31 December, 2013

A Surprise End

I wasn't chasing any yearlists this year, so easily breaking the Patch Yearlist Record wasn't something I expected. Of course, I have been doing more on Patch, and it's been a very good year for bird variety [if not always numbers]. New Patch Record? 155! The Patch List itself is now a mighty 203. Off the top of my head, that's about 60 birds in three years!?! The moral; There's more out there than you think, just put the time in. 

Today I ended the year as I started it; defiantly NOT chasing any of my yearlists. Sort of. I went up on't Moor [after the rain stopped.. Ahem] and went looking for the flock of Brambling reported near Sousson's. Having never seen more than a couple at once, a 'big flock' was appealing.

I eventually found them, just as they were being flushed by a horde of yammering tw large group of vocal people out for a walk. Brambling, Chaffinches, Bullfinches, Mistle Thrushes, Redwing, assorted Tits, a couple of Nuthatches and even a Jay, all went zooming up into the Beech canopies and then off and away....

I waited, no sign. Bollocks. I moved on a bit to the next stand of Beech, where I found to my joy that the megaflock had only split, with maybe a third flying off up the hill out of reach and the rest staying by the lane. At least 19 Brambling among more than three times that number of other birds! With the others that flew off, it looks like there could be as many as 30 present! :)
The birds showed really well, though I got more than a few funny looks from passing drivers, as I was sat on the edge of the roadside ditch, drinking coffee and grinning like, er, me. Vehicles moved the birds up only for seconds, and then only out of the lane itself, but when the Hunt showed up, the birds moved out to the nearby hedges and let me get a scoped Brambling count that doubled what I thought was there!

Fairly quiet elsewhere in the area, though. This not unsurprising given the carnage in Sousson's itself, where some liberal felling has been added to by the weather. With trees taken from the exposed edges, the wind has been playing dominoes, and long lines of mature trees are thoroughly blocking several tracks. Many of said tracks are also now morasses of 4' ruts from the forestry machines, too. Enter at your own risk....

Time had marched on, so I took a scenic route home, hoping for a SEO, but no joy. I stopped at Venford where in the gloom 17 Goosander [4 looked pale enough to be adult males] roosted. Either side of the reservoir, I scored birds I'll  really be rueing tomorrow; first a Jack Snipe flushed from the roadside in the O valley - it zigzagged along in front of me for maybe 20 yards, showing off its dark pointy arse! - then a Woodcock flew through my headlight beams as it headed for Holne Moor.

30 December, 2013

A Black Start

[As opposed to a Blackstart, btw]

Hoping to get in behind the viciously tight frontal system forecast to come through early this morning, I headed down to the Nose.

Unfortunately, the weather hadn't read the forecast and a S-SSE 8 gusting 10 was in full cry, with sideways rain and all the trimmings...

I don't call The Lookout that just because it's a great viewpoint. With exposed rock treacherous underfoot and being open to any direction of wind it's a nasty surprise to anyone not expecting it. Sure enough, as I crossed it towards the Middle Path I was nearly picked up off my feet [despite going sideways..]. Mad? Yup.

Still, I got down in one piece and finding the Traverse mostly sheltered was a very pleasant surprise. I gave Hope Cove a good check and found a BT Diver and the Black Guille - so if there were 2 in Brixham again today then there are definitely 3 in the Bay - before looking to set up. The Traditional Spot was not as gust-wracked as the week before, but I still found myself hunched under my bumbleshoot, waiting out the front. I was able to see that nothing was passing this time and so just watched the brave Kitts playing over the SWBCM's slick.

After only 15 minutes or so, it was as if a switch had been thrown; rain eased right off, wind snapped around, and the sun almost came out!

I scurried over to The Steps and gave it two hours in increasing amounts of sunshine! ::Faints::

42 divers on show; 32S, 3N and 7 GND in Hope Cove when I left [no sign of the Blacks]. 459 Kitts, 268 auks [about 60/40], 276 Fulmar!, 101 Gannet, with a Bonxie, 2 C Scoter, and 4 Shoveler north. Harbour Porps were about, though with the swell all I can say is 2 or more. 2 Turnstone were mooching about the rocks with the Rockits and a collybita Chiff was in the Entrance Bushes.

The rest of the day was taken up with Stuff; mostly getting stuck in traffic...

Yesterday afternoon a wander about Yarner with the Folks produced Marsh Tits and  a flyover Crossbill or two, but it was great just being there.

Finally... Here's a pic I didn't put in from Saturday. Portland Harbour; the pipe by the Castle. This is an uncropped mobile shot; the water's edge is about 20' from me, the line of weed on the left is maybe 8' long. Spot the Brunnich's Guillemot...

Peekaboo, I see you!

28 December, 2013

I Twitch, Therefore I am

Someone who's seen a Brunnich's Guillemot at ridiculously close range!


What a wonderful little bastard of a bird! Mobile and elusive and showing cripplingly at the same time. Not bad.

Unlike this;

Yet another Brunnich's Pic

With another 1w Black Guille, BTDs, another female Eider, a hatful of RB Mergs as support, it was very pleasant birding. I turned up, the Brunnich's was right there.. YE GODS... Having seen it insanely well, I figured that, instead of chasing a bird that could swim faster than I could walk [if not run, it moved] I should stay put in the spot I was in, where I could see the bit where it had been resting in past days.. This would have worked if it had stopped moving to preen or something, but it didn't. Oh well, I still had two hours of amusement watching the BG pop up here there and everywhere, oh and the horde stampeding after it.. ;)

I decided to relocate to Radipole as the rain arrived, where the Hooded Merganser* was fishing down by the dam [though it later realised lots of twitchers were in town and came up to the bridge]. The reserve was slightly underwater, with 2" of water over the boardwalks, which were floating - a little unnerving to walk on! - on the way to the hide. Lunch under a roof meant not a lot of birds, with only Bearded Tits in the distance to speak of until I was packing up, whereupon more than a hundred ducks flew in!

They were mostly Teal and I didn't tarry long - quick counts and Green-winged checks - as I had an appointment with an Ibis and the frickin' meter was running [::Mutter mutter::]. The walk turned out to be much much much longer than I thought it would be, but the Glossy Ibis was gorgeous!

It's an Ibis

Parking time up, but daylight to burn; I headed home with a detour. Not a birding one, though there was the odd bird about [mostly Pheasants]. Turning off the coast road up onto the ridgeways, I parked off a little lane and followed a bridleway. My goals; the Grey Mare and Her Colts en route to Kingston Russell Circle. The stones at Kingston Russell are all down, but the location is incredible! Oh, but the views.... For the first time in a long while I got the proper camera out. Also incredible was the mud - definitely one for dry weather..

Kingston Russell, western half

Kingston Russell, eastern half

Looking at the pics, they don't seem much, do they? You've got to be there.

As I headed back to my li'l car, a big flock of Lapwing came over; I counted 246. Lovely way to end a brilliant day's birding.

[[*I've gone into this before, it's as plastic as the Brunnich's.]]

26 December, 2013

The Seventy-seventh Diver


Stop Press:
Brixham Birder Gets Xmas Pressie He Won't Forget In A Hurry!

With rellytives over for the festivities, I spent yesterday being good.

This morning was another matter - I dived out the door and nipped over to Brixham for a proper treat, oh yesssss my preciousss!! :D

The 2w [no retained spotted coverts and far too dark for a 1w] White-billed Diver was tarting around the Inner Harbour by the Lifeboat Station when I arrived and showing as cripplingly as divers are wont to do there. I still remember vividly that GND which made eye contact with me at about 30' - utterly unbothered - before doing the nuclear sub routine. But back to the WBD, which in the sunshine was just fabulous! A bit too fabulous, as even after I shifted to get a better angle the sun still burned that amazing ivory dagger out;

Just look at the sheer blazing bulk of that bill!

Snorkelling - almost a nice shot of the pale nape.

Two shots was all I was allowed, as it worked over to the other side of the Harbour and neatly Houdini'd us. BTD and GND tried running interference, but the WBD had snuck off into the marina - not that we knew that. I wandered down to the end of the breakwater and picked up RTD for a pretty set of 4 divers, then came back and reluctantly tore myself away to get home. [Made it just nicely, too]

This afternoon and a Clan Perambulation about the Patch gave nothing fancier than a GSW and a couple of skulking Blackcaps - no divers in view on the sea from Meadfoot, alas!

Finally, here's a treat for the eyes [and tastebuds! ;) ]. This is what happens when your sister marries a baker;

Gingerbread Cottage for Christmas!
[I soon found out it was full of home made chocolate-covered fudge, too!]

Happy Happy Joy Joy


24 December, 2013


Ah, what a day!

I got down to the Nose first thing and spent a much happier four and a bit hours. This time I was mostly going "It's another diver!" Why? Because I saw 76 today!!!

Bladdy hell.....

34 Great Northern, 27 Red-throated, and 5 Black-throated passed south, 1 Red-throat went north [well enough out to be probably different], and 7 Great Northern and 1 each of the 'throats were on the sea... Ye Gods. Biggest flock was 5 RTDs, with 6 of the GNDs in close proximity in Hope Cove.

Speaking of Hope Cove... :)  I noticed a couple of birders looking into it as I was leaving - "Oooh, more divers!" said I to myself at the GND-fest and started counting. Then this funny little greyish thing popped up. "What the..." It dived like an auk, and got closer; right up to the near shore, in fact - "SHIT! Black Guillemot!!" Fortunately, both birders got onto it and even more fortunately, the wind [just about] let us scope it. A couple more birders arrived as if by magic and then the Tystie got bashful and dinked behind the hump [it was getting some grief from the GNDs, for some reason, so it's not surprising it moved]. I circled around the quarry edge to try to refind it, but it'd done what they're so good at; vanished.

But never mind the brevity, what a result! Not only do I find something good, but I actually manage to do it when there's people around to see it too. Sweet. :D

As I was on my way already, I shamelessly swanned off and went to see if my run of good fortune would continue at Clennon.

But before I get to the Great Mud Mash...

It wasn't just the divers putting on a show [though some of the close flypasts were very impressive]. Two Pom Skuas - an adult and a subadult - were marauding around, harrying the poor Kittiwakes. The younger bird came right in - I'm talking age it with unaided vision right in! - to the slick and oh but the Kitts [and gulls] scattered! The sun had come out and it was amazing.....

A Bonxie passed without stopping, as did a lone C Scoter [this time an adult female]. Auks [mostly Razorbills], Kitts, Gannets, and Fulmars were passing, as did an early Balearic. The Grey Seal and Harbour Porpoises were still around, and while the SWBCM had pretty much shut down, the remains of the slick drew in more BHGs than yesterday and with them 2 or maybe 3 adult Med Gulls [by head markings]

Things were very different from yesterday, much more civilised, genteel seawatching, with the heavy showers fended off via bumbleshoot and no dead legs at all.. The Rockit still tried to mug me for fruityoaty bar crumbs, though ;)

Observe, regardez;

Monday's bright spot.
Ore and Lead Stones from The Traverse

Tuesday's bright weather
Ore and Lead Stones from The Steps

76 divers, though.... :D

Right, Clennon was mostly underwater and while a thousand or so BHGs and a lone adult Med Gull were rooting around the pitches, the Cattle Egret was not in sight when I arrived. I had a mooch about; seeing a Kingfisher, 9 Snipe, 4 Shoveler, 16 Tufties, and no YBW.. :(  Though I did see a very nice green Chiffchaff by the flooded corner. It was very muddy and very wet - I'd advise not wellies but full on waders if you're planning a visit - but on the plus side only the nuttiest people were there, so the birds weren't as dog-disturbed as I'd feared.

Having heard that the Egret always came back to roost, and time having gotten on [and me being very soggy] I thought to wait.. This I did, as the three other birders on site gave up, I muttered about blimmin' invisible Egrets and stayed on. By 1615 it was getting dark and so I gave up on watching 'the trees by the eastern pond' and went back across the fields.. Ah, the gulls are back - Oh, look, there it is.

Time for the most horrific 'record shot' you'll ever see. If you've just had your turkey, look away now...

Cattle Egret, Carrion Crows, and BHGs. Clennon Fields.

I was tempted to use this for a 'What's That Bird?' competition, or for that matter, print it out on A1 and try to sell it to the Tate Modern.. ;)  No picture I took came out at all; I think it was some sort of automatic low light function that messed up the pixels to maximise brightness? Anyway, you can sort of see there's an egret there next to a Crow - it's facing away and left, honest! Oh, that wibbly thing above them is a BHG that's just taken off!

The Egret's actually a cracking bird and pretty confiding, but I was out of light and time.

Ho Ho Ho.

23 December, 2013

Blown Away

Very nearly and more than once today at Hope's Nose!

Yowzer, but the weather meant business... Sea watching involved quite a bit of watching the sea, and what a show! The waves were putting water [not spray, proper white water] halfway up the Ore Stone and right over the Lead Stone, there was the proper 'boiling' spray coming off the waves [and the rocks], vicious little squalls, microbursts, and the odd 'sea devil' too.


The wind was in that nasty mood where it swung between SSE and SSW and made The Steps and The Traditional Seawatching Spot unusable. Even The Last Resort was taking gusts, so I wedged into the north end of The Traverse Of The Gods [right next to TTSS], where I was very sheltered if not very comfortable, perched on a narrow rock step. Unfortunately, being right up against the rock meant I couldn't deploy the great big bumbleshoot without being bent over double by it - and so not being able to see anything on the sea. Minor technical problem, there. If I'd been psychic enough I'd have brought my broken one, which would have worked pretty well and kept me dry, but alas I wasn't and didn't. So, I got very very soggy as the water gradually found all the weak spots in my waterproofing..

So what did I see for my four hours of cold and wet and not quite miserableness?

A couple of divers were in Hope Cove; a BTD was lurking close in to the cliffs and a GND started further out and then came right close in to the Toe - at one point it was less than 10' offshore! Crippling! :) Early on at least 2 Harbour Porpoises were in the lee of the Lead Stone [and even seeing the 'at least 2' was pretty jammy, with the waves] and late on a Grey Seal was right where the GND had been an hour or so earlier :)

The SWBCM was in full flow, and had attendants all the time I was there; I counted maxima of 292 Kittiwake, 26 Fulmar, 23 BHG, 5 Common Gull, and 3 LBB - plus Herrings and GBBs. A couple of Bonxies showed up to see what the fuss was about, but didn't come in close. They both plonked down on the sea just before a squall arrived and had gone when the viewing cleared. A juvenile C Scoter - just the one - came haring through, with a trickle of Gannets, Kitts, Fulmars and auks also passing. Clickers really not needed!

I was reminded, though, that seawatching is not just about counting passage - and not just because there wasn't much! - as the Kitts in particular put on a marvellous display of aeronautical skill. Also on show were some shore birds - the american term appropriate here - with 5 Purple Sands and 2 Turnstone messing about on the rocks below me the whole time I was there. One of the Turnstones decided to have a fly, lifted up maybe 15' and set off north at high speed. Backwards. The rest stayed lower, dodging gouts of water, trying not to get blown off their feet, and taking frequent baths in the rainwater pools.

The Rockits, as on Saturday, were soon playing the sidle up game. I was in the territory of a rather olivey one, very white below, too [the variation in Rockits is quite interesting] and it got to play 'how close will it come?'. The answer to that being 'right up to my foot, after a few aborted tries, with a defiant chirp as it snatched the little chunk of sarnie and scurried off with it'.

Finally, the Patch wouldn't be the Patch without a dodgy gull, and I eventually saw one; a manky-looking 1w that after a hard bit of studying I decided was one of those annoying LBBxHerrings.

So, no Little Auks, no white wings, not even that Balearic [by the sound of it, it probably passed the Nose before it got light! ;) ], as for a Puffin? [Oh, you know it's coming] Nuffin.

I had been planning to try to outbeast the weather and maybe get some passage in the lull in the wind that had been forecast for the afternoon, but the weather won. Four hours in and I was cold and wet and out of coffee, with the wind if anything getting stronger. I admitted defeat and, not fancying making The Traverse into the teeth of the storm, I got out via The Wall, which was more like The Waterfall. Not fun. The wind nearly got me twice more and the rain was hitting as hard as hail, which isn't a joyride, either, but I got to the bushes and then the Rock Path was comparatively easy. That last says it all, really!

As I type now, almost 5 hours later, the wind hasn't shown a sign of letting up, so at least I made the right call. Not the sane call, which would have been to stay in bed - or at least limit myself to getting wet twitching The Artist's Cattle Egret [now that's a nice Garden Tick! ;) ] - but then birding has very little to do with sanity, now does it?
If you don't look, you don't see.

21 December, 2013

A Short Solstice Seawatch

A morning piece of business can be convenient or vexing, depending on the birding.

I wasn't expecting that much at Hope's Nose this morning, hoping yes, but not expecting. I'd time for two hours sitting in the rain sipping coffee and watching soggy gulls, so why not?

Well, it certainly did rain - divers! 25 of them, not at all bad for the limited time.

What am I saying? 'not at all bad'? Bladdy brilliant!! :D

The SWBCM was in operation, though the high tide and swell was cutting the slick up a bit, and about a hundred Kittiwakes were in attendence. About 90/hr were passing by further out, as well. Gannets were the chief movers, with more than 200/hr, while auks [majority Razorbills] at more than 150/hr, weren't far off. The female Eider is still hanging around; she showed up and mixed with the Kitts [chasing a couple off, too!] while a few Gannets were fishing right off the Nose, which in a brief moment of clear weather made for quite a sight!
A few Fulmars, a couple of Curlew, and a Bonxie also came by, but the best of the also-rans were right at the start and out in the murk; white secondaries blazing - 3 Velvet Scoter. :)

The Rockits were clearly bored - with no fishers or birders about [lightweights! ;) ] - I was the only interesting thing and they amused themselves by seeing how close they could sidle up to me before I tried to look at them.. The boldest one [which was definitely not a littoralis type, as they don't exist, do they?] was rewarded with bits of low-flying fruityoaty bar, which it seemed to quite enjoy. :)

Later on I had time for a quick look at the Real Living Coast, where a lone Purple Sand defied the crashing waves!

19 December, 2013

But It's Thursday..?!??


I managed to get myself up and out to Blackball this afternoon - fighting my way through the rain and great big 'orrible hailstones to get there, too - and after my li'l scope stopped misbehaving, I had a look at what was cowering in the lee of the cliffs. Ok, sitting happily on the sea beyond the muddy bit, at least.

Well, for a couple of rain-soaked minutes, anyway, as then I was distracted and and to take a couple of piccies!

The Bonaparte's Gull is located by the Leprechaun Bird News Service
[The service is outstanding, but the subscription's feckin' costly!]

So that's one rainbow for the rain and the other for the hail?


Right then, with it brightening up, I got some half decent counts. Roosting were; 1340 Herrings, 70 GBB, 8 GC Grebes [Mixed in with the gulls - explains why I've not found them last couple of tries], 2 RT Divers, a Razorbill, a BN Grebe, and a probable Slav Grebe. 310+ Kittiwake flew off as soon as the front cleared, and 8+ Gannets were fishing off Petitor - or at least trying to, as a Bonxie was giving them some, er, 'company'!

It also got markedly colder after the front went through, but I'll make no comments about the weather remembering what season it's supposed to be!

15 December, 2013

Another Busy Week

Mostly not busy with birding, though, and alas and alack for that. :(

Even when work was done for the week, I've had plenty of Stuff to be busy with.

Not to say I've seen nothing, though....

Yesterday I eventually got to the Nose for a seawatch, though this was very late on indeed! So late that I didn't bother going right down, but set up amongst The Mounds. I was not fully kitted out, as this was primarily a field test of a new setup; a lovely neighbour was having a clear out and found an old tripod, would I like it? The grey case had Velbon written on it, so I said Yes Please! It's an old one; no quick-release, even. It's also too short to use standing upright and much too dinky for the Big Scope, but the li'l scope fits on nicely and it is above all insanely light! I'd walked down with the case slung over my back; containing tripod, the li'l scope and a sit-upon! Very very portable :D
Down side is, of course, the lack of reach - the li'l scope only has 20x to play with - but it is very good in low light and I stayed on from 1600 until 1620, when it started to get rainy and the light really died!

Not that much was doing.. A little southerly passage; 35 Gannets, 2 Kitts, 2 Razorbills, 2 Fulmars, and 5 [all juv] LBBs. Still, it was nice to be watching, albeit briefly.

Today I was again preoccupied and didn't get to the Nose at all... Tut tut the shame...

I was able to get to Blackball for the evening roost - just about! - and this was worth the rain. Again I had the li'l scope on the li'l tripod and the stability and low light ability was most useful. Of course, I could put the 30x on the Big Scope, but that would mean lugging it down there [[Yes, lazy..]]. And all I'd be doing is mourning the lack of magnification - Big Scopes need Big Zooms. It's The Law.  ;)

Aaaanyway...  The gull roost built up out in the murk, so 800+ with at least 20 GBB is the best I could do. The Kittiwakes I had hoped for were present - spread out parallel to the shore, nice and close in - and with a steady scope it was an easy count; 308.  Never mind the Kitts, though, look what was near to them! Is that..? Shit! It is! Only an Arctic Skua! Sat on the sea just off one end of the band of Kitts. Ye Gods and Little Fishies, I've never seen a skua in a roost before!! Light morph, looked pretty adult-like, but hard to be sure when it's on the deck like that  :) Compared to the skua surprise, the group of divers weren't much more than an interesting diversion..

Also of note; not a single grebe of any flavour. On 16/12/12, there were 59. I blame the warm weather; after all, if you can roost on a nice lake/pond which is notably lacking in gulls and big waves, why wouldn't you?

Right then, no time for anything else; I'm busy trying to arrange for a whale carcass to be lashed down on to the Lead Stone...  ;D

09 December, 2013

Sunday's Post Is...

Short and with a surprise at the end!


I only got out in the afternoon, and then with the Folks for the Venford/White Wood loop. It was not quite as quiet as I'd expected, with a party of about 20 Redwing and at least 1 Mistle Thrush moving through the canopy at one point. They were utter bastards, staying three trees away from us and then looping around behind.. Other than them there were a few small tit bands, a showy Stonechat by Bench Tor, and a vocal Treeeecreeeper.

It being fairly late, we had a look at the reservoir to see if any Goosander had come in yet and lo and behold! Two females were already present, hanging about with a female Mallard and...what the frick is that?? A smallish dark duck with white secondary patches, a white vent, and a cocked tail?!? It stayed resolutely arse-on as we moved around the shore, but eventually we got a clear view and a side-on duck. A juvenile Goldeneye!! I've never seen a Goldeneye sitting around with its tail stuck up like a Surfer, and the lack of a golden eye [which would have caused an instant recognition, of course] wasn't expected, either. Juveniles aren't that common around here. Ok, most Goldeneye are seen at range on the Exe or at Slapton, but I'm pretty sure the 'females' always had the eponymous feature..

Anyway, it stuck with the Goosander and one wing flap aside, didn't do a lot. More impressive was the drake Goosander, which announced its arrival with an almighty splash! Normally Goosander seem to arrive almost by magic - take your eyes off for a second and there another one is! - but not this fellow. I suppose he wanted to make sure we admired him :)

We didn't get any more arrivals before we left [LBDs get bored quickly, and Parents are allergic to hanging around in the cold while it gets dark without even a nice flask ;) ].

And finally...
Today I started a new list. It won't get proper attention for a while, but this is definitely the right and proper start date. As of now it numbers a mighty 10, and the First Bird [do you remember the first birds on your lists? I don't for any of the others, which I regret a little, so I think it's worthwhile recording mine :) ] was Goldfinch. Which beat Herring Gull by about 2 seconds! :D

08 December, 2013


I was rather shocked to learn that today's visit to Dawlish Warren was my first since the Great Day of The Rosey Terns and only the second this year... What has been going on??!!??

Also shocked was that dratted White-fronted Goose, who didn't expect me to pop up on the Dune Ridge and nail it while it was stuffing its face on the golf course fairway!

All it could do was waddle away muttering "No comment";

Lovely view of the tertials, there.

Not wanting to waste any more time on that git, I pressed on and spent a merry while in the hide as the tide went down. There were Dunlin,

Lots of Dunlin. Quite close, sometimes..

As I have said many times before, I'm quite fond of them. There were other waders, too. A flock of about 130 Grey Plover were quite a sight as they flew about, a feeding group of BHGs in the estuary were accompanied by a 2w Med Gull, oh and this little bugger - dainty but feisty!

Bonaparte's Gull*

Ok, enough piccies.

I spent far too much time watching the Dunlin doing Dunlinny things, but in the moments my attention was elsewhere I noticed a few of the other waders and wildfowl, too. Of note - when LC pointed it out to me, anyway so I could check the reading with the Big Scope** - was a nice male Shelduck with a yellow darvic 'SL'; one of the Axe birds!

The DW blog has bigger totals [though I did find all of the Ringed Plover, which was heartening], though they did miss the 15 Barwits, 9 Teal, and a Water Pipit, which was messing about the spartina in front of the hide! To be fair, I would have missed it as well, were it not for having a close look at a 1w Skylark. It was eating a big insect when I first noticed it, making the bill look huge.. Through the big scope it was just a Skylark, but then this Water Pipit wanders right through my field of view! It was a really good one, too. None of this Rockit-a-like nonsense. :)

When the Slav showed up to fish around the wreck, I knew it was time to move, so over to John's Watch I toddled. From there, and then by the Wood and finally by the lifeguard's hut, I counted a whole heap of scoters! Final score was 176 Common Scoter! Plus 2 Velvets. Not bad...

It was getting on by this time, and I only found 9 GC Grebes and 2 RT Divers [a nearly full w/pl adult and a juvenile] among the Shags and Cormorants, with at least 8 Gannets fishing and a small party of Kittiwakes heading by south. Also heading south was a lovely pod of Bottlenose Dolphins; I reckon there were 13, with at least 2 small calves, coming up in two close but distinct groups.

In the Garden, a Robin has started taking the sunflower hearts  - for use as offensive weapons?!? Also, a good sized flock of Starlings showed up in the early afternoon - at least 700 of them! - and lurked in the trees near the Garden for a while. As it started to get dusky, I made my first check on Blackball of the winter; nada. Oh well... 

[[*Now, the next time any of you with blogs put up a 'dodgy record shot' that doesn't look this bad, relabel it!! ;) ]]

[[** I would have noticed it eventually, honest. I did see three CR'd Oyks - which he already knew about.***]]
[[***LC has set himself a mission to read 100 rings - that's optically, not in the hand - this year. This is different birds, btw, so not at all easy! Now this is seriously impressive birding and even more respect is due {which is saying something}]]

02 December, 2013

You Beauty!

Sunday saw me doing the TouchUp Shuffle in public for the second time in as many days. :)

Fortunately, there were again no witnesses to this sanity-blasting horror other than the bird in question [and a disbelieving Stonechat]. Where was I and what was I looking at to provoke such joy?

The Nose, of course, and what I'd seen, which then [after making me wait a good 15 minutes] proceeded to come right in and give the closest views I've ever had of this species in the wild, was this gorgeous lady;


What a cracker! Adult female Eider - the first I've seen all year, in fact - and right off the Sole. At first she was diving in the lee of the Lead Stone - right in the surf - but then she swam over and posed wonderfully... :D

Crappy mobile pics really don't do her justice.

Also in the sea was this;

No, not Nessie; it's a Grey Seal.

A half dozen Common Gulls were a little unusual, a Razorbill and a few Guilles were still about, a lone Kitt flew south.. Yeah, pretty quiet. On land, a few Stonechats seemed to be it, until as I was leaving a flock of 112 [they spread out to pose] Woodpigs made me pause long enough to pick up on the male and female Blackcap [that should be Herr and Frau] working through the Top Dell. :)

On I went to Cockington, far corner of the Patch, to follow up on the reported YBW in Scadson's Woods*. After taking a circuitous route about the fields in the vain hope of winter thrushes, I eventually found it skulking right at the bottom [that's east, btw] end. It called a lot but without the sunshine it wasn't feeling showy. Oh well. The trees are utterly spectacular right now, with this not coming close to conveying the wonder;

In the afternoon, I went for a wander about the Bovey with the Folks. We had a lone flypast Crossbill as the only birdy excitement, but again the trees were quite something. One Beech, flanked by Hollies, looked as though each leaf was lit with golden neon.. I couldn't photo it, the result would have been a travesty that would mar the memory. It's on the path up to Hisley, go in the afternoon when the light's behind it.

There was also the promise of the new year to come, with catkins formed and ready to go;

All silhouetted and artsy.. Oh dear.

Finally.. As you may have guessed from the time of this posting, I am once again a Creature of the Night - a surprise early pressie from my lovely bosses - so maybe, if I can get away with it, Friday might see more fun! :D

[[*No, not even a year tick and yes, The Artist's one at Clennon would be easier to get to and see, with Sibe Chiffs too, but there's off-Patch and on-Patch, isn't there? ;) ]]

30 November, 2013

Hat Trick

Three posts in as many days.. What is the world coming to?

I should perhaps have called this 'listen to your instincts', as today I didn't and then did.

I decided to have a wander about Fernworthy - and do I really need a reason? No I don't - but due to mental malfunction I took the wrong road [Stormsdown instead of Chaggers]. Not the end of the world as there is a way to cut across - which I remembered despite it being many years since I scouted it going the other way [not bad] - but my route did take me past Vitifer. Indeed, the Goddess of Birding may well have been trying to hint to me, with coobeasties waylaying me three times. The third incident involved Highlands with Great Big Pointy Horns - always pay them attention, folks! - but I was too fixed on my route to think about it. So, why mention Vitifer? Only a Great Grey Shrike tarting about there! Drat.

I did listen to my instincts to stay put in the hide at Fernworthy and not give up at the paucity of action, resulting in me being treated to two male Mandarin fly in!! Here is an awfully burned out phonescope of one of them;

It is a Mandarin, honest!

I also had the pleasure of a very close swim-past by the Cormorant which was busy working the reservoir; a 90° bird, though far too active to get a picture unfortunately.. Also 2 Tufty, 19 Teal, a Little Grebe, a Coot [only one?], a Grey Heron and a couple of Mallard.

The gull roost was building nicely when I left [About a 3:2 Herr:LBB ratio, plus a few smaller jobs], but no Goosander were yet present. I did meet a small group of Dartmoor Birders - only the second time I've met someone at the hide! - as I left; they'd had slightly better luck with Crossbills [ie. they actually saw a small group], but met no Redpoll at all.

Oh yes, the birds...

I heard a couple of [regular sounding] Crossbill fly over, had some Redpoll see me first and fly off, had Siskins move past me without stopping, and met only three Goldcrest bands and a few tits. It was veeeery quiet! I did see and hear some woodpeckers [You're spared the awful Green Wood shot] in the plantation, get rattled at by a Mistle Thrush, and watch three lovely Stonechats messing about near the Heath Stone.

The sunshine was glorious, as was Castle Drogo's scaffolding!
Yes, there's a CASTLE under that...

Here's the view without bins;

Yes, the shadow's meant to be there.
It's Art, dontcha know.. ;)

I covered the bits as yet uncovered this autumn and no, bugger all cones anywhere... Something tells me a Two-bar flock, let alone Parrots, will be hard to find in Devon.. :(

[[Cue 20+ of each over at the Backwater tomorrow!!]]

29 November, 2013


No sign of any Cranes here - at least, not the flying ones...

I did manage to get down to the Real Living Coast this afternoon, where the high tide let me find 12 Purple Sands and 4 Turnstone :D  The Bay was very quiet, though; a couple of Gannets fishing well off Roundham and a few Shags was it.. but them's the breaks. There were a lot of alba wagtails knocking around - well over 20 - but only 2 were Whites that I could see.

Flypast Turnstone!

The Harbour was deserted! Not a gull to be seen on the Pontoon. I suspect the bloke wandering around with a Harris Hawk may have had something to do with it...??

28 November, 2013

Forgot About Sunday..

Apologies for the delay, it clear slipped my mind!

Sunday was a day not of wandering about Haldon looking in vain for a Two-barred [or two-barred?] Crossbill, instead my time was already booked by a family get-together for more cooing over the Zombaby..

Yes, that's what his loving parents call him. He's at the 'attempting to eat anything he can get his mitts on' stage - this includes unfortunate parents/grandparents etc.. ;) That combined with his work-in-progress walking does make the nickname fit  :)

But enough baby talk  ;)

We got out for a wander; this time on the coast to one of the many promontory forts [most cornish headlands not having had theirs demolished, which is nice] to be found in cornwall. It was a good walk if a little muddy, with a male Stonechat the most interesting bird. Alas I couldn't get close enough to see if it was an interesting one - both HellHounds were with us - which was at least theoretically on the cards, the Scilly Caspo having had to fly past here! [Hey, still a dreamer]. It did look quite pale, but not enough to get me to try anything major on its behalf. Said headland was quite promising for a 'family picnic and fair weather seawatch with the chance of a Basker' so maybe next Summer we'll be back..?

After we'd enjoyed the impressive view, a mud soup of a field gateway held a nice collection of pipits and wagtails - including a Grey and a White - which held me up while I checked through for the always impossible Citrine. Hoofing it to catch up, I didn't see anything exciting pop up or fly over - bet you weren't expecting that? ;)

You know, that sounded funnier in my head.

Right then, getting back to today - at least 70 Starling flying about in two flocks at work this lunchtime, plus a group of 9 Redwing! Redwing have been flying over calling as I left for work the last two days as well.

23 November, 2013

Back To Business

I was out at a proper hour this morning - pre-dawn!

Oh get up..  ;)

Awakening to clear skies I headed out to a nice vantage point for the eastern horizon. Which just happened to be Hope's Nose. Unfortunately, the evil scum-sucking weather had seen me coming, as a line of cloud along said horizon obstructed any and all views of a Certain Comet... Bugger.

The risen sun was very pretty, at least for the few seconds until it got too bright and glaresome.. Oh well, on to the birds, right?

Well, it was hard going, but I found some Stonechats - none of which were Caspian, or Siberian, or even sat still enough to photo. A few Mipits were moving around, and a very annoying silent pipit sp. flew up over my head and vanished. I'm sorry, but that's quite against the rules; pipits call in flight. [It's how you ID them ;) ] Fortunately, much later on [after a few Razorbills, Gannets, and a Kittiwake out to sea and not much other than Robins and Blackbirds* ashore] the day was saved [by the Pow-] by a brilliant and proper pipit flypast!
Water Pipit, in/off and right [and I mean right - touching distance!!] by me, calling as it came**. :D

After that glorious moment.. more searching and more finding nothing fancy. Still, there's an afternoon of doing Stuff to come, with maybe a quick look at the Harbour, too. :)

EDIT: A quick look around the Harbour and over the north end of the Bay this afternoon was quite rewarding, with at least 10 Purple Sandpipers on the Real Living Coast, and 3 BN Grebes and a small flock of Scoter out in the Bay. Said Scoter flock was sent flying up from Broadsands/Goodrington way by something [plenty of possible culprits out there..] and consisted of 11 Common and a Velvet - score! They never came close enough to get genders though, plonking down off Preston/Hollicombe.

Grey and Pied [yes, I saw them] Wagtails about in Town and a Moorhen the star on the pontoon [well, I'm still tickled by seeing them there!].

Right then, I threatened promised piccies, so speaking of the gulls' pontoon...

New dekkers!

And photoing of ships...

The 'Patricia' in Tor Bay this morning.
[Those are green and yellow buoys on deck, btw]

Last but not least, here's one for the memory books...

Pheasant inna tree:
"Don't shoot! I'm a woodpecker, honest!"

[[*Ok, one of the Blackbirds was all black, which makes it a Scandinavian one, I think.]]
[[**No, it kept going..]]

20 November, 2013

Grey Clarity

Communication.. Both vital and vexing, isn't it?

Type in particular. It is so easy to misinterpret the intentions of the written word; the lack of inflection in the black and white is especially frustrating. Meanings can be missed, subtleties lost, humour mistaken, offence caused... You would think someone could have come up with something better by now, we've only had millennia, after all?

To make things worse, life is not black and white, but many varied shades of grey.

Ah, if only things were simple..

Yes, we're still on the thrush business, folks. Those of you outside Devon tune out now, there may be something interesting for you in my next post... [['May' being the operative word]]

How to put this? I've written and deleted this one far more than usual. And that is more than you are likely to believe; this blog is hard work to get legible at the best of times*

This is what I believe;
Whether or not the landowner knows or cares about it, going to see a suppressed bird is bad form.

If it happened.

Clarity of communication again; all we have is a few bits of info and some hearsay. And the usual grey area.

Shall I go on or just say 'Read NQS again'?

Let's reiterate;
I have no problem with suppression - sometimes it's necessary. In an ideal world, news wouldn't need to be held back; "Bird on site with no access, news will be issued if it moves to somewhere viewable". But this isn't an ideal world. So a decision was made which, judging by the posts on ThatForumAboutBirds, has indeed proved a valuable addition to the debate on another complicated issue.

Josh [I'll name you as you feel strongly enough to comment], I have no problem with you or your actions and have never intended you hurt - if this has happened I apologise. The same is true for The Artist.
The Finder had every right to do as he did - his house, his rules - and while I wouldn't do that myself, it was his decision and I respect that. The Twitchers - if they actually exist - are in the same boat; I wouldn't do it myself, but it was their choice.

Following Gav like the little sheep I am, I too now draw a line under this. [If you would like to comment to me, feel free, but it won't be published.]

[[*Stop laughing or you'll get an unedited one that'll make Joyce look clear .. ;) ]]

19 November, 2013

Co-incidental Thrushes

Seem to be the order of the day.

Spent the weekend on t' Moor looking for them - mostly unsuccessfully - and the week ..ah, you know where that one's going.

Getting the first and foremost out of the way simply by saying; read NQS. Gav has summed things up quite neatly, I think.

To get back to more pleasant things;

Attempting Fieldcraft vs. Fieldfares about the Mardle on Saturday was hampered by a noticeable lack of thrushes.. Hmm. Some showy Yellowhammers and some very nice low-flying Golden Plovers did make things better. As did the satisfying drop in the cloud base. What? I like the Moor when it's narsty enough to drive sane folks away.. ;) I had a much-needed yomp and had the all too rare chance to bathe in sheer silence. Bliss.

Sunday was version 2, this time the Walkham and with the Folks. The weather was more clement, Bullfinches brightened up our lunch break, and eventually an actual thrush flock worthy of the name showed up - indeed 50+ of them [mostly Fieldfares]. Shock ensued as one Fieldfare [perhaps suffering from a head injury so it thought it was a Crow] sat atop a hawthorn and just ignored us; viewing one of these twitchy buggers while standing in plain view at 40' was a surreal though most enjoyable experience! It eventually moved on to join the rest of the flock, mobile like almost all the thrushes seem to be right now.

Yes, another short one, but what can you do?

13 November, 2013

Sunday's Post

Is late, short, and not very interesting..

Ok, maybe not entirely the latter.

Sunday saw me doing some put off Stuff - so no rematch with that thcwewy duck pesky goose - but before that I bashed the Patch a fair bit. As usual, not much and that at the Nose.

Not many migrants! The giant Woodpig movements tend to pass inland; sometimes there will be big groups in the coastal trees [snarfing acorns, naturally], but the great streams you get further north, east, and south just don't materialise.. Pity.
Those migrants that were moving were not bad, though; at least 7 Red Admiral in/off from what looked like due east, 2 Redpoll over north, and a party of 18 LTTs out south! The tits took about 5 minutes to screw up the courage to set out, they kept all taking off then suddenly stalling and dropping back into the last bush...

And finally... I hate Dusky Warblers. :(

09 November, 2013

Up In The Sky..

It's a bird..

It's a plane..

No... it's NEMO!!

Big clownfish helium balloon over Orcombe this afternoon. Oh dear, some poor little kiddie...

That was pretty much the highlight of my Big Wild Goose Stand - yes, one field, one goose? Nope. Dip....


Earlier, the lovely female Long-tailed Duck proved much more amenable at Bowling Green. She showed marvellously, even coming out onto the grass for a brief minute!
I'd vaguely remembered hearing something about an early Goldeneye on the Exe, so adjourned to the Goatwalk for a good scan. After a lunch's worth of looking, I'd eventually nailed 5 R-B Megansers - amazingly my first in Devon this year [Possibly a Shock Of The Month, that] - but no sign of any smaller sawbills. Staying put did get me a flyover Fieldfare, though.

That wasn't my first of the winter, as on Friday a party of at least 5 flew over me at Yarner, where I spent a few hours primarily staring at tits - Marsh Tits coming to niger seed, mostly. ;)

Orcombe wasn't entirely dead, with a nice flock of about 85 Linnet [when all together] and a very surprising Migrant Hawker, which came up to me at the gate. I looked at it, it looked at me, I said "You do know it's November, don't you?" It said "Don't I just, it's norty words freezing - I'm off south for the winter!" and promptly flew off. [[Ok, maybe that was just in my head...]]

I know it's not the worst dip I've ever had - only a plumage tick [and a year tick as well, I suppose - which I'm not chasing] - but it's still bladdy annoying.. :(

Oh well, life's a bitca and all that, eh?

05 November, 2013

The Catch-Up Post

Which is likely to be very disjointed and nowhere near as good as all the stuff I was going to post but didn't have time for.


Let's see, before we get to the Fun With Falcons [which will be a post on its own], we have a seawatch to go on about:

Hope's Nose, Sunday, aka The Watch That Lasted 'Til Dark.
I didn't get there for first light - the clocks changing was too good of an excuse for a lie-in - also it slightly slipped the mind that the time going back to normal meant the dawn got earlier.. Oops.
But never mind that, eh?

In my defence, it did start off rather sunny. The wind was blowing a hoolie, though, which helped. Even better were the big fast squalls. It clouded up more as the day went on, and the birds passed; with Gannets getting into four figures and a steady if not voluminous supply of interesting stuff to keep me occupied until the rain arrived and the light departed. 15 shearwaters wasn't an enormous number, but one was a Sooty :) the Balearic/Manx split was 7/4, with the other 3 being spp. - blimmin' sunshine! The Longtail that went by was only the fourth best bird of the watch [poor thing] - also 2 Poms, 3 Arctics, and 5 Bonxies. More shears went by in the morning - 11/4, while more skuas passed in the afternoon - 4/7; maybe the shears clearing off when they saw how close they were to land, and the skuas sauntering on after battering the innocents in Lyme bay / off the Exe??

Overall there were about 4 times as many Gannets as Kitts passing south, though that varied from 12x to 2.5x over the hours, with about 1 in 8 Kitts a juvenile [yes, I was doing a lot of counting]. A scattering of auks - Razorbills all moving south, Guilles a 50/50 split - a few interesting gulls; most notably a lone adult Med. A GND and the first GC Grebe of the winter also troubled my notebook.

Bah, here I am, going on about numbers again. I'm sure I'd resolved not to keep doing that...

It wasn't an epic, classic kind of watch, but it was very enjoyable, and I was merrily there until the light went. Also, before I forget - I ought to re-write the intro but I can't be bothered - there were at least 6 Chiffchaffs in the bushes on my way down, so there had been some overnight movement. This was another reason why I wasn't as early-starting as I could have been; no, I didn't find anything sexier lurking with them and they were all 'ordinary' ones.

Right, on to the gruesome twosome.

First up - and it was first - was my third sighting of The Thing.
Again way out - messing about with a feeding group in the outer Bay - I watched it for a minute or so at 1045. It's got a big pale bill, seemingly angled down a bit. It seems to have a reasonable caudal projection, but not a long thin tail - that I could see. Again it gave off a very 'huge Cory's' jizz; especially as it seemed to have its wings bowed and pressed forward at the carpals. The range is an issue, of course [we're talking 2km or more here]. It did do those lazy low unflapping arcs again, but I didn't see it land this time - too big a swell! Again, appeared to be mottled-looking Fulmar-grey all over except for off-white head and neck.

Secondly.. The wonderful Black-browed Alba-Gannet!
It only showed once; a nice flap-less straight-winged arc at long range - in the outer bay feeding event - at 1341. It timed its arc well; catching the light nicely and showing its upper side, which was spot on for immature [no strikingly yellow bill catching the light] Black-browed Albatross. For a second I actually went "Was that........" before I cottoned on that it just wasn't HUGE enough. But damn, that was the best impersonator I've ever seen! Really worth looking out for, this one, it's even better than the immature frigatebird mimic* I saw a year or three back at Berry Head.

Finally... Things That Go By On A Seawatch;
Here's a good one; Beach Ball, pink/yellow/green/clear, passed north. ;D

*[[It came in from the north across the Bay 3/4 on and looked horribly worrying; black with white breast patch, the evil bird had its head pulled in and was missing middle tail feathers! Darn near gave me a heart attack until it got level, turned fully side-on, and I saw the bill properly. Then I may have called it some rather unflattering names.... ;) ]]

03 November, 2013

The Big Catch Up?

Not yet. Sorry.

Had a nice wander about Yarner with the Folks today - the weather contrived to keep it quieter than a holiday Sunday had a right to be, which was a bonus. Admittedly, the rain showed up while we were still there, but that's what waterproofs are for. Not overflowing with birds, though some good sightings [and soundings], plus a Roe Deer, which the LBD saw first, to her delight and the deer's discomfiture. It was a measure of our pleasure that even though the rain arrived while we were sat having coffee on the Beech Bench - Tilbury having been provided with a 20-minute chew* - and there were no birds about or moving over at all, we still stayed put. :)

Oh ok, a quick bit of Catch Up:
Last Saturday - the one in October - I bashed the Patch mightily all day, finding no Purple Sandpipers at the Harbour [not ideal conditions, admittedly] - nor any even vaguely interesting-looking gulls. The best I can report was a few flyover Redwing.
I even got out to Cockington, where Treecreeper and Grey Wag were nice, but of course no MTs, farmland birds, or winter thrushes [the latter I was realistically hoping for and their absence was vexing].

[[*The 20-minute chew, named for obvious reasons, only rarely lasts that long - but at least gives us some peace after the food has been eaten and the sticks in reach reduced to splinters. The LBD is a very good girl - well, sometimes - but there's just too many sights and smells outdoors for her to relax, so if she's not occupied she will sooner or sooner find something to bark at.. Little darling. ]]

02 November, 2013

Another Quickie

Decided through a feat of prescience not to go to 'Gwarra today and instead hung around at the Nose.

Shock, horror I know...

Early on I stayed overlooking the South Side until I saw the rain coming, then gave the sea 5 hours.

Two nice big feeding frenzies - one to north of The Wreck, one in the north part of the Bay - attracted more than 600 Gannets, Kittiwakes, and large gulls. Also 5 distant skuas and a lone Manxie. Passage was mostly Kitts and Gannets, with 3 C Scoters, a Little Egret, a Turnstone, 5 LBBs, a smattering of auks, and best of all.. a cracking 1w Little Gull, nice and close, too. :D

Had one good hit from a very nasty squall, but the rest all missed, or things might have been better. As it was, 50 Kitts an hour and 37 Gannets. Also of note, my first Fulmar since 15/9!

Yesterday I got to Yarner very briefly - of interest, there were at least 6 Marsh Tits coming to the feeders.

On Thursday a flock of 32 Goldfinch flew over - roughly south - as I got to work.

I will get to the full catch-up, honest...

31 October, 2013

Newfound Brevity

I doubt it will last.

So much to say and not enough time to say it in. It would be nice if all I had to do was bird [or even work and bird] but alas this is not the case. So, the blog slips further and further behind...

Yesterday's events seem to have vanished into a black hole, which is odd, but I'm not going to briefly speculate. I will get to posting at greater length, when circumstances allow.

The Sparrows look like they're thinking about nesting.. Madness is in the air...?

30 October, 2013

So I Just Turned My Computer On..

..And nearly took the screen out.




I was at Hope's Nose on Monday - Monday morning, that is. That bastard fucking Kestrel was probably sat on the Ore Stone: "Ah, there goes that eediot - now I can be found by someone with a proper camera".

I suppose it could have been worse.. If news had come out a little earlier, I could have spent a whole shift suffering instead of a night.

Tomorrow, my little yellow-clawed friend, your arse is mine.

[[Twitching my own Patch.     Oh, the shame.....]]

28 October, 2013

A Very Brief Note

Been spending far too much time birding.. [Oh, the shame.. ;) ]

I will get to decent [ok.. longer] posting later, but I have work in, well, pretty much now. I've been on Patch all weekend; Saturday bashing, Sunday seawatching, this morning a bit of both.

Hope someone was at Berry Head yesterday; there was [among all the good stuff] the best Black-browed Gannet I've ever seen. Plumage was spot on, arced without so much as twitching its wings, stayed well out, and only showed briefly - everything a young Gannet has to do. It made me laugh out loud..

Also hope someone was at Berry this morning, with what looked like yet another juv Sabine's through past the Nose with a group of Kitts - sun and rain at the same time* made it impossible to be certain about it, though!

[[*I was most unamused at the weather, this is, after all, cheating!]]

25 October, 2013

I Didn't Get Soaked.

Near-run thing, with some hefty chunks of white water flying about the Nose this morning!

[[And speaking of hefty chunks.. The Thing showed up again... :O ]]

The gouts of water got a little close at times, but fortunately the wind didn't shift back to SE. I tried getting spectacular ly rubbish shots, but the sea wasn't playing ball and I didn't feel like abandoning my watch to get a big blur of white.
Saying that, here are a couple anyway..

Caught the blowhole - just!

Very hard getting the timing, with the delay on my phone.
That pool is from the notch on the left of the previous photo btw...


So, today I got up far too early to zip down to the Nose for a pre-work seawatch.

[[Mad, mad I tell you...]]

I got in three very enjoyable hours before I had to pack up and head off [Ah, the joys of the Mid Shift...]. Star bird [The Thing doesn't count] was another gorgeous juvie Sabine's Gull!!! But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Yesterday evening was notable for firstly the low-flying Redwings, and secondly the large amounts of rain that fell later on. Despite the forecast not being ideal - sun was likely - the prospect of the South West's Biggest Chumming Machine doing its thing seemed worth the punt. The strong overnight SE wind did mean there wasn't a slick so much as a dirty tinge, but it seemed to work pretty well!

BHGs were in constant attendance, with a few Herrings and LBBs - though no Geebs [maybe no big enough bits left?] - plus passing Common and Med Gulls. Ah yes, the Med Gulls.. :) At least 6! 3 or more adults [the most in view at once], a 2cy, and 2 juveniles - brilliant! The Sabs came tacking in towards the fun, but then disappeared; whether it stayed well out and was hidden by the [not inconsiderable] swell, or went into Hope Cove where I couldn't see it, or just went away again I don't know. So, no close range views for me and no horrific attempts at pictures for you. Drat.

Passage wasn't exactly epic.. Gannets hourly figures were 19, 22, and 75! Almost all the 52 Kitts were in the last hour, too.

That said, the last hour wasn't the best; one wonderful 15 minute spell just after 9 saw not only the Sabs, but 2 divers [GN and a nice close imm. BT that looked like it went into the Bay], the first of the Med Gulls, a Purple Sand in/off, and another Merlin!! This one came cruising past at 0915, mixing in a touch of the 'disguise flight' now and again - I think it was taking advantage of the headwind to take rests. Other migrating land birds were mostly larks - in small parties low over the water, plus a group of Linnets and a lone Swallow.

A few auks went hither and thither - also 27 were on the Ore Stone ledges - 17 C Scoter and 3 Brent Geese passed south.

Note: You may find re-reading the new version of last Friday's post explains a this next bit. Or you might very reasonably want to pretend it doesn't exist. The latter may be the wiser course..

As for The Thing... 
Well, it was way out in Lyme Bay at 1117; left of the Wreck and beyond it. I now know it has a big pale bill - angled, not held dead straight out - and as well as those bowed slow hand-y flaps, it gave a couple of low, almost half-hearted arcs; it didn't hold its wings stiff when it arced, though it didn't flap either. I also saw it plonk down on the sea! Notably it didn't dive in like a Gannet will - even just to rest - but flared like a shearwater [wings out, undercart and tail spread and well down], or maybe a skua; there was a sense of hesitancy about it you sometimes see with landing skuas.. 
The flight jizz almost like a huge lethargic Cory's, maybe. Plumage was as before, structure seemed to have a reasonable caudal projection, but not the sharp spindly taper of a Gannet. It still seemed to be very laboured in its flight, as if there wasn't really enough wind for it. I'd be very interested to know if any of the day boats out there have met it.
And no, I still don't know what it is. If anything, I'm more uncertain now than last week....

20 October, 2013

Hope's Nose

And the Award for Originality in Post Titling goes to....

After all the fun on Friday, I had thought about going up after that plover the day after. Of course, not having had any sleep since Thursday was a slight issue, what with long drives and all. The logical answer was to not set my alarm and see if I woke up in time to head off - if I did, then I naturally had had enough sleep, right? Well, I didn't, so what of Saturday remained I spent bashing the Patch to little avail. The most interesting news I have is 'No Purple Sands yet'..

Today was a different matter. It was feasible, despite the forecast weather. The trouble was.. Did I really want to? It's a very long trip for a slightly odd-looking Ringo, after all. Yes, I've been to Hayling Island before, but that was going on [on solid gen] from nearer-to. The necessity of heading out before news was another factor - yes, it's incredibly tarty, but twitching is damn stressful, especially going on spec. Having quite enough stress going on right now as it is, I figured the benefits [nice big Mega On My List] didn't outweigh the costs.

My original plan was the one I chose - The Nose.

I also had a lie-in - probably a tactical error, but sod it. Not like there was a front coming though.

At the Nose there were even some migrants! No warblers at all, but a juv. Hobby was the first bird I laid eyes on, right after getting out of my li'l car! A good omen? I think so. :) Then, down at the Steps, a little band of 4 Mipits kept me company all day [when not being chased around by the Rockits, anyway!].

Getting started mid-morning, I ended up giving it 7 hours! It was... well, a lot like Friday, really! More stuff passing, and actual badass squalls to boot, but definitely a case of a trickle with the odd spot of quality. The rain, while it was fierce and lasted a fair while, didn't get the Chummer going properly. It produced a small brown patch and a short-lived smell that got a band of Kitts interested enough to sit on the sea for a while, but no proper slick. Drat.

Hourly Gannet numbers!
160  13  56  135  60  87  66

Hourly Kittiwake numbers!
41  57  6  39  31  34  22

[[Yes, I had some time on my hands..  ]]

Shearwaters were very thin on the ground..er, water. I saw only 4 Balearics and they were well spread out, too.
About one Razorbill went south every 10 minutes, plus a few Guillemots and later on a few Razorbills went north just to be perverse. No auks at all on the Ore Stone all day.

One small flock of C Scoter, a few Common Gulls and BHGs make up the alsos.

There were a lot of very dark juv. LBBs knocking about; most annoying, these, as there were dinky ones and big chunky ones which at range looked [and flew] horribly like skuas. Good practice, yes, but quite vexing when one zips past while you're trying to count a flock of Kitts..

Speaking of... I managed to pick out 16 actual skuas; which was pretty good, one of them a Long-tail which was really good, but 5 were spp. - 3 smaller ones, 2 bigger ones; they were way out.

Not that distance always saved them from getting pinned down. One hugely distant biggun was harrying Gannets; looked a bit off for Bonxie so was going to be a 'spp.' until it banked right over in the light and showed off a huge pale belly - a Pom!! :D Multiple miles out, it's a new distance record for skua ID - Big Scopes rock. ;)

While I'm gloating... I got a Stormy! Just the one and heading north at speed, but still, nice to actually see one.

Best 'til last... Not one, not two, but three, yes, three Grey Phalaropes! Just before the rain arrived, they came zipping south in line ahead and splatted down on the sea for good measure! SCORE! They were on the Manxie line, rather than coming right in, more's the pity, but seeing any Phals, especially on Patch, is a treat. [Three's just delightful.. :D ]

Time for that mantra; Patience, Persistence, and a Huge Scope.

18 October, 2013

Berry Head

With a strong sustained SE forecast, I decided to forego the battering I'd get at the Nose and went to Berry Head instead.

I've not been there for almost exactly a year - shocking! I couldn't believe it when I checked back, really I couldn't...

Anyway, after getting a Willow Warbler as migrant of note, I headed down to do some seawatching. I was joined on and off by various Famous and Very Famous Devon Birders, most notably The Boss himself, and sometimes there were even birds for us to look at!

The rain didn't really materialise, but the wind steadily picked up and a few bits passed; in five-and-a-bit hours, I recorded 7 Balearics, 4 Arctic Skuas, 2 Bonxies, a Pom, an adult Med Gull, 3 Common Gulls, 20 C Scoter, and a reasonably steady trickle of auks, Gannets and Kitts [the latter being most numerous, with ~12.5% juveniles among them]. The Harbour Porpoises [at least 4] put on a couple of impressive displays of porpoising, as well.

Despite The Thing*, it was wonderful to be seawatching again. I really needed it. Trees are great, but I'm drawn to the Sea.

Annnd finally, I met this little - or not so little - thing as I was climbing out of the Quarry..

Big Green Bush Cricket Type Thing

[[*Ah, The Thing.. You don't want to read this.

This is one of those "WTF..." birds.

Oh, all right then. If only because someone might know what it is.

Picked it up at about 1035 {I got a little distracted so not timed to the minute.. sorry} flying away out of the Bay. Huge, grey, very heavy laboured flight. I almost skimmed over it, but it registered and I went WTF - literally - and had a look. Mottled grey like a worn Fulmar, except for an off-white head and neck - neck thick, but not as tubby-looking as a Fulmar. I couldn't see the bill as it was always going away. Underparts the same mottled grey too! Tail looked tubenose-y; not the sharp point of a Gannet, and Gannet was the main comparison because this thing was huge... Wings were long, not so thin as Gannet's, with a broader, blunter hand than Gannet. It was actively flapping - not fast beats but making serious progress - so much that The Boss couldn't get on it when I [far far too late] realised I wasn't going to ID it and called for help. The mottled grey blended wonderfully with the sea once it's head was hidden, but I'm still kicking myself that I didn't scream earlier. 
Moral: It is better to be told 10,000 times "Its a Manxie', than to miss one Yelkouan, so Call Early!!!
Those flaps were very hand-y - not much arm movement at all, especially on the up - so the wings seemed very bowed. Kinda made me think a little of Cory's in not enough wind. The whole attitude of the bird seemed to be that it wasn't windy enough for it.

I don't know what it was. All of the standards I can think of have big holes, even allowing for a massive size screw-up. 
Maybe it'll turn up again. Hopefully it'll fly past someone with better initiative and a really good camera....]]