31 March, 2011

Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I sits and seawatches

Well, March hasn't quite marched out like a lion, but there has at least been rain and wind enough to get me down to the Nose for a bit of seawatching..

Yesterday had commitments getting in the way [[and the promise of a Far Too Early one to come now, joy..]] but this morning I dragged myself down there and spent 4 and a half hours mainly watching Herring Gulls and Guillemots... There was some passage - an amazingly dead-on 24 Gannets an hour and totals of 37 Fulmar and 11 Kittiwake. This is not to say it was totally dead; despite regularly threatening to get very sunny, the clouds always came back, the wind resolutely stayed SW [even reaching SSW at points] and I even got some rain. Well, drizzle, but it cut visibility very nicely. :) Anyway, there were a few gems among the hours of gravel.

First up was a light morph Arctic Skua, which headed into Tor Bay from the east and thus nearly avoided me - if I hadn't been following a Kitt I'd have missed it. Hot after that was a shearwater sp., which stayed in the gunk and flew with an annoyingly indeterminate action, the little git. It was probably a Balearic, but I can't be sure. [Drat]. A while later, the only reasonably close goodie arrived in the form of a Bonxie. It came came trolling south, went behind the Ore Stone and didn't come out the far side. It could still be there [so watch out! ;) ]. Continuing the pattern of skua - miss was a scoter sp. half an hour later. It looked good for Velvet, but resolutely stayed in front of sunny bits of water, so I couldn't be certain that what I was seeing was white secondaries and not burn-through from the back-lighting. It flew into the Bay and within two minutes the sun was hidden by cloud again. [Double drat] The final gem was a very distant and very fast Puffin- oh but it was moving!

Additional notes are of a 1w RT Diver on the sea, the 4 Razorbill which flew in from the north and sat on the sea until I left, the count of 310 Guilles on the Ore Stone and the amusing sight of Shags and Cormorants trying to carry some quite big bits of nesting material into a strong headwind.. :) Finally, an interesting Herring Gull was knocking about the Lead Stone for a while - a very dark 1w with a pale head, dark tail and strongly barred tail coverts. I've seen these discussed somewhere online this winter, but I can't remember where [probably somewhere in a Famous Online Forum About Birds]. It was an interesting bird to look at [[and no, definitely not a yank, don't even think about it! ;) ]], as were the others in a very varied assortment of immature Herrings and Geebs. Yeah, I had quite a bit of time..

After I called it a day, I took a rather scenic route home via Preston, just in case that scoter had decided to drop in. It hadn't. Oh well.

So, lots of effort for a few mostly distant [ok, very distant] bits of quality with much waiting in between - pretty typical for the Nose! The Patch Yearlist cranks on, which is good, and I got neither soaked nor frizzled, which is also good. Ooh! Last word and something funny - group of Guilles flying towards the Ore Stone, one has a clear white gape line! WTF!?!* I follow it in to land on a ledge, and it is indeed seemingly neither smaller nor darker than the others, [in flight it had no other Brunnich's characters notable, though as it was in a group the view wasn't great]. It resolutely keeps its breast pointed away from me, but still shows a white line along its gape. After a minute or so of sitting around, it finally reveals the fish it had been holding in its bill - head forward! No chicks to feed yet, so evidently this was a spare it carried home for later after it had filled up and couldn't quite close its bill over. Greedy Guillemots, whatever next...

[[*This being the point where I thought 'It must be a fish in there, but they can't be feeding chicks yet, can they?']]

PYL: 102

29 March, 2011

Near Misses and Nearly Missed

Yes, horrific title 'humour' again...

Apologies for the lack of posting, I really don't know what came over me, it just kept slipping my mind. Getting old... Long day in the field and the first bout of evening birding* of the year may also be contributory factors.

[[*Evening birding, {heading out in the evening for the dusk chorus, last burst of feeding, roosting etc.} is not quite as good as being up first thing, but oh it's so much easier to do! ;) ]]

Right then, on with the jibber-jabber.
After Friday's Willowy Goodness, I gave the Patch more bashing, hoping for migrants and maybe even a Hoopoe of my very own [ha ha ha...]. I managed some nice Bullfinches and another near-miss with what sounded very like a Garden Warbler [[I narrowly missed what looked and sounded horribly like one earlier in the week {This was cut from my last post because I didn't want to lump in a huge paragraph. I don't want to stick one in here, so will limit myself [yes, this is a big cut-down] to saying that I only ID on sight this early due to vocal overlap between birds not in full song. }, it might have been a Blackcap being diabolical, so no-go. If only I'd seen it's head.. ::Shrugs::]].

As the sun went down on Saturday, there was a single GC Grebe off Blackball. Monday saw more Patch-bashing in the breeze, with only singing Chiffs approaching report-worthiness. In between was a yomp up to Fur Tor with the Folks, which was lots of fun, though not a single Wheatear did we see. The combination of a wet winter and a very dry March has given some interesting conditions up there, with the wet bits being wet, but everything else dried out and parched-looking. Tilly managed to fall into the Dart, which was very funny - she had gone down a sloping rock to get a drink from a deep bit, put a paw into the water as she lent forward, but the rock was slippery and she went somersaulting in. :D After swimming around and finding a way out, she got her revenge by making sure to shake next to each of us in turn ['orrible dog..]. It was a good walk, with the mist pretty much burnt off as we reached Cut Hill - doubtless it helped to keep it quiet [apart from the inevitable TenTorsies..]. The day was neatly rounded off by the sight of a single Swallow, sat on a wire at Bellever on our way back.

Today, with mist, murk, and rain I decided to give the car a run and went down to Berry Head. A gungy weekday should mean it'd be nice and quiet after the morning wog-dalkers, so a good shot at actually seeing a Blackstart? Yeah, right... The strimmers in the South Fort were unfortunate, the guy with the border collies, who I swear was following me around in the North Fort was annoying, and the schoolkids climbing in the quarry were by then quite funny... Oh well, 'nearly' again. The usual residents were present and correct, so on to a seawatch! Definitely sea watching [and mist watching, for that matter]; 30 Gannets, 3 Kittiwakes, a Common Gull and a Shelduck went by south. Not the worst seawatch ever, but wait - what's that trying to balance on top of a chunk of insulating foam? Only a frickin' Sarnie! Result. :) The seemingly promising [in a 'You never know what might show up..?' kind of way] light-ish wind and mist looked like it had failed to deliver, so I decided that an hour was enough and packed up the Big Scope [hardly used, the mist was at bin range], then took one last bin scan before leavi- "Ooh, what's that on the sea? Taking off and flying out south east, it's got to be a Fulmar flying funny. Yeah, it's just taken off and that's why it's flying like a Balearic, any second now it'll start flying like a Fulmar and turn to show off it's big white Fulmar head and go "Ha ha, got you going!'. Though it does have a dark rear end, the wings are wrong too and its still flying like a Balearic. Oh look, it's not got a big white Fulmar head either, because it is a Balearic!"** Bingo.
Balearic Shearwater; any time, any weather, you never know.

Then, to cap it off, there were two very showy Wheatears in the quarry.

[[**Yes, that was me trying to string a Balearic into a Fulmar... Dear oh dear oh dear.]]

25 March, 2011

One Ton Warbler

Willow Warbler at Hope's Nose today brought up the ton for the Patch Year List. :D I'd given the early migrants another shot and after a bit of waiting, the South Side gave up a couple of Chiffs [too busy feeding to even call much] and then the surprise WW. With thanks to a couple of Jays for flying in and stirring things up. Having finally gotten Chiff on Monday, they all have come out of hiding and are everywhere - I counted 13 on the patrol this morning. On the same patrol, a male Bullfinch showed very well down to about 12' - albeit through a bush - near Walls Hill, 2 Mipits and an alba wagtail flew over north and my first Comma of the year was on Ilsham Marine Drive.

Many more butterflies - mostly Brimstones - at Yarner on Wednesday, when I got around to an enjoyably quiet day mapping nestboxes. You may have seen the report of LSW 'near Box 42'? It has to be asked; which Box 42? Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies, plus 4 encounters with deer [quite possibly a single long-suffering herd...] and the interesting experience of hearing all three 'peckers but not seeing one were notable features of the day. I knew it was going to be a fun one when the first bird I encountered was a Nuthatch doing a passable LSW... :)

Blackcaps have started singing on Patch - the most recent being one right out the back! This really takes me back, as they used to breed over there ::Points:: before it got fashionable to hack down trees and destroy hedges... Breeding activity in general continues apace, with all manner of local avians seen with assorted bits of nesting material / singing / chasing each other around and around. A look at the Harbour this PM produced a 1w LBB that was dinky and long-winged enough to merit a closer inspection, but it turned out to be a dinky long-winged graellsii. Of more interest, perhaps, was the Grey Wag at the Post Office roundabout. [[What is it about Torquay Town Centre that attracts them???]]

I've been very good and resisted the urge to dip the Hoopoe, due to a) the Backwater being a lot of petrol away and b) the sure and certain knowledge that the day I go for it will be the day after it leaves.. [[First breeding Hoopoe in Devon since... ;) ]]. The thorough and diligent search for gainful employment continues. [[Despite printing wanted posters, hiring bounty hunters and swearing in the biggest posse this side of the Rio Grande, the slippery varmint continues to elude me...]] How long is it until Dragonfly season??

PYL: 100

21 March, 2011

99, baby...

It's the day after the equinox, the Sunny Side of the year is here - so naturally it's been misty all frickin' day long...

Hmm, misty morning? Right, down to the Nose, 'cos you never [THIS PUN HAS BEEN REMOVED FOR REASONS OF PUBLIC MENTAL HEALTH].


A Blackcap was singing, up in a Very Rich Person's garden on IMD - a lingering german or returning local [so to speak]? While the mist was rolling over the Nose, giving the top and north side a chilly dank feel, on the sheltered south side it was positively balmy :) TCCT have hacked out a fair chunk of scrub but have left the main part of the South Side intact [so far..] which is a boon for the scores of migrating passerines who take shelter there. The Top Dell has had a slight trim, and you can see the tower again, but that also seems to be it [I sincerely hope]. I gave them both a good going-over and was at last rewarded with Chiffchaffs! A couple even started singing! Woo and indeed hoo. Better yet, the first one I laid eyes on looked horribly good for a tristis - and as it called like one I guess it was. :D I would hope that I'm not so useless a birder [[Stop laughing..]] to miss one of these little chaps knocking about my Patch all winter, so I suspect it's moving through from somewhere else. It was certainly feeding well - all the Chiffs were putting on a good display of flycatching and insect-picking.

Also of note was a singing male Linnet - becoming a scarce bird on my Patch, especially in summer - and a Grey Seal swimming south past the Nose and being mobbed by every gull in sight whenever it surfaced [Don't know why - I wouldn't have thought seals would bother with gulls, and it's not like they can climb up to their nests, is it?]. In the Ilsham Valley, the first Bluebells are up and the riot of flowers is well and truly going. :) Blackcap sightings in the Garden continue, though the Chaffinch numbers seem to have dropped back to the one or two you'd normally expect.

[[Finally, seeing as nobody's bothered, I'll tell; the Hen Harrier at West Sedgemoor in January.]]

PYL: 99

20 March, 2011

Here Comes Summer.

Well, since last I posted I have mostly been diligently jobseeking in a variety of manners. This involved going out in the rain on Friday and staying in out of the sun on Saturday, which is getting things backwards in a nicely ironic way. But what can you do?

Stop blathering about that and get on with the birds, probably..

This is going to be a short post [[No, really.]] So some highlights; Goldcrest repeatedly in the Garden :) No Patch Year Ticks - that's right, still no sign of any Chiffs. [[I'm starting to suspect a conspiracy...]]. One single GC Grebe off Blackball yesterday. A Buzzard having a go at a Woodpig [It missed but gave the pig one hell of a fright!].

Today we defied the threat of cloud and rain to go up on't Moor again. Forecasters' failure meant blazing sunshine and a cool breeze. Result. Princetown to Plym Ford to Erme Head to Ducks' Pool to Fox Tor, to the sound of a chorus of Skylarks, Mipits and... er, Crows, Ravens and Buzzards... It was fun, nobody fell in the water, and Tillbury Dog had a right old time. We met our first lizard! of the year - a Green Flavour*, the little tart even posed for us. The Ten Tors lot were again out in force, so never less than a dozen people in sight at any time [this is the fourth reason why I don't like the Ten Tors, btw]. One poor group had been forced to wear bright pink high-vis jackets [[I did try my best to wait until I was out of earshot to snigger, really I did.. ;) ]], but other than that there was a marked lack of daftness; especially silly hats, which is a poor show, if you ask me.

[[*Lizard!s come in 4 flavours - Brown, Grey, Grey and Green, and Green - I don't hold with this whole 'species' nonsense.. ;) ]]

To get back to birds and end on a high; on the journey out I heard my first singing Yellowhammer of the year. :)

[[Short post. Not bad, eh?]]

17 March, 2011

Golden Carpets

It's not just Bluebells, you know. Find the right wooded valleys at this time of year and the daffydowndillies are something else...

Due to [CENSORSHIP REASONS] I'm going to be no clearer about where I went, but it was lovely. This came after my original choice [Yarner to dip Lesser Pecker again and map the nest boxes {because their esoteric numbering system has been quietly bugging me for years..}] turned out to be full of primary school children. Joy of joys. Don't get me wrong, now. I approve of primary school children going to Yarner - my first visits there were as a primary school child, and despite it absolutely pissing down every single time, I acquired a love of the place I retain to this day - I just would rather not be there at the same time. The living velvety silence you can find among the trees isn't child compatible, unfortunately.

So I turned my little car around and went elsewhere. Also full, though more retired couples and dog walkers. What will you do? Accept your karma with as much grace as you can muster and meander around to the bit people don't bother with so much as it requires climbing very steep slopes and navigating great big 'orrible muddy puddles. Some shameless detouring and hanging back got me a few patches of quiet. Well, until the RAF put in a fly-by; GR4s with Storm Shadows under their wings - yes, they were low enough to clearly ID the ordnance - Tornados are noisy buggers.... [[I'm reminded of the first time I saw a Tornado close to, but that's a longer digression.]]

Getting back on track.. I amazed myself by actually hearing a LSW. Little git waited until I was on the other side of the river before calling, so it could escape unseen, but I heard it! A couple of Dipper views were also forthcoming, and the Grey Wags showed quite well. Yomping up a hill for lunch, I met some partridges - flushing a couple of Red-leggeds and finding the remains of a Grey. There were plenty of singing Chiffchaffs spread around - a whole lot more than on my Patch, where the sum total for this year is still 0... Tut. [I gave it another big bash yesterday, but to no avail.]

It was a pleasant wander on a warm sunny day. Ok, warm sunny morning, as it did get a bit nippier as the day wore on and cloud and wind picked up. It also marked the first day this year that The Silly Hat got worn. Summer is a' Cumen In.


PYL: 98

15 March, 2011

A Little Surprise

Another Sunday, another day on't Moor with the Folks [whatever next!]. This time the north east, from Scorhill to the White Moor circle, then south to Wild Tor and on to Hangingstone Hill, 'round the head of the Walla Brook to Watern Tor, before looping back to Scorhill. The sun shone, the wind blew, the Skylarks sang, Tilly found a sheep bone and strutted along with it sticking out of the side of her mouth like a cigar... No Wheatears up there, but it was a good walk all the same. While the wet bits are pretty wet from the winter, the ground itself [with no significant rain for a while now] is dry but not hard, so excellent going. Visibility was excellent [unlike the last few occasions] and if it wasn't for mad sheep [["Ooh, there's a dog over there, let's stand in front of her and make her go crazy!"....]] we'd have spent a lot longer enjoying the views.

Last two days have been spent, when not diligently jobseeking, pounding the streets and paths of the Patch. A couple of Mipits on Walls Hill yesterday were definitely migrants [Despite it's vague similarity to Beer Head, no ground birds live there due to near 24 hour wogdalking {{Yes, I've nicked it, no I'm not sorry}} - I kid ye not, I've seen people walking their dogs by torchlight up there...]. The 2 BN Grebes remain in the north end of the bay, but no further sign of Yellowy-legged Gull in the harbour. Still no sign of any frickin' Chiffs, either :( Much singing and general to-do among the 'ordinary' birds, and in the Garden, we still have our Blackcaps [though only one at a time - a timeshare truce seems to be the order of things].

Spring is definitely sproinging, though - leaves on some trees, popping buds on others, the first Campion flowers :) A Small Tortoiseshell fluttered by me this morning, and a fearless Bank Vole scurried right past my feet up in the Lincombes - just foraging away, utterly unbothered by me [Desperate, deranged, or the World's Hardest Vole?] [[I couldn't help but think of it talking in badly-dubbed Cantonese...]]. Once the misty murk had burned off it was a gloriously sunny day, with the wind, while still cool and easterly, much reduced from yesterday. Thus it was that I was very surprised, when checking [for form's sake - onshore winds and a still rolling swell do not make for many grebes] off Blackball to see among the half dozen Black-headed Gulls picking at the flotsam and jetsam none other than an adult Little Gull! I've never seen one in such comparatively calm conditions before - flying past headlands or foraging in the crashing surf at Livermead is the usual backdrop, not picking stuff out of the foamy drifts off Oddicombe Beach in a rolling sea and moderate wind.. Yesterday would have been more like it [Ok, maybe it was there then too and I just missed it. Thinking about it, that seems quite likely...].. They don't call it Mad March for nothing, I suppose - maybe I'll get a Hoopoe next! [[Ho ho...]]

P.S. - The Competition is still going, btw, come on, you know you want your name up in lights [well, red, or green, or orange, or blue.. I'll do white if you really want ;) ]

PYL: 97

12 March, 2011

At Last!

They're heeeeeeeeeeeere!!!!!!!!!

Having resolved not to blog again until I had a nice Wheatear on my Patch to blog about, the little gits kept me waiting. Tut. Still, all is forgiven, even if the female at Hope's Nose this morning did little more than flash her white arse at me and fly off 'round the corner.. Also at the Nose today - Bullfinches. My cup runneth over :D

In the interval between last post and this, when not failing to find Wheatears [and Chiffchaffs, but I'm not getting into that now] or being rejected by online cod-psych tests [definitely not getting into that] I do have a few bits of news that might even be of interest.

Black Things on the Sea!
On two days there have been scoter [well] off Blackball - this is highly unusual for my Patch, with past non-flybys being off Meadfoot or Preston/Paignton only. Wednesday saw a party of 5 diving then swimming off north - 2 males, and one definitely Common [so presumably they all were, but they were far enough out to need ID by wingflap]. Today there were 2 sitting on the sea, eventually they wingflapped to prove they were Common - again far enough out that headshape wasn't reliable in the haze.
Even more surprising - on Wednesday also the frankly shocking sight of 3 Coot fairly close in off Babbacombe Pier, diving for seaweed! I had no idea they even did this [I mean, they're Coot, you don't see them on the sea...] but apparently in northern climes they overwinter in harbours. Learn something new every day.

On a day that shall remain undisclosed, I went to a secret place hoping to see a secret bird. I succeeded. Brilliant!! :D
[[I really hate that I have to censor my blog. The things I wish I could share...]]

On Thursday, having lugged the Big Scope down to the Nose to count the Guilles [318, by the way, so getting towards full strength] I decided I might as well take a wander around the lower bits of the Exe. The wind picked up progressively all day and at Dawlish Warren the sand was flying. I hid behind the lifeguards' hut and had a look at the sea, where the light was glorious.. Surf, Velvet and at least 15 Common Scoter, 2 Slav and 7+ GC Grebes and 2 Razorbills were picked out beautifully. A Bonxie and 5 of the C Scoter flew south and one of the male Commons repositioned closer to Langstone, flying very close and showing wonderfully. Unfortunately, I was getting sandblasted while all this was going on and so decided to give the rest of the Warren a miss and head inland. [I was de-sanding myself for the rest of the day - joy].
A quick look from Cockwood Crossing gave at least 30 RB Mergansers and a couple of Goldeneye, plus lots of the usuals before I moved on to Powderham Bend. A brief pause at The Castle revealed no Ospreys, not that I really expected one, but you never know. Once on site, the female Scaup showed briefly, before sneaking away when I took my eyes off her. Tut. The main Brent flock had no Red-breasted Geese with it, though there was a pale-bellied Brent as a consolation [I'd wanted to get a good look at the remaining RBG to see if it was the one with bling or not]. I plonked down in the lee of the levee wall and watched the tide go out. 5 flavours of gull, plus assorted waders and wildfowl. Might not have been most peoples' idea of fun, but I enjoyed it. Watching flocks of waders fly in, feed, then fly on. Listening to the geese behind me and jumping up when they flushed [300 Brents in flight might not be as spectacular as the show on the Fleet, but they're still pretty good] - they went up twice and I didn't see either cause - and moving to watch them come to the river for a wash and brush up.

Finch Fun
Needing to do Stuff at Heathfield let me get in a visit to a sunny Yarner, hoping for Lesser Pecker. No dice, of course, but the Siskin on the niger feeder put on a great show to compensate. Singing Nuthatches and Treeeeecreeepers, plus just being at Yarner on a quiet day made it worthwhile.
Back home a surprise Garden Mega! Goldfinch!!!!! Only one, and it got chased out by a deranged female Blackbird, but still wow! I know Goldfinches may be 30-a-penny to some of you, but this is a "Count 'em on the fingers of one hand in 30 years" rarity for me.

Not Seen You 'round Here for a While..
One of the less ugly* weird Herring Gulls made it's first appearance in the Harbour for more than a year - the Yellowy-legged Gull! This is exactly what it says on the tin. An adult argenteus Herring Gull in all respects except for a distinct yellow tinge to its legs. Definitely not an omissus. Ah, the tangled web of gull genetics - lump the lot of 'em!! ;)
[[*I might have said 'prettier', but these are Herring Gulls...]]

Where's a nice Russki Scoter when you want one?
Oh yeah, Kerry....

Right then, I'm off to the beach to wave a bunch of mussels and whistle 'Unbreakable Union of Soviet Republics'....

PYL: 96

07 March, 2011


Been bashing the Patch, hoping for Wheatears despite the norty wind blowing the wrong way, but still no joy. Yesterday covered different ground with the first proper Moor day with the Folks in a long while. We went for a wander to Great Links Tor, and very nice it was too. To our surprise the sun actually came out and stayed out, so while the wind was fresh to say the least, once we got out of it [Great Big Lumps of Granite are handy for that] it was very pleasant. Views towards cornwall were obscured by haze, and the wind helped keep a lot of the birds out of sight, though a few Ravens performed very well, and a Kestrel took impressive advantage to hover without flapping. The ground was just nicely soggy - easy on the feet without getting you covered in mud [well, unless you don't pay enough attention.. ;) ].

Saturday was a great big blank bird-wise, but today rescued things with 3 Purple Sands and 6 Turnstones in the sunlight at Haldon Pier [usual comments about counting them among the boulders]. A pretty much entirely s/pl BN Grebe was close off Princess Pier and nothing of note amongst the gulls. Hope's Nose provided some fun with at least 3 Harbour Porpoises, 2 Red-throated Divers [one in full s/pl] and a Guillemot along an edge between clean and dirty water [caused by onshore wave action, not the outfall]. Singing Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits were lovely, but I still haven't heard let alone seen a Chiffchaff on Patch this year.. :(

Last night I did hear the local Tawny Owl getting vocal - good to know he survived the winter!

PYL: 94

04 March, 2011


Yes, really.

Not quite yet, though.

So, these last few days I have been particularly busy trying to find gainful employment in a variety of guises. No news yet as to any success, though many hoops have been jumped through and if this was a different kind of blog I'd tell you all about them, oh yes....

While you're breathing a collective sigh of relief, I'll also say that I've done a bit of assorted Patch bashing, with no Wheatears [yes, still a touch early and wind the wrong way, but it's March and it's sunny so it's worth a shot]. I have had some successes; a Grey Wagtail for the Patch Year List - naturally this was in Torquay town centre [right by where I did my course last year!] and at last a Stonechat for the same [I don't know where they've been hiding]. Today there was a nice 4w LBB in the harbour - bill, legs and a few coverts aged it - on the darker side of graellsii, with a 1w LBB, 3 Geebs, 82 assorted Herrings and a BHG. Wednesday had even less in the Harbour, though there was a Moorhen, but redeemed itself with two moulting BN Grebes and 6 GC Grebes close in off Princess Pier / Torre Abbey.

This evening I tried a little star-gazing with the folks in the hope of seeing the International Space Station come over. This it duly did, and while through bins it was mostly a bright blob, as it went into the Earth's shadow, it faded enough for a few seconds' view of it's structure. If [oh, a big if] I remember and its actually clear again, I'll try with the Big Scope tomorrow night. While we were waiting, we were treated to my parents' first experience of audiomig, with a group of Oyks over north! :D

Right then, now for the fun.....

Having finished a film trying to shoot Spoonbills with sticks [because you have to.] I am in possession of assorted 'photos' [term used very liberally], and it occurs to my twisted mind to foist some on you. You remember my lovely Migrant Hawker from last year, don't you? Nope, nothing that 'good'.
[[Run while you can]]
Firstly, I thought I'd give you a couple of photos from last August, one ok, one not so much, as they're a wonderful promise of the hot sunny stuff to come [and on that day it really was...].

Isn't he gorgeous?

Much more of a record shot and as is normal with damsels, just out of focus...

Now for the fun one! The competition is to identify what the hell it is I've photographed. This image has been messed around so much even it's Mum wouldn't know it, as the original is just a white blur [bloody photoscoping..]. Anyone brave enough to guess and lucky enough to get it right will have their name up in the colour of their choice for the world to see and envy! Wow. [Oh no, my server's crashing already.... ;) ]

Here goes;

I'd like to finish by promising wholeheartedly that there will be no more photos for at least as long as it takes to finish another film. [Oh, and no complaints or you'll find out how the Spoonbill shots came out....]

PYL: 93

01 March, 2011

Responsible Vehicle Ownership

Requires you to give your car a long run now and again. Especially if it's been laid up for a couple of weeks while you've been struck down by plague. It's good for the engine.

So, where to? The Dove From Above* was tempting, but outside Defined Twitch Radius, and not that tempting. The Gull of Doom* was more tempting, but way outside Defined Twitch Radius and on the wrong side of London and there. The Tea Tray* was even more tempting, and while Defined Twitch Radii [sic] can be bent, it's mobile and elusive nature was an issue.

Or I could visit somewhere I've been meaning to get to ever since I acquired a Shiny Key and have a go at the Tundra Peregrine. With Tundra Bean and Pink-footed Geese, Spoonbills maybe even doing something, the possibility of another Bittern, and a leucistic Lapwing too - who could say no??

Also a nice run for the li'l car, once I got past the assortment of temporary traffic lights that multiply like bacteria at this time of year...

[[*No, I'm not going to apologise for those.]]

Walmsley Sanctuary was pleasantly overcast with a fresh breeze blowing from the NE - ie. straight into the hide. It was also typically packed with birds and a joy to behold. No sooner had I walked in than [Cornish Birder] pointed out the Tundra Peg, sat in a field looking, well like a great big scary falcon sat in a stubble field. Brilliant! I sat myself down to get a good look at it.. and it flew off. Drat. BV most definitely D, but I was ready to wait.

There was plenty to keep me occupied in the mean time. Spoonbills x 3 started playing around with sticks and balancing on the stone wall [[one such 'stick' was longer than the Spoonbill holding it; when it tried to hover while holding said stick.... oh dear oh dear............]]. The Bittern flew in and, after striking a few poses, spent a good quarter hour hunting in flooded rushes at the back of the marsh. Later it decided to go for a run, heading towards the public hide before it's courage failed and it hid behind the stone wall. Perhaps it had been inspired by the pair of Red-legged Partridge which had gone whizzing along a bank on the other side of the main pool a few minutes earlier? The four grey geese were also most accommodating - posing like they were auditioning for the 3rd edition of Collins, even swimming in front of the hide. Shameless hussies the lot of them! ;) All the while noisy Canadas flew in and out [[often very close to the hide - we really need a tower hide at Exminster, you know.]], while waders [Curlew and Lapwing {Including the leucistic individual}, plus a few Snipe] and wildfowl [Mute Swans {no Whooper}, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler {40}, Pochard {3}, Tufty, Gadwall, Pintail{6}] plus at least 4 Little Grebes and plenty of Coot and Moorhen kept active. A fair-sized flock of Starlings [about 700] was mobile around the fields east of the reserve, with several hundred more scattered around within it.

Time passed. While all the fun in the last paragraph was happening, [Cornish Birder] left, [Famous Cornish Birder] arrived for a quick look about, then left too. I was glad I'd wrapped up [though wishing I'd wrapped up a bit more]. More than 3 hours had gone by - lunch was eaten and the coffee was getting low [[Oh no!]] - when at last the Wigeon suddenly all hit the water [This being the sign that the Peregrine was likely about]. Was it ever! Coming from the estuary, it popped over the trees right of the hide and made a mock attack on the Wigeon, Curlew and Starlings on the right side of the main pool, curved around right in a low circle, then banking right over in front of the hide, before it turned away and powered off low up the Amble - lifting a touch to clear the wire fence at the back of the Sanctuary - and finally disappearing behind the trees. Ho-ly Shit. The photos do not do this bird justice.

After ascertaining that it hadn't landed anywhere - which took about half an hour [[I think I might have been in shock ;) ]] - I decided that it would be a good idea to beat the rush hours at Wadebridge and Bodmin and also take in a minor detour to settle a small outstanding matter. Dozemary Pool was as cold and bleak as you'd expect from 6 degrees and windy, but this time it wasn't frozen, and so the drake Lesser Scaup was at a nice distance for proper appreciation [as opposed to being on Colliford at the limits of ID-able range]. This it duly got, as did the 3 Goldeneye, 7 Teal, 7 Tufty, 4 Mallard, 2 Little Grebe, 60-odd Lapwing and the 300 strong flock of Golden Plover. Some of which were in almost full s/pl. :) It's not often you can head home having seen everything you hoped for and a bit more. Ok, so I did spend 4 hours sat in the wind [and 45 minutes huddled against a stone wall, also in the wind] for my birds, so it wasn't quite the piece of cake it reads as [[Got to learn to write better..]], but still... great day.

It's good to be back.