31 August 2008

Restored and refreshed at Brandon Marsh

Ah the glory of an autumn morning (even if it is only August). This was just what I needed to reconnect to Warwickshire birding.

At 7am, with the air mild and a light mist promising to burn off sometime soon, I finally made time for a decent trip out, and decided to head to Brandon Marsh and see how the early autumn birding season was starting to shape up.

(As I think I've probably explained before, birding has three seasons, not four - there being no such thing as summer (this in an entirely personal calendar and in no way reflects the views of the birding world at large). In this part of the world, spring starts in April, when migrants start to arrive and breeding kicks off. That runs through to the arrival of autumn in early August, when breeding is finish, summer migrants start to leave and winter migrants start to arrive. Once all the winter migrants are here, say late November, then winter is here until April again. If there is a summer, it is the few boring weeks in July when nothing changes, nothing happens.)

Well, this morning was classic early autumn. Warm and humid, rain later, early mist, dew on myriad spiders' webs, beech masts falling on my head, Jays and Squirrels working like billio to stash food for the winter, and some notably autumn migrants / early winter visitors. These birds included a Green Sandpiper on Teal Pool, plenty of Teal and Shoveller, a large post-breeding flock (400+) of Lapwing, and a very early flock of 20+ Siskins working their way through the beech and alder trees near River Pool.

Alongside these were some lingering traces of summer, a few dragonflies in particular, and plenty of young Swallows getting ready for the long journey to southern Africa. And many of the resident birds were out and about too - a Sparrowhawk as I pulled into the car park, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Treecreeper in New Hare Covert, and a few singing (but lurking) Cetti's Warblers.

Bird of the day: Siskin (Carduelis spinus), this lovely little winter visitor is a small, streaky yellow finch with an addiction to alder trees and a tendency to gather in large, easy to spot flocks of a dozen or more birds. Generally I've tended to find them arriving from October onwards, August 31st is my earliest in Warwickshire by some considerable margin.

23 August 2008

Pensthorpe photos

While on a family trip to Norwich last weekend, we took the opportunity to visit Pensthorpe, the nature reserve at which this year's Springwatch was filmed.

Nice place for a family trip, and although the wild birds were quiet (time of year really), the aviaries, collections and conservation programmes were pretty interesting, and of course great to photograph. Recommended to birders with families, and here are a few of the photos.

All quiet on the Leam Valley front

Managed to find time this morning to remind myself how quiet a local nature reserve can be in August , with Leam Valley no exception.

It was a lovely morning, with some of the best (and above all driest) weather we've seen in weeks. Sadly, no birds.

Wellllll, that's not really true of course. Loads of birds around, just hunkered down so low and quiet you deserve an award for each one you see. My big hope was the scrape, perhaps good for a returning sandpiper or maybe a wandering egret. Fat chance. A few young Coots and Moorhens mooched around, with the odd Magpie or Wood Pigeon passing, along with a few hybrid ducks.

Back in the woods I did at least manage to find a Chaffinch, a few Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits and Great Tits (by far the most visible and audible bird at this time of year). A few birds were vocal enough to find - a couple of raucous Jays, a Green Woodpecker and a Buzzard mewing overhead. The foliage all around was so lush and dense (after weeks and weeks of rain) that even when a huge Grey Heron flew into a tree I quickly lost it!

Bird of the Day: Not even worth nominating one. More a walk than a birding trip.