24 June, 2012

The Last Day

Started with me once again waking up early, looking out the window, and going "Ah, fuck it.."

I really ought to learn.

True, I do have work to go back to, and early starts are not conducive to staying awake all night [and thus not getting sacked]. Also true, it did not look good weather wise. Again true the forecast said-oh never mind what the forecast said.

I got up again, later on, I thought "Oh what the hell" and rolled down to the Nose for a couple of hours just in case the rain had brought Stormies. It hadn't, but I got a Puffin, a Balearic, 43 C. Scoters and 311 Manxies. Gannet total? 38. Interesting...

The light was interesting, too. I gave the Ore Stone a good going over, with 419 Guillemots lurking on it and a very pleasing 4 pairs of Razorbills!

An afternoon stroll with the Folks along a sunny but windy Bolt - a very bipolar experience, with what felt like a 10° shift from in the wind to out of it - gave what you'd expect from there at this time of year and showing very nicely, too. We met a herd of cattle with calves. Usually this is Not Good. Especially when there's a nice three figure cliff involved. However, the cattle also had a bull with them. Surely a recipe for doom? After all, cattle have only one name for all kinds of dog, and that begins with a W.

But no, as the cows looked to the bull, who was utterly unbothered by tiny little dogs not even a 20th of his size, so the cows were unbothered, too. Tillbury found standing around cattle not worth barking at [unlike sheep, who are always worth a yap] and on we went.

We also met some pretty butterflies, some of which I was even able to ID. Ok, Painted Ladies [a whole 2 of them] are fairly easy. Ok, Dark Green Fritillaries aren't that hard either.. Common Blues? Yeah, so we saw some pretty butterflies. No dragonflies. Or horseflies. And I ain't never seen no elephant fly....


I could go on about all the flowers, the Thrift still out, the Scabious - what a name for such a beauty - and so on. I could once more rhapsodise about the ancient rocks of the Bolt, which have been turned to sparkly molasses by the incredible forces of tectonism. But I've done all that before, so I'll spare you a repeat.

Hi ho hi ho and all that...

Important Notice


23 June, 2012

Should Have Gone To Prawle..

All four days.

I mean, come on - a frickin' Bee-eater!!!!


Cutting off the whole rant about why I didn't go when I considered it each time, I'll talk about what I have been doing instead;
Two days on't Moor and two days at Hope's Nose.

There, done.


Ok, the Nose. Two seawatches more for practice than in any real hope of scoring a passing Diomedea spp.. The Gannets did their best impressions, btw, but really need to work on them... ;)
First up, the 'ordinary' birds - Kittiwakes were pretty consistent, coming in their usual pulses but not in any real numbers; about 10/hr on both watches. Gannets were a little more interesting, with maxima of 80/hr south [tailing off] on day one and 110/hr north [fluctuating] on day two. Fulmars were probably locals milling, with no marked passage. Manxies were low thirties south on both days with a few north - again very even. A group of 8 Sarnies went south on day one, and a one bird passed north on day two.

Now to the Ore Stone, where 390+ Guillemots were present on both days, but the notable - very notable - event came on day two, when in good light a pair of Razorbills were clearly among them! Being the best part of a klick offshore, the Ore Stone is not easy to do much more than count [and then you need lots of mag and good light] - this time I not only had the vis. but the Razorbills were sitting in nice easy poses, too. :D

Day one saw a lovely Balearic go by; a really light one - in wing moult - with white right down between the legs. Also two Med Gulls, an adult and a 1s, hung around offshore for a while. A bunch of Common Scoters had a whale of a time flying back and forth, being right buggers. It went like this; 20 came north, but 9 split off and went back south - 10 went by south - 4 went by south (!) - 10 came north - 3 came north. So... how many Scoters were going to St. Ives?

Day two saw my first skuas since the 8th. A light morph Arctic was a long way out as it trolled past south, and something else was even further out. It looked very very interesting, but while it was hanging around it stayed a huge way offshore. Eventually it seemed to think about heading north, but then stalled twice and on the second one it stayed down and didn't reappear. It was nice and bouncy [my first thought was "Tern", which is always promising], with a lot out the back and a nice pale bit on the breast. I think it was a 3 or maybe 4 c.y. Long-tail, but I'm just too rusty on them to be sure. Drat and double drat.

Vexing little skuas aside, both days were better than I expected them to be and certainly gave good practice on the regulars in tricky conditions.

Up onto t'Moor... I went first to the north Moor; I'm not saying where as I met a family of Red Grouse [ :) ]. It's been a good year for them, for me. Less protected and more surprising was a Dipper!* On the Moor proper, all under the open sky and everything.. I assume it's a non-breeder kicked off the best bits and having to lurk. I had a good walk - nice to get some exercise for the poor old legses..

Today I was up on the South Moor, and as I met no rarities I can tell you I walked one of my favourites - Whiteworks to Fox Tor to Duck's Pool to Broad Rock to Plym Ford to Eylesbarrow. I met lots of Wheatears, many of them juveniles and one of them the palest male I've ever seen, he was practically white! Blended in beautifully with the lichen-covered granite. I did not get rained on, though the wind was..brisk.. and the clouds threatened all sorts of soggyness. Of interest, there were a lot of big gulls up there today, mostly Herring, naturally, but at least one LBB and what looked like a Yellow-leg [didn't get a chance to interrogate it properly, mind, but what I saw looked good.] Also as much for the exercise as the joy of the Moor, though plenty of delectable solitude was on offer - it was pretty quiet for a June weekend. Funny, that.. ;)

You know, I have a burble about seawatching that I've been thinking on, but I'm out of time. [Stop cheering!] Maybe later.

[[*This is one of those things that I wonder about; why are Kingfishers Schedule 1 but not Dippers? Postcards on an answer, please.]]

19 June, 2012

I'd Like To Apologise..

You may not appreciate this one much..

What can I say?

After all the fun of Saturday, Sunday saw the Traditional Family Picnic Type Thing. The weather behaved [I admit it, I'm shocked], though a flock of sheep made sure Tilbury Dog was.. well, she calmed down eventually. I should hasten to add this was inside the compound at Fernworthy, where sheep are not supposed to be, but life's full of little surprises. ;)

It was a good day, star of the catering was again taken by Sister, who baked these hazelnut and  chocolate biscuits, coated in melted icing sugar. Very impressive. Fernworthy was very green [Sister hadn't been before and even she, townie that she is, liked it], the rain having been good for it. Willow Warblers and Tree Pipits were quite confiding, though we were surrounded by Chaffinches - who tried a The Birds routine to get us to leave them a few biscuits..!

I was far too lazy on Monday - week off work [again!] - getting out only to wander about Yarner with the Folks. Also very very greeeen. We saw Pied Flys where I've not seen them before, but again no Lesser Pecker.

Right, you thought that was bad? Today today...

I went out looking for species protected by law. The scum-sucking snotling fondlers that make said laws necessary are the reason for all the redaction you're about to be treated to.

So, I was after redacted and censored, the latter being unseen by me for, what, two years now? Far too long. Gorgeous things, too. The weather seemed reasonable, so off I toddled to my first site of hopefulness - I'm not telling. To cut a not very long story even shorter I dipped horribly, evidently the recent weather's to blame as I saw frick all in the way of also censored due to context. I did however meet something I didn't expect, when I stumbled on another protected species, namely a slender-billed curlew. I'm kidding! !! Did not expect that, but as it's theoretically possible to be needed to not be talked about, I'm not taking chances.

Onwards onwards to somewhere else, where my first target was also a possibility, but where I also dipped it. Drat. Naming birds is a bit problematic due to context, but I did see some nice things I can talk about - Emperor Dragonflies for the first time this year, one of which even slowed down enough for me to try a photo.. Just wait and I'll inflict the blur on you. I then found another thing I can't mention, a stonking five-eyed five horned flying purple people eater. Great views, too. I was very chuffed to see one away from again the context, sorry. Finally, after lots of wandering around in the blasting sunshine I scored what I'd been hoping for, brief but close, come on, you think I'd tell? Then as if by magic I got another and another.. JOY. :D

So, only one of my two targets, but two bonuses, one of which [the you still checking these?!?, of course] was the kind of context again that you just have to wait until you get lucky for, really. I suppose there are places to have a chance of going for them, but not close and not with reasonable chances of more context without resorting to immoral methods. So I'm a very happy bunny.

Don't you just love censorship?

Made you look! Yeah, so mature....

17 June, 2012

Raining June

That's more like it!

Having been vexed by the weather on Friday and, more importantly, not having slept since Thursday, I wasn't up at the crack o'doom yesterday morning. I did set my alarm, but everything seemed dry at first light so I went back to sleep...

Eventually dragging up, I figured, 'Well, it's overcast at least..' and What Else Is There To Do?

The wind was just far enough around to let me sit on the Steps - which is a far comfier location than the Official Seawatching Spot - and there were birds moving. 150 or so Manxies in hour one, in fact! Makes me wonder, but never mind...

So, I watched for an unexpected 8 hours [I'd just taken lunch on the off chance..] and scored a very nice shifty wind which flirted with SSE and gave some nice showers before a bitch of a front came through at 1345, with 45 mins of very heavy to Oh I'm So Glad I've Got My Bumbleshoot rain.. :D An hour after the rain started, the outflow kicked in, with a nicely fragrant brown slick that made all those fishermen seem very free and loose brave indeed..

After the front passed it got calmer - well, more westerly - and it even tried a little sunshine now and then. I had a great time, I have to say. Being wedged in the end of the Steps, I only had one direction of wind to worry about, so the brolly wasn't my main focus. Not that much actually moved [in sight] while the rain band went by, but its nice to be able to be sure. Being there also keeps you out of the fishermaniacs' way, useful in the stampede that the rain brought on.. [Wimps.. ;) ]

I counted 565 Manxies past south in all - the hourly rate dropped before the front and none passed while it did - but no other shearwaters. Hmm. 3 Puffins were great - though only the last one showed really well. 196 Gannets south [and 26 north] is very interesting, as it shows a very similar rate to yesterday. I think it likely that the >500% rise in Manx passage is entirely murk-related - they were there yesterday, just a lot further out!

With rain having fallen, I was hoping for Stormies and got them - though not close until after the front. 11 Storm Petrels in all, very nice indeed. The only terns were a group of 3 Sarnies - though nice and close and in one of the patches of sunshine. The Guillemot colony on the Ore Stone gave a count of 375+ - which is where I'd expect it in full go - and at least 8 Razorbills were among the Guilles flying to and fro [I didn't see any go to the Ore Stone, though]. 55 Kittiwakes was a lighter passage than I expected, they being [probably] outnumbered by 67 Fulmars [though you can never tell how many are flying in circles]. 5 Swifts also passed by south and a gorgeous s/pl Great Northern Diver on the sea by the Lead Stone finishes things off.

Much more like it.

15 June, 2012

Flaming June...

It all looked so promising.

The wind, the big boss squally showers...

Well, one out of two, eh?

Blazing sunshine today at Berry Head, though the wind was fierce and swung around between SSE and SSW. Being a stubborn idiot patient and persistent I gave it 'til mid afternoon. A Puffin, a Balearic, 88 Manxies, 121 Gannets, 33 Kittiwakes, 9 Sarnies and a few Swifts. So still better than 4 Gannets and  a Fulmar. There were Fulmars and Guilles too.

I was not alone in my delusions of trust in the forecasts and that eventually a shower would bring something epic. Four others, who shall remain nameless, had also tried their luck. We were also rewarded with the odd Harbour Porpoise - the one I was able to get on managed to clear the surface as it porpoised. I've never actually seen a Porpoise porpoise before, so definitely worth a day sweltering in the sun. Yes, dressed for a day in driving wind and rain...

That's seawatching, sometimes you watch the sea.

11 June, 2012

Little June Showers

A welcome week off comes to an end, with the joys of work beckoning once more.

But before that...

On Saturday I decided that it was time for a break from all the sitting around staring at the waves and went up on't Moor to get some proper exercise. Naturally, the weather was a great deal wetter and windier than forecast and a whole shedload of Stormies went unseen by me. Oh well and so on..

Starting from Kestor Rock, I skirted Fernworthy to Teignhead Farm, before turning towards Watern Tor. I then came back over the Teign to Kestor via Shovel Down. Nice and simple.

Not the original plan, mind.. I'd intended an early stop at Teignhead, then up Hangingstone Hill and on to Wild Tor and maybe even Cosdon Beacon, but an attack of ticks put paid to the former [Teignhead is one of the tickiest places going, alas] and the weather made me rethink the latter. Heading up onto that ridge is great and all, but sideways rain does put a crimp in plans to enjoy the views. Also, a veritable horde of happy hikers clustered atop Cosdon made me question the whole 'If it's raining at least you get some privacy' thing..

Anyway. There were juvie Wheatears, which were adorable, also young Stonechats, Mipits, Skylarks.. :)  The Moor was pretty damp, the watercourses high, and while it wasn't really cold [it is still June, they assure me] it didn't feel like summer. I did manage to fill in one of those little gaps on the map where I hadn't set foot - yes, that is a bog and yes that ford is knee-deep...

Yesterday it rained. Quite a lot. Then it rained some more. With light winds I waited the weather out before heading to the Nose, hoping for something too wimpy to fly in high winds... ;)

No joy in that regard, or indeed in regards to any skuas, but the two hours I gave the brisk NNE did produce a Black Tern, so I can't complain! :D A few Manxies passed, mostly north, Gannets, Kittiwakes and Fulmars, too. 2 Common Scoter went south. No Stormies - no slick and onshore winds didn't help - but a Harbour Porpoise put in a brief appearance.

It was worth the trip, and made me wonder if I shouldn't have just proofed up and spent the day there.. Roll on the weekend! ;)

08 June, 2012

Dancing On Mercury

Hope's Nose is a funny old place. Sometimes you can go there in what seem to be very good conditions and get 4 Gannets and a Fulmar [nope, not letting go of that one any time soon..]. Sometimes you can turn up in bright, nay sunny weather and get a shedload.


I was not up at the crack of doom this morning to be there for first light. I needed sleep, and my optics were still soggy. [Indeed, the filter on my scope kept steaming up most of today, which was annoying] So it ended up being an afternoon watch. Oh well. I do wonder if anyone got there this morning, and if  so how amazing it was, because there were Stormies, my dear readers, there were loads of them!

Veteran birders will tell you that Hope's Nose hasn't been the same since they stopped pumping raw sewage into the sea. This is true, but the outfall is still there, and while it is officially treated safe waste water that goes out now, it is also a storm drain outlet [or some such jargon]. This means that when it rains like it has done, you get a great big sheeny slick of smelliness. Cue fun times! [And nose plugs, if the wind's not offshore..]

Today, with the bright overcast verging on and even breaking into blazing sunshine [in between the odd light if squally shower], the slick was still visible. All the bits big enough for gulls and Fulmars had been polished off, but there was still plenty to feed teeny tiny Stormies  :D This is where the Nose beats Berry Head - you may not get so much, but what you do get can be right down your throat; you'd need a boat to get closer. The most I counted at any one time on the slick was 5, but with birds coming, feeding and moving on, plus others that went straight through I totalled an amazing [for me] 34* Storm Petrels in four hours. Hot damn.

It was quality over quantity [as HN does] with the Stormies backed by a gorgeous 4cy [you could just get some barring in the underwing coverts, though it had a full tail] light morph Arctic Skua past south, nice and close. Almost overhead went a female-type Eider, also south. A party of 5 Common Scoter flew south, as did 48 Gannets, 53 Kittiwakes, 21 Fulmars. 18 Manxies passed north in small groups and a Swift and 3 Swallows came in/off.

Stormies tripping the light fantastic in the sunshine...  Not bad.  :)

*33 Stormies and one possible Wilson's - flight and silhouette right but not able to get plumage. Drat!

07 June, 2012

Fun In The Rain

Oh, the wind it doth blow and we shall have some damn fine seawatching!

When the storms come howling in and it starts raining up, most people hide indoors. Not so a select band of deranged maniacs elite birders, who head for the most exposed headlands they can find and offer their suffering [and sometimes their brollies] to the Goddess of Birding, in the hope She will rain down wonderful birds upon them.

So it was that today at Berry Head, I watched for ten [and a bit] hours and the Lady smiled and sent me 33 Puffins! 2 Sooty Shearwaters! 3 Balearics! 1376 Manxies! 3 Stormies! 2 Pom Skuas! 3 Arctic Skuas! 3 Bonxies! 2 skuas I couldn't  safely assign to species! 378 Gannets! 208 Kittiwakes! A s/pl Great Northern Diver! 

Ok, ok, I'm stopping....

I'm not going to go on about this, there will be no more than the briefest mentions of [Famous Devon Birder]'s spawny shear [well done], the invisible Sunfish, low-flying Harbour Porpoises, or pretty orchids. Let alone the Incident of the Big Girls' Blouses...

Suffice to say it was great to get back into proper seawatching [not that I've not been seawatching this year - you've been reading my burbles...  ;) ], with a group of my favourite seawatchers and even some great birds to boot. The 3cy Pom, the second Sooty, the first Balearic, the 4 Puffins. Brilliant! The wind was very tricksy at times- ok it was a right git quite a lot, and it rained, then sunned at us quite viscously, but I think it fair to say a good day was had by all. Even if that little bird's timing was off.. 

05 June, 2012


Evil men, you face The Tick.


Ahem. Apathy ruled for most of today, when finally I got over it I wandered over to The Nose to see what was going past.

Dark phase, fully spooned, Pom Skua. That's what. Nice bin range, too. It cruised by south at 1625, gave a Geeb some grief in passing and motored on.

Ho-ly Shiiit.....

I'm a happy birder.

I did timed counts to see what else was doing, with hourly rates of 60 for Manxies, 90 for Gannets, and 30 for Fulmars. Only got one Kitt through while timing, so... There were plenty of auks about, as you'd expect from a busy little colony like the Ore Stone [and with a busier one just over there] - but at least 4 Razorbills were interesting among the Guilles.

The strong SSE with rain bands in the constant drizzle [after the bulk of the day was solid heavy rain] gradually lifted, and by the time I was getting home the sun came out...

Yesterday, the Jubilee Family Weekend theme continued with a wander around the Meavy / Burrator area with Folks, Dog, and Sister the Younger. We had a good time, Tilly had a great time, unfortunately the midgies did pretty well too - finding somewhere to picnic where Little Black Dogs can't see little white sheep led to being tucked down out of the wind... One swift change of location later and things improved. A bit. Sister still got chickenpoxed, though. Ouch. Moral of the story; when you're offered repellant, don't say no.

The birds were active, with a Wood Warbler, Redstarts, Tree Pipits, Siskin, Willow Warblers and so on among the trees. I counted 4 Cuckoos, one of which posed nicely for us on a Hawthorn in the Meavy valley. Also there, Grey Wagtails in trees! Ok, Hawthorns and Rowans, but still. Just the one Wheatear to report, but he was very pretty all the same. :)   A female Demoiselle sp. was messing about the leat in the reservoir compound, but was too sneaky to ID properly.

Still no low-flying Kites..

03 June, 2012

Definitely Rusty..

I should have taken one look at the forecast last night, rubbed my hands together, possibly cackled in an eeeevil manner, then gone seawatching today.

Instead I had a lie-in. I did end up at Prawle, albeit this afternoon. With the Folks. And a Little Black Dog Who Does Not Like To Stay Still. Or Quiet.

Given that it was seawatching weather, with a strong WSW and drizzle come rain, I was impressed that said Folks were not only willing to go out but also get almost to Peartree Point before deciding to call it a day and look for somewhere sheltered. [We had brought coffee and biccies, being Not Entirely Daft] There were quite a few people around, too - though they became fewer and fewer as the rain resolutely refused to go away.

It was quite a nice walk, actually. Not at all cold [easy to forget it's June]. Loads of flowers. Birds, too. I counted 29 species, with Cirl Buntings, Yellowhammers and what looked like one of those CirlxYellowhammer Hybrid? Things [see the DBN blog for photos of another one]. Land birds were pretty thin though, with the howling wind and all. At sea things were different, with Gannets and Kittiwakes passing close inshore, and several groups of the former lingering to fish. We were treated to 9 very close in off Lannacombe Beach while we sat in the lee of the wall for afternoonses. All of them seemed to be subadults, some very near to breeding plumage. Beneath the white rain, a few surface fishers braved the waves - a couple of auks plus assorted Shags and Cormorants. Tilbury amused herself by chewing chunks of driftwood to bits, before enjoying several bits of kelp stalk. Yes, my Mum's Mad Dog likes eating seaweed...

The Gannets were spectacular and very close, as was the sea, with a good swell coming in on the rising tide. One kid on a bodyboard was the only surfer brave enough to venture in, with a few nutty yachts and a big racing powerboat offshore. Also in the sea on the way back, a pretty Grey Seal bobbing in a sheltered cove.

There were no corvids [with or without red bits] at Berry Pomeroy...

Green Eyed Monster

If you're a poor innocent mozzie, anyway. To me, it's more of a gem. I write of the Downy Emerald Dragonfly - jade eyes on a waspish metallic dark green body - a fast, low flying odonate of tree-lined ponds.

Yesterday I went to Little Bradley seeking them - it being warm [ok, near-stiflingly humid] and calm. I duly scored, though the little bugger waited until I'd gotten the camera set up and ready before buggering off for good! Drat. Not that there'd been much chance of getting a good [ok, recognisable] picture, but what the hell, worth a try?

Anyway.. Before that I'd been at Exminster, where the Garganey once again eluded me and there was no sign of the Pec Sand. I had to console myself with the snazzy Spoonbill - which actually moved! - and Glossy Ibis. Yeah, real tragedy, that  ;)

Finally, I went to asecretplace to see if I could find namelessbirds, without any luck.

Today I had more lovely work, but after I escaped, I went for a wander about Yarner with the Folks. Tillbury was in especially frisky mood, charging about like an even madder dervish. Fortunately, the birds weren't too bothered by her antics, with Wood Warblers and Pied Flycatchers showing well - though not in huge numbers [the rain may have had a hand in that]. First time I've had more Woodies than Pied Flies, though our route was a likely reason. Redstart and Spot Fly were present though less obliging and once again no sign of LSW. Yarner is fully green now, with the leaves making it a proper challenge to pick up birds in the canopy. Its amazing the changes the seasons bring - but I've babbled about this more than once.

So.. with the Jubilee, I have a nice week off work [the Powers That Be deciding it's simpler to just have a shut down]. Cue the rain but not wind! And still no fragging Kites, I'm sure...