9th of December 2012.

WWT – Brandon Marsh.

Arriving today as I turned in to the car park there was a small collection of birders with cameras and binoculars aimed at the trees close to the visitor centre. I immediately parked then joined the group to see my first Waxwings of the winter.

Today it was a very blustery day, the sky was one minute blue with white clouds, and the next, very grey, added to this the light was poor for those wanting to take any photographs!

The two birds seemed very happy to stay around feeding on the many berries available to them. The best part for everyone was the close up opportunities for everyone to appreciate them; the spectators didn’t have to move closer to see the birds, as they came very close to unintentionally pose for everyone.
What a good afternoon watching these beautiful birds and I look forward to seeing whatever drops in to Brandon Marsh next week?

1st of December 2012.
Warwickshire Wildlife Trust – Brandon Marsh.

Species seen 62.
My visit to Brandon Marsh followed an extremely beautiful drive through the Warwickshire Countryside via Kings Newnham and the surrounding area.

On route the hedges were full of many Dunnocks and Tree Sparrows, at the fields near Bretford; I stopped to view 30 Mute Swans in the hope that as in previous years before there may be a Bewick Swan amongst their numbers?

Stopping again, having sighted a Kestrel perched in a tree very close to the roadside, I managed to fire off a couple of shots before it took flight. Not too far away, again I stopped, this time to view a Buzzard. Parking up and using the car as cover, I managed to get reasonably close for a few more photographs.

Arriving at Brandon Marsh the first sighting was that of Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the car park area, after signing in at the visitors centre, I made my way in to the reserve, the Alder trees were full of a mixed flock of Redpoll, Siskin and Goldfinches.

Taking in Horsetail Glade, I caught sight of a Red Fox and when it saw me, it looked as if it gave a huff, and then trotted off out of sight! Also seen was a very friendly Robin.

The hides were all very cold due to the weather, so I didn’t stop too long, but long enough the chat with other birders.

I also caught up with photographer friend Helen and we chatted in the Carlton hide for a while hoping to see the Bittern that’s been reported over the last few weeks. Not too long after arriving I caught sight of a bird coming towards the hide, the binoculars confirmed that approaching was indeed a Bittern.  Instead of being brown ochre in colour the suns fading light made it look almost red in appearance.

Thanks to Helen Scarsbrook for the Bittern image as mine were a total disaster.

Another superb day at Brandon Marsh where anything can turn up and quite often does!  

10th of November 2012.
River Taw Estuary – North Devon.

Species seen 41.

We spent a weekend away in Coombe Martin getting the caravan cleaned and ready for the winter.  
The weather was extremely good with two sunny days, one of which was the day we walked the Tarka Trail and then took in the RSPB Isley Marsh area, walking around to Yelland Quay and Instow.

My highlight was Spoonbills a total of four were seen in the mud flats, they were too far away for close up photo’s however I managed a few record shots, this being one.
As always we stopped at the small pool near the old power station, where we heard, then saw our first West Country Water Rails.

Also heard was what sounded like a single Grasshopper Warbler? while observing the local cattle being annoyed by a Magpie. Other Birds of note were Rock Pipit, White Wagtail and numerous Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Curlew, Little Egret and Redshank.

27th of October 2012.

WWT – Brandon Marsh.

Species seen 37.

On a fabulous Autumnal day a visit to Warwickshire Wildlife Trust Brandon Marsh is a must! Arriving at midday there wasn’t a cloud in the sky; however there was a definite chill in the air due to the breeze and once the sun had gone down it very quickly became extremely cold.

Two pairs of Goldeneye were the first birds of note seen on East Marsh Pool; all looked fabulous with the sunshine reflecting off their plumages. The pool already had a great many Widgeon with more Black Headed Gulls continuing to arrive on and around the scrape area. Other gulls were, Yellow Legged, Herring, Common and Lesser Black Backed.

A group of Swans that were all napping to the left of East Marsh hide soon revealed that they were not Mute Swans, but, Whooper Swans! Ten Whooper Swans is a first for me at Brandon Marsh as I’ve only seen a pair before.

Other birds of note were, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Fieldfares and Redwings. Before leaving I took in the Newlands path towards the golf course where over the reed beds a good number of Starlings were starting their Ariel display before going to roost.

13th of October 2012.

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust – Brandon Marsh.

A late afternoon visit to Brandon Marsh in the hope of seeing a Barn Owl again at dusk, as last Saturday, however, there was no sign of it today.

East Marsh is now host to a great many Greylag and Canada Geese, in addition to these was a single Egyptian Goose along with a rather strange looking hybrid goose!

Looking upwards, a Kestrel, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk were viewed, however what happened later sent everything up from East Marsh Pool.

Taking a few seconds to locate what had disturbed everything, I quickly took sight of a raptor which at first glance, I thought was a Buzzard. The bins soon had the ID confirmed; it was in fact a Marsh Harrier.

Minutes after it disappeared over the farthest part of Newlands, the hide door opened and in walked friend and fellow birder Helen. I quickly told her of the sighting and right on cue this magnificent bird showed up. We both ran to the Carlton hide where we were greeted by George and Steve, two other regular birders. We were all treated to superb views of the bird flying high, then low over the reed beds. It finally went to ground at 5.45pm and was not seen again, suggesting that it may stay a while? The photograph is a very distant record shot.

September 2012.

WWT – Brandon Marsh.

Over the last couple of weeks my visits to Brandon Marsh have turned up a few good sightings, a complete list is shown below. Sadly with the amount of daylight now reducing day by day and as we move closer to autumn we will have less time to go birding! However, I am looking forward to regular and hopefully some not so regular winter visitors.

The evening skies are also providing superb orange and red backdrops to the ends of each day. This Grey Heron was spotted at the back of Teal pool.

Recent notables are a Barn Owl fledgling at Newlands, Egyptian Goose, Pink Footed Goose, Kingfishers and the odd few hybrid geese.

As each day draws to a close huge numbers of Greylags and Canada Geese have been seen leaving the reserve and what a noise they make too! The sight of these geese is quite something as there are hundreds.

Recent news of a White Tailed Eagle over Brandon had me thinking of our recent trip to Scotland and seeing these magnificent birds in the wild. The local press has reported that “Stanley” a White Tailed Eagle is at large (Large, very large bird) apparently, he’s escaped from Warwick Castle. Let’s hope he visits some of our local lakes or pits while enjoying his freedom, before eventually being returned to his owner?

Birds seen recently on the reserve are, Blackcap, Blackbird, Nuthatch, Blue, Great, Coal and Long Tailed Tit, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pheasant, Chaffinch, Starling, Wood Pigeon, Feral Pigeon, Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Coot, Shoveler, Mute Swan, Lapwing, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Cormorant, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Grey Heron, Pink Footed Goose, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Barnacle Goose, Kingfisher, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Rook, Kestrel, Buzzard, Hobby, Sparrowhawk, Barn Owl, Snipe, Gadwall, Widgeon, Egyptian Goose, Teal, Jay, Magpie, New Zealand Scaup (Escapee) Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin, Pied Wagtail, Redshank, Cetti’s Warbler, Robin, Great Crested Grebe, Bullfinch, Oystercatcher, Song Thrush, Reed Bunting, Dunnock, Wren, Little Grebe, Mallard, Greenfinch, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Goldfinch.

29th of August 2012.

Portree, Isle of Skye, West of Scotland.

After a huge breakfast at Mrs MacLeod’s B&B, we visited the Aros Centre just outside Portree. Within the Centre there is an RSPB Sea Eagles interactive exhibition. The warden was extremely knowledgeable and gave us good advice as to where to see both White Tailed and Golden Eagles on Skye. There is also a small cinema here that shows a film from a helicopter flying over the Cuillin Mountains of Skye, this is not recommended for anyone that does not like heights as its soars over the peaks revealing huge drops down sheer cliffs etc.

White Tailed eagles were seen throughout Britain for thousands of years, but by 1918 they were hunted to extinction. They were reintroduced by conservationists after an absence of 57 years on the Isle of Rum and have since continued to grow in numbers throughout Scotland.

Armed with lots of information on White Tailed Eagles we set off to Portee harbour to book a boat trip to hopefully see the Eagles on the cliffs of Raasay Island. We boarded the MV Stardust vessel that took us out across the sound to look for birds of all kinds.

After half an hour of everyone on board searching the cliffs we came across our first White Tailed Eagle very high above us, even at this height it looked huge, within two minutes from behind the boat and souring high was another? As these birds fly a great speed, photographic results are purely down to luck! These record shots were managed, not brilliant, but records at least!

Birds seen today were, White Tailed Eagle, Shag, Cormorant, Kittiwake, Great Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Gannet, Razorbill, Oystercatcher, Goosander, Grey Heron, Kestrel, Raven, Hooded Crow, Rook, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Wood Pigeon, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Starling, Chaffinch and Greenfinch.
Today and yesterday will go down as very memorable birding days first a Golden Eagle, then today two White Tailed Eagles! I am already planning of returning to Skye, maybe in a different season to see more of the Island and of course more birds.

As someone who enjoys wildlife, pertuculary birds, a huge thanks must go to all the conservationists involved in the reintroduction of Eagles to Scotland.

28th of August 2012.

Isle of Skye – West of Scotland.

Today we decamped from Arisaig and took the ferry to the Isle of Skye, the weather was very windy with 40 mile an hour winds predicted. Crossing to Skye we had good views of the Gannet’s and Manx Shearwaters, however, once on Skye and due to the weather the only birds seen were seen during a layby stop for lunch. These were seven Goosanders. Via more breath-taking scenery and after we stopped in many laybys because the word “WOW” was back in our vocabulary, we finally made it to Portree.

The afternoon ended with us finding accommodation in a bed and breakfast overlooking the sea and the Island of Raasay. What happened next will live with me forever! A call to the window from my other half saying, there’s a big bird coming towards us! It looks like an Eagle, only a Golden Eagle right in front of the B & B! No time for the camera as a sighting was the most important thing at the time. We were soon out in the car and following its direction out of Portree. Driving for over two miles we sadly didn’t see it again.

27th of August 2012.
Arisaig to Morar – West of Scotland.
A wet walk today with full foul weather gear on, I’m one of those people you often see walking in the rain! Leaving the campsite we followed a route of white sandy beaches and B-roads towards Morar a small village 3 miles away.
Birds seen today were Dunlin, Cormorant, Oystercatcher, Great Black Backed Gull, Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Pied Wagtail, Grey Heron, Greylag, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Buzzard, Goldfinch, Red Breasted Merganser, Little Grebe, Curlew, Hooded Crow, Jackdaw, House Martin, Swallow, Starling, Common Tern, Tree Sparrow and my first Scottish Robin.

Other notable wildlife seen today were Red Deer with their young and the free roaming huge Highland cattle with their calves. 

26th of August 2012.

The Isles of Eigg & Muck - West of Scotland.

A trip today aboard the “Shearwater” from Arisaig to the Isles of Eigg and Muck. The excursion was only five minutes away from the jetty when we were passing rocks with many common seals on basking in the sunshine. The rocks also had great numbers of Cormorants on along with Great Black Backed Gulls and Hooded Crows.

As we got out in to open water we were met with the sight of hundreds of Manx Shearwaters skimming the sea. Not to be outdone, there were many Gannets diving from upon high for fish. Razorbills were seen too, however not many. With the highest population of Manx Shearwaters burrowed at night on the Isle of Rum, it was not too much of a surprise to see so many of these fabulous birds.

The real stars of the voyage were two Minke Whales just off our starboard side, sadly the record shots all turned out to be outstanding pictures of waves!

First port of call was the Isle of Eigg where half of the passengers disembarked for their time on the island. We then carried on to the Isle of Muck to explore this small Hebridean Island.

The birds seen were Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Razorbill, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Great Black Backed Gull, Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Common Scoter, Common Tern, Mallard, Meadow Pipit, Grey Heron, Hooded Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Wood Pigeon, Greylag, Pied Wagtail, Swallow, House Martin, Starling and Tree Sparrow.

The Island also had great numbers of Common Seals.

There is currently a project on Muck to try and encourage Corncrakes to breed. There are special areas set aside for this and I will be following the reports in future. Between August and September the Corncrakes leave Scotland for the center or south of Africa, as I spent quite a while in these areas, I made the asumption that the birds have since flown?

24th of August 2012.

The Highlands – West of Scotland.

A round trip to Loch Ness was enjoyed with a voyage along the Loch taking in the vastness of the great Glen. The weather was truly dreadful with rain on and off all day. The only birds seen where two Mallards, one a hybrid, a few Herring Gulls and finally as the Jacobite catamaran was docking at the end of our cruise an Osprey was seen flying along the Loch. I would have missed this, as it was my better half that spotted it and asked, ”what’s that, it looks like an Osprey” The Osprey was flying high for a while, it then dropped low and flew just a foot or so above the water and then disappeared from view. Throughout the day we both kept our eye on the Loch for sightings of the “Beastie” sadly no sign of the Loch Ness monster nor a record shot for my blog!

22nd of August 2012.

The Highlands  - West of Scotland.

Species seen 37.

Having travelled to Scotland on Friday, we made our first camp at the Luss Campsite on the shores of Loch Lomond. The rain continued to pour all night and in the morning it stopped, giving atmospheric views of the Loch. The forests surrounding the whole area looked as though there was steam rising from the trees!

On route to our second base camp at Arisaig in the West of Scotland, we stopped at Glen Coe to admire the views within this awesome Glen with its high peaks and beautiful waterfalls. It was then onwards towards Fort William, passing Ben Nevis and taking the road to the Isles towards Mallaig.

Once settled at our superb campsite at Sunny Croft, it was time to explore and of course see what birds were around? Nothing too much out of the ordinary with the following seen. Curlew, Dipper, Grey Heron, Hooded Crow, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Wood Pigeon, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Dunnock, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Chaffinch, Canada Geese, Greylag, Mallard, Coot, Cormorant, Kittiwake, Herring, Black Headed, Great Blacked Backed, Common and Lesser Black Backed Gull, Common Tern, Starling, Pied Wagtail, Greenfinch and House Sparrow. Also seen were Gannets flying high above the sea and then diving at great speed to catch fish. A single Common Seal was viewed sunning itself on rocks not more than a hundred metres from shore.

The Isles of Eigg, Rum and Skye have certainly provided magnificent sun sets from our campsite.

Lastly, with the International Space Station passing over this weekend for the last time until October we’ve also had superb views on consecutive nights of it in the night sky, so much better without any light pollution!  

5th of August 2012.

WWT – Brandon Marsh.

Species seen 27.

Sunday afternoon was warm and sunny, however as I drove nearer to Brandon Marsh through the back roads the sky was turning a very dark blue. Arriving in the car park, a flash of lightening followed by thunder made me think, maybe I’ll leave and do something else to occupy my Sunday afternoon. I met with two birding friends and we chatted in the courtyard of the visitors centre as the rain soon began to fall. Within a few minutes the rain was almost like a monsoon, this lasted for over half an hour!

Once the rain eased off we all took a stroll to East Marsh hide, hoping to see the six Black Tailed Godwits that were posted on the "The unoffical Guide to Brandon Marsh" website. Sadly these were nowhere to be seen.

Once the sun had come back out, I made my way to the screen hide. This turned out to be perfect timing as a Hobby was perched not too far from it. The bird gave two birders and myself superb close views of it as it flew around the Newlands area collecting insects. It also shared the area with a Kestrel that was also hunting. At some point they were taking it in turns of perching on the many posts within the area.

This year’s Swifts are still flying over the reserve; however it won’t be long before they are gone for another year! On the way back to the car park I lost count of the many Swallows I saw. What looked to be a damp uneventful afternoon, turned out to be a most enjoyable one with the highlight being the close views of the Hobby?

1st of August 2012.

WWT - Brandon Marsh.

Species seen 25.

My evening visit was spent with a few regular Brandon Birders in the Carlton hide following quick stops at the other hides.

A Hobby showed well, as well as Kingfisher, Buzzard and Kestrel. East Marsh pool had the usual birds with nothing uncommon on view. Teal pool had nine young Grey Herons and three Green Sandpipers.

As the summer evenings begin to draw in, the darkness was soon upon us. By nine o’clock, we were all ready to pack up and go home! Staying another ten minutes proved to be the right decision, as we were all treated to a fabulous sight of four Otters at the back of the pool. The female was keeping an eye on her three cubs as they played, splashed and gambolled in the water for a good three minutes. They disappeared briefly and then reappeared even nearer on the right hand side of the pool, again the views lasted a good three minutes, but then, they were all gone!

By this time it was almost dark and the trek back through the reserve to the car park was done with everyone on a high and each of us recounting our joy at seeing these beautiful wild mammals.

I did manage a very poor record shot as the there was almost zero light, but at least it’s something to remember this unforgettable night?

15th of July 2012

WWT – Brandon Marsh.

Species seen 40.

A late afternoon visit arriving at a very flooded reserve with only the East side footpaths above flood levels. It was a very quiet walk with only 40 species of bird seen, with the highlight being a Kingfisher over East Marsh Pool.  Horsetail glade produced a number of insects; however, as far as birds were concerned, a solitary Great Tit was my lot! Steetley hide revealed a couple of Little Grebe chicks and a Grass Snake, winding its way through the water.

I stopped to chat with one of the regular photographers, who was buzzing and couldn’t wait to show me his earlier shots of an Otter taken at a location not reported as a regular sightings spot, therefore, on my next early morning visit to Brandon I will take in this area first!

Continuing my walk I took in the Newlands reed beds area, again stopping to view many insects along the way. As usual there were plenty of Grey Squirrels navigating the tree branches in New Hare Covert. Sheep field area had plenty of Rabbits, some of which seem to be used the passing walkers? Butterflies seen here were Red Admiral and Comma.

One thing that is good to see at the moment is the wide variety of wild plants, beautiful vibrant colours that still look vivacious in the miserable so called “summer” of 2012!

4th of July 2012

WWT – Brandon Marsh

Species seen 43.

Arriving this morning at 6.30am on a reasonably cool morning with rain filled clouds in all directions I made my way to Wright hide for a coffee and to look out over East Marsh Pool. While passing Swallow Pool before entering the hide, my eye was immediately drawn to the blue streak of a Kingfisher, flashing along the pool towards Newlands. This is surely the best sighting to start any visit to Brandon Marsh?

The rain clouds soon created a huge downpour over the whole reserve with both rain and hail stones bouncing off the hide’s tin roof! All the usual birds were seen on and around the pool and nothing out of the ordinary was therefore listed. After scanning the pool I walked towards the Newlands reed beds and this mixed community appeared and waddled past me.

Once the rain eased off, I headed for Teal hide to see if, by any remote chance the Whiskered Tern reported and photographed by Keith Yates yesterday, would show again, sadly it was nowhere to be seen! I did however list two Green Sandpipers.

With an hour left before having to leave for work, I circumnavigated the soggy path to Carlton hide, sightings of note here were, Little Egret, Kingfisher, Buzzard, Kestrel, Mistle Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Cetti’s, Sedge and Reed Warbler.

21st of June 2012

WWT - Brandon Marsh

With today being the longest day, an evening at Brandon Marsh was a good idea, however, the weather was not on the same wavelenght!

Upon arrival, I went straight towards the East Marsh hide which had no visible unusual birds of particular interest, then I proceeded to the Carlton hide. My quest for the evening was to hopefully see an Otter, which of course many of my birding friends have already seen?

After half an hour the heavens opened and the light declined, at 9.30pm I decided to pack up and put the binoculars and camera away in my bag, to ensure that the walk back to the car would not get rain water in to the gear etc! Once everything was stowed away, something caught my eye, to the left of the pool, a tumbling mammal was seen in the water, okay, image this, bag - closed - camera in bag and switched off - lens locked! By the time I got it out the Otter was disappearing in to the reeds on the right hand side of the pool.

I did manage to fire off a number of shots, however, due to the poor light, my efforts were later deleted!

Hopefully, a future visit will produce a much better opportunity for Otter photograghs? To see an Otter in the wild in Warwickshire, was a truly memorable sighting!

10th of June 2012.

Tarka Trail – River Taw Estuary – North Devon

Species seen 45.

After many days of torrential rain, the weather changed for the better for our last full day in North Devon, and what better way than to take a leisurely walk along the Tarka Trail to view the different areas of Farmland (from the trail) Trees, Meadows, Ponds, Mudflats and Salt Marsh. The tide was going out and this meant that any waders would be quite a distance from the footpaths! Although the species count was 45 for the day, there was not a great deal of birds actually in the River area!

The open grassed area again gave up superb views of Adult and juvenile Dunnock and there were plenty of Skylark heard and seen high above us. Stopping to chat to two local birders from Barnstable, we swapped Birding stories and pointed out the locations of recent sightings of Cetti’s, Reed and Sedge Warblers.  Also seen was a Redpoll by the farm.

The estuary had the usual Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Grey Heron, Black Headed, Herring, Lesser Black Backed and Great Black Backed Gulls and that was it. At Yelland Quay we caught sight of a single Rock Pipit, a treat for me, as I don’t get to see many of these in the Central area. A pair of Pied Wagtails were busy amongst the pebbles foraging for food, but were soon off due to an extremely loud Oystercatcher passing over.

While walking back towards Fremington Quay, a Buzzard, which was seen quite a few times overhead during our walk, perched it’s self on one of the electric masts. Here it stayed for a few minutes before swooping down towards some trees were it took a Wood Pigeon. Nature at its most intense and a reminder that when you go looking at wildlife, that’s exactly what you get!
This pictured Buzzard, didn't go hungry.
I’m already looking forward to my next visit to North Devon and as always will be checking the superb Devon Bird News  for interesting reports each week.

4th of June 2012.

RSPB Isley Marsh – North Devon

Species seen 37.

A beautiful sunny afternoon spent along the Tarka Trail and the RSPB Isley Marsh area which is situated along the River Taw Estuary. In terms of birds seen the afternoon was very quiet as only 37 species were viewed!

On the open grassed area a great many Dunnock were seen and Skylarks were chirping in the grass and many were seen above, slowly flying higher and higher once airborne.

Over the estuary Shelduck, Grey Heron, Herring, Black Headed, Lesser Black Backed Gulls were feeding on the sandbanks. A solitary Oystercatcher flew past as did a flock of forty plus Dunlin. Sadly the Dunlin were the only waders seen?

The pond area was a perfect spot for lunch, while there birds within the reeds were Whitethroat, Reed Bunting, Reed and Sedge Warbler. Heard but not seen here were Little Grebe.

While walking, a Speckled Wood Butterfly was busy making its way alongest the bushes and it was good to see many Bees too. A single Weasel with its chestnut backed fur was seen briefly along with many Rabbits.
My last stop was Fremington Quay where a Chaffinch was observed singing in a bush; it stayed there constantly singing for over fifteen minutes! With the exception of three Mallard ducks, there were no birds seen along the Fremington inlet?

The hedgerow produced a family of Blue Tits with the parent bird seen feeding the youngsters.
 As always the wild flowers on route were vibrant with their colours showing even brighter in the good sunlight.