Saturday, 30 April 2011

Apologies For The Delay


Backward Birding would like to apologise for the delay on this blog, apparently there were the wrong kind of leaves on the keyboard...

;)

Ahem.

It's been terrible, I've been writing posts in my head but then forgetting to actually write something when I've been sat here tootling about online. I'm getting old..

Local news first; 3 juvenile Blackbirds being shown how to eat apple on the shed roof by their Dad this week. Yes, it is apparently harder than it looks, they have to learn which side to peck at. I kid ye not ::Snigger:: Sparrows under next door's eaves are working at Brood No. 1 - no loud cheeping yet. On Friday there were at least 41 Large Red Damselflies - a mix of exuviae and tenerals - at Tessier; I spent a merry hour watching them. Encouraged by this, I went over to Stover, but saw 1 male Hairy Hawker and absolutely no other odonata. Hmm. Weather didn't help, mind. On Tuesday a Cuckoo showed very well at Mamhead, as did 3 Tree Pipits. Finally on the local front, today I headed early to Hope's Nose, hoping that the overnight showers would have dumped some migrants.
In a radical break from tradition, I scored! A stunning male Whinchat was hanging around the South Side, munching insects and looking gorgeous. There may have been more than one present, as what looked like a female flew past me later on. Even better, as I was heading down towards Sandy Point I heard a familiar call and a male Yellow Wagtail flew up past me! Patch Tick! From his low altitude I think he'd been hanging around, rather than being a straight fly-over, but I couldn't find him again. A female Wheatear put in an appearance, 3 Whimbrel were on the rocks and a party of 6 Manxies went by southwards.

On Thursday I had some fun and went to zumerzet. I'm going to be annoying and not say where I went, how many wheres I went to, or anything. This is so that I can say what I saw, as there are breeding and potentially breeding species involved. Lets start with the odonata. Holy shit they were everywhere! Ridiculously early, there were 9 species on the wing.... You'd expect Hairy and Large Red, maybe a few Azure and Blue-tailed, but the hordes of 4-spotted Chasers? The Red-eyed? The frickin' Variables?? I had, of course, decided not to take the camera - too early in the year, lugging it and the Big Scope was a pain in the shoulder, etc. etc... The mix of hot sun and brisk wind meant huge numbers of damselflies were collected in sheltered areas, oh the shots even I could have gotten.... Never mind, eh?

On to the birds. 4 Bitterns seen, including a pair having a tousle. Wow. Males booming in daylight, which is always fun - especially when you've seen said bird fly into the reedbed he's booming from. :) Male and female Marsh Harriers making with the nest-building. 30+ Hobbies, some very close, a Peregrine and 5 Sprawks, plus oodles of Buzzards. 5 Cuckoos, including a fly-past by two. A snazzy summer plumaged Great White Egret nice and close on the deck, plus [another?] in flight. Bearded Tits in zumerzet at last! I don't keep a zumerzet list, but its always a pleasure to actually find them. 8 species of warblers, including a pleasingly high number of Cetti's. Broods of young Gadwall, Mallard and GC Grebe were as cute as you'd expect. [[Yes, stripy-headed baby grebes are cute.]] Last but oh so definitely not least, a bird I did not expect, was not looking for, but instead stumbled across after being distracted by Robin-strokers*... A Nightingale. Only the fourth one I've seen, it didn't sing [unsurprisingly], but I didn't mind.

Hasn't April been fun?

[[*I have a lot of time for them. Unless I'm having a very bad day I'll stop and chat about why that's a Buzzard, how to tell Little from Great White in flight, what I think is hiding in that bush, where Willow Warblers go for the winter, or whatever.]]

[[[Also, is it not written; "Blessed are those who are nice to the dudes, for the Goddess of Birding shall smile upon them, and they shall dip less often"]]]


PYL: 114

Monday, 25 April 2011

It's All Circles, You Know.


Funny how things come around, isn't it? Those of you who've been reading my blog for a while may remember last April [and those who don't and are really curious* can always click that link and find out..] when on a Sunday I went up on't Moor with the Folks [not an uncommon occurrence, true], taking in Fernworthy and it's Tripits and Redstarts, then the next day I twitched and dipped the Marazion Savi's Warbler.

[[*Some may say masochistic. Or just really desperate for sleep...]]

So, Kestor - Fernworthy - Sittaford Tor - Quintin's Man - Teignhead Farm. Blazing sunshine, a mimicking Tripit [the bastard bird did a passable Bee-eater and nearly gave me a heart attack...]* but only one Redstart and that the usual shy retiring type. There was a veritable chorus line of Siskins, low-flying Crossbills and Redpoll, and best of all a gorgeous if rather hissy male Adder. :D The latter I found and Tilly thankfully got nowhere near to. On a less fun note, it seems a group of Ten Torsies were unaware of how bad an idea it is to a) take a meths burner onto the Moor when its so dry, b) set it up in long grass, c) set it up in a way that it can fall over, d) you get the idea.... The grass fire resulting was very impressive to look at, with the wind blowing it along the River Dart, and carefully placed so the Fire Brigade had a long yomp to put it out. Well done, kids. On a less sarcastic note, I thought there was supposed to be at least some training as to how to behave up there? I know they ignore 'Take home your rubbish', but the one about how grass fires can kill you ought to have sunk in... I think its about time they set a limit on numbers and gave proper training beyond 'Are you fit enough to make it and can you read a map well enough to not get lost?'

Ahem.

To happier topics. Such as my heading down to Slapton this evening and seeing the Savi's Warbler, which after making me wait eventually showed very well indeed. :D You could hear it reeling from the road, and a line of happy birders leaving as I arrived just before 8:00 seemed promising. Kudos is due at this point to the FSC, for letting us have access to see the bird - it is possible you might get it from the road, but nowhere nearly as well. Arriving at the viewing point, the Savi's was reeling away, but not where it could be seen! As the light faded, it came up from near the base of the reeds, and eventually reeled and preened right up at bulrush level. After about 20 minutes of this, it decided to take a break and dropped back down, so with the light fading fast I called it a very good night. Cetti's, Reed and Sedge Warblers, plus Chiffs and Blackcaps added to the orchestra on a very nice [apart from the mossies] evening. Also, a Weasel on the way out and a couple of large bat sp. on the way back.

In between times I've been bashing the Patch. No Yearticks to add, but another Lesser Whitethroat, a Garden Warbler and a couple of very nice Whitethroats made fighting my way through a plague of Robber Flies today worthwhile. There's been much watching of the skies, but no Swifts yet, no Red Kites or Ospreys [drat and double drat...] flying over - or if they did the gulls pretended not to see them! No sign of this heatwave breaking yet, either. I missed a 'brown damselfly' laying eggs in the pond [I have no idea, either], but did see a nice male Large Red at Tessier. I'm keeping eyes open for Vagrant Emperors, which would be a Lifer for me, but no joy yet.


*EDIT
Its 2012 and I've spoken to a birder of vast experience. 8000+ experience.. He thinks a Tripit doing a Bee-eater is nigh on impossible, but that Bee-eaters can be clearly heard calling even when flying too high to see even with bins. SHIT. Shit shit shit shit shit. There was a Bee-eater where I was and I didn't get eyes on it.
FUCK.....
I'm a very very very unhappy birder.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Nice Surprises


I'm not a fan of surprises. I like to know what's coming. Apparently, this is a sign of one of my many psychological issues, but that only matters if you listen to psychiatrists and is also getting way off the point. Much closer to - indeed right on top of - the point is that the exception to this dislike is when it concerns birds. Of course, by their nature birds are frequently surprising - just ask the lucky folks in wadebridge.

The last two days have seen some nice surprises from birds. Not Wednesday, though. Wednesday was one of those days when you just don't get anything. Even the 'ordinary' birds don't do more than be there. There's no special little moments, no Goldcrest sat on a phone wire singing his little heart out, no Robin popping up at eye level, cocking his head and going "What? Am I supposed to be scared?", not even a Woodpig falling off a bird table.

I spent a large part of Thursday at Hope's Nose. Most of that was in the morning watching the Whitethroats. First pleasant surprise is that TCCT's slash and burn version of environmental improvement [I'm waiting to see if they do something about the bracken, btw] doesn't seem to have put them off too much - yes, they've lost their two best nest sites, but they'll just squidge up and fight more. When tail-bobbing song-flights weren't enough, they'd resort to flashing their tails at each other like they're Birds of Paradise or something. It was fun and made up for the utter lack of Willow Warblers. A single 1s female Wheatear sat in a small tree, looking somewhat incongruous there I have to say. My protracted Whitethroat-watching paid a surprise dividend when one sallied into a different small tree to see off what turned out to be a Lesser Whitethroat! They pass through in small elusive numbers [I have fanciful hopes one day they might stay and breed, hah hah hah...], a possibility more than an expectation. An evening seawatch produced a feeding party of Manxies past north, followed by a single Whimbrel with 6 more hanging around on the Lead Stone. Meanwhile an adult male Wheatear hung around, possibly wondering what all the crowds [and there still were a LOT of people there, even as the sun set] were up to.

This afternoon I went for an amble around Yarner with the Folks. The first rain in ages had left the air a little fresher, and with the oaks coming into leaf it was very green there. 4 singing Wood Warblers included one which showed nicely for all of us in the usual place, despite Tilly trying her best to tangle my Dad's legs in her shiny new extendo-lead [took her just over a year to destroy the old one]. Elsewhere, a male Redstart sang, but was cunningly up-sun and flew off before he could be seen, though a little way further, a female gave us the typical view [ie. her ginger arse as she booked!]. A pair of Pied Flys nestbuilding in a nestbox was lovely to watch, though discovering that the nestboxes I so carefully mapped out have now been renumbered in 3 digits was rather vexing... Much less vexing was the flycatcher I got onto in the top of an oak - not a Pied but a Spotted! Did not expect that. Though today is dead on average arrival date, it normally takes them a few days [or weeks] to filter through, so maybe this one was en route to somewhere else? A non-bird encounter worth the telling was a Hornet, which came to have a look at us. I quite like Hornets, they're much more laid-back than jaspers, whose manic inferiority complex-laden craziness makes them far too unpredictable. You know where you are with a Hornet [ie. don't mess and we're cool].


PYL: 112

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Choughed.


I know, I know, I'm sorry - I just couldn't resist...

Today I went down to Marazion to see about the Purple Heron thereabouts. Yet another tarty gap on my list - I dipped one in zumerzet and also was at Exminster when one flew north over Dawlish Warren and vanished into thin air... So, it was with no small amount of satisfaction that after much standing around in the hot sunshine, it decided to fly when I was looking the right way. :D Then, just to be sure, it did it again, cruising down the length of the marsh and dropping behind the railway line with an air of "Th-th-th-th-that's all, folks!"

A very pleasant situation compared to the Great Savi's Farce of last year [not to mention the Horrible Affair of the Invisible Citrine Wagtail] - what to do? The Monty's was a big obvious choice, but with a lot of people out and very limited parking at the site, it seemed a bit like asking for grief. I'd just seen a Bonaparte's Gull, plus it was apparently a bit elusive, so I decided to Go West. I'd toyed with Treen, but seeing how many grockles were turning off that way, I decided to be a proper birder and go find my own stuff!

I settled myself down out of the wind at [A cornish headland*] and had a long seawatchy lunch. Joy. The blazing sun was a bit of a pain, washing out the odds and ends passing by, but it did nothing to prevent the stars of the show from shining; Choughs!!! They came, they tumbled, they gave a Raven what-for*. I was a very happy birder indeed.

On the sea, a few passing Gannets and auks were joined by small parties of Manxies and 2 each of Balearic Shear, Puffin and Kittiwake plus a Whimbrel. 45 Gannets in 2.5 hours tells it pretty well, really! Dribs and drabs, with the odd bit of quality to keep you looking. The forecast had mentioned the chance of fog [which did influence my thinking], but it never materialised. What did materialise was a pair of fins - the dorsal and tail of a Basker! Wowzer! Had me doubting my eyes as I thought they didn't show up until May, but I've done some checking and apparently they've been getting earlier and earlier - indeed the first one this year was reported last month. Nope, no such thing as global warming....

[[*They being Schedule 1. Ok, probably not there {wherever it is}, but better safe than sorry.]]

Turning back the clock, yesterday, an appointment at the crack of dawn had me dragging up for reasons other than birds [Tut], the day was spent bashing Patch to little avail. There are some pretty orchids at [Somewhere on my Patch] and a Goldfinch sang. Sunday was a sunny wander up the Wilhay with the Folks. First Cuckoo of the year called briefly near the south end of Meldon Reservoir. I also saw some very nice Wollastonite. :) No Redstarts, but plenty of Willow Warblers and a smart Wheatear [and Her Majesty's Finest making rafts out of barrels and things...].

If all this 'ot weather keeps going, I'll have to start chasing odonata soon.. ;)

Saturday, 16 April 2011

106 Days


To get to 110 species on my Patch. Not bad...

Yesterday I wandered to a site that shall remain nameless due to the very welcome presence of Cirl Buntings. :) A couple of Swallows made the Patch Yearlist 108, but my [admittedly rather faint] hopes of adding exotics such as Redstart and Tree Pipit failed. Lots and lots of Blackcaps, a few Willow Warblers and a very showy Nuthatch above an abundance of flowers helped make a long walk in ever-increasing heat worthwhile. Later, most frustrating news of an Osprey having flown over my Patch while I was having tea and thus unable to hear the gulls freaking out. Drat!!

This morning, as I was getting ready for an early visit to the Nose, I did hear the gulls go off and just got a glimpse between the rooftops of a large bird flying north under Herring harassment. Osprey? Nope. Purple Heron?? Nope. Black Stork??? Nope. Grey Heron. Oh well.

Hope's Nose seemed fairly quiet at first - a few Willow Warblers in the Top Dell and a couple of Whitethroats lower down. The most notable encounter threatened to be the huge mastiff which came up behind me and barked like I'd broken into his house and taken his food bowl... [[On a lead? You are joking..]] Giving the Hound and his cheerily unbothered owners a good amount of space let me hang around long enough to count 4 Whitethroats and also to be there for a Whimbrel to arrive and start picking through the weed on the exposed rocks. 109. A female Wheatear sat on the Wall for a few minutes looking cute, but it was after she moved and I looped around the bottom and was getting to the fence that the fun really began. A warbler was singing from inside the thick blackthorn scrub where the north and middle paths converge. A very odd-sounding thing indeed, it had me wondering about small sylvias and the benefits of MP3 players loaded with birdsong...

There ensued nearly 40 minutes of hide and sing - the bird moving through the bushes without showing itself while assorted Whitethroats, Greenfinches, Dunnocks, Wrens, Robins, Blackbirds, Blue and Long-tailed Tits all tried their best to run interference. Fishermen and wog dalkers came by chatting; sometimes it shut up, sometimes it moved, sometimes it ignored them.. Eventually I got lucky; creeping up the north path I got an earful of song, and raised my bins to find myself staring down the throat of a Sedge Warbler!! WTF?!?? A migrant in sub-song [thus sounding very different to the mounting crescendo you normally get], this was not something that I had even considered - why would one be here, in such a dry part of my Patch? Daft in hindsight, of course - if I can get Reed Warbler on my Garden List, then anything could be anywhere.

Icing immediately popped up as a Garden Warbler hopped into view. No 'two bird' theories here, as it had been disturbed by a family group coming down for some fishing and ducked into the depths, followed by the Sedge. Another Patch Tick and what a way to get to 110. :D Wait, there's more. As I was heading back along Loaded Loop [that'll be Ilsham Marine Drive, aka the most expensive address this side of Sandbanks] I was stopped dead in my tracks by the sound of a Gropper reeling in the back garden of [Rich Person's House]. Late morning, bright not quite sunny day, there it went like a fairy's pneumatic drill...

Went out for more this afternoon. The best I can say is that I got sworn at by a Blackcap. C'est la vie.


PYL: 110

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Nice One, Jaffa!


I had an extremely pleasant and relaxing lunch today, sat on my folding stool in the warm sunshine, watching an adorable little Bonaparte's Gull courtesy of the famous CT of Budleigh.

:D

A half dozen of Devon's Finest [In]Famous Birders, coupled with a very obliging bird at a convenient distance [ie. close enough to watch comfortably, but far enough away to gossip like fishwives without disturbing it! ;) ] led to a very jovial atmosphere. 
The good kind of twitch, this, with the bird there and showing well and a cheerful crowd appreciating it. A very welcome Devon Tick, and just as nice in its own way as the Cheddar Reservoir bird - which though it came right up to you [if you had bread {{Must be an escape!!}} ] was always surrounded by a mass of yarking BHGs and had to be watched in a colder, darker environment. [[Oh, what a wimp..]]. This time you could actually hear the Bonaparte's call; a much nicer sound than the Black 'eads! 

A smart White Wagtail dropped in briefly and a Water Pipit was lurking teasingly with the Rockits in the long grass. These plus assorted singing warblers in the reeds and the trees made it a very worthwhile trip. I swung by the East Devon Commons on my way back, but in an admittedly quick search found no Dartfords.



Random add-on;
I've forgotten so far to mention the last date for the wintering Blackcaps - the 5th, which is a day earlier than last year.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Things Are Looking Up


He says, as the rain pours down...

;)

Now that the weather's remembered what it's supposed to be doing this time of year, I suppose I'd better post a quick update;

Sunday saw another walk on the High Moor, with more blazing sunshine, Wheatears, and a few Swallows past north. On Monday I bashed the Patch, seeking big gardens which might have Garden Warblers, but found only Blackcaps. Lots of 'em! I also got rained on, which I quite enjoyed. [[Yes, I'm odd like that]]. On Tuesday I found myself staring at a tree in Yarner for Some Reason. When I came to my senses I had a good wander around and saw 10 Pied Flycatchers, some quite cripplingly close. It's a wonderful thing when you see a Pied Fly, stop to watch from a good distance, and then he flies right up to you and has a sing... Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were playing their 'hide and display' game, but I wasn't. [[Hah.]] A male Redstart was a nice surprise [Though I saw my first ever Redstart there, I've learned Yarner is not the place to go if you want to see them!], singing right up at the top, but the little bugger saw me first and skedaddled. Drat. I didn't get a sniff of Wood Warbler, and missed the Tree Pipits too [Though both were present. Allegedly. ;) ]. Today I had Things To Do, so no seawatching for me and no chance at the Manxies and Common Terns that went past Berry Head with no less than 3 Puffins.. Double Drat. I did get a very welcome surprise when I wandered down to the Harbour, though - a 1s male Wheatear! Don't know what he was doing on the end of the pier, neither did he, it seems, as he quickly flew off south across the bay..

But things are looking up. More details on this when they're more certain.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Sent Reeling by a Swift One-Two


Ok, who turned Summer on??

Here I am in the middle of the day in early April, sheltering from the blazing insolation like it's August or something..?!? Summer pattern birding has been the order of the days - out early, back in, then out again late on. More or less.

After two days of interviews, [with a little Patch-bashing around the edges], the best to report being a Grey Wag and my first House Martins of the year [both in Newton], I spent a day wandering about my favourite bit of birding Moor. The sun shone like nobody's business [hit 20 degrees up there..], so much so that I was rather disconcerted to not find the birds you'd expect in summer - Cuckoos, Redstarts and Spot Flys were notably absent. It's a strange situation, your brain says 'Its too early', but the weather says 'They should be here'. Especially the Cuckoos. There was an early Whinchat [one had been reported the day before, but I admit I was a little skeptical] and a very nice if very brief Ring Ouzel [passing through, alas]. LOTS of Wheatears - 8 on one corner of wall, for example - were mostly probably moving through also, though the Willow Warblers would be staying. Siskin performing display flights, Redpoll and the bizarre sight of a stonking male Crossbill landing in a Willow beside me [While I was innocently enjoying a cup of coffee, too. Darn near spilled it!] made it a very nice day. Managed to get the odd bit to myself, even - not that there weren't people, but they were well spread out. [[Though the two brown labs who flushed the Ouzel when I had just gotten position on it did display exquisitely bad timing.. :( ]]

Yesterday, a determined attempt to add Whitethroat and Garden Warbler to the Patch Yearlist failed spectacularly, though the number of Blackcaps singing here is very encouraging. Despite them having arrived up and down the coast, the Nose proved barren of the perky little sylvias - much muttering ensued, blaming TCCT for so thoughtfully destroying the two best nest sites... Ahem. Only found a single Willow Warbler, too. These things happen - I took it philosophically.

Today I was up even earlier and pulled a coastal run from the northern edge of my Patch to the Nose. 16 singing Blackcaps, 24 Chiffchaffs, 2 Willow Warblers and at last a Garden Warbler! Better yet, as I had a look at the Top Dell the distinctive sound of a singing Whitethroat! :) The little git dived into a bush and didn't come out of course, but en-heartened I headed down to the Lower Slope and sure enough one popped out of the charred remains of a gorse bush. Yes! Before I could finish celebrating a falcon zipped past - Holy Shit its a Hobby!!!! What a one-two... I daftly* ran up the slope and tried to get a view to the north, but it was long gone. I am so chuffed about this bird. They pass through in the Spring and in the Autumn but I've never managed to see one on my Patch before - not that surprising as they don't hang about [literally or metaphorically!].

[[*As I well know, you can't get a decent view up the coast once you leave the road until you get to the bottom, due to trees and bushes.]]

In the past I've watched hirundines flying up the coast [[Not this year, yet, though :( ]], and the Hobbys do tend to follow them about [can't think why...?]. It may well turn up at Exminster this afternoon [rate it was going, it'd probably be there by now!], or be on the Levels tomorrow with all the others. Makes you wonder what will fly over next - Osprey, Red Kite, Black Stork...??
;)


PYL: 107

Monday, 4 April 2011

About That Mantra...


As I kept repeating to myself; "Red-flanked Bluetail, it's just a bird."



But what a bird!!!!!

:D

Guess where I went today?

Clear skies last night had me despairing. I didn't drag up at an obscene hour but instead tried for some sleep, then spent a merry hour hitting Refresh on [Famous Birding Related Website]. Not the most proper thing to do, I know, but money is an issue and I rationalised that once the 'No Sign of..' came out I could do my best to take it philosophically and then bash my Patch for a tasty migrant or none.*

[[*This is my Patch we're talking about, not the Backwater! ;) ]]

First up, Short-toed Lark and Hoopoe at Fraggle Rock still. A tarty bird to not have seen, I know... Worth going all that way for when another might pop up in Devon? Hmmm. Red-rumped Swallow on a wire at Wareham. Great bird, even better at flying off.. Then the Bluetail came on. Oh joy of joys it stuck! I gave heartfelt thanks to the Divine and did a Roadrunner.

Several trials and tribulations ensued, but I'm far too happy to go on about them, so I'll just say that that bird is utterly gorgeous, looked ridiculously pretty in the blazing sunshine, and was worth every penny of the extortionate parking charges.. [Oh. Said I wasn't going to moan, didn't I? Oops.] It showed very well, very close, in between long bouts of being elusive. You've seen the pics? Don't do the bird justice. I got the Big Scope on it at 75x. Oh ye Gods and Little Fishes. What a Lifer. I sank to my knees and gave thanks to the heavens for the grace I'd been given [There were witnesses. I have no shame.].

After a couple of merry hours, it was mid afternoon and what to do? I ought to get going to beat the rush hour. Orrr I could take the scenic route via Portland and have a go at that Lark. Can you guess?
The sun shone and the wind blew at Fraggle Rock, too, and the S-T was feeling elusive as well. This time in a ploughed field with long grass, a fringe of Rape, and a good 60 Linnet plus a half dozen Skylarks as cover. It took an hour to find it, but the Lark proved to be a little cracker too! It doesn't look much in The Black Book, but in the feather it was a beautiful little bird - scapulars in particular were exquisite. The Hoopoe proved too elusive, but I didn't really mind.

What a day.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

It's all kicked off.

Birds birds everywhere. It must be April!


I haven't been to Dorset.

I have been having lots of fun on my Patch, seeing a very nice Patch Tick, so didn't even turn my 'puter on until this evening.

I won't be going to Dorset tomorrow, it being Mothers' Day and she not fancying going to Durlstone CP for the family get-together. [[I may have aired the thought - what, I'm still a birder! ]]

"Red-flanked Bluetail? It's just a bird!"

I keep saying that to myself.


I'm hoping if I keep at it, I might even believe it.


Anyway, on with the fun.
Yesterday, in between Doing Things that needed to be Done, I managed to see bugger all of note. Even the grotty Harbour gulls were just ordinary bog-standard Herrings without even a dark-centred tertial among them.
Today I had much more fun. Early gunge cleared away to sunshine and it felt promising. A seeming good omen was a tree with no less than 9 [yes, 9] Jays in it. They were playing that polite Jay game of laid-back tag; hop, hop, waark!, hop, hop.. etc. The Ilsham valley was full of flowers, the Chiffs were singing and as I got to the sewage works, the Grey Wag that's been dodging me since last year flew past. :) Having read in no less weighty tome than the Herald Express [[Our local rag, famous for misprints, unintentionally hilarious letters and being 2-10 days behind with the news]] that according to [Famous Devon Birder] there was a Blackstart hanging around the south end of Meadfoot, I resolved that it couldn't hurt to take a look. I admit I don't often bother with the bit between Meadfoot and Daddyhole*, due to it being lots of steps and 2 car parks, but as I got to the [still shut] loos, I saw somethings that made me scurry up those steps and skid down the slippy path to the little 'observation area' thing. Said somethings being a Wheatear and a frelling Blackstart!

[[*Don't you just love those names?]]

Approaching with care [which also let me get my breath back..] I quickly got onto the Wheatear - a lovely male - but the Blackstart had done a bunk. Not surprised. I stuck around in case it came back, but was only rewarded with another male Wheatear. The two of them struck poses at each other for a bit while I kept an eye out for passing hirundines [you never know]. Onwards to the Nose I went, to find the Top Dell alive with insects and full of birds munching them. I didn't even get all the way in, just stopped at the entrance and watched and listened to the birds all around me. Robins and Wrens and Dunnocks and Greenfinches and Blue and Great and Long-tailed Tits you'd expect - though a male Greenfinch landing within 10' of my head and starting singing I didn't - but this was all about the warblers. At least 7 Chiffs were joined by 3 Willow Warblers, one of which was singing well and showing better. I was enjoying following one about when it flew to the far side, drawing my eye to the right spot to see a non-descript olive bird with a long rounded tail flutter up from a patch of stingery stuff and into a bush. The [very] edited version of what I said aloud would be "Oh my, that's a Grasshopper Warbler." Pure spawny jam, no denying it. :D

The reason why that Greenfinch felt able to come so close now arrives, as I spent a looong time waiting to see if the Gropper would show again. After I admitted defeat, I realised that today was a very good day and went to the place where the Garden Warbler had been last year. Not a sniff. I had some [very delayed by all the fun] lunch and then tried a couple more past sites but they too drew blanks. Not quite that good a day, then. An attempt for Ouzel at another site also resulted in nil points. However, I did see some cute newts, so not all bad. :) Mr. Blackcap is still lurking about, though I haven't caught him singing again so flagrantly [sitting in a Holly being far too visible - doesn't he know they're supposed to skulk and hide and sit along branches so you can't see them??].

"R-F B, it's just a bird"

Nope, still not working....


PYL: 104