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.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Success...


My cunning plan of posting about how ordinary and uninteresting it's been at work this week has worked!

It is early this morning, and I've gotten to work nice and sharp, as the threatened Frost and Ice and Snow of Doom has failed to materialise [In fact it's been very very sunny, then overcast and drizzly, but not even slightly icy, all day!]. Sitting by the mirror-smooth Dart [gently steaming; it was -1 in the valley] I am again vexed by Cormorants, as no less than 6 fly past low, but I again don't pick them up until they're receding rumps... [[Curses...]]

However, all is not lost as soon after a susurration fills the air - Starlings! Right overhead they fly upriver - I estimate a thousand but then am amazed and delighted to see they are but an outlier to the main flock, which is following the ridge across the valley and is numerous enough that their wingbeats are audible! There are enough to form a proper skydancing flock and we can hear the change in wing noise as they shift and swirl.. Holy Shit.

I've not seen a flock that size in Devon for years and I've been wondering where they'd come from. Earlier this week a dog walker had said she'd seen 'a lot of dark birds' coming out of a reed bed downriver - evidently Starlings - but I didn't think there were beds on the Dart big enough for that lot? [[Unless they were in conifers, of course]] I suppose they could have come up from Slapton, but there's tons of good feeding down there, so why move up so far north? Wherever they came from, they were an incredible sight, a piece of the Levels, and I'm still smiling now. :)

Changing tack, I'm feeling a bit detached right now. I've been watching all this stuff about ice and snow and so on on the news, but so far I've seen two frosty mornings, a whole heap of sunshine, and now light showers, a bit of wind, and no sign of anything freezing... If I listen to the forecasts I'll cower inside tomorrow, but my instincts tell me to get out and go birding. What to do? I know forecasters speak with forked tongue, but playing 'Cresta Run' in my little car on some Dartmoor lane does not appeal...

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Typical Working Week


So far, with very little happening. Little Grebes on the river now and again, the odd Cormorant flying around and avoiding being ID'd to race... I have reached 65 on my Work List, which is nice, having finally seen a Dunnock! Oh, the joy at finally getting this seemingly most ordinary of nymphomaniacs.. ;) "Where are the Dunnocks?" was something I've been muttering to myself for months now - it's not like it's a hostile environment for them [not least because they're almost everywhere]. One of the quirks of birding, I suppose. I did see a Fox in my street on Tuesday morning - never seen one actually in it before [plenty just 'round the corner, mind - one of those funny things again].

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Sic Sic Sic Jackpot!


Yesterday I Was Good and didn't abandon my shop-shop-shopping to go running off after Hawfinches. [Wandering up the hill to see the Cattle Egret was just being polite, remember...]

Today was of course another matter, and after well over an hour of the very lazy wind at Ide this morning I at last scored the flying nutcrackers in Devon! :D In 2.5 hours I got precisely 3 views of at least 2 birds. Wowness. Distant, brief [well, one was a bit over 30 seconds] and nowhere near as good as you can get at for example Bruton, but these were in Devon, so felt much better :) Other finches present included 3 Bullfinch, plus Chaffinches and Goldfinches.

Also LOTS of thrushes around - mostly Redwing, with Fieldfares and a couple of Mistle [plus Blackbirds and a Song]. I also learned one of the reasons why I've always dipped there in the past - duff gen! 'Go right at the roundabout, out of the village, and after you go down a slope there's a stand of tall trees' This is true, but it's not where the Hawfinches are. I can't remember who it was who told me where to go, so I can't name and shame them. Oh well, I knows now and I've seen those lovely big bruisers in Devon at last [I've dipped in most of the other places they've ever been, too, so it's not just blaming dodgy directions].

This afternoon I went for a brisk wander with the folks and Her Tillyness up around Mamhead. Cold wind and an unwillingness to stop and freeze to try to spot the calling birds in the trees meant not a lot was seen - though there were winter thrushes passing here, too. I heard some Siskins.

Goldfinch in the garden again, and a new record of 8, yes 8 Chaffinches!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Joy of Shopping


This isn't a post about birds. I was in Exeter today, doing Things That Must Be Done. Had a coffee-based lunch in my favourite tea shop - watching the Grebe dancing under the twelve moons.. :) I really like the place [it having the best coffee going helps ;) ] which is why I'm being cryptic, as it's busy enough as it is! [[What a selfish git I am]] I had middling fortune looking for stuff and while there's justified scandal at the parking going up in the new year, the park and ride's gone up already.. There was some kind of parade that suddenly appeared, cutting the town in half with barriers, and then disappeared - I have very little idea what actually went on, there were crowds and an old-style fire engine and what may have been a Crier, but he wasn't crying...? I'm not a fan of all this xmas BS - crowds and commercialism and worst of all the $%§*$%£$+&§!!!! muzak... - and knowing I've got plenty more of this to come is not a fun thought... Oh well.

Ok, after that maybe a bit about birds - as I also had to go to Dart's Farm*, it would have been rude not to wander up to the coobeastie field to see the Cattle Egret, which showed very well. Having spent some quality time watching the Egret [while both bird and birder were being watched by curious bullocks], I made a small detour on the way home in search of the Brent flock which had been at Dart's earlier in the day. I was hoping to set eyes on this RBG and see if I could see the possibly-transparent-on-one-side bling it's got, but they weren't at Topsham and as time was pressing I didn't detour further and try Exminster. There were Wigeon, Teal, Shovelors and a female Pochard at Bowling Green [plus a lurking Snipe at the back], with a fair few waders on the Clyst mud - including one Avocet nice and close and 27 more further off.

[[*Needing seed and a fat block for the poor starving Blackcaps..]]

Friday, 19 November 2010

Hits and Misses


The gap, after my post-a-day antics? Still smarting over what might have been, of course....

To look on the bright side, a) at least there was a Pallid on my Patch and b) if I hadn't been at work I'd almost certainly have been at Berry Head and would probably have had a seizure.... ;)

A quick note of kudos to [Famous Devon Birder] for publishing his notes - very helpful to the rest of us!

Right then. It has not been a week entirely bereft of birdily goodness for me - a sinensis sighting would have been the highlight if I hadn't been half awake this morning; two calidrids flying low upriver didn't elude me [or one of my co-workers, who asked "Well, what were those, then?" after they'd passed] though I was rather surprised at what they were - Curlew Sands! November is pretty late for them, though maybe as they were 1cy birds they were just lost? [Or maybe they'd decided that enough was enough when it came to this migration nonsense.. ;) ]

I still haven't seen Derek, even distantly, and am starting to think he must have buggered off. I did get a lovely view of the smaller, spotty Grey Seal yesterday. Drifting downriver on the falling tide first thing, it exhaled, the frosty breath billowed over the mirror-smooth water, it seemed to pause for a moment, then began to repeatedly breath out - I swear it was watching it's breath! Wonderful to witness.... :D

Weather and daylight rapidly put a stop to Operation Berry Bushes, as you probably didn't need telling. First sighting of a Blackcap was also yesterday - a male came in looking for the fat block [which isn't there yet...]. Also a brief Goldfinch - a real garden rarity!

Things may be about to get a bit thin for a while, as between work and That Time Of Year commitments there won't be so much birding.. :(

Sunday, 14 November 2010

It's Raining - Time to Talk Nonsense...


It was only supposed to be a 'risk of showers' today, and I was thinking about going up on't Moor and playing Fieldcraft vs Fieldfares. It's been continuous rain, of the "You won't be seein' nuffin', mate" variety, so I've decided to talk bollocks online until it clears up a bit and then go looking for something. Somewhere. I suppose I must be worn out by all of yesterday's excitement, as in the past a nice bit of rain has proved an incentive to get up there - far fewer annoying people! [Oh, I'm an antisocial git..]

So, what am I gong to foist upon your poor suffering eyes this time?

Absolutely nothing, except to say go read Gavin Haig's stuff on NotQuiteScilly! Hah, you didn't see that coming, did you? :) But seriously, his points about bad behaviour at twitches [primarily in regards to being discourteous to other birders, as the bird can often just bugger off] are very valid. Read and remember, please.

Actually, I did write a whole lot of nonsense before the weather cleared, but I've decided not to foist it on you. Instead I'll let you know that after much Patch patrolling, I saw nowt fancier than Goldcrests and LTTs [again], but I did find a few very nice Hawthorns and Rowans on the estate just over there ::Points thattaway:: These will be worth checking, though doing it on workdays will be tricky due to daylight issues...

Edit: Monday. Tried the 'Get in from work, drop work stuff, pick up bins, get straight out' routine. I got 15 mins before it was very dark. Its just enough to check the berries. Today, no dice. I'll keep it up as and when weather and light allows. At work today, 2 Little Grebes and a Mute Swan flying down river plus another sighting of the Famous Buzzard [This is the one which MD photo'd for his "No, it's not a Rough-legged" article on DBWPS, btw, which is often around Totnes]

Oh, and the corrugated ice on my car this morning was a right bastard to get off. Yes, corrugated - all ridgey so your ice scraper bounces over them. I must confess I'm considering the use of chemical weapons [[ Hello to the poor bugger at GCHQ who now has to read through all my blog to make sure I'm not a terrorist because I wrote 'chemical weapons'. Oops, did it again. Sorry! ]] - well, something with lots of glycol, anyway....

Saturday, 13 November 2010

YeeeeHaaaaaa!!!!!


Correct! Filthily twitching another wandering Yankee....

It's been too long since I've been to Exminster. I discovered to my mild annoyance that among the work they're doing, they've tarmaced the causeway! This takes all the fun out - weaving through the potholes, keeping away from the edge in case it gives way and dumps you into some quite deep water, turning a bend to find the road's very flooded, meeting an idiot in a chelsea tractor who can't reverse and doesn't know their width.... Ok, maybe the tarmac's a vaguely good idea.

Aaaanyway. Got there a bit later than I intended; a fairly reputable 0815. Met Joe and Will on the road, who very helpfully told me not to bother with the causeway as it was all already full, so back to the Proper Carpark and then yomping out. A Water Rail by the roadside ditch was a nice [if brief] sight and some very close Blackwits were worthy of a quick stop to admire. I got to the Turf Locks and found the lads in a nicely muddy field to be told that "It's been seen, but not for a while". Well, could be worse. Eventually it did pop up - in the next field north - and after some truly awful directions were overcome, everybody connected with this cracking thrush. :D

I hung around until nearly midday, getting in three prolonged periods of viewing [which only got better, with it interspersing dropping down into a ditch for worms and a drink with sitting up in a Hawthorn, eating berries and generally posing like a tart!]. Plenty of other birds about to keep the attention / distract horribly, ranging from "That's a Redwing.."s to a flyover Snow Bunting which a guy near me got a scope on and said was a Lapland. I'm sure there's a moral about believing what you hear at twitches; probably one about the merits of trusting a scope over a dodgy bins view that could have gone either way [No, I didn't pick out the call, though apparently it was being naughty and sounding Lapland-y], certainly there'll be one about always standing next to [Famous Birder Who Knows His Buntings] ;)

In between the bouts of Robin-stroking [[Sorry, couldn't resist that one]] I had a look at the river [nice Kingfisher, and singles of Grey and Golden Plover - no not the AGP] and gave the pub some custom [strictly non-alcoholic, officer]. There are good numbers of winterers building up on the marshes - wildfowl and waders - and once the RSPB get around to a nice tower hide, it'll be a top notch destination. [Hint Hint]

Wandering back, keeping an eye out for this Saker that's been seen around, I'd gotten to the causeway when I noticed two birds up high to the north. 'A crow giving a raptor some stick?' Thought I. Got bins on and to my delight the raptor was none other than the Exminster SEO! More than that, it wasn't so much being mobbed as giving the crow a taste of it's own medicine! For the next 15 minutes [I kid ye not - it was amazing!!] the owl kept above the crow, not letting it get away, and repeatedly dropping on it with talons out. It wasn't seriously after the crow; it looked like it was playing with it, but I don't think the crow was having fun... :) Eventually the SEO let the crow go and came lower and closer and lower and closer, giving us a very nice flyby before heading off north at reed top height - it dropped at something but missed, flushed a couple of Snipe and a Gadwall, then disappeared. I was pretty much dancing on the spot I was so happy... :D

It was by then getting on for one o'clock and lunch was needed, so home I toddled. After some much-needed munching, I decided to bash my Patch like a Good Birder. A couple of hours of wandering bits I don't often go to in search of berry bushes [never hurts to know where to look, just in case... 0:) ] got me a few half decent spots, plus some nice Goldcrests. A few Starlings were mixing with Blackbirds and Chaffinches, but nothing fancy was forthcoming either with bands of LTTs, the Goldcrests, or on its ownsome. I did see the Fire Brigade playing with their Bronto [the big crane, if you don't know] - they found a nice sloping car park and had all of it's wheels off the ground.

It's been a good day. Oh yeah.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Need You Ask?


Got a bit more than 10 minutes in either side of work today. This was spent cruising slowly around Totnes with my windows down looking for berry bushes and Starling-like things that go 'Sriiiii!' [or 'Sreeeee!' or 'Srrreeee!' or 'Sri'i'i'i'i'i'i'i!' or however you want to write it...]. The half built-on car parks had a flock of about 40 Starlings in the morning, and Morrison's [Better supermarkets are available] has a nice berry-rich bush or two right by the building, but unsurprisingly all I got through my windows was rain. And annoyed glares from commuters.

It was worth a try.

In other news, a Cormorant flew downriver at lunchtime, and this time I spotted the bugger early enough to get bins on it as it passed - the nice sinensis again. :D Grey Wagtail and 2 Little Grebes were the other birds of note, with no sign of the Blackstart either..

Right then, guess what I'm doing tomorrow!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A Day of Surprises


Yet another post?!?!? What's wrong with this guy???

Last night I looked at the forecast and went "Aaaarrghhh..."; American Robin at Turf and a huuuuge weather system coming in, and I'd be at work for the daylight hours...

I was Good. I did not skive off or call in sick or pretend a tree had fallen on my car. Sometimes you are rewarded for Being Good. Sometimes.

That the Goddess of Birding was Smiling upon me became evident when I arrived at work and disturbed a female/imm Blackstart from pretty much under my feet. It zipped over to another car and looked at me slightly reproachfully, as if to say "Hey, you think the weather's rough on you? Try being my size - it's all I can do to hold on!"
It wasn't too put out, though, as it put in another appearance at lunchtime - albeit only to land nearby, look at us just long enough for me to get my bins half up, then fly right past us and away.

But I'm getting ahead of the Main Event. Rewind back to the early morning...

Before we start work, we find it helpful to have a cuppa [vital aid to skilled manufacturing, I assure you]. This is had outside, to enjoy the view and let those of us who need to smoke. Huddled against the wind and sideways rain, we puff and slurp, talk about this and that, and keep an eye out for anything interesting. Not long before work was due to start [we're in for 8-00 sharp] a flock of birds flew over, heading SW. "Those're funny-looking Starlings.." Says I. [My co-workers are getting used to this kind of thing] So funny I get up and venture into what was fortunately only light rain to get a better look at them. 10 very chunky-fronted Starling-sized birds. They're not Redwing either, but they're going away from me by now and my work bins aren't up to colour from silhouetted birds like these.. Then one of them calls; "Sriiiiii!"

At times like this, most birders would be straight on the phone. I, however, suffer an attack of self-doubt and have to wait until I get home and can listen to the recordings.. They might still be around Totnes. [[They might have been blown halfway back to Norway by now....]] I will be looking [in the 10 minutes or so of light I get either side of work] tomorrow!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Posting Again!


Oddly, there seemed to be less moving today [or more likely I was just missing it!]. At least 4 Little Grebe were messing about quite close first thing, and a Mute Swan graced us with it's presence [probably wondering what the ducks were eating], though it didn't risk the dogs and joggers by joining in. These are not my reason for another post, however, as my Big News is that the Work List now passes another milestone and stands at....

::Fanfare::

61!

60th species was Bullfinch - two lovely little jobs flew over north, nice and low. As for the 61st - any guesses?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Work Birding??


There's been a bit of movement visible this week at work - small parties of Woodpigs heading upriver, and assorted finches and thrushes mostly heading north. Stunning vismig sightings of species such as Linnet, Redwing, and Fieldfare have pushed the Work List to the giddy heights of 59.

Wow.

I have to take a moment...

Right then.
Also of note today was the first Cormorant since the 29th of October - it flew upriver first thing and I couldn't assign it to race as once again it was past me before I noticed it... [In my defence, the fish-molesting git timed it so I was just taking a slurp of coffee as it passed.] A Peregrine stooped beyond the far ridge at lunchtime, causing a panicked group of Woodpigs to come barreling out over the river before they realised they weren't being chased... Finally, another raptor on the Berry Pomeroy road - a Buzzard munching ex-bunny on the verge.

It's all go here, I tell you. :)

Monday, 8 November 2010

Sunday's Stuff


I said not that long ago that 'You can't believe what you read on the internet'. Seemingly, this includes me in reference to what I write, too.. But more on that later.

A Sunday morning stroll about bits of the patch with some rellys brought about not a huge amount of birds, though a Cormorant of the form Haigi was of interest to me at least off Babbacombe Pier. ;) A pair of Collared Doves looked to be trying for an 'early even for them' record up my road, and well, that was about it. There were Blue Tits, though. Lots of Greenfinches and Coal Tits on the feeders, as well as the usual Blue, Great, Sparrow mix.

Rellys having departed, the folks unwisely asked me for suggestions for an afternoon stroll [they really ought to have learned by now... :) ]. Thus we took a wander around Clennon. :D

Tilda Swindog had lots of fun on the grass, though she seemed a bit disappointed not to be able to find any sheep to go bonkers at, she made do with a crow sat in a tree, which she decided was a squirrel.... A male Gadwall and two male Shovelors, plus half a dozen Tufties and a Little Grebe were on the big pond. We would have spent a while watching the Grebe preening, but there was a party of 8 Mute Swans, and the cob seemed so proud to have 6 cygnets that he led them over and tried to start a fight with Tilly! I kid ye not, they made a beeline for her, cob in font with his wings up and of course Tilly wasn't going to miss an opportunity like that. On we went hurriedly, with the sound of swans making chicken noises behind us..

Before all that, though, we had to have a look for the Yellow-browed Warbler, didn't we? 0:)

I'm not super-familiar with Clennon - I went there in the rain for the Penduline, and before that you're talking school-days hockey in the horizontal rain.... Thus it was that finding the storm drain was not entirely straight forward. A fallen Willow very near the YMCA didn't help. but eventually we got to the spot, which is utterly unmistakeable once you know exactly where it is. ;) Having taken the scenic route led us past 4 Chiffchaffs, including one showing all the tristis features - it was even calling, which was nice of it. Sheltered from the wind but still in the sun, there were plenty of birds around and within a few minutes of our finding the spot, the Yellow-brow put in an appearance. A lightning-fast one, unfortunately. "I got the head as well as the body" is the best I can say [if only it'd been like that on Saturday...] [[Oh, stop moping!!]]

A quick bit of background...
Yellow-brow is a special bird for us - my first was in my parents' back garden, you see, back during the 2005 influx, when one came in fairly regularly for 2 minute aphid blitzes. They called it the garden warbler [very logically]. When I got eyes on it I almost had a seizure... This little fluffy hummingbird was right outside the kitchen window; what a show. :D
So, we all know Yellow-browed Warbler from the comfort of the kitchen, watching it perform hover-y spiral routes over a young conifer. Real life blink-and-you'll-miss-it view [note the singular] was a bit of a disappointment for the folks, alas, as they missed it...
There were some gorgeous point-blank Long-tailed Tits, though, and yet another female Sprawk cruised over [a Crow went up to do some annoying, but changed it's mind after suddenly finding the hawk behind it.. :) ] so it wasn't an entire loss. I hung back* while they walked on, Tilly having found a gap in the driving range fence and had tried for the 'tangled lead in brambles' game, but no further showing was had [elusive is not an overstatement].

[*For about 20 minutes.. I am duly ashamed]

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Saturday's Stuff


Apologies for the delay, which was due to a brief staying of relatives. :)

Saturday morning saw me up bright and relatively early and over to Berry Head to see if there was the slightest chance of one or more Pallas' Warblers having remained...

I took the scenic route in, past the hotel, and heard the reassuring sound of two tit bands as I drove up [though not, of course, where I could stop]. Starting from the car park I worked my way towards the Array - two tit bands later I reached it and then was amazed to hear the clear sound of a calling Pallas'!!!! Very clear and sustained and a bit loud for a little phyllosc. I thought, and so it proved, as I instead found [Famous Devon Birder Who Shall Remain Nameless] with a recording... Not long after attracting me, an actual bird came for the briefest of looks - it had leaf green uppers and two straight wingbars and that is literally all I had; rats!

Parting ways, I continued to scour the woods and scrub, meeting tit bands, Goldcrests, but nothing fancier. A few finches went overheard, including Bullfinch and Siskin, also noted were Green and GSW, several [all standard] Chiffs and a very nice female Sprawk, plus lots of thrushes above the Walled Gardens. Remeeting [Famous Devon Birder Who Shall Remain Nameless] he pointed me to the far side of the Walled Gardens, where he'd first found the Pallas', and had just had a Firecrest. Up I went, and though there were some very nice Bullfinches there plus more Chiffs I missed the Firecrest. Thinking all was mostly lost I heard again the call of the Pallas' - ah, more recordings, I thought. I even softly called out "[Famous Devon Birder Who Shall Remain Nameless] is that you?" Then the obvious finally got through my thick skull;
It's a £%%£$@§* Pallas'!!!
The calls, all 3 of them, had come from behind a big ivy-covered tree, which I spent the next hour watching. Not a frickin' sniff.

[[* Ancient Devonian Swear-words, which I am not allowed to translate]]

A LTT band came through, other tits, Chaffinches, a Chiff, Goldcrests, lots of butterflies, a Common Darter and a Migrant Hawker even, but not Pallas'... Heading back to the coast path by the hotel I then encountered a huge tit band; 30+ including 3 Treeeecreeepers! While I was trying to sort through them more birds arrived; Chaffs, Goldcrests and then again a Pallas' called! It was mayhem - there were plenty of leaves still on the trees which were moving in the wind, and LT, Coal, Blue and Great Tits, Goldcrests, Chaffinches, butterflies [big enough to attract attention for a second], Treecreepers, a Wren or two for good measure all moving all around me from ground to canopy. The Goddess of Birding has a very 'interesting' sense of humour, and that day it was set on high; I got an underside view of the middle of a wingbarred phyllosc., but again not enough to rule out Yellow-brow and so not enough to Life Tick. Aaaarrrggghhh....

The band [or maybe bands?] moved on and I was left alone and not a little bereft. I continued working up through the woods back to the Array, but I didn't get another hint. After deciding the hordes would have moved the Blackstart and very late Wheatear from the Fort, I eventually called it a morning after 4 hours. This was an hour more than I'd originally intended, and so I had to head straight back without detouring to have a look for the Yellow-brow at Clennon. Would have been nice to see another but as [[::Chorus of Opera Singers:: "Yoou're nooooot Yeeeeaaaarliiistiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!"]] I'm not too cut up, and it'll probably hang around for a while..?

After checking on Tilly the Terrible for the parents, I gave the patch a bash until it got dark. Things started off well, with flyovers by Goldfinches [rare for where I live] and a Sprawk, and as I climbed the Hill, I thought I might be in for something? There were tit bands including lots of nice showy LTTs and Goldcrests and I got a great view looking down from IMD of two old friends sitting in a tree :). The Nose was unsurprisingly quiet, it being a sunny Saturday and the sun was by then starting to come off it - nowt to report but a Wren in the Top Dell and little better on the sunny southern slopes. Ok, maybe not something, then. Well, apart from The Second One, but that's classified.

I may have come within 2cm of a Lifer [either way I'd have had a clinching feature! ;) ], which is possibly the most exquisite torture you can inflict on a birder, but I'm not that cut up about it*. I reckon that these things [non-sylvia warblers, that is] just aren't meant for me to twitch. As I've sort of said about the hours of daylight, you need to play the hand you're dealt; I know where to look, what to look for, and what to listen for, so I'll just have to find the wee buggers the old fashioned way. Now, if I can just get hold of one of those american squeakers.....

[[*Ok, this is a teeny bit of a lie. I'm more philosophical about my pain.]]

Friday, 5 November 2010

Little bit more


Some bird news from work today!
No less than 6 [yes, 6!] Little Grebes on the river this morning. Well worth putting up with the sideways drizzle while we played 'count the Grebes' - yes we're that daft - and nobody was within 2 when they finally all were on the surface at once. At lunchtime a Kingfisher flew upriver and perched on 'Gramps' again. It [or they] like doing that - perhaps because his roof is blue. 'Gramps', I should add, is a motorboat that is a near permanent resident to the riverside [This being Totnes, I have to make it clear.. ;) ].

The Baltic Wharf dockyards that the money-grubbing land-destroying developer-leeches want to demolish- er, sorry, 'revive' with houses and shops [but no jobs to speak of, of course] were utterly derelict and.. no wait, they are actually stuffed full of boats, with a healthy turnover, and are clearly doing very well as they are, thank you very much. Not that that will save them [buildings can't do funny handshakes, after all...] [Allegedly]

Also, still no confirmed sign of Derek the Danish BHG this week - not to say he isn't still about; quite a few have taken to sitting behind a kerb where you can't see their legs, the pesky little blighters!

Finally, I see the sad news that someone has finally discovered the identity of the Reservoir Cats - the resulting blackmail causing them to cease blogging and bring out a hasty book to try to raise the cash necessary to save their pelts from the wrath of [[Those Who Must Remain Nameless for Legal Reasons]] upon their public naming... ;)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Circles


Pallas' Warblers at Berry Head. Yummy. Or not, as hours of work, plus roadworks, plus rush hour, plus lack of daylight, plus weather equal no light to see them by. Rats.

Edit: At this point I previously launched into an impassioned [but highly justified and borne out by science, logic, and philosophy] rant about those who desire us to adopt continental time [or worse]. Thinking on it, I've decided posterity doesn't need me foaming at the mouth any more than I already have on this blog, so I've deleted it. Suffice to say, I consider the only rational course of action is to go the other way and abandon BST; living entirely on GMT and accepting the cycle of the year for what it is. Those who want 'more daylight' are of course free to simply get up earlier.

Ahem.

At work there have been up to three Little Grebes on the river [All together now- "Awwwww..."] and a young female Sprawk livened up the otherwise dull wait to get off the Berry Pomeroy road one morning.
That's it - quiet week! Not even a sighting of Derek the Dane... Saying that, I've been hearing a lot of LTTs, but not seeing them, due to intervening scenery. There could be anything with them. Maybe not....

Getting back to the title, it's all to do with circles. The year is a circle - waxing and waning daylight, which in turn affects everything else - and now we're into the darkest deadest part. Come the solstice it'll turn the corner and things will start looking up [though the coldest stuff will be still to come], but until then it's too dark before work, too dark after work, live for the weekends! :) If every day was the same it'd be boring. Embrace what you're given, I say, and spend your extra time indoors writing stupid things on the internet!!! ;)

Getting back to weekends, I may have to go look at some trees on this one. As you've no doubt noticed we've been treated this year to an autumnal feast of colour - the wind-blown leaves on the Dart today were, I think, better than a Kingfisher [which is saying a lot]. Go on, before they get blown away - go out and look at some trees! You know you want to....