Tuesday, February 12, 2019

πŸ“– #5/2019 ~ Owl~Fest

Firstly, some sad news to report: John Walton, one of the founding members of the Brandon Marsh Voluntary Conservation Team passed away yesterday lunchtime, peacefully at the Town Thorns Care Home, Brinklow. I've known John since joining the team in December 2008 and spent many an hour in the hides and walking the reserve with him. His knowledge of the place was second to none. Brandon Marsh is his legacy and all the hard work and effort he put in to making it the place it is today should never be forgotten ~ RIP John.

For me, it was back to Brandon Marsh with the conservation team last week helping to clear invasive willow and birch from the farm reedbed on Tuesday and Thursday. Sunday was spent mostly in the East Marsh Hide sheltering from the persistent rain where the highlights were Ruff, Oystercatcher and two Shelduck, plus the briefest view of a Bittern as it flew across Newlands reedbed.

Spot the Little Owls ~ Love is in the air!
On Sunday afternoon Dazza and I enjoyed a late afternoon walk along the canal taking in the Shuckburgh and Flecknoe section. Daz wanted to catch up with the local Little Owl, which we'd failed to locate on our previous walk and we were delighted to find not one but two birds nestled in the usual place.

A busy start to the new week and a drive across to Lincolnshire (3 Red Kites on route) with Geoff Hood, John Raven and Kevin Coughlan from the Brandon team to visit Deeping Lakes, specifically to catch up with the roosting Long-eared Owls. I always feel that these are best seen here on cold crisp mornings with northerly winds but today despite a south-westerly we did manage reasonable views of two from the reported six!

Later in the morning, we arrived at RSPB Frampton Marsh to spend the remainder of the day. From the visitor centre, I managed to connect with a Short-tailed Field Vole (Microtus agrestis), which emerged briefly from under the bird feeders. Despite being one of the most common mammals in Europe I've actually not connected with that many of these over the years so it was a welcome sighting.

We enjoyed an excellent day's birding in what turned out to be gorgeous springlike weather. The only dip of the day was the Long-billed Dowitcher, which went AWOL shortly before we arrived and wasn't seen again for the remainder of the day.

Just the Canon SX50 with me today ~ Heavily cropped Short-eared Owl
Spotted Redshanks ~ RSPB Frampton Marsh

Merlin ~ Saltmarsh RSPB Frampton Marsh
However, there was plenty on offer as usual at my favourite reserve: Many Skylarks, with several in song, large skeins of Brent Geese and plenty of Ruff to be found. These along with Curlew, Ringed Plover, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Redshank and (2) Spotted Redshank. Plus (2) Short-eared Owls,♂/♀ Hen Harrier, (2) Merlin, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Barn Owl and the 1000s of Golden Plover and Lapwing made for a tremendous day out in good company.