Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Spring Awaits!

Depending on your point of view, meteorological speaking spring is a mere 10 days away. Indeed, it wont be long before all eyes are to the skies looking for that first Sand Martin of the year!

Lots of trees uprooted and held up by the recent winds!
Today I managed a real in-depth look around Brandon Marsh and one of the things that hit me is how different the reserve currently looks after recent events. With older and rotted trees succumbing to the high winds, new ponds appearing, flattened reed beds and brimming pools, the whole place has taken on a new ambiance.

All sluices open but a slow process.
A walk through New Hare Covert just after sunrise and the whole place was awash with birdsong. Song Thrush, Dunnock, Robin, Wren, Goldcrest, Chaffinch and even several calls from a Brambling high in the canopy, which unfortunately Alban, Mike and I didn't quite manage to connect with. As we passed by the golf course a couple of Cetti's Warblers emerged from the bramble, offering a brief and unmistakable snippet of song before making off. We arrived at Wright Hide just in time to shelter from a heavy downpour and even with the sluices fully open East Marsh Pool is still to bursting point. A decent count of seven Goldeneye, single Shelduck, Little Grebe, Kingfisher (3) Snipe and various numbers of Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal, plus my first Brandon Great-crested Grebe of the year were the highlights. The path leading away from Wright Hide had at least four Lesser Redpoll ground feeding and both Treecreeper and Goldcrest were heard calling.

Reed Buntings in song throughout the reed beds.
A walk to Carlton Hide and through to the screen area produced a ♂Muntjac Deer along the Carlton ditch, Skylark over and at least a half dozen Reed Buntings singing away from various vantage points, such a mundane song for such an attractive bird.

Scarlet Elf Cup - Lots to investigate in the woodlands.
Personally I love to see the open sky but for me at this time of year woodlands are the place to be and so later in the morning I spent an hour or so in Horsetail Glade, only three or so years ago a great place to see Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers. Here I settled on the bench for a coffee, sometimes a great idea to just sit and let the wildlife come to you and it certainly did. A couple of Treecreepers, generally found in pairs at this time of year were busy feeding and constantly calling, a very high pitched call which thankfully I can still pick up. A Nuthatch seemed to be investigating a possible nesting sight and at least four Great-spotted Woodpeckers were causing havoc. Jays are still battling away too in their territorial quest and a nice surprise when a Bank Vole ran through close to my perch. Sadly, no LS Woodpeckers today but we can live in hope!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Another Update!

Birding is still at a premium for me at present with a few personal projects on the go, not least the 'Brandon Marsh 2013 Report', which I'm helping edit along with Alban and Jim. However, a leisurely walk around Draycote Water with Bob and Richard on Monday morning was a treat, this during a nice break in the persistent westerly gales, plus a dismally wet and windy visit to Brandon Marsh this morning.

Yellowhammer - One of several at Draycote Water
With the risk of becoming a little complacent, the usual long staying birds were to be found at Draycote: Great Northern Diver, feeding much further out on this visit, plus drake Smew, Long-tailed Duck and Red-breasted Merganser, which we eventually found as we approached the 'overflow'.

Also of note during my walk were at least a dozen or so Yellowhammer to the back of the 'Inlet', several Tree Sparrow on the feeder, lone Chiffchaff and a couple of very bold Water Rail, of which I managed a short burst of video on the Canon SX50. I even managed to wow Bob with a little plane spotting (aviation my second hobby) when I took this image of a Russian made Anotov AN-124 as it passed overhead!

Anotov An-124 worlds second heaviest operating cargo aircraft!
Brandon remains a quagmire and although the sluices are now open on east marsh pool, goodness knows when the levels will return to anything near normality. Some decent reports though over the last week or so of Caspian Gull, Red-crested Pochard and Mealy Redpoll, so I need to get back into the swing again pretty soon!

Another Little Owl residence up for lease!
Locally, I finally managed to place a Little Owl nesting box after finally getting permission from Lord Shuckburgh, thanks should also go to James from the Crossroads Garage at Napton who helped me put the thing up.