Wednesday, October 25, 2017

πŸ“– Diary #65 ~ Patch Gold!

πŸ‚ ⛅19C Wednesday 25th October 2017 ~ Razorbill, Shag, Grey Phalarope, Hawfinch!!! Now, where in the UK am I? Well, I'm in Warwickshire of course but I bet you'd never have guessed it with a list like that! An unprecedented day birding on the local patch produced these four excellent species.

Razorbill ~ A first for Warwickshire
My day began when I was just about to start the laborious task of cleaning my chimney when a call from Richard Mays sent me scurrying off to Draycote Water. Richard and Dave Cox had dropped onto a Razorbill, which turns out to be a county first and Richards 250th bird at Draycote, so congratulations to him and thanks for the heads up.

Shag ~ On site several days now but almost overlooked today!
I arrived to find the Razorbill sticking pretty close to the pontoons and dipping in and out of the moored fishing boats. No surprise really as these birds can often be found around harbours and are not easily spooked by fishing boats moving around. More people began to arrive for the star attraction, most oblivious to a Shag just a little further along the waters edge.

Grey Phalarope ~ An unexpected bonus!
At this point I got chatting to Francoise (I think that's her name) who after a minute or two produced a photograph on her camera. She told me that she'd took the photo a little earlier further along the bank and was certain it was too small for a gull! You can imagine my astonishment to identify the bird as a Grey Phalarope. Without further ado we were all off, thankfully coming across the bird close to Farborough Spit a short time later. An amazing morning at Draycote, which also included a single Ringed Plover and 20+ Golden Plover to the south.

After picking up some lunch at the Napton Post Office (highly recommended if your in the area) I met up with Richard, Dave, Paul Cashmore, Terry Southgate and his friend Mo at Napton church. A good search of the lane and nearby fields produced the odd Goldcrest in among the tit flocks, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Nuthatch, and Peregrine but the icing on the cake were a couple of Hawfinch, which circled over our heads as we passed near Church Leys Farm, my second sighting of these gorgeous finches at Napton recently!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

πŸ“– Diary #64 ~ Napton Church

πŸ‚ ⛅16C Tuesday 17th October 2017 ~ More of a chill in the air this morning as I checked out the marina grounds before heading up to Napton-on-the-Hill. Several Pied Wagtails around the car park, a Chiffchaff feeding along the west bank and several Redwing taking advantage of the hawthorn berries was the best I could manage. Still waiting for that first Fieldfare of the autumn!

Redwing ~ Now arriving in numbers
I parked at the churchyard and had a casual wander around the grounds. The regular duo of Mistle Thrush were making their usual racket and several Redwings were flitting through the treetops. A Coal Tit calling, Nuthatch and a few Chaffinch before I bumped into Peter Finden, who I'd last met at Frampton Marsh a few months back. We spent a good while chatting before we both reacted to a couple of birds that suddenly flew into the nearby treetops. I think we got excited straight away, largish finch, big head, thick neck, short tail and distinct wingbars! As we carefully manoeuvred around a few yew trees, there in the treetops a Hawfinch! There were two birds, which sadly departed almost straight away but nevertheless offered an all to brief but excellent view. My first Warwickshire Hawfinch in 12years of living here! Despite being joined a short while later by Richard Mays and Dave Cox, who'd also had a Hawfinch sighting here last week, we sadly never managed to relocate.

Monday, October 16, 2017

πŸ“– Diary #63 ~ Storm Ophelia

πŸ‚ ⛅19C Monday 16th October 2017 ~ With Storm Ophelia blowing in I thought that a couple of hours spent at Brandon Marsh might pay dividends! However, I wasn't quite prepared for what greeted me. Not since my Brandon visit of March 2015 to watch the spring equinox eclipse have I encountered such strange and bizarre conditions!

Brandon Marsh today!
Skies took on unusual glow as Storm Ophelia picked up sands from the Sahara and particles from fires in Spain and Portugal, which may have appeared to some as a sign of an impending apocalypse. Apparently the dust has caused shorter wavelength blue light to be scattered, making it appear red. Ophelia originated in the Azores, where it was a hurricane and as it tracked its way northwards it dragged in tropical air from the Sahara producing todays phenomenon!

Little Gull ~ Taken in the strange saharan light!
The best from a birding perspective consisted firstly of a Little Gull, which graced East Marsh Pool on several occasions before finally departing. A huge count of Black-headed Gulls circa 500, but alas during my stay not offering anything too unusual, Common Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gulls the only other species. A Water Rail made a dash from left to right in front of the hide and I managed a count of (75) Wigeon before a Sparrowhawk scattered all asunder, so I gave up on that one!

Little Gull ~ East Marsh hide
From the Ted Jury hide a couple of small flocks of Redwing, plus (4) Redpoll and as I departed the hide calls of Brambling alerted me to (5) birds passing overhead. A single Snipe and Green Sandpiper the only other notables from the most weirdest of visits!

Little Owl at Shuckburgh!
Subnote: Yesterday Dee and I enjoyed a local stroll around the canal and Shuckburgh area, encountering one of the local Little Owls, which I managed a few images of after playing hide & seek for an enjoyable 1/2 hour!

Few more Little Gull images from today!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

πŸ“– Diary #62 ~ Brandon Marsh

πŸ‚ ⛅19C Saturday 14th October 2017 ~ A gorgeous mild start with a pre-dawn temperature of 15C as I checked out the marina grounds for anything of interest. The Pied Wagtail roost was dispersing with around twenty or so birds heading out, plus a couple of Skylarks overhead, the usual hoards of Gulls heading out from Draycote Water and (2) Meadow Pipits around the car park.

Meadow Pipit
Arriving at Brandon Marsh just before 8am I decided to head straight down to East Marsh Hide for a look at the pools. A small movement of birds overhead, picking up (4) Siskin, (3) Skylark and (2) Meadow Pipit, before I came across (4) Redpoll feeding in the alder by Primrose Bank. Fred Stokes was in the hide when I arrived, informing me that a Peregrine had flushed everything, including a Ruff just prior to my arrival! Bummer, I've dipped on Ruff thus far this year at Brandon!

Marsh Harrier from the East Marsh Hide!
Anyway, things improved for me a short while later when in from the east came a cream-headed Marsh Harrier. The bird dropped down onto Newlands Reedbed and spent a short time down before flying off west over East Marsh Pool, providing a hastily taken photo opportunity!

Marsh Harrier 

Other notables of the visit: Green Sandpiper, (2) Snipe and a good number of Wigeon, although I didn't make the count!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

πŸ“– Diary #61 ~ Napton

πŸ‚ ⛅18C Thursday 12th October 2017 ~ A few hours at Napton-on-the-Hill mid morning produced my first Redwings of the Autumn, with four birds in the treetops at the churchyard.

Redwing ~ My 1st of this Autumn
I spent a while here just sitting and listening, letting the birds pass through and while here Goldcrest, Coal Tit and a couple of Mistle Thrush, one even singing for a brief period. I noticed a couple of Red Admiral butterflies at the tops of the Ivy, plus a single Comma, which was perched on one of the several Yew Trees.

Sparrowhawk ~ Napton Hill
Heading off along the track down towards the farm at least (4) Redpoll, plus (2) Pied Wagtails in the sheep field. Here I bumped into Richard Mays and Dave Cox just as (4) Brambling passed through. One of two Sparrowhawks for the day appeared overhead and a single Siskin, before we headed back to the churchyard.

Boeing C-17 Globemaster ~ Napton's also a great place to indulge in my other hobby πŸ‘€ 
Napton Reservoir was reasonably quiet, the only notables, (4) Shoveler on the water, a Chiffchaff singing around the car park, (3) Redwing over, along with a possible Grey Wagtail, which unfortunately didn't call!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

πŸ“– Diary #60 πŸ‡«πŸ‡· France

Dee and I arrived on Friday evening for a long weekend stay with her parents, who live near Chavigny, in the New-Aquitaine region of western France. Despite being a family visit there's still plenty of opportunity for some birding, not the very least around the substantial gardens, wood and orchards which surround the house. Even a short walk on Friday evening managed to produce Blackcap, Nuthatch, Cirl Bunting, Black Redstart, Firecrest and Red Squirrel.

Black Redstart ~ At least three around the gardens!
πŸ‚ ⛅19C Saturday 7th October 2017 ~ Saturday we did manage an enjoyable afternoon at La Brenne, renown to be one of France's best-kept secrets and only a modest 40-minute drive. This is, without doubt, one of our favourite birding hotspots. A patchwork of fishponds, heath and red sandstone outcrops La Brenne is an area of rich flora and fauna delicately preserved by its ‘National Park’ status. Known locally as 'The Land of a Thousand Lakes' this is a rich tapestry of habitats including marshes, deciduous woods, dry heathland and farmland.

Coypu [Ragondin in Frech] abound at La Brenne
At this time of year, La Brenne's summer visitors have already left: Whiskered Terns [c1000 pairs] Black-necked Grebes [150+ pairs] nest, as do Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, Night Heron, Black-winged Stilt, a few pairs of Short-toed Eagle, and 30+ nesting pairs of Bee-eater, plus wintering Cranes which are yet to arrive in numbers, but there's still a decent variety of species to see.

Great Egret ~ Resident around La Brenne
With such a big area to explore and limited time we only visited a small selection of locations we've become familiar with, and in particular the Reserve Naturelle de Cherine. Great Egrets are plentiful around the lakes, along with smaller numbers of Little Egret, a single Water Pipit was also noted. Waders during our visit, although small in numbers, included WhimbrelBlack-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Green Sandpiper and Greenshank. Common Buzzard, Kestrel and a distant Hen Harrier were the only raptors of the day.

Small Heath
Most of the activity was actually along the many paths and in the warm sunshine, a good number of butterflies were still on the wing with Clouded Yellow, Wall Brown, Small Copper, Small Heath and Common Blue. Black Redstarts seemed plentiful and Stonechats a regular feature. Two Woodlark were found during our stay and Skylarks too were seen passing through overhead.

πŸ‚ ☔️16C Monday 9th October 2017 ~ In sharp contrast to Saturdays glorious autumnal day Sunday and Monday's weather turned out to dank and drizzly. However, in saying that, a visit to La Pinail on Monday morning before our flight home did brighten sufficiently for a pleasant hour or so.

Dartford Warbler in the gloom!
Pinail Nature Reserve is situated about 10 miles from the house, in the ChΓ’tellerault area, this is the only Natural Reserve of France to be found in the district known as La Vienne. The result of millstone quarrying has given way to a mosaic of 3,000 ponds which are surrounded by moor and heathland rich in rare fauna and flora. Amongst the many bird species you can find here, Dartford Warblers are for me the most iconic.

Long-tailed Blue

Long-tailed Blue

Langs Short-tailed Blue
Finally, just prior to heading off a brief sunny period encouraged a few butterflies to make an appearance and these included several Wall Brown, a couple of lovely Long-tailed Blues and a Langs Short-tailed Blue to end the visit!