26 September, 2011

What Goes "Tiiiu!"?

A vibrating whistled flight call, sounded quite thrush-y, could be written Tyyu or Tiioo even, definite drop at the end. Closest description on a look through Collins is Redshank, but this was completely different... [Writing down bird calls is tricksy stuff...]
Answers on a postcard, folks.

But more on that later.

After another week of fun and frolics at work, I decided to Have Some Fun and spent Saturday wandering around t'Moor. Yes, I went to Huntingdon Warren AGAIN. I don't know what it is about that place, really...

This time I finished my shufti from last time [cut short due to minor injury] by taking another way - via Ryder's Hill. Ah, Ryder's Hill, one of the highest spots on the southern moor, a meeting place of paths and a serious viewpoint. Also home, on sunny windy days, to the Horrible Hairy Flies, of which I'll not speak here. I took the old way up, from Holne Lee and following the ridges, past the hidden boundary stone. This is the way we used to go up, many years ago, when the Folks and I started proper Moor walking - it means easy navigation and lots of big views. More recently I've been going up the Mardle [can't think why...??] rather than around it, but this was walking first and birding second.

While being a little warmer than I'd have liked [having my waterproof on {expecting rain}] the overcast and fresh breeze kept it from being too uncomfortable and I made fair time [with the odd detour for birds] up to the top. After turfing the ponies off the summit, I enjoyed the panorama before heading down to Huntingdon Warren via the path I'd seen from the Heap of Sinners [I'm still loving that name]. The width of the path was due, I think, not so much to vast numbers using it as to the periodic pools it went through/around. Hilltop mires are a standard Dartmoor fare, with surprisingly deep pools the interesting bits, and I had a fun time of it [a stick of some sort is really very useful, btw] crossing with a hop, skip and a jump [plus the odd vault] :D

I had lunch at the Heap, enlivened by a flypast Yellow Wagtail, then went to look for a 'Warrener's Shelter' I'd seen on an online walks site. After a fair bit of tussock-wrangling I eventually found it - a little spot where a Warrener or two could keep an eye out for marauding miners from Redlake coming after their bunnies - its a cosy spot but you really need to bring your own stool [Oh what do you know? I had. :)]. After that it was back over to the Farm, where I was met by the happy sight of Wheatears still present and also a whole heap of Mipits - a good 70! There were groups of up to 30 knocking about all day, but so many in such a small [and easily watchable] space was too good an opportunity to miss, so I spent a while getting down with the Mipits. Very good practice, and [once again] showing how variable birds can be, there were big ones and little ones, dark ones and light ones, heavily streaked and almost unstreaked, even one with a rufous tinge to it's throat and upper breast... [[Yes, it was a Mipit]]. All very educational, primarily to the importance of call in pipit id!

Tearing myself away, I crossed the river and went up Pupers then on to Inner Pupers - whose view across east Devon is a joy and a wonder. I finished my coffee and failed to see anything soaring around, by which time it had started to rain a light rain. Sheltered behind a rock, I didn't realise until I stood up that it was the famous sideways rain that makes t'Moor such a welcoming place for those without full waterproofs... Trying not to grin too much, I did not head back up the ridgetop path to Ryder's via Snowdon, but took the contouring path down into the Mardle valley instead. Dartmoor paths are sneaky things, you can very rarely see them when you're not on them. Unless the vegetation is in a very helpful state, if you're above or below a path you'll never know its there, which can be, er, entertaining.

So, sheltered from the weather's full force, I toddled gradually down towards the Mardle, noting the number of berries with interest and also getting my first Snipe of the winter [a flyover, not a flush]. It is at this point that something else flew over calling; in the rain I couldn't get a sight of it, but the call was one I've not heard before. It sounded thrushy rather than wadery or chatty [let alone warblery] but beyond that... One of those things. Crossing the Mardle is always fun - either bog then channel or vice versa - but no Jack Snipe about to be flushed this time*. After that a simple up and over the ridge [at which point the sun duly came out and went "Yar-boo-sucks-to-you!"] and back don the track to my li'l car. A good walk and a refreshing day out.

[[*There was a winter's day, when snow lay on the ground, that I went yomping up Ryder's Hill then down across the Mardle. On Holne Lee I flushed a Jack Snipe that came up from next to my stick {6" more to the right and I'd have impaled the thing!}, then crossing the Mardle I flushed a Snipe which in turn flushed another Jack - the two in flight together was one of those 'bird book' moments. I also found a snow-filled hole the hard way but escaped uninjured, though snowed up to my chest! It was a good day.]]

20 September, 2011

Still Here

Just about. Apologies for the absence, but well, it's not been a great week or so. I have alas fallen into a bit of a funk and until I climb out there won't be a lot to talk about.

Not nothing, mind...

I have also been holding off in the hope of avoiding venting the wrath that's been raging within me upon your poor suffering and [I sincerely hope] innocent eyes. Yeah, the Goshawks and Buzzard. So many rants have been swirling through my head, but I think I've calmed down enough now. Well, almost; Until the punishment is an actual deterrent*, this is why I don't talk about raptors that even might breed.

[[*Actual hard prison for the perpetrator, plus a fine that will hurt the one who gave the order - say £100,000 a bird. Oh, and all parties banned from keeping any animal for life. That ought to do it, don't you think?]]


Anyway... I'd been thinking about Pendeen on the weekend, but after an 'interesting' week at work I needed sleep more, and Sunday didn't look that promising [goes to show how much I know...] with sunshine forecast.. So I hit the Patch both days and just to rub it in I dropped something. Light passage of Swallows following the coast all saturday, I'm at the Nose when I notice one isn't a Swallow. I wait for it to emerge from behind a couple of trees and get on it - a Swift of some sort - a big one? - clearly demarcated white throat! - gone into the sun and lost... Probably an Alpine, but from what I got on it [and oh it was a frustrating view, catching the sun on its body in the split second I had a clear look....] I couldn't rule out W-T N...... $&%™@Æ◊¿fi§!!!!!*

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

Sometimes things just line up to kick you. I'm hoping this is going to pass soon and I'll be back to my usual effervescent self, but I may have to resort to Drastic Measures [There's a bottle of Uigeadail, you see...]. Until then, if you happen to cross paths with me and I've got a harmonica in my hand, just run.

11 September, 2011

Back To The Nose

The forecast didn't seem so promising for today, so instead of getting down early for more seawatching, I toddled down later, via a Patch patrol, to see if the Wryneck was feeling more reasonable.

Needless to say, it wasn't - with more bods wandering about and even more wind than yesterday, I don't really blame it, either. Only real Patch news was more Chiffchaffs holed up, presumably waiting for the wind to ease so they can bugger off somewhere sunnier. Having wandered about the bushes where the Wryneck may well still be hiding and sticking it's tongue out at me, I couldn't help but turn my bins on the sea to see what was passing close by.

Half an hour later, when my arms had had enough, I decided that it was time to stop... A Balearic and at least 8 Manx north, with 3 Kittiwakes and a constant passage of Gannets south, plus a lot more out of bin range. Also 2 Razorbill and 2 LBB past south and a Little Grebe [!] went whizzing by north. Even more interesting was a juvenile/immature diver sat on the sea by the Lead Stone - it looked like a Black-throat [but no scope means 'diver sp.' only, alas] and certainly vanished like one! On a more fun note, a [probably 3cy] Gannet flew past exhibiting the plumage and a fair attempt at the shape and flight action of a Streaked Shearwater! They truly are the Buzzards of the sea... ;)

It really is very interesting, this gathering of shearwaters in Lyme Bay, isn't it? Fascinating what a little sustained wind can do - I wonder how long they'll stay?

10 September, 2011

Ticking Waders

Ah, back to the fun and games! After a week spent trapped at work, with [Hobbies aside] Woodpigs, Crows, and Herring Gulls [plus the odd Blue Tit or Greenfinch] to look at, it was back to the fray! I'm still quite fired up, can you tell?


I dragged up at early as I could bring myself to and managed to start watching at Hope's Nose at a meagre 0740. When I got up, it looked pretty promising, with murk and wind, but by the time I arrived the wind had blown the murk away and it was threatening sunshine as I sat down. I shook my finger at the sky in a 'Don't you dare...' kinda way, and it seemed to work, as clouds and even some drizzly gunky showers turned up. Four and a half hours later* I had seen a fair mix of birds, though it was pretty quiet for stretches of time, and passage was never smooth.

[[*I have a good excuse for stopping early; it's all [Famous Devon Birder]'s fault!]]

337 Gannets [about 150 of those between 0830 and 0900], 177 Kittiwakes [all after 1000] and 70 Common Scoter [including one indecisive flock of 33 who went south, north, and then finally south for good...] were the big numbers.

Star bird was one you'll never guess - go on, have a think while I go through the rest...

Skuas; 1 Pom, 2 Bonxie, 4 Arctic
Shears; 1 Sooty, 2 Balearic, 12 Manx, 1 large shearwater sp. [looked pretty good for a Cory's, but didn't quite feel right, so just a 'sp.']
Terns; 2 Black, 3 Arctic, 7 Common
Auks; 7 Guillemot, 8 Razorbill, 2 Auk sp.
Waders; 2 Dunlin, 1 Curlew, 2 Turnstone [good for HN]
and... 14 Fulmar, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls
plus.. at least one Wheatear around the Nose

Star Bird and a Patch Tick was seen flying south while watching the Black Terns - a Lapwing! Never seen one of them on a seawatch before....

[Famous Devon Birder] arrived for an hour or so, managed to see a group of shears I missed completely, then as he was leaving found a Wryneck! I got flashbacks to another seawatch a few years ago when JR refound the last HN Wryneck and had that nasty accident as he was rushing back to tell me... Fortunately no injuries this time, except to my pride and reputation [[Yeah yeah, "What reputation?!?!!??" I hear you cry...]] as I was utterly unable to get eyes on it. I suspect it may well be the bird I saw a week ago - not far away [that Wryneck had most likely been driven from the Nose by the hordes then present] and also a complete git to see....

Having cut off my seawatch to go Wryneck hunting [the fact that passage had died and the sun was coming out was an entire coincidence] I decided to head for Dawlish Warren and see if I could redress the Prawle Fiasco and get Buff-breasted Sandpiper on my Devon List at last.

This was a Very Good Idea, as the bird was a legend; Showing Well was an understatement. Showing Down to 20', my dear readers! Ye Gods what a confiding bird. Proper yankee wader behaviour, this. It just merrily kept on wandering and feeding in the Bight, ignoring the assembled birders and only flushing a little way when the golfers sliced their shots onto the mud... This is what birding's really all about, moments like this. Not good for a blogger to admit, but words fail me as to how much I enjoyed watching it.

PYL: 80%

06 September, 2011

Mutter Mutter Mutter...

Yeah, more moaning [just skip the next paragraph...]

So I'm back on days and what happens? Couldn't have been a bit sooner, could it? Dratted weather...


Sooooooo.... On Sunday we had a Family Day Out [or perhaps Afternoon Out, with the Sisters' idea of an early start...]. We ended up at yarner, where it had the teeniest of rains at us but was mostly fair if windy. We covered a lot of ground, had a very nice picnic [rolls by one Sister, chocolate and raspberry brownies by t'other, with a very nice ginger and apple drink of some sort to wash it all down] and were, er, serenaded by of all things a juvenile Hobby! Noisy little one; it kept flying past calling, even landed in a nearby tree while we were eating. :D

I think Someone Up There has been reading this and grinning, as then yesterday at work, what should fly over while I was having lunch? Yup, another Hobby! Ye Gods and Little Fishes, this is getting silly....

Oh yes, and finally... New format for Patch Year List. As my elders and betters have correctly realised, for comparative purposes between different Patches, a percentage is a much better way of doing things, so here you go;


[*Rounded to nearest whole number]

03 September, 2011


That's just a ridiculous number.....

It's too many to watch, let alone enjoy. You'd just be counting as fast as ever you could. Quite spoiled their day, I'm sure...

Jammy sods.

But that's not why I'm posting. I got a bit carried away, what with actually finding something good [ok, yes and losing it almost immediately...] that I forgot Friday. I'm a bad bad blogger, and my wrists have been smacked accordingly...

So, Friday morning I did not go to bed and get some sleep, but instead went over to the Exe to look for birds on the high high tide. :) Osprey, Curlew Sand, and Little Stint were my targets - all had been seen, so there was, I thought, a fair chance.

So did a lot of other people, as the hide was standing room only. The misty conditions at least prevented heat haze [until it burned off, anyway] and well over 1000 waders were on display for our enjoyment. Among them were the highlights of a Little Stint, a Ruff and at least 2 Curlew Sandpipers, plus a lone Avocet, 2 Snipe and 2 Green Sand. There had evidently been a fair bit of disturbance, [not least by the coobeasties, who had a bull with them] as a lot of the waders were on the near side of the main pool, giving some very nice views indeed. The Ruff in particular, though very mobile showed delightfully, doing a fair phalarope impersonation in the water. 6 Ringed Plover were good for Bowling Green, and 5 immature Shelduck were new since I was last on site. Another cause of disturbance showed up early on - a dog Fox, which had a roll in some mud [or something...] before sloping off. All the ducks nearby grouped together and shadowed him - from a safe distance - which was quite amusing to watch "We've got our eyeth on you, matey...".

Disturbance was a bit of an understatement when an adult Peregrine showed up and even the cattle got nervous! There followed some interesting tactics during two sustained attacks - firstly the falcon flew back and forth over the cowering throng, who stayed resolutely on the water, none panicking into flight. After a while the Peregrine [which didn't even risk getting its feet wet..] gave up and flew off, only to return later, and after a couple of similar passes, gained some height, then displayed an awesome turn of speed as it banked over and dived at the waders, before turning in over the grass and barely missing a Pied Wagtail! The sudden acceleration, and the way it dived one way while actually being after something over there was amazing, and the speed at which it all happened; I've seen Sprawks come in fast and low there, but the Peg was something else...

The second attack really put the wind up the waders, with all of the smaller ones deciding elsewhere was a good place to be, so I decided it was time to go looking for a nice Osprey to round the morning off. The platform gave no joy, so I headed over to Powderham, but the dead tree contained a Grey Heron, not a bug-eyed fish-grabber. Ratses, dipped again. I checked the estuary from all the vantage points I could get to, but still no Osprey. Oh well...

Birthday Pressie!

Starting with the good bit for once;

Wryneck on Patch today!

Found by yours truly, feeding on ants on the open bit of Bishop's Walk near Brandy Cove at 1302. It did the usual routine of vanishing through a bush, but I later saw it in flight heading north towards Black Head. I went as far as Walls Hill, hoping it had gone to the grassy slopes overlooking Redgate Beach, but could find no sign of it. There are a few small and nigh-inaccessible areas of grass and bracken sticking out of Black Head where it may well have holed up, though there's enough room at Walls for a dozen to hide easily, so I'm not holding out much hope of a re-find. Amazing fluke I saw it at all; a long period with nobody on the path is a very rare thing at any time of year. Of course, after another 10 minutes of quiet hopeful waiting, the lights changed somewhere and the hordes appeared...

Getting back to the beginning, I gave the Patch a Birthday Bash this morning, which stretched into the afternoon as what had been a very quiet and largely bird-free affair got suddenly exciting! Aside from my pressie from the Goddess of Birding [thankyou very much!], the best I could muster were a few migrants; a single Willow Warbler [albeit a very smart one] at the Nose, a few Whitethroats, a dozen Chiffs [a couple of which had a sing], and a few small groups of LBBs passing south along the coast. Walls Hill slopes had a Wheatear, and while vainly scanning the little bits sticking out of Black Head I saw a Grey Heron lurking there, which is not a regular sight.

Migration has been well and truly underway all week, with not a morning being without at least a couple of Chiffs out the back. There have been other passerines with them, but always too skulky for me to get a look at after a night's work; "Ooh, that sounds like a sylvia" and "Ah, a Willow" and "Hmm, what's that?" are typical attempts at ID-by-call. It was a rough week at work....

Now then, how many is that on the Patch Year List now....?