Friday, 31 December 2010

Baa... Baaa..... Baaa.....


Making like a sheep, here's my Top Ten Birding Highlights of 2010!




But not before I make a final update for the year.

:D

Yesterday the Patch got a mighty bash. I got a couple of sniffs of Waxwings, but nothing usable. :( Not that the day was an entire write-off, oh no, far from it. There was a sustained low-key movement of Skylarks all day - heading north in small groups [3 to 10] - though very vexingly none came close enough to Garden Tick... Chaffinch and Redwing numbers had dropped markedly; down to a dozen and one and though I found a few Redwing and a Mistle Thrush in my patrolling, there'd clearly been a clear-out. No Brambling either.
I had a look at the sea, as the wind was onshore [though a NE instead of the forecast SE which would have gotten me doing it properly]. Being on patrol, I didn't have the Big Scope as I sat down on the lower south bench to see if anything was about. So, the 6 divers which flew south remain just that and the auks tooling about were mostly auk sp. [though a couple showed well enough to be Razorbills]. A couple of Kittiwake went by, but star turn went to another small group of larks which flew up, hit the wind going over the Nose and stalled for a moment, still calling, before pressing on northward - 2 Skylark and a glorious Woodlark. Woodlark. On my frelling Patch. :D I still can't quite believe it, it more than made up for only being able to find one, yes one GC Grebe all day.

Today there wasn't even a hint of Waxwings on the Patch, though 39 GC Grebe were better. More Redwing [ok, 3 out back, but a few more around] and a big jump to 25+ Chaffinch with no less than 3 Brambling [2 adult males and a 1w male] strongly implied movement in overnight. In the afternoon it was a walk around Yarner with the folks. Atilla the Dog was in particularly feisty mood - I reckon the deer must have been about - and the woods were pretty quiet, bird-wise, but it was still good. Except for untangling the dog's cradles she made from her extendo-lead, of course [at least there weren't any huge gorse bushes or bramble thickets to get stuck in...]].
A fly-over Brambling was threatening to be the best of it, until we had the fortune to meet a group of Bullfinches. I like Bullfinches, they're purdy, and my Mum loves them [though rarely sees them, and never more than one at a time before] so getting 9 feeding in a treetop for a couple of minutes was a real treat. At least 12 were present, along with small numbers of the Yarner standards. Needless to say, no LSW or Mandarin today. We did meet a chap with a radio tracker, looking for the ponies [?] I hope he found them.


Ok, here it comes.

10. A whole and mighty 20 Glossy Ibis at Budleigh.
Having had numerous adventures with this bird [including being utterly rained on having twitched one from work and repeatedly dipping horrifically while chasing a yeartick], seeing a whole flock of the things was very satisfying.

9. The Year of Nine Herons.
Grey, 3 flavours of Bittern, 3 flavours of Egret, plus Squacco and Green. Not bad. [[Still no Purple, oh what a tart]]. The Little Bitterns were the utter stars, though.

8. Bearded Tits at Radipole.
After seeing the Bufflehead [great bird itself] JR and I went on to Radipole so that he could eat junk food and we could meet up with B & K and a) take the piss out of JR and b) look for Beardies. JR and myself scored beyond our wildest dreams, with crippling views down to minimum focussing distance of our scopes.

7. Red-footed Falcon at Exminster.
After dipping horribly the evening before, and then surviving horsefly attacks, this beauty of a bird gave a performance and a half.

6. White-tailed Lapwing.
One of those middle of the day calls; "White-tailed Plover at Slimbridge!!!" A massive hold-up on the M5 and blasting heat to contend with, walking not running past the plastic duckies, and a packed hide - real twitching this and what a fantastic bird!

5. Smew in Devon!
My favourite ducks are here at last. No need to say more. :D

4. American Robin at Turf.
At last I finally get a Yankee passerine.... [[Yes, still an utter tart]] And what a cracker he is.

3. Alpine Swift from Ideford Common / at Berry Head Joint Award.
After a whole lot of painful dipping [including the Seaton birds, as I couldn't be there when they were at roost] I finally see an Alpine by finding one myself. The Goddess of Birding then grins wickedly and I'm at Berry Head when another shows up. These events lead to the classic moment when [Famous Devon Birder] and I turn to each other and say; "Not even a Devon yeartick..."

2. Leach's Petrel at Pendeen.
At last, at long last, one of my most wanted birds comes by me, and it's alive and unequivocal. Utter joy.

1. Waxwings on my Patch.

So there you have it. Backward Birding Year One. Hope you enjoyed it. See you tomorrow.

;)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Who Left The Heating On?


Birding in a t-shirt on Tuesday, ridiculous....

After Monday's grebe-fest I gave the Patch an almighty bashing yesterday. Up hill and down dale I walked, many miles I covered. When I got back, my feets were sore and I realised that I really could have stayed in bed... 2 Razorbills and a Red-throat off Blackball were new, but only 26 GC Grebes could I find. Highlight was an interesting collection at The Priciest House in Devon; at least 36 Redwing, 6 Fieldfare, 5 Blackbird, 2 Mistle Thrush and a Buzzard were after worms on the neatly manicured lawns, but they weren't the good bit - that was a Grey Heron sat atop a cedar like King Muck... Oh deary me.

In the Garden, only 3 Redwing remained, but wonderful surprise, one Brambling had become two! :D With actual puddles on the flat roofs there was much bathing [and a deranged female Blackbird chasing anyone who tried getting into her puddle...]

Today I was again naughty. With the feeble excuse of wanting to see if the Moor roads were usable, I swanned off to the Dart to go looking for fun birds such as Mandarin, Dippers and Lesser Peckers... In a radical break from the expected I saw all three. [[Somebody pass the smelling salts, please]] Though only one of each. And only the Dipper performed. And oh but I had to work for that little duck...

It would have been pretty good, if only for one minor detail; quiet and misty, with enough snow still around to keep all but the most determined away - chances of a good bird or three on the river seemed high. But for that detail. Or rather, details, hordes of them. Brightly coloured yelling swarms of [[Many Ancient Devonian Swear-words]] kayakers, that's what. All the way down, too. I thought the Dart was supposed to be a really high grade river, experts only and so on. If so there must have been all the best kayakers in the country there today...

Ahem.

I covered a lot of river today and saw precisely one 'water' bird; a Grey Wagtail. Not that it wasn't nice - they're lovely little things. I caught up with a Mandarin on my second visit to my Secret Mandarin Site, where to my amazement there was also a Dipper. But I'm getting out of order.

The Holne Bridge and New Bridge areas had lots of kayakers, revving cars and deranged dogs, [[Ok, deranged dog - but it was definitely deranged enough for more than one]] but no fancy birds. I tried the Hembury road, which had some slush and ice but was passable and even managed to get into the car park over the sheet ice [it's mud-stained and looks like concrete..]. Hembury Wood - home of a hill fort, pretty woodland, a stretch of river well-known for birds, and some very long steep climbs... Parking at the bottom may be the wimpy thing to do, but sod it.

Doing a full check of the river there I saw more kayakers, [coming at nice intervals to make sure the river was clear], plus the aforementioned Grey Wag. It was very atmospheric, with the mist and the snow and so on, though also very quiet - a couple of tit bands, a few Nuthatches and so on. Time had wandered on a long way before I gave up on the river as lost for the day and walked back to the car park for a very late lunch. The trees there have a reputation for LSW and I figured sitting quietly away from the paths and river might let me see something, and would definitely help me feel more mellow about the so far frustrating day. A Lesser didn't even let me sit down! Of course, it did what they almost invariably do when confronted with me; go "Oh shit, it's the Backward Birder!" and fly off as fast as their little wings will carry them... ;)

As I felt better I tried the Mandarin Site again, and after much quiet re-positioning I got a view of a female's backside. I moved for a side view, she made like a banana. Drat. Much nicer was a Dipper. A Dipper not on running water, whatever next? Just goes to show how much of a nuisance those- sorry, no more complaining about kayakers. I watched the Dipper for a while as it found the little inflow and did it's best to pretend it was in a proper river. It might not sound like it as you read this, but I was getting some really good views, much closer than you usually get - Star Bird Award, for sure.

Having spent the day out and about, I don't know if any Brambling are still with us [there seemed to be a lot fewer Chaffinch] and I only saw one Redwing in a quick glance out the back before I left.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

It's Raining Again!


I'd been wondering if the weather had forgotten how....

;)

On Boxing Day, the chief news from the Patch was the continued presence of the Brambling :) - in fact it's still around today :D The Traditional Family Boxing Day Perambulation this year took place at Stover, on account of it being out, but [just about] accessible. The snow lay thick upon the ice, which lay thick upon the ground, and once we'd managed to get past the car park, it was very pleasant indeed. Tilbury Dog had a whale of a time; bounding around in the snow, skating on the ice, tying herself up in a rhododendron, and going bonkers at the extra-fat squirrels [only exercise those buggers will have had in a while.. ;) ] Tilly likes squirrels. It is one of her fondest wishes that one day she gets the chance to show one just how much....

Ahem.

We got a brief Siskin, a gorgeous and showy Treeeeecreeeeper, very close Nuthatches, and the coolest male GSW I"ve ever seen, coming to the feeders and staying put for almost 30 seconds! The lake is frozen, so is the canal, and only one patch of the weired section is ice-free and Mallard, Coot and Moorhen full. No Marsh Tits or Bullfinches at the feeders, unfortunately.

Today I went down to Broadsands for the first time this winter, having been leery of finding the road icy and getting stuck down there. I know, it's disgraceful... The funny little Swedish survey boat 'Triad' was messing about off Elberry Cove and the fish farm, meaning that bar a couple of GC Grebes and a male R-B Merganser all the birds were to the north. After a teasing early glimpse it took more than an hour to finally nail a very slippery Red-necked Grebe - which promptly vanished again - though that's better than I can say for the L-T Duck, which I couldn't even get a sniff of. I did get counts of 144 GC Grebes, 2 BN Grebes, 3 RT Divers, 7 C Scoter and 11 Razorbill. A couple of Kitts were sat on the sea and a few Gannets were fishing around and about. The Cirls were on station, accompanied by a snazzy male Reed Bunting, though I could only find one Chiff around the marsh [a collybita]. Aside from the chavs and their attack dogs, it was nice. [[Yes, I do like sitting with the wind howling around my ears, trying to hold my scope still as I stare across Tor Bay.... ;) ]]

After getting home and having a quick bite, it was back out onto the Patch. 4 Goldfinches were nice, Redwing numbers have dropped a touch, and there were 85 GC Grebes off Blackball. Assuming [[Nothing wrong with assumptions, as long as you state them]] there's been no flying around, that's 229 for the area, which isn't bad. No doubt the number of grebes was due to all their lakes being frozen combined with the mounting wind. [[The big swell with wind blowing across it had made viewing 'interesting' at Broadsands]]. It started raining properly, also getting dark, so home I toddled. Do I need to say there's been no more Waxwings for me? Didn't think so. I have my eye on a nice cotoneaster, now the Rowans are all stripped, but nothing apart from Redwing on it so far...

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Festive Cheer


Birding was strictly of the Garden variety today, but it was sweet with the present of a glorious male Brambling! Not just a Garden Tick this, but a Patch Tick too. :D

A small group of Fieldfares in the morning and a brief visit by a Mistle Thrush helped it to be a 5 thrush day on the shed roof apples. Thank you Santa!

[[Edit: Looking back on a post I made but 11 days ago.. I have to say; An American Redstart would be a real Garden Mega! {{It's worth a try....}} ]]

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Quick Bit


Back on the Patch today and of course no Waxwings..

Big increase in Redwing numbers, with at least 34 out the back and a lot more round and about. A single Fieldfare, a couple of Song Thrushes, and lots of Blackbirds with / near / everywhere also. Speaking of the Garden, I've at last seen a second Blackcap - another male! This makes 4 males and no females in the neighbourhood [[Calling Frau Blackcap, vhere are you?]] Starling numbers out the back have hit three figures, with an in-view count of 103 and more in the immediate area. Watching Starlings, Blackbirds and Blackcap trying to hang upside down like Blue Tits as they go after palm berries is quite amusing...

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Back again


Terrible, isn't it? No updates since Saturday, what is the world coming to.....

Today marked the eighth day since I went off to zumerzet [and technically other counties too, but don't get any locals going on that subject.. ;) ]. Having spent 7 being good, not driving my car around [[though I'd describe birding as a 'necessary journey']] and generally beating the Patch senseless* when not diligently job searching, I decided it was time to properly go somewhere. After all, no matter how many pictures you see, it's not until you actually experience something that you truly appreciate it, do you?

'Up to 8" of snow', they said. In the three falls, we had 2cm, 4cm, and a barest dusting here. 'Well, the last fall was Monday, they must have cleared the roads by now..' thought I. Ha ha ha..... I had wanted to get up on't Moor - last winter I'd had lots of fun with knee-deep drifts on Ryder's Hill - but decided the wind would be a bit too toothy [then there were the assorted accidents blocking the roads, so probably still a bit icy, too]. Deciding to play it safe I went for Exminster - Smew on the canal and hordes of Bramblings [maybe] were very appealing - thinking that there was plenty of scenery to shelter from the wind by, and that judging by all the people who've been there, access couldn't be too bad. Oh ho ho ho....

I did expect the lane to be ungritted and basically ice; I've driven interesting roads before and know that as long as I don't stop or maneuvre suddenly I'm fine. I didn't expect the car park to be covered in chassis-deep snow.. I had the nasty feeling that if I stopped I wouldn't be able to start again. Perhaps this was untrue, but I really didn't feel like finding out! Fortunately, my li'l car has a very tight turn radius and I got in and out in one. Parking in the Swan's Nest car park seemed overly cheeky, and the two layby spaces were already taken, so after deciding against Exminster village I went up to Countess Wear. Also an ice rink, but at least I had a reasonable chance of getting help if I needed it.

A long yomp then followed, down the towpath to Topsham Lock. It was quite breathtakingly gorgeous, I have to say. [Ignoring the roadside slush, the whole day was one of spectacular scenery] Not that cold either - second hat and the mitts came off [though back on when I stopped, the wind had sharp teeth]. The ice-free pool at the footbridge duly turned up 2 wonderful li'l Redhead Smew, plus 2 Pochard, 5 Shoveler, 30+ Tufty, 50+ Gadwall, 160+ Coot, 7 Mute Swans and up to 7 Cormorant - they were very in and out - [Also, one was a sinensis with a gular angle of nearly 100 degrees :) ]. I found a nice spot by the bridge where I was far enough back [and not showing a nasty human silhouette] to let the birds relax while still having a clear view of most of the pool. Rather conveniently, this was also out of the wind [[Side note: A folding stool is your friend]]. Getting on for 2 1/2 hours passed, while the Smew sat, preened, dived, and caught some impressively big Perch. It were dead great. Then one [the one with more white on it - a 1w male, maybe?] got out onto the ice right in front of me [so to speak]. Joy.

There were quite a few other birds around, including a couple of Cetti's and some very confiding Wrens by the canal, a Snipe in an unfrozen ditch, lots of thrushes... The usual Exe flyovers flew over; mostly solo Blackwits and parties of larks and finches, though a Redshank came up the canal very low and passed within 15', which was brilliant. A couple of Brambling were some consolation for not getting to Powderham Marsh [I had seriously considered going on there, but then I compared time to do the round trip with hours of daylight and chances of a quick freeze after sunset and thought better of it]. For raptors there were Buzzard, Kestrel and a high female Sprawk [no glorious male Hen Harrier, alas..]. With the way this winter's gone, I was half expecting a Lapland Bunting to fly over, so when one circled quite low overhead before heading towards Exminster, I was almost blase about it... I kid, I was grinning like a fool! :D

Eventually, coffee ran out, and it was time to go. Heading back, you will probably be utterly unsurprised to learn I had no trouble getting going. I maintain that paranoia is your friend. One notable thing more - very large numbers of larks on the snow-free field inland from Labrador Bay. Oh yes... I get home to find that the one day I wasn't on my Patch, another Waxwing's turned up. [[Ancient Devonian swear-word time...]]

*No shocking news to report - couple of sightings of GND on the sea, but most of that stuff's off Broadsands! There were at least 40 auks on the Ore Stone on Tuesday, and a singing Goldfinch was another Patch scarcity this week. Goldcrests and LTTs are surviving, yesterday saw the first Fieldfares of the winter show up, I'm still only on 3 [all male] Blackcaps in the neighbourhood, we had 35 House Sparrows out the back this morning, Chaffinches are down to about 15 from 20+ [due, I think, to clearing snow rather than mortality], our Wren is still going [yay], the Starling mob is still in evidence, fluctuating from about 20 to 80+ and we've still got Redwing all over the place.

[[[Those who keep a sharp eye on this blog may notice this post has been edited.]]]

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Three Days on the Patch


After all my naughtiness the last three days have been spent confined to Patch, thanks to a mix of commitments and the weather. Despite regular checks of assorted promising berry bushes, no further Waxwings have been forthcoming.

Brief highlights [and there are, oh yes indeedy :) ]
Thursday morning at the harbour saw a Great Big Crane prevent me from checking all the pier, so I don't know if there really were no Purple Sands or not. There was a Turnstone sitting on a fishing boat, plus a GND out in the Bay and a Razorbill flying north out of it. In the harbour, an adult Herring Gull with very dark pink legs caught my eye.. No, not a Thayer's [Yeah, I wish..], but the darker mantle, large size, plentiful head streaking and extra white on the primaries indicated a good candidate for argentatus. The harbour gulls are very good at flying off the second I take my eye off them, and this one was no exception, so it'll have to go down as a probable.

Friday was a fun day! First proper snow for a very long time indeed - ok, only 2cm, but that's a lot for us! A notable absence of Redwings occurred - I didn't see a single one all day... Bird highlight was a very dark 1w Buzzard, which got a frosty reception from the locals, then an outright hostile one from a couple of Crows. Then it got snowed on. It's tough to be a Buzzard...

Today woke to no less than 4cm of snow! A late morning to early afternoon wander around the north end of the Patch brought a female Siskin [Patch scarcity], 35+ GC Grebe in Babbacombe Bay [good, but nowhere near a record], and a shock flyover - Lapland Bunting heading north just after midday! Pure fluke, of course; I happened to be listening hard [trying to get eyes on some Bullfinches - which are Patch scarcities themselves..] and heard it call, then actually got on it... Patch Tick :D
Also noteworthy, given other reports, was the lack of flyover Skylark; aside from the Lapland, there were a few small groups of Redwing, Starling and Chaffinch, but these all seemed like local movement, with no obvious directional trend.
A late afternoon grebe scan from Corbyn's Head - taking advantage of fairly calm seas and good low light - gave 3 Black-necked Grebe and at least 8 GC Grebe in the Bay, plus three flocks [two ~30 and one ~50] of passerines [looked like larks but too distant to be sure] cutting the SW corner of the bay*, low to the water. In the harbour, a 1w Herring Gull with a bill deformity and unusually dark plumage made me go 'WTF...' Gulls, what are you going to do with them?

*[[Heading away from Paignton, naturally. ;) ]]

Thursday, 16 December 2010

I Went Shopping


How's that for a blog post title? :)

Yesterday I went shopping. However, due to Various Entirely Genuine Circumstances I did so in Bath. Yea, freely and of my own will I did get up there early enough to get a space at the P&R, I did pay the horrific price [and I thought Exeter's was extortionate...] and did negotiate the incredibly busy and oddly-laid out streets [[Though the price to actually park in Bath is even worse, plus there's the years of your life you lose through stress trying to negotiate their Escherian one-way system....]] [[[I'm digressing]]]

But yes, I went to Bath. One of the good things about Bath is that to get to it you have to go past some very nice bits of zumerzet birding [or, if you're feeling really masochistic...Brizzle... Eek.]. Setting off before it got light was necessary anyway to get in the P&R, and also let me make a quick and minor detour to Cheddar Reservoir :D
I've not been there in the morning before, and the better light even counteracted the cold wind howling down off the Mendips [bringing unforecast rain, too]. Being the only largely unfrozen body of freshwater in the area [Chew and the Levels are still mostly solid] there were thousands of birds. Mostly Coot, of course - this is Cheddar in winter - but a whole lot of Tufty and Pochard too [plus Mallard and Mute Swans]. Present were Cormorant, GC Grebe, Little Grebe [4], Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Goldeneye [8], Red-crested Pochard [17], Scaup [1] and RD [2] ['RD' being my way of avoiding the government Death Squad's search engines]. I'm quite pleased that this poor persecuted little duck was my 250th species of the year. I stayed there longer than I intended, not least due to a drake Scaup showing quite cripplingly well, but not only got into the P&R [even with a lightning stop at Chew in case of tarty Bittern at Herriot's {In one very quick bin scan there wasn't}] but managed to park next to a gorgeous white Aston DBS too.. :)

Stomping through Bath I quickly did what I went to do, stopping only long enough to have lunch at the french cafe version of my favourite coffee shop, before heading home. Via the Levels. :)

As I was driving from Bath to Wells it would have been rude not to stop off and see the Tree Sparrows, wouldn't it? I've not seen one for more years than I care to remember, and they were evidently offended by this as I only saw the one, and it flew off immediately.. Undaunted by their snub I pressed on, and still with an hour or so of good daylight left I arrived at Ashcott Corner and headed over to Noah's, where there was some open water. I met a few birders, all of whom had stories of ice-skating Otters, Bitterns, Water Rails etc.. I did see an ice-skating Cetti's; quite wonderfully, actually, but none of the above, alas.

From Noah's Hide the open water contained, yes you guessed it, a lot of birds! There were the multitude of local Cormorants; all hunched around the edge looking pretty disconsolate. As well as Mutes [including 2 ex- ones..] I counted 5 Bewick's Swans, upending in a line and still looking much prettier and cleaner than the bigger locals. I only saw 1 Goldeneye, but at least 8 Little Grebe and a single GC. Again lots of sheltering ducks; Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufty, Gadwall, Mallard, and 5 Pintail. Plus Coot. A Pink-footed Goose had been seen there, consorting with a fairly big Greylag flock, but no geese were present when I arrived. This changed after about 20 minutes, when much honking presaged the arrival of 77! My second sweep through them then revealed there were only 76 Greylag and one Pink-foot :) Having been seen, it then decided it might as well show properly and so climbed out onto the ice for a preen.

After a very brief period of umming and ahhing, I decided to stay for the Starling roost. The sunset was a very pretty one, and things looked quite promising. A Cetti's right in front of the hide spent several minutes in open sight, working along the reeds and even on the ice [with much flicking and spreading of tail to keep it's balance!] - I've never seen one for so long.. A female Sprawk that came haring past, and a Buzzard trying to do a Marsh Harrier [not as well as the Slapton one the other day, though] were the only raptors. Yeah, no Harriers either. Still, it was gorgeous and not too cold - especially as I had cunningly brought a flask [oh, you'd almost think I'd planned the whole thing, wouldn't you?]

As it turned out, the Starlings were naughty and came in quick, over at Ham Wall. I saw some nice flocks passing me, but was too late for the main display. [Having too much fun counting Li'l Grebes and watching for Marsh Harriers, that's my problem...] They were very close to the main track - just to the south of the first platforms - and clearly visible to the naked eye as a long black line in the reeds. You could easily hear them; the birds in the reeds chattering and the susurration of the later groups as they arrived.

So; the shopping is done, I've gotten [nicely past] 250 for the year and had a great day to boot. All I need now is a job... Every silver lining and all that.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Input.....Input...Input.....Input!


I wasn't going to post again, but seeing as I'm suddenly gaining popularity* for some strange and unaccountable reason, I thought I'd go on and burble anyway...

Today I had an Appointment of the GissaJob variety, conveniently in the middle of the day. Either side I did diligently bash the Patch, gaining precisely no Waxwings but a gorgeous passing 1w male Sprawk in the morning and 2 male Blackcaps in the same tree in the afternoon. So not at all bad. Redwings and Starlings still hammering the berries and still no Fieldfares joining them. Lots of Blackbirds and Chaffinches [now at least 15 coming to the Garden] but no Bramblings with the Chaffs [A real Garden Mega, that'd be...]. Plenty of LTTs showing adorably, cute little fluffballs on sticks that they are.. [Aww...]

I see that the Colyton Yellow Wagtail sp/ssp has been trapped, ringed, and 'volunteered' a DNA sample to the authorities. I expect therefore to be told in a few months' time that it's an argentatus Herring Gull... ;)

*[ <-- Look over there! 5! I've got 5 real actual people who'll publicly admit to reading my blog! Woohoo!]

Monday, 13 December 2010

Being a Bit Naughty


Readers forgive me, for I have sinned; Since failing to find the Waxwings' resting tree yesterday I haven't tried again. Nor have I bashed my Patch in a thorough manner [or indeed any manner at all excepting out the window...]. {{In my defence I plead that for those who wish to see Waxwings on my Patch, there are 5 very showy ones at Torbay Hospital [also very.... er, umm... very security guards...] }} Instead yesterday I went out for a walk on't Moor with the folks, and today I did apply for jobs and then was very very bad indeed, oh yes....

A winter wander around Vitifer and Sousson's was very pleasant, though as usually happens with t' Moor in winter, there weren't many birds around. [Of course, sometimes one of the few is something superb and begins with M, H, S, R etc....] At least 6 Fieldfare were hanging around the top of Vitifer, a very showy Green Woodpecker around the bottom, but not a great deal in between. Sousson's held a few Crossbill and 2 GSW, which were heard only, plus some nice Goldcrests [he says, reaching a bit] and lots of deer slots. Buzzard, Raven and Kestrel overhead were the best of the rest, with not even Siskins [let alone Redpoll] about. It was a nice walk, and the sun when it was out was lovely.

After doing much job search-related business this morning, I had intended to give the Patch a going-over. 'Had' because a Certain Birding Site held news of Bearded Tits at Slapton! Having become The Only Birder in Devon To Still Need Buff-breast for the County, I wasn't going to let a possible Devon Tick elude me again, oh no. Filthy twitching time.

I'm going to be kind and keep this very brief; birds heard calling in reedbeds at north end of Southern Ley [either side of the channel] intermittently between 1205 and 1230 and one female seen in flight from east side to west side at 1258. Far better performers were not one but two Water Rails, which swam the channel [both going east] an hour apart, much to my amusement. [[Ok, could be the same Rail doing a loop, I know]]
Also 2 male Goldeneye [including one on the 'bridge pool'] and single Little and GC Grebes [also on the bridge pool], 8+ Shoveler, 10+ Pochard and all 5 species of gull in Ireland Bay. Perhaps due to the north-easterly, which was brisk, there wasn't much on the Southern Ley at all, and apart from a single Shag and a very distant diver sp. nothing noted on the choppy sea. A Buzzard tried impersonating a Marsh Harrier over the Northern Ley - doing quite well for flight action, though the plumage was off and it really needed to find some tail extensions [ ;) ] - and only succeeded in flushing a Grey Heron.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Waxwing Update


Mixed news, I'm afraid...

Went over to Waitrose this morning and staked out the Rowans. And waited. And waited. Just after 9-00 3 Waxwings flew over low and headed east on the same line they took yesterday - towards Plainmoor [that's the Torquay United ground, btw, as opposed to the area Waitrose is in, which is also called Plainmoor; when we like a name we use it a lot! ;) ]. I checked back where they'd come from but no sign of number 4. I then followed their course and with better light checked every tall tree and berry bush I could find but no joy. From the way they've been consistently heading on one flightpath [and low, skimming the rooftops] I think what they're doing is returning to a resting point between feeding on multiple small sites, but where that resting point is I can't discover! [I assume a tree - the thought occurred that they might be using the floodlights at Plainmoor, as Starlings often do, but no] It's really very frustrating...

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Oh Yes


Today was a day of Patch-bashing. Again. I was very good, I think, as I have happened to notice that despite not chasing yearticks I'm on 248 for Britain, which is a) a record for me [amateur...lightweight...] and b) 2 off a very nice total. How did I notice? Well, with all this time on my hands... Ok, not quite true actually; a certain JR has a habit of asking, so it's only polite to keep track so I can tell him. Back to the point - I think it's a very good indicator of just what a good year it's been so far, in terms of species diversity. He Who Must Not Be Named has I believe stated it to be the second best year on record.. Anyway, the news that there was a White-front on the Axe yesterday had me tempted, but I behaved, and have been Rewarded by the Goddess of Birding.

:D

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WAXWINGS ON MY PATCH!!!!!!!

YES!!
YES!!
YES!!
YES!!

4 Utterly gorgeous berry-munchers at Waitrose [classy birds] this afternoon! 2 adults [one a stonking male] and 2 1w, oh but I am over the mooooooooon!!!!!!!

Ahem.

They were coming to feed on two Rowans opposite the entrance to the car park, then flying off east [to a resting tree I was unable to find]. I'm not ashamed to admit that I did say "Holy Shit!" Last sighting was at 3, when it was starting to get dimpsy; around here most birds are starting to ease off from about half two [except crows and gulls, which are often up all night around the harbour...]. I will be back in the morning. :D

I'd bashed the Patch in the morning, had some lunch and was about to head south when I thought - 'Oh I'd better check, just in case..' To my surprise there was a blue triangle halfway down Westhill Avenue. It said 4 Waxwings. I said something not printable. Knowing that Rarely Barely Accurate are well-named, [and expecting it to be Westhill Avenue in Cleethorpes, or something...] I decided that it was my duty to confirm or deny, and so worked a spiral search pattern around the marker. Well, streets allowing. After a lot of ground I got to Waitrose, noticed a couple of Rowans, leaned against a wall to see if anything came to them and inside 5 minutes hit the jackpot. Interestingly, I now see that there were 4 Waxwing at the Hospital at the same time - were these the birds reported on the newsmap?? If so then truly She has Smiled upon me this day...

In other Patch bird news, plenty of Redwings still around, and more Grey Wagtails [which I forgot to put in my last post - a Grey Wag near the Berry Bushes], also a 10+ LTT band by Plainmoor.

Oh I am so very very happy right now. I might have had longer and better views at Alphington, but these babies were on my patch... It don't get much better than this.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Diversions


Birding has been as brief [or fairly brief..] diversions from getting on with Important Stuff. The Patch has gotten a lot of short sharp bashing, and the Harbour Gulls in particular are in a state of shock at their daily grilling!

Needless to say I've found nothing spectacular.

A Mistle Thrush on the Berry Bushes yesterday was nice, and the Redwing and Starlings are sticking around, though Garden finch numbers have declined a touch. Herr Blackcap has been a bit more elusive, but is still present. There was also a fair candidate for a 1w Yellow-leg yesterday on the fancy crimbo pontoon [yes, the gulls have their own xmas deccas - it's very festive! {Even though the odd one tries to eat them...}] but not quite fair enough to make a song and dance about.

A surprise harbour bird on Wednesday was a Woodpig; especially as it was in the harbour... No idea how it got in the drink - they don't usually come closer than a high level fly-over. The pigeon's struggles to get to the ramp attracted attention from a couple of Crows and a 2w Geeb - it got pulled out by a Crow, which then jumped on it's back and tried its best to kill the poor Pig, while the other Crow cannily pulled out most of their victim's primaries. The Woodpig got away only by diving back into the water, and set off across the harbour, followed by the Geeb. With absolutely no chance of it flying any time soon, this was only going to end one way. I didn't stay to watch.

On a happier note, today it was Shopping Duty in Exeter, so it would have been positively rude not to call in at Alphington to pay my respects to actual perched Waxwings :D On arriving I found a small group of Devon Birders and a single 1w Waxwing, which eventually came down from it's tree and performed Advanced Berry Munching in the Rowan opposite. After some more sitting, another flew past, called once and the 1w upped and followed it out of sight up the road! A couple of minutes later a Waxwing appeared in a tree along the route they'd taken. As I was later than I'd intended and already leaving I didn't hang around to find out if it was the 1w or the other one [which looked to be an adult]. Just after I'd turned back left into Alphington Road, there was another Waxwing atop one of the trees on the left, so a total of definitely 2 and possibly 4. Not 6 but not bad at all. :)

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Today on't Patch


It were bloomin' freezing, like...

Heading out this morning to do a quick berry sweep, it was -5. When I got back [Redwings and Starlings] it had warmed up a bit.. to -4. I refuse to wear hunter's mitts in town, so my poor fingers were suffering somewhat. One little Waxwing would have made them feel all better, but no, the buggers seem to have bypassed the Bay and headed on to Plimoth [I'm sure they're regretting it already! ;) ]. Lots of activity out back all day, with a Redwing in the garden and 80+ Starlings and 12+ Chaffinches new highs for the winter. I reckon there's at least 40 Redwing and 150 Starling within the immediate neighbourhood, mostly munching berries and palm seeds [Starlings love Torbay Palm seeds and watching them trying to cling on to the heads like ungainly Blue Tits is most amusing..]

After the World's Fastest Job Rejection [thanks to the wonders of modern technology] I had stuff to do in town in the afternoon. Sleeves rolled up in emphatically a metaphorical sense only, I took the opportunity to bash the harbour gulls. A brief 1w LBB must have been regretting staying here, 2 adult Geebs looked very smart with only the lightest winter streaking on their crowns [also very cool customers, letting me almost walk up to them], and the rest were the usual motley assortment of Herrings. Later, as I was returning from my Pier adventures, an interesting one did arrive; a new form of Herring for me, this one [a 1w] had a big round black eye on it that really stuck out, nice parallel-sided bill going pink at the base, white head, [good shape to the head too], long wings, very nice tertial pattern, but not much else...

Mooching down the the Real Living Coast, I found only 2 Sandpipers Purple among the weed, plus a couple of Rockits. I've a real soft spot for Sandpipers Purple - not least due to them being my first sands [and how many birders can say they saw Purple before Common or Green or Curlew?] - though I've always thought them badly-named. Rock Sandpiper is taken, I know, and I suppose Grey-with-a-faint-lavender-sheen-if-the-light's-right Sandpiper is a bit long... I like Frosted Sandpiper - they do have a [very pretty] frosted effect to their upperparts, and they've always been cold weather birds to me.

A few Shags and Cormorants [all carbo] were swimming about, or optimistically trying to dry their feathers [I was expecting them to freeze solid; even then it was -2]. Not far out were 2 Great Crested Grebes, a nice surprise, and as the light was good and visibility reasonable, I decided to go to the pier's end and have a look out at what was on the sea. At least 13 GC Grebes, plus a Black-necked off Tor Abbey [not that often they get up to the north end of the Bay] was a very pleasing return, and as I could see well I figured I'd have a go at picking out the LTD that's been off Preston / Paignton. Resting my bins I slowly swept and- ooh, what's that? It is? It is! Ha! I admit the light was favourable, I was looking along a nice smooth long swell, and the bugger posed side-on.. but still, a Long-tailed Duck with bins at over a mile isn't bad at all. :D

Monday, 6 December 2010

What Have I Been Doing While Everyone's Been To Buckie?


Saturday saw me confined to the Patch - the nearby bits with berries got well bashed, but that was it. I did succeed in finding no less than 15 'wings munching berries in the morning. Redwings, of course, and no sign of them in the pouring rain later...

Sunday was a family day, with an afternoon stroll around Ideford Common providing some unexpected stuff. Firstly the nice person[s] providing seed at the car park tempted not just the usuals, but two Nuthatches and at least one Marsh Tit - both site firsts for me. Then came a big flock of Starlings [500+] heading towards the Exe valley followed a couple of minutes later by 17 Fieldfare and 3 Redwing going the same way.

Today I was naughty and chose a Personal Tick over seeing Waxwings on the ground [ok, 'in the tree']. Personal Tick? Not being a competitive lister, I operate by my own rules and go by bird forms on my personal list* - as 'species' is an archaic concept in bird identification**. Thus I consider there to be lots of 'Yellow Wagtails' out there - though before today I'd still only seen one! [Oh, the shame...]. I'm wandering off on a very long tangent and getting ahead of myself at the same time though...

Right then, to Colyton! Getting on site was fairly simple - the roads were ice-free, though the stiles were another matter... Finding the right filter bed was altogether different. 'The second filter bed' had been mentioned; ok, sounds simple - walk along footpath until second bed, ah here's a nice gap in the hedge. Oooh, lots of birds! Wagtails Pied and Grey, Pipits Meadow, Rock and Water, Dunnocks and Chaffinches and Robins and Blackbirds... No Yellow Wagtail form. Hmm. Wander on a bit more and meet another birder - no sign in 20 minutes he'd been there, though apparently it was loyal to one particular bed. But which one? What about the third one in? [Ie. second from the back] I move back a bit towards the road to another, smaller gap. Within 10 seconds of raising my bins we both have it!

A couple more Famous Devon Birders show up, and we play 'spot the Wag' for nigh on an hour, eventually all getting good views. They move on, as it's really quite nippy. Did I not mention that? Though the thermometer in my little car only says -1, it feels much much colder, not least due to a light to moderate but insanely biting wind. At Exminster I wore my mitts but took them off as I was too hot in them, today I dug 'em out and was very grateful I'd kept them in my bag! My poor tattered thinsulate gloves were no match for the freezing fog of the Axe valley...

I stayed put for about an hour 45, also seeing a very sneaky female Sprawk that flew past low, perched in the open, but then buggered off just as I got my scope on her.. A Chiff [ordinary] was messing about in the frozen crop in the field by the works, and the larks, assorted were in the field opposite. Heading to Stedcombe Vale, I narrowly missed running over a Buzzard by the roadside [gave me a horrible moment as I didn't see it until it took off...], had a quick cuppa while noting the bill pattern of the Bewick's there [what a smart bird - so much cleaner-looking than the Mutes] and then tossed a coin to see which hide I'd cower out of the wind in while I had some lunch.

Arriving at Colyford Common to find it all deserted I have to admit I grinned a bit. When I saw how many birds were knocking about I grinned a lot more. Pipits, Starlings and Wigeon mostly - first the pipits from the walkway; at least 3 Water Pipit [anywhere else you'd be jumping around to say that], the Starlings were, well Starlings but in the sunshine trying to force it's way through the mist they were looking very pretty and had a fine repertoire of impersonations too. 400 odd Wigeon were grazing out on the marsh, with no yanks hiding among them that I could find [I forgot my "Hi, my name is Steve Waite" badge to let me find rarities, unfortunately... ;) ].

I spent quite a while there, admiring the new hide and it's novel paint job [brown on the outside, green on the inside]. On leaving I disturbed a Kingfisher; it flew down the ditch by the hide and perched on a leaning concrete post, the backlight showing it to be female. I stood there watching it for a minute or so, then was amazed as she flew back towards me, to what must be her favourite perch, just south of the hide! WOW. After the due admiration I moved off as quietly as the frozen ramp would let me, and as I headed across the walkway it just got better with a 1w Blackstart :D Really confiding, it sat on the edge of the walkway and looked at me, like it was a Robin! I love Colyford Common, it always gets you with something..

*[[This is not the one I quote when asked what I'm 'on', btw, it's just for me.]]
**[[I think I've gone on about this before, if not and if you're really interested, ask and I'll bore you to sleep... ;) ]]

Friday, 3 December 2010

Exe Day


What, I can't use a dull title once in a while?

Today, having been Good and Productive the last two [or even 4] days, I decided to make the most of what I'd been handed and have some fun. If life gives you lemons - make a proper GnT [[I know, I'm so old saying that - the correct answer is of course Tequila Slammers!]]

Getting back to the point, I went for a wander around the Exe, looking for the Brents and the Red-breast [or Red-breasts, if you believe certain sources] to see if I could see this bit of bling, and more importantly, because Brents are great and Red-breasts are quite decorative, be they real or fake. As seems to be the fashion this winter I was neatly avoided by all but 4 of the little Branta buggers [though there were plenty of bigger Branta buggers around..]. I did also want to have a look at the porn star of a SnowBunt at Turf, and the huge flock of Bramblings nearby, plus whatever the cold snap had thrown our way.

Starting at Darts Farm, there were 470+ Lapwing, mostly huddled in one field looking quite miserable, and at least 300 assorted ducks [mostly Teal and Wigeon] by the Clyst, but no Brent flock and no Cattle Egret either [if it's got any sense it'll be halfway to Africa by now!]. On to Topsham, where Bowling Green was almost entirely frozen - a few ducks in the one clear bit were flushed by cause unknown - though a Snipe was tarting about in plain sight maybe 20' from the lane, much to my joy. Almost as joyfully received was the sight of a Roe Deer feeding in the open in the next field down from the 'Green' - albeit a typically brief one, as it soon ducked back into a hedge.

At the Clyst platform I was distracted from the few waders about by 3 small Branta flying upriver - one markedly smaller; two dark-bellied Brents and a Red-breast! With bin views into the light I can honestly say I did not see a ring... ;) The gits were probably heading to Darts, but I wasn't going to play les buggeres risibles with them, and instead headed to the Goatwalk, where there were lots of birds to look at!
Sitting on a bench in the sun I was treated to much of what the Exe has to offer winter visitors, including very close Blackwits, Avocets, low-flying R-B Mergansers, and a lot of rather vexed-looking ducks [mostly Teal, but with a few Wigeon and Shovelers] on the mud... I could also see lots of waders around the Turf bend, and several people pointing great big lenses at the ground - Snow Bunting must be showing! After counting 37 Avocet in sight [[this is funny - you'll see why later]] I decided that I might as well wander over - nice place to have lunch, after all O:)

Exminster was crawling with birds! A thousand Wigeon? Easily. Here were Shoveler in the Little Crake's drainage ditch - I've never got to within 30' of one before; nice if daftly-billed. Lapwing and Snipe knocking around too, Blackwits, Curlew.. Quite a few Tufties [and rather depressed-looking Cormorants] on the little bit of ice-free water on the lagoon, all the Coots had bailed out and were grazing - slightly odd sight, that. Redwing and Fieldfare [plus lots of Blackbirds and the odd Song and Mistle Thrush] were in every hedge [[Also at the other places I'd been to]], Robins, Wrens and Dunnocks well in evidence, and a couple of Cetti's made sure I knew they were still going.

Getting to Turf, I found half a dozen admiring the SnowBunt as it busily ignored them, pulling down grass stems to munch the seeds and generally show cripplingly. A Kingfisher made a brief appearance, and then a Peregrine flew by with an ex- Snipe. It were dead good, pet.

I sat myself down on the platform and spent a very enjoyable lunch watching the Dunlin. They came very close, and though joined by singles of Grey Plover, Redshank, Blackwit, and Sanderling, were the undoubted stars - lovely little birds. Dunlin, Dunlin, Dunlin - "It's only a Dunlin" "It looks like a funny Dunlin" "It's another Dunlin" - "The standard small wader"; knowledge of whose plumages is a basic part of birding. I suppose they are pretty basic - there's waders bigger, smaller, faster, slower, brighter, duller; they're ordinary in all things, perhaps? I think they're more the archetype, though. If you were to describe what makes a wader, you'd most likely end up with a Dunlin, wouldn't you? Anyway, the Big Scope at short range shows up every last detail, and I spent quite a while looking at age, moult stage and so on. It was fun. I also did some counting; 3 Goldeneye on the Exe and 347 Avocet in sight. Nothing like taking a look from the opposite direction..!

Time moved on, and after a look towards Powderham [no Brents there] another session with the Snow also included a 2 Kingfisher flypast [ :D ]. Heading back I saw a single Brent with a few Greylags [looking like the usual ferals] attached to one of the dozen or more groups of Canadas knocking about the marsh. Deciding against driving down to Starcross, I went on and had a look for Brambling, but amidst the hordes of Linnet and Chaffinch only found one! [Terrible, I know...] A smart male Yellowhammer was some consolation, though. I finally moved on to another site, which had better remain nameless as there were Woodlark present. There was also, with the sun westering fast, ice forming on the road, despite it being well above freezing [not amusing] so I skedaddled.

Twas a very enjoyable day indeed - glorious weather, and while the wind was very cold it was also very gentle. The ice show on the edge of the Exe is indeed very impressive; go see it before it melts! [[Having said that, it's been raining here for 2 hours now, so it might well be on the way to going already...]] Also, you don't see icebergs in Devon all that often, especially not floating upriver on the tide making the Goldeneye swim around them. :) Silver linings and all that.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Still no snow...


When not diligently jobseeking today I gave the Patch a thorough bashing. Definite highlight was an adorable Treeeecreeeeperrrr near the Palace [["Who is that daftly-hatted man, and why is he staring at a tree with binoculars and grinning like a loon?" a couple of passers-by may have said...]]. I'm very fond of Treeeeecreeeeperrrs anywhere, but on my Patch are the best of all as they're uncommon [or rather, uncommonly seen] to say the least. Also close-up LTTs. I went through the area where last spring 2 Garden Warblers had sung, and oh it was a bit different, with the wind howling in... Not as cold as yesterday, and the wind's teeth, though still sharp, were a touch blunter. A few miserable microflakes in the air was all the snow we've had, while to the north, south, east and west of us it's all white... Tut.

Looking out to sea from IMD I was surprised to see-

[[THIS POST HAS BEEN REDACTED BY THE COMMITTEE TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC FROM OVERUSE OF RHYMING]]

Ahem.
5 Goosander flying north, including a smart adult male, with 8 Common Scoter in close attendance. Also 5 Gannet loafing about, but no sign of any auks or Kitts, [let alone Little Gulls :( ]. Several hundred Woodpigs were stuffing themselves on acorns along the Meadfoot end of IMD, there were 5 tit bands I met; the biggest having 15 LTT plus Great and Blue, and a couple of small groups of Goldcrests didn't have any fancy friends with them. It was pretty much as expected for a cold windy winter's day.


[[GOVERNMENT HEALTH WARNING: THE FOLLOWING SECTION CONTAINS GULLS]]

The gulls of Torquay harbour, today accompanied by two Moorhens and four Shags, contained an 'interesting' one with high breast, rear belly bulge, long wings, very long legs, quite a long bill, white head, but not much else. It looked pretty good before I got optics on it..!

Cue the start of this winter's Ahabness [though with fewer harpoons] - will I finally get the bugger or will it be swimming home again? [[Though the bookies aren't taking any bets, for some reason...]]
If at first you don't succeed, try try again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And one day I'll find one!

One day.....

Waxwings??


I see from [Other Birding News Services Are Available]'s map that 45 Waxwings were reported somewhere in the Preston area this afternoon. Anyone know anything about this? I can find no info, and have an understandable curiosity about such happenings on my patch...

In other news, I am once more consigned to the scrapheap - so my Work List has ended at 65. Rats. I was treated to a glorious [if unsuccessful] Sprawk attack on my last day - a female missed a female Pied Wag by a whisker whilst giving a dozen Mallard, a couple of gulls and a passing crow [which the wily Sprawk had been following as cover!] near heart attacks, this happening less than 20' from my disbelieving eyes during the morning duck feed! Also the Starlings have continued to pass in the mornings - on Monday in smaller groups low over the river and on Tuesday in a big swirly mass along the ridge again. :)

A record 29+ House sparrow out back today, with 8+ Chaffinch and 7+ Greenfinch. It's been a good year for the Sparrows [so much for what a certain 'scientist' thinks]. Still no sign of all this weather - it's been cold and windy, and we had icing sugar dustings of snow on Tuesday - but no icy roads, no snow drifts, and a feeling of being in a parallel dimension to everywhere else...

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Snow? What snow?!?


While the country supposedly vanished under feet of snow, here there was a brief flurry of sleet [about 10 minutes after my last post...] and nowt else. There's an icing sugar dusting on the highest Moor hills, and exposed standing water has frozen, but the roads are covered in salt only.

Saturday saw me awakening to these conditions, thinking 'Ah, up on't Moor it is!', then realising my phone's battery was dead. Schoolboy error there.. While it charged I patrolled my patch, finding not a lot - no berry-munching trillers yet.. After an early lunch I decided to head down to Berry Head to see if this Lapland was as confiding as reported. The possibility of really good views [as opposed to the usual "It's 50' away in a field full of stubble and furrows, with 100+ assorted Mipits, Skylarks, and others running interference..."] was tempting, as they're gorgeous little things, plus you never quite know what'll turn up there.

The wind out there had teeth my dears, and sharpened ones at that. It was also strong enough to send an unwarily crouching birder over on his arse [fortunately the photographers* present were looking the other way...]. The Lapland, once found [It was sneakily hiding in plain sight, right by the main roadway just inside the fort gates!] was a lot more than confiding - if you stood still would come right up to you and it let people and even dogs pass within a few feet. At most it would freeze, or nip behind a stone - it apparently took a dog going for it to make it fly. It's been there since Wednesday, I think, so this is hardly the desperation of a starving 'I've just flown for thousands of miles' bird - it's just icy cool. I watched it when there was nobody about at all and its feeding behaviour was the same.

[*A couple of young lads from SG - into birds and having gotten cameras before optics; I suppose this is the future of birding..!]

After spending 45 minutes admiring this cracker I took a wander through the woods and down to the Famous Pallas' Spot. In the brisk to strong wind and double figure windchill ensuing there was unsurprisingly little doing - though a smart male Bullfinch sat in some brambles long enough for me to be sure he wasn't a Northern one [not that I was expecting it, but it's nice to a) know what to look for and b) be able to check just in case]. As I was trudging back up the road I met the SG lads [being driven home by one of their Mums - these two are even younger than young master Ray!] [[Yes, that is apparently possible.. ;) ]] again, who'd seen a sea duck off the quarry and weren't sure what it was [Yup, got Mum to stop the car to talk to Strange Bloke in Silly Hat...] Bird in question was very dark and looked quite Eider-y, but the head shape in the photo didn't look right. Oh well - it's not dark yet so I'll wander over and have a look.

Said duck is indeed still sat on the sea off the fishing platform - got the scope on it and it's a juvenile [probably female by the lack of super] Eider all right! Just goes to show that the camera does lie - head shape looked very Scoter-ish in the shots but in the feather no doubt of the ID. I know this is one of my pet rants, so I'll spare you any more of it than 'this is why they use paintings in field guides'.

Today due to a slight case of sleep I again did not get up on't Moor. This morning saw more patch-bashing, with 11 Redwing over the best of it, and Mr. [sorry Herr] Blackcap having set up in the garden to winter on the fat block.

This afternoon I went for a stroll around Yarner with the folks - usual winter Tits and 'hatches - with Tillbury Dog providing hi-jinks that had me climbing a bank to untangle her from a tree stump, some gorse, and a small tree [all in a dog's cradle of extendo-lead...]. We went a way we [and indeed I] don't usually go, and met the granite tramway, which with the line of Beeches beside it was very pretty indeed. It was crisp and dry and cold enough to feel but not so bad that it was nasty [nice warm gear helped, of course]. Very pleasant walking, though we managed to meet every single person there [judging by the car park] on the way. I'm not going to start rhapsodising about layered colours again, but they were beautiful.