Thursday, 17 August 2017

Not Seawatching At the Nose

Ok, a better title would be 'Not succeeding at seawatching at the Nose'; of course I tried.. But it was a bit dead.  Ahem.

Mooching about the Patch on Sunday, [well, you have to try. Look. Search. Fail. Because sometimes you don't, eh Dave? :) ] I inevitably wound up at the Nose, hoping for one of those lovely Summer evening tern passages. Didn't get one, so I took photos of gulls instead.


Uh oh, indeed.

Classic seawatching weather

Yeah, my Patch. It's a horrible place to live. Don't know how I can look out the window, never mind go out, really I don't....

Speaking of horror, I saw a sight I did not expect;

Floppy-haired hominid on The Lead Stone

Having swum out - flushing all the gulls and 5 Oyks in the process - he wandered about for a while and then.. I thought 'no.....', but oh yes he did;

Hominid returns after completing display

No in-flight shot as I had my phone out ready to hit 999 until I saw that he'd survived...

After that, it only gets worse. Cue the gulls!

ID Quiz 1

ID Quiz 2

ID Quiz 3

Heh heh heh...

With lots of people and sunny weather, there weren't many birds in evidence - other than the usual deplorables - but it was nice to stretch the legs and hey, you never know.

Also, while I'm here.. I'd like to congratulate The Boss on his victory. Not the first Devon unquestionable [because the Eddystone IS Devon, and using sane systems like countries do* to determine who owns what water {so to speak} would put the D/C border 4.5nm towards Rame Head. Ahem.], but still a great thing, well deserved.

Be Seeing You..

Rant Alert:
[[*Where boundaries commence normal to and continue equidistant from coastlines. This being because in the real world, coasts hardly ever go due N-S and E-W and to act otherwise is so irrational I am honestly shocked that anyone could endorse it. Especially as all the other maritime boundaries - such as EEAs - do not, so it's not a matter of finding a new methodology, is it?]]

Monday, 14 August 2017

Busy Staying Put

Saturday followed some more seawatchy weather, so I couldn't resist the Nose first thing.

Unfortunately, the weather could. I was determined to try anyway, but with time pressing and, well, the sun shining, I didn't bother to go the whole way down, and plonked onto the Sunrise Bench instead. The fact I could even sit there without being blown off tells you volumes about how unlikely it was looking..
The extra height and southerly view came in handy, however, as the action was in the Bay and was definitely exciting! I had stuck some laundry on [have I mentioned enough times that it wasn't looking good?] and it was only needing to get back to it before it congealed in the machine that dragged me away. Anyways, to the birds;

A passage of Gannets [109] went unmolested towards feeding groups in said bay, but the Kittiwakes [132] trying the same suffered repeatedly from the attentions of skuas. I counted 7 Arctics and a Pom - a mix of adults and immatures [one very nice 3cy light Arctic, for example] - with other gulls including passing LBB, BHG, Med and so on..
They were well south, much too far for even me to try photos, so you're spared that. Not that you don't get some pictures, as we have a visitor, who arrived last week and at the time of writing is still hanging about..

'Arctic Discoverer'

So the view from the Nose is now;

The third island..

Bloomin' big shear repellant.. :(

The sunshine did bring out a few land birds, and while exchanging chacks with a bevvy of Blackcaps around the Entrance Bushes, one got a little too casual;

Caught mid- 'Chack!'

Yes, those pale blurs are intervening vegetation, and still my camera locked on! I'm a little shocked, I have to say.. :)

After wrestling the washing, and a quick detour to take care of some business, it was on to the Exe, in search of some proper conventional birding. Ie. the lovely juv. White-winged Black Tern that's been hanging about.

After trying Powderham Crossing - and seeing yes it's there but waaaaay down river - I found some Familiar Faces at Cockwood Crossing, and many hours of fun followed.

I do rather enjoy the crossings; having played Real Frogger to get there, every train comes past in a true display of unstoppable power. It is definitely hard core birding to be stood on a little platform above the waves when a big train comes through very fast less than 15' behind you - and level with you - so you have to hold on to your hats ladies and gentlemen while you don't even look away from your scope. Wooooh...

The tern eventually showed well - if in mid-river - before scarpering again, though nowhere near as close as any of us desired. "At least we can tick it off" was said. [Oh dear, but true] We watched it for maybe 20 minutes, feeding off on its own, then plonking down with Commons and a Sarnie. Like many birds, very obvious when you actually got on it: the flight action* was the give away at any angle, then you saw that big white bum. Sat down, it had a very white breast/neck in the sun, with the strong contrast to the dark mantle. Indeed, the dark square/white square of the body and tail against the silvery wings was very obvious in flight, even in a big group of mixed age terns.

Line of terns.
Commons, a Sandwich, and a White-winged Black.

Yes, yes, blobs, but regardez; Ignoring the gulls, there is a line of terns there, ok? The Sandwich stands out big and pale and obvious, right? The rest are Common, except for one which is clearly smaller and darker, [It's right of the Sarnie], and that's the WWB. Truly. I have 3 witnesses of professedly good character who were beside me at the time.

Some terns were better-behaved;

Nothing like being a kilometer closer..

A whole bunch of terns were on display, including Little and Arctic. As the tide dropped, the expected waders** were about, many flying past for our amusement [including counted groups of; 15 Dunlin, 1 Greenshank, 21 Redshank, and ohthat'salotof Curlews], while most just foraged here, there, and everywhere. Well, until getting turfed off by bait diggers, anglers, wanderers with sticks, and of course, the power boats, water skis, inflatable towed things [assorted], kite surfers, kayakers, and all the other humans who think they belong on the Exe. Ho hum..

The resident Slav eventually got in on the fun, too - and showed the others how you pose for birders;

Keeping the plumes as long as it can.

I've got to say I agree with the moult strategy. The Slav was very much in 'now you see me..' mood, sometimes popping up right in front, then vanishing for long periods. Always a pleasure, though.

Be Seeing You..

[[*It flew like a Leach's Petrel. ;) ]]
[[** ::Big breath:: Dunlin, Knot, Sanderling, Redshank, Greenshank, Curlew, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher.. ::gasp:: ]]

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Younglings [Mostly]

Because they're there, you're there, so's your camera...

Not too many, and all virtually sharp.. [Shock etc.];



Coa- hey, over here!


In other news, I'm beginning to feel that urge to babble again. I fear I may start posting long diatribes of stuff and nonsense, so you may wish to open future posts with one finger, and eyes semi-averted.. [[Ok, I know a few of you do that anyway.. ;) ]]

Be Seeing You..

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

And Now For Something Else.

A weekend spent not birding.

[[Beware, gratuitous moaning follows]]

Saturday saw me dealing with the consequence of the cost of Wednesday.

You see, as I did not mention - in so many words - in my post below, there was a late spoiler to the day. To whit, my hat.

Yes, the one in my description, as invariably seen upon my bonce when it isn't very cold. Green, wide of brim and manky of look, more than a decade old. I was very fond of that hat, as you may have guessed, and now it is no more.
How so?

Getting in late from all the fun at the Nose, I had things to do before heading to work, one of which being scattering the worms for the Blackbirds [well, more the Magpies, but the Blackbirds get some] on my balcony. This time, it being rather rainy, I plonked my hat on my head, but being in a rush I neglected to put the strap down, and the wind cackled and plucked it away off and out into space...

It fell, missing a tree, into the road. You will be unsurprised to learn that I was not amused and may have said some very naughty words indeed.
I pegged it down, hoping it was lying soggy in a gutter, but expecting it to have been run over at least once - well, the plastic bits would break but they could be replaced - only to find neither situation was the case.

It was gone. Someone had, in the less than 2 minutes it took me to get there, crossed the road, picked up a wet manky green hat, and walked off with it. Most likely they saw it fall, may well have heard me swear, and they took it anyway.

Polite printable words fail the situation.

What's with the fuss? You may ask. It's just a hat, you may say.

True. But this is a hat bought from a shop that no longer exists, which I've spent years getting just right for its job, and which meant quite a lot to me. Sentimental value and all that. And as a day spent scouring the nearest metropolis revealed, you can't find its like.

The closest I could get, in terms of all its qualities, was perhaps a Tilley hat, but even they fail to meet all the criteria [a hat with holes a frickin' horsefly could get through - let alone a midgie or 500 - is no good against insects, let alone the rain. And for what, £70?!? Ye Gods, who do they think they are??].
I eventually found something, which has mesh-covered holes in it, and isn't wide enough, and is too lightweight, but well... It'll have to do for now.

[]Moan over.]]

Sunday was a lovely day with the extended family, who were down to visit. We had a nicpic by some water, then a little toddle, and fun was had by all. I even saw some birds, but the good ones [and there were a couple] were unshootable, not least due to having hands full of adorable niece when the best one flew right over.. ::Helpless shrug::


Very scenic

Caddis Flies like coffee, too

Myself: "Look, do you know what that bird is? It's a Buzzard"
Adorable neice, comparing BOC with life: "A Buzzard"
Outraged sister: "Don't turn my daughter into a birdwatcher!!"

True excerpt.
::Innocent smile::

Closer to Home:
Well, Summer is Over, as the Swifts have gone. :(  Main body went on Monday, with the stragglers on Tuesday.

Also, the Greenfinches have been really hitting those poor innocent sunflower seeds, and this week I caught a few in the act;


"No, I'm a Rosefinch! Really!"

Just look at the contrast between the primaries
and the tertials and coverts

Lots of Greeeenfinches!

That's all, folks.

Be Seeing You..

Monday, 7 August 2017

Storm Petrels And Shearwaters

Hope's Nose on Wednesday had to be done. Being on nights, I had the choice of going down there first thing or late afternoon. Seeing how much it was raining when I got in from the night before, and looking at the clearance forecast for said afternoon, I chose the latter.

Said clearance didn't show up until near dark - judging by the weather as I got to work! - but ye gods it was good down there anyway!

The weather was pretty much spot-on for storm petrels at the Nose, with a slick well-produced but now spreading out, and gunk and wind enough to let the little darlings come in, with wind blowing just about offshore enough to fill much of Lyme Bay with 'come hither' aroma.. ;)

Just look at that...

Bird passage was.. different. I could only give it 2.5 hours, and in that time I had.. wait for it.. 13 Manxies! 13.. Ye Gods..
I suspect they were out in the gloom. I did get 2 Balearics - who often pass closer in - and certainly no big shears..

Contrast 127 Gannets, 192 Kittiwakes, 24 Fulmars.

The odd gull still on the slick

Time for some drama!

Juv Peregrine and Arctic Skua at play
[not sure who was having the fun..!]

The Arctic had noticed some Kittiwakes, but the juvie Peg, who had been sallying forth to 'play' with various unlucky birds [including one of the Sarnies, who just flew straight down into the sea, vexing the falcon!], noticed it, and one hell of a dogfight ensued! There was no contact, and no seeming intent [thus the 'playing'], but things got even more interesting when two more Arctics showed up and joined in: Furball! [So those shots are not all of the same skua, btw]

Down low

While the predators 'played', the petrel got away!
[Can you see it?]

Yes, that's a Stormy there - one I missed! I am in shock; one of my pictures was actually useful....

Speaking of storm petrels, no less than 20 showed up, coming in to the smell of the SWBCM and usually foraging in its periphery before moving on. Well, mostly, as I'm pretty sure a low-flying Peg nailed one! :O
One of the EUSPs was quite fun, as it seemed to have a dark underwing and to be in inner primary moult.. After much watching and no little cursing, it eventually gave a lovely view as it banked, showing it did have white covert tips, just not many of them and those small! I guess a well-worn one, no doubt the starting moult not a co-incidence.

Speaking of funky birds, quite a variety on display..

A Big Bad Bonxie scragged a Kitt and moved on, there were7 Turnstone, 2 Swift in/off, 6 Oyks, 3 Arctic Tern [together] and 29 Common Tern [also one flock!], with 3 Sarnies lingering and fishing in the slick. Lone BHG and LBBs were the only non-standard gulls.

The wind was vexing to annoying, twisting and gusty, pushing SE at times; never fun when you're wrangling a bumbleshoot and trying to track twisty storm petrels, let alone attempting photos! Why are you not seeing little dark blobs?
Simple; every single one of my shots clean missed. That one up there, the fluke I didn't even know about? Yeah.. Oh well. I think I'm going to stick to 'no photos unless it's inside the Lead Stone, or conditions are perfect and I can use two hands'. Very annoying when you get something you really want to be on camera, but what can I do? It would take a serious piece of kit to nail birds well at even half Manxie range, and I have not the money, or indeed the ability to tote such a thing [without sacrificing my scope, which renders birding moot imho].

Blathering aside, there was a lot of pain of various kinds, but the gain was, well, brilliant.

Tearing myself away to go get ready for work was not easy.

What a year, eh?

And still it's only early August... What next??

[[Albatross! Albatross! Albatross!... Ahem]]

Be Seeing You..

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Shearwaters And Storm Petrels

Prawle on Sunday was a bit of a settle. 'Should have gone to 'Gwarra' was going to be this post title in my head for a lot of the morning.. It was sunny on The Patch, it was sunny a lot of the way down, I ran into the Tones Show and their wonderful appropriation of roads on the way - which really improved my mood - and then.. Ah, it HAS been raining, somewhere. Big puddles. The South Hams lanes are notable for some truly impressive holes, so all puddle should be treated wi-BANG, yeah, care.

Ok, blathering aside, the wind was blowing and while the sun was shining a bit, there was cloud and definitely a few showers out there. Hey, at worst I'm looking at the sea for the day and relaxing, right?

[Ok, not JUST the sea]

Looking at Manxies and Gannets at first. The birds came in pulses, with a background trickle of the M and G; an effect of the showers, I reckon. In between it could be a little yachty, though there was the ever-present promise of cetaceans! An early pod of Common Dolphins - at least 3 - went East, and later something big breached way out to the SE - maybe S of Start? - I got only a bulky black body hitting the water with a huge splash, no big pale flippers or body markings, so  ????  I kept eyes on the area, but nothing else. Ho hum...




Ga- Yeah, you know

Only one interesting bird in the first hour and a half. Then the Balearics started. Stuttering at first, one, then two more, but they didn't stop. Eventually it got a bit silly, with up to eight in view at once.. Yes, that 77 from the trailer..  Balearic Shearwaters. Not bad. :)

Blob Balearic

And again..

 I know it's not the massive total like The Boss had had on Friday, but considering the weather?

To get even better, the Storm Petrels started up. Some very good views - the benefit of a little height - though not as close as at the Nose, and mostly just passing. A different angle than I'm used to meant more careful study required [always check that it is a EUSP! ;) ] but you could actually track them for a ways - which was nice.

I'm pretty sure that's a Stormy and not an artifact..

Some very nice European Storm Petrels, including three at once at one point, with a total of ten seen.

Speaking of numbers.. I suppose I should stick a few in, right?

1675/33 Manx, 796/46 Gannet, 91/8 Kittiwake, 18 Fulmar, 13 C Scoter, 4 Razorbill, 2 Sarnie, lone Common and Arctic Terns.

How were all these birds coming by? Well, observe the weather;

Passing to the south - and full of thunder!

This one didn't miss

Look at the edge of the rain, there..

Wandering back to birds, I did get one interesting one in frame, which was the best Booby-a-like I've seen for, well ever.


Brown and white, with really long tail feathers

If only there'd been a nice Regulation Gannet to fly beside it..

All in all, it was a great watch. Even if some of the best squally showers missed inland [where they're no use to anyone]. They did make for nicely atmospheric shots, though,

Gammon Head and The Bolt

There were also - in the gaps between pulses - some scenic yachts. Here's the poseyest;

No crop

Also passing;

HMAS Argus

And because you've got to have some manky gulls;

Just look at the pretty wave

The usuals about on land - with many juvenile Linnet about in particular, though juvie Cirls seen too :D - this also including coobeasties on the coast path [watch where you walk, folks!].

Of Note:
I was at the Nose yesterday [Wednesday] and there will be a post regarding this soon. I hope. Suffice to say there were some pretty good birds in my limited time [Ah, the Joy of having to work for a living], such as no less than 18 EUSPs - all nice and close - as well as a lot of weather.

Be Seeing You..

Monday, 31 July 2017

Big Day At Prawle

Yesterday I nearly went to 'Gwarra, but various things got in the way and so I compromised on a day of hopefully big showers and a SW wind* at Prawle. That recipe has in the past scored massive big shears at said cornish mecca, so what could it give at Devon's version?

Shearwaters and Storm Petrels.

This will be the blog post coming.

Yup, you're reading the teaser.

No, there won't be crippling photos, because I was up a great big headland and all the good birds were well out, or too fast, or I was too busy going 'wooooo'... Hey, you want nice photos from a seawatch, go to The Boss. [[And indeed, if you want good birds]]
Yes, there were good birds. Yes, there will be awful photos of blobs of one or two of those birds. And better ones of worse birds.
Because this is Backward Birding, after all.

But a trailer needs something, so here are two numbers for you.



Ok, the second one was a time. How about 10 + 1? ;D

 On a brighter note, I had intended to put a piccy up here as well, but gaggle in their infinite incompetence have decided that I can't do that today. So you're spared.

Be Seeing You..

[[*The theory runs that birds will be moving due to the wind, and will fly around the showers. So if one passes offshore, they'll come inland [ie. downwind] of it. And you get to see them in good light without being rained on. When it works, it's amazing. When it doesn't, you start looking at yachts...]]