Brandon Marsh – 18 February 2024

Despite having a full coach on paper to start the 2024 trip season, a few last-minute withdrawals meant that 34 of us set off on the trip to Brandon Marsh near Coventry.  This is a site prone to flooding and the recent wet weather, including on the journey down, didn’t bode well.

Our fears were confirmed on arrival, with only two of the nine hides accessible, but both of the woodland trails were still open giving plenty of habitat to explore.  We received a friendly welcome from the staff and any disappointment was soon forgotten as we learned that a Ferruginous Duck had dropped in that morning and a group of us were taken down to where it had been seen.  Often difficult to pick out, this particular duck was close to the bank and its conker-brown plumage and white undertail coverts were easy to pick out in the early spring sunshine.  A lifer for many of the group – what a start to the day!

Ferruginous Duck Photo: Steve Martin
Ferruginous Duck Photo: Steve Martin
Ferruginous Duck Photo: Steve Martin
Ferruginous Duck Photo: Steve Martin

We were also encouraged by the possibility of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and the woodland habitat certainly looked suitable.  However, despite appearances by Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, the most diminutive of the three resident woodpeckers remained elusive.  Nonetheless, the possibility of seeing one kept us scouring the trees and we were rewarded with good views of Marsh Tit, Treecreeper and Nuthatch.  Siskins and Lesser Redpoll were also present in the Birch and Alder, moving around in busy flocks.

Marsh Tit Photo: Steve Martin
Marsh Tit Photo: Steve Martin
Treecreeper Photo: Steve Martin
Treecreeper Photo: Steve Martin

Brandon Marsh has a lot of pools and most of the common winter ducks were present, the only notable absentee being Goldeneye.  Great White Egrets, a real rarity only a few years ago, prowled the reed beds looking for prey, their long legs managing to cope with the unusually high water levels.  We spent time scouring the reeds for Bittern but this secretive bird, if there at all, remained out of sight.  We were alerted to the presence of Water Rails by their squeals from the marsh.

Great White Egret Photo: William Bennet
Great White Egret Photo: William Bennet

The weather exceeded all expectations and we enjoyed the warm February sun for most of the day.  The unseasonably warm weather is nice to be out in, but the trend for ever-warmer weather due to global warming is a worrying one, with the flooded reserve another casualty of the changing climate. 

We weren’t the only ones to bask in the sunshine.  The final bird of the day was a Sparrowhawk perched in a bush above the reeds to catch the last rays of the evening sunshine.

Sean Ashton

Attendees:      34

Birds seen:       65