Thursday, 31 December 2015

It's Curtains..


On a mad mad mad mad mad mad year.


NYR: No Chasing Yearlists.



Today I done did get down to the Nose before the front [not hard, considering it was so considerate in coming through early afternoon]. Said front was preceded by a white squall, which was fun. Then the front itself was 10 minutes of sideways hail coming from 2 directions at once..

But I lived!

Lots of Gannets and Kittiwakes were passing all day. I very lazily did not count them. Fulmars I did count, and saw 75 in 3 hours. There were a total of 6 GND and the BTD [4 GND mostly tootling around the middle of Hope Cove, with another and the BTD closer inshore, and a final GND off the Lead Stone] plus late on the first GC Grebe I've seen there in aaages. And it was starting on s/pl too.

Again the SWBCM was working, with lots of gulls attending, and Fulmars this time as well. Unfortunately, I managed to drop what should have been the star of the show as twice I had glimpses of dark wings out in the edge of the gunk and twice I couldn't stay on the bird long enough to nail it.. ARG! Instead the Star Bird was one that came through before the front - of all things a Balearic! :)

So, the Year Of Chasing Devon Yearticks is over. My personal record is dust in the far distance. My new record is not going to get challenged for a very long time. Like when I don't have to work for a living. [I think we're talking that golden promised land of retirement here, folks. If such a thing exists then....]

It was mad. It was blimmin' annoying [I hate herons]. It was quite a lot of fun, too. I rather suspect birds from it will feature prominently in my Top Ten [[Yes, it is coming. No, you can't escape...]].

How many did I get? Oh, yeah, you'd want to know. Well, I have to tell you my final total is two hundred an-

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

In Which I Do Not Have Enough Room


To put in all the themes I've had in mind since last I posted.


The obvious solution, 'post more often you fool', would have been nice, but things rarely work out neatly.

So instead we have a little bit of a catch-up to be hopefully followed by something longer tomorrow. There have been piccies taken, some of which may even be worth looking at, but they will have to wait as well.


So;

Monday, When I Am Surprised.

Something approaching dry weather saw me determined to get some exercise, so off up to t'Moor I went. I decided to keep things simple and wandered the tramways from Yellowmeade [or should that be peachmeade?] down past Ingra Tor, with a goodly stop for lunch in the lee of a gorse bush. Things started well before I even arrived, with a SEO quartering the fields NE of Rundlestone, and they ended well too, when a flock of 95-100 winter thrushes - roughly 3/4 Redwings - were flushed and attacked by a female Merlin! I would have thought even a Redwing was a bit big for a Merlin, but maybe there were small passerines in with the thrushes, or maybe she was just very hungry? Thus the reason for the vague count - they were moving around far too much to be sure of their numbers..
The big surprise happened earlier, when I was to be frank shocked to see a Common Hawker messing about in the shrike valley [near Swell Tor, where that Woodchat was]. What The Actual Foxtrot?!? A great big dragonfly. A DRAGONFLY. In late December.....


Tuesday, When I Am Surprised Even More. And Soggy.

With the day dawning to blazing sunshine and light[er] winds, I cannot resist the call of the Moor once more. So, this time I head north and forgo tracks and tramways for proper moorland oh yes indeed.
I do the Fernworthy to Wild Tor via Teignhead walk. It is, I have to say, a bit damp underfoot. At times it's like walking in rollerskates, the mud is so slippery.. But, its also glorious. When it's not raining sideways, anyway... As I expected, the watercourses were running at 'yikes' levels, but I had planned my route with care and had no problems.
My big wonderful surprise came before I even get there, when driving along the approach road near Tunnaford I flushed two Grey Partridge from the roadside! Get. In. :D  I assume they were gravelling up. Oh, but the joy. The post I'd been writing in my head bemoaning the now year-round idiot grockles on the road went flying off into the aether..
Wild Tor didn't fail me either [though it took a while] as a 1w male Merlin [with light grey mantle and scaps looking actually rather snazzy against the female type juvenile feathers] came dashing by. Ok, trying to dash by as he was heading into the wind.
The Hunt was out giving their hounds a run, and they helpfully flushed a couple of Red Grouse at one point [the grouse were less happy than I was, though]. Also a handful of Golden Plover on Manga Hill and near Watern Tor.

I took a look at the res before I left, where there were 4 male Tufties and a Little Grebe, with a mixed gull roost of a little over 200.


Wednesday, When The Wheels Come Off Somewhat.

I did not feel very special this morning, and all my plans for a day with Frankie boy were undone.

Fortunately, I had shaken the worst of whatever it was off by early afternoon and resolved to get at least some time in. I donned waterproofs, shouldered the Big Scope, and lurched off to the Nose. I got in an hour and a half before dark and no, no Leach's for me. :(
I did get 12 GND, 1 BTD, and 1 RTD. 10 of the Greats rafted and roosted in Hope Cove [showing very well]. Also a few Guilles, a Razorbill, 4 Fulmars, and a host of Gannets and Kitts. At least 110 Kitts were hanging around the slick, with lots of assorted large gulls and a handful of BHG [the rest blown away, maybe?]. Also a funny little auk which took more than an hour to finally nail; a tiny 1w Guillemot!?! Puffin-sized, dusky faced, stumpy billed little thing it was. Really made me wonder [not to mention work to get a good look in the conditions].



Yes, that was a 'little' catch-up...



Be Seeing You

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Grebes!


So I went down to check the Blackball roost again this afternoon [try as I might, I can't call 4:00 evening..].

To my surprise there were actual Great Crested Grebes! 19 of them! Plus 2 smaller grebes, which looked very Slavonian, but were a bit too far out in the failing light to be sure of.


Conditions were much better than yesterday, and while it wasn't blowy enough for Kittiwakes to be sheltering [and a lot of the birds moved around towards points eastward - including the smaller grebes] I did get a half-decent gull count; 1100 at 1600 rose to 1850 at 1615, and to 3000+ at 1630.

The diver count had picked up as well, with the BTD again and 8 GND [plus a possible RTD].

5 Guillemots and the 6 C Scoter were also present.


Just to add icing, a Firecrest was with a couple of Goldcrests tacking along with a big LTT band along the cliff trees below my viewpoint.



Not bad. Not bad at all.




Be Seeing You.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Ho Ho Ho And So On..


[ENTER APPROPRIATE SEASONAL GREETING HERE]


Well, this has been an interesting week. Despite all the weather blowing around, I haven't done any proper seawatching [fancy that]. I have seen a few birds on and over the sea, though, so not a total write-off.


I am pressed for time, so shall be brief [Stop cheering]. I will find make somehow acquire hopefully get time to write something longer and more blathery before the year's end, but in the mean time, here's a quick roundup of the past three days;


24th.
Got to the Harbour to look for that Northern Guillmot. No sign of it or any other auks, but did see 3 grebes off Torre Abbey / Corbyn's Head. A BNG was close to Corbyn's, with a GC and a [the?] RN Grebe off the Grand. The latter two were for some time side by side and made a nice comparison in the sunshine and howly wind...
I'm supposing this RNG was the one often off Broadsands [which did go missing for a day or two], as there have been so few grebes of any flavour down that having 2 Red-necks in the Bay seems unlikely.

It was nice to have actual sunshine, so I took a piccie of the D-Day Embarkation Ramps;


Big Concrete Ramps.

Now, some might say they're a getting a bit long in the tooth, but compared to the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches, they're doing pretty well.


25th
After carrying out the usual Festive Rituals*, The Annual Afternoon Perambulation went ahead despite it raining sideways. For some reason, only 3 of us were up for it [and that's including the LBD]. We braved the elements over the Hill, and down to Meadfoot [GND surfing the waves] and around IMD [BTD and 2 GND {roosting?} in Hope Cove] and back late afternoon to dusk.


26th
Eventually stirring from the usual torpor, I wandered over to Blackball for dusk, and was rewarded with a BTD, 6 GND, 2 Guilles, 6 C Scoter [2m, 1+ 1w], a 1w Med Gull, 32+ BHG, 400+ Kittiwake and 1600++ large gulls. No grebes at all. [[What is going on?]]



Right then, time for more fun; cold cuts, red cabbage and smash! :D




[[*These include such terrors as large quantities of alcohol and The Pogues**]]
[[**No, not just Fairytale, the proper stuff.]]

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Another Day, Another Post


What madness is this??!?


Not that mad, as I haven't been haring off to cornywall after that tern. [Report today of Forster's Tern off Penzance or something..]. Not that I wasn't sorely tempted, mind, but there's the daylight issue, and the whole things to do this time of year issue... [Oh, and the 'mobile' issue - aka 99% probability that you will dip...]


Aaanyway....


I did manage to swing by the Harbour this afternoon, and even saw some birds! There were 8 Purple Sands cowering out of the wind among the Haldon Pier boulders, and out in the chop of the northern end of the Bay, I was able to pick out a few birds bouncing around; 1 Slav, 2 BN and 1 GC Grebes, plus a w/pl Guillemot and a scattering of Shags. The grebes were all in the slightly more sheltered waters off Livermead and Torre Abbey beaches.


I had been hoping to find a few birds in the harbours - maybe even in the Inner Harbour among all the frickin' yachts - and after far too much looking I did eventually get one. Just one. It was an interesting one, though. When it popped up I saw a black and white auk and went 'Aah! Razorbill', but then I got bins on it and no. These phonebinned pics in the low sunlight don't do the bird justice;


Itsa Guillemot?
[All colour on bird is artefacts/reflections!]



Preening Guillemot ssp.
[with a hint of the extent of the flank streaking]

Very burnt out alas, this Guille was black [or close as darn it] and white! You also can't see just how much flank streaking - big heavy streaks, too - it has. Yeah, even more than can be seen. Finally, this was a big one - though hard to be certain as nothing was next to it - however it was in the entrance to the Inner Harbour, so not far away at all. I've seen enough auks [and other birds] there to be fairly confident that this individual was large for a Guillemot.

I've noticed the odd 'northern type' among the passing Guilles - ie darker and bigger - seawatching this winter season. Never one close enough to be sure and thus mentionable, and not in any real numbers [such as has happened in the past, for example in early 2011]. The interesting question is where it [and they] came from. Picked up from pelagic Atlantic waters and hurled our way by all this weather? [so Scottish or even Icelandic] Or having moved west to get shelter from the North Sea and now wandering about the inshore waters of Britain? [maybe Baltic/Scandinavian]


Among seawatchers, there's a lot of speculation about birds coming up from the south in Summer. You know, pterodromas and the like. [And a good thing they are too ;) ]  Less so about birds coming south in the Winter. And with the records of Brunnich's and WBD on the south coast, perhaps there ought to be more? Auks, divers, ducks, gulls... There is a mouthwatering list of possible vagrants to our humble waters. Yes, the probability of actually seeing something is tiny, but it's not zero.


Now if only I didn't have to work for a living...



Be Seeing You.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Blimmin' Birds..


Well, they can be little gits.


Especially duckth.



Yesterday I went after a right one in the form of the Portworthy Dam GW Teal. Probably the same one that had wintered there last year, it has been reported on and off, but is most likely always around. Perhaps the [one and only] view of the site may lend a clue as to why this little duck should be proving so elusive;


Portworthy Dam

This is an old mica dam - an artificial lake for settling waste out of the spoil water from china clay workings*. Now a shallow lake perfect for dabbling waterfowl. The dam itself is on the left side - effectively a bank of rocks and gorse. This is about 75% of the water, with the north end visible by moving along a bank to the left of the gateway this is taken from.

This is the only viewpoint [now anyway], with the whole area being private and also busy with the mine workings** - note new road in foreground. So yeah, you need a scope. Preferably a big one.

With scope, here's a close up of the dam edge;

Lots of Teal 



This was my first proper visit, as its a fair way to go [being north of Plympton] for, as you can see, not a great deal. But a yeartick is a yeartick, after all.***


So, I arrive to find a lot of Teal [62] and one GW Teal lined up along the dam edge with a few odds and ends, cowering out of the howling gale.
[It wasn't really a howling gale at all, I don't know what the fuss was about {see all the waves on the water? No? Exactly.}, but there you go.]
 I had less than 2 minutes obstructed view of the bird [see the two above the Mallard in the close up? Like that] before said frelling Mallard decides to plonk down in the wrong spot and the GWT moved back out of sight. Then, after a fair bit of waiting, the ducks flushed out a couple of times - though never all of them - and I lost track of it. When eventually a general movement started to go upending for weed at the north end, the GWT did not appear among the 65 birds who braved the party of swans.

A local birder who arrived early afternoon told me the GWT had been with 70 Teal on Thursday, so I guess the blighter was with the missing half dozen. There is easily enough dead water on the near - also sheltered - shore to hide them. [You may notice how the numbers of birds changed...] I gave it 3 hours, wanting at the very least a decent attempt [by my standards, anyway..] at a record shot, but there was not a sniff. Hmm.


I did see a few Mistle Thrushes, a lovely tit band, a nice Nuthatch, and the odd Stonechat [no doubt wondering what the hell had happened*]. Sharing the water were a couple of Wigeon, 2 Little Grebes, and a lone Canada Goose. This got a good grilling, but didn't seem too obviously odd [and certainly not a Cackler] to merit more than one sentence.
Bathing gulls included 5 Commons, but never came in any numbers. A few other birders also showed up hopefully, and left regretfully.



Today I have again been merrily working. Aren't I good?

I also have a new living Yuletide Tree. This one is a Blue Spruce, and hopefully will prove to be actually pot-grown, with all the roots. It looks pretty good, but so did last year's [my poor Noble Fir turned out to have been dug up with ~5cm of root - likely using some sort of corer -  then jammed in hard to look pot-grown..].


In home bird news, this week saw a riot of activity, with at one point, 2 Great, 1 Blue and at least 2 Coal Tits, a Nuthatch, and a Robin [which took offence at, and viciously assaulted, one of the Greats..] all present!
Green and Gold finches still, too, though not coming in in such big numbers.





[[*Quite a lot of this about on this corner of t'Moor]]
[[**Any visit will show the man-made desert that has recently eaten the greatest dragonfly site in the SW. And all the moor to the west of it. Yes, the tungsten mine [it's open cast, which was not mentioned when the 're-opening' of the old mine was mooted..], whose workings have destroyed a huge section of public land - either by quarrying or by dumping huge spoil heaps on top of it. My reaction was far stronger than print could convey, let alone what I could post.]]
[[***Naturally, today one has popped up at the Backwater. Because birds are gits, and She who is our Goddess has a right sense of humour.]]

Monday, 14 December 2015

Some Work And Some Play


Made for a varied weekend.


Did I cover Friday before? Not much to say other than at least 2 Great Tits coming to the feeders and hanging off my [now rather twiggy] Hawthorn.

Hmm, I think I have already posted about them, but nm, eh?



Saturday saw me getting up far too early after a week on nights to go back to work. [Get it where you can and so on..]. I had just enough daylight left to scurry up to Bowling Green for my second AmWig attempt of the year, before getting on with the festive stuff. Again I didn't find the git until it was nearly dark, [the blighter was sneaky and had ~1100 Wigeon as cover, plus long grass and undulating landscape] but this time he couldn't hide in the wrong county!

Here's more of the phonescoped horror;


Obvious when you were looking right at him..



..He was very good at sneaking out of shot


Head-on that cream blaze meant there was no hiding.
[Of interest, note variation in Eurasian Wigeon blazes - 
these are not artefacts.]


With the tide down, most of the waders were elsewhere, though a Spotshank showed very well by the Clyst platform. Plenty of nice ducks to look at, with the Pintail definitely the prettiest.



Cut to Sunday, and another of those headaches threatened to take the day out. I abandoned any thoughts of heading Plimoth way and settled for a wander over to the Nose. Vague dreams of finding a Dusky or something in the bushes were thwarted by reality, and a fresh southerly wind. The sea gave up some nice birds, though. Both GND and BTD were fishing north of the Lead Stone, along with at least 42 Razorbills and 8+ Guilles. A lot of gulls around, too - including a dozen Common - I guess there must have been a shoal of something inshore. Also of interest was a marked passage of Kittiwakes, I counted 134 in 15 minutes! Only 3 Gannet, and those well out and passing.

Any hope for cetaceans was dashed by no less than 5 TOJs. [In such situations, I find myself increasingly having wistfully bad thoughts about such film classics as Jaws 3 and Two-headed Shark Attack....]

Before the noisy ones arrived, there was a nice Grey Seal knocking around Sandy Point.



Here's a pic to end with;


Looking down the First Slope to the Upper Meadow.
Left fork to the Rock Path, right to Look Out and the Step Path



And th-th-th-th-that's all, folks.


A Brief Note


Perhaps I was a little unfair in the snark in my last post.


Then again, the third message when I just looked was late news for Friday...

Perhaps if they'd have two sets of icons? One for news, and one for no sign / belated news. Might help.





I have actually seen some birds, by the way.

Ta and Da;

Spot the Shank



'Aww, man.. He's got a scope!'


More babbling posting later, also worse more pictures.




Be Seeing You.

Friday, 11 December 2015

You Know There's A Problem..


.. When you do more posting than birding.


Well, between work and All That Festive Stuff, such is life right now. Things may change rapidly [a man can dream], but at the moment a pattern of "ooh, that'd be a year tick - bugger I can't get at it" has been set up.

Today's report of AmWig at Bowling Green being the latest. [[Ok, the report is an RBN symbol, so it could refer to the 11th of December 2014...]]


In better news, a greater frequency of Great Tits coming to the feeders. :)


Also, this lovely two-tone sunset, taken on my way into Towne to Not Look At Birds.




Better service may resume in the near future.



If not, I could well be forced to start airing my thoughts on terrible subjects, such as the nature of truth and reality..





[[Oh, the horror, the horror.....]]

Monday, 7 December 2015

A Little Seawatching


Because if you can't do it in August, you might as well do it in December, right?


Only a little seawatching, though, as it's been very Relative down here. Not that I wasn't glad to see them [well, the unspeakably cute kids, anyway.. ;) ].

So, when not hanging with the Clan, I managed to nip to the Nose briefly on Saturday morning and then for longer on Sunday. In between there was a trip out to perambulate about Cockington [which was great, as there were owls there {the Boy loves them possibly even more than I do!}] - which had a few of the expected species, but mostly everything was cowering out of the wind.



Saturday was a very quick morning raid, and I only had half an hour to give to the sea, but I evidently picked the right half hour, as I got 6 divers! 4 GND and an RTD came through, and a cracking w/pl BTD was on the sea north of the Ore Stone channel. Gannets and Kittiwakes were passing in numbers, with Razorbills and the odd Guillemot. Also of note a flock of 8 Purple Sands, and a distant skua sp. which may have been the Bonxie that went past Dawlish Warren, but it was waaaay out.

Also success on shore, with a female Blackstart along IMD - lurking in a sheltered section with most of the other visible birds!

I don't blame her for lurking either, it was blowing a fair whack;


You can sort of see the marbled effect 
of the wind blowing the wave tops out



Sunday was a different kettle of fish, with less force of wind [though with some vicious gusts] but day-long dizzle. With visibility from ~1-1.5km, it was pretty much what The Boss calls big shear weather [alas, without any shears, let alone big ones].

Only 7 divers in 4 hours, but there was some small consolation in a Little Auk! :) It came by at 1242, so probably not the Broadsands one [unless it had done a big loop]. The Gannet rate was about 15% of what it had been the day before [unless they were out in the murk], likewise with the Kitts, but Razorbills were passing at about the same rate. Also of note was a pod of at least 6 Harbour Porpoise, who passed by south at 2:00.



Closer to home, when not being spun like a merry-go-round by the wind, the feeders are still being frequented, though with less fervour, by assorted Green, Gold, and the odd Chaffinch, with Coal and the odd Great and Blue Tits. A variety of ladybirds have again taken up residence, with one 15-spot currently quite active around my kitchen - last seen clambering around on my salt cellar [no, I don't know why either...]



And finally... News that the LBD - the Terror-er herself - has been savaged by a Squirrel. Yes, really. Apparently she chased it into a bramble patch and then emerged [when called] minus Squirrel but with a bite on her flank.

It's a clean nip, and I think the main injury has been to her pride. After all, this is a dog who's sorted out dogs twice her size, stood up to bull terriers...  I mean, getting ambushed by deranged cats is one thing, but a Squirrel?!?




Laugh? I could've died..... 

Monday, 30 November 2015

About Time Too...


Finally got my first grebe of the year off Blackball yesterday evening.

Great Crested, just the one.


Also 6 C Scoter, 1100+ Kittiwake [it'd been a good blow] and 2500+ mostly Herring Gulls by the time light closed play.


Earlier at the Nose, there was nothing but Shags in Hope Cove, and a few Kitts and a Fulmar passing with the Gannets.
The odd Blackcap and a lone Mistle Thrush about the Patch [which I gave a bash], but no sign of any Blackstarts.


Even earlier.. no less than 16 Goldfinch queueing up to have a go at the sunflower hearts!!  :D




Well, that's November...


Cue: MADNESS...

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Very Little Very Quickly



Too much time spending money, not enough time chasing birds.

Tut.


I did get to Dart's Farm this morning, and shamelessly taking bins and heading first for the ponds I found that there remains at least 1 Brambling with the horde of assorted finches [who are worth a look on their own, by the way]. No sign of the Gyppos, and nothing yank among either Wigeon or Teal flocks . [If you don't check...]. Blackwits and Curlew in the wet fields, all put up by a swiftly Crow-bashed Buzzard.



Also of note, 3 Goldfinches on the sunflower hearts this morning! [I had to go and get more, the greedy gits!]

Count 'em!



Please Tom, can we have some more?




Be Seeing You.



Thursday, 26 November 2015

Winter Thrushes Post II: Revenge Is A Dish Best Served.. er, Soggy?


It's getting to be THAT time of year again, and things got very much in the way of chasing tweety birds last weekend. [And indeed of posting about it]. But I did get out, and here at last I am posting away. Yay me.


Rather than belabouring my suddenly-accelerated Things To Do, I'll just cut to the chase.

And there even was a chase!


Not a very successful one [puny human on foot over rough country vs flying birds; yeah that'll end well...] but still, there was a chase.



Anyways, on with the fun, which had to wait until the end of the weekend;


So, Sunday dawned with more sunshine and less wind than had been seen for some time. Also a fair bit cooler since the airflow had shifted from 'warm storm' to 'aaargh that's cold'. Even though Sundays are traditionally the busiest days up on't Moor - and nothing makes stalking thrushes harder than civilians wandering about * with their wonderful sense of timing** - I figured all the rain would make it boggy enough to deter most folk. In this I was delighted to be right, though of course there was the exception..

Reckoning that I might have to relocate, I parked at Venford and bounced straight over the ridge to the Mardle. This was less fun than it should have been and reminded me that it had been 3 weeks since I'd done anything more strenuous than lugging the Big Scope to the Nose. Still, at least it was leg pains and not chest pains, eh? And it did give me plenty of chances to look out for any passing Hen Harriers or SEOs.


::Long silence::


Yeah, so, up and over to the Mardle, where there were still a few Hawthorns with berries on, but a noticeable lack of thrushes to eat them.. Hmm.

I worked down to the deer park and still no joy. However, while scanning the slopes below Puper's for the nth time, the air filled with the calls of Fieldfares, and a flock of 22 came up over my head and headed down across the Holy Brook valley behind me. Yes!


I gave chase, carefully in case they had dropped into the berried patch by the watershed, but no sign. Then I meet the first civilians of the day, chatting loudly as they come.. Drat. So, I knew my only hope was the slope betweenHoly Brook and Holne Lee - which was fortunately where I've had my best encounters in earlier years! So I contoured towards the Sandy Way and while I never caught up with the big[ish] flock, I soon met a few Redwing and Fieldfares in small groups.

Right then. This time there were no distractions, just light winds, sunshine, and a few twitchy mobile birds...

..Who were very pretty from less than 20m, I can tell you. Especially through my li'l scope. :D

Having found a group of Hawthorns that seemed to be popular, I decided to stay put, have some lunch, and maybe dry off a bit [low cover and wet ground makes for damp stalking]. No sooner was I in a nice spot and had sat myself down, though, but the other civilian of the day showed up and wandered right past both trees and me. Ye Gods...

Ok, thrushes flushed, time to find somewhere else. This I did, but while I had a good area to watch over, there was a lack of close birds to watch. Ho hum..

Cue a view;

Looking Patch-wards


Time passed fairly uneventfully, despite my best efforts to find something to look at. Having finished eating, I decided I might as well move.. And then it started raining! At first just light 'you packed up at the right time, mate', it soon developed into 'put your rucksack cover on and cower!'.. With the wind picking up, I found a nice chunk of gorse and waited it out.


When the clouds finally got bored and moved on, I moved too - to and up the Sandy Way. Then I turned and followed an arc back towards the Res, taking one of the big paths. This was a good call, as I managed to find something decent - right next to said path, a Woodcock! It flew off low, [muttering something about semi-evolved monkeys], while I failed to suppress the urge to do the Dance of Joy.

I followed my much more civilised [if more cow-poached] route back to and past the car park - meeting a big flock of Fieldfare on the way - and on to Bench Tor, where I got out of the wind and finished my coffee watching to see if anything was flying along the Dart valley. I lucked out with a redhead Goosander and 105 Woodpigs! [Well, at least I got some Woodpig movement this year..!]


The Dart from Bench Tor



As time was passing, and the sky had cleared, I figured I'd hang about and see if any Goosander were feeling like showing to roost before it got dark. The redhead from earlier had joined the one that had stayed on Venford all day, but nobody else joined the party. The scenery was quite pretty, though;


Dusk at Venford


 My final scores were 142 Fieldfare, 5 Redwing, 62 Starling, and one each of all the rest!


I heard Golden Plovers calling over the Mardle, but never saw them. Needless to say no Bramblings, GG Shrikes, wintering raptors...










[[*Ok, maybe 50 birders standing around smoking and chatting loudly..]]
[[**How do they always know to show up exactly when and where is least convenient??]]

Thursday, 19 November 2015

A Quick Note Of A Post


Couple of things I wanted to share..


First up, yesterday an adorable little 1w male Greenfinch spent pretty much all of the day on my balcony. He alternated hanging on for dear life on the sunflower feeder with cowering in the shelter of the Bay*, with the odd bout of trying to fly in the patio door..! This latter was done from very close range, and called to mind a big green bumblebee..

I guess he'd gotten blown away from separated from the local flock. He was the only bird in [that I saw, anyway]. More normal Greenfinch service today, with plenty of zippy Coal Tits.


Also of note, a very overdue LOOKIT!!
He's back. Not Quite Scilly 2.0 is up and running and has been for a while now, but you don't expect me to be on time, do you? Really?


That is all.




BSY


[[*I now have an ickle Bay Tree to go with my darwinii and Hawthorn. Because they're great, both for birds - ultimate spider source - and for humans - fresh Bay leaves.. :) ]]

Monday, 16 November 2015

Warm November Rain


'cos nothing lasts forever, and we both-


Ok Ok, I'm stopping...



One of the less obvious things about the night shift is deciding when to sleep. [Didn't see this line coming, did you?] Three days, one of them at least needs to not be an early start, so which to choose? I went for Sunday, reasoning that Abigail's back and Kate's front would be more productive*.



Well, Abi [[Don't call her Abigail.. ;) ]] was a pretty sunny affair, with the odd big munchy shower - which after the early line mostly missed. To be honest, it was a little disappointing, and despite the strength of wind, I didn't give it long. There were birds passing - mostly Kittiwakes - with a Bonxie [waaay out] seeming to be the best bird. Well, until right before I gave up, when a frickin' juvenile BTD came in from what seemed like mid- Lyme Bay and zipped around the corner towards Blackball! First diver of the winter and it's a Black-throat. Who'da thunk it?

Also around to the north was a small group of Harbour Porpoises; I think 3, but they were being a bit sneaky.


Somewhere under the rainbow..
Most of the showers missed.




Kate proved a much rainier business, and while it was never epically heavy, it just didn't let up. You'd get a few minutes, the brolly would come down, and then back up it had to go... But there were birds. The greater degree of south in the wind might have helped, too.
Also of interest, it seems, nobody at Berry Head. Again. Ex-hurricane, come swinging over the Atlantic and nobody covering the other side of the Bay. Ah well, all ya'll losses.


This time I was in for the day [such of it as remains this time of year] and again Kittiwakes were moving in numbers. 772 went south, with more still tarting about the slick when I left. This compares with Gannet numbers of 182/11 and auks of 199/47 [Primarily Razorbills, with northbound mostly Guillemots]. Oh yes, the slick. Nothing when I arrived, but then all of a sudden someone somewhere must have pulled a lever;


Kate shows Abi how to do seawatching weather



And 5 minutes later..


The SWBCM attracted a variety of gulls, including 2 different 1w Meds, 15+ Common, 5+ BHG, 19+ LBB, but no Fulmars. Also hanging around were 11 Turnstone - at first I thought they were just passing, but I kept hearing them calling.

A lone Balearic came through, with an Arctic Skua, 2 Bonxies, and an RTD. Also a group of Common Scoter accompanied by my first shiny white secondaries at the Nose for a long time :)



Yesterday I got some sleep, and was going to spend the day doing useful stuff, but then as I sat down here to have a bite and just check [you know, just in case..], I saw Leach's Petrels [[which might have been the primary target of all this seawatching..?]] all over the damn place. Including the Warren. At this point, some norty words may have been uttered. Having played the 'twitch Leach's at the Warren' game before, I instead hurriedly decamped to the Nose.

This time the Gannets outnumbered the Kitts, and a Bonxie [v dark one], a Puffin!, and an Arctic Skua were the best birds. The Arctic being of especial note, as it scragged a couple of Kitts with great persistence, then came in and plonked down, revealing what had seemed a light morph adult [with streamers] had a little barring in the secondary coverts - the medians - and was thus perhaps a 4s?

The Turnstone flock was still present, though now only 10 strong.




In other news, new bird for the feeders; Chaffinch. :)




[[*Perhaps I ought to find a better way of phrasing that, but who decided giving weather systems human names was a good idea anyway? They name typhoons after monsters in the Philippines, which makes more sense to me; "Storm Hydra is coming!" is more likely to provoke caution than "Storm Derek is coming!"...]]

Monday, 9 November 2015

It's Raining Again!


He says in what to a normal person would be far too cheerful a voice.


After a long spell of frustration, finally a frontal system [and quite a nice-looking one, too] that I could get to grips with!


Yes, it was all with the seawatching at the Nose on Saturday. I managed a little over 5 hours before the sun came out and there were birds, oh yes!

Not the storm petrels I was hoping for, mind, but there were skuas and assorted gulls to go with the reasonable Gannet and moderate auk movement.


And rain it certainly did, with several vicious squalls - most notably the 15 minuter around 0900 - that had me hunkered down under my bumbleshoot. [Their arrival being announced by the wind sharply backing to SE didn't help... ouch]. There had been plenty of rain overnight, which was still going as I arrived with the useable light, and the SWBCM was going nicely. So nicely that I even took a little montage of it..


The actual outfall is around the corner.
Lead and Ore Stones [and the blow hole] are due SE



Two of those white dots are breaking waves, the rest are gulls



Now looking pretty much towards The Backwater.
The slick is spreading out N to NNE 


Despite that pretty slick, the conditions weren't spot on for storm petrels, but they weren't awful either. I suspect the old 'you can't see what isn't there' may apply. Ah well.


Gannets and Kittiwakes were the main movers, with circa 250 and 350 in the first hour alone - final scores 580/3 and 674/12. Auks started slowly and evenly [6 each in the first hour], but ended with 89 Razorbills and 12 Guillemots. Nope, not one Puffin. Also light on the shears, with 2 probable Balearics [together, only seen head-on] the only ones, and only 1 Fulmar.

The skuas did better, and made up for some of the slack; no less than 4 Poms - including one on the first scan! - came by, with a light imm accompanying a dark-intermed juvenile and team-harrying Kittiwakes the best showers. A sudden slacking in Gannet numbers preceded a lone juv [intermed] Bonxie powering through [with a fair-sized group following it at a respectable distance!]. 4 Arctic Skuas [again 2 singles and a twosome - this time adult light and markedly bigger intermed juv] also didn't tarry.

At least 4 Common, 12 LBB, and 11 BHG were attracted to the slick with the Herrings and Geebs, but the best gulls were right at the start; a 1w Little and a cracking [if only it had come in and tarried] juv Sabine's! :D The latter went through inside the Lead Stone at 0750. Also of note, one of those interesting LBBs just after 0830 - it too didn't hang around, the bugger.


It was a good watch - though a very soggy one - and I wasn't surprised to eventually have company [though said birder didn't dare the Steps and went to the TSWS] a little after ten.



Sunday.. My blimmin' head attacked again, and though I eventually got out it wasn't until well into the afternoon. I gave the sheltered bits of the near Patch a bash [a Mistle Thrush at Tessier being the highlight] and wound up making my first check of Blackball of the winter. There were at least 78 Kittiwakes in a raft, but no grebes.


This afternoon I went over to Blackball again. This time no Kittiwakes were discernible, but the light was not great. Not great at all. There were a whole heap of roosting gulls - at least 6000, and still arriving at the light went - in big rafts and on the cliffs past Petitor. No grebes either, but I was delighted to get something; scoter! A group of 8 Common Scoter were tootling about not far out - 2 adult males with them - and looked like they were staying put for the night. Not a common sight [ho ho].


Finally.. I keep hearing Redwings after dark. I'm starting to suspect they're roosting hereabouts. More on this if I get it.



Be Seeing You.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Boom! Bang! Ow....



BING-BONG
"Backward Birding would like to apologise for the delays to our services 'Halloween Post Of Horrors' and 'Mo'vember Mo' Posting', and wishes to announce they have been combined into this right mess. The cause was an unfortunate technical issue. And leaves on the line."



Yeah, so....

I've been utterly knackered this week. I blame naughty little birds who show up when I can't get at them, personally. But anyways, onwards and downwards!


Back to last Friday, when 2 Fieldfare flew over at work. [Wow, huge numbers..]



On then to Saturday, where I did make no small effort and had a very up and down sort of day, as shall be told;

So, started at the Nose. Light easterly and sunshine! There were birds and everything too. This was a bit of a surprise as I'd figured all the good stuff [like sodding Pallas' Warblers...] would have been through earlier in the week. And it is true that no yearticks did I find, but a friskin' Sibe Chiff is never to be understated. :D It even popped up right in front of me, opened its little black bill and called the call. Now that's a nice considerate bird for you. Also of note a very brief Ring Ouzel - exiting stage left at speed while chacking rude things about my parents - and not one but two of those wonderful eastern Goldcrests! They really are incredibly grey-headed [and almost white foreheaded, too].

Things then got in the neighbourhood of even better, as a YBW promptly popped up [following a big band of LTTs]. A very dull-looking one, even. It steadfastly refused to call and wouldn't even give me a decent look at it before legging it off around towards Thatcher [as all the tit bands and associates were moving]. A might-have-could-have-maybe-possibly one, that.

Mipits were moving overhead and there had been a small fall of Chiffs.


Not bad for a 'quick stop off on the way'.



Because next up was Teigngrace and a chance to succeed where once before I had dipped by the breadth of a byre. [Literally - the bastard was hiding behind it!]

Very nearly a dip again, with 7 Little but no Cattle among the horde of Block'eads. Eventually, though, with the aid of [Paignton Birder], the two yellow-nosed gits were discovered hiding up a tree, visible only from 3/4 along the causeway 'walk on here and die' road...


Yup, both turned away at the same time...

Having realised they'd been seen, they then flew off towards Teigngrace in a huff.


I pressed onwards and upwards, as I had business on't Moor.



Yep, that time of year again meant more fun playing with the thrushes. Up around Holne, the Mardle and Venford I wandered, and it was... Well, I lost.

To make excuses be fair, I had the deck stacked against me very thoroughly. There were the farmers moving stock. There were the loud families. There was the bfb who wandered up from the deer park, and stood shouting for several minutes for some reason, then took his shirt off [[aarrrggh, pass the brain bleach..]]. There was The Hunt, who were out riding around in circles exercising their lovely quiet hounds. There was the slight lack of thrushes [wonder why], with mostly flyovers..

Anyway, I only found one party of Fieldfares on the deck, and as I was circling to make an approach, The Hunt came pounding down the valley [I felt them before I even heard the hounds].. Drat.


Not that there weren't compensations.

Chief being the brilliant Fwap! sound a female Merlin's wings made as she came screaming past 5' from my right shoulder!! I was just packing up after lunch and the Fwap! was her announcement as she came by from behind me and went zipping onwards at bracken height. W.O.W.

Also really good was the Jack Snipe flushed by the hounds from near the Sandy Way [they have their uses], and the poor Kestrel which met the wrong Crow and was mercilessly mobbed far beyond all necessity..



Sunday was a Day on't Moor with the Folks, but after Saturday I couldn't not have another go at the Nose in case there was any sign of that little stripy git. Needless to say there wasn't, with a clearout having happened [or maybe I was just there at the wrong time], despite all the lovely mistyfog. The 2 eastern Goldcrests were still there, favouring the Sweet Chestnut and environs. Overhead, large numbers of Goldfinch and Woodpig, with one flock of 28 Jackdaw [lots for the Nose]. Offshore, a Little Egret [checked carefully] was picking about on the Lead Stone.


With the fog and general dampness it was agreed we head to Fernworthy. Where we arrived to brilliant sunshine!!

Spot the Reservoir


It was toasty warm and indeed verging on balmy - more like early September... There were even butterflies on the wing - a Peacock [v fresh] and a Red Admiral - plus assorted lbj day moths.


Things changed when it was mooted we head out onto t' Moor to look at the new circle [and the views therefrom]. I kid ye not, no sooner had we spoken than clouds started to appear. Then the mistyfog descended and visibility went bye-byes..

Pressing on in the hope that it would pass, we headed out and around, only to find out the low cloud seemed set to stay. Muttering about pesky weather, we decided it wasn't worth dragging the LBD past the ponies [they were waiting, naturally] to see very little. So we turned back into the plantation and headed down to the res. The mistyfog followed us, eventually surrounding the lake, then pouncing with a chilly and rather smug breeze..


It was still very pretty, though;

'Affix burble about the Circle of Life here'


It was also periodically birdy, with actual Crossbills! They were naughty when the sun shone, but in the misssst, they eventually showed a lovely big flock, with sleighbell sound effects and everything.

Also of interest, a tit band by the hide contained a Treeeecreeeeper and a Marsh Tit! I think that's the first one I've seen there [maybe]. Mixed blessings, though, what with their habits.


Out on the water, there were plenty of gulls cycling through; high counts of 170 LBB, 25 Herring, and 12 BHG. Also 4 Wigeon, 5 Tufty, 3 Teal, and a Moorhen, plus 2 Cormorant.



So, a pretty good day. [Again, far too long since I've been out with the Folks].




Annnd finally, to continue even further..  Monday saw 38 Redwing over at work, accompanied by 2 Fieldfare, 9 Starlings, and 7 Woodpig [looked like they'd been flushed from a field].



TTFN

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Very Quick Update Post


Ok, Sunday's Post is now fairer of face than it was when I wrote it..


Also, yesterday lunchtime at work; 38 Redwing over NW, today 6 Song Thrush over S.




Er.. Yeah, that's it!


EDIT: Ok, please tell me, what is it about this post that makes it about an order of magnitude more interesting than most of my rubbish finely crafted work? I just don't get it...

Sunday, 25 October 2015

We Happy Few


Celebrated the 600th anniversary today with a Clan Meet down in cornwall [as much of said clan are holidaying down there]. Being very good and not even trying to sneak off after birds, I didn't see much more than gulls - though there were a fair few gathering offshore - [let alone a Chough..], though there was some pretty scenery and some impressive surf! [There was also roast dinner AND cake.. :D ]. Picture of said scenery here;


That's about a 5' swell there..

Yeah, the landscape was pretty, the buildings less so...


Yesterday I actually got some seawatching in! Pulled more than 4 hours at the Nose before the sun came out and there were even birds!

2 [yes, 2!] Balearics, a Pom, a Bonxie [which viciously scragged a poor GBB..!], a few interesting-looking gulls, a fair few Gannets, Kittiwakes, and auks [2-300 of each]... oh, and 19 Puffins!!


Also present were a couple of ships for the first time in ages. I took pictures [the ships were far more co-operative than the birds, I must say] as one had an interesting motif at the bow;


Front end of the large Stena Bulk tanker 'Stena Arctica'
[I guess she's ice-hardened?]




Yes, that's a Polar Bear, mouth gaping with all the teeth going on!
[Also an impressive scrape, which went right down her side..]



In the late PM I got down to Towne and took the opportunity to check the Real Living Coasts, where I was rewarded with 3 Sandpipers Purple!!! First ones of the winter and weren't they cute in the low sunshine.. :D Also 2 Rockits and a Turnstone.



Friday.. I got about the Patch and there were a few Chiffs and Blackcaps at the Nose, but best bird was a Firecrest accompanying Goldcrests in the pines opposite the entrance! :D  A few parties of alba Wagtails were passing over, but otherwise pretty quiet.


Ok, that'll do for now.


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Great Scott!


Happy Back To The Future Day everyone!



[Where's my hoverboard?]



Ahem.


Right then, so.. Sunday.


Feeling a bit better but still not anything like 100%, I did not go out a' yomping over t' Moor or anything like that. I did decide to do some proper birding instead.


I had this cunning plan, you see. I had noticed the day before [and indeed often in the past before that] that quite a few birds seem to like flying up and down the Bovey valley. If you look at a map, you'll see why - especially when they are going west. [Short version; 'oh look, there's a big lump of granite in the way, let's follow this valley past/through it rather than go up and be exposed to passing raptors / strong winds etc.']. This also seemed to extend right through the day - indeed on Saturday, passage seemed stronger when I left than when I arrived.



So, getting to Trendlebeare in the afternoon, instead of wandering around as I usually do, I took my foldy stool and my li'l scope and found myself a nice viewpoint. I was aided in this by the rangers, who had helpfully hacked down the gorse by the res., leaving a lovely spot on the ridge with some shelter from the prevailing and a 180° view to the east! Wrapped up in two fleeces and with flask and rations to hand, I sat myself down and waited to see what [if anything] would fly over.


Yeah, there was a bird or two.

In 2 hours 164 Mipits, 121 alba Wagtails [plus 2 definite Pied], 17 Grey Wagtails, 76 Woodpigs, and a whole host of other passerines went by. To the left, to the right, and straight up over my head! Very few winter thrushes - 13 Redwing, 2 Fieldfare, 5 Mistle Thrush - with lots of assorted finches in small numbers; only Chaffs broke 2 figures.


Finch-wise, Crossbills [7] and Redpoll [2] were good, but the star bird was undoubtedly the one that went over giving well-spaced 'tsic!' calls...  Did not expect that one, I can tell you. :D

There were some patterns in the movements; the wagtails almost entirely came by late - with more than 100 albas and all the Greys in the last half hour - and the Mipits passed in noticeable waves, with odd groups of no more than a half dozen in between pulses.

Also of note; a big group of corvids tarting around towards Lustleigh included at least 80 Jackdaw, and when I arrived, there were 17 House Martins feeding over Yarner.



When there wasn't anything flying over, there were a few birds knocking around the Down too, including this lovely buff-bellied Mipit ['scuse the humour] [and the handheld phonescope shots...]


It sat on this Birch for almost 40 minutes
 and  I thought 'why not?'




You might be able to see how buffy it was underneath
[yup, I had time to get up and move]
[[and this was still the best I could do.. oh dear]]


Less fun were the sodding Deer Flies... Yarner seems to specialise in the damn things [if you've been lucky enough not to find out what they are, think a big tick that moves as fast as an ant and can fly!] and one even snuck home with me - going for my neck when I was putting my kit away..



So, after all the fun of the weekend, it was back to work.. but wait, there's more!


Time for a prettier picture;

Who's a pretty Goldie, then?



"Oh shit, he's got a camera!"


At least 3 Goldfinch [2 ads and a 1w] on my feeders on Monday! :D In the company of a dozen Greenfinch, with Coal and the odd Great and Blue Tits as well.


Aaaand that's all, folks.
The plague is hanging on by its fingernails [claws?], but I am hopeful that I will be free of its clutches soon.

Maybe just in time for The Artist to pin down a twitchable White's at Berry Head? [Hey, I can still dream!]




Be Seeing You

Monday, 19 October 2015

A Post I Forgot To, Er, Post


[[NB This was written Saturday evening, but for some reason I forgot to actually put it up... Anyway, here you go. A further post about Sunday will be forthcoming later in the week. It may even have some non-twitchy birding in it, believe it or not.]]


I am still unwell and will not be doing any awful shrike-related puns in this post.


I will instead settle for inflicting the phonescope photos I took before I gave up to coo, sketch, and coo some more over that wonderful little bird. Yes, all of them. [Mua-ha-ha-ha-haaa]


1w Isabelline Shrike
South Huish



Sadly, my phone really doesn't like subjects lit by the afternoon sun...



A very cute wasp eater.



"Like a Spot Fly from hell" was the comment I made at one point, after the bird had popped up onto the line right next to me and, front-on [while munching a jasper] and crown fluffed, it really did remind me of one. Not that different in size, either. [Just look at how it can't get its toes around the wire!]


All shrikes rock [well, unless you're smaller than they are, then it's quite another matter...], and Issys* are no exception, but this one was just..wow. Very confiding, and just so pretty. Ok, maybe not quite as pretty as the Portland one, but far better to watch!



What else it there to say? Got to the Nose on Friday and.. bah. Saturday I was crashed out - first catching up on lost sleep, then wasted by another one of those headaches..
I eventually cracked and went out anyway. I had stuff to do, so I resolved to defy my brain and had a toddle around Yarner. Which was nice and quiet. A few bands here and there, most birds around the feeders; Marsh Tits, Siskin, and Chaffs were the only things I saw that haven't been on my feeders [ :) ] too, but the day was saved by a passage of Redwing, with a couple of Fieldfare. They were going west, too. [Always nice to see migrants going the right way]. They were my first winter thrushes of the Autumn, and very nice too. Also a few finches [assorted] moving.


I'm typing nice too much. Must be the painkillers.


Laters.





[[*Like many far better birders, I have no time for all this 'daurian' nonsense. Yes, the split is right, but the latin name is perfectly acceptable; they've split Turkestan off, not disproved the existence of Isabelline.]]


Monday, 12 October 2015

Blech..


Or, 'Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud'

In this case, a wonnnnderful roast dinner at the Folks [it doesn't get much better than roast pork with crackling.. ::Drool::] seems to have had the unfortunate side effect of me coming down with the lurgy. I blame Sister, who was also there. [Did I mention the crumble, too?]

EDIT: Apparently, Sister is innocent, and has herself now come down with said Plague. The Folks claim they are unaffected by any plague, and so a) they can't be the vectors, and b) can I please stay away so they don't get it too.

Anyways, now that I am duly struck down wit' t' plague, I'm in posting and not out birding.



I did get out over the weekend, despite the evident onset, because, well. Because.



So off I headed to the Nose both mornings, to find bugger all on land due to the wind. I mean, it's the second week of October, and I had 2 warblers total each day! 2 Blackcaps Saturday and a Blackcap and a Chiff yesterday. Sheesh.
Some overhead stuff, but even then nothing really noteworthy in terms of numbers, let alone species.


Sunday I also took the li'l scope along and stared at the sea for half an hour, on account of the misty gunk and brisk NE wind. There were a few Gannets and a light auk passage, but bugger all else. Not even a Kittiwake!


I did see that the Mad Axeman of the Nose has been back;

Almost felled it...

[I suppose wondering about the possibility of an unfortunate yet karmic axident would be wrong, wouldn't it?]


I've also been checking the various sheltered bits of the peninsula for anything stripey, but while the tit bands have formed up, there has been nothing sexier than the odd Goldcrest or Nuthatch with them.

At least, until Sunday afternoon, when I was checking the evergreen oaks* by the Battery on IMD and came across a band of at least 3 Goldcrests accompanied by the Autumn's first Patch Firecrest!

:D

They were in 'last feed of the day' mode and very mobile, this not helped by a party of chatty walkers who came by. I always appreciate interested civilians, but the smile can be a bit strained when you're just about to actually get a [maybe even good] view and then you have to take your eyes off and...



In other news, the Greenfinches are hammering my sunflower feeders, abetted by the Coal Tits. I haven't caught anything else on them, but that's not to say other birds haven't been around [the pace of munching does imply that the GSW may still be snarfing away].
Cunning use of fishing line stretched over my bird bucket has at least stopped the winged rats pigeons from flipping the pond weed therein right over when they take their baths, and brought daily spillage down from 3" to less than 2cm.
With colder weather now arriving and the prospect of Nuthatches and woodies, I have scrubbed the nut feeder [with the fancy cleany stuff and everything] and am going to try some peanuts [gasp!].



Right, time for some more honey and lemon tea...




[[*Some people may mutter "non-native!", but I'd reply "global warming" "european species" "wonderful winter habbo" and "slope stabilisers"]]

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Less Happy Post



Ok, so here is the other stuff I was going to rant [Health Warning: yes, we have a rant - with norty words and everything - incoming fast..] about.




Sunday morning at the Nose and as I arrive at the top gate, I am greeted by this;


What was the Hope's Nose entrance sign.

This is the work of somebody who took the trouble to bring a saw - a decent sized hand saw judging by the cut - and did this.

What. The. Fuck.

And if you're wondering, the sign on that signpost is indeed no longer there.
If you're also wondering, that thing between the stump and the post is a bag full of rubbish, helpfully littered no more than 10 yards from a bin.



This is only the latest act of vandalism, I am sorry to say. Have a look a way further down, at what used to be the fence where once upon a time I saw my first Wryneck;


Fence where the Rocky Path passes The Wall

This was done with an axe. An axe! Some person took an axe all the way down - I assume to chop firewood for one of those illegal camping trips that are a now seemingly permanent feature of The Quarry - and hacked away...


What the hell is wrong with these people?!?!?!??





I... Ach, words fail me.





Ok, normal service will resume at some point in the hopefully near future.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Hope At The Nose


I can't believe it took me all these years to finally come up with that one...


Yeah, so.. Apathy.

It's a pain.



So is work, but those bills keep on coming.




Thus it was that I have only a few trips to the Nose to report [I was also about Patch several times, but bugger all came of those bar a Badger*].


First thing on Saturday felt good, and indeed was pretty good, with falls of phylloscs and sylvias. 10 to 1 ratios for both Chiff:Willow and Blackcap:Garden. The Garden was a proper one, btw, all olivey and contrasting neck side like they should be. At least three of the Chiffs were possible abietinus; very pale underneath and grey-brown on top with standout eyerings. Another looked interesting for Sibe, but it didn't utter a peep, the little bugger. The rest were the usual mix of browny, greeny and yellowy Chiffyness. An overhead passage of assorted finches was light but steady, and a couple of Swallows went north [but of course..].

Then there was work. Happiness.


Sunday morning was radically different! Mass mistyfog, but also a brisk rising to stiff SE-SSE. The hope I had of interesting passerines was blown out, but at least a proper passage of Swallows going the right way was something. I counted 44 in 15 minutes.


Such was the wind and dark clouds looming that I figured the sea needed at least a look. So it was I wandered back in the afternoon. I wasn't holding out much hope; in the morning there wasn't even so much as a Gannet moving!



So I took the li'l scope and baby tripod [usually used for counting roosting grebes] instead of the full monty.

In the bit under two hours before it got dusky [and the birds stopped moving], I was shocked to actually score!

The wind was a stiff verging on strong SE with twisty gusts - so finding a spot away from the TSWS was tricky. [I didn't want to go down there, primarily due to not having brought a stool and not wanting the score or so of fishers walking over me when they went!]

Eventually scouring The Mounds got me a spot in the lee of some brambles, which was surprisingly sheltered. Here's the view;

Lead and Ore Stones from The Mounds
[They are due SE from the seawatchy end of the Nose]



There was gunk along the horizon, but the rain didn't arrive until it had gotten dark [ie. after I was back home!]. The wind was quite warm - especially for October - which was just as well as I was without flask [shock].


But not without birds. 118/3 Gannets, 11 Kitts, 9 Guilles, 2 Razorbills, a Puffin [1731], 3 Med Gulls, 2 BHGs, a Balearic [1623], and a Manxie at 1642, which was wonderfully overtaken by a Sooty!
The Puffin had been a sneaky one, but the Sooty showed wonderfully as it went zooming along. Bird of the day? Nope.

1738. Going north [running before the storm? I have no idea]. Juvenile Sabine's Gull. Close enough for scaleyness. :D
Damn, but it's been too long since I saw one. Its not just the whole prettiest gull thing, it's the way they fly. Wonderful wonderful birds....


Ahem.




Right. I was going to switch tone at this point, but I just can't spoil the happy smiley mood remembering that has brought out in me. So it can wait for another post in the near future.


Ooh, almost forgot; a subadult [plumage looked ad., but black smudge on bill] probable HerringxLBB on the Lead Stone - one of Matt's ones, maybe? - nice-looking bird, anyway.






[[*Which came trotting up my road as I walked down it on Friday evening, to much mutual surprise. It took off at a claw-clicking canter - an actual canter! - to and down an alley. Brilliant!]]

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Ahahahahahahahaha!


Flying post on a flying twitch!

After work, off I toddled and from Cockwood Crossing [aided by nice light and of course a Big Scope], I saw this little thingy;


Cackling Goose 
with Brents.
At range.
Lots of range.



Colours are off; 
the bird is actually a lovely rich chocolatey brown
and its cheek patch is white.


Yes, they were hiding behind the yachts, right out in the middle of the estuary. Well, they were for about 10 minutes, then a considerate chap with a red fleece and green wellies showed up and flushed them all waaaay upriver. Cheers, mate!


Also some nice waders [including 23 Barwits], the Slav, and a couple of flyover Grey Wags.


Sorted. Right, I'm off to bed...


Monday, 28 September 2015

Patch Birding? Bah..


Since dropping that sylvia last weekend [Ed: weekend before, now] I've been determinedly attacking the Patch, trying to find a yeartick on my todd [preferably one I can get a useable photo of.. Ho Ho].

This has been interspersed with having to do various things, many car-related and also expensive...


Highlights include finally* [and amazingly] getting a Turtle Dove on Patch. Not only that but out the sodding window! It flew north along almost the same line the Osprey took earlier in the year. Looked lovely in the afternoon sun, too..

At least 13 Greenfinch coming to my feeders, probably more.
Even better, my first Goldfinch!
Even better than that, a frickin GSW!!!!!!!!!

 Both on the sunflower hearts [seeing the woodie bending almost double to snaffle them - which it did with Woodpig-like alacrity - was quite something], neither photo-able, due to sodding pigeons taking off and flushing everything..



The Nose has been hit daily, with Saturday the best, including a fall of Blackcaps and a lark in/off, plus a fair amount of vismig [usual suspects].



Lowlights? Everything else. Capped off by my 'puter seemingly having a twitter issue and so me not finding out about that Cackler until about an hour ago..

Bugger.


Oh, and I'm back on joyous days.



But the moon last night [when it appeared in the gaps in the thick unforecast cloud cover] was quite something.






[[*I've seen 3 in stone's throw of Patch bounds in recent years. It used to be on the list, thanks to a superbly showy one seen for three commutes in a row in the early 'vox days, but when I tightened the boundary it had to go..]]

Monday, 21 September 2015

Sylvianian Gits..


After all the fun down in the Hams, I spent the rest of the birding weekend on Patch.


In a stunning break from tradition, I actually found something interesting that wasn't at the Nose. I know, shocking, isn't it?

But I'll get to that bit.


So, morning and evening visits were.. moderately productive and more than moderately vexing.


Sunday morning was the best for birds, with reasonable numbers of Chiffs and Blackcaps about, plus the couple of birds who named this here post. Of note, a couple of very nice and very Greenland-y Wheatears, up at the Lookout of all places [probably driven up by marauding dogs..]. I almost got  a point-blank picture. Also at least 2 Whinchat lurking around the South Side and a party of 12 Blackbirds!

A female Southern Hawker was good, but a male Beautiful Demoiselle was not only a Patch Tick but a first order 'where the vickers did you come from??' Two or three Clouded Yellow - one my first helice of the year - were also highlights, though also far too mobile to photo.

The insects showed up after the sea fog burned away, changing things dramatically and making what had seemed to be a potentially blank trip quite eventful.


Observe pretty scenery;

A line of yachts on a mercury sea,
mist lifting.



Top Dell and Thatcher Rock
in sunshine
Berry Head still wreathed in mistyfog



There you are..



Hmm, that was bordering on artistic, I shall have to watch it.


I spent a long time up in the Top Dell [allowing those pics] because I was being played for a silly bugger by a couple of pesky sylvias. First to show was a little job with a grey head and brown back which did not have the chestnut coverts of the expected Whitethroat. Nor did it have any kind of streaking [so not a Dunnock, the default brown/grey bush bird]. In fact, what was visible looked very interesting, but of course having showed briefly it vanished into a bush and never appeared again.


It was in here;

The Green Wall
Part of the Top Dell

You see the problem?


Bastard bastard bird.


While I was spending a couple of merry hours waiting in vain, another sylvia decided to pop up. This one was big and grey. Naturally you first look at the head for the black cap. Not got one. Hmm.. It too had showed for a few seconds in a bush and then vanished. Not the same bush, of course. That would be helpful.

After a while the big one popped back up and flew up the Dell and away. This is expected behaviour at the Nose. Fortunately I was able to get bins on it as it passed. "Very grey! Male Blackcap or more. Yup, no cap, quite a fierce face, nice stout bill, but a bit short, very white utcs.'
So, the world's greyest Garden Warbler. That white undertail is the real clincher.
I have never seen nor heard tell of a GW that was so grey. I mean, they're supposed to be olivey browny on top, fairly homogenous and boring, with that little grey shoulder the closest thing to a 'proper' marking. This one was not even slightly browny, let alone olivey, and very two-tone - more so than a male Blackcap - and generally wrong. A bird like that makes me wonder about hybrids, I tell you.


I went back when it quietened down and stayed until it got dusky, but of course not a twitch of the other sylvia. Hmm.


Plus side, loads of bats!! Both days they were out well before it got properly dark; 1920 onwards. Lots of feeding, some chasing, all along IMD and right home.. :D

Now, identifying bats on the wing without a detector is pretty much impossible. Not that that stopped me! You get a rough size, you get a flight action, behaviour, the early ones even gave colour [I love my bins]. Ok, it's still 'possible' at best, but I reckon there were [Common] Pipistrelles and probably a couple of Serotines. Maybe.

Whatever they were, they were wonderful to watch, and so hard to track with bins! Even the [probable possible might have been] Serotines, which were prone to gliding, were utter gits to track. They're right up there with Downy Emeralds, I tell you.

Oh, it was brilliant!




Yeah, he's finally gone batty...




[[Oh quit complaining, you were waiting for that one]]