Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Quick Update

I've been finding it a real struggle of late keeping the blog updated with other commitments taking priority, but in the interests of continuity thought I'd better get a few notes down while I have a spare moment.

Great Norther Diver - still an attraction at Draycote Water
From a local perspective things have remained pretty much as was with the now long staying selection at Draycote Water of: Great Northern Diver, Smew, Red-breasted Merganser and Long-tailed Duck. A visit to Napton Reservoir on route home from Brandon Marsh yesterday produced of note a couple of ♂Goosander, two ♂Pochard and the welcome sight of my first Kingfisher at the reservoir for some considerable time. It seems that Saturday's storm has also had an impact, with one of the large trees at the southern end literally chopped in half!

Drake Smew - During a recent visit to Draycote Water
A little further afield a Hume's Leaf Warbler is causing a twitch at Ham Wall, apparently Warwickshire's first county record buts it's unlikely I'll get the opportunity to get over for a look.

Few diving ducks to be found but the dabbling ducks are still around with good numbers of Gadwall at Brandon
Brandon Marsh remains flooded out with little in the way of diving ducks on offer, likely due to the birds having the whole country to choose from during the current climate. The odd Woodcock can be found on site, normally inadvertently flushed while walking the perimeter of the Farm Pool reedbed and Jack Snipe have also been seen while the conservation team are out working. One bird which remains elusive is probably the only current Bittern on site. However, this bird seems to be a creature of habit and over the past several days can be found regular as clockwork just before dawn. Position yourself by the bench at the top of the track which overlooks Newlands reed bed and you stand a good chance of seeing the bird fly in from it's roosting point, probably somewhere on Swallow Pool. Another surprise during yesterdays visit was an early Oystercatcher, Brandon doesn't usually see it's first until well into February.

Dunnock - Now beginning to sing!
Finally, the marina has been playing host to at least a half dozen Tufted Duck, which regularly fly in to roost overnight before heading off mid morning. The adjacent fields are a haven for Fieldfare and Redwing, now ground feeding and at least a dozen Skylark were flushed over the weekend. The feeders continue to attract the local Tree Sparrows and at least one Blackcap is regular, a Chiffchaff can also be heard regularly along the hawthorn. The eerie call of Fox has also been a feature of late, the Dunnocks are starting to sing but the local Owls are a little quieter at present.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Normal Service

Apologies for the break in transmission over the last fortnight and although I have been out birding on several occasions, blogging has had to take a back seat due to a few other projects in the mix.

However, normal service has resumed and Sunday an early start around the marina grounds before heading off to Brandon Marsh. The highlight around the marina was my first Little Owl of the year, when one flew east just prior to dawn. A Tawny Owl was also heard but at distance and I suspect came from somewhere over towards Napton Reservoir.

Shoveler on east marsh pool recently, Brandon Marsh - Canon SX50 HS
The water remains high at Brandon after the recent floods and as normal the sluices aren't due to be opened until February. Even then it remains to be seen how quickly the water on east marsh pool will recede. The team also attempted to raise a couple of perching trees across on Newlands last Thursday to replace those brought down over recent months. I'm entirely unsure as to how long these will last but it was great fun trying to get them up and with any luck the Brandon Cuckoos and Hobbies may have somewhere to perch this coming spring.

Siskin taken recently at Brandon in the gorgeous sunshine - Canon SX50 HS
A large Siskin flock was near Wright Hide feeding high in alder, with some stunning Lesser Redpoll within and a Chiffchaff calling near swallow pool was another highlight, before coffee in east marsh hide. After coffee a walk around the top reed beds and past the old farm buildings flushed a Woodcock and also produced Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and a few dozen Fieldfare and Redwing feeding on the surrounding fields.

This morning I headed off to Draycote Water in the hope that the predicted fog hadn't actually arrived! I wasn't disappointed, with the most glorious morning on offer. It wasn't long before I was onto the drake Smew, quickly followed by several Goosander, distant Long-tailed Duck and the long staying Great Northern Diver. I decided to take advantage of the weather and gave the Canon SX50 a once over using the HD video feature. I've uploaded my first attempt to my YouTube account and I hope you enjoy it. Bare in mind this was filmed hand held and there are a few exposure issues which I think I've got my head around for the future.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Brief Encounter

I left the boat in heavy rain, arriving at Brandon Marsh just after 8am for my first visit of the year. Some of the team were already out and about and by the time I'd caught up with them Martin had told me of a Bittern he'd seen flying on to the Newlands reedbed. Amazingly, this is the first sighting this winter! The guys had planned to do some work over on Newlands but I was keen to see what was about and so Martin and I left them to it.

As you would expect from a reserve situated on the River Avon floodplain the whole place was bursting at the seams and Martin and I abandoned an attempt to get down to the East Marsh Hide, the paths completely deluged and well over our wellies. Martin headed off and I decided to take my old route passed Sheep-field and on into New Hare Covert. As I passed the Sheep-field gate a quartet of Bullfinch with 2♂ and 2♀, a couple of Greenfinch and by the time I emerged from the Covert I'd further recorded: Buzzard, (2) Nuthatch, Great-spotted Woodpecker, (11) Siskin and Goldcrest.

One of four Goldeneye - Canon SX50
I finally managed to bypass the floods late morning and eventually got through to the Carlton Hide. It was here that I had the good fortune to have yet another close encounter with a dog Otter. This time I had my trusty Canon SX50 HS with me and managed to get a short HD video of the event. I must say I'm really enjoying carrying this amazing little camera around with me, it's great fun to use.

Solitary Barnacle Goose on East Marsh Pool - Canon SX50
At Carlton Hide I also managed a couple of Willow Tit, and another Goldcrest before settling at East Marsh Hide for morning coffee. Willow Island is completely immersed, well almost with around a hundred or so Lapwing seemingly perched on the water! A couple of Snipe on Wigeon Bank and (4) Goldeneye with 1♂ and 3♀. A solitary Barnacle Goose was among the Canada Geese, Little Grebe, (2) Sparrowhawk, Water Rail heard and a couple of Wigeon were other notables.

A brief visit to a very high Napton Reservoir on route home produced of note: a couple of ♂Goosander, (3) Pochard and various numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing, now ground feeding having almost demolished the berry crops!

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Back Aboard!

Finally back aboard after visits to the north-west coast of England and Chauvigny France over the Christmas and New Year period and time to settle back down to a little normality. Mind you, while flying in over the UK I'm thankful once again that I live on a boat! Wide expanses of the countryside are simply deluged, with large areas looking like small groups of Islands.

Yuan Zi on the prowl in the huge purpose built environment!
After our earlier visits to Réserve naturelle du Pinail and Le Brenne Natural Parc, the last few days were spent locally. I've been surprised to find as many wintering Blackcap and Chiffchaff during this stay, mind you the weather has been extremely mild, even for this neck of the woods. The Firecrests and Marsh Tits are always a delight around the garden but I never did manage to connect this time with the local Red Squirrel, a regular feature in the area.

Huan Huan enjoying a nice spot of bamboo!
I also managed to fulfill one of my lifetime ambitions of seeing a Giant Panda. The Zooparc de Beauval, around a 90 minute drive from Dee's parents, is home for the next 10 years to a pair named Huan Huan (girl) and Yuan Zi (boy). I'm not a great lover of zoos for obvious reasons, but in many circumstances I do feel that zoos play an important role in conservation and research. Having spent the best part of the day at Zooparc de Beauval and seeing many threatened species well cared for and in some stunning environments, I can only offer lots of positives from my visit, although I'm not a lover of birds in cages!