Monday, February 09, 2015

Away-Day #1

The first away-day of the year with the Brandon Marsh team and these trips are becoming so popular I actually have a waiting list for seats on the minibus.

Setting off from Brandon at 06:45 hrs the weather was dry, a lot milder but mostly overcast. However, as we headed east along the A14 the sky cleared to produce wall to wall sunshine for the entire day. Our first stop was in search of a Great Grey Shrike at Burn Coppice, Deenethorpe.

Great Grey Shrike - Yep that's him! Thanks to John Osbourne
On arrival we began our search of the area and it was lovely to see a brace of Red Kite in flight, contrasting beautifully against the backdrop of a gorgeous blue sky. Yellowhammer and Chaffinch were in full song and a few Red-legged Partridge were feeding in the corner of a field. I decided to take a wander along the bridal path and at the end came across a trio of Mistle Thrush, Buzzard, several Goldfinch and three Hares. The main attraction was ably spotted after a short time by Alan Boddington and despite only having distant views of the immobile bird perched atop hawthorn, it was still well worth the effort and a great start to the day.

Nice Lapwing shot thanks to Trevor Griffiths
After breakfast at Peterborough Services, where several McDonald's 'egg McMuffins' where raised in Adrian's absence and I collected the free coffee vouchers it was off to our next stop in search of Rough-legged Buzzard. Some disruption to traffic at Holme Fen due to roadworks but we manged nearly an hour in search only to draw a blank. The bug-bare was that the bird was reported shortly after we departed. Still we enjoyed the challenge and a lovely ♂Stonechat, plus Lapwing, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and many Goldfinch in the fields to pass the time.

Short-eared Owl - Alan Boddington
Eldernell on the Nene Washes next and almost immediately on arrival a Short-eared Owl was located on the ground not too far from the car park. In fact by the time we moved on 90 minutes later five of these wonderful birds had been seen. Another species high on the list was Common Crane and again we weren't disappointed with at least eight birds seen during our stay. While scanning from the bridge a Kingfisher shot by offering excellent flight views and other species of note included: Red Kite, ♂♀Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Stonechat and Fieldfare.

Crane in flight over Eldernell, Nene Washes - John Osbourne
The rest of a very long and enjoyable day was spent at RSPB Titchwell Marsh on the North Norfolk coast, with a brief stop on route to register Bewick, Whooper and Mute Swan. The fresh water pool to the left as you walk down to the beach has been drained of late and here a Little Egret, Grey Heron, Ruff, Dunlin and Kingfisher, plus Marsh Harrier over the distant reeds. Sadly no sign during our stay of the recent Water Pipit. Lots of Brent Geese through the reserve and distant skeins of Pink-footed Geese were constantly observed.

Curlew - RSPB Ttchwell
From the bench overlooking the freshwater marsh a pinging call alerted us to a pair of Bearded Tit in the nearby reeds, offering excellent views to those who'd not seen this species before and while enjoying these, several Skylark and Meadow Pipit overhead. The pool itself contained decent numbers of Pintail along with various counts of Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Wigeon, Shelduck and a selection of waders including: Curlew, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover and five Snipe in flight.

Time spent overlooking the volunteer and tidal marshes produced more additions to the day list with Little Grebe, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Knot, Redshank and a single Spotted Redshank.

Grey Plover - RSPB Tichwell
The beach and subsequent sea watch is always a favourite of mine and off shore a large raft of Common Scoter produced a very distinct lighter bird within, which the team were happy to confirm as Long-tailed Duck. Several Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye and even two Wigeon on the water. The usual Cormorant and selection of Gulls were also noted. A walk out to the tide-line gave closer views of the feeding waders which included: Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Turnstone and Oystercatcher.

Finally, with the sun setting and the temperature dropping the walk back to the car park produced both Muntjac and Chinese Water Deer on the wet marsh, more Bearded Tits, Peregrine and several Marsh Harrier heading in to roost. A Woodcock flew across the road as we headed back and the fish and chips at Eye were a treat to end a brilliant day!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

WWT Slimbridge

Dee and I decided to take a picnic and spend the day at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trusts Slimbridge reserve in Gloucestershire. Not everyone's cup of tea but we always enjoy getting close up to species you may not have the opportunity to come across in the wild.

Snowdrops are out!
A dank and dreary day weather wise but despite the cold lots of Snowdrops starting to show through and the birding was actually quite good too. A quick look in the Hogarth and Zeiss Hides found the pools mostly frozen over and so not a lot to see here, save for the odd Oystercatcher and a single Snipe in flight!

Brown Rat taking advantage!
However, the Martin Smith Hide provided some good views of several Bewick Swans, plus a couple of Common Crane feeding off towards the fenced area. A group of twenty or so Greylag Geese produced a trio of White-fronted Geese within and small selections of waders included: Golden Plover, Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew. Asleep on the perimeter were decent numbers of Black-tailed Godwit, Pintail and Shelduck.

Water Rail near the feeding station.
On route to the Holden Tower a stop off at the feeding station had Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, House Sparrow, Blue Tit and Great Tit and offered some close views of a showy Water Rail, several Brown Rats were also taking advantage of the overflow. The tower produced good panoramic views and here good numbers of Teal and over 200 Barnacle Geese feeding on the wet meadow. A brace of Peregrine and a lone Mistle Thrush directly below kept Dee entertained with the camera.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

White Stuff

Lots of the 'white stuff' around this morning and a little dicey on the back roads on route to Brandon Marsh! However, a Barn Owl flypast while moving gingerly along Tomlow Road was well worth the risk.

Lots of Badger and Fox paw prints around this morning.
Lots of Badger and Fox paw prints in the snow this morning and by the time Derek and I had reached the Wright Hide Nuthatch, Lesser Redpoll and Bullfinch had all been recorded. As you would imagine all the pools at Brandon are currently frozen over. That said a small open area out in the middle held four Shelduck, a half dozen Common Gull and a mixture of Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck and Shoveler. I'm happy to report that a Willow Tit was calling and located along the Central Marsh Path, the significance of this particular sighting is that it bodes well for the current Brandon Willow Tit Project, spearheaded by the BMVCT.

Little Egret from the Baldwin Hide.
Martin and I were delighted to come across the above Little Egret perched high in the willow to the left of Baldwin Hide when we made or way back along the Central Path. We managed to sneak past the screen and into the hide without too much effort for some photos.

A look around West Marsh and Horsetail Glade produced a calling Chiffchaff, Great spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Coal Tit, Song Thrush and ♂Sparrowhawk. A couple of Mute Swans were walking precariously on the frozen pool, always a little concerned seeing this having rescued one which fell through the ice in my youth.

Mute Swan at Steetley Hide
A walk around the 'Tip' area and Farm Field produced a Fox, Green Woodpecker and Buzzard and although the birding was a little quiet it was a very pleasant morning.

Monday, February 02, 2015

A Little While!

Yes it's been a little while since my last post but up until more recently it's been same old, same old! That said I've now added the illusive Bittern to my year list at Brandon Marsh and have finally caught up with things at Draycote Water.

Black-necked Grebe - Draycote Water
To begin with Draycote Water and a bitterly cold start this morning just as the hazy sun broke over the horizon. The usual abundance of Little Grebe and Great-crested Grebe on arrival and I soon caught up with Richard Mays and Dave just prior to reaching Farborough Spit. A search through the Greylags and Canada's grazing on the field below yielded a couple of White-fronted Geese and a single Pink-foot Goose, although I didn't pick the pinky up until my return journey. The Black-necked Grebe was fortunately still on site providing a year first and I managed a number of record shots in the morning gloom. Worth a mention, a brace of Shoveler out towards the centre and a single Little Egret over on Lin Croft.

Grey Heron
On route back along the bank Richard picked out the drake Smew, way off towards the inlet and nestled in among a group of Goldeneye, which were in good numbers today. After parting company I decided to head off up towards the inlet to check out the Tree Sparrows and on route a single Grey Wagtail, Kestrel, several Goosander and around a dozen or so Teal. The Tree Sparrows were in situ around the feeder and I managed at least fifteen or so of these smart looking birds. The field just to the rear of the feeder held a decent sized mixed flock, consisting of Linnet, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer, but alas no Brambling within! A surprise was a single Skylark happily singing away right above my position, despite the bitterly cold conditions. Before returning to the car park a Grey Heron provided a good photo opportunity and Pochard numbers seemed pretty good with 37 counted. Although I knew a couple of Pintail were around I didn't manage to connect today, although an enthusiastic biker insisted on showing me his pics when I arrived back at the car!

House Sparrow
The marina itself has been a great place to hear and see Tawny Owls recently and in the still cold air last night I'm positive at least four birds were heard within the grounds. Lots of House Sparrows are taking advantage of the many feeders at present and a reasonable flock of Linnet with several Yellowhammer within have been on the adjacent fields for the past week, but despite my hopes of a Merlin taking advantage I've yet to be rewarded.

Finally, over the near 10 years I've been moored at Wigram's Turn I've always found the marina to be a haven for wildlife. A great deal of thought went into the planting and surroundings when the marina was first built, not by the current owners I hasten to add. However, more recently the marina management hierarchy have made some astonishing decisions and I was appalled a few weeks ago to see the decimation of the west-side reedbed and the cutting back of crucial roosting areas. To what end I'm completely at a loss. Reed Buntings, Wrens, roosting Pied Wagtails and small sheltering mammals regularly seen there have been totally displaced. Absolutely bewildering management and despite voicing my concerns and in typical fashion I'm yet to receive a response!