29 August, 2012

Mostly Watching Gannets...

I intending to post right after getting back, but was slightly distracted by low-flying Red Arrows.. :)

Right then, before I get to today's fun and games...

Yesterday I took opportunity given by the lull in the weather to batter the Patch for migrants, getting a very nice Spotted Flycatcher for my troubles, despite all the bods wandering about. That and a Stonechat stood out among a few phylloscs at the Nose, plus two Turnstones which flew inland towards the harbour [?]. Little anywhere else, though, aside from noting the continued presence of the House Martins.

Got up at just after aaaarrrgghhh o'clock and toddled back to my beloved Hope's Nose [;)]. Squished into the end of The Steps and stayed put for 9 hours. In this time it rained. Oh cheese and whiskers did it rain. I've not seen rain that hard for a long while, it was coming down so hard it looked like the rocks were boiling! To put it a little more properly; the wind was SSSE to S, moving to SSW [to SE in a couple of squalls] to SW, strong with some very strong gusts. Rain bands and powerful squalls, eventually clearing to sunshine and fluffy white clouds [with big showers passing in the distance].

So what did I get soaked for? Mostly Gannets. Out of 1127 counted seabirds, 604 were Gannets. Big numbers of non-Gannet birds were not the order of the day. I did get variety and no small amount of quality, so I'm not unhappy.

I'll cut to the chase with the skuas; first Long-tail showed up at 0728, dithered and vanished into the murk without being seen to pass. Second was a cracking dark morph at 1053, which looked uncannily like a certain artist's rendering from Across The Bay ;) and certainly headed off that way! Third was another intermediate at 1257, which also didn't seem to pass. So 2 or 3 Long-tails for me. Skuas were light on the sea full stop, with 1 [cracking] Pomarine, 3 Bonxies [all after the front] - one with a lot of white showing in the upperwing due to moulty coverts - and 9 Arctic, plus 1 skua sp. which was probably Arctic, too. The first Arctic went north and didn't return that I saw [it was a superb adult dark morph - came through inside the Lead Stone!], all the rest went south.

Why so few? Same reason as only 139 Manx, 11 Balearic, and 4 Sooty Shearwaters; the bloody 'Lavender Ace'! This was a floating brick car carrier anchored west of the Nose. Nothing like a big artificial island to keep the birds offshore.. ::Mutter mutter::

The terns were less bothered, I counted 21 Commic [due to poor visibility - they were all together!], 25 Common, 7 Sarnie, 3 Arctic, and a lovely adult Roseate [ :) ] - which stood out very nicely, especially when it came past the Ore Stone.
Odds n' sods were 8 Common Scoter, a Whimbrel, a Razorbill, a Common Gull, and 2 adult LBBs.
Fulmar count came to 121, but I know they were looping back as I saw one do it when I was walking down, so don't take much notice!
Finally, pretty gulls; 165 Kittiwakes included 11 juveniles, and last but oh so not least.. a Sabine's Gull! :D  Sneaking through in the rain at 1058. Sweet.

It wasn't an easy watch by any measure, far different from Monday, which felt a bit like a holiday at the time and a whole lot like it today, especially when I realised my 'waterproof' trollies had leaked again*. Time for more duct tape, methinks. Even Hermione was in a funny mood, pecking my toe to remind me she was there in case I had any spare bits of sarnie. I didn't, as she'd turned up late, and so the cheeky gull had to settle for an apple core.

[*The main reason** I stayed on past 1500 was to dry off....***]

[**Though there were a couple of Arctics, too].

[***I should point out to anyone who got a pair of those fishing troosers after I plugged them, that I was effectively sitting in a pool of water, so it's not entirely surprising that a tiny leak slowly and sneakily soaked me.]

27 August, 2012


The forecast looked interesting again, though perhaps moderate southerlies with a day full of rain wasn't quite so promising. I decided it was time for a change, as I hadn't been to Berry Head in an age [hell, I nearly went to 'gwarra!]. With the weather first thing not looking great, I had an extra while in bed then pootled over, tooled up for a day spent under the bumbleshoot. Hopefully with the company of a few of Devon's Finest to help pass the time. And you never know, there's always a shot at Berry Head, right?

Ding Ding Ding Jackpot!!

Turning up to find many of Devon's Finest on hand and a lot of the rest arriving not long after me, I got this funny feeling I'd done good.

Then I hear what's gone past already.

Then it begins....

You can go green over the scores at Devon Birding, suffice to say it was one of the great Berry Head days. The wind picked up from first thing and the bands of rain that came through did their job admirably. Better yet, we were nicely sheltered and could use our brollies without having to worry too much about losing them to the sea. It was brilliant!!

Oh what the hell...
I didn't even get my clickers out [I'm so bad, and it was already being done], let alone try to count Kitts, Gannets, Fulmars, Manxies or even Common Terns, but I did count the juv. Kitts passing: 17 of them. I got on 6 Sooties, 30 Balearics, 1 Stormy [always an achievement, getting on someone else's Stormy!], the juv. Little Gull, a Swift, a Mallard, 2 Curlew, a Whimbrel, 6 Razorbills, a Guillemot, 5 Arctic Terns, the 12 Scoter. Also 170 skuas...

170!! They just kept coming. It would rain, it would ease, the skuas would come. Some powered through. Some plonked down on the sea. Some harassed poor innocent seabirds.. A Bonxie had an unwary Herring Gull for lunch. Two more tried the same routine on a Sooty, but it was able to dive to safety repeatedly, before finally coming up far enough away from the skuas to get up airspeeed, at which point it pulled away like they weren't moving...

Aside from the Bonxies [though they were all checked over Just In Case], every skua prompted a debate. Some longer than others, with obvious adult Arctics being pretty clear-cut, but still very educational stuff. Sitting on the end of a line of some of the best birders around [I really do not include myself in that epithet, btw] I found it fascinating how fluid the discussions were. Every skua was new, and nobody was consistently cautious or optimistic [as I put it in my head]. Finding myself trying to talk my betters out of a Long-tail, saying "There's a shot of an Arctic in European Seabirds that looks just like that"* was slightly surreal..

Getting back to numbers again, this is the second biggest skua day I've ever had; only the amazing Day of the Skuas last year surpasses it. I ended up with 102 Arctic [my first three-figure count for a skua sp., btw], 3 Pomarine, and 55 Bonxies. Yes, that's 160.


10 Long-tailed Skuas....

Not bad, eh?

Oh yes, in all the excitement I almost forgot; yesterday twas a family wander around Hawkerland Common, which was surprisingly Bank Holiday Hordes free, but also full of soggy bits. Sister the Younger came along and did very well, bog-hopping in formerly white trainers. Tilly enjoyed herself, naturally, though as usual she wondered why the humans were so averse to wading belly-deep through wet bits.. It wasn't an entire disaster by any means and it hardly rained on us at all. :)

[*Which there is - especially the head and underwing, which was what was being talked about. But the bird was a Long-tail, as a handy passing Arctic demonstrated within seconds of me opening my gob.. Goes to show that juvenile and immature skuas are just as annoyingly variable as gulls. Personally, where plumages can overlap I much prefer to go by structure, but that of course relies on them being considerate enough to show it to you!]

25 August, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

I did not go seawatching today!

In fact I spent a far too large chunk of today asleep [bloody alarm clocks that only work when you remember to turn them on...]. I then only got as far as a quick wander about bits of the Patch which didn't have sea in them. Ok, I did also have a look off the Downs, but there was bugger all out there. Only thing worth typing was a band of Coal and Long-tailed Tits not far from my house. It must be autumn.

I could blabber on about something bird-related now, but instead I'm going to surprise you by living up to the title. Also by putting a photo up! Yes, another one!

This is from last year, as I didn't see let alone get a picture of any this year. It's even vaguely in focus and you can actually identify it [just].

Taken kneeling in a bog at an undisclosed location in Devon. I have more, but this is the least worst in terms of focus - I'd like to blame the wind, but lack of ability is the major factor...

24 August, 2012

Appearances Can Be Deceptive

Once again the weather rolls in on a Friday and once again I headed down to Hope's Nose. Albeit a bit later due to some involuntary shuteye...!

It didn't seem too hopeful at first, bright overcast threatening sunshine, but I went on and the wind was just east of south and then a couple of very nasty squalls came roaring through. Sweet. Well, nearly, as there was a certain..shall we say paucity? of birds. A big flock of Common Scoter came through close and high - I counted 33 of them - but aside from a few Gannets that was it for more than an hour!

Eventually more odds and sods started dribbling through behind the showers, and then the front itself arrived, with some serious rain! In its leading edge there were a few good birds and a little pulse of Manxies, but nothing like last week. The outflow kicked in and a nice slick developed, sprouting Fulmars like magic. :) When the rain eased, there was some movement, but oh the wind... instead of kicking around to something like SW, the wind went from S to SE! I'd wedged into the end of The Steps, and so got a lovely taste of spray. Yeah. So much for the South West's Biggest Chumming Machine....

Moving around to the Traditional Seawatching Spot, I started looking for all the stuff that should be behind the front... And looked... and looked.......  Gannets, Manxies, not many of either....
Hope's Nose strikes again - conditions were pretty striking; gungey drizzle and rain giving a nice wall just outside the Manxie Line, strong SSE-SE winds. Sounds great, right? Big Shear weather. But a lack of birds. Hope's Nose is tricksy like that - the seawatch he never shuts up about Four Gannets and a Fulmar watch was in great conditions, too.

There were some nice birds, it was by no means a sea watch; early on a Sooty went screaming past north, way out, and what I assume was the same bird came back south much closer in. This was the first Sooty this year that was close enough to enjoy as well as ID - Star Bird. 3 Balearics and only 45 Manx in more than 5 hours, plus 95 Gannets [91 south] 26 Kittiwakes [only 2 juv.s] and 48 Fulmar. No skuas at all! Singles of Little and Common Gull, Whimbrel, Ringed Plover and Razorbill also went by south. Terns were a bit better, with 3 Arctic - 2 adults and a juvenile - 19 Common and 4 Sandwich, all nice and close in.

Finally, Hermione the Herring Gull turned up within 10 minutes of me sitting down and over the course of the stop-start rain gradually got used to my bumbleshoot enough to only step back a bit when I put it up or down. In the week since we last met, she's acquired a noticeable pink tinge to the base of her mandible. Rockits and a Whitethroat were the most interesting land birds, with amazingly several Gatekeepers on the wing - and having to put a lot of effort in, too!

This is Post 400. Woo!
I never thought I'd find this much to natter on about, really I didn't...

20 August, 2012

The Post I Should Have Posted Yesterday

Following a similar course to last weekend, I spent yesterday wandering the Patch. Catching up on sleep prevented me from being at the Nose first thing - which, judging by the numbers of phylloscs hanging around, might have been good - but the mix of hot sun and sea fog made for some interesting conditions anyway.

Two big kettles of Herring Gulls feeding on flying ants came to at least 450 birds - with juveniles present in numbers. A lone Swift was also tucking in, as were a few remaining House Martins.

Seeing the fog banks out to sea, I headed to the Nose, where I found a fair few phylloscs, a lone Blackcap, and some interesting weather! The southerly-ish wind was blowing fog up past the Nose - the Brixham triangle was acting as a huge shield for Tor Bay, which was basking in sunshine. Every now and then, the wind would shift to the SSE, causing the fog to come rolling in and obscure everything.

I took the opportunity to see what was hanging around on the exposed rocks; 18 Oyks, a lone Whimbrel, and several Rockits were picking through the weed. After maybe ten minutes of this, the wind shifted back and the fog receded slowly beyond the Ore Stone. Seeing Manxies passing in the edge of the fog bank in some numbers I tried a timed count, getting 167 in ten minutes, that's an hourly rate of 1000! Smaller numbers of Kittiwakes and Gannets were also passing, but with only bins and only a few Manxies coming close, I couldn't pick out anything scarcer.

On the insect front, I encountered two Southern Hawkers on IMD, first a male, then a female - Patch dragon Tick! Singles of Wall, Red Admiral and Holly Blue, plus 3 Silver Y Moths and many 6-Spot Burnets, some of which had odd transparent upper wings [?] were among the hordes of Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns and numbers of Common Blue and Speckled Wood.

Finally, today more gulls after flying ants; at least 250 this afternoon, plus at least 6 Swift and a House Martin.

19 August, 2012

The Blog I Should Have Blogged On Friday

Seawatching after you've done a night shift and haven't slept since the afternoon before is always a challenge. On Friday I did grey out a little now and then, when the sun shone and it got warm, and I suffered Head To Eyepiece once or twice. I also only twigged after it had passed that that wasn't a juv Kitt but a Little Gull, and almost missed the Black Tern. The Whimbrel was better, it went by point blank and calling. As did a couple of Turnstones and 21+ Dunlin [where did they go to?!?]

Getting back to where I should be.. The weather was pretty reasonable, at least once the showers cum rain bands started kicking through, and the wind, which was barely west enough for me to squeeze into the south corner of The Steps, stayed nice and brisk until the sun really came out in the afternoon. After a Gannet-rich start - first scan was 15 Gannet, 5 Fulmar, 5 Kittiwake, 3 Manxie! - some huge post-rain Manx surges gave a final score of 1232 south / 7 north for Manx and 232 south / 5 north for Gannets. 157 Kitts went by, with 25-30 juveniles among them, and while 55 Fulmars passed, how many zipped back north over the top? I didn't take hourly figures [tut tut] - I didn't think of it until about 2 1/2 hours in - which is a shame as there were some big variations in there.

Despite the very nice attacks of rain, there wasn't the array of 'interesting ones' you'd expect. Skuas were thin indeed - 2 Bonxies and a lone Arctic. 3 Balearics and another shearwater sp. among the Manx - though rain and the very annoying habit they all had on the day of really staying low in the troughs may have obscured more. 5 Common Scoter, 3 Razorbills, 2 Guillemots, a Swift... Oh, and the other terns. 60 Common Tern, 21 Sarnie, 5 Commics - not bad. On shore a Painted Lady was my first of the year [I think..].

Last's the best... As my watch was coming to an end, I noticed some bright spots way out and a way to the north. Light on waves? They would appear, grow, and wane, over a few seconds, all in irregular timing, in a discrete patch of sea. Which was slowly moving. Into the wind. Oh ho, thinks I, that's the sun reflecting off the dorsal fins of cetaceans!
So I waited while they gradually got closer, deciding that there were at least 5 of them, and that they had good-sized fins on them. Finally when they were east and at their closest I could make out some better detail; tall falcate fins on grey bodies with lots of scarring - Risso's Dolphins!

I also had some company for almost half my watch - a 1s female Herring Gull. This character, coverts very well barred, dark bill with fancy pale tip, interesting tertial pattern*, gradually sidled up to me until she was standing in reach. Definitely a cool customer, she'd worked out I was happily sheltered from the wind [and rain - the bumbleshoot was something she found both scary and interesting!] and those big nasty GBBs were keeping clear of me. Plus, human equals food, right?
Being so close to a wild bird was great; I looked at her and she was looking back - iris just starting to get paler, btw - but once it got to lunch time, there was a definite overtone of 'Can I get one of those sarnies off him?'. Deciding charity was better than violence, I used the old 'toss a bit of food over there' routine. After fighting off 3 juveniles, she stayed put [in hope of more low-flying rations!] for the rest of the time I was there.

[[*Inner few had the typical edge notching, but most had broad pale tips with a thin dark subterminal band. Interesting.]]

18 August, 2012

Quoting Blake

Seems to be the done thing when you find a Jersey Tiger in your Garden. You may be surprised to learn that it was the first one I've ever seen. You probably won't be surprised to learn that I've tried photography again, and may inflict the results on you at some point in the future...

Moth meeting happened when I got in from work, after that I had Things to Do. As one of said Things was in Paignton, I decided to walk over [plus the cost of parking.. let alone the buses!?!!]. I may have taken optics. I certainly needn't have bothered, as the fanciest birds were a couple of calling Chiffchaffs and the odd BHG... [I had a vain hope* concerning terns in the bay...]. I've not had a decent walk in a while and this was the sunny side of 10 miles, so vaguely respectable. Still not the best of ideas, though, as while the wind was brisk, it was horribly humid out there and the results were not pretty, oh no..

Yesterday I naturally dragged myself kicking and screaming down to Hope's Nose and spent a merry six hours indeed. But more on that later, when I have time to burble properly.

[[*Low-flying Ospreys are a dream]]

14 August, 2012

Short and Sweet

Just before 5pm today, a Swift low over the garden. Rooftop height, clearly feeding, clearly Common.
Had me going for a second, though.. :)

In other news;
At last! Photographic proof! The naysayers can gft* - immature / non-breeding Eleonora's Falcons DO wander and CAN get here. Eyes to the skies, folks....

Speaking of raptors, I had a wonderfully vivid dream** yesterday about being woken by the Gull Alarm to see an Osprey flying low overhead [well, Hill-top height, which is low for any raptor trying to pass the Herrings!]. One day it'll be real. One day...

In the garden, there was a Coal Tit with the Sparrow Mob this morning - quite early for them - and Goldfinches continue to visit. :) Also a Collared Dove after the Traditional Summer Absence.

Finally... Look at the forecast! AAAAARRRGGGHHH!!!!!! If you can, get out there and let me know what I'll be missing... ::Sniff::

I've got that Friday Feeling, creeping up on me..
I've got that Friday Feeling, soon to watch the sea!

[[*Go Farm Turnips. What did you think I meant?!? ;) ]]
[[**Yes, I'm getting that bad, its becoming a Dream Log.... ;) ]]

13 August, 2012

The Joy Of Patch

Blogging Delayed By Olympic Nonsense again...

A stadium full of people from across the world and all of them singing along to Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life. Brilliant.

Saturday had me working - oh yeah, speaking of; 5 Sand Martins over south there on Thursday! Work Tick! - with a bashing of the Patch afterwards. With a brisk wind there wasn't a huge amount doing. I had a look at the sea, but a few Gannets were the only birds passing in bin range. A bit disappointing, that, but you can't score every time [or even most times, for that matter]. The odd warbler - common phylloscs and sylvias - hung out here and there and assorted local juveniles yarked variations on "Feed me!"

Yesterday I suffered a terrible lack of energy. I blame the weather. The fact that there was a Stone Curlew in Devon which I didn't have a hope of seeing didn't help. Eventually I summoned up some willpower from somewhere and decided to use the lessened wind and lack of forecast rain to bash the Patch for butterflies! It was a warm, nay muggy day and the mix of sun and clouds should make said butterflies active enough to see but not so active as to be little streaks. Maybe.

Having already had a good look at the Nose [and I will be back for more, oh yes] I decided to try the biggest area of limestone I've got; which has wild flower patches, bare bits, shrubs, woods, slopes... With archaeology and geology, its a very interesting site. SSSI interesting, in fact. Its also probably the single most popular dog walking site in the area. Hmm.

I speak of Wall's Hill.

It took no small amount of effort, wandering back and forth, covering here and there. Most of what I saw were the expected Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns, with Small Whites and the odd Common Blue. But not everything; two Blues were very pale indeed - Chalkhills!!!! A butterfly Lifer for me [oh the joys of starting out] and self-found on my own Patch, too. :D A small brown butterfly that was either a female Blue sp. or an Argus was very nortily on the cliff side of the fence, and dropped just out of sight... Tut. It could even have been a female Chalkhill, but I've not a hope of anything more than 'little brown job'. There was also the almost expected Fast Fritillary, which could have been any of the big ones at that location.. Oh well. A Peacock by the clubhouse was more obliging, to the point of getting right in my face; "Come and 'ave a go!" ;)

Similarly pugilistic, though this time with each other, were a couple of Small Heath, scrapping over the lee of a bramble bush. Trying to get away from gorgeous little butterflies... Again aside from the local standards, [ok, Bullfinches aren't very standard...] there were a few [presumably] migrant warblers passing through - nothing fancy - the expected young gulls knocking about.. And one thing saying "Summer ain't over yet!" - a still active Fulmar nest*, complete with chick in the Grey Fluffball With White Face Peering Out stage. So cute...

And so its back to work again, with a lovely looking frontal system bearing down on midweek. Arse.

[[*Now, mentioning, let alone advertising nest sites of any bird isn't something I usually do, but this one is in full public view from a location both safe and legal to do so. Also, Fulmars are advertised on the site literature, they breed all along the coast - including at Berry Head, as I've mentioned before - but nowhere have I seen a nest you can look at safely without any risk to the birds {or observers, unless they want to get closer and are feeling flippant about 300' cliffs with dodgy edges..}. And as I've also said before, anyone stupid enough to mess with Fulmars will get what they deserve...]]

10 August, 2012


Sorry about that one...

Well, work's been fun. For a given definition of 'fun' that includes unleashing the Horror of me in shorts upon my poor unsuspecting colleagues... Oh those poor bastards.


Just a quick update, though it might get extended later..

Right then, today I braved the baking heat to go chasing poor innocent odonata again. Over to Smallhanger I did toddle, where the brisk breeze kept the action limited to wherever there was some shelter. And indeed there was a LOT of action, as you'd expect from what is probably the single best place for dragons in Devon. [Well, unless you stock up on chav repellent and try Stover - the two are pretty close]. Azures and Emeralds made up the bulk of the damsels - unsurprising at this time of year -  likewise with darters forming the majority of the dragons.

There were a good number of Keeled Skimmers to be found, with all the hawker types represented, but only a single Broad-bodied Chaser. I only found a single Scarce Blue-tail, but there were plenty of Small Reds as compensation. Though the little bastards made a habit of flying just as I'd set up a shot and was squeezing the shutter! I eventually took the hint and started playing  the 'ID The Not-An-Adult-Male Darter' game. Exercise in masochism self-education. Helps when you realise that the 'big ones' are Keeled Skimmers...

There were a few birds about, too. Swallows, with a cheering number of juveniles among them, and the odd martin were passing eastward. A family of Bullfinches livened lunch up, but the hoped-for fly-over raptor failed to materialise. I went for a shufti over to the other side, and found a couple of fishing ponds I didn't know existed, plus a few more little dinky pools.

A couple of other Fearless Hunters showed up as I was on my way out, but aside from them and the odd dog walker I had the place to myself. Which was nice; aircraft aside it was pretty peaceful, just a constant buzz of busy wings..

05 August, 2012


No birding today as I was laid up with a crippling headache... Just on the left side - weird.

Anyway, I'm mostly posting to say I've spotted a couple of minor screwups and have corrected them. The most important being my inability to read my own writing; at least 40 juvenile Kittiwakes, not at least 40%.. Dear oh dear.. They did make up about 40% of the first couple of hours' birds, but the vast majority later on were adults.

Also, I've not specified what the Torbay Effect is for my non-local readers;

Hope's Nose and Berry Head are peninsulas framing Tor Bay, which is roughly 5x5km. The two promontories are high ground with cliffs of 200' and more, while the back of the Bay is lower more rounded terrain, though still climbing up eventually. It's the only decent shelter for a long way - indeed it was used as the storm shelter for the Royal Navy when they blockaded Napoleon's France 200 years ago - and usually has anchored ships in it in seawatching conditions.

A lot of birds - especially gulls, terns, and skuas [the latter perhaps more likely after the former!], though also powerful fliers like Gannets and divers - will sometimes move in and stay put, or at least rest up a while. When watching at Berry Head, you will often see Kittiwakes moving south come out of the lee of the land, hit the main force of the wind and find they are making no headway. They often either drop to the sea or turn back into the Bay.

The Torbay Effect thus is when there is a large discrepancy between the two sides of the bay, caused by birds either already there moving on, or coming into and not leaving.

04 August, 2012

Swift Update

I forgot again...

The main group of Swifts left on Tuesday, with only two hangers-on about on Wednesday. This date, 31/7, is the joint earliest departure date since I've been checking. I suspect the weather may have had something to do with it... The high count of 94 is the highest single count I've had, so the Swifts at least seem to have done ok. But as they are quite capable of trotting over the Channel to forage and their young can take gaps in feeding, perhaps this isn't unexpected?
The House Martins have fledged - though I haven't been able to get a count and I think they too have gone. Down side of work, I'm afraid..

Speaking of young; parties of juvenile Sparrows, plus a band of juv. Blue and Great Tits have been about, also a juv. Blackcap. Goldfinches have continued to be regulars on the sunflower hearts - one good thing that may be due to the devastation of the local trees? Do Goldies prefer more open areas, being into thistles and suchlike? Or maybe they're just desperate for food full stop....

Watching Turnstones

Is something I've done both today and yesterday. I like them. They're incredibly confiding, which helps, but they're also so fascinatingly bright. No dull grey uniformity for these little ones, oh no.

Apologies for the lateness, by the way, but I became distracted by some people in blue and white...

Right then...
It's funny how things work out; I ended up spending yesterday at Dawlish Warren, mostly in the very pleasant company of two extremely able birders who shall of course remain nameless. As well as plenty of fascinating chit chat, there was counting Common Terns and then looking for them, plus the Case of the Invisible Turnstone to deal with. How do you see an invisible Turnstone? Look somewhere completely different... ;) It was fun. :)

The birds around were nice but not spectacular - none of the Roseates I was hoping for, let alone a KP [they're a myth, a myth, I tell you!]. There was an amazingly pale juv. Ringo to look at, and the Bight waders kept me busy as they moved in, out, and indeed sometimes did shake it all about.. [Sorry]

Ok, I've just re-read that and I feel I ought to delete the whole thing apologise. Today has been a lot of fun, you see and I'm a bit hyper. Well, I'm grinning like a maniac [what's new?] and not without reason, as you shall see...

Thing is, I was due to work today, but it was cancelled so instead I went and spent six hours staring at the sea off Hope's Nose. If you've already seen Devon Bird News you can probably take a guess at what's coming.... :D

The weather was interesting, to say the least. A brisk to strong SSW, wandering SW and easing a bit, with blazing sunshine interrupted by some very sharp showers. In other words, not unlike a toned down version of the weather on the Day of the Big Shears at Porthgwarra.
I wasn't expecting much, to be honest, with it getting very sunny as I dragged up at Going To Work time. But there'd been a Great Shear past Exmouth the day before, so I thought to myself, 'Well, you won't see anything in bed [though I do have audiomig ticks from there! ;) ] and what else is there to do?' Self then replied 'SLEEEP!' but was voted down. A sharp shower on the way gave me a bit more hope, and my first scan confirmed that it had been a Good Idea - two Balearics!

Though passage waxed and waned, it kept going, with birds coming in pulses as they maneuvered to avoid the showers. It was also very notably one way traffic, the only recorded birds going north were 4 Scoters, 3 Fulmar, and 2 Manxies! Having seen how the other sites did, my results make for interesting reading;

0750-1400. All birds south.

Cory's Shearwater 1 [at 0814, in the main Manx line]
Great Shearwater 1 [at 0923, in the 'why is it so far out!' line]
Sooty Shearwater 1
Balearic Shearwater 9
Manx Shearwater 1043  [with hourly totals of 56, 157, 389, 96, 249, 96]
Great Skua 1
Pomarine Skua 4 [including 2 4cy - dark and light - together, also a superbly spooned dark morph]
Arctic Skua 4
Arctic Tern 1 [nice and close at 1351]
Common Tern 4
Commic Tern 3 [probably Common]
Roseate Tern 2 [together at 0946, one a still-streamered adult which also dived beautifully!]
Gannet 250
Kittiwake 172 [about 40 juveniles!]
Fulmar 36
Common Scoter 7
Razorbill 3
Turnstone 1
Spotted Redshank 1 [called as it flew over!]
+ Ringed Plover 1 [downed by very heavy shower and wandered about on the rocks in front of me - a distance of 30-40 feet - for about 10 minutes {drying out!} before moving on]
Yellow-legged Gull 2 [both juveniles, one passed south, another came and sat on the rocks the Ringo had vacated for more than an hour.]

Chuffed would be an understatement! Roseys on my patch!! Wooohooo!!!!!!!!!!!! And what a bird that adult was [I think the other was a juv., but I admit my attention was elsewhere and then they were in the sun]. I couldn't believe my eyes as I watched it come, with those massive streamers, then it just angles down 45° and flies into the sea! Oh, what a beauty....

The Spotshank is also a Patch Tick - that call had me scanning frantically before I realised it had gone over the top! And the Yellow-leg just plonked down with a few Herrings and Geebs, had a preen and crashed out. It only went because a couple of fishermen flushed it, and then only when they got to about 10 feet from it! If I'd had a camera with me even I could have nailed it. Ah well.

The hourly Manx totals are interesting, aren't they? They give an idea of how variable things were, with it very dependent on how the showers went by. I took hourly figures for Gannets and Kitts also; the Gannets built up before dropping off, the Kitts started the most numerous, dropped a touch, then stayed consistent, then dropped drastically. Also interestingly, aside from 2 of the Balearics, all the 'good' stuff went by outside the two big Manx hours.

Oh yeah, big shears... Also the other fancy shears and indeed the skuas and terns. The latter two's differences I reckon are due to the Torbay Effect - likewise the Kitt numbers and proportions. But how did Berry and I miss each other's birds [unless they were doing loops, which is of course possible]? Aside from me not being there at 0630 [the shame..], the answer's simple - the showers. They were very compact and sharp, so the birds went around them; onshore side and you see them, offshore and you don't. Also, the light was atrocious when the sun was out; the sea was at just the wrong height to reflect the sunshine in a way that made the Manxies look dusky underneath and the wind was weak enough to make them fly in a quite Balearic-like manner. Also we had the 'four ranges at once' routine going and none of them were hanging about, I can tell you. So I doubtless misidentified a few - I was being very cautious. As I was told when I started seawatching; "If in doubt, it's a Manxie."

I think this one deserves a title: 'The Day of the Roseys'!

You read the blog of a very happy birder.

01 August, 2012

And Now For Your Viewing Entertainment...

Backward Birding's Dreadful Photography!!

Firstly the disclaimer...
All photographs were taken using an ancient* manual** film*** camera, with a dodgy lens of uncertain origin. As such they will offend the senses of those spoiled by digital to such an extent that various effects**** may ensue. All who view said pictures do therefore entirely at their own risk.

Also. Since the shiny new version of blogger came out, it seems that I can't make photos get bigger when you click on them. I'm sure there's a way to do it, but I'm buggered if I know how.. I will keep trying, though.
EDIT: Got it! Photos now work properly. Woo.

On with the fun!
First up, we have some pretty flowers;

From the meadow at Bystock Reserve. Aren't they purdy? Purple Orchid sp.

Next we have the Obligatory Record Shot Of What We Went To See;

Please compare and contrast with the photo Karen took of the same species at the same site last year. In my defence, it was annoyingly gusty, and the stem was swaying right through my focal plane and out the other side... New lens still needs getting used to, I think. But you can see what it is, at least.

Now for a bird!
  Here purely because I finally found a Redstart willing to sit still enough close enough for me to get! I'm still over the moon! :D Again with the new lens, which is why it isn't a pin-sharp photoscope shot - I was using said scope as a rest, but didn't have the other lenses which I can use with it. Oh well.
I got a Redstart!


Back to the dragons, and this one from Aylesbeare; a reprise of pathetic failures in the past to get a hand-held fly-past shot of an Emperor;

Actually worked!!!
I've left this fairly uncropped, as I think it works better than a tight close up.

Last and definitely least, an example of how my record shots usually come out. I took this one in a rush, from a bad light angle [to get a side view] while it was staying still. It turned out I had good reason to rush, as within 20 seconds of my taking this - while I was lining up a better picture - it took off [due to a low-flying Peregrine] and didn't come back! My attempt at a flight shot caught it with wings exactly side-on, naturally...

Th-th-th-th-that's all folks!

Wait, you want to know what that little blurred thing is?? It's a tern. Beyond that, I'm not certain myself...*

If you think you know, or have an interesting theory [other than Lord Lucan, we all know the nose is wrong], please feel free to Comment!

[[*I got it second-hand. 14 years ago.]]
[[**This means you set the aperture and exposure and so on yourself. And do the focussing. Stone Age technology. ;) ]]
[[***This is how people used to do things, with light-sensitive chemicals on a roll, which you wind on {by hand} to expose images one at a time.]]
[[****May include but not limited to; blindness, drooling, vomiting, mild nausea, hair loss, scrofula, moderate nerve degeneration, low level hallucinations.]]
*To be more specific, it's a juv. marsh tern; it looked like a White-winged. Which is impossibly early.. So I don't know.