Saturday, August 22, 2020

πŸ“– Brandon Marsh

πŸ’¨  πŸŒ§  ⛅️19C ~ Wind ↗SW@15mph Gusting 20mph  Saturday 22nd August 2020 ~ The past week has been spent birding locally and volunteering at Brandon Marsh. Since returning all of the work at Brandon has revolved around clearing the paths and the final big job was completed on Thursday when a small 'bubble' of the team broke through the central marsh. For those who are aware of the geography, this is the area between River Pool hide and the wooden bridge over on West Marsh.
Whats to come!
What's been done ~ Central Marsh
It's been hard work with over four months of growth to clear but very rewarding and we begin clearing the Islands and hides in the coming weeks.

Marsh Harrier takes a Teal from West Marsh!
Of course, while on-site and in between working birding takes front stage and I must say that recently it's been very rewarding. Non more so than the appearance of a Marsh Harrier, one of the less frequent visitors to the reserve. In fact, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time when something happened that in nearly fifty years of birding I'd never seen before!  Amazingly the Teal escaped but I never got to see what condition it was in after the attack. That one will live in the memory for a considerable time, another one to cherish when I leave Brandon in a few months time.

A young Whitethroat in front of John Walton hide
Another feature has been the sheer amount of warblers feeding on the ripening fruits around the reserve, it seemed that every elder, bramble and hawthorn contained either a Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat or Willow Warbler, the latter often singing.

A juvenile Reed Warbler
Other species of note have included: Raven, Hobby, Snipe, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank and Yellow Wagtail. Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers have also been a feature, along with the occasional passage of Swallows with the odd House Martin but still a distinct lack of Sand Martins, although a late Swift was a bonus.

I've posted below a few more images of my time volunteering at Brandon over the past week.

Green Sandpiper ~ John Walton hide

Small Red-eyed Damselfly 

Greenshank on West Marsh

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Sunday, August 16, 2020

πŸ“– Local Sunday

⛈24C ~ Wind ↖SE@4mph Sunday 16th August 2020 ~ Some local birding today with an hour spent at Napton Reservoir and a pleasant afternoon stroll with Dazza around Sawbridge before the torrential rain.

One of four Redstart at the Reservoir

 Male Redstart at Napton Reservoir happily feeding along the hedgerow
Amazingly it was the first time I'd been back to the reservoir since lockdown when I had the place almost entirely to myself. The fishermen and dog walkers are back so it's lost its charm more recently but I did enjoy a pleasant hour studying the hedgerow which runs along the back of the sheep field. After an hour in the shade, it was quite humid by now, I'd managed (4) Redstart, (2) Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat. My thanks to Dave Cox for the original 'heads up' on the Redstarts.

Northern Wheatear along the track leading down to the Grand Union canal from Sawbridge
After Napton a late afternoon walk with Dazza around the footpaths and tracks of Sawbridge, a small hamlet just a few miles from the marina. There's a small piece of information which can be found HERE in relation to the post-medieval settlement at Sawbridge which is quite fascinating.

Male Redstart 
A single Northern Wheatear and more Redstarts along the hedgerows with another four birds, including a nice looking male.

The original photo before enhancement! 
Two silhouetted birds on the phone wires caused a few issues with identity at the time of photographing and it wasn't until we arrived home that I was able to brighten up the images for ID. The bottom one is a Redstart and the top a Spotted Flycatcher

Enhanced photograph of Spotted Flycatcher 
I'd originally tweeted this as a Pied Flycatcher, the light on the wings and the strong black edge as you can see from the enhanced photo is a little confusing but from the characteristics of the pose, it's clearly a spotted.

Another angle of yesterdays Wheatear

Friday, August 14, 2020

πŸ“– Brandon Marsh First!

☁️18C to start then ⛈19C ~ Wind ↖SE@4mph Thursday 13th August 2020 ~ Our second Thursday back at Brandon Marsh for the BMVCT since being allowed to return to volunteering by the Trust. Thankfully after the resent oppressive heat it was much cooler today and we managed to complete the priority clearance of all paths, finishing off with the centre track through the top reedbeds, just before the heavens opened. 

A Brandon Marsh 1st when this Cattle Egret was found in amongst six Little Egrets.
Before work, a pleasant surprise for us early arrivals when a Cattle Egret, a species long overdue at Brandon was discovered on Teal Pool. A first for the site but unfortunately not twitchable due to the reserve still being closed to the general public. In any case, the bird only hung around for a half-hour, heading off to the west.

Note to self: When checking Egrets don't assume they're all Little! ~ We may well have missed the Cattle Egret today if I hadn't noticed the size difference and checked the bill!
Due to the adverse weather an early finish which gave a few of us the opportunity for some extended birding. Heading off to the John Walton hide for lunch and to seek shelter from the torrential downpour and the odd flash of lightning.

One of six Little Egrets from today, another reserve record!

Also of note today: Snipe, (4) Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, (8) Common TernHobby, Peregrine, Ad. Yellow-legged Gull and a small passage of Swallows during the downpour.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

πŸ“– Pied Flycatcher ~ Napton

🌞28C ~ Wind ↑S@4mph Wednesday 12th August 2020 ~ Journal Entry: A brief visit mid-morning to Napton Hill for a patch ✅ Pied Flycatcher

There was some debate on social media in relation to this particular bird over the course of the day. The apparent grey collar and extent of white at the base of the primaries and on the tertials led to thoughts of Collared Flycatcher. I'm sure the debate will continue for some but I've entered this into my bird journal as a Pied Flycatcher. Interesting bird though and worth some discussion.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

πŸ“– Brandon Marsh ~ Volunteering

☁️21C to start then 🌞33C ~ Wind ↑S@2mph Tuesday 11th August 2020 ~ Another morning of path clearing at Brandon Marsh with a small team of six finishing off Central Marsh and River Pool hide tracks. There have been two active wasp nests in the River Pool hide recently so we approached with caution however both nests have been abandoned. These were removed and handed on to the education team who may find them useful.

First Garganey of the year on East Marsh Pool
Prior to work an opportunity for some birding in the John Walton hide and this produced the first Garganey of the year, along with the first returning Snipe. Two Green Sandpipers and a single Common Sandpiper were other notables, no sign of the recent Little Stint!

Tweeted originally as a Chiffchaff ~ But now I'm leaning towards Willow Warbler?
A walk to the Carlton and Ted Jury Hides and at Carlton lots of activity with birds enjoying the ripening elder and blackberries. Included in the selection: Lesser Whitethroat, (2) Whitethroat, (3) Reed Warbler, (4) Chiffchaff and at least (8) Blackcap.

Cetti's Warbler ~ sporting a nice piece of bling on the right leg.
A pretty quiet Ted Jury hide were the only highlight was a fleeting glimpse of a Cetti's Warbler. Nice to see the ringing group have managed to add this particular individual to the list.

A brief visit from a Great Egret!
Back at the John Walton hide I was fortunate to see the above Great Egret, which dropped in just as the works team were heading off. It didn't stay long but I did manage a few images before the departure.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Normality Returns ( almost)

After a six week break from blogging and social media, mainly taken up by boat refurbishment it's back to a little normality for me. As the day draws ever closer towards our big move up to Scotland in October I'm confident I'm still on course to have the boat ready for the sales pontoon when that sad but exciting day finally arrives.

Talking of normality, yesterday the Brandon Marsh Voluntary Conservation Team were finally allowed back on-site at Brandon Marsh by the 'Trust' and I joined the team for some 'social distancing' well-needed path clearance. It was hard work but great fun and of course lovely to meet up once more with the guys. As you can imagine the paths and indeed reserve itself are not looking at their best!

It's been so frustrating for the BMVCT not to be allowed back earlier by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust who in my opinion have handled the whole situation in relation to the Brandon Marsh closure badly. But frankly, that doesn't surprise me! As a dedicated team who've been associated with the site for well over 50 years, I feel we've not for the first time been totally neglected and kept entirely out of the loop. In fact when the 'Trust' finally decided to allow a very limited number of members back on to the reserve two days a week the first we knew was through social media! Anyway, the politics and relations between the BMVCT and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust are not what this blog is about so let's get to the wildlife.

Record shot
Record shot of Little Stint ~ First since 2009
Having arrived ahead of the team to visit the John Walton Hide the day started with a 'Brandon Lifer' for me in the form of a Little Stint, the first at Brandon since 2009, which of course I missed having been on my travels. Other highlights of the day included two Spotted Flycatchers and a terrific view of a Roe Deer, which ran out in front of us while walking the 'Tip' area. Hobby, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler and Blackcap were all noted and a single Grass Snake. Sadly it was raining when I went to search for Butterflies later in the afternoon but Small Heath and mating Common Blues were nice finds.

One of two Spotted Flycatchers at Brandon today
Over the closure period, it's been hard to keep track of how the summer has faired for the regular nesting species at Brandon but I've managed to ascertain that it's been a mixed bag. Common Terns, for example, have had an excellent year with 7 pairs fledging 16/17 youngsters, a good few of which were still on site yesterday.

Sadly, not so good for our Sand Martins with an inexplicable failure of both nesting structures, this compared to many previous successful years! One pair of Oystercatchers fledged a single youngster and both Little-ringed Plover and Redshank sadly failed to fledge any youngsters.