28 May, 2012

If At First You Don't Succeed..

...Try Try Again.

Third attempt at Black-winged Stilt in Devon yesterday. Again sogginess was involved, though this time from above, as the heavy showers weren't kidding around.

Other differences from the last two attempts were that the bird in question was on Powderham Marsh and more importantly, actually was there! :D Very nice female, plus a selection of adorable baby Lapwings to coo over [Awww..] Even got to sit down at the lovely viewpoint thing and watch a Hobby or two bombing around as well. After it had had enough of raining, the sun then came out and a fair few odonata were on the wing - lots of Hairy Hawker about, but no Scarce Chasers that I could find.

Less good were the Red Kites which were tarting about at Exminster just before I arrived, at the Patch just after I left, and at Mamhead just after I decided not to drop by on the way home.... Drat. Also not so good was the couple who brought their dog onto Powderham Marsh. We met as I was leaving and upon being asked if they knew dogs weren't allowed [I was very nice, really] they pled ignorance of any sign. I checked on exit - the explicit 'No Dogs Allowed' was not copied onto the new style shiny RSPB sign, but there's still a clear 'Dog With Red Line Through', albeit inside the entrance. They, to be fair, did turn around and leave after me and had had said dog on a lead. Oh well, what can you do?

Back on patch, the Sparrows next door have their second brood cheeping - two juveniles of someone's first brood were knocking about the Garden, one falling off the fence while the other watched  :) Only seen those two [plus a Blackbird], though. I suppose they're all the cats have missed :(  I've just counted up and I reckon there's at least 7 cats living within a stone's throw of the Garden. Seven. If songbird bloody survival really meant what they claim to, they'd do something about the cats instead of trying to give raptor persecutors a legal get out of jail [ha ha] free card.

Ahem. Finally, yesterday evening in decent conditions I counted at least 70 Swifts on the wing - the most I've had in Spring by a fair whack. Assuming they were all ours, that's some good news at least.

26 May, 2012

A Bit More

OK, so the Chough hunt was a bust, its blazingly sunny and blowing a hoolie but too late to go up on't Moor. Time for an amble with the Folks. And a certain Little Black Dog, of course...

In the bits of Haldon not blown sideways by the wind, there were singing Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, and Siskin, with a getting-blown-away-when-it-tried-to-parachute Tripit. Closer to, along a sheltered ride we met female Broad-bodied Chaser, Beautiful Demoiselle, and Large Red Damselfly. The Chaser sat and posed very nicely for us at comfy close bin range, which was great - once she found a perch she liked, that is.

Tillykaratne likes Haldon a lot, as there are deery smells everywhere. She gets really excited, following scents off to one side of the path and standing in her best pointer pose, then giving a little yip! as she turns back to race on to the next one. Quite often this means she misses actual deer, which frequently just stand still and stare at us going by while Tilbury is too busy to look up and see them...

Changing tack, I'm sure there's something else I was meaning to blog about. Can't remember it. Drat.

Alzheimer's not infectious? Bullshit...

Berry Pomeroy

Is a lovely little village. I spent this morning wandering around it and it's environs [and not getting splatted by traffic on the main road or in the lanes, which took some attention..]. There were pretty houses, lots of gorgeous flowers, hosts of birds.. None of them Choughs, of course. There were some nice freshly-mown Stork-attractors hay meadows, but none with 4 [or even 1] White Storks in, either.

The field in question is currently sheep-less, but has nice short grass and is frequented by assorted corvids quite regularly. It needs to be viewed from a passing car, though, as if you get out everything goes "Shiit!" and flushes low and fast. This is the countryside, after all, so every corvid that wants to live considers every human to be carrying a shotgun with intent.. With the aid of a Big Scope, I was able to check every field in the area that had short grass and/or livestock. There's enough nice slopey fields in the South Hams for a Chough to get very lost in, so it could well be hanging around somewhere. Or halfway back to where ever it came from.

Oh well, worth a try.

25 May, 2012

In Which I Am Horribly Gripped Off...

.. By my own father!

But more on that later.

You know, looking at all the nonsense about the Olympic Torch, I can't help but think that they've done it all wrong [and I'm surprised by this because..??]. The whole point should be that the Flame is run to the venue by a relay of runners, surely. Passed from hand to hand, the spirit of Marathon and ancient Greece. I have no issue with 'worthy' people taking part in this, but imho, it should be run the whole way. We have a huge number of amateur athletic clubs who'd do a great job of this.
Maybe less circuitously [or just taking a little longer], but run. Not walked / run for a couple of hundred yards, then used to light the next Torch [even as the previous one is sold on ebay...], run a couple of hundred yards more then driven to the next photo opportunity.
And get rid of the sponsors! They weren't even that impressive, with PAs turned up way too high for their speakers... The whole point of the Olympics used to be is amateur competition - that means for its own sake, not for financial gain. Hell, they used to give out laurel wreaths, not huge lumps of semi precious metal!


Right then...

I'm back on my beloved Night Shift, just in time for the heatwave from hell, so aside from seeing House Martins back in their little colony on Patch on Wednesday, my report is all today. And no, I didn't have a chance at the Courser. Arse. [Maybe that should be 'nape'?]

Straight down to the Nose, where the combo of an easterly wind and developing mist in't Channel made me hopeful of migrants, maybe even a Grotfinch of my very own? Ha. A few Swallows and Swifts were coming in/off into the brisk northerly and there was a single Wheatear. Best bird was a cracking male Bullfinch - which posed at ridiculously close range for me.. :) The heat, well didn't so much build as it was already 20° when I got there! I headed home as the sun fried the mist..

Only to head out again! This time on my first odonata trip of the year - paparazzi getup and all! Stover was the target, and it was boiling... My li'l car's thermometer hit 30° as I passed through Teigngrace. Ye gods and little [deep fried] fishes....

The wind was getting up, but there was so much heat that the dragons were nicely active despite it. 8 species isn't bad for May, though I dipped Downy Emerald [While they're tricksy little buggers, it looks like something's happened to their pool.. :( ]. I'll be back there next month, hoping for double figures :) The action was dominated by the dragons [as usual], with Hairy Hawkers on the wing in good numbers - I even saw a female! [My first one! Gasp!]. Both 4-Spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers struck poses for me, so at some point next year you might get a shot inflicted on you ;)

Ok, now to the business of the title...
I spoke to my Dad this afternoon and he asked me, "What looks like a Crow but with a red bill?"
I in turn asked, "Was it's bill straight?"
"No, curved, bright red."
"That'd be a Chough... Where was it?"
"Last sheep field before you drop into Berry Pomeroy. I think it was there last week, but I didn't get a good look at it until today."

Guess what I'm doing tomorrow?

21 May, 2012

Exactly What It Says On The Tin

Ok, so with some nice relaxing proper honest to goodness birding done on Saturday, it was time for some filthy tick-hungry twitching on Sunday!

Derbyshire had been too far to go for a certain big brown loudmouth, but Weston Super Mare?

One quick burn up the M5 later and I was stood on a bank in a very brisk and rather chilly wind at the least nasally offensive sewage works I've been to. Ok being very upwind may have had something to do with that, but still - a much nicer setting than I expected. The weather... less so. But not unsurprising, given the way the Met Office is these days.

Like the title says, the Great Reed Warbler was just that. A really big, really active and really noisy Reed Warbler! Literature and even recordings do not prepare you for this bird. Reed bed warblers are typically skulky little gits who you may well hear but aren't likely to see. Not so this boy. He was up and down and all over the shop. Vocal maybe 90% of the time and frequently interacting with the local [and rather unamused] Reed Warblers, the Great flew here and there, climbed up to sing in the open and even went up the Willows on the edge of the tank - actually harder to see as it was hidden by the catkins!

What a bird. :D

With Things happening on Patch, I decided to head back with only a minor detour.. Well, I've only seen 2 White Storks, and as it was so close to the M5...

Curry Moor was hot in the near-sun and before being flooded had seemingly had several cubic kilometres of slurry spread on it. Lovely. 'Rotting vegetation' my arse [PI], pig slurry, that was. If only my nose had still been blocked...

A yomp beside the Tone to the viewing spot led to nowt, so on I yomped to Curry Moor Drove itself, where the mud-wading resulted in me being told "It was just over there until about 10 minutes ago, when it was driven off by Crows. I didn't see where it went" After a lot of looking, it seemed that the Stork hadn't just dropped into a gully or ditch, but had buggered off somewhere else instead. Oh well...

Home again home again... One more piece of business to take care of. After all, it would be irresponsible not to monitor all migrants passing through my Patch.

Late afternoon and another record in the diary:

Olympic Torch, 1

corporate ad-wagons, 3
'initiation shuttles'*, about 5
Met cops on bikes, 6
bicycle riders with spare torches, 4
assorted hangers-on and people who think they're important, I couldn't be arsed to stay and count]

[[*Coaches - I bet we've paid someone a hell of a lot of money to rebrand them. With a little sign on the front. The whole convoy meant that the only time you could actually see the Torch was when it was level with you..]]

I think I will have more to say on the subject at another time, so I'll leave it here.

Much Better

The weekend had rolled around and with the plague receded to a pesky cough it was time to get out and enjoy myself.

What to do, what to do?

Default position applies - I spent the day wandering around Vitifer. :)

T'Moor was shrouded by dark and threatening clouds, promising sogginess to any who ventured near, but what the hell, thought I. Though the low cloud was near fog on the way up - I had my headlights on as I passed an assembling horde of Happy Hikers at Cold East Cross - the clouds had lifted by the time I got to Bennett's Cross. Lifted up and away to the point of sunnyness, even. I very nearly quoted poetry to describe wandering around there all alone; just me and the birds. Some of the birds weren't as alone as they'd like - one poor innocent Cuckoo being mobbed here there and everywhere by demented Mipits!

The Whinchats are thoroughly back, with [after some messing around] gorgeous views of great birds. Hold on a sec... Ah, it works either way. For once, the Redpoll were in better form than the Siskin, with some super-showy males displaying right overhead :) A male Redstart even sat and posed for me - I even got the li'l scope on him. For all of seven seconds, but that's not bad for a Redstart.

Both valleys were given a thorough going over, though birding being what it is, a bunch of Robin strokers group of less serious birders saw twice as many Wheatears in one than I did in both put together... The Goddess of Birding likes to keep us humble, you know.

I did find a very nice Spot Fly, sat atop a Willow calling repeatedly. If it hadn't been for Hope's Nose, I'd have been raving about the best views I've ever had. Spot Flies being usually well up trees, hearing them is a treat, especially hearing them well. Over at Sousson's, one particular Tree Pipit also got in on the act, parachuting repeatedly at close range and not winding me up by mimicking a Bee-eater...

It was something I've missed, something I definitely needed - just ambling around. I carefully picked my way up among the Bluebells to see what might come by. A Cuckoo along the slopes or maybe a Kite above them? One lunch later there had been neither - only Blackbirds and a Mipit - but the Bluebells were lovely.

16 May, 2012

Time Flies..

Or not, when you're dragging yourself along Ok, sorry, no self-pitying crap.

I feel better. Not done with it yet, still got a nasty cough, but I don't feel anywhere near so bad, and have been working back up. The weekend looks promising for some proper fun.

Just a pity it wasn't sooner [I know, I know, no self-pitying crap..] Golden Orioles and Kentish fucking Plovers that stay for more than one day - even if that is in cornwall - and the ever wonderful Woodchat Shrike. Oh well....

Right then - its not like I've done nothing, this last week-and-a-bit;

Today a Grey Heron flew over work at lunchtime.

Sunday I went for a stroll around Wimbleball with the Folks, hoping for lots of lovely Bluebells and maybe some birds, too. No Wood Warblers this time, and the Bluebells are still a week or two from their best [drat] but a lot of warblers.. 74, in fact! [32 Willow, 29 Chiff, 8 Blackcap, 3 Whitethroat and 2 Garden]. The lake was crawling with anglers and racing dinghies and full to the brim, so the single Common Sand [spotted by Mum in flight :) ] was more than I expected. It was a very nice stroll, though one of those Kites flying over would have been welcome ;)

Saturday I got out under my own steam - though not trusting myself to drive any distance I only got as far as Exminster. 16 Hobbies were some reward though! :D Before that I dropped into the Nose, where 3 Shelduck and a Garden Warbler [the latter being seen off by a pair of Blackcaps!] were beaten by no less than 4 Wheatears!

Friday afternoon I also hobbled over to the Nose, where a Garden Warbler on the way was eclipsed by a Spotted Flycatcher!! Patch Tick! Crippling views! Oh yeah.... :) 2 Wheatear and 2 Whimbrel down along the Sole and double figures of Whitethroat for the first time this year. Took about twice the time I normally need to do that route, but it was great to get out and do some half-decent birding.

06 May, 2012


Is what I've been doing, with no more birding than can be done out the window or on my daily staggers [gentle exercise and fresh air is good for plague, they say].

A couple of bits of good news - today the first Blue Tits came into the Garden since Them Over There hacked their garden to bits. It was a dive in, grab a sunflower seed, and dive out affair, but better than nothing. Also, on my afternoon stagger, I managed to see a Hobby! It was passing through north - a Herring Gull tried to mob it but was effortlessly outpaced... :)

Less good news now, and here comes a rant.

Do you remember the Firecrest from last winter? The one by Babbacombe Theatre, that showed so wonderfully once and then was a right little git? Well, I watched it from a path, which connects the Downs [of Evil Developer Tried To Build a Fish Restaurant All Over It But Was Defeated fame] to Glen Sannox [of Shouldn't That Name Be Sent Back To Scotland? fame].
On yesterday's stagger, I found this path blocked, with signs saying it was closed due to 'Health and Safety'. Turns out Torbay Council in their utter stupidity brainless arrogance devious attempts to line the pockets of their friends in construction wisdom have decided to permanently destroy this public right of way, due to 'antisocial behaviour' which apparently has happened on it.

Yes, really. There's an article [of sorts] on the wonderful 'thisissouthdevon' website about it.

Its like saying, "Oh, people have driven too fast along this road, let's wall it off!" They're going to build a wall and a fence and fell 'a number' of perfectly healthy trees as a barrier to stop people going to the old viewpoint where these terrible crimes have happened. Am I the only one who thinks this is unreasonable?

Why not just report this law-breaking to the Police? Enough reports and they have to send patrols along there, and nobody with even a brain addled by crack will want to try anything illegal, because once they're at the viewpoint they can't see who's coming...

Better yet, why not improve the path? There are some uneven steps, and it gets very muddy, so fixing said steps and putting a better surface down [plus maybe a sign at each end?] will drastically raise the footfall and again deter these 'undesirables'.

I now come to a shameless appeal;
If any of you live in the St. Marychurch ward, please contact your councillors and give them hell over this. Point out that there are many better cheaper options, speculate that it could be seen as the first part of an attempt to sell the Theatre to a certain food entrepreneur, ask why the Police haven't acted if this is such a problem...

Thank you for putting up with that. :)

04 May, 2012


Apologies, but I'm starting with a self-pitying whinge bad news....

There have been many clouds upon my skies this week. Work, of course. Being at work while classic seawatches and falls have happened. That Roller probably flew right over my house, and I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that there were not one but two Nightingales having a sing-off at Hope's Nose while I was stuck wit' nose t'grindstone...

Also, I've been struck down with plague, which looks like it will last all frickin' weekend. I am not a happy bunny*.

It gets better, as just before 5:00 on Wednesday the Gull Alarm went off as something huge went over. I got on it too late, seeing a gbfo raptor with very long straight wings and a proportionately short tail [ie. not a Buzzard, Honey, Kite, or Harrier] vanishing high to the NW. At least an Osprey, I have a horrible feeling it was something even better...  



But all clouds do, so it is said, have silver linings. Mine came on the way to work today - a Cuckoo! Inside Patch bounds, too. Also, the Swifts are back - making their first evening screaming appearance on Wednesday [a small consolation]. This is one day earlier than last year, and as usual is in the first week of May. Ah, Swifts...  :)

[[*You don't want to know**.]]

[[**Ok, you do; I am a coughing, achey, snot-infested engine of suffering. Aren't you glad you looked? ;) ]]