Thursday, August 24, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #50

22C Thursday 24th August 2017 ~ Spent the morning with the Brandon Marsh Conservation Team clearing the Islands and Wigeon Bank. Its been a major year for plant growth around the reserve with all Islands completely overwhelmed by excess vegetation. We envisage that the work on the remainder of the Islands will be completed next Thursday. The Wildlife Trust's tractor will also be used to clear the remainder of Wigeon Bank at a date yet to be confirmed.

View from Wigeon Bank!
Interesting that even during the duration of the work waders were already beginning to take advantage with Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover and Green Sandpiper all visiting, so let's hope that the trend continues into the Autumn!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #49

☁️21C Wednesday 23rd August 2017 ~ A pretty dull morning both weatherwise and for birding at Brandon Marsh with the only highlights on the pools a Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper and five Snipe. Kingfisher, Buzzard, Blackcap, Whitethroat and two Raven over were other notables during a three-hour stay!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #48

23C Tuesday 22nd August 2017 ~ A good search of the marina mid morning then on to the local patch at Napton Reservoir and Napton Hill on a very humid day.

Pied Wagtail roost beginning to build!
In last nights Pied Wagtail roost 34 birds, which included the first Yellow Wagtails of late summer, with four on the camp ground! A Barn Owl was also seen across on the adjacent farmland, although very briefly late evening. Today a Peregrine over the marina mid-morning, which continued on through heading east, although it did cause a stir among the Long-tailed Tit flock. Chiffchaffs can be heard calling, almost constantly along the west bank but the reed beds are starting to become less busy, with most of the Reed Warbler young now moving on. Strangely enough, there seem to be more Reed Buntings appearing now that the warblers have moved out!

Napton Reservoir sightings consisted of a Hobby, which stayed for a while hawking over the reed beds, and a juvenile Common Redstart, which had relocated to the horse field through the second kissing gate. Four Lesser Whitethroats moving through the hawthorn on the sheep field, four Bullfinch, two Yellow Wagtails, Yellowhammer and a Raven over were other highlights!

Spotted Flycatcher at Napton Hill
Napton Hill was reasonably quiet, with the exception of four Spotted Flycatchers in the gully, two Buzzard, Green Woodpecker and a Raven. All venues had Swallow, House Martin and the odd Sand Martin passing through but no Swift during my observations.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #47

πŸ’¨ ⛅21C Sunday 20th August 2017 ~ A similar day to yesterday, although the breeze a little less noticeable, but I do seem to have the uncanny knack of only visiting Frampton Marsh when it's breezy!

Avocet ~ Seems like a good breeding season at Frampton
We began today's visit with a walk up to the sea-wall, stopping off at various points to look across the pools and scrapes. Four Spoonbills asleep in the distance and lots of Avocet, plus like Titchwell yesterday several Ruff in various plumages! Dee picked out a Wood Sandpiper and as we stood watching with decent scoped views at least ten Yellow Wagtails could be seen feeding in the grass.

Over 30 Yellow Wagtails at least today!
We paused for a while at the benches after reaching the sea-wall and here a distant Marsh Harrier. However, a small raptor took the eye low over the salt marsh and this turned out to be a year-first tick with a Merlin, which dropped abruptly to the ground and out of sight.

Greenshank ~ At least five today!
A look back across the wet marsh with mostly similar species to Titchwell yesterday, with the exception of a single Whimbrel, which flew in calling and at least three Spotted Redshanks! Five Greenshanks and a single Snipe were other notables while on the sea-bank, along with a solitary Swift overhead. Just prior to moving down from the wall a huge eruption turned out to be a female Sparrowhawk, which left empty handed.

One of two Whinchat today!
Bypassing the East Hide we continued on along the reed bed trail stopping several times to check through the many waders, which appeared to be sheltering at this side of the reserve from the increasing wind. We managed to pick out a Little Stint, in amongst the many Dunlin, plus a single Golden Plover but sadly dipped on any Curlew Sandpipers that may have been around. Just before the turn along to the '360' hide one of two Wheatears today, along with two Whinchats. While here the calls of Bearded Tits, but similar to yesterday, they remained illusive!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #46

πŸ’¨ ⛅20C Saturday 19th August 2017 ~ A weekend stay at Kings Lynn gave Dee and I the opportunity for visits to RSPB Titchwell and Frampton Marsh on opposite sides of the 'Wash' estuary.

This Wall Brown has been through the wars!
Today a leisurely stroll around a breezy Titchwell, beginning at Patsy's Reedbed. The highlights here included a Stoat, which ran along the concrete road just after the hide and good numbers of House Martins and Swallows feeding low over the reeds. Only two Swift in among the hirundine's and despite being very worn and battered, a year first Wall Brown butterfly. The pool itself was particularly quiet species-wise with only a single Pochard of note amongst the many Mallard.

Ruff ~ Looking rather windswept!
The Island Hide offered good views over the fresh marsh and feeding close in several Ruff in various plumages, plus the briefest glimpse of a Bearded Tit, which due to the strong breeze stayed low in the reeds! Lots of juvenile Shelducks and plenty of waders to be found which included Avocet, small groups of Dunlin, larger numbers of Black-tailed Godwit, three Ringed Plover and a single Knot, still showing shades of summer plumage.

Black-tailed Godwit
The Islands and spits offered respite from the wind for a couple of Common Terns, plus at least five Meditteranean Gulls, which apparently have nested here. Out towards the centre, we managed six Spoonbills, with one young bird still begging for food from the parent. Across on Thornham salt marsh Little Egrets a couple of Curlew and some small flocks of Linnet.

Spoonbill ~ On the move over to Thornham Marsh
The Tidal Marsh produced a couple of smart summer plumage Grey Plover but nothing further from the above-mentioned.

Sanderling ~ One of many passing along the beach
The beach as you would imagine in the stiff breeze was challenging and even more so with the tide at its furthest point out. We walked along the water line for a while watching some small flocks of Sanderling, Turnstone and Oystercatcher on the exposed areas, a Seal appearing briefly. A small passage of birds over the water included Common Tern, Little Tern and Sandwich Tern, with a Skua Sp. too far out for recognition.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #45

21C Wednesday 15th August 2017 ~ Staying local today I began with a tour of the marina grounds before heading off across the canal to Napton Reservoir. Six Swallows resting up on the wires enjoying the morning sunshine and a distant 'cronk' of Raven. There is still a small amount of Reed Warbler inhabiting the reed beds and along the banks the hawthorn, elder berries and blackberries are ripening up, producing plenty of feeding activity. Mostly young Chiffchaff but Willow Warbler, Reed Bunting, Whitethroat & Blackcaps can also be found. Those that still have feeders on the go are enticing the usual hoards of Goldfinch & House Sparrows.

Yesterday evening I counted around thirty or so Pied Wagtails around the pontoons, no sign of any Yellow Wagtails thus far, which generally join up around this time of year.

Record image of Common Redstart
Napton Reservoir, which is currently near capacity held the usual Coot-fest (50+ today), four Tufted Duck and the small population of Great Crested Grebe. A Kingfisher flyby was nice to see, less common here than a few years back and the best of the rest included: Whitethroat, Sparrowhawk, Raven over and juvenile Common Redstart, which was preening along the fences in the sheep field. Migrant, Brown and Southern Hawker dragonflies were all on the wing, along with Common & Ruddy Darter.

One of two Spotted Flycatchers directly over the car!
Napton Hill was reasonably quiet with two Spotted Flycatchers in the gully. A distant Wheatear on the Highland Cattle paddocks was a bonus, thanks to Richard Mays for the phone call and amazingly another two Spotted Flycatchers were literally over the top of my car when I returned, which I'd strategically parked under a tree!

Spotted Flycatcher

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #44

23C Tuesday 15th August 2017 ~ I was inches away from damaging a Muntjac Deer, which ran out in front of me as I was entering RSPB Otmoor, Oxfordshire this morning.

Sadly ~ My best effort for Brown Hairstreak!
Although it was a little early in the day I decided to begin my search for Brown Hairstreak butterflies walking north along the bridleway adjacent to the MOD land. I spent around a half hour with no luck, most of the movement, Migrant Hawker, Southern Hawker, Darters and  Speckled Woods. Jim and Carol Timms arrived a short while later and we decided to check out other areas of the reserve, before returning mid-morning. Although successful on our second attempt with two, they remained pretty elusive!

An excellent visit during the remainder of our stay with at least 20+ Red Kites, mainly following a tractor cutting the grassland on 'Big Otmoor' and around a dozen or so Buzzard. Two Common Cranes were across on 'Greenaways' to the north and a Hobby hunting along with at least four Kestrel. Not many waders to be found with Greenshank heard Curlew and a flyby Green Sandpiper. Taking the bridleway west past the hide towards Noke and turning left at the pump station produced the amazing sight of five Whinchats along the farm fence! Although just looking at my grainy distant images one, in fact, could well be a Stonechat!! On route back for the hairstreaks, Carol picked out the first of two Clouded Yellows seen today, as it whizzed past in their normal fashion!

Excellent numbers of Adonis Blue at Yoesden!
After Otmoor a drive out to Yoesden Nature Reserve in Buckinghamshire. This was my first visit here, a wonderful little gem of chalk grassland slope filled with wild flowers. Almost immediately we were into several Adonis Blue butterflies, along with similar numbers of Chalkhill Blue.

♂ ♀Chalkhill Blue
The second of two Clouded Yellows while here and other species noted during the visit included: Brown Argus, Small Heath, Small Copper, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, Common Blue and Meadow Brown.

Stunning blue of the Adonis!

*Apologies for the slight focus issues on my images today which appear to look slightly off!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #43

🌨15C Wednesday 9th August 2017 ~ After completing a few indoor repairs aboard the boat this morning I decided to take advantage of a break in the weather for a quick trip to Napton Reservoir!

To be honest I was hoping more for a Whinchat or trying to finally get to grips with an illusive Common Redstart, which has been around for a while! A group of gulls were passing overhead and in amongst them a couple of Terns, probably Common but I was a little perturbed that I hadn't managed to get a proper ID, you just never know.

However, I shouldn't have been too disappointed as a short while later a second group dropped down! It was one of those moments when you just know your into something special and one bird, in particular, took the eye! I only had my Canon SX50 with me so no chance of a photo but I'm really glad to have had the presence of mind to take some video. I'd seen a Sabine's Gull at Draycote water a few years back and just wish I'd have done the same!

Sabine's Gull ~ Napton Reservoir
Anyway don't get too excited as the video, like the bird, is extremely brief and the camera and I were all over the place! That said you'll probably get the best features of the bird by stop/starting it. I've also posted the above still I extracted from the video!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #42

🌨13C Tuesday 8th August 2017 ~ Draycote water, only a fifteen-minute drive from the marina and somewhere I should really visit more often. The weather today resembled something more akin to October with steady rain, the wind from the north and only a chilly 13C!

Egyptian Goose ~ In among the Greylag flock
After an initial scan, lots of Hirondines and Common Swifts low over the water, I began with a walk past the sailing club and windsurfing area, stopping short of Hensborough Bank. Here fourteen Common Terns resting up and in among the Greylag flock a single Egyptian Goose. At least three Little Egret across towards the valve tower and out towards the centre, three Common Scoter could be made out in the gloom, thanks to ranger Cleo for the heads up πŸ‘

Ringed Plover at Rainbow Corner
I met up with Bob Hazell along Draycote Bank just as a Kingfisher flew through but just missing a Black-tailed Godwit, which Bob managed a photo of. With the rain a little heavier now I decided to drift back with Bob, adult and juvenile Ringed Plover at rainbow corner as we headed off. Only other species of note was a Common Sandpiper on the windsurfing area before we reached the centre.

One of four Turnstone at Farborough Spit
After Bob departed I took a walk along Farborough Bank as far as the 'Spit' in what was now pretty heavy rain. It was worthwhile though, the 'Spit' producing four Turnstone, Dunlin and another Ringed Plover! Other species of note during my stay: Yellow-legged Gull & Grey Wagtail.

Monday, August 07, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #41

17C Monday 7th August 2017 ~ Stayed on the local patch today, beginning at Napton-on-the-Hill and then a good trawl of the marina grounds later in the afternoon.

One of eleven Spotted Flycatchers on the patch today!
I checked the usual hotspots at Napton and was amazed to come across eleven Spotted Flycatchers in total! I'm certain of two families but purely down to the distance of each group I wouldn't be surprised if there were actually three.

Common Buzzard ~ One of the local birds
Quite a bit of Buzzard activity with youngsters circling overhead calling constantly, but unusually no sign of any local Ravens today. During my walk a good passage of Swifts overhead, already on their way back south and who can blame them, what a pants summer!

A large oak tree yielded a very vocal Nuthatch and at least two Green Woodpeckers were active. Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff of note around the church grounds before I headed off to the post office for coffee and cake!

House Martin during the feeding frenzy!
Fully refreshed what greeted me back at the marina was a hive of birding activity! Firstly, I noticed at least 100+ House Martins along the phone wires and in the treeline. Then, as I continued my walk along the west bank it appeared that an insect irruption had brought in various numbers of Long-tailed Tits, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and had even drawn out the Reed Warblers!

Long-tailed Tit enjoying the bugfest
The local House Sparrows were also having a field day and even a half dozen Pied Wagtails were in on the act!

One of a number of Willow Warbler

Later in the evening a Barn Owl, now frequently being seen around the grounds was active once more and the local Tawny Owls are occasionally beginning to call.

Friday, August 04, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #40

21C Friday 4th August 2017 ~ A visit to Brandon Marsh, managing to avoid the showers during the duration of my stay!

Sadly this post will deal mostly with the negatives of Brandon Marsh, which if I was making a list seems to be growing by the day! I visit the reserve regularly as my reader will know, birding mostly but in the summer months seeking out butterflies, Odonata and other amazing flora and fauna that can be found in the reserves diverse habitat.

I've also been volunteering at Brandon Marsh for over 10 years now, and yes in recent times less so, but my commitment to the site and passion for its wildlife remains. Sadly over many months now I've seen first hand a major change taking place. It would seem to me that the owners of the site, 'Warwickshire Wildlife Trust' have completely lost sight of what an SSSI (site of special scientific interest) actually stands for! Sites of special scientific interest ( SSSIs ) are protected by law to conserve their wildlife or geology. I see nothing in the trusts recent initiatives that identify the desire to conserve the reserve's wildlife or geology! What I do see is the increasing desire to promote activities throughout the whole reserve which to my mind is only having a distinct impact on the site's wildlife and its habitat.

For me today was simply the straw that broke the camels back! While completing my usual walk around the 'Tip' area, River Meadow and the Farm Field, an excellent area for butterflies, Odonata and bugs my attention was drawn to a noisy group of youngsters. The youngsters, who I am not blaming first hand for the disruption, were crashing through and trampling the long grass and encroaching into the woodland (unsupervised at this point) in an attempt, as I later found out, to hide from members of the trusts education team in what can only be described as a kind of children's war games! Indeed as I continued my walk a second group, faces blacked and dressed in combat gear were also encountered. In an incident a few months ago a similar group, dressed in combat gear came crashing into East Marsh and Teal Pool hides after noisily running up the central marsh path. What possible educational value (wildlife related) this has for the youngsters I'm at a loss to understand.

The areas in question also contain Barn Owl boxes, Tawny Owl boxes and general nesting boxes. More recently I have personally moved family groups picnicking on an area which contained several Bee Orchids, prevented people from walking their dogs (off lead) and in one case stopped a full blown (jumpers for goalposts football game) taking place! In another incident a Pyramidal Orchid, the only example on the reserve was dug up!

The reserve has no designated ranger/warden and it's left for a few members of the Brandon Marsh Voluntary Conservation Team to actually police the reserve as and when they visit. I've no doubt that the education team at Brandon do an excellent job with schoolchildren and other groups in developing and encouraging future Chris Packham's but surely a decision needs to be made by the management of the trust: Is Brandon becoming a Country Park: An area designated for people to visit and roam unchecked, while enjoying recreational activities in a countryside environment or will it fulfil it's commitment to policing and maintaining a Site of special scientific interest for the benefit of its wildlife? 

This is what Brandon Marsh is really about!

One of two Painted Lady on the 'Tip' area yesterday!

A fresh looking Brimstone on Lesser Burdock

A freshly emerged Migrant Hawker