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!