Monday, April 20, 2015

Brandon Away-Day

Thanks to the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust I'd managed to secure the minibus once more and slotted in a short notice day out for the Brandon team. As I drove down to the main car park shortly before sunrise a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling from the top reed bed and while the guys were assembling in the car park a lone Little Egret flew over the nature centre, nice start!

Common Whitethroat - Thanks to Trevor Griffiths from the Brandon team
Target birds for the day were Nightingale, Stone Curlew and Woodlark. What better place to start than Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, near  St. Neots Cambridgeshire, a well know spot for our first target bird of the day. On arrival the fog that had been with us along most of the A14 had finally burnt off to produce wall to wall sunshine the whole day. We decided on this occasion just to take in the 'Heron Trail' and by the time we'd completed a circuit we'd managed to connect with three Nightingales, all in full song and one showing very nicely. Other species of note included: Noisy nesting Cormorants, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat, Goldcrest, Sedge Warbler, Cuckoo, Oystercatcher and my first Common Terns of the year. I might have had my first Garden Warbler too but certain team members failed to call it, but we mustn't dwell on that for too long!

Nightingale - Thanks to Trevor Griffiths from the Brandon team
Next stop was across the county and into Suffolk to visit Cavenham Heath National Nature Reserve, a new destination for the team and somewhere we were really looking forward to. The area is part of the Brecks, of which a lot of the area would have been like in years gone by. Much of that habitat has now been lost so Cavenham is a remnant of that particular habitat of heathland and acid grassland. It is an important site and is designated a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The heath is next to the River Lark where it becomes wet grassland and fen and is surrounded by Birch woodland.

Stone Curlew- Don't panic!! I took this one in France a few years ago.
We parked alongside the wood and decided to take a long walk down to Temple Bridge. Before heading off we had lunch and sat overlooking the open heathland where two Red-legged Partridge, Oystercatcher and a couple of Raven flew over prior to setting off. As we emerged to overlook the heath, which stretches out both sides of the track our first scans produced the odd Skylark, Emily spotted a Muntjac Deer and there were also a couple of Hares to be found. First bird of note was a stunning ♂Stonechat perched up on the many fences but it wasn't long before the first of five Stone Curlew were located. By the time we'd reached Temple Bridge Meadow Pipit, Linnet, a couple of Wheatear, a single Yellowhammer and a Grey Wagtail entertained while we took a breather. The team split up on the walk back, some including myself elected to take a stroll through the birch woodland, where the best we had was four Mistle Thrush. This turned out to be the wrong decision as those who elected to retrace their steps came across a gorgeous singing Woodlark! Fortunately and undeterred I elected once all were back aboard to take the bus gingerly along the track, where thankfully the whole team managed great views of probably the same singing Woodlark, a real treat.

A stop at Eldernell, prior to Fish and Chips at 'Eye', produced a few more ticks for the day including Little Egret♂♀Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher, Buzzard, mating Cranes and to end the day a lovely Little Owl perched on the electricity pylon as we drove back to the main road.