19 January 2011

Brandon Marsh – Awakening

Three  trips to Brandon Marsh recently, namely on the 11th 13th and 17 of January. Why Brandon Marsh so often – well, it is close to our house, we are members of the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and so have no additional entry fees (£2.50 per person for none members) and it is an easy walk when you are not feeling so well, with lots of places to sit and rest in pleasant surroundings.

The principle reason, of course, is to go visit the residents. Over the past 5 years or so Seri and I have taken in excess of 100,000 photographs in, around, and of the Brandon Marsh site, as you can probably guess there is little to see or photograph that we have not already seen and/or photographed :-).

So, time is moving fast – the weather is improving, and winter’s cold snap has finally snapped – well, lets hope the snow and ice has gone for good this time :-). The days are still cold and relatively dark for photography, but the odd bit of sunshine is making itself known, and most welcome it is too, both to us, and to the wildlife on the reserve.

All of the lakes are now fully de-iced – first time since late November that there has been no discernible ice………..

There has been quite a  lot of fungi around in the past few weeks, since the ice melted, with many species in evidence. Take a walk through the woods and you can find lots of beautiful shapes and colours from highly coloured yellows through to bright purple the fungi are a beautiful addition to the overall scenery, and one which we have photographed widely. We NEVER id fungi for others, there are too many potentially dodgy ones out there, so if you wish to know what something is you might like to look here – it is a reasonably well resourced site……

Most people who visit Brandon Marsh do so to see the bird life – whilst the ice was around this was in scarce supply – mixed flocks of Siskin, various Tits as well as Redpoll and Bullfinches were around, but very hard to see in the poor light. The lakes were almost empty, fishing birds cannot, obviously fish through ice and had to make their living elsewhere. We did not see Heron or Cormorants, Great Crested Grebes or the many breeds of diving ducks for weeks – but now, at last, they are all returning.

Many of our fellow photographers are more interested in the pursuit of the rarer species – Bittern, for example, draw the “crowds” whereas Shoveller, Mallard, Teal, Pochard, Lapwing, Shelduck, Gadwall, Cormorant, Grey Heron and the numerous other common species do not. We tend to photograph them all with equal joy. Watching the behaviour of these delightful creatures is a joy in and of itself, especially at this time of year. All of the above species can now be found making their living on the lakes once more…..

We have many hundreds of shot of the Bittern in our collection and do not pursue them “at all costs” – if we come across them we are delighted and will sit for hours photographing them, but it is not worth our time to sit for hours in feint hope of a sighting……

Whilst sitting in the Baldwin Hide, A Heron, a rather clever one at that, suddenly took off, leapt on top of a Cormorant and stole the fish it had caught, leaping into deep water as it did so. I’ve not seen such behaviour previously – as I said a clever bird indeed :-) when I say leapt on top of I do mean this quite literally. The result? A well fed Heron and A most surprised looking Cormorant – doubtless with a bit of a headache too :-) such is life, such in nature……...

Just about every species, where there is more than one individual present, on the lakes, is starting the long move towards mating and raising of the next generation. Teal are to be seen in small groups of males, peeping loudly to gain the attention of  the often solitary female in the centre of their group – She, in her turn is doing her best to ignore the persistent attentions of the attractive little monsters.

Mallard and Pochard are paired up with the males defending their ladies’ “honour” and chasing off all comers. The Goldeneye – a delightful sea going duck which comes inland at this time of year -  are starting their odd mating displays in which they arch their backs to place their head onto their own back, lift their little legs out of the water and then kick vigorously.

Mature Cormorant have their white heads and white belly patch to show they are all grown up and ready to breed and pretty much everything on the lake is getting on with this sorting out stage of the mating game.

In the reserve itself it is now noticeable that the Robins have given up on feeding from the visitors hands and are now sitting atop the higher branches in their territory singing. Looking for love - in human parlance – they are in the territories from which they hope to woo a lady Robin and raise young. These territories they will defend to the death – once again - literally………

And so the reserve is awakening after winters slumber…….

A great time for visitors, a great, if somewhat challenging, time for photographers (poor light). A great relief for the starving Herons and others fishing species – but not – one suspects – for the fish……….

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