29 March, 2013

Oh, Not Again..

Up and out with determination this morning. I got down to the Nose, which this time was as blown out as expected. A Raven getting mobbed by a Herring Gull was amusing to watch, and there were at least 80 Guillemots on the Ore Stone [zero last weekend]. Otherwise sweet fa.

Right.. Time to go and find some migrants. After all, if you can't twitch someone else's Stone Curlew, why not get your own? Big nasty easterlies would push anything trying to fly for Salisbury Plain this way - and where's a nice high flat area with lots of nice fields that's the first land they'd hit? Prawle.

Oh, stop laughing....

I found no yellow-eyed fiends, despite checking a lot of stubble and rocks and clumps of straw [?] and so on. There were nutty dogs and psychotic sheep and a truly toothsome wind, but I pressed on. I also gave Pig's Nose Valley a go, hoping for Redstart up high and Ouzel down low. Nope. I gave the sea 2 1/2 hours and got 14 Sarnies and 2 Common Terns, plus a handful of the usuals. 14 LBBs included 2 intermedius types and probably the best bird was a smart adult argentatus Herring - nice and close - well, a treat for me, anyway!

Chiffs were scattered among all the cover, now calling more frequently; I hope this is as I assume a sign they're doing better [My reasoning; if they're too hungry to contact call they must be in trouble]. I found single Willow Warbler and Wheatear - a really confiding one :) - and bird-wise that's pretty much it.

Non-bird-wise, however...  Heading along the coast path from the Point towards Gammon Head, I realised I was not alone. Just up in front, another party was bounding along through the long grass - a Stoat! It had a fair-sized Rabbit by the throat and was carrying it along at quite a rate, either utterly unbothered by me or blissfully ignorant of the human following along maybe 20' behind it. There was a strong noisy crosswind, so either is plausible. Anyway, I got a great view for almost a minute before the Stoat vanished into cover. :D

26 March, 2013

The Agony And The Ecstasy

Sorry about the cheese, there.

Right then, a better [maybe] account of the weekend's fun and frolics;

After a refreshing three day working week [definitely the future, people] - spoiled only by that lovely complex low coming in on Thursday instead of Saturday. Tut. - I gave the Patch much bashing in the hopes of late winterers and early migrants. On Friday afternoon, I dared a gap in the rain and found 80+ Herrings and a dozen Geebs knocking about the flotsam and jetsam off Oddicombe. One was quite interesting-looking, but no more than that and then it rained hard.

Saturday dawned murky but with a brisk easterly wind. I figured the Nose would be blown out and so stayed more inland. Oh dear. At the time, I was enjoying all the poor phylloscs [while worrying how many hundreds the cats will have gotten... :( ] - the star being another Garden Willow Warbler! Also in the Garden, and shockingly sharing a bush for nearly 30 seconds without any attempt at avicide, were three Blackcaps! [2 males and a female]. The other highlight of the morning was a stunning female Green Woodpecker in the Do-It-All quarry [the place where they want to build a Morrison's]. I watched her working along the kerb by the old car park for almost ten minutes - closest views of a Green Wood just doing it's thing I've ever had :D
After stopping home for lunch - not quite spat out at the 'puter - I headed out again. The Nose had 4 Wheatears still about, with 13 GC Grebes and a showy Grey Seal offshore. Drat.
I found 3 Willow Warblers and easily ten times that number of Chiffs in the day - almost all of them feeding very low down [one was on a small, highly manicured garden lawn, another working along a concrete path, the banks along IMD were full of them] and some very confiding...

Sunday I got up and out sharp for some reason..?!? The Nose surprised me again with a frickin' Ring Ouzel in the Entrance Bushes! WTF?? I thought they were supposed to be shy? Well, it certainly cleared off quickly enough; the only decent view I got was it's arse as it flew off alarming - into the North Side, naturally. Still, Patch Ouzel no. 3 - not to be sniffed at. This is, I know, a very very low number, but the trouble is that there are lots of little Ouzel-friendly bits you can't get at, and the only good spots - the Nose and Walls Hill - are dogged out. No, not like that. What I mean is that, no matter how early you get there - even if you do so before sunrise - someone will have been there already with a dog. 95% probability it's loose. 99% probability it won't be picked up after ["It's grass..."]. Ahem. Getting back from that tangent.. At least 23 Mipits and a lone Wheatear were lower down, with a few more Chiffs and another Willow Warbler higher up.

I nipped back home mid-morning and to my delight, not only had the Bluethroat at Fraggle Rock stayed, but there was a Kentish Plover there too!!!!! Tally-ho!

En route, a Swallow overtook me just east of Bridport - I was of course being very good - and I took this as a good omen. Then I got to Ferrybridge - nice crowd, so pay up and.. No Sign for hours. Fuck. I had my lunch and enjoyed the icy breeze while sifting through Ringos and Dunlin over and again...
Ok, it's not in sight. Either it's gone, in which case I'm stuffed, or it's just moved a bit and the tide will bring it back close. So, off to the Bill I go, arriving to find that the Bluethroat's just been flushed by a photographer [allegedly]. I think some very rude words, get glared at by the Obs Quarry Little Owl and start scanning the bushes..

Ooh, what's that dark thing with red sides to the tail base just flown past me? Jackpot! Cue: one stunning male White-spotted Bluethroat. You've seen the pics, it's beautiful. It also seems to have taken a blow to the head and now thinks it's a Robin. Aren't they supposed to be super-skulky reedbed and willow lurkers?? Not this chap, oh no. Hopped about, bold as you like - held himself quite like a Wren, tail cocked - and even had a fight with a Robin! Wonderful...

But the lure of the Kentish could not be denied, so I headed back to Ferrybridge, where the tide had snapped up with astonishing rapidity. Not a sign. I had by this time heard news of 'a Stone Curlew on Orcombe Point' - but, not having the vital 'Gore Lane' caveat, assumed it had been on the actual point and thus would have been flushed very quickly... Plus, a possible Stone Curlew versus a Kentish that might appear at any second?

When I finally accepted that I'd dipped Kentish Plover again [I think that's seven, now] I headed home, not to Exmouth - to be honest I was too dipped out to really think logically about it. Yes, For Want Of A Pager..   I'm still not getting one.

I'm just concentrating on the Bluethroat. What a bird.

Yes, just the Bluethroat.

I really hate Kentish Plovers...

25 March, 2013

Words Cannot Describe...

How much I HATE Kentish Plovers.

Those of a sharp-eyed disposition may notice this post has.. evolved somewhat. Time and a slightly less stressful day's work have helped and so the big bad DELETE has come into play.

One thing, though...



aka That Slippery Little Git
aka The Psychic Plover
aka What Do You Mean You've Never Seen One?!?!!?

For Information Leading To Successful Tick

19 March, 2013


But what is this? Another post?!???

Having some hollyday to use up ["By the end of March or lose it..."] and the li'l car needing attention [eek...] have seen me not at work so far this week. Yesterday was largely taken up with having large amounts of money slowly extracted [even less pleasant than it sounds]. I eventually got to the Harbour late afternoon in time to see 6 Purple Sands, 3 Turnstones, and a Rockit. There was sod all on the sea and all the gulls had been scared off from their pontoon by a swimming dog! 2 Mallard were swimming about the Outer Harbour. Hmm.

Today I determined to have some fun.
I toyed with heading south to look for early migrants, but then thought 'Naah, sod it' and went up on't Moor!

This proved to be a Good Idea, as I had a very nice time and didn't get rained on at all! I spent the morning stalking about Bellever and while the wind was cold, it was fairly light and the [admittedly infrequent] bursts of sun were warm. The ground was not at all frozen - not such a good thing as twas quite soggy - and it was very Spring-like, with birdsong filling the air. First stop was the Tor itself - home of one of the best 360° panoramas going [at least when the wind lets you stand up]. Eventually moving on I worked my way around all the sheltered slopes and clearings - the wind was moderate, but still there, after all. Lots of Mipits and Skylarks at last! Such a lovely change, with parachuting pipits all over the shop - many sitting on young conifers trying to be Tripits [most amusing]. A Mistle Thrush flew low overhead and gave me a passing rattle, unlike a later Song Thrush, which just kept going. Also at least two Green Woodpeckers, very vocal and very hard to see among all the greenery..

I toddled over to Madman's Laughter Tor [this is the proper name, by the way - for some reason they don't like putting it on maps...] and took a leisurely lunch, waiting to see what would fly past. Only one bird of note - a Redpoll. Not flying but also noteworthy was a male Crossbill - it was in lookout position a fair way off [that li'l scope is very handy] but as far as I could tell it was alone.

After gleefully watching a big shower that had been hitting Ryder's Hill hard miss to the east, I was looking even more happily at one that was snowing on Princetown missing west [nutty amusement was pretty much de rigour, considering my location]. Then the wind did some cackling of it's own and changed from SSW to WSW. Bugger...
Cue snowballs! Little balls of snow - about .5 to 1cm - then fell from the sky. It was great! :) [Said I didn't get rained on ;) ]. It was also pretty unrelenting, this 'shower' being more like a long line. The birds made themselves scarce and eventually I did too. There still being plenty of daylight left, I took the scenic route home but failed to run across any Bramblings or winter thrushes. Still, a good day and a very enjoyable walk.

17 March, 2013

And Now For The Rest

What, you didn't think this morning's loverly surprise was going to be it, did you?

First up; yesterday.
Failing again to find Wheatears first thing, I went off-Patch to do some mobile birding. I hit the Exe first, making visits to RVP, Matford, Exminster, and Dart's Farm. I singularly failed to find any Sand Martins, but after only getting a lone Redshank and 3 Snipe at Double Locks, Matford provided again with two smart Green Sands. Exminster held a typically inconsiderate Spoonbill and no harriers - it also demonstrated that the wind and heavy showers weren't going to ease up any time soon.. Dart's was too windy for showy finches and I've seen the yankwig well already, so on I went.

The Otter was briefly sunny, then it absolutely pissed down. Fortunately, I'd a) got to the west hide and b) already got on the two LRPs on site. I stayed put, counting Wigeon [about 100] and Snipe [at least 12] in the rain - always fun when you're not in the rain ;) - and snarfed my lunch. Well, as much as I could keep from a very bold Robin and an almost as bold [and thus for them utterly fearless] Blackbird! Periodically a Redshank showed right in front of the hide - crippling views, including it swimming in a very phalaropey manner between exposed bits of mud - though never for long, as someone always came by and flushed it! [Mutter mutter]. Out of rations and needing to get back home to do some Stuff, I risked the rain. Sure enough it opened up on me, but only briefly. As it eased off I picked up a bird flying past me over the reeds - ooh, there's an interesting silhouette! I got on it just as the sun came out and the bird incandesced blue; Kingfisher!!

Late afternoon and with some more time I headed to the Downs, where the sight of a large mass of gulls at the north end of Oddicombe drew me down the cliff road. At least 125 Herrings, plus a dozen GBB were messing about in the surf and washed up weed - odd. There might have been something dead there, I couldn't check it well or for long as not only was there a steep shingle berm - so to see everything would mean flushing the gulls - but it was also the old 'Gentlemen's Bathing Place' - ie. beyond the main cliff fall area. Wandering onto rockfall chutes is not advisable [though you probably wouldn't be surprised at how many people were..] so the gulls were left undisturbed.

Out to sea, a raft of a dozen GC Grebes bobbed about. As I counted them, a diver sp. flew south - very distant, it looked GND-ish. Then a big boss shower hit and I took cover. After it passed a lovely rainbow showed up and on the sea as if by magic appeared a diver! Not just any diver but a Black-throat, too! :) That'll do nicely.

Getting back to today and in the Garden, Herr Blackcap is still in residence, with Frau Blackcap trying to get in now and again.
This afternoon in the sunshine we took a wander about Mamhead - it was lovely, much better than expected [someone needs to re-educate the Met Office...]. Bird-wise it was as quiet as you'd expect, [though a fly-over Redwing and a singing Goldcrest were nice], except for the bit when Tilly found a Pheasant - it took off very rapidly...


Woke up this morning to 2cm of very un-forecast snow!



Despite a quite nippy nor'westerly's best efforts, the sun has since come out and pretty much melted the lot in the near vicinity. This is to be expected here, but I'm sure there's been 'traffic chaos' in the meantime...

Anyways, I got out nice and sharp and headed over to the Nose for another Wheatear hunt - and this time I scored!! :D
Cracking male, quite a buffy one, too. So that's all right. Wheatear for the year, check. Sod the snow, spring has sprung! :)

6 Guilles in summer finery were on the Ore Stone, with two more on the sea while a Fulmar prospected along towards Longquarry. The SWBCM had activated overnight, with single Common and LBB among the gulls picking over the not particularly massive slick. Also GSW drumming, two Green Woodpeckers yaffling at each other across Ilsham valley, and Greenfinches with bills full of grass. Finally, three ducks flew north along the coast! I got my hopes up as they clearly weren't Scoters.... Mallards, of course. Drat.

12 March, 2013

If The Wind Changes

Even as a very small child I thought that one was ridiculous..

But anyway!

Being very British, I must comment upon the weather; on Friday when I got home from work it was 14°. On Monday it was 3°. Ouch.
Snow is in the air, but so fine you only really notice it when it gets you in the eye. Double ouch.

I have been Patch-bashing in diligent hope of migrants, but the wide yet light scattering of Wheatears that has fallen upon Devon has not included here. I had some hope of a grounded migrant at the Nose on Saturday, what with all the mistyfog everywhere, but I found only one, and that a Mipit. It was an unusually showy Mipit, and a Patch Year Tick, 'tis true... But it wasn't a Wheatear.

Not much sea to see, though that didn't stop me almost scoring wonderfully, with a Bottlenose Dolphin [the one with the split dorsal fin] right close in off the Nose. I got down onto the rocks to try for a picture, but at that point a twonk in a motorboat decided to come by and flushed it. [Yes, same effect - no more animal - so same word!]. Despite my hanging around hopefully, it didn't reappear..

Otherwise the only sea sightings of any note were a w/pl Guillemot off Meadfoot and a large diver sp. [almost certainly a GND, but the sun came out!] way way out in mid Bay. The Purple Sands were roosting well spread out among the boulders on the Real Living Coast and I could only find 8. Inshore, Spring was in the air, most definitely, with much singing going on, including at least two Blackcaps.

Mothering Sunday went very well, despite the weather, as a well-planned scheme was put into action. A careful maskirovka worked even better than hoped and Mum was taken far into cornwall before she twigged where we were really going. After an indoor picnic with Sister, Brother-in-law and Nephew, the menfolk took the Mad Dogs [yup, they've got one too, though bigger and shaggier] out for a yomp through wind, rain, and mud. We wandered up a very nice wooded valley, with unsurprisingly few birds around, though it looks promising for later in the year. En route, we passed a very soggy meadow where the mad dogs put up a Water Rail - I've not seen one in flight for years! - and a group of pipits had an interesting-looking member, which I couldn't chase up, unfortunately. I don't know, you'd think people would be more willing to stand around in the rain while the wind whistled around their ears and the mud lapped around their ankles, on the off chance of a Water Pipit... but no.


02 March, 2013

Time Marches On (Groan...) V.2

The Wheatears are coming, oh yes they are, my precious.....


Right, so, what to report? Well, I've been bashing the Patch with not a great deal to tell for it. No sexy gulls or funky Cormorants - yes, rare gulls are sexy, stop glancing at that straightjacket and keep reading! - to reward getting frozen while staring at the waves. Inland, things have been even bleaker than the weather.

Best on offer came today, with a very nice 14 Purple Sandpipers and 4 Turnstones on Haldon Pier as the tide started to fall. :)  Offshore, from Livermead to Thatcher Rock there were at least 14 GC Grebes, one Slavonian, and one RTD. The Slav was well out and moulting - it looked quite RNG-ish - and the diver was an adult still in full winter finery, lingering not too far off Meadfoot Beach.

The assorted immature Herrings have not even had any properly odd-looking ones, so Bird of The Day is taken by an immensely smart and quite bold adult male LBB*, who flew up to a young couple out exercising their toddler on Torre Abbey sea defences. There was no bread forthcoming - the only thing he got was cooed over by me! - and he soon gave up, but until then I enjoyed a very nice view of this lovely bird.

Oh yes, a piece of late news; Frau Blackcap's reign of unholy terror was ended back in early February - yes, very late news! - by Herr Blackcap. Also, a male Brambling has made several visits, but always while I was at work! :(  Drat and double drat....

So, not a great deal to post about, really. Until this dratted weather changes, it seems this is how things will be. Ah well.....

Rather than put on a separate and rather short post, here's an addendum;
Went for a wander about the Bovey and Becka valleys with with the Folks and a Little Black Dog that had been hanging around. Before we even got to Drakeford Bridge we found that someone has been very busy putting signs up all over the shop. I'm not sure how I feel about this, as there are far too many people wandering about there already.. ;) Anyways, after we got clear of the assorted family parties we had a nice walk, with the infamous climb up to and down from [unless you're unlucky, then it's a sliding roll down...] Houndtor Wood. This wood, it must be noted, is not exactly near Hound Tor, but never mind, eh?
There were a few birds around, including Marsh Tits and plenty of Siskin, but the star bird was a Dipper; which put in alas an all too brief appearance, though. Dippers are [as I've gone on about before] not Schedule 1, but I think they should be, so I'm not saying which watercourse it was on or if it was doing anything. Futile yes, but there you go.
Spring is definitely in the air, with Snowdrops coming up all over the shop [[this is Up There, where it counts, as Down Here you get flowers year round - there's this thing they go on about... a Riviera?? Anyway, winter here means shorter days, colder rain, and fewer grockles. The old timers tell stories about snowmen... ;) ]]

Finally.. I am thinking about changing how I post. Nothing definite, but I have settled into a pattern that I'm not entirely happy with. We shall see.

[[*Nice graellsii, naturally, pretty much a classic bird.]]