29 December, 2010

Who Left The Heating On?

Birding in a t-shirt on Tuesday, ridiculous....

After Monday's grebe-fest I gave the Patch an almighty bashing yesterday. Up hill and down dale I walked, many miles I covered. When I got back, my feets were sore and I realised that I really could have stayed in bed... 2 Razorbills and a Red-throat off Blackball were new, but only 26 GC Grebes could I find. Highlight was an interesting collection at The Priciest House in Devon; at least 36 Redwing, 6 Fieldfare, 5 Blackbird, 2 Mistle Thrush and a Buzzard were after worms on the neatly manicured lawns, but they weren't the good bit - that was a Grey Heron sat atop a cedar like King Muck... Oh deary me.

In the Garden, only 3 Redwing remained, but wonderful surprise, one Brambling had become two! :D With actual puddles on the flat roofs there was much bathing [and a deranged female Blackbird chasing anyone who tried getting into her puddle...]

Today I was again naughty. With the feeble excuse of wanting to see if the Moor roads were usable, I swanned off to the Dart to go looking for fun birds such as Mandarin, Dippers and Lesser Peckers... In a radical break from the expected I saw all three. [[Somebody pass the smelling salts, please]] Though only one of each. And only the Dipper performed. And oh but I had to work for that little duck...

It would have been pretty good, if only for one minor detail; quiet and misty, with enough snow still around to keep all but the most determined away - chances of a good bird or three on the river seemed high. But for that detail. Or rather, details, hordes of them. Brightly coloured yelling swarms of [[Many Ancient Devonian Swear-words]] kayakers, that's what. All the way down, too. I thought the Dart was supposed to be a really high grade river, experts only and so on. If so there must have been all the best kayakers in the country there today...


I covered a lot of river today and saw precisely one 'water' bird; a Grey Wagtail. Not that it wasn't nice - they're lovely little things. I caught up with a Mandarin on my second visit to my Secret Mandarin Site, where to my amazement there was also a Dipper. But I'm getting out of order.

The Holne Bridge and New Bridge areas had lots of kayakers, revving cars and deranged dogs, [[Ok, deranged dog - but it was definitely deranged enough for more than one]] but no fancy birds. I tried the Hembury road, which had some slush and ice but was passable and even managed to get into the car park over the sheet ice [it's mud-stained and looks like concrete..]. Hembury Wood - home of a hill fort, pretty woodland, a stretch of river well-known for birds, and some very long steep climbs... Parking at the bottom may be the wimpy thing to do, but sod it.

Doing a full check of the river there I saw more kayakers, [coming at nice intervals to make sure the river was clear], plus the aforementioned Grey Wag. It was very atmospheric, with the mist and the snow and so on, though also very quiet - a couple of tit bands, a few Nuthatches and so on. Time had wandered on a long way before I gave up on the river as lost for the day and walked back to the car park for a very late lunch. The trees there have a reputation for LSW and I figured sitting quietly away from the paths and river might let me see something, and would definitely help me feel more mellow about the so far frustrating day. A Lesser didn't even let me sit down! Of course, it did what they almost invariably do when confronted with me; go "Oh shit, it's the Backward Birder!" and fly off as fast as their little wings will carry them... ;)

As I felt better I tried the Mandarin Site again, and after much quiet re-positioning I got a view of a female's backside. I moved for a side view, she made like a banana. Drat. Much nicer was a Dipper. A Dipper not on running water, whatever next? Just goes to show how much of a nuisance those- sorry, no more complaining about kayakers. I watched the Dipper for a while as it found the little inflow and did it's best to pretend it was in a proper river. It might not sound like it as you read this, but I was getting some really good views, much closer than you usually get - Star Bird Award, for sure.

Having spent the day out and about, I don't know if any Brambling are still with us [there seemed to be a lot fewer Chaffinch] and I only saw one Redwing in a quick glance out the back before I left.

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