.

Tree Sparrows at the Marina
This morning I arrived before sunrise in the hope of catching up with Saturdays Marsh Harrier reported by George Wootton and Steve McAusland. When I arrived in the lower car park it was obvious that yesterdays other new visitors, a couple of Oystercatchers, were still on site as even from this distance they could be heard chattering away on East Marsh pool. In fact by the time I got down there, the number had increased to three.

Goldfinch - Quick, He's Coming!!
It was a few hours later when I finally connected with the Marsh Harrier when Fred, Jeff and I picked it up over Newlands from the screen area. We spent a good while watching the bird and despite rattling off a considerable amount of photographs the above is the best of the batch. The general consensus is that the bird is a juvenile, and possibly a male♂ as a slight grey was showing on the plumage.

The marina has had the usual selection of birds on the feeders, including good numbers of Reed Bunting, and good numbers of greedy Goldfinches too, who continue to eat me out of house and home! I defy anybody to tell me that House Sparrows aren't making a comeback in rural areas with a count of 33 at one stage. I was a little worried that our Tree Sparrow population may be ousted by the rowdy Housies but they appear to be living in complete harmony.

Finally, I'm currently running a short survey which can be found in the top right sidebar, the aim of which is to get a general consensus as to what brings visitors to The information can then be used to hopefully improve certain areas of the site. Please take a few seconds to take part.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Round Up!

Pied Wagtail (frequent visitors to the marina)
With time taken up compiling this years section on Amphibians and Reptiles for the Brandon 2012 report and getting the new conservation team Facebook Page up and running my blogging time has been limited of late. In fact It came as quite a surprise to me that I haven't actually posted for nearly 10 days.

I've managed to get out and about on several occasions since my last post both locally and at Brandon Marsh and as mentioned in previous posts have been spending a lot more time around the marina grounds. I also have my camera and lens back from repair and to get back into the swing once more have been practicing on the birds frequenting my feeding station at the marina. (pictures enclosed)

Greenfinch a plenty on the feeders
As for Brandon Marsh I knew when I set off this morning that Big Hide and Carlton would be inaccessible due to flood and so my first stop was Wright Hide and on route at least 50 Siskin/Lesser Redpoll were feeding in the Alder. Coffee in the hide produced the first of two Bittern sightings for the day, when the first was observed in flight moving from the River Avon area across towards Newlands. Water levels at Brandon are now taken regularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays and with hides empty several of the conservation team took the opportunity to have an extended look at the Newlands Phase 3 Reedbed. As you would imagine water levels are at an all time high and it was plain to see during our visit that the 20,000 or so reed seedlings, stems and rhizomes hand planted last year are already starting to take hold, a fantastic effort by the team!

Reed Bunting a regular visitor
The second Bittern sighting of the day took place on Swallow Pool when Ken Sherlock discovered one showing exceptionally well about 150yds out from the path. Despite the bitter cold Brandon was full of activity today and a good tour of the remainder of the reserve produced over (40) Snipe, (50) Wigeon, Barnacle Goose, Shelduck, Grey Wagtail and at least (3) drumming Great-spotted Woodpeckers. Other notable's for the day can be found on Jeff's site HERE.

Back at the marina the feeders were a hive of activity and included (3) Tree Sparrow in my count, also observed during my walk were a flock of circa 50 Lapwing towards Napton Reservoir and a Thrush flock of around 100 or so birds. As mentioned earlier Brandon Marsh Voluntary Conservation Team is now on Facebook so if your on Facebook yourself make sure you LIKE us!!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Raven!

The Raven - Edgar Allen Poe
Checking the marina feeders on route to Brandon Marsh this morning our now resident Raven was causing havoc among the other birds. I've never seen a Raven take a bird but I'm certain their well capable with their devious and intelligent nature.

However, this one seems quite content with the grain and fruit scatterings I've laid out. No I'm not about to read the great writings of Edgar Allan Poe but these birds really do fascinate me and I can't wait to get my lens back from repair next week in the hope of capturing some interesting images.

I arrived at Brandon Big Hide just in time to be told that I'd missed a Bittern by seconds but wasn't too despondent as it was just great to be out and I'd managed some good sightings of one on Newlands during my visit last Wednesday. The sluices to East Marsh Pool are now fully open with water battering through but with the current levels It's going to take a good while for the waters to drop, allowing the Islands to re-appear. This is of course assuming that no further deluges are on the way.

After a short stay in Big Hide, the best of which being (3) Shelduck and some excellent numbers of Shoveler, several of the Sunday crew decided to have a walk through Horsetail Glade, the target Lesser-spotted Woodpecker. Over recent years January through March has always been a good time to spot one and so it's always worth a look, sadly no joy today. The walk did produce a good flock of Lesser Redpoll, several Siskin, Redwing and at least 3 Goldcrest.

The team have two additional Barn Owl boxes to place this year and so we had a good tour of the reserve checking out possible locations. During our walk (2) Woodcock were inadvertently flushed and also of note a Sparrowhawk was seen chasing a flock of around 50 or so Thrushes, mainly Redwing, over the Farm Field area.

I ended the day with an evening tour of the marina and here the adjacent field was awash with Fieldfare, which headed off towards Napton Reservoir at sunset. The recent Pied Wagtail roost has depleted and only 2 birds were noted. Finally in the gloom as I headed back aboard a Barn Owl was heard but unfortunately not seen.