Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Walkies!


After getting a few Needful Things done, I took the opportunity of an extra day without work to get out for some exercise.


The weather was not quite as forecast - hey, what's new - but I was prepared for a variety of scenarios, and the 19° + 30m mistyfog was indeed one of them. I was also intending to carry on with my mission to visit all of the notable bits of t' Moor in the year..

Here's another infamous walk in pictures....

"Wot you doin' here?!? Haven't you seen the weather??"

But where was the Swallow parked?

Near here;

Sourton Tor

Taking the scenic route

How's that for the Road to Nowhere? Not been along this bit for an age. True, the scenery's a bit... lacking, but the peace and quiet was second to none! I mean, I didn't see a soul until the afternoon, would you believe it on a Bank Hollyday?? ;)

Nowhere.

I still have no idea why they called it Bleak House.. Lovely spot.

Yikes! Whist Sheep!!

It was thick enough that you couldn't see one end of Great Links from the other..

And then, as if by magic...

It was like somebody threw a switch. The clouds lifted and the sun even tried coming out...

Chat and Sharp, plus sunshine!!


Arms Tor

The cloud still lurking, though, atop Gt Links

Widgery Cross on Brat Tor


On The Nodden

And heading back north.

There was more wildlife on my way back than I'd expected on my way to Gt Links, and some of it was even unwary enough to get photo'd;

If I hadn't seen it flying in..


The Skylarks feared no mistyfog


Gt Nodden from Sourton, plus free Wheatear!

All the Wheatears at Sourton

At least six of them. :) The band of Swifts were far too fast to get [there were 8 of them, zooming about the tor], as were the non-landing hirundines down by the waterworks.


It was a 21km yomp over mostly tracks, and some bits of them very wet indeed, though the Lyd ford was at a perfect 2", and I felt it somewhat by the time I staggered home.. Then again, I am a bit out of practice [or.. "It's been how long since I got out properly???!!??"]



Be Seeing You..


Saturday, 27 May 2017

Getting In On The Fun


After no small amount of vexation from a variety of causes, today I determined that I would at least try to see something red and airborne. As I needed to be up Exeter way anyway, it seemed reasonable to drop into Topsham and see what was about.

Bowling Green was unsurprisingly quiet - though the two remaining Wigeon tried their best, as did the Cetti's and Reeds - with a Stock Dove perhaps the best sighting! I was not alone in the hide, indeed there were at least 3 RSPB there, though they were in the process of setting up the place as a tea room... Yes, really.
Now, I know that getting as many people to at least look towards birds is a good thing, and fund raising via subtlety isn't indefensible, but I must admit I did mentally double take.

"Did somebody mention carrot cake?"


Moving swiftly onwards.. Did I mention the Swifts? LOADS about. Ahem. Right, so I figured I'd take a quick look off the platform while I was there. Lo and behold I find an actual birder. No less than Mr B himself. He told me he'd already had 2 Red Kites. I tried not to bang my head on the retaining wall..

Raptor weather



I set up next to him and.. Shock! Red Kites started appearing! They were well downriver - crossing from Powderham / Starcross after getting a bit of height - but they were there. :D Four passed before KB had to get off to the pub for the rugby - so he'll have had a good day [[At least assuming he doesn't wake up in the nick...!]] ;) - and another in the 15 whole minutes I gave it before scurrying off to do what needed doing.
Also of note - as well as various Buzzards getting up once the sun came out - was another raptor. This one went over N / NE very high indeed. It was in the background of two different kites! It didn't look Kite-y at all, with broader wings, but too taily for a super high Buzzard.. It also did not flap its wings once, just drifted by.. With Nikon and Swaro's most Big Boss scopes beaten by range and light, we reckoned that as the mighty MK was apparently up at Woodbury, he'd probably nail it. [And about 50 Kites, most likely...]

EDIT: Or maybe not. Oh well, another in the NAB* file..


After I'd succeeded in said Doing, I detoured on my way home to Exminster, where there was gen of a Wood Sand. S/pl Woodie is well worth a look, oh yes.  This one was being a git, though. Unlike these two reprobates;

Just for you, Keith


I knew where the Woody had been, but it was not in sight. Try another angle. Try another angle. Try another angle...

There were cute quacklings of Mallard, Canada, and Mute on show [aww] but the Wood Sand was hiding.. Drat.

Then I looked up;

Gotcha!

Came over maybe a hundred feet up and only got higher - I'd hoped for a drop-in and fly about - but never mind, eh?
What did fly about - very close, but also very fast - was my first dragon of the year. Yes, you read right; first! It was only a male Scarce Chaser, too! :) Ah, but if it had sat down in sight.. 


Eventually, on my way out, still checking the angles, my persistence paid off;

Yes, that.


Block 'ead: "Of course it's a Wood Sand"


Looked much much better through the scope, naturally. I even got another birder [[who shall remain nameless as he wasn't out birding, honest ;) ]] on it, so lots of win to go around.



Good day.




Be Seeing You..


[[*"It's definitely not a Buzzard**." But what is it, then? Too blimmin' far away, that's what...]]
[[**99/100 {or more} it IS a Buzzard, so the others are all noteworthy]]

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Looking Up...



The sky is blue.


There are no clouds to be seen.

At all.


There are also no Red Kites, moulty or otherwise, to be seen above my humble abode.


The Herring Gulls - who are to be seen, soaring about and trying to look pretty - are utterly relaxed and yark-free.


There are Swifts up there, too, it is true. I counted a minimum of 11 yesterday evening.


But not a sniff of a wandering raptor.






Bugger.

Monday, 22 May 2017

The Sun Is Shining

The birds are singing, there's songs goi- Wait, wrong one.




Ahem.


Right then, after yet more distractions [still ongoing but maybepossiblyhopefullysoontoberesolved...], Sunday saw a determined effort to get out and see some birds.

With Golden Oriorioles and Woodchats seeming to have done bunks, I figured to do the proper thing for the time of year and catch up with some favourite arrivals.. So it was I toddled up onto t'Moor and spent much of the day ambling about Vitifer and Challacombe.

Vitifer


There were Cuckoos, oh yes, and there were Whinchats, in numbers most pleasing to the heart [unless you're a Mipit, I suppose..]. Reed Bunts, Wheatears, Spot Flies, Siskins, Redpoll [I know those two aren't migrants, but they are so very pretty], Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, and a Garden Warbler singing its little heart out oh yes.

Not just birds, either;

"Grrrrr!!"


There were also lots of birders about, including the odd familiar face. Speaking of familiar, lets get the pics going with this character;

"I migrate when I want to, got it?"

Not as rare as a Woody*, true, but a shrike is a shrike.

Also grey, long-tailed and mobile...

Far off


Up close and personal


Showing off
[Horribly blurred, don't expand]


Those last two were the benefit of sitting and waiting [and yes, getting {almost} very lucky].

The Whinchats were numerous and glorious, but also very hard to photograph, as they either turned their little heads away or blurred themselves [definitely them, not my shaking hands..]

Not quite sharp


Nice crisp..back


Again, leave as thumbnail..


Just look at the Gorse instead


The psychic head turn


Ok I'll stop with the Whinchats. I know five awful pictures is a bit much [[stop saying "one is a bit much!"...]], but they're just so lovely.

There were other birds too slow to dodge my lens, and yes, here they come;

Reed Bunt gets in on the fun


Ditto the Lesser Redpoll**


But the Spotted Flycatcher didn't get the memo


Stopped clocks and all that...

Again, I was just sitting about minding my own, [having some lunch - nothing like sarnies to attract birds' attention!] and this little thing practically flies up to me and holds the pose while I scramble for my camera. I only got one shot, but it was enough.
:D


Meadow Pipit, I thank you.


It was hard to tear myself away, but the real life demands, and what can you do?
[[I think there's this lottery thing for that...?]]


Be Seeing You..




[[*It's one of those quirks of birding that I've seen more Isabelline Shrikes** than Woodchats]]
[[**Yeah, yeah...]]

Thursday, 18 May 2017

'Work Not All Bad'


Life continues to prevent Birding, mostly, so we shall shift focus;

Lunch break on Tuesday [grotty weather] saw a shock series of sightings!
First two low Swallows [not unusual], then 2 Swifts a bit higher, then a frickin' Hobby! All going north.

The Hobby was the third I've had from work in seven summers, now. I wonder how many someone who could spend all day staring up would get?
 

Of interest, Wednesday [grottier weather, even] saw nothing at lunch, but 7 Swallows were feeding at canopy height by an Oak on the way out.


Today saw better weather and nothing above, beyond the inevitable Herrings, Woodpigs, and corvids...

I suppose you'd better have a piccie, so here's One From The Archive;

This Time Last Year..



Once Were Giants.



Be Seeing You..



Monday, 15 May 2017

The Madness Of Definition


Not just a daft pun on the last post's title, but we'll get to that in a bit.



Yesterday was not supposed to be an out chasing tweety birds day. I did get about the Patch with optics, but that was purely in the course of Doing Important Things. Anyway, I saw nowt fancier than more Swallows.


Then I get in for a late look at the computermabob [just in case, you understand..] and lo and behold, Grandmaster Lakin has scored at the Warren.
What will you do?


We could get to definitions, here [yes, we're talking birds, 'species', and all that stuff...] but I'll once more hold off.


Anyway, I'd never seen an Eastern Subalpine Warbler before, and no flavour at all in Spring Singing mode.. So, I put aside something I really shouldn't have and over I toddled.

To cut things short, there were a fair few still there. Fortunately, this included the bird. Unfortunately, the bird was being a right git and hiding in a Great Big Very Dense Tree.. This one;

Tree.

Looking for the bird was an exercise in patience, persistence, and sheer blind luck.

"It is in there, really.."

Yes, I wondered what you're thinking, too.

Anyways, I could only give it a couple of hours, due to having to get up at aaaaarrrgghh o'clock this morning, and in that time I got 4 decent looks*. The first time I was busy deciding that yes, it definitely was an eastern, and the rest I was distracted getting everybody else to where I was, and so I do not have anything even vaguely as good as you will find elsewhere. [Apparently, I was 'the fourth from last' and it showed really well right after I'd had to leg it...]

I did, however, get two little bits of it in my attempts [which weren't helped by not being able to see what I was shooting when I was shooting...]. Yes, you get inflicted upon;

Top of picture, just right of centre..
Top of head and eye, turned towards camera


Just below centre of picture, in [behind] fork in branches
Side of neck/throat showing moustache!



Yes, they really are that bad.


There was some discussion about whether it was an Eastern or a Moltoni's [ok, from one source, and quickly put paid to by the bird itself :) ], which made me even more determined to go on about this pet peeve of mine once more. But as I type, I wonder.. 'What is the point'?

All I shall do is wonder why there are now two full flavours of Subalpine Warbler, plus various shades, when we can differentiate by plumage, call, breeding range and so on, yet these matter less than statistical quirks of DNA..?



In other news, the good thing about being at work in daylight was the chance to look out the canteen window and actually see.. Well, usually not much.  Today there was a Swift. :)



Be Seeing You..


[[*You could see the bird. See it was the bird. Through bins. For multiple seconds.]]

Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Definition Of Madness


Is probably not far off that of seawatching.

Life has had the odd curveball for me in the last couple of days, but I was again at the Nose first thing today, this time I found myself almost running down, drawn by an urgent need to get set up.

This proved most prescient, as within two minutes I was on a skua! A very distant skua indeed, but bloomin' unmistakable!  :D  Oh the tail on it....


After that glorious start, I allowed myself some hope. there were Gannets moving in almost numbers, and while I wasn't raining, it had been and seemed like it could again...?


Not so much.


Two hours later, as the sun came blazing out and nothing moved, I said 'Enough'.

Not that it was dead, there had been Manxies - more than 50! - and two wonderful splendid brilliant Great Northern Divers in Full Summer Regalia - one sat on the sea for a bit! - and there had been two of these;

Shelduck!

Not even a Patch yeartick, but I got it! A low-flying bird and I got it! [maybe one day I'll get something good, you never know...???]

Now, you may be wondering, having maybe seen what went past BH, if something small and Black is coming.. The answer is no. The only terns to pass, and there were a few, were Sarnies. Indeed, all this year, the only terns I've seen have been Sarnies! [I'm starting to wonder if there are any others...]

A Whimbrel added some vocal variety, and another random in/off again had me double-taking.. female type Blackstart  [?!?!?]. Right in past me, maybe 20' to my right, too. There were Common and Black-headed Gulls, and a few Common Scoter [ 15 went north even further out than the LT and 6 came south close in - I almost got them!]. Fulmars all seemed to be the locals, but there was a definite southerly movement of Kittiwakes [quite possibly foraging from up the coast]

I leave you with some local colour!

Vocal Colour!

Mallards of Hope Cove


This afternoon, after the sun got bored and wandered off, I counted 14 Swallows moving through north past my windows.


Be Seeing You..



Eyes Down


I post about the past.

Both senses.



So, it was by pure chance that I learned of not only an archaeological dig below Trendlebeare Down, but that they were having an open day that very day that I was there. [How about that? Jammy or what?] My intentions were focused on Yarner and tweety birds therein, but I wasn't going to turn up the chance to look down for a bit! :)


So, after having lots of fun under the trees,

Fun

Fun

Fun!

No, not getting tired of them any time soon..  ;)


Anyways, I headed down to the confluence of Bovey and Becka to see what they'd been up to.

The answer was Vinnicombe Farmstead; a brave attempt at settling the valley floor, though not a hugely long-lived one. What you saw at the dig were some walls, with a doorway and a couple of hearths, plus trays of assorted finds. Great if you're into that sort of thing, rocks and rubbish if you're not.

Time for pictures;

The back wall, from the outside


The stable/stall, with a store space to the right, house to the left

Hearth in the right side room


Hearth in the left hand room - the kitchen

Bread oven set [round] set in the side of kitchen hearth
- hearth on upper right, oven wall upper left


The building is rectangular, with a central door opening to a pink-plastered central corridor separating two white-plastered rooms. The rooms each had a hearth* and glazed windows, the right being a 'bedroom' and the left a 'kitchen', with a bread oven set into the side of the hearth. Attached to the east side [right as you look at it] were two more rooms - these without stone front walls [presumably closed with wood or possibly wicker]. The nearest and largest is thought to be a stable or stall [it being that sort of size], the outer a storage area [you'd just fit in a small cart and a plough, say]. The back of the building has a built up revetment to presumably give protection when the rivers got frisky - the floor level, shown by the door lintel amongst other things, was set up.


The finds included some nice dating pottery, lots of broken pipes [ooh arr], nice bits of glass, and even some flint tools. These include a Mesolithic microlith, found under the front door lintel [maybe for luck? It seems unlikely to be random 'end up there' especially as it's in good condition]. The flints might have been washed there, but the Bovey/Becka aren't the mellowest of streams when they flood, and it seems unlikely that flints would be in decent shape after being moved by them.



All in all a very nice little site, and well worth the merry slog climb back up the hill.


Be Seeing You..




[[*Not usual, especially in a little place like this.]]