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Tuesday, 11 February 2020

A Brush With Royalty - on 1st February, 2020

Lindsay's greatly improved health meant that she felt fit enough to meet up with my daughter at a crafting session near Hinckley, provided I drove her there,  and a day of good weather had me greatly tempted to continue after dropping her off and go and do a bit of birding. I spent some time in the morning debating where my destination would be and decided on the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust's Brandon Marsh Reserve. This is a place that I have only visited once before (in 2016), but seemed to have much potential. I was, however, a little unsure as to what the place would be like at a weekend (because of numbers of visitors), and at this particular time (because we've had a lot of wet weather and it is prone to flooding - the clue is in the name!).

It was not encouraging, on arrival, to find the car park overflowing with cars, but I managed to find a place, and went and checked in at the visitor centre. I was pleasantly greeted and, because of my unfamiliarity with the place, handed a very helpful map of the site.

I exited the centre, passing by the packed-out café, and headed into the reserve. It soon became apparent that most of the people I were seeing were just out for a Saturday afternoon stroll, many with young children. Few had binoculars or cameras and, to my delight, there were absolutely no dogs, as dogs are not allowed on the site.

I first headed for Wright Hide, as I'd not been there on my previous visit. As I passed Grebe Pool on my left, a pair of Shoveler were engaged in a courtship 'dance', circling around each other - they were a delight to watch. 

Shoveler (Anas clypeata) (male+female) - Brandon Marsh, Grebe Pool

A little further on I noticed a Robin in the trees beside me, looking rather confiding. I stopped, and it immediately came to me. I wished I'd had the foresight to bring some bird food with me. However, it obliged by letting me capture its portrait.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - Brandon Marsh, by Grebe Pool
Arriving at Wright Hide, which overlooks East Marsh Pool, I found that the low sun was shining directly at me and I could barely see anything in front of me through the glare, so I left again almost immediately, and retraced my steps as far as the junction with the path that heads southwards to more hides, noting the splendidly-carved bench beside the path. En-route the Robin was now wise to the fact that I didn't have food for it, and ignored me.

Bench - Brandon Marsh, KingfisherTrail
The Robin obviously hadn't warned his friends that I wasn't offering food as, on approaching the junction, I was waylaid by another Robin, which was immediately joined by yet another!

Robins (Erithacus rubecula) - Brandon Marsh
Next time I visit, I'll make sure I have some tasty morsels for these birds!

OK, so that's the last of the Robins - I promise!

A short walk took me to Jon Baldwin Hide, which also overlooks East Marsh Pool but had the sun behind it, and here I found three photographers already installed. There was little happening close to the hide, but some birds of interest in the distance, so it was definitely worth hanging around for a while.

Patience paid off when a Great White Egret flew in and landed at about 100 metres to the right of the hide, where it was largely obscured by trees on the bank.

Great White Egret (Ardea alba) - Brandon Marsh, from Jon Baldwin Hide
The egret moved further out of sight, and attention was paid to what was happening in front of the hide. Although an extremely common bird, a Tufted Duck is always a pleasant bird to see.

Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) - Brandon Marsh, East Marsh Pool
A call of 'Kingfisher' from the left hand end of the hide got my immediate attention. A Kingfisher had flown in and landed in the bushes behind the hide at a distance of approximately 30 metres. I'd been at the right hand end of the hide, but my companions very kindly let me get into a position where I could take a few shots. The bird stayed for around 6 minutes, occasionally dropping down into the water and then coming out onto a branch and preening - it was definitely a grooming, and not fishing, session. All the while, there was an extremely civilised session of taking it in turn to take camera shots. Here are a few from that session - all presented in the order in which they were taken. This bird was a female, as can be seen by the orange on the lower mandible.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) - Brandon Marsh, from Jon Baldwin Hide
The Kingfisher then flew away from us through the trees and out of sight.

The Great White Egret had flown out of its hiding place to the far side of the pool. However, it returned to our side, but landed in a place even more distant than where it had originally landed. 

Great White Egret (Ardea alba) - Brandon Marsh, from Jon Baldwin Hide
It soon turned around, and headed round the back of the reeds on the left of the above image. My companions, who knew the site well, reckoned that they'd get a better view from John Walton Hide, so rushed off there, leaving me to close all the shutters in the hide before I left to follow them! I needn't have worried, however, as I joined them and found that they'd had no luck. We sat and waited for some time and, for a moment, thought that we were in luck as an egret showed through the reeds, but it was a Little Egret.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - Brandon Marsh, from John Walton Hide
I stayed for another 20 minutes or so, only photographing some Teal that were not far away, and a Cormorant that was.

Teal (Anas crecca) (male) - Brandon Marsh, from John Walton Hide
Teal (Anas crecca) (female) - Brandon Marsh, from John Walton Hide
Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Brandon Marsh, from John Walton Hide
I had now only visited three out of the eight hides on the reserve, and it was getting late so, at around 15h50, I set off to the hides to the south. A brief visit to Carlton Hide revealed nothing of interest, and Ted Jury Hide, which is the last on this southerly track, similarly came up with nothing during the 15 minutes I spent there - but I did take a shot with my phone of what I considered to be a splendid vista. 

view from Ted Jury Hide, Brandon Marsh
My intention was next to take the path that runs round Central Marsh, calling in at Mick Taylor Hide and Steetley Hide. By the time that I reached Mick Taylor Hide, the path had become very wet and muddy, and I could see that the mud on the path beyond was going to come over the top of my boots so, having had a quick look in Mick Taylor Hide, which now seems to have been renamed River Pool Hide, and seen absolutely nothing, I retraced my steps with the intention of heading homeward. 

I briefly called in at Jon Baldwin Hide, and photographed a Gadwall and a Shoveler in the fading light.

Gadwall (Mareca strepera) (male) - Brandon Marsh, East Marsh Pool
Shoveler (Anas clypeata) (male) - Brandon Marsh, East Marsh Pool
I was about to leave, when I noticed that the Great White Egret was showing from beyond John Walton Hide, so I hurried back there again. I found that I had missed the best shot when the bird walked in front of the hide, but I did manage to catch it somewhat further away, before it disappeared round the back of an island.

Great White Egret (Ardea alba) - Brandon Marsh, from John Walton Hide
I stayed for another quarter of an hour and it did, eventually, reappear from behind the island. However, the light was now fading fast, and it really was time that I was leaving. 

It was dark by the time I arrived at the Visitor Centre, which was now closed, and so I left via the side gate, and drove home after a highly enjoyable afternoon. Fortunately, I was only cooking a simple meal for us that night, as I was quite tired after time in the fresh air. It had been great to be out with nature once more.

Thank you for dropping by - I do not currently have my next post up my sleeve, and so do not know what it will feature.

Thought for the day- should female Kingfishers be referred to as Queenfishers?


  1. Hello Richard,
    The health of Lindsay is important news. It was wonderful that she wanted to do crafts with your daughter. Now you could get away from it :-)
    I am completely silent about the beautiful images of the robin. This is and remains a beautiful bird. You never knew the area, but these photos are wonderful examples. The so-called Heron Heron and Tufted Ducks are very beautiful and yes .............. the kingfisher :-))))) That is always nice to see.
    Great to see the little egret, but the ducks are great too. A blog full of enjoyment pleasure.

    Think carefully about yourself,
    Growth, Helma

    1. Thank you so much for those very kind words, Helma. Lindsay is continuing to get better quickly now, and is nearly back to normal! I'm finding it difficult to retreat from some of the cooking and housework as I have got into a routine, but Lindsay is determined to take much of it beck from me!

      My very best wishes to you - - - Richard

  2. Hi Richard! Robin is my favorite bird :-) It would be wonderful to see Kingfisher sometime in nature. They are also rare here. Greetings!

    1. I have a Robin visit my garden most days, and I find myself talking to it - they are such delightful birds. I suspect that Kingfishers might have some difficulty in your region as I guess that in most years (but not this one!) the water is covered with ice for a long while, making fishing difficult for them.

      My best wishes - - - Richard

  3. A lovely set of photos Richard. Any day you get a lens on a Kingfisher is a good one in my book.

    1. Thank you, Marc. It was my first Kingfisher of the year, and I hope not my last. I can never resist taking a huge number of shots whenever I see one. I hope that one day I'll get a shot of one that I'm really pleased with - possibly a plunge or emergence.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  4. An excellent illustrated account of your time at Brandon Marsh. The portrait shots of the Robin are brilliant, whilst Lindsey's improved health allowed her to get off to a craft session....Sounds like a great day to me Richard.

    1. It was a great afternoon, Pete, paticularly as it signalled that Lindsay was 'getting back to normal'. My very best wishes - - - Richard

  5. It seems to me you hit the jackpot on two counts, Richard, the Robins and the Kingfisher (or Queenfisher if you prefer!). The portraits of the Robin are quite exquisite and reveal so clearly why this little charmer has become a universal favourite, even in parts of the world where it doesn't occur. It really does capture one's heart, doesn't it? As for the Kingfisher, to have it behave so cooperatively, and for several minutes is a rare treat. All too often one sees simply a jagged flash of colour as it zooms by. If a female Ruff can be called a Reeve (who came up with that I will never know) why not a Queenfisher? In all my years of birding I have never actually heard anyone use the term "Reeve," have you? By the same token, I have not heard people exclaim, "There goes a murder!" as a flock of crows goes by! On balance, Queenfisher sounds a whole lot more plausible,

    1. It's usually my first job of the morning, David, to say 'good morning' to the Robin in the garden, and compliment him on his song - yes, I'm daft like that!

      I've too have had my share of frustrating flashes of kingfisher blue - but not quite as frustrating as seeing a Belted Kingfisher flash past me in Colorado, never to be seen again! I never did catch up with another one!

      I'd not heard of the term 'Reeve' before, and the only times I've heard reference to 'a murder' is when someone has stated that a group of crows is called 'a murder' - never actually heard it used in context!

  6. Cracking pictures Richard. I am spending a lot of time at our wetlands now because of the variety and numbers of wildlife are much greater and it is more relaxing for people of my age.

    1. Thank you, Mike - I know the feeling. Sometimes I feel I need to push miyself out of the door. Take good care - best wishes - - - Richard

  7. I am pretty enamoured of that bench too!

    1. I'm with you, David - even found myself wondering if I could find out who made it and commission one for myself. I guess shipping charges would be too steep to contemplate getting one to Canada!

  8. Oh how I envy you with the photos of the robin, the birds in France are so nervous, but then I guess they are used to hunters around so much of the time!!!! The robin would have made my day on its own, but the you followed up with magical Kingfisher wow. I want to come birding with you.

    I saw the Little Owl on our barn roof this evening. It did though not wait around though for me to get the camera. The pleasure of seeing it was enough.

    Glad to hear that Lindsay is on the mend. Best wishes to you both, Diane

    1. Diane - if you are ever in this area, I'd be delighted to take you birding, but sightings are usually far from being guaranteed! You'd have to take your chances.

      Delighted to hear that you are still seeing the Little Owl, but sorry that you didn't get a photo - I wish you better luck next time!

      With my very best wishes to you both - take good care - - - Richard

  9. Hello Richard
    Robins are great, I have not seen such beautiful pictures in a long time, beautifully, the heron in the most beautiful white and then the highlight ... the kingfisher ... he always has something magical
    nice post
    Regards Frank

    1. Your kind words are much appreciated, Frank - thank you! I will always get excited at the sight of a Kingfisher, and this was mu first of the year.

      Best wishes from a cold and very windy UK - - - Richard

  10. Hello Richard, fantastic the amount of different birds you were able to see and take photos of. The Kingfisher is superb. The close-up of the Robin is amazing. One can count every feather. The Great white Egret, and the little Egret wonderful. Teal, Shoveler. Fantastic. A place where these birds seem to have found a haven during Wintertime. The bench is something amazing. The patience the carver must have had!
    Warm regards,

    1. I wish this place was a bit nearer to my home, Roos, as it seems to be very interesting for birds, and the people there were very friendly and helpful. I did love that bench!

      Thank you for your kind words. I hope that you are not getting the very strong winds that we are experiencing, but I suspect that you are. Take good care, and keep safe - - - Richard

  11. Beautiful photos Richard. I love that bench. The portrets of the robin are also very beautiful. And the kingfisher, I love it. Have a nice sunday. Greetings Caroline

    1. That bench was very special, Caroline! Storm Dennis is making things unpleasant this weekend - I hope it is not giving you too many problems across the water. Take good care - I hope you have a good week ahead of you - - - Richard

  12. Fantastic Richard, you were lucky to get some beauty birds. The Little Egret and Kingfisher was my favourite.

    1. Thank you, Bob, it was a lucky afternoon. With my very best wishes - - - Richard

  13. Two important issues first.

    Gini and I are pleased to hear that Lindsay is improving and feeling better. We have the same admonition as we had for you a few months ago: "Don't overdo it!" We are confident you will keep her from doing so.

    Second, it was good news that you were not directly affected by Dennis and the devastating flooding he unleashed across the country. Your neighbors are in our thoughts.

    What a wonderful marsh you found! Your landscape image makes me want to help you explore the area. A bit of diversity was nice to see and as others have pointed out, we really need that bench in our garden!

    When we lived in Europe, we fell in love with Robins. Your exquisite photographs brought back wonderful memories of what may be a contender for "world's favorite bird". Congratulations on a splendid series of Kingfisher images! The European version of this efficient fish-catcher looks like she flew through a jewelry shop and emerged as some newly-designed avian gem.

    The female Kingfisher, should, of course, be referred to as a "Kingfisher" as that is her appropriate species name. However, when addressing her directly or discussing her with non-scientists, simply afford her the same appellation as you would Lindsay. Both are in charge of any relationship, their hints or wishes are equal to commands which must be obeyed and we shall be very fond of the ground (or branch) upon which they tread (or perch).

    You may refer to her as "Your Royal Highness", "Your Majesty", "My Queen" or if an American, "Yes, Boss". You know, just like at home.

    I hope this clarifies your ornithological inquiry on how one should properly refer to a female Kingfisher.

    This new week has been spectacular so far and we hope you and Lindsay are able to enjoy it to the fullest!
    Life is good.


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