Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Diary Update #25

A few hours at Brandon Marsh this morning before the hoards arrived, mainly around the woods and reedbeds in search of new arrivals. Nothing new to add but an increase in Chiffchaff singing with (9)today and three Willow Tits, one heard at 'Olive Bench', one seen to the rear of Wright Hide and then another heard near the Carlton ditch. The Farm Track produced a single Redwing, dwindling numbers now and as I passed Willow Wood a ♂Muntjac darted across my path!

Dwindling numbers of Redwing on the reserve!
What little time I did spend in the hides produced the usual selection of now settled species, but I could only find a pair of Pintail on East Marsh Pool, with the second female missing. One addition to my Brandon year list was a single Dunlin, which flew through calling but never seemed to drop in. Plenty of Sand Martin, even checking out the nesting structure at this early stage. A single Swallow and while at the tool store eating my lunch, two House Martins were over the Lafarge works. Lots of Buzzards enjoying the thermals today, plus a couple of Sparrowhawk.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Diary Update #24

A very bumpy night aboard with storm Katie moving through during the course. The storm was still rattling past when I arrived at Brandon Marsh early doors and with rain still falling a decent number of Hirundines over East Marsh Pool with circa (30) Sand Martin, (3) Swallow and (2) House Martin in the mix.

Jays can be found everywhere around the reserve currently!
No additions to the year list but a Peregrine over East Marsh Pool was my second of the year here. A Willow Tit calling from behind the East Marsh Hide continues my run of at least one heard or seen on every visit, well the last six anyway. Can't get over the shear amount of Jays around too, with over a dozen during my stay today!

Grey Heron sheltering on Swallow Pool
A walk around the pools and reedbeds after things began to brighten up, mainly to listen out for warblers found a few hardy species taking shelter. Despite the continuing strong breeze Chiffchaffs were quite vocal, along with at least (3) Cetti's Warbler and a couple of Goldcrest. A few Water Rails calling deep in cover and in some areas the Marsh Marigold is now in flower. Talking of plants, over on the 'Tip' area the first Cowslips are flowering, although looking a bit the worse for wear in the conditions.

Almost a year to the day a Wheatear on the doggie meadow!
The marina is always a good place to start when looking for arriving migrants and almost a year to the day a Wheatear on the doggie meadow was a nice surprise. Dee and I had an evening walk around Draycote Water, not primarily for the birding but we managed the Scaup, Kingfisher, (4) singing Chiffchaff, (5) Swallow, (7) Sand Martin and a Muntjac Deer at 'Biggin', no sign of this mornings reported Garganey!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Diary Update #23

Thursday was spent with a group of Brandon Marsh volunteers clearing the Island (Walton Island) to the left of Baldwin Hide of winter growth! Still a little more to do with several bags of gravel required to finish, but we'll complete the job Tuesday morning!

Increased viewing opportunities from the River Pool Hide!
A second group made an excellent job of clearing in front of River Pool Hide to improve viewing opportunities. Work has also been carried out on increasing the flow of water returning to the River Avon after recent and future flooding. A Fox on Wigeon Bank before starting work and although Wednesday's Godwit was around early doors, no sign after lunch. My first Swallow of the year on Thursday too, when after work we spent a little time in Baldwin Hide before heading off.

Todays Visit (Saturday) began with a walk around Farm Pool/Top Reedbeds and here birds of note included (12) Fieldfare, (2) Buzzard and Raven over, Goldcrest along the Farm Track and (8) Reed Bunting around the reedbeds.

Little Egret - Through the gloom in his usual spot on River Pool!
On route to the hides a Muntjac Deer in Horsetail Glade and a Willow Tit calling by the River Pool track. Teal Pool held a single Green Sandpiper, (5) Snipe and a couple of Redshank, (5) of the latter in all for the day. (1♂ + 2) Pintail remain on East Marsh Pool and my first House Martin came through during a rain shower, which nearly all managed to connect with! This has to be the first time since joining the Brandon Team in 2008 that I've managed Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin before the end of March.

Total counts today which include the above:

Swallow (3), Sand Martin (6), House Martin (1), Chiffchaff (3), Shelduck (2), Great Crested Grebe (5), Little Grebe (1), Redshank (5), Green Sandpiper (1), Snipe (5), Oystercatcher (5), Little Egret (1), Pintail  (1♂ + 2), Cetti's Warbler (3), Willow Tit (2 heard), Bullfinch (2♂), Siskin (20+), Redwing (15), Fieldfare (12), Raven (1), Buzzard (3), Muntjac Deer (1)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Diary Update #22

Despite receiving a very early text message regarding a Black-tailed Godwit at Brandon Marsh I decided to catch up on some well needed sleep. This resulted in a later start today beginning at Napton Reservoir, where the recent dry spell has allowed the water level to drop back slightly from its winter high. A very still calm day weather-wise and immediately on arrival the call of Redshank put me onto a single bird along the north bank. An Oystercatcher next, with another single bird heading off towards Napton and while following this in the bins a Snipe flashed through my field of view! At least two Little Grebes calling in the reedbeds, along with a Skylark in full song and a single drake Pochard on the water. Finally a Raven over, along with two Kestrels, plus a calling Golden Plover in one of the nearby fields, which I never quite managed to connect with before heading off.

Delighted when the Black-tailed Godwit appeared directly in front of East Marsh Hide
The Black-tailed Godwit was still at Brandon Marsh when I arrived mid morning so I headed off to the hide, where on arrival I'd missed a Little-ringed Plover by minutes. With lunch on hand I spent an enjoyable few hours here and had unusually good views of two Cetti's Warbler, with several Sand Martin's passing through during my stay. I'd finally caught site of a Little-ringed Plover dropping down onto Tern Island when, having been driven off several times by Lapwings, the Godwit suddenly dropped down right in front of the hide! By the time I'd filled my boots with the Canon SX50 I failed to relocate the Plover, so I can only claim the most briefest of views!

Black-tailed Godwit - Great looking bird!
Other species of note: (1♂ + 2) Pintail, (4) Oystercatcher, (2♂ + 2) Pochard , (4) Great Crested Grebe, (3) Redshank, (4) Snipe and (16) Wigeon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Diary Update #21 Brandon Marsh

On Monday our resident Barnacle Goose was joined by two more, whether or not these were feral birds or not is a matter of opinion but it was still nice to see these attractive looking geese gracing East Marsh Pool. All three pairs of Pintail were still on site during my visit, split between River Pool and East Marsh Pool and at one stage (77) Wigeon dropped in, identified when they were way off by that amazing call. Cetti's Warblers are becoming more vocal and along with hearing three separate birds, a fourth was seen as it flew across the front of East Marsh Hide. Jay's are everywhere! At least six birds were having a real battle in Horsetail Glade, with some strange 'calls' emanating that I've never heard before.

Drake Pintail still remains with 2♀ during today's visit.
Having spent the last few days in search of early summer arrivals it was nice to finally see my first Sand Martins of the year today! Three individuals passed over East Marsh Pool shortly before midday, after which another four birds were seen during the rest of my stay.

A 'bullish' Bullfinch near Wright Hide early on Monday Morning!
Only (3) Pintail remain (1♂ + 2) and a slightly better count of Snipe today, with (11) recorded. A couple of Willow Tits during my travels, plus Raven over and Little Grebe at Carlton Hide. Other notables for the day included: (4) Great Crested Grebe, (2) Red-legged Partridge, Little Egret, (18) Wigeon, (2) Oystercatcher (7) Buzzard and a 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull on East Marsh Pool.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Diary Entry #20
A real treat while on route to Brandon Marsh this morning as I drove through to Birdingbury along the back roads! A Red Kite was perched on the roadside hedge and took flight as I passed. The bird continued low over the fields before I finally lost sight, what a great start to the day.

One of two Redshank on Teal Pool this morning!
A trickle of arrivals at Brandon Marsh today, all Chiffchaff with three seen: (1) singing at Baldwin Hide, (1) singing at River Pool Hide and a third being noted along the Central Marsh Track. No real change on the pools from yesterdays report with all six Pintail remaining, fast asleep on the Islands on East Marsh Pool when I left at 11am. An early Dunlin on East Marsh Pool had left by the time I arrived and typically a report of Curlew after I left @pccashmore53

Three gorgeous looking Lesser Redpoll as I passed by Baldwin Hide, along with (6) Siskin in the alder and still Redwing to be found ground feeding, particularly in the flooded area of Horsetail Glade! Further small passages of Fieldfare and a walk around the perimeter of Farm Pool/Top Reedbed produced (2) Red-legged Partridge.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Diary Entry #19

A later start to the day and first stop Wolston gravel extraction before heading off to Brandon Marsh for lunch!

Another chilly and dank overcast morning with the bitterly northeasterly wind still persisting. Wolston was busy with plant machinery but I parked at the works entrance and took a circular route following the public footpaths. Down towards the River Avon a decent flock of around 200 Linnet in the treetops, mixed in were several Chaffinch and even a few Redwing. Towards the west around thirty or so Golden Plover, possibly over Brandon at this point, moved through. Across the small footbridge in the flooded field a Buzzard was perched up and a Kestrel was eating prey on the ground just below, (15) Fieldfare were also noted in the same tree! Walking across to the sewage works a Skylark was singing overhead and a further passage of Fieldfare with around fifty birds but little on the ground with a dog walker not helping matters.

Brandon Marsh next and lunch in East Marsh Hide. Highlights during my stay included: (3 pair) Pintail, (4♂ + 1) Pochard, (3) Wigeon, (5) Great Crested Grebe, (3) Shelduck. (4) Oystercatcher, (2) Redshank, (1) Little Egret and (2) Little Grebe at Carlton Pool. A Muntjac deer also made an appearance on Wigeon Bank.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Diary Entry #18

Back at Brandon Marsh just after sunrise on the lookout for any new arrivals before joining the volunteers for more willow bashing duties. I began my search with a walk around the Farm and Top Reedbeds. A Fox on the 'Tip' area was a good find and in fact my first on site this year, but a pretty quiet walk birding wise with several Reed Buntings singing, a small passage of Redwing and a Sparrowhawk, which darted through the reeds. A Roe Deer standing directly under the relocated Owl Box in the Farm Pool Reedbed area that we've recently cleared was a real bonus before I headed off to East Marsh Hide.

One of Brandon's excellent population of Reed Buntings
Here I joined a few more of the team for a catch up and the highlights on the pool were: (5) Great Crested Grebe, (2) Oystercatcher and a Redshank, the latter heard and not seen! A passage of (15) Fieldfare over and at least two Cetti's Warbler's calling. Teal Pool/River Pool held (5) Snipe and a pair of Shelduck. Just before 08:30 a commotion over towards Alban's Reedbed took my attention and this turned out to be a Great White Egret, which was being mobbed by Gulls. We watched as the bird continued over Carlton Pool and across East Marsh Pool before drifting northwest! Unfortunately we never managed to relocate but it was my best view of the species at Brandon since the bird of 2009.

Still Siskins to be found around the reserve
A few jobs to complete on the the Farm Field later in the morning with several Siskin feeding along the bank and a nice record of (13) Meadow Pipits is a good account for Brandon. A walk after work later in the afternoon in the hope of maybe the first Hirundines proved uneventful but the weather was glorious!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Diary Entry #17

I decided to accompany Dee to Leeds for her business meeting on Monday with the intention of visiting RSPB Old Moor while her meeting took place. It was my first visit to Old Moor and despite being an excellent and well maintained site it's not for me, although the pasta pork bake on the cafe balcony was an excellent lunchtime treat.

Airbus Beluga at 12,000ft (flight-radar) on descent to Broughton, near Chester
Too many noisy Black-headed Gulls and not too many areas of scrape for waders for my liking. A gentleman did tell me that a Mediterranean Gull was onsite but searching through 1000's of gulls in anticipation is not my style. I managed to visit most hides but never managed to connect with either Bittern or Bearded Tit, two of the sites specialist species. Best of the day for me was the Airbus Beluga, which appeared out of the cloud making a steady descent for Broughton near Chester, where it delivers daily airbus parts.

Synopsis for next week
The rest of the week has been spent locally and at Brandon Marsh in search of very early summer arrivals. Of course the current blocking high pressure is doing us no favours on that score and indeed the situation for next week is looking no better. Brandon Marsh has seen the first Redshank arrival of the year and an albeit brief song of a Chiffchaff on Tuesday morning before the cloud and chilly northeasterly rolled in! Also on Tuesday's visit a Woodcock was flushed along the path running through New Hare Covert and a real rarity for Brandon in the form of a Red-legged Partridge, when a single bird was feeding on Farm Field. Over the week a steady passage of Redwing and I've also come across a nesting pair of Long-tailed Tits, a pair of Nuthatch building up a nesting hole with mud, drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers and the encouraging sight of a Willow Tit investigating one of our nesting areas!

Monday, March 07, 2016

Diary Entry #16

Crisp, clear and frosty mornings have been at somewhat of a premium this winter and so when I peeked out of the hatch shortly after 5.30am to listen for Tawny Owls I knew I was off to Brandon. An amazing starry sky and just the tiniest sliver of the waning moon in the pre-dawn light, plus two distant Tawnies calling as I walked to the car park.

Brandon Marsh was full of birdsong when I arrived: Song Thrush, Wren, Chaffinch and Great Tit the main orchestra. I decided to take my usual route past the wind pump and around towards New Hare Covert. Here (7) Redwing in the hawthorn, at least two drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the covert and a Marsh Tit with it's unmistakable call. Over the reed beds Reed Buntings were also in song, along with distant calls of Water Rail and a closer Cetti's Warbler. I made a quick visit to the Wright Hide to check out East Marsh Pool, which was reasonably quiet, the highlights being (4) Oystercatcher, (4) Shelduck, (2) Great Crested Grebe and a large selection of Gulls, which yielded nothing unusual.

Goldcrest enjoying the glorious sunshine!
The main area of activity from here was between the River Pool path and East Marsh Hide. Here the Alder was awash with Redpoll, Siskin, Long-tailed Tit, (3) Goldcrest, (2) Treecreeper and a Willow Tit. An hour in East Marsh Hide with Fred discussing his recent trip to Spain (Sparrowhawk and (5) Buzzard while here) before heading off to Carlton and Ted Jury Hide. Along the right-hand reeds which run along the River Avon between Carlton and Jury Hides the distinct calls of Bearded Tit! I stayed a while but never quite managed to connect before things finally fell silent.

From here on to Horsetail Glade, where a second Marsh Tit of the day and a very vocal Nuthatch. A circular walk around the Farm and Top Reedbeds to finish produced (2) Fieldfare and I displaced a Woodcock while passing along the top bank.

One of two Grey Wagtails at Wolston
Finally a stop at Wolston gravel extraction on route home produced (30+) Linnet, single Grey Partridge and (2) Grey Wagtails. As a sub note the wife arrived home this evening very excited having watched a Barn Owl at close range quartering the dog walking meadow as she parked up!