31 October, 2010

Dirty Twitching v2

You can't believe what you read on the internet.

I couldn't resist the lure the American Bittern today and was there for three of it's showings, getting eyes on it twice.

The trip down was marked by very varied weather - dense fog, monsoon-level rain, high winds, sunshine.... Surprisingly, the Beeb's forecast of decent weather in west cornwall seemed to come true, and the road-full at Trewey Common were not rained upon nor blown away nor hidden in dank mist. En route, a BIG flock of Starlings west of Launceston [five figures, easy] and a female Ring Ouzel between Penzance and Trewey were the notable birds.

"No sign" said a chap as I arrived. The 'field by the pools opened for parking' was in fact in Zennor, he added [Reading things on the internet and believing them? Silly boy...]. Parking carefully and legally on the verge was possible and had been done [well, parking had been done, anyway] by many others, so I made my effort and joined the crowd. Flyover Snipe and a couple of Golden Plover flocks were interesting, but it seemed very un-Bitterny... I'd agreed to pick Joe up when he finally escaped from Scilly, but that was nigh on 3 hours away - plenty of time for a yank to get bored and fly about..

I'm sure you've read various versions of what happened;

The first, best, time was not that long after I arrived - being a fair journey away and having to sleep [especially after seawatching 'til dusk the day before] I wasn't a proper birder; there to disturb it in the dark ;)
For a far better and more detailed account than I could give, have a look at JL's tale at Wanstead Birding.
The second time it showed off it's own bat - first perched in a tree to a lucky few, then flying back closer to the ponds to a few more [including me]. One lady was still by the road, and reported it landing at the north end of the copse. The assembled remainder mostly lined up on the road again, I decided to move along a footpath to a point where I could look up the line of the copse, see the far side in case it went into the field there, and perhaps more importantly, sit down and have a cuppa!
The bird had been out of sight for just over an hour when a person went to flush it. At first I thought he was perhaps the farmer - walking through the roadside field, smoking a fag and heading away from me towards the cattle. Then he turned into the copse, went through it and around in front of it through the gorse, clapping his hands. Having realised what he was intending too late to do anything to stop him that wouldn't make things worse, I packed up and headed for the crowd. At this point the bird flushed from the trees and flew off south - I didn't see it, wasn't looking. The crowd mostly then dispersed. I asked about a third of them about the flusher - some had no idea, others had been asked by him; evidently another majority approval. With the Scillonian due back inside the hour, I was not amused, I have to say.

Neither were the assorted birders on board, as I arrived in Penzance to pick up Joe and take him up for a go at the Bittern. To add insult to injury, the weather had taken a sudden turn for the worse, and we were met by horizontal rain. Despite this, we had a good look, following the yank's flightpath to a valley chock full of all manner of cover for American herons to hide in and feed or roost to their heart's desire... Retiring to the car for rations, Joe decided it clearly wasn't going to show and so we headed home.

I see it did come back, less than an hour after we left.

£$&§^(&$£@££%±§§ *

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

So, I saw a very rare and generally wow!-inducing Lifer today, but I feel as well as elation... Not right.

[[[This post has been thoroughly rewritten the day after as it was more than half a rant]]]

30 October, 2010

Purist Seawatching

Eventually getting over to Berry Head this afternoon, it was very much purist's seawatching today - watching the sea! 12 Gannets in almost 4 hours sounds very very bad, doesn't it? 100 Kitts in the same time sounds less bad, but there were 71 in the first hour....

So, a lot of time just watching the sea.

But [and yes, there is a but], as sometimes happens at Berry when it's quiet, if you gave it long enough you did get something, and what you got wasn't bad at all. The first birds I got in my scope were 2 [albeit extremely far out] adult pale phase Arctic Skuas. Coming in 3/4 on with the sun on their yellowy breasts and evidently much tail behind, I thought for a second they were something else. Very buoyant and tern-like they seemed, but then they obligingly banked and showed off equally coloured bellies before I opened my mouth [phew].

A juvenile Pom Skua [yep, another one] was much more obliging - coming in to harry some poor Kitts and getting something that required it to stop for a quick wash before heading on south. A few auks were moving - majority being Razorbills.

Eventually the promised stronger wind coming towards SE arrived, and with it some rain. At last, maybe something will start moving? Yeah, right. It started very well indeed, with two glorious little Little Auks in line ahead, close enough for a good scope view, but not so close as to be through in a flash :). Right before the light gave out, two Common Scoter [male and female] came through on the same line. Nowt but gulls in between.

While all this was going on, a red trawler was hauling and moving, with a huge cloud of birds, but always out of even the Big Scope's reach. That's seawatching, folks!

29 October, 2010

An Advocation of the Application of Steelies to Posteriors

Being Good and all that nonsense [or rather, having to get up far too early for work...] I missed the breaking news yesterday evening and so came to it fresh this evening. Thus the delayed blog posting and what would have been something brief about a happy ending to a long week of bugger all has this tacked on the front...

"If you see someone acting inappropriately at a twitch, or any other time, then do something about it!"


So, this week at work there's been very little verging on bugger all. Some rowers from up country have been messing about, which didn't help, but I can't blame them entirely. Until today I would have said that the highlight bird-wise was 7 whole Cormorants [including 2 slight ones which may have been the sinenses, but due to dodgy flight views are unascribable] flying upriver early morning. Today there were 2 Little Grebes on the river at lunch time - they came quite close and were very cute. :)

The weather today didn't deliver what all the assorted forecasters promised last night and if I hadn't had such a pig of a day that I needed the de-stressing, I most likely wouldn't have bothered to go to Berry Head for a post-work seawatch. I'm quite glad I did.
I arrived to find birders still present and that I'd missed a Glaucous Gull and a SEO, plus lots of Poms. I'd been fully expecting to find no birders and see little more than the odd Gannet, so this was hopeful. Birders leaving [or at least trying to ;) ] was less hopeful, but just looking at the sea is therapeutic. No, really it is. Honest. I'm not mad.

There were a few Gannets, Kittiwakes, and assorted gulls feeding in what was more an excitement than a frenzy, well offshore, and this group also included 2 Balearics. Eventually some skuas showed up to cause trouble - most notably a very nice juvenile Pom, which gave the poor Kitts plenty of grief. When the light gave out I'd seen 3 Bonxies and 2 Poms, plus 2 whole auks [Wow!] also a glorious view of a super-confiding female Kestrel with sunset background and a daringly early [especially with Kestrels around] Greater Horseshoe Bat - close enough and in enough light to ID for sure :D

Now then.. What to do tomorrow????

24 October, 2010

The Sunny South

After yesterday's seafest it was a change of pace today. Little car got a well-earned day off as I went for a wander around the Bolt with the folks. We did a loop from Bolberry to Bolt Head, then Starehole, East Soar, the airfield and Middle Soar, finishing with the Soar Mill valley. After a clear night with northerly winds, it was pretty much as dead as you'd expect - no hordes of Ring Ouzels and trees full of Firecrests and Yellow-brows for us!

There were a lot of Skylarks about - a passing flock of 40 gives a bare minimum figure - and a good variety of raptors, but the wind and the hordes of people milling around kept things quiet.This is not to say we saw nothing, in fact we had a few nice little encounters, and after it warmed up a bit the sun was positively balmy...

First sighting of note was two large skua spp., up high and well out to sea - I was expecting to see young gulls when I got on the 'odd dark birds', I admit, but they were... well, I'm not sure as they seemed too tail-y for Bonxies but definitely weren't Arctic and while 2 Poms are possible it's not likely, so 'skua spp.' they are. [[I'm pretty cautious about labeling skuas; of the 3 'spp.' yesterday, 2 were called by others as Pom, but I didn't really agree]].

After a long gap, with Green and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers at the RBF copse the best birds, I finally got on a Ring Ouzel behind Soar Mill - very briefly as it was flushed along with 2 Fieldfare by a low-flying Cessna.. Right before that we had an interesting encounter with a group of 8 Long-tailed Tits. Ok, why so interesting? Well, LTT there aren't that usual, but these little chaps gave good views of their pristine white breasts - A. c. europaeus! I wonder how long they've been here? There then followed, in karmic rebalancing, a Buzzard doing a very good SEO impression [sitting back towards us, feathers slightly fluffed to give the markings - *%£§€£ bird...].

Smarting from yet another Buzzard-based screw-up [like I'm not used to it - and to think I still feel sorry for them when I see them being crowed...] my feelings were rapidly salved by first a female Merlin flypast, then a female Sprawk giving a nice display of their soaring hunt. :) To cap things off with a 'Wow!', we were having a cuppa down slope [and thus out of the wind] near the car park when what should fly past but a frickin' Hobby! I'm pretty sure I've never seen one in October before [[and checking the DBR shows 22/10 is the average latest date for them 02-08, though the record is 9/12!]] and I couldn't quite believe my eyes. Earlier we'd seen 3 Swallows heading along, so perhaps it's not super late yet.

We also enjoyed some very showy Yellowhammers, a group of Linnets doing the Clown Car Routine from a very small Hawthorn bush, and with the usual Kestrel it was a 5 raptor day - not to be sniffed at.

23 October, 2010

...and the Ecstasy

Having had a good hard look at the forecast, I resolved to take a punt at a long-time bogey and general tart of mine by getting up at "....Aauuurrrgghhhhh......." O'clock and burning all the way down to Pendeen....

It takes a while to get that far into cornwall, especially when there are SPECS to pass, so I didn't sit myself down with the huddled masses by the Humungous Foghorn of Doom until 0930. As it happened, this wasn't that bad, as it had apparently been dead for most of the previous 2 hours of light....

I nearly didn't go - when I dragged up I saw a clear night full of full moon and nearly calm wind... Norty words were thought. Then I thought - "Ah, sod it - at worst I'll see how long it takes to get there and then I can try for the Barred Warbler at Treen.." Once I'm up, and all that nonsense.... On the way down it stayed clear and bright - though a Woodcock flying through my headlights on Little Haldon was a good omen - with only the odd brisk shower. Arriving at the Watch, as soon as I got out of my car, the wind, which could at best be described as 'brisk' and at worst as "Argh that was my hat!" told me things were on the up. Strong NW wind plus the odd hulking shower made for trade.

2 Sooties within the first 5 minutes, and what turned out to be a huge sustained passage* of Gannet, Kittiwake and auks [entirely Guilles and Razorbills, too] indicated that it might be worthwhile hanging around...

[*A party of scottish birders were counting everything; from what I could tell they got into multiple thousands, maybe even 5 figures, for all three]

The stand out, uncontested, oh hell yeah, at last at last, best super wonderful BIRD OF THE DAY was a very slippery but finally nailed thanks to the very nice guy sat next to me - only a

Leach's Petrel!!!!!!

I've seen a dead one, I've seen a probable one, but now at last I've seen a full Life Tickable one..
As you might have ascertained from my subtle hints, I'm quite pleased.

Also a lovely juvenile Sabine's Gull, 2 Little Gulls, 3 Grey Phalaropes, a full 50 skuas [mostly Bonxies], 10 Balearics, 16 Manxies, and no less than 5 Sooties passed in the 6 hours I gave it. I also missed quite a bit [incidentally, all but one of us missed the Little Shear] - Pendeen has many great qualities as a watchpoint, but it's a real bugger to get on stuff! I didn't even try counting Gannets, there were so many, I went through the Kitts for Sabs and noted a high proportion of juveniles [it's been a good year for them :) ], and checked the auk groups for odd ones [no dice].
It was one hell of a spectacle - strong passage in sunshine, with a big swell and the wind pulling up the white horses and sending the spray flying.... I had a blast. :D

21 October, 2010

Happy Trafalgar Day!

205 years ago today the Royal Navy saved the world from Napoleonic tyranny in one of the great turning points in history. While the French were far from beaten, after Trafalgar they had lost the chance to win. To Nelson and all who served under you; I remember.

This week so far has seen a couple of sightings of the big grey Grey Seal, plus Kingfishers three times and 2 Common Sand upstream today [That's 55 on the Work List now! :) ]. Interestingly, there's been a strange absence of Cormorants - until 4 flew upriver together this afternoon [No chance of IDing them to race]. Derek the Dane continues to hang about and yark disreputably, and the 3-way Wagtail Wars rage unabated!

We also had a mammal tick in the form of a Rabbit on the opposite river bank [??] and yesterday a great big whirlybird - a Chinook over low! Set off all the car alarms...

16 October, 2010

Wanderin' off...

No posts since Monday? Tut tut...

Ok, highlight of working week was Derek the Danish BHG finally coming close enough again for me to read his ring and confirm that yes it is him still hanging around with the 25-odd lazy buggers who've stayed in Totnes [as opposed to the other 225 or so who've moved on!]. No seal sightings, no more harriers [ok, there was only ever one harrier, but it was very exciting.]... er, there were 3 Buzzards up on Friday! [Woo]

Today I went for a wander up on't Moor - one of my favourite walks, in fact. Postbridge to Fur Tor.

Due to time constraints I'm not going to go into rhapsodical detail right now, suffice to say there were Wheatears and Ravens, and it was nice. I will post at length later [maybe tomorrow, maybe have to wait for Monday...]. There will be wibble, and possibly something controversial and naughty, so you probably ought not to read it.

Edit: Monday - time for adding stuff as promised.
Fur Tor is special. I've been in two minds about mentioning it much at all, for the entirely and unashamedly selfish reason of not wanting to have to share it any more than I am already forced to. But seeing as I do have to share it [with climbers mostly, these days] I might as well share the joy.
Fur Tor is a Tor you have to earn - you must cross rivers and hills, bogs and rocks to reach her, [even if you take the cheaty way]. She is also a she; not for nothing is she known as the Queen of the Moor, standing out on her own peninsula in the Moor's northern heart. When you get there, you are at the Most Isolated Spot in Southern Britain [It's official] - there is no traffic, no distant chatter of the masses, just the wind and the birds [and more often it's just the wind]. There is a quality of silence there that can reach right down into you. Find a good spot and you are set apart from the world - its there in the distance but you are untouched by it. With decent visibility you can see the sea both ways and all the high tors of the west Moor, when it's closed in the mist flows over you like a great river..

I walk there from Postbridge, following the West Dart up into the high moor, hanging a left to seek the Northwest Passage and then aiming for the grey ramparts as they rise over the shoulder of Cut Hill. If that sounds a bit vague and overblown then good, it's what I was aiming for ;) It's about 10 klicks each way, with multiple water crossings, proper peat bogs and a very pretty waterfall. There's paths all the way there [though also a hell of a lot that cross or go off the wrong way too - this is Dartmoor!] and it's not horrifically hard going, but I recommend a stick for the wet bits [as well as the usual decent footwear, waterproofs, map, compass, survival gear etc...]. You have to check the firing, as it's in Okie, though you can get there if they're firing on Merrivale [however you will either get soggy or risk trouble, as the path across the peat bogs of Cut Hill meanders along the boundary between the ranges - it has to be said that the Army are very nice and as long as you're following the edge they'll not usually arrest you.. ;) ] [[There's also a longer way across the top of Cut Hill that avoids Merrivale altogether, but it's a bit of a bugger.]]

The sun shone, the wind veered from N to NE but had only little teeth and those not very pointy. In fact, decked in my shiny new [thanks to ridiculous discount] winter fleece I was very warm and found myself regretting not lugging a water bottle with me. I overtook a group of DofEers, who turned off towards Rough Tor in annoyance ["How can someone in such a ridiculous hat catch us?!?" ;) ] but otherwise there were only distant hordes on the far tops - glorious! Fur Tor had some climbers, but I went to a spot in the boulder clitter [proper boulder clitter - sofa to truck size!] away from the big bits where it was nicely private. South and West and North ranged my view, with Brent Tor framed by fields, and with my li'l scope rested on my knees, nothing escaped my sight from the English Channel to the Bristol...

A less pleasant note now, I have to mention that there used to be a permanent Letterbox there, under the main outcrop - steel and concrete. I say 'used to be' because some thieving *£$&^$@£$%($+*§~ [*] stole it; not just the stamp [which is bad enough and did happen now and again] but the whole lot - they must have brought some serious gear to do it... [[This actually happened in late 2008, I think, but I didn't have this blog then, so as I am reminded of it now, you have to put up with my ranting. Sorry.]] Same thing happened at Fox Tor a long while back [you can still see the concrete emplacement, by the Fox]. Private Letterboxes get stolen all the time, a contemptible little crime, but the Four are, [or rather were] special and stealing them is especially heinous in my humble opinion at least.

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

Bird-wise the journey to and from [aided and abetted by some creative navigation] produced a small group of Redwing, and a couple of Brambling in with one of two sizable finch flocks. On the walk itself the usual moorland species were about, with a good number of Raven [at least 15] congregating near Lints Tor [must be something deceased]. At least 4 and probably 6 Wheatear played peekaboo at Fur Tor, and speaking of them... [[Controversy Alert, turn your eyes away now, Proper Birders!]] You know that 'Isabelline Wheatear' that turned up in Suffolk? Odd-looking thing, I thought. At least one of the Northern Wheatears at Fur Tor was a dead ringer for it, not to mention quite a few other autumn-plumaged Northern Wheatears I've seen... In fact, it looked much less like an Issie than the bird I saw back in September. Having said that, everyone knows you don't get Issies in Devon in September [or any other time], and you do in Suffolk in October, so that's ok. I know photos can of course be very misleading - in the feather its one thing, in a photo its another - and I'm not questioning my Betters, of course, but I think either the literature needs some updating or[[[THIS BLOG HAS BEEN TERMINATED FOR HERESY]]]

11 October, 2010

Post-Work Twitch II, The Revenge


That was my response to looking at my computer screen last night. I forgot to blog, I was so excited...

So, for anyone in Colombia who hasn't heard... Steve "Superman" Waite found a Solitary Sandpiper in The Backwater yesterday evening. A First For Devon, no less. I think the nickname is justified, don't you?

After last week's 'Only Birder in Devon To Dip Buff-breast' Saga, there were naturally questions;
Would it stay? Would it survive? Could I get from Totnes to Colyford and then yomp down to the Black Hole before it got too dark to see?

Oh hell yeah....


What a bird. What a bird. Close range, prolonged views, feeding, preening, flight, sitting looking decorative, alert posture... Wow. Lit by the late afternoon sun to glowing eyeringed perfection. Wow. I know I say wow a lot, but this time it's justified.

The day had been one of some tension, with a heady burst of frustration as 3 grey goose spp. flew downriver - not Canadas, not Greylags - beyond that I can't say a thing as they were past and upsun before I could get a good look... So close. Oh well. The Cormorants also stayed just out of range, though the Kingfisher flew by again [I'm almost getting used to it.. Which is quite a thing in and of itself :) ]

Sunday had me suitably unavailable for twitching Short-toed Larks - being up in the mist at Fernworthy! It was gorgeous up there, really wonderful, [though I did half expect Mulder and Scully to appear through the trees - it was a real X-Files fog ;) ]. Eventually the sun came out and it warmed up no end, though enough haze remained to put paid to any long views. Before that we were treated to many Crossbills - at first shapes and calls in the mist, but then some very good views and the full-on sleigh bells experience of a big flock up close! :D Also present, or rather passing, were the first thrushes of winter - 8 Redwing and then no less than 19 Mistle Thrush - while a Common Hawker was still on patrol below the dam.

Finally - if you take a look at Joe's blog, in the twitch shot for the Green Heron you can just see a bit of me. It's mostly hat [and no, I'm not the guy at the front!] but still, genuine Backward Birder caught on camera....

09 October, 2010

Very very Green

Since last I posted I have seen no raptors other than a Buzzard, nothing has flown in front of my car except Herring Gulls, Carrion Crows and a Pheasant, and the Dart's Cormorants... Ok, the sinensis were still tarting about on and off.

To the fun stuff! Today, like a fair few others, I made my way over to cornwall to the Found Gardens of Heligan [they're not exactly Lost anymore, really, are they?]. Arriving just after it opened, I found the Valley, to be told the Heron hadn't been seen and it'd been looked for since sunrise. I visibly deflated as the prospect of a terrible dip loomed up like, well, the horror of an impending Dip..... A Kingfisher where the Heron was supposed to be was scant consolation, as was the presence of Southern Hawkers - apparently a favourite Green Heron bait / food. Not much use if it's done a bunk..

Fortunately, all was not lost, as the little bugger had merely moved to another pool, where he proceeded [once he'd been found there] to show very well indeed, on and off. The viewing point was a wooden bridge over said pool, the strength of which was sorely tested! Various jokes about H&S were made, with the 'reassurance' given that "Don't worry about the water, it's shallow. The Piranhas, on the other hand....." Mostly, however, we were too busy watching this wonderful little bird stalking poor innocent Sticklebacks and generally being fabulous to worry about such trivialities. :)

After an hour or so, I let someone else have my spot and wandered off for a bite to eat and a look around the Gardens. They're quite something. I'm not particularly horticulturally-minded, but I do appreciate the scenery, and I love trees. There are some very nice trees there. They have a big hide with lots of remote cameras [the Springwatch influence is strong here ;) ] and a wide range of habitat to look at. Plus some sculptures in the woods [you have to see the sculptures - they're made of mud and wood] [Really. And plants.]. Anyway, after a couple of hours of munching bree and cranberry rolls [very nice] and covering a lot of paths, I went back the The Jungle to see if a) the crowds had cleared a bit, and b) if the Little Purple One [Green Heron is quite a lot of a misnomer] was feeling showy. Both were correct, so I spent another hour watching the fish population decreasing, with the bird working right up to the bridge, then flying back to the waterfall. :D

A truly wonderful bird in a worthy setting [and how often can you say that?]

05 October, 2010

More Surprises

Well, Fortune has been even more than her usual fickle self these last two days!
Firstly yesterday, when I jammed on to another good raptor on the trip home from work :D This one made me work a bit, though. It was only a couple of hundred metres before where I saw the Red Kite [[I did seriously consider calling you right off, Joe, but I realised that a) it was going away from you rapidly, and b) you were probably still in detention! ;) ]]; a long-tailed slim-bodied raptor of a fair size, gliding into the wind with wings in a 'v' but a closed hand and very broad-looking arm. Colour against bright white clouds was 'brownish' at best. It was, of course, a ringtail Hen Harrier [probably an immature] - but as almost all of mine have been more or less level with me if not well below me, and none were gliding into a fair wind as the ground fell away below them, the wing shape threw me somewhat. After a drive spent going over in my head what I'd seen, I got in and as soon as I set eyes on my shiny new Bird Guide 2.0 [with extra pics all over the shop] [[I like birfdays]] I remembered 'Oh yeah, Hens have bulgy secondaries!'. ID was secure.

Today, I first looked up at the right point at work and saw the Med Gull flying upriver, then a helpful colleague came to ask me 'Why was a Buzzard hanging around over the car park?' Answer being that it was keeping a close eye on a female Sprawk that was doing some soaring! My Work List is now perilously close to 50...
Having had an otherwise trying couple of working days, I finally cracked and decided a Devon Tick was a good reason to go twitching. Down to Prawle I toddled after work....
Said 'muddy field' looked worryingly empty. But! Another one next door! It did indeed contain 2 birds, running around! Wheatears. Arse.
Day late. Bird short. Oh well, there were plenty of the usual suspects you'd expect around there, and I had the satisfaction of deliberately NOT looking for and this time not seeing Plastic Polly, so it wasn't a complete waste...

Then, I thought - "Well, I'm down here, so I might as well go home via Slapton - it's a nicer route when there's rush hour townies coming the other way, after all..." No Great Reed Warbler. No Great White Egret. No Bittern, but to my still-grinning-right-now-I-assure-you delight.... Her Ladyship!!!!!!!!!
Yes, all that fuss over a female Marsh Harrier. But I had honestly given up any hope of ever seeing her actually at Slapton [unlike everyone else, their dog, and his Uncle Fido...] - I think I've gone on about this at you before so I'll spare you it again.

I may have dipped Buff-breasted Sand, but I'm still pretty chuffed. :)

03 October, 2010

Berry Head

The forecast having changed seemingly with every iteration, I decided to do things the old fashioned way; set my alarm for "Aaauuurghhh....." o'clock and see what the weather was doing.

Rain, wind, and lots of both.


Ok, "Argh - get up and get going...." would be more accurate.

Dodging assorted debris en route, I arrived at the seawatching spot at Berry not long after 7:00 to find it shockingly deserted! Ok, the sun hadn't actually risen yet, but still....

Sunrise through the clouds and rain was very pretty, and the cue for passage to begin. Having seen what passed Certain Other Places, I'm a little less happy than I was [I don't know where the hell the Sab's and the Long-tail got to, but they didn't pass Berry!] but vexation at norty birds aside, it was a good day.

Three brave souls joined and departed during the 7 hours I gave it, and while nobody got on everything we all saw something. [That sounded better in my head]. Skuas, while not close to Friday's numbers, were moving - especially after the front passed and the suddenly west wind blew a flood of Arctics out of Torbay. Interestingly, a lot of the skuas were happy to spend time chasing the 'poor innocent gulls of Torbay' instead of pushing on through, and many was the Geeb who got Bonxied! A very close Sooty was a real treat [unlike the Poms, which kept their distance], and several Balearics performed well too.

Notable scores [All South unless stated];
Stormie 1 [Came in behind trawler]
Sooty 3
Balearic 11
Pom Skua 2 [including one with bits of spoons]
Arctic Skua 24
Bonxie 26
Skua spp. 5
Razorbill 16
Arctic Tern 2
Common Scoter 1 [North, then back South]
Gannet 504 [on the clicker - but there were a lot I missed]
Kittiwake 99 [Ditto]
Harbour Porpoise 2+
'Lord Nelson' 1

Bashing assorted bits of cover for migrants produced no spectacular rarities [or even any unspectacular ones], sitting seawatching produced another Wheatear. :) Also several groups of passerines passed in several directions - including a group of 30+ finch spp. in/off from the ESE and 2 alba Wagtails out/to to the E.

I could have gone chasing a Devon tick in Prawle, or a Lifer [ish] in cornwall, but it's been too long since my last good seawatch, and I've not had enough generally this year - what with weather patterns and the whole work thing - so I'm happy with my choice. Did I mention I'm a bit of a seawatching junky?

02 October, 2010

Grit and Graft

Put into more Patch-bashing today. With some early rain after a clear start to the night, I thought there might be the odd migrant about. I can honestly say seawatching didn't occur - if it had, the adult Sabine's Gull a lucky chap got at Hope's this morning could well have been a real highlight... Drat and double drat.

I shouldn't be complaining at all, of course - I got an actual Patch and Garden tick today! :D Really not one I saw coming, either, especially in October;
So, I'm about to head out when I have a quick look out the back window and notice a goodly number of Blue and Great Tits [plus at least one Coal] knocking about - bins on and then I see something with them, something brown. Whisky Tango Foxtrot it's an acro!!!! An acro in a tree can only be a Reed Warbler [;)], and indeed it was. Ok, it might have been a Blyth's, I can't be utterly certain, but on jizz it was very Reed-y. If it looks like a 1w Reed Warbler, is shaped like a Reed Warbler, and moves like a Reed Warbler, then by golly it probably is a Reed Warbler!

Buoyed up by that, I went to bash the Patch.

Much bashing later, I realised that the day after a big front might not be so good. There were birds about, but the moderate and building southerly wind really did no favours, especially at the Nose. A few birds were in the Top Dell, but down and hiding as the wind whistled up it. The South Side and Bottom Dell had the same problem, but with less birds. The North Side is almost impossible to do anyway, though I surprised a Stonechat - I have to say it surprised me a bit too.. The wide cover on the Second and Third Slopes was also windswept, with only Blue Tits and Wrens hiding in the sheltered bits. Finally I got to the Fault Seat and, as it still hasn't fallen into the sea yet, sat down to watch the North Dell, as something tacky had flown in there on my approach.
You know you're having one of those days when you hear that odd tak suddenly call to the tune of 'Shave and a Haircut'.....

Things then looked up as I noticed an approaching gull that looked interesting - it was a Kittiwake! Adult winter plumage and flying at my level, it got closer and closer - finally passing so close I lowered my bins and went "Woah!" :D Then, just to rub it in, a 2w came along and did the same thing, so close I could've counted the remaining dark coverts in its wings. Kittiwakes are wonderful birds - I do feel a bit sorry for them, though, as you can't help but think, 'Yeah, they're lovely, but what about Sabine's...'. Its the same thing with Common Terns; lovely things, but then there are Arctics. They're the beautified versions. I'm rambling again....

So, no joy in finding vagrant passerines. [Stop laughing, one day I'll find a twitchable rarity, one day...] The day's highlights being the Reed Warbler in an apple tree, and two gorgeous flyby Kitts. All of which found me. Figures.

01 October, 2010

Being Good

Is a two-edged sword...

This week I have been good. Yesterday and today, for example, instead of running off after work chasing birds I was responsible and did things that needed to be done. [Ok, you could argue chasing birds needed to be done - especially Barred frickin' Warblers, nigh certain twilight dip though it would have been...]. Meanwhile, Joe "Spending October in Detention" Ray spent all his money and skived off school for two long-range twitches. Go look at his blog [yes, he's updated it! ::Gasp!::] and see. He got Alder Fly, Little Bunting, Buff-breasted Sands, rostrata Redpoll, Tysties, Golden and White-tailed Eagles, and he's gutted. No pleasing some people, I tell you.. ;)

Enough with the teasing, time for a very quick update; the original Grey Seal [big all grey one] was in the river on the flood tide [tide went up and stayed up!], a Grey Wag came over to have a look at us, also a 1w Little Grebe showed well; coming past very quickly! Lots of assorted detritus was washed downstream, but no lost seabirds came upstream - with the skua-fest at Berry today, you'd have thought one of the Arctics would drop by to annoy the BHGs... Oh well. Having believed the forecast, I decided not to go for Berry after work - as it happens I'd have had maybe an hour before the sun came out, so perhaps I made the right choice??!?? Certainly the sunshine has toned down the rant I was working on on my way home ['Phew!' I hear] and I shall limit myself to asking why so many people insist on backing out into the road?? You reverse in and drive out - its far far safer and kinder on your engine, for that matter. Today a woman in a black Disco almost reversed into my side coming out of her drive... [Yes, you read right; not out in front of me, but into my side as I passed!] It's pure laziness!
Ok, rant over.

Hmm, now then - the weekend looks interesting, doesn't it?