Friday, January 27, 2017

Diary Update #8 ~ 2017

Friday 27th January... A bitterly cold start as I set off for Eldernell Cambridgeshire this morning in the hope of Short-eared Owls, arriving shortly after 10am.

Cattle Egret ~ Great closeup views!
In my experience of this site I've always found it to be hit and miss regarding Owl activity! For example when Dee and I came here on New Years Eve around midday we we're immediately into no less than four Short-eared Owls! Today, in cold and slightly murky conditions, not one to be found in a two hour stay.

Cattle Egret ~ Didn't seem too bothered by my close proximity! 
That said I think I registered everything else on offer with cracking views of Cattle Egret, along with Ringtail Harrier ♂♀Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, Crane's, Whooper Swan's, Little Egret, Snipe and Common Buzzard. A Kingfisher was also performing very well and making use of the lack of ice under the bridge and six Roe Deer were also noted!

'Redhead' Smew at Deeping Lakes!

My next stop was Deeping Lakes SSSI, Red Kite on route, in search of more Owls, this time Long-eared. Having not visited this site before I found it a real pain to locate (or was it my sat~nav?) and even when I did find the place the signage on the reserve was dreadful. However, I did eventually find the bird hide, where recently up to five Long-eared Owls have roosted on the Island opposite. I managed three today but as is so common with roosting Long-ears they were well hidden and there was little activity, save for the odd scratch! Great to see though and although the lake was 90% frozen I also managed drake Mandarin, a year~tick, (18) Goosander, (4) Goldeneye and 'redhead' Smew.

Below is a brief handheld video of todays Cattle Egret at Eldernell!





Thursday, January 26, 2017

Diary Update #7 ~ 2017

⛅  Wednesday 25th January... The marina was shrouded in fog this morning so I decided to take a little drive out in search of brighter weather and try for Corn Buntings at a known location.

Yammers everywhere during my walk.
I arrived some 30 minutes later and having cleared through the fog the area was indeed bathed in sunshine! It didn't last long though as the mist soon descended and the biting wind was a real factor! After parking I was immediately awash with birds, the adjacent fields held 30+ Fieldfare, Skylark were also calling and both Yellowhammer and Linnet were everywhere! I even managed an astonishing count of over 100+ Stock Dove. The reason? Simply put this is an area where the farmer leaves the old crops to seed and in effect the place becomes a winter feeding station.

Corn Bunting still thriving in Warwickshire!
By the time I'd completed my walk I'd been rewarded by at least 3 Corn Bunting and speaking to a local patch birder @1stbirdoftheday it appears the Corn Buntings are still thriving, with a year best count of 29!

The declining Corn Bunting!

Other species of note today included: Muntjac Deer, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel and Reed Bunting.

Helping out the Oaks and Hawthorn by thinning out the willow!

Thursday 26th January... A bitterly cold day at Brandon Marsh was spent willow bashing in the top wood. A nice fire kept the spirits high! On route home a stop at Wolston for any Waxwings produced a single bird, reported earlier by Paul Cashmore. The bird will perch up and occasionally drop down onto the two Sorbus trees, which thankfully still hold a good berry crop!

Record shot of Waxwing at Wolston in poor light!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Diary Update #6 ~ 2017

Tuesday 25th January... A day out at Rutland Water, meeting up with Pete Worthy, Trevor Griffiths and Alan Boddington from the Brandon Team.

Yet another glorious frosty start to the day we began at the fisherman's car park, which overlooks the North Arm shortly after 9am. A flat calm water produced the usual wildfowl, a pair of Goldeneye at close range. Out towards the centre but at distance two Black-necked Grebes. While here I was certain I'd heard a Common Sandpiper fly over but unfortunately the bird was not located.

Green-winged Teal ~ Great find by Pete! 
We decided that better views of the Grebes could be obtained by driving around to Dickinson's Bay on the opposite bank. We did relocate the Black-necked Grebes at Dickinson's but still unfortunately at distance and while here a single Slavonian Grebe and a bonus Green-winged Teal, the latter superbly found by Pete fast asleep on the shoreline alongside a group of Eurasians! While here a Red Kite drifted to the west, one of three seen today.

One of a total of five Great Egrets seen today!
On to the 'cottage road' for more views across the North Arm, with (3) Great Egrets, (2) Little Egrets, (2) Barnacle Goose and (2) Common Buzzard additions to the day list.

Water Rail ~ Enjoying the pleasant sunshine!
On to the main reserve next, a pair of Stonechat viewable from inside the centre. Lagoon 3 was productive with two more Great Egrets (5 for the day) and a Water Rail, which came out for a brief sunbathe. A Bittern was located within the far reedbed and occasionally offered half decent views, before two flights, the latter of the bird disappearing deep into the reed. I did manage a very impromptu video which I've posted below!



Two final stops of the day, firstly South Arm 3: Here an amazing count of (22) Red-crested Pochard and despite the sun causing real problems (3) Smew, which included two drakes. Finally across to Lagoon 4 the best here excellent views of a pair of Peregrine Falcon's, perched up on the Osprey tower! A top birding day which also included: Sparrowhawk and Kestrel on the day list!

Peregrine pair ~ Rutland Water

Monday, January 23, 2017

Diary Update #5 ~ 2017

Monday 23rd January... Having dropped into the wife's workplace to pick up my car, which is literally halfway, it was a perfect opportunity to continue on and finally go see the long staying Blue Rock Thrush at Stow-on-the-Wold. I arrived about 9:30am and thought I'd drive down to Fisher Close for a look before parking further away. There were only two other individuals there and so I literally parked up and enjoyed great views of the bird which was showing extremely well, job done!

Blue Rock Thrush ~ The debate rages on!
Back at the car while enjoying a well earned coffee I noted a report on bird guides regarding a Little Bunting at Chipping Norton, 20 minutes away! I couldn't resist and found myself parked up and talking to a local gent called Steve Akers, who knew the exact location. Turns out that Steve is the gentleman who's garden the Oriental Turtle Dove of 2011 was found in! If you know the story Steve charged £5 (donated to the RSPB) for people to view the bird from his kitchen window!

Little Bunting ~ It is in there! If you look closely 👀
As for the Little Bunting it did prove to be slightly illusive but I managed several decent views as the bird occasionally dropped to the ground from within the bushes! I even managed a crapograph, it is in there if you look closely! Also of note during my vigil: (2) Red Kite, Raven, several Yellowhammer and Brambling.

Diary Update #4 ~ 2017

A weekend in Hampshire for Dee and I and while driving down late afternoon Friday an unexpected year-tick, when a Tawny Owl flew across the carriageway at dusk as we approached the M3 motorway!

Glorious views of the Solent from the sea wall at Titchfield Haven...
Saturday 21st January... A glorious frosty start to the day for our first ever visit to Titchfield Haven NNR which covers 369 acres across the Meon Valley. With the pools frozen we decided to forgo the Scrapes Trail, instead visiting the three hides which overlook the meadows and River Meon beyond. These produced Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit and a good selection of the usual wintering wildfowl. Two Marsh Harriers were the highlight and a large group of Canada Geese feeding on the meadows yielded a single Barnacle Goose within.

Two Sandwich Terns among the Gull was a real surprise!
After lunch in the centre a walk East along the seawall and while scanning a group of gulls opposite the Hill Head Sailing Club we were amazed to come across two Sandwich Terns! I'm unsure as to whether wintering Terns are the norm in these parts? Waders along the shingle included Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Redshank and Turnstone.

A very obliging Snow Bunting!
Returning west along the seawall and across the harbour road bridge a Kingfisher was showing rather well and then a very confiding Snow Bunting near the boat dry dock, which posed quite happily for several photographs. A long spell scanning the Solent from the sea wall was very productive with a selection of (15) Eider, (6) Scaup, (30+) Common Scoter and (5) Great Crested Grebe.

We did manage a brief visit in the fading light to Beaulieu Road Station in the New Forest. A Great Grey Shrike reported yesterday but we were not surprised to dip on this one! This can also be a great place for Dartford Warbler but again there was little chance.

Dee's excellent photo of Kingfisher at Titchfield Haven!
Sunday 22nd January... Another glorious morning and an afternoon at Lymington~Keyhaven Nature Reserve. Some superb habitat here with mudflats and salt marshes, plus a seawall which offers great views out towards the Isle of Wight.

Brent Geese!
Despite being mobbed by Sunday walkers highlights here were over 1000 Brent Geese, (110+) PintailMarsh Harrier, pair of Stonechat, Little Egret and a very inquisitive Fox! There are hundreds of waders feeding on the mudflats to scan through, including good numbers of Godwit and several Grey Plover! The sea seemed extremely quiet, other than double figure Red-breasted Merganser!

More Images of the day:

The inquisitive Fox!
Marsh Harrier
Little Egret

Friday, January 20, 2017

Diary Update #3 ~ 2017

With a blocking high pressure system over the vast majority of the UK this past week the weather for the most part has remained pretty dank, with low cloud and drizzle the order of the day!

Monday 16th January... I was initially on my way to Brandon Marsh when I decided to divert to Draycote Water with the idea of picking up a few new species for the year list. I didn't complete a full circuit, instead a walk along Farborough Bank and back before heading on as far as the valve tower. I cut my visit short when the rain got too heavy, thankfully just as I'd finally dropped onto one of the several Scaup currently on site. Year-firsts: Meadow Pipit, (C30) Tree Sparrow and Scaup and also during my stay (9) Goosander and Little Egret were other notables.

Common Buzzard when the sun finally arrived Friday!
On to Brandon Marsh and by now the rain had become persistent. One benefit was having the East Marsh hide completely to myself and having just dropped onto a Caspian Gull, which I'd established had a green ring on it's right leg all hell broke loose! The culprit, not the hoped for marauding raptor but a pair of idiots, who were suddenly standing right next to the Sand Martin structure, completely off-piste and scattering all asunder! A few booming words across the pool from the hide flaps sent them scurrying away but the damage had already been done and I departed. However, not before trying to seek out these idiots for a few choice words! 😡

☁ Tuesday 17th January... A few hours at Brandon Marsh where the best of the visit included Water Rail, a year best count of (34) Gadwall plus single ⚦Goldeneye, Goosander and Wigeon.

☁ Thursday 19th January... Another session with the Brandon Marsh volunteers and again continuing my project of willow removal from the Farm Pool. No birding prior to starting work but during the session two Woodcock were inadvertently flushed from the conservation area.

Bearded Tit at Napton ~ Amazed this actually came out but that's the Canon SX50 for you!
Friday 20th January... A vast improvement to the weather with the cloud finally dissipating overnight to produce a crisp cold and slightly frosty morning, far too scarce this winter! I began at Napton Reservoir and almost immediately on arrival at the top end of the reedbed, (6) Bearded Tit! After enjoying the spectacle for a short while and even managing a record shot, despite all birds staying firmly to the rear of the reedbed, a phone call had me quickly scurrying away. It was Keith Foster with a heads-up on a Red-necked Grebe at Draycote Water.

Red-necked Grebe at glorious Draycote Water!
I made my way back to the car (3) Snipe overhead and within 45 minutes I was standing alongside Bob Hazell (the finder) and Keith Foster just around from Rainbow Corner at Draycote. The Red-necked Grebe was very accommodating and only 30 meters off the bank during my stay, an excellent local birding day!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Diary Update #2 ~ 2017

Leading on from my last post I had a very lazy Wednesday and spent Thursday 12th with the volunteers at Brandon Marsh. We decided to go with the full team and complete the required works at West Marsh (Steetley Hide), hopefully before the rain set in! This included replacing the Kingfisher perch and taking out invasive willow and birch throughout the reedbed, at the same time clearing the small island directly in front of the hide! The weather was dreadful but a nice fire kept spirits high. I also ringbarked or Girdled several trees at the top end. Brandon has lost far too many of it's iconic dead trees in recent times and it's worth preparing a few more of the larger trees for the future.

More willow bashing ~ This time on West Marsh!
After work Thursday and tea in the nature centre Alan Boddington and I decided to track back to the Steetley Hide and spend an hour. It was also a good opportunity to check out our handy work too. While here a very prompt tweet from Paul Cashmore alerted us to a couple of Waxwings, literally a ten minute drive at Wolston village and so off we went. We weren't disappointed, with two birds dropping down occasionally from the treetops to feed on whats left of a Sorbus Trees berries. Sadly too dark and dank for any decent photos.



Friday 13th January... I had a late start, stopping briefly at Wolston for another look at the Waxwings before ending up at Brandon Marsh in the company of Bob Lee. The birding was pretty dire to be honest, a count of ten Pochard the best on offer but was brightened considerably by the sight of two, possibly three Otters, which swam past directly in front of East Marsh Hide. A cracking sighting and one which I managed a very short video of (above).

One of the many Bewick Swans wintering at Slimbridge!
Saturday 14th January... Dee and I made our annual January visit to WWT Slimbridge. Not everyones cup of tea but a place we very much enjoy. Its a perfect opportunity to see species you may never see in the wild and also an excellent chance to study the species which we do often encounter, but at close range.  It also has several good hides to visit which can boost the year list without too much effort. Today mine was extended by Bittern, Crane, Barnacle Goose (110+),  pair of Peregrine,  Ruff, Snipe and the sites speciality, Bewick Swans.

Wild Crane's ~ These likely released in the Somerset Levels from the 'Great Crane Project' 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Diary Update #1 ~ 2017

Little Owl ~ Nice bird to have on the patch!
Sunday 8th January... Dee and I decided to take a walk around the local patch in the afternoon in need of some fresh air after a very lazy Saturday! Our first port of call was to take a look at a local Little Owl. Sadly these birds like many others are declining in numbers but the particular area we visit seems to have sustained at least one bird over the years. In fact I'm certain that this particular individual visits the marina on odd occasions too!

From here a towpath walk took us up to Calcott Locks and then around the perimeter of Napton Reservoir. Lots of Redwing and Fieldfare now ground feeding and a huge flock of some 300+ Lapwings flew high from the west across towards Napton-on-the-Hill. The water had the usual selection of wildfowl which included on note: (5) Wigeon, (5) Gadwall, (30+) Tufted Duck but strangely not a single Great Crested Grebe! A Raven, my first of 2017 was also noted in flight!

Crossbill ~ Female of a pair seen at Lynford Arboretum!
Monday 9th January... A day in Norfolk with Alan Boddington began at Lynford Arboretum shortly after 9am. Our target bird was Hawfinch with the favoured observation point the 'Paddocks', a well known spot to search the hornbeam for these notably illusive birds, Brambling, Siskin, Mistle Thrush and Marsh Tit on route! Our first attempt proved fruitless so we decided to try Lynford Pools on the opposite side of the car park and return a short while later. At the pools Little Egret, (3) Goosander and a brace of Egyptian Geese. We'd arranged to meet up with Jim, Pete, Fred and Trevor from the Brandon team who were spending a few days in Norfolk but the guys were delayed having diverted across to Newmarket in search of the now infamous Orphean Warbler! They actually dipped during their short stay but later found out that the bird is now thought to be a Lesser Whitethroat! After meeting up it was back to the 'Paddocks' for another vigil and while here more Marsh Tit, probably five in total today, plus a bonus find with a gorgeous pair of Crossbill. I'm happy to report that a single Hawfinch finally appeared in the Hornbeam and while heading back to the car park eight more Brambling.

Crossbill ~ Bonus find at Lynford!
The forecasted rain had now arrived so it was off to RSPB Titchwell for year-ticks with a stop at Cholsey Drying Barns, where (20+) Red-legged Partridge and (3) Grey Partridge were recorded, plus a fly over 150+ Pink-footed Geese. Titchwell was wet and windy but we managed a single Brambling on the feeders before heading onto the reserve. At least two Marsh Harrier to begin and a scan of the drained Thornham pool produced a single Water Pipit feeding along the right hand channel. The tidal, brackish and freshwater marsh produced an array of wader year-ticks and included Grey, Golden and Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, (3) Spotted Redshank, Knot and Avocet.

At the beach the rain had paused sufficiently for a sea-watch, although the conditions were a little challenging in the stiff breeze and the light was dreadful! At sea: Long-tailed Duck, 300+ Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser but despite a valiant attempt no definite claims of Velvet Scoter. More waders included Turnstone, Oystercatcher and Sanderling. A final bonus bird for Alan and I back at the car park, unfortunately while the other guys were in the toilet, was a fly over Woodcock! A great end to an exceptional day!

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Weekly Update 7/1/2017

Leading on from my first visit of the year to Brandon Marsh on Tuesday a reasonably quiet week followed, with the exception of a great find at Brandon on Wednesday!

Another Caspian Gull at Brandon Marsh ~ Photo by Alan Boddington
Wednesday 4th... I just happened to be approaching the Wolston roundabout along the A45, only a few miles from Brandon Marsh, on route to Liverpool when I received a phone call from Jim Timms, handsfree I hasten to add! A very excited Jim had found a Yellow-browed Warbler at Brandon along the central marsh path. Although I was running late it was too good to miss. I arrived in due course to find Jim and a few other lucky observers watching the bird in question. When first discovered Jim had actually been only a few yards away from it, feeding it would seem in what remains of the small area of hops that grow alongside this stretch of path each year. A great find for Brandon and in fact a reserve first, so well done Jim.

Disappointingly for me, the bird didn't hang around for too long and I personally only managed the briefest of views high in the alder, thanks to Denis Woodward. So I guess that without being able to distinguish any features like wing bars or prominent supercilium while observing the bird I can't really add this little gem to my personal Brandon list 😒

Another excellent find on the day well worth a mention was Alan Boddingtons Caspian Gull on East marsh pool, photographed above!

Goldcrest ~ Always require further scrutiny! 
Thursday 5th... pre-dawn was spent with a few of the Brandon team trying to relocate the Yellow-browed Warbler in -5/6C but despite no sign of the target bird the many Lesser Redpoll and Siskin, plus the odd Goldcrest offered plenty of entertainment! From here it was chainsaw in hand and onto farm pool reedbed for more willow clearing, completing an excellent 5 hour session alongside a dozen other volunteers. After tea in the nature centre a few of us drove to Paget's Lane, Bubbenhall for a go at the reported juvenile Glaucous Gull. Thousands of gulls here on this newly acquired Warwickshire Wildlife Trust site, already controversial it would seem, but once again no sign of the target bird.

Friday 6th... late morning and early afternoon was spent with Bob Lee at Brandon Marsh and although a quiet visit birding wise highlights included Yellow-legged Gull and lots more Lesser Redpoll and Siskin to trawl through!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Brandon Marsh ~ 2017

My first visit of the year to Brandon Marsh today with 51 species noted! These included Grey Wagtail and Green Sandpiper, which both flew over Ted Jury hide and from the comfort of East Marsh hide: Shelduck, (3) Pochard and Little Egret. After completing walks throughout the whole reserve other species of note included: Treecreeper, (2) Nuthatch, (30+) Siskin, (5) Lesser Redpoll! A Marsh Tit was calling around the nature centre, occasionally dropping onto the feeders!

Nuthatch ~ Few photo opportunities during today's visit!

A glorious sunset greeted me when I arrived back at the marina!