27 February, 2012

Upping the Dates.

Mud. It's funny stuff. One of those things that you don't really think about. Its there, it gets all over your shoes if you can't avoid it, consequence of rain and so forth. Brown squelchy stuff. Except when its black. Or white. Or orange. Or grey. Or yellow. Or green [yes, really]. Or when its slippery. Or sticky. Or an horrific liquid goo. Or kind of doughy. Or rubbery and really quite bouncy. Mud comes from soil, and soil means rocks aided by plants. Oh yes, its geology time again. [[Kidding - gotcha. ;) ]]

The best kind of mud is that which, though it sicks to your boots [being mud - getting your footwear messy is its raison d'ĂȘtre, after all] will come off cleanly with a good thump and so often will have fallen off all by itself by the time you get back. Such mud - moreover of a pleasingly dark colour reminiscent of dark chocolate - may be found on the somerset Levels. Which is where I was on Friday.

Last week was long, stressful, hot, and generally annoying at work. Blech. The levels in winter are one of my favourite birding trips, and with the warm weather, it seemed likely that soon the winter visitors would be departing, so better to get on with it. Likewise, a weekday was much more likely to give a little frickin' peace and quiet. Oh, and there was a drake Smew tarting around. A mere afterthought, naturally. :)

Hoving to at Ashcott Corner, a minibus was not a welcome sight. "Oh no, not an RSPB group..." I headed west and there they were, a pack of 17 - one scope between them - stopped by the bridge. They divided into two as I approached - so much for Noah's, I shrugged. I would have kept on, but barely were they out of sight in the trees either side but first a Bittern made with the booming, and as I stopped to enjoy that, a couple of Bearded Tits made themselves known. Nice. I scanned Noah's from the trackway, seeing lots of usuals, but no others of the 6 - no wait, a Bittern! It dropped in quite close to and vanished in the reeds. Sweeeeet.

The plan had been to set up at Decoy and pretty much stay put - I was knackered after work and running around didn't appeal. There had also been something about Smew coming to within 30' of the hide that caught my attention and had me taking my camera along, too...

I spent the rest of the morning in the gradually filling hide, and while nothing fancy came close enough to shoot, the Smew did show, though the drake was a right git; he'd evidently taken a leaf from the Yellowthroat's 'How to Be A Sneaky Git' book of getting from cover to cover unseen... The group of Whooper Swans present were riiiiight at the back, but one or possibly two drake Goldeneye were closer, if also mobile and elusive. The adult female Marsh Harrier gave us a few shows, at one point with company, but any Great Whites present kept low profiles. Early afternoon I yomped my way back, nipping over to Ham Wall for a quick look as I did. I met the horde again, learning that they were some sort of general wildlife of the levels tour thing, but seeing no GWE's or Bitterns or anything fancier than 3 smart drake Pintail.

An early start homewards was due to my intending to finally stop at a place I've passed many a time, thinking 'I ought to go here sometime'. So I did. Said place is Burrow Mump, which, as well as having a joyously wonderful name, is also a mini Glastonbury Tor. Its a steep steep hill with a little ruined church on top and some serious views. I lugged the Big Scope up and had a blast. A big group of Ruff had been seen from there [ah, ulterior motives..] but while there was no sign of them, a huge number of Lapwing, Teal and Wigeon were visible. Plus assembling trees full of Starlings. Also swan herds and the Secret Place That Everyone Knows About - though denizens were elsewhere [humph - would have been a wonderful long-range yeartick...]. the mud there is quite unfriendly, managing to be sneakily slippery [not good on a slope like that] and also glueing itself to your boots. But the climb is worth it.

Skipping on in time... Saturday saw much bashing of Patch. I didn't get anything major, though a very distant diver on the mirror calm sea screamed Black-throated, it was just too far to nail. Likewise, a very pale gull among the mass following a trawler into Brixham may have been Something, but even the World's Biggest Ball of Yarn wouldn't try ticking it. ;D Much closer, four Fulmar sat on the sea making Fulmar-y noises at each other. Boing Boing, Spring is in the air, oh yes...

Sunday was a day on't Moor with the Folks, for the first time in ages. We walked the 10 mile Holne - Ryder's - Heap o' Sinners - Puper's - Mardle loop that I scouted last year, and it was very nice indeed. Blazing sunshine and light winds, not too many people - well, tons around but we stayed mostly off the TenTors routes. Alas, there were lots of sheep [not alas from aTilly the Hun's point of view, of course....] so not the quietest walk. Birdwise, Holne had its Yellowhammers in fine form, singing and showing very well :) There are still a few winter thrushes about - a group of 32 came up the Mardle while we were there, Redwing and Fieldfare with a few Mistle Thrushes. The day was filled with song, most especially by the many Skylarks up, though one was up, down, sideways and all round about as a female Merlin gave it one hell of a persistent attack! The two eventually dropped out of sight, so I don't know if the falcon finally caught the lark - certainly it didn't seem to be giving up, though the Skylark's ability to read the Merlin's turns and get out of the line of attack were amazing.

On the way home, I, er, persuaded the Folks to try a detour to a Mandarin site. This proved to be a bit of a disaster. Ok, a lot of a disaster, as we couldn't find the frickin' place! There's supposed to be this bridge, which it turns out you can't see when you're on it, and there's nowhere to stop either. But somehow people do. We didn't have time to park in the nearest place and walk all the way back, so we called it a day. Drat.

21 February, 2012

A Few Clarifications.

Having been shamelessly misquoted in the welsh press, I have a few things I need to say;

First of all, I of course said autumn migration to that young lady, not winter. Evidently she couldn't read her own shorthand...

Yes, Karen, you were right. They always mess it up, be it by accident, incompetence, or 'good journalism'.

Having said that, I will still talk to reporters in future, but only after they sign a contract which, among other things, will include them not using any puns involving the words 'flock' or 'flap' and their derivatives.

I blame this whole mess on my upbringing, having been taught that you should be polite, take people at their word, and always be open and honest in your dealings with others. There's a moral lesson here, kids. At least, as my solicitor cheerily informed me before handing me the bill, I didn't have a reputation to lose - its not like anyone's ever mistaken me for someone who knows what the hell he's talking about, is it? ;)

In proper news, Spring is definitely in the air here, with the Sparrows busy nest-building and two [Birds That Don't Exist On My Patch] getting the shit kicked out of them by 70 [yes, 70] Herring Gulls. Plus Crows. Ouch...

Backward Birder in Smear Shock!

Welsh Press Scandal

News broke of a fresh newspaper scandal, following on from all that stuff about peoples' mobiles. Sources inform Birdnews Service that the infamous blogger 'Backward Birder' has been quoted in some welsh rag saying that Common Yellowthroats migrate in winter. We contacted him and he had the following quotes for us;
"Ok, first of all, if you misquote me I will misquote you - with a big stick, got it?"
"Secondly, I very clearly said that the bird had probably been blown off course on migration last autumn and then had survived through the winter."
"Thirdly, I am consulting my solicitor over a libel action."
Birdnews Services have themselves contacted Legal Sources, who in between fits of giggles said that libel suits were only viable when somebody had a reputation to be damaged in the first place. The same Sources also went on to say that as the 'news'paper in question clearly didn't even know what bird people were looking at in the first place, they were hardly a credible source of information, and nobody could assume anything they publish to be accurate. Finally, they charged us £500.

19 February, 2012

Banana Skin

Yellow and very slippery.

You know where I was today then... ;)

[[This is an edited version, probably the worse for it..]]

It was inevitable, as soon as I was busy on both Friday and Saturday, that something big would show up to annoy me. Another yankee passerine in reach... This is getting amusing. Then it compounded things by not only failing to do the Friday Night Bunk, but also not trying a Saturday Night Skedaddle, either. Nothing for it but to head up there, then.

In these trying times, it is both fiscally and environmentally responsible to share transport wherever possible. In this spirit I rendezvoused with Bun and Karen of Backwater fame at Exeter and the three of us burned up made our way steadily up to wales, with the only pain being at the hands of french extortionists. The locals at Rhiwderin had made careful and well-executed plans, and everything went pretty smoothly.

Of course, the bird wasn't exactly a porn star and made the assembled throng [100+ with a fair turnover rate] wait and indeed work for brief glimpses, but this is a yank warbler after all. When the sun came out it showed fairly frequently - busily feeding in the tussocky grass and brambles with many a flick of wings and tail - the amazingly bright yellow bits stood out even to naked eye at the 30m range the bird seemed to like us at. Very Dunnock-like behaviour, really, but with more relocations to different hedges. These relocations were very sneaky, the bird just vanishing for a while before being spotted elsewhere. It often flies skimming the ground - Karen and I saw it exit the back of a hedge we'd gone around [as we thought the masses were a bit close for it to show] and it was so low we lost it in a fold in an open field. Maybe 10 minutes later I saw it came from behind us to our right back into the same hedge it had left [the one with the gully in]. The main group picked it up, surged upslope and then Karen saw it zip back out and over the lane towards the old car parking field - where it was refound about an hour later! Sneaky, very sneaky.

So, all three of us saw the bird, both in flight and flicking about the grass and brambles, and it was indeed a true stunner. Gorgeous. Wow. And so on. For those of you who haven't gone; think about it. Its mobile and elusive, oh yes, but with a little thought and a slice of luck, great views are possible once the hordes have dispersed. From what I gather [this being the Monday edit] it has shown much better with fewer people around. I'm not saying it was a badly-behaved twitch, people walked and kept pretty quiet, but it was very clear that when the crowd line was at about 30m from the appropriate hedge the bird would come right out, and when at 10m or less it wouldn't and usually moved off. Not saying it wouldn't come close to people, just that it didn't like people coming close to it.

Getting back to Exeter mid-afternoon, I decided to drop in at Bowling Green on the way home, where there were a whole bunch of ducks and quite a few waders [despite it not being high tide] with lots of people looking at them. Snipe in the open and smart Pintail were the star birds. It was just a quick drop-in while passing, but the light was good and there was plenty to look at.

Funny how it goes, isn't it? After years of not seeing a single yank, here's another one bitten the dust. Now then, where's that Redstart at the Nose??

18 February, 2012

Things To Do

With a little birding stuck around the edges.

No burning straight off up to Wales for me yesterday, as I had to Get Stuff Done in Exeter. Managed to do some birding around said Stuff, though, so not too bad. Before hopping on the P&R bus I wandered over to Matford along the new-ish route, dodging luridly clad cyclists as I did - that after playing Frogger with the rush hour traffic [Matford Pools are fun to get to - unless you come down from the canal bridge you have to play the game...]. A Brambling with a band of assorted finchy things was very nice, though it got thoroughly flushed by a pesky cyclist before I could get the li'l scope on it :( The Pools had what you'd expect, nothing fancy. A couple of Common Gulls with the larid hoi-polloi were just that [Matford always makes me think of Ring-billed Gulls, for some reason]. As I got back to the Brambling spot [by the wonderfully unobtrusive makro], I saw that of the mass of Bull Green Gold and Chaffinches, plus Linnets, only a few Bull and Greenfinches were there. Or they were other ones, I suppose. Whichever, they showed nicely - male Bullfinches are always a treat.

On my way home in the afternoon I stopped off for a loop of Exminster, where the 2 White-fronts were smart in the odd burst of sunshine. There were no less than 18 Greylag nearby, which is a lot for Exminster. Lapwing numbered at least 93 and they, the Wigeon [hundreds], Teal, Blackwits, Curlew, and the odd Ruff were up in dribs and drabs very frequently. I don't know what was making them so uneasy - a lurking fox, maybe? - I saw nothing in the air or sitting on any pylons [not even anything I won't mention]. Lots and lots of people about, a good proportion with bins, though only 2 with scopes [I suppose most of the serious birders who could get out were preoccupied with Business Elsewhere..] [[Though, saying that, I did bump into [Devon Birder] in Exeter, but he's seen Yellowthroat...]]

Today I had work. Again. Ah, the dedication of a man who's on a short-term contract....
This afternoon I nipped out after the front had passed to see what was cowering in the lee of Blackball. 4 GC Grebes. Wow. 3 Fulmar cruised by, which was better, and as I followed them I came across a small group of gulls sat on the sea. Ooh, that one's dark. Quite big, too, compared to the Herrings. Not dark enough for an LBB, though.. Oh-ho. You will not believe me, but it is only as I sit here now and type this that I recall there being an adult Caspo knocking around. Seriously, I only thought 'That's got to be a Yellow-leg!'. Now it's got to be an Unidentified. Bloody Caspian Gulls.... [[Never thought you'd read me saying that, did you?]]

14 February, 2012

Doing The Right Thing

As the saying goes; "No good deed goes unpunished"* More on this to come.

It was time to get out and about on Sunday, and once more the winter Moor beckoned. Get it in while you can, for soon the hordes** will again descend, was my thinking. Har bloody har - forgot it was half term already. Too bladdy late. Oh well.

[[* This being reality.]]
[[** Ten Tors, D of E, and the unwashed masses. Am I merely an antisocial git, or do I at least have a point about all the litter?]]

I'd stuck to the main roads for fear of ice - steep twisty narrow wet lanes with granite edges do not mix well with sub-zero temperatures, after all - but it was warmer up there than at home. Not counting wind chill. The ground was frozen pretty hard in the morning, though by afternoon that had mostly thawed, and though the wind was brisk and toothy, that too eventually eased, though not 'til well past 4..

Oh yeah, the 'where' might help. :) I parked near Black Tor [the one between Princetown and Burrator] and dropped into the Meavy valley to pick up the Devonport Leat. I'm pretty sure I've gone through it before, [somewhere in Year One, I think] so I won't burble on too much; suffice to say its a nice walk at any time of year when the wind isn't too strong. On a day of good visibility and light wind the views are quite something. However, if the wind is in the southern half of the compass and there's rain, its pretty unforgiving.

My route was a simple loop on a string - along the Leat to Nun's Cross [where the Leat ducks under the ridge - this as well as crossing the Meavy via aqueduct; some engineering] then hanging a right to Hingston Hill, left to Combeshead Tor, then over to Eylesbarrow Mine via the Potato Cave, before following my favourite track back to Nun's Cross, then the Leat back to Black Tor. Simples.

Certainly simple navigation; nice paths to follow and not even a stream to ford or jump - all bridges. Ah, luxury! The weather had looked a bit iffy en route, with dark clouds looming and a stream of white mist flowing past North Hessary Tor which seemed ominous, but in fact it proved fine. It even got sunny. :D Later on it threatened more and got dark quite early, but aside from a little drizzle as I drove home it stayed dry. Which was nice of it, I have to say.

I'd figured open winter moorland with not-too-close trees and a few decent girts meant I'd be looking at about 6 species of birds, so my main focus was Hingston, home of one of the finest rows and circles on the Moor. If you ever feel like visiting, do it properly and come from the north - Nun's Cross. There's a path which takes you right to it. First you'll see a big cairn on your left and the remains of a pound on your right, then as you pass between them you meet the terminus of the row. Mostly still standing, it leads in a marked and undoubtedly deliberate dogleg up to the stone circle, just shy of the summit of the hill. Many small circles on the Moor are cairn-circles - pretty much there to contain and bound a burial mound - but this is clearly more than that. This is a circle with a cairn, more properly maybe, a circle around a cairn. Even if the works of the ancestors aren't your thing, its worth a look if you're passing.

Alas, I didn't get to enjoy it alone, so I didn't linger but instead found a lunch spot out of the wind. Sitting at Combeshead, it was only then that I truly realised how busy the Moor was; people everywhere! Ye Gods and Little Fishes, you'd think it was August... Oh, well. Explained the bods before, at least. I pressed on, a little more quickly than I would have done if it was quieter - not much likely to be about, after all. Maybe if I got back sharp enough I could detour to Bucky and have a look for all those Mandarin that kept getting reported?

As I followed the Leat, though, I saw something else. Two brown metal boxes - ammunition boxes. Sat on the path beside the Leat, near a clapper bridge. Odd, they weren't there earlier. Hmm, 7.62mm machine gun ammunition, blank, they said on the sides - not the usual 5.56mm rifle stuff. I naturally opened one up and was very surprised to see that yes indeed that was what was in them.


Just left there, for any teenage idiot to find and play with. Or lucky individual with Other Intent. Blanks may not have bullets, but they've got everything else and can be converted. Not good. Clearly left on purpose, but what if I'm not the only one to find it first? What will you do? I thought about hiding it more effectively - ie in the Leat under the bridge - but then civic duty got in the way so out came the phone. I have the Commandant's number for such situations on my phone - I found a live smoke grenade a few years back*** and they were very grateful - or I did, as it is now disconnected... Ok, Police it is.

So, one good deed and 90 minutes of sitting in the wind watching the clouds gather later, a copper in a landie arrives and removes the offending items. He's quite happy to get out of the station, I'm quite happy to get home. Hopefully, the rounds have found their way home by now, though in Okie barracks, some poor member of Her Majesty's Finest is probably still peeling spuds, ears still ringing with "Out of the public's sight does not mean on a path!'...

Birds almost seem like an afterthought compared to all the drama. 12 species, including Red Grouse - flushed by a cyclist - and a flyover Snipe late on, plus a Grey Heron while I was waiting, so not bad at all. Indeed, before I found those brown boxes, this would have been a very different post. Funny how things happen.

[[*** Up on the Okie artillery range, a live smoke grenade, clearly dropped and forgotten. I called it in [I'd noticed the number on the range boards and saved it just in case] and it was duly collected. Very exciting, I know. ;) ]]

11 February, 2012

On Patch

Two days of birding on the Patch to report, though no mostly-white-winged gulls up this end of the Bay...

Yesterday it was slim pickings, with another near-miss of the Firecrest probably the best of it. At least 8 Purple Sandpipers at the Real Living Coast were nice, though the mournful cries of the poor captive Choughs and Fairy Terns took a bit of the gloss off.

Today, less wind and more sun meant more birds. Seabirds made the headlines, with only a singing male Blackcap really standing out on land. Offshore, a silver-calm sea [more or less] gave me my first Great Northern Diver of the year - a moulting adult near Thatcher Rock. Before that, an examination of the gulls tarting around the Nose gave a smart adult LBB [interestingly dark, but not that dark and too bulky to be worth fetching a scope for] but no white-wingers. At least 110 Guillemots were hanging around the Ore Stone ledges, with a few Razorbills inshore.

Getting to Haldon Pier, 6 Purple Sands were at the inland end. No sign of any on the boulders, possibly due to the young whippersnappers hanging around by and on the oil store [an impressive climb up its curving outer wall] and clambering on the rocks [a more impressive climb back up from there!]. They weren't doing any harm [assuming none of them fell off..] and I wandered on to the end to scan the Bay. Again, the better conditions helped - a few GC Grebes plus 2 Black-necked and a Slavonian were very welcome. There was also a big-looking sea duck off Preston / Paignton. It took a while to get a good silhouette but eventually nailed as a [presumably female due to no white bits] Eider. Sweet.

Sweeter was to come. As I headed to interrogate the few cowering Herring Gulls on the pontoon in the Inner Harbour I picked up a movement on the water in the Outer Harbour, right in the corner by the Ramps. Holy Shit, a Little Grebe! An adult, actively diving in the quite clear water - you could see it doing it's frog-kicks for a second or two as it descended into the depths. Wow. :D As I was stood there cooing over it, the distinctive call of a Redshank flying along the coast came to my ears. As I've said before, Redshanks are [usually] noisy twitchy buggers of birds, but on my Patch they're a welcome rarity. I'm not chasing a Patch Yearlist again. I have a job. I want my shoes to last more than a year. I'm not chasing a Patch Yearlist.

Or any other kind of Yearlist.

I'm just keeping score for reference purposes. That's all.

I'm only on 63 anyway....

09 February, 2012

Belated News

After a birding-less Saturday, due to work and rain issues, Sunday saw me at least doing something. In the morning I had a wander about the Patch, with my first target being some hunch-following to the ridiculously-named Glen Sannox. This is in fact Babbacombe proper - ie Babba's actual Combe*but some Victorian decided otherwise and.... well. Anyway, now it is a little bit of gardens nestled above Babbacombe Beach. Its a nice little tucked-away spot, right next to the Theatre. Yes, that theatre. [It should be explained here that there are 3 theatres on my Patch. Yes, three. Get me.] You can meet some, er, interesting characters there [not least of which being myself.. ;) ], but when there aren't screaming horrors you have a shot at the odd decent bird. Like the Firecrest, which I narrowly missed getting another crippling view of. At least I know its still around, though now hanging with a band of Goldcrests and Blue Tits [plus one Great Tit] instead of being alone, at least that means its calling more.

Only 2 GC Grebes and a Razorbill on the sea, with nowt else of note.

Afternoon and only my third outing of the year with the Folks. We had a walk up on Haldon Ridge - the reason I'm being vague about where is coming up - and we did quite well for birds. A group of at least 5 Redpoll were nice, but outnumbered and outweighed by the Siskin and Crossbills. Both were present in numbers and both were feeling frisky; singing, display, the works :D Male Siskin showing off is something I always appreciate - even when they're being mimic-y gits - but I'm less used to Crossbills doing it, so this was a treat.

Plenty of other small birds around [plus Woodpigs] but of note was what looked very much like a cold weather movement going on. At a particular crossing point of the Ridge, wave after wave of Fieldfares, Starlings, and Mistle Thrushes [though no Redwing, for some reason??] were passing west at treetop height. I was able to stop and count for almost 5 minutes [admirable patience from a certain Little Black Dog] and almost 150 birds passed over; 9:4:2 of the above species. I didn't notice them going over anywhere else, but this place was the only pass [for want of a better term] we reached, so they may have been crossing elsewhere too. Fascinating, if not unexpected, with all the Weather they've been having up country.

[[*A note on names and terms... Combe, rhymes with zoom, pronounced the same as the welsh cym for the simple reason of being the same word from the same source. You'll find a lot of place names in the south west involving it, the majority being in southeast Devon, but to be found from Cornwall [where they like to spell it with oo or u] to Dorset and Somerset. It means 'dry valley', as in one without a river, though said valley may have a stream or even river in it. The implication is that the watercourse is there because there's a valley, as opposed to the valley being there because there's a watercourse. Its all geology - usually caused by a fault exploited by glacial [or periglacial, in the south west] activity. Usually a fairly small, narrow affair coming off higher ground.]]

Breaking News

JR In Shock Retirement

Birding news Services learned last week that in a shock development, Infamous Young Devon Birder JR has announced his retirement from the Filthy Twitching Scene. Though he has not been available for comment, Sources claim that he has not touched his bins for ages and not even a Black-throated Blue Warbler on Berry Head could get him twitching. Other Sources say this is merely due to him suffering a string of terrible dips and that said Warbler would have him moving faster than (Devon Birder) after a hot pie. Birding news Services has heard claims that this was in fact predicted by Nostradamus and is one of the Signs of the Apocalypse. Certainly the thought of the teen-lister - whose exploits ranged from Orkney to Scilly and was widely touted as the next Lee Evans / a future Obs Warden / A Lesson To Us All - giving up makes you wonder about all that Mayan shit. Whatever the truth and wherever it is, twitches won't be the same without him.

A Brief Apology

Sorry for the bus-like behaviour. Things kept getting in the way and work's been a pain and blah blah de blah blah blah...

Right then, on with the madness.... ;)

04 February, 2012

Burning Again!

Fair warning - I have burbles on the brain again. But not for this post...

Yesterday I took my 'Just one of the reasons why I prefer the night shift' weekday of sleep-free fun to the Exe.

Starting at a rather nippy Dawlish Warren, where there was more wind than forecast and rougher seas than I'd hoped. I scanned and scanned as my feet slowly froze to the concrete by the lifeguards' station, but only a couple of GC Grebes did I see. Hmm. Onward back down and around the Back Path, scattering Moorhens from the grass by the Visitors' Centre, before coming up into the wind again on the Dune Ridge and seeing with no little dismay how much more has been claimed by the hungry waves. Its really not good, folks. Go there, soon. I seriously doubt it'll last another winter.

The seawatching spot has not been entirely eroded yet, and I gave it another go, finding the Slavonian Grebe and a few more Great Crested, but no ducks of any kind. Damn, that wind was cold.. On to the hide, which was amazingly deserted. Funny, you'd think at a low neap tide on a freezing cold weekday there'd be someone there...? ;) Their loss, as the drake American Wigeon was showing very nicely in the sunshine, tarting about on Shutterton Creek at a nice scope range - you could even ID it with bins. Joy. Enjoying getting a decent look, all sat down without the wind and with coffee, I had a sharp lunch and kept my eye out for Goldeneye [well, you never know, right?] in between working through the assorted [and abundant] ducks and waders. Nothing caught the eye, but its all good practice and a reminder if one were needed as to the variety among birds that 'all look the same' :) On a non-bird front, the Common Seal that lives in the Exe was showing well; crashed out on the Bull!

The yank and a few companions then took off and flew upriver a way, dropping down by Cockwood Crossing. If anybody was there, or they'd have had a great view. My attention wandered elsewhere, then later I looked back and they were gone. Into the main group of Wigeon, I assumed, failing to refind the American. Turns out not so - off to Bowling Green! Ducks, what will you do with them, eh? I headed back for another go at the sea, this time I managed to find the female Surf Scoter - riding the big choppy waves pretty much opposite me! The sun having moved round more, it was a nice if intermittent view - dark duck on bright grey-green sea.

Right, time still to be used, so I went for the hat-trick. Red-breasted Goose, this time your multi-coloured ass is mine! Or so I hoped.
Passing Starcross I saw a flock of Brents in the hundreds on the golf course thing, and duly muttered but then as I passed Powderham Castle I got a surprise! Two waders flew low over the road from the estuary to the big boggy bit - Snipe? No wait, dark pointed tails! Jacks!!! Ho-ly shit.. I've never seen more than one at a time before. Only once two in a day. :D [I've mentioned my Theory about Jack Snipe - they're Quantum Waders, and only exist if you're not expecting them. Its like the cat in a box, but the other way around.*]

Walking up the levee from Powderham Bend, the wind was bracing, the Avocets pretty, and the Exe fringed with a wide band of ice. The gentle sound of Brent Geese carried down from Turf Bend, then above it as a flock best described as "Oh, that's a lot" picked up and plonked down again. The Brents were alternating between grazing [on the far side of the railway line, where you can't see them, of course] and loafing about on the river. No RBG, naturally. When they stayed put for more than 30 seconds I gave them a count and got about 1100, which is pretty good for here. Groups were coming and going almost constantly, mostly staying in the vicinity, but here came a good hundred or more from downriver. I scanned the flock again and there right in the middle, all pretty in the sunshine, was the Red-breasted Goose. Gotcha!

Soon enough, the RBG was up and back out of sight, so I went on to the pub. No, not like that unfortunately. Before I reached the Turf, I nailed the Water Pipit that was lurking with at least 15 other pipits in the soggy paddock of a field - it ducked behind a tussock, but not quickly enough! I plonked down on the wonderful platform and had a good look at the interesting banded riverscape - water, ice and mud. Plenty of waders on display, with R-B Mergansers displaying. A Robin came up to offer violence if it wasn't fed - I only had chocolate left, which it didn't seem too impressed by, I have to say, though I remained un-savaged.

Several amazingly confiding Redshank [the words 'confiding' and 'Redshank' just don't go together, I can't count how many times one of those twitchy noisy gits has vexed my attempts to see things...] came right up to the platform, picking about unconcerned by the people {for it wasn't just me sitting quietly} like they were plastic duckies or something [["Must be escapes!" ;) ]]. Persistence did pay off in the end, with a pair of Goldeneye far far away on the Clyst. Nice through the Big Scope anyway. :)

Birding can be a pain. Missing things due to looking the wrong way or whatever, getting cold and wet [or hot and dank], seeing sod all, etc. etc. Sometimes, though, things just start clicking and that's when its just soo much fun. This was such a time - like the title implies, I was on fire. That Water Pipit. "Hmm, this is where a Water Pipit has often lurked.. Oh, there it is!" A day to cherish in the memory - for all the others when the Goddess of Birding has just dumped a bucket of cold water [I hope] over me...

In a total contrast to my near solitary time at the Warren [though to be fair on [Dawlish Warren Birders] there was Proper Work being done, with GPS thingies and everything], I kept meeting birders and PWBs who wanted to chat, ask me what that is, or enquire what was about. Not that I'm complaining - I'm always secretly flattered that anyone assumes I know what the hell I'm talking about [Should I admit that?]. Plus, its amazing what you can learn from talking to people - did you know that the winter of '64 was particularly harsh in France? Or that an onshore wind is unhelpful when fishing for Flounder? I do now. Several more people now also know that when they get the bloke in the silly hat talking he just goes on and on and on and on.. You think my posts are bad? Try talking to me... ;D

Speaking of going on, I do have something to say, but now is not the time. I will say that today I was working, and then it was all rainy and dank and I just couldn't drag myself outside to even look for grebes... Scandalous. Lots of finches in the Garden, still.

[[*The premise being that you can know what something is or where it is, but not both**. So with Jack Snipe; if you're looking for them, they can't be seen, but if you're not, they can.***
**Apologies to anyone who actually knows about physics, btw.
***On the Discworld****, they would of course be made entirely of Surprise.
****If you don't know what I mean, you're not reading the right books. Go, seek, find, read; your life will be better. Trust me on this.]]