Monday, May 27, 2013

Spring Reflections (Brandon Marsh)

For us birders in the Midlands living in our land-locked counties the spring migration appears to have come to an abrupt halt. The general consensus is that everything is late or just passing us by, borne out by the fact that Hawthorn blossom, normally seen in late April is only just appearing now, some 3 weeks late. In fact at this time of year I normally turn my attentions to Butterflies, Moths and Wild Flowers, but with yet another disappointing year on the weather front, even these are still thin on the ground.

Hawthorn - Around 3 Weeks Late!
Spending the many hours I do at Brandon Marsh birding, volunteering, chatting and listening to the many visitors it's easy to paint a picture of doom and gloom, but you know it's not actually been that bad a year at all thus far! Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Stonechat, Whinchat, Spotted Flycatcher, Wood Warbler, Osprey, and even the rare Woodchat Shrike have all been recorded this spring. Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Little-ringed Plover and the nationally declining Cuckoo have also been resident since late March and early April.

Wood Warbler (Another Brandon 1st For Me!)
On the pools there have even been some Brandon firsts for me with Common Scoter (not seen since 2005 and before my time) and Sanderling, plus Whimbrel, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper and Garganey. It's also been an unprecedented year for other passage species like Yellow Wagtail and White Wagtail, when either were being recorded daily over a three week period in April.

Yellow Wagtail - Regular Passage In Mid/Late April
With the added bonus of the Newlands Phase III Reedbed Project and the obvious increase in wetland habitat this produces it doesn't surprise me that this year has also seen more frequent visits from Marsh Harrier and even a rare spring Bittern sighting has been noted. With increased habitat comes an increased food source and I believe it's no coincidence that no less than (5) Hobbies and large counts of Swifts and Hirundines are now being seen regularly feeding over the reserve!