Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Lockdown Day Eight (Tuesday 31st)

⛅️9C ~ Wind ←NE@10mph Tuesday 31st March 2020 ~ Completed my daily walk today in springlike conditions but that niggly north-easterly wind still persists, although it was a lot lighter. Due to the threat of heavy showers a break from 'Nocmig' recording last night so nothing to report today, although when I popped my head out before bed I did hear a distant Tawny Owl calling.

Teal ~ A 'Lockdown' Tick today
There were no new arrivals to report at the marina today and just a single singing Chiffchaff. Napton Reservoir seemed to have a lot more activity than recently but still nothing new either in the way of spring arrivals. However, I did manage a 'Lockdown List' tick in the form of a pair of Teal, which dropped in during my circuit. There were more Gulls than of late with Common, Herring and Lesser Black-backed recorded. The reedbed remains silent, although several Reed Buntings were chasing around and like all my previous visits two Snipe were noted.

A wonderful encounter with this Kestrel at Napton Reservoir
Plenty enjoying the skies today with a singing Skylark, several Buzzards, (4) Raven and a Kestrel, the latter offering a perfect opportunity for a few photos when he eventually dropped down.

A Buzzard passes over the mooring today
Other notables today included: Goldcrest, Treecreeper and (7) singing Chiffchaff

A Cormorant enjoying the peace & quiet that has descended over Napton Reservoir 



Monday, March 30, 2020

Lockdown Days 4 thru 7

Since my last update on day three of lockdown, I've now settled into a new, hopefully, short-term routine. To be honest Dazza and I haven't been as greatly affected by the situation as some poor folk! We have no children, both my parents are passed away and Dazza's mum and Dad are locked-down in a very rural area of France. In fact, with Dazza now working from home, our weekly food delivery and a drive once a week to the local post office and general stores for other provisions we can survive quite happily.

Plus, we're lucky enough to live on a marina as you know, which has it's own grounds and is just a short walk from Napton Reservoir, which I now visit once a day and so we can't complain.

A typical Blackcap Song Sonograph
So to the birding and nature and during the last three days, I've managed to complete full nighttime recordings, although things have been generally quiet. There are still a small number of Redwings passing through in the darkness, with more around dawn, when the sonograph just goes nuts with birdsong. On Friday morning a Blackcap managed to beat the local Blackbird to the 'first singing bird of the day' accolade, but after a few brief bursts of song, he moved on. A highlight during my nocturnal recordings was a Water Rail, my first recording at the marina!

Kingfisher ~ Once regular around the area but not in recent times
I've been the only person at Napton Reservoir during my walks and as with the lack of public, there's been a distinct lack of spring arrivals too. Although high pressure has dominated recently the wind direction has been mostly from the north or north-east and this is perhaps having an effect on any migrants hoping to push north, mind you, it's still March! There are still Chiffchaffs singing, which are now well established and during today's visit (Monday) a small group of eleven Redwings passed over. A Kingfisher, strangely rare around here, was the highlight during Sunday's walk with Dazza but despite our best efforts not a single hirundine, similar to my other visits.

The water at the reservoir is still high, with little scrape for any passing waders to make use of, although two Snipe have been a regular feature during my visits. The reedbeds are quiet, with only Reed Buntings and the odd Chiffchaff to be found. Wildfowl consists of Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, many Coots and the odd Little Grebe pops out of the reeds occasionally. Gulls too have been thin on the ground but Common, Herring, Lesser & Great Black-backed are all on my 'Lockdown List' (basically my daily walk list) which now stands at 58

My daily walk

BUBO Listing bubo.org

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Lockdown Day Three (Thursday 26th)

☀️14C ~ Wind ←E@9mph Thursday 26th March 2020 ~ Last nights nocturnal recordings began at 23:30 through until 06:30. Despite clear skies throughout and a light frost this morning, things were generally quiet. Well, I say quiet but living on a marina there's a constant chatter throughout the night of Coots battling, Moorhens calling, female Mallards getting chased everywhere, the resident Mute Swans seeing off usurpers and Canada Geese (don't get me started there LOL).

Sonograph of Common Snipe passing through last night
The few highlights included Snipe, (2) Song Thrush, (15) Redwing individuals with a multi-hit (several birds passing over) at 5:05 and another (6) individuals through at dawn 05:17. The Tawny Owls were a little quieter tonight but no sign of Barn Owl. Once again the first songster was a Blackbird at 04:40 sixteen minutes earlier than Tuesday.

Red Kite at Napton reservoir passing at height
I had an afternoon walk on my now regular Napton Reservoir circular route which once again was devoid of fisherman! I can't get used to seeing it like this but frankly, I'm not complaining! The reservoir was quiet once again with just a few additions to yesterdays post, which included a Red Kite which drifted south at height a Sparrowhawk, which flew along to the rear of the reedbed and a Treecreeper in the trees around the moored boats. There is still a lack of Hirundies to be found but I'm putting this down to the clear skies and the east north-easterly winds.

A Yellowhammer would brighten up anyones day.
On the fields opposite the towpath as I passed Napton Narrowboats (11) Fieldfare were feeding and a Grey Wagtail flew along the canal. A total of (5) Chiffchaff singing in total around the route plus (2) Yellowhammer, (4) Buzzard (2) Kestrel and (3) Ravens.

Butterflies included: (2) Peacock and (5) Small Tortoiseshell.


Napton Reservoir circular walk from the Marina

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Lockdown Day Two (Wednesday 25th)

☀️14C ~ Wind ↑SE@8mph Wednesday 25th March 2020 ~ I had planned to complete a 'nocmig' last night, but basically I forgot to set the recording up before I went off to bed, it may have been the wine!

My first singing Blackcap of the year at Napton Church today
My walk today included Napton Church and Napton Reservoir. It was another cloudless day but not as warm as yesterday. I was delighted to come across my first singing Blackcap of the year near the churchyard and the walk up to the windmill produced of note a couple of Goldcrests, Nuthatch and a Raven overhead. Looking out across the counties from the windmill ten Chaffinch flew through in a group but if there was anything else going through I'm certain that with the clear skies they would have passed high overhead, generally, it was pretty quiet, save for two singing Chiffchaffs as I walked down to the towpath.

A Great Crested Grebe enjoying the unusual calm of Napton Reservoir
A few Meadow Pipits and  Skylarks singing as I walked along the towpath to Napton Reservoir which was deserted! Unlike yesterday's visit, where despite being closed as a fishery had several individuals flouting the rules. Looks like maybe the Canal Trust have acted, if they have it would be a first 😀 or maybe I'm just being a little facetious!

The vibrant Peacock butterfly enjoying the warmth at Napton Reservoir
Again it was a quietish visit on the birding front with just a single Chiffchaff singing, a few hirundines high and distant (probably Sand Martin) and the usual wildfowl. Fewer butterflies too with just two Small Tortoiseshell and a single Peacock.

One of the marina House Sparrow colony 
I spent a couple of hours throughout the day sitting on the deck in the glorious sunshine. A Coot occasionally passed by carrying more material for a nearby nest, which I'm keeping an eye on and Reed Buntings were busy too, along with the constant chattering of our House Sparrow colony. The skies were pretty quiet, until dusk when the usual hoards of Gulls passed through, no doubt on their way to the Draycote Water roost. (4) Buzzard, (3) Raven, (2) Kestrel were other notables but it was eerily quiet with most non residents being asked to head home.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Lockdown Day One

☀️16C ~ Wind ⇐ SE@7mph Tuesday 24th March 2020 ~ So with Brandon Marsh now out of bounds, my Birding holiday in Oregon cancelled and 'lockdown' for the foreseeable future it's down to some marina birding, along with my daily constitutional. To be perfectly honest I'm well off really with the marina grounds to explore, lots of skies to watch, the nearby Napton Reservoir and of course Napton Hill, all within walking distance. I've also got my nocturnal bird recording system set up on the roof and its the perfect time of year for something special to pass through overnight.

Napton Reservoir ~ Just a short walk from the marina
I suppose I've been guilty in the past of neglecting my 'local patch' in favour of Brandon Marsh and this will give me the perfect opportunity to explore it in much more detail. So with that in mind, I'll be posting a daily 'Lockdown' update for my reader and I hope it plays a part in keeping us both sane during these extraordinary times!

Sonogram of a Redwing passing overhead
My overnight recordings on Sunday and Monday didn't produce anything too exciting but the local Tawny Owls were pretty vocal and a Barn Owl came pretty close overhead, nearly deafening me on the headphones! There are still a few Redwings migrating through with four noted and other interesting calls including Lapwing and a barking Muntjac. The first singing bird of the day this morning was the quintessential Blackbird who fired up at 04:56.

Small Tortoiseshell ~ One of my previous pics
Today, my walk included a tour of the marina, two Ravens over, then along the towpath, around Napton Reservoir and passed Calcutt Locks to Ventnor Marina and back. In the warm sunshine, there were a few Butterflies to be found and these included (4) Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and a Peacock but the highlight was my first Orange Tips of the year, a female on the opposite side of the towpath at Calcutt and a male back at the marina.

Napton Reservoir was particularly quiet with a couple of Chiffchaffs singing, two Snipe flew across the reedbed and the usual numbers of Great Crested Grebes and Tufted Duck and Gadwall. No hirundines during my walk but three Sand Martin passed over the marina in the afternoon.

It's not all bad! Sunset from the stern on day one of Lockdown




Saturday, March 21, 2020

Extraordinary Times

What an extraordinary week it's been for us all!! Wednesday I had a planned trip to the Brecklands in Suffolk organised along with three other Brandon regulars and after some thought, we all decided to go but that this would be our last venture out as a group for the foreseeable future. Another casualty of the pandemic for me and my wife Dazza is the decision to cancel our planned trip to Oregon in May, we decided to act before the inevitable cancellation of our flight with Virgin.

Displaying Stone Curlews at Cavernham Heath ~ Seven birds seen in total.
Despite rain back in the midlands for most of the day our trip to Suffolk on Wednesday was dry if not overcast. We began at Cavernham Heath National Nature Reserve, where the highlights were displaying Stone Curlews, many Stonechats, Yellowhammers, Skylarks and three Northern Wheatear. Other notables on the day included Red Kite, several Buzzards, Red-legged Partridge and a couple of Grey Partridge. We had hoped for Woodlark but despite our best efforts, there was no sign. A worrying trend for the site as during last years visit only a single bird was found.

Another Stone Curlew on view at Cavernham Heath
A short drive from Cavernham Heath is Santon Downham an area of Thetford Forest that borders Norfolk and Suffolk, running alongside the river Little Ouse. It was our first visit to this particular site which is renown as a good place to find our sort after Woodlark. Grey Wagtails and Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers also breed here along the river.

One of two Woodlarks at Santon Downham
We managed two Woodlarks during an enjoyable walk, along with Grey Wagtail and a female Brambling, the latter feeding high in the pine canopy with a group of Chaffinch.

Woodlark at Santon Downham
On route home a stop at RSPB Lakenheath and a quick search for a reported Garganey, which proved fruitless.

My 1st Little-ringed Plover of the year at Brandon Marsh on Thursday
For the remainder of the week a few early and isolated visits to Brandon Marsh in search of spring migrants, noting my first Little-ringed Plover of the year on Thursday morning. Worth noting too that sadly the trust has put a block on all voluntary work on the reserve, so its all birding during any future visits.


Clark's Mining Bees in action at Brandon Marsh
On Friday and away from the birding at Brandon it was interesting to come across a group of Clark's Mining Bees burrowing away near the Baldwin Hide, an annual event and always fascinating to watch.

A record shot of a Northern Wheatear at Borough Hill, Daventry on Saturday
Finally, a walk around Borough Hill, Daventry on Saturday afternoon with Dazza for some fresh air produced a Northern Wheatear on one the many concrete pylons.

**Extraordinary times indeed: with news today (Saturday) of two Common Cranes flying directly over Brandon Marsh, a first for the reserve. What an amazing sight it must have been for Peter Cox and his wife Julia, I have to say I'm a little envious!




Monday, March 16, 2020

Springlike Brandon Marsh

☀️⛅️13C ~ Wind ⇐ SW@6mph Monday 16th March 2020 ~It's amazing what a little springlike sunshine can do! Although there were no new arrivals at Brandon Marsh today there were many raptors enjoying the clear skies with double-figure Buzzards, two Sparrowhawks and the local Kestrel pair. Even the Ravens got in on the act mid-morning with five birds seen circling overhead East Marsh.

On East Marsh Pool: (2) Redshank, (4) Oystercatcher, (4) Shelduck (with a further (4) overhead but not dropping in), (1) Great Crested Grebe & Kingfisher flyby.

One of three Brimstones today
Also of note a few more Sand Martins passing through and a couple of singing Chiffchaffs. The first butterflies of the year too with PeacockSmall Tortoiseshell and three Brimstone.

Peacock butterfly enjoying the warmth

Cetti's Warbler in the rain from Sunday mornings visit.

A Robin just getting on with things (Sunday)

A Wren having a quick look around before heading back to the undergrowth

Long-tailed Tit in action

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Brandon Week March 9th ~ 15th

It really has been like living in a wind tunnel over the past several weeks, although it has been milder of late. But could there be signs of a more settled spell of weather later in the coming week as an Azores high attempts to take control, thus opening the flood gates for summer migrants perhaps?

Singing Chiffchaff at Brandon on Monday ~ As usual, one of the earliest to arrive.
In the twelve years I've been associated both volunteering and birding at Brandon Marsh I tend to spend more time during migration periods hedge bashing and skywatching. This past week has been no exception finding my first Brandon singing Chiffchaff of the year on Monday with a few more arriving later in the week. Also of note on Monday, a very worn Small Tortoiseshell butterfly was flying around the John Walton hide, another year-first for Brandon.

A very angry male Shelduck snapped after the battle as he flies over the John Walton hide
At this time of year Shelduck numbers usually increase too, with an unprecedented 10 birds (4M~6F) noted today (Saturday 14th) by the Brandon regulars, which may well be a record! The early part of the week saw five birds competing for a single female with a number of serious battles taking place. (see above image)

1st Redshank of the season arrived at Brandon on Wednesday morning.
A regular time at Brandon for their arrival I watched the first Redshank of the year fly in on Wednesday morning, increasing to two birds on Thursday, but strangely no sign since. On the same day, a group of 50+ Redwings were noted at height flying east. It's a fantastic time of year as north meets south! As a sub-note: At dusk on Wednesday 23 Fieldfare past overhead the marina heading east and with the wind finally abating I may finally get a chance to complete some nocmiging (sound recording nocturnal migration) sessions.

3rd calendar year Yellow-legged Gull ~ Brandon Marsh
Yellow-legged Gull departs 
My first Yellow-legged Gull of the year was noted on Tuesday when a 3rd CY bird perched on the goalposts on East Marsh Pool. The same bird was recorded and photographed once more this morning by other Brandon regulars.

Stonechat along the main drive
I had to wait until Friday morning for my first Sand Martins of the year when two flew in, staying over East Marsh pool for nearly two hours before moving off. In fact, Friday was a very productive day with 3 Stonechats, one on Wigeon Bank from the John Walton hide and what looked like a pair along the main drive, spending most of their time around the gorse. A Red Kite also passed at height over Newlands before moving off. Also of interest during my visit 17 Common Gulls.

Muntjac seen regularly on Wigeon Bank
In addition... Five Goldeneye, including a drake, have remained on sight for the week, as too a single Great Crested Grebe and a drake Pochard was around for a few days in the early part. Four Oystercatchers, (with the occasional usurper flying in) seem settled. Cetti's Warblers are very vocal at the moment and are occasionally seen from the John Walton Hide.

Coltsfoot in bloom

Primrose Bank looking the part although it appears to have sunk in the recent deluges

Monday, March 09, 2020

Norfolk Weekend March 2020

An enjoyable long weekend on the Norfolk coast with Dazza, staying at an Airbnb accommodation at Brancaster Staithe. The weather was very kind during our stay with some long spells of sunshine and little rain.

Water Pipit from the Parrinder Hide at RSPB Titchwell on Friday morning
After arriving late afternoon on Thursday I made an early start at RSPB Titchwell on Friday morning while Dazza had a well-deserved lay in. As chance would have it another Brandon regular John Raven was staying locally too and so we met up at 7am in the Titchwell car park. We spent a few hours on-site before heading off back to our respective accommodations for breakfast.

Red Knot having a wash down
The water levels on the 'Fresh Marsh' remain particularly high and so not a great deal of wader activity here, apart from a group of eighteen Avocet asleep in the shallows.  It was a bright but bitterly cold visit and all the regular wader species appeared to be on the 'Tidal Marsh' with Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, DunlinRed Knot, Grey Plover, Avocet, Redshank and Curlew all noted. Our tide timings couldn't have been any worse with low tide coinciding with our visit and predictably the sea was very quiet with just a small raft of around 30 or so Common Scoter and a pair of Red-breasted Merganser. The highlight for me though was a Water Pipit, regular here but often elusive during my visits. However, this time it was showing quite well from the Parrinder Hide as we made our way back.

Numbers of Mediterranean Gulls are starting to build up at Titchwell, now regularly breeding here
Sanderling along the tideline at Titchwell.
After breakfast my second visit of the day to RSPBTitchwell in glorious sunshine, this time with Dazza. Further highlights were some brief views of a pair of Bearded Reedling near the Island Hide, a flyby of one of eight Meditteranean Gulls noted during our visit and for Dazza's benefit some close views of her favourite Sanderlings along the tideline.

Around thirty or so Frogs along the boardwalk at Titchwell.
We also enjoyed a stop along the boardwalk where a large group of Common Frogs were noisily getting down to business, a Water Rail also noted while here. After Titchwell a brief stop at Cholsey drying barns and surrounding areas for Dazza to get a look at several Hare's, which seemed to be everywhere today. Both Red-legged and Grey Partridge also noted during our stops, plus Yellowhammer and at least four Muntjac.

From Titchwell we drove across to Holkham and stopped for a while just off the A149, where some good views of the 'freshmarsh' can be obtained. We knew that Spoonbill's had been reported and after a short while managed some decent scoped views of two individuals perched in some trees. While here two Great White Egrets and around 100+ Russian White-fronted Geese were seen grazing, along with 26 Egyptian Geese. During a low Marsh Harrier pass (one of many today), which lifted even the Geese a Chinese Water Deer could be seen scurrying for cover, with reasonably close views. Before heading back to the accommodation I took Dazza for a look at the long-staying Rough-legged Buzzard at Wells, which we eventually found huddled in among Hawthorn, not the most inspiring of views but still!

A single Brambling below the feeders at Lynford Arboretum

One of three Hawfinch feeding below the Hornbeam
Saturday a drive across to Lynford Arboretum in search of Hawfinch. Although they did take some finding we eventually connected with three birds feeding at the base of the Hornbeam trees in whats known as the Paddock. We also managed to find a single Brambling in the feeder area and despite being quite distant and difficult to photograph I've included a couple of record shots above.

Also of note... We did try on three separate occasions for Twite at Thornham Harbour but incredibly dipped, although to be honest, we didn't give it our best effort with breakfast calling on each attempt!  However, a couple of highlights were a Spotted Redshank and Rock Pipit while here. Sunday after a late breakfast we headed off to Sherringham, stopping for a walk along the East Bank of Cley Marshes past the Serpentine and Arnold's Marsh to the beach. Nothing new on the bird species count but our first Small Tortoiseshell butterfly of the year. We spent a while at Sherringham for a coffee and some train spotting and before heading home managed a single Purple Sandpiper on rocks below the car park.