30 April, 2013

They're Heeeeere!!!!


After the lone evening bird last week there's not been a sniff of a Swift turn up in my pre-work evening checks. Until last night, when at least 3 were low over the rooftops, and first thing this morning a screaming party [too quick to count!] came by at gutter height. This is 3 days earlier than last year - so not everything is running late.

Oh, Happy Happy Joy Joy! Summer is a cumen' in.


A late update on the weekend's news: Sod all.

After work on Saturday, the Patch had nowt to report. Not surprising with the hour and all the bods, I suppose. Sunday morning I gave it more and went searching to see if Whitethroats had arrived anywhere other than the Nose. Nope.
Anything fancier than Chiffs and Blackcaps singing? Nope.
Any passing migrants? 3 Swallows.

Yeah, dire. The weather didn't help, of course..

I got back and was straight out again as the Folks fancied another trip about Yarner [there was coffee and dark Kitkats on offer - you can't say no]. Wood Warblers had been reported...

Nope. Not even a single Pied Fly. We did get some nice Willow Warblers, including a very showy one, up on the Trendlebeare edge but nothing of major excitement. No Tripits and certainly no Garden Warblers. Even the pond was empty.. at least until we were leaving, when a lone drake Mandarin appeared. This is not to say the residents weren't about, but again the weather wasn't exactly helping. Oh well. It is greening up wonderfully there, and even without birds, Yarner's always nice to wander about. Last but not least, there was a gorgeous buck Roe Deer [5 points a side], which crossed the track in front of us - right by the hide, too - and sent Tilbury into fits of rapturous yapping....

Only other thing worth blabbing about is the clear night let me do some stargazing on my break at work last night and I finally caught up with PanSTARRS, though I couldn't get a view of Saturn. Oh, and comment moderation is back on - sorry - due to a moron who thinks spamming barely-read blogs is a good way to advertise...  >:(

26 April, 2013

Very Tasty.

Well, I'm back on the Night Shift - yay! - and so today has seen my first Friday birding for far too long! [Bank Hollydays don't count].

But before all that... Yesterday got me my first Swift of the year - out the window, too! Wednesday got me a surprise Work Tick, when from the loo of all places [though I suppose it makes sense, it's the only quiet room in the place!] I heard a reeling Gropper!!! This was at about 0545, by the way, and the poor thing had to compete with the local dawn chorus; I could only hear him when the Wren took a breath!

Today.... I got down to the Nose as soon as I could. The cloud had come in overnight as forecast, but cleared up as I was getting turned around and by the time I arrived on site, it was blazing sunshine! This helped counteract the not inconsiderable bite of the wind. Very bipolar, the conditions; either freezing or roasting! Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were in evidence from the road and I soon struck gold with a Lesser Whitethroat in the Entrance Bushes  :D  It wasn't feeling showy and quickly buggered off - little git - but still, a good start!

The Top Dell was vexingly barren - though a pair of active and vocal Blackcaps may explain that - but I did manage to pick out a couple of Wheatears right down on Sandy Point after finding the whole of the sunlit sheltered South Side birdless... Heading down that way - taking the usual Steps Path - I was detoured halfway down the Lower Slope by the sound of Whitethroats singing :)  I also didn't feel like heading into the sun while searching out those Wheatears!

Really. Good. Call.
I was following the little contour sheep track to the Mud Path when an interesting call came from upslope. Not so casual glance to my left revealed a bird atop a bush, but what's that beneath it? Flash of red? Yes - Redstart! Female! It popped up into the occupied bush and sat for a few seconds in the same binocular field as the other bird - oh come on! Whinchat!!

I am not ashamed to admit that I danced on the spot... ;)

Birds in a bush, lit by the sun.. The phone came out and they were gone. Drat. I moved on and ooh! There the Redstart is again! She sat in a Hawthorn and I tried my luck. Unfortunately, phonebinning is very much  a random shot, as with the sun out I can't actually see what's on my phone's screen.. Yup, missed. Oh well..

On again on again and now the Whitethroat count started up properly - I ended up with 5, all singing males - and the Wheatears too, showed themselves. Seven little darlings at least, with two looking good for Greenland. A couple actually sat and posed, I've been nice and only added a one of them, so look away now if you value your retinas...

Sitting on The Wall, gazing out to sea, wondering why he bothered...

A few more numbers; Chiffs 8, Willow Warbler 1, Blackcaps 3, Guillemots visible through bins 165, Commic tern south 1.

EDIT: No sign of any Marsh Harriers over the Nose while I was there and with plenty of assorted gulls and corvids hanging about looking for trouble, I think it's a safe bet that either the Berry Head bird either took a detour or sat on a fishing boat for a couple of hours! Bugger.

Right then, where to next? Big-looking shower-y type clouds had started to loom, and as the Exe seemed like a good place to be, I went to see the vestiges of the tide at Bowling Green. Vestiges is a good term, with 2 Avocet, about 120 Blackwit, and a Dunlin still there when I arrived. A scattering of ducks, a few warblers, a sneaky Wheatear, and eventually the star birds - they were beautiful in the sunshine, I have to say;

It took two hours, but eventually they came out together.

Lunch was eaten, coffee drunk, and I considered heading out to the Goatwalk - Spotshank? Little Gull? LTD?   Nah, sod it, a Wild Wagtail/Egret Hunt will be much more fun!

After having to reverse the length of the straight cratered bit twice*, I started looking around for little yellow jobs by coobeasties and big white jobs in ditches. There were Sedge and Reed Warblers - joy - there were two women with very loose Coot-chasing dogs - [CENSORED] - but no sign of what I was Chasing. Ok, change of tactic; I went and stood next to the two birders by the halfway gate. Ooh! Yellow Wags! Hey, wait a minute, look at that one...

Mobile and sneaky bird, plus gusty wind, plus rubbish camera equals

Two rubbish record shots!


Blue-headed Wag still present, with what was at first 3, then 4, then finally 8 Yellow Wagtails! At least a half dozen birders got to see it, including [Devon Birder Who Missed The Night Heron By 5 Minutes - sorry! ;) ]. We were also treated to a display of hawking by a gorgeous Hobby. Oh, and those 3 Bar-headed Geese were there, too.

Cracking day!

[[*Normally my fellow road-users only get that treat once - there being room to pass at the bridge, after all - but number two was a big tractor with a muck spreader...]]

22 April, 2013

It's Back...

The Silly Hat Rides Again!


The first outing of the year was Saturday, when after not getting much at all at the Nose, I wandered over to East Devon. There I met more than 40 warblers - as opposed to the Nose's paltry 6 - and though I really had to work for the Star Attractions, they did in the end show very nicely. Albeit too rapidly-moving to get a phonebinned shot...

But cutting back a bit;
Friday afternoon I gave the Patch a going-over and the sun did shine. I pounded pavements and a couple of Blackcaps were singing in usual places, the first butterflies of the year [for me] were out. This year is notable in that Butterfly No.1 is a Comma [usually Peacock, Red Admiral, or Brimstone] - a very confiding one basking by the newly-restored pond-thing at Warberry Copse. A skulker in sub-song on IMD might have been a Garden Warbler, but then again it might not - drat.

On to Saturday, where on the migrant front, a lone Wheatear and single Willow Warbler were it at the Nose, at least 165 Guilles were on the Ore Stone, and the Grey Seal was still hanging about [couldn't get a decent pic of it, but will keep trying].

As well as shedloads of Willows and Chiffs, the Commons had a few Blackcaps and my first Whitethroat of the year - it got seen off by a Star Bird! Said Stars were much less elusive in the afternoon, when it really sunned up and got properly warm. Speaking of - a huge jump in insect numbers, with bees and wasps and flies and hoverflies all over the shop as if by magic. No odonates yet, of course, but on the plus side no frickin' Horseflies, either :) A few hirundines trickled over, and there was an increasing passage of gulls heading for the estuaries. I was surprised to find a group of 3 Wheatears up there - they were very friendly [2m 1f] and at one point two shared a single post! Stifling my giggles, I tried a picture but alas it didn't come out as anything better than a funny-shaped blob.. rats. Stonking male Yellowhammers were a welcome sight upon the eyes, as was a showy Treeecreeeeper and the inevitable 'come right up to you' singing Willow Warbler. :)  It was a good day.

I stopped off at Ideford Common on the way back, but haze vexed any attempt to add to the 20+ soaring raptors I'd had earlier in the day - no Ospreys, though - and no passing migrants or vagrants popped by either [Hey, you get lucky once, you keep at it!]

Yesterday I awoke utterly drained, [I admit the bright sunny morning when there should have been fall-inducing fog didn't help], and only got going in the afternoon to join the Folks at Yarner.
This was a good call, with three male Pied Flycatchers - a couple very showy - about, Siskins singing, the Wood Ants active and the Mandarins feeling combative! A Redstart was less showy - unsurprisingly - but the light drizzly rain held off and we had a very pleasant wander. No Wood Warblers yet, but the residents did their best to make up the shortfall, though alas we didn't hear a singing Willow Warbler. They're a lot less common at Yarner in recent years and we didn't get to the edge of Trendlebeare, which is the best spot, so not entirely surprising. It would have been nice, though, as Mum hasn't heard one yet [or seen a Swallow!] this year.

Finally - gripped off by a work colleague on Thursday; he had a Red Kite low over the Penn Inn roundabout pre-work! Drat! Would have been a nice work tick...
On the Garden Front; the last sighting of the Blackcaps was Tuesday, but the Goldfinches continue to visit. House Sparrows next door still and nowt in the boxes yet.

14 April, 2013

Yes! Yes!

I've been dancing in public again. I really ought to stop before someone calls in the Nice Men In White Coats, but what can you do?

After all the fun yesterday, I was left with soggy gear that needed drying [the rain was quite handy for getting the salt spray off, fortunately]. The forecast had also changed it's mind and decided that no, the cold front wouldn't be through first thing this morning. These two things caused me to not get up early and head down to the Nose this morning.

I had a nice lie-in instead.

This afternoon I wandered down to see if the eventual arrival of whatever broken-up mess this previously formidable-looking weather formation had become would provide anything interesting. I wandered over with bins [nice to get some decent exercise] and a damn good thing I did too.
I have to cross two hills to get to the Nose, and as I ambled down the first, a bird flew over the road in front of me, rooftop height. It was banked over in the wind and kindly reversed the manoeuvre as it went, showing me it's underside.

That's a Sand Martin....

That's a Sand Martin.

That's a fucking Sand Martin!!!!!!!!!

Oh, but the Patch Tick joy! :D
There may have been dancing... [What the little old lady coming down the road behind me thought, I do not know.. ;) ]


So, it was with a spring in my step that I carried on to the Nose. I noted a couple of Chiffs and Blackcaps among the more regular residents en route, but aside from the Greenfinches in particularly fine vocal form, nothing more of note until I got the the Desolation Of TCCT*. There the first couple of Swallows came past, freshly in/off. 20 more would follow in a slow but steady trickle.

The Nose was pretty windswept and disturbed, with a plethora of assorted anglers, dog walkers, and Others, so no surprise I found nowt ashore other than a single Wheatear. The rain arrived and I decided that, as the leafless state of the foliage meant I couldn't get properly out of it, I might as well use it. Down to the Steps I went and I gave the sea half an hour.

Such a good idea.

Aside from at least 40 Guilles and 1 Razorbill on and about the Ore Stone [amazing how much you need a Big Scope for counting them unless the light's exceptional] this is the tally [not counting in/off Swallows]
Gannets 6
Kittiwakes 5
Fulmars 5 [+ 1N]
Sandwich Terns 14
Common Gull 1

But these are merely the support acts...

Black Swan** 1 - Flew south well out [best part of a mile, I'd say], settled briefly on the sea, then went on.

Shoveler 4 [2 male 2 female] - PATCH TICK! South into the Bay in neat line ahead, FMMF; gorgeous!!!

Oh yeah, a two Patch Tick day! Ok, I got rained on while not wearing waterproof trollies, but it wasn't coming down that hard.. and even if it had been, I really wouldn't have cared :) Happy Happy Joy Joy


[[*That's where they've hacked all the trees down along IMD by the Nose, btw]]
[[**Have I gone on about Black Swans before? As far as I am concerned, if a species has bred in the wild, it's Feral. Thus unless an example is clearly an escape, with bling or whatever is appropriate, it's as good as a Canada Goose. The whole 'ten years self-sustaining' thing would only be reasonable if it was applied universally. But this is just imho, it's not like I am or ever will be on a relevant authority and I know that there are legal reasons for the official line.
But anyway, here's an example of how I'd put one species into categories; take R-B Goose.. you have three kinds: the escapes with bling, the wild ones with Brents, and the ferals in Holland {and East Anglia}  ;) ]]

13 April, 2013

The Call Of The Sea

That siren song lured me to the Nose today and kept me watching for seven hours. I got very soggy and very cold - despite thinking I was overdressed on the way down [definitely rusty!] - and saw a vast plethora of sod all for long spells. Despite that, it wasn't bad at all!

Not a watch for the standards, it very unusually started with me doing a full check of the Nose on the way down, instead of just piling straight in. I didn't find much - two singing [yay!] Chiffs up top and three Wheatears down the bottom were it.

The wind started just E of south, then swung SE - so I set up at the TSS. After a couple of hours it came back southerly and with the wind whistling around from the front and the back I moved to the Steps. No sooner had I set up than the wind then promptly went more SSE and the rain hit hard.. I had some fun; ending up with the big bumbleshoot wedged pretty much on it's side! The rain dripped through the storm flaps, but at least I could take my hands off it - a novel experience at the Nose. After a mere 4 hours the wind finally got to it's forecast SSW..

Anyway... In said 7 hours an amazing 28 Gannets passed. This is almost Legendary numbers, but never mind, eh? 47 Fulmars went through [with enough plumage variation to have some confidence in that - there was even a supremely pale double light bird] as did 124 Kitts. I clicked 381 auks - almost entirely Guillemots - but this was from the TSS, where I couldn't see the Ore Stone - so how many went on? Not a clue. No Puffins at all - not for want of looking! I did get 5 divers; a BT in s/pl [outside the Ore alas] and 4 RTs, two in s/pl and one inside the Lead Stone for a wonderful flypast :)

Speaking of wonderful flying.. three Manxies - one in the morning, two in the afternoon, the last being inside the Ore Stone! Also 39 C Scoter in two groups and a solo, 4 Common Gulls, 3 LBBs, one GC Grebe on the sea - lurking by the slick.. Each pulse of rain had a bunch of hirundines coming in/off in the leading edge; I checked and counted them all. 51 Swallows, no Martins.. :(  The SWBCM kicked in, attracting the usual mass of gulls and Fulmars. An afternoon sweep - once the wind had shifted around - gave 268+ gulls and 20+ Fulmars. All the E in the wind meant much material was right close in and birds on it were too close to see - unless you wandered out to the edge of the rocks and then of course you disturb them.

Terns though... 110 Sarnies! Many stopped for a quick go at the fish but they were all moving [I assume into the Bay - there have been plenty hammering the sandeels in every sheltered bit of water I've looked at the last couple of weeks] and usually calling. Best 'til last; point blank range, following a group of 5 Sarnies, so close it was over the slick... Arctic Tern. Sweeeeeet.

12 April, 2013

I Had A Title For This Post...

And at some point I might even remember it again. Oh dear....

Working backwards, just because;

Two Swallows over the Inner Harbour were a lot better than the 47 Herring Gulls and a Moorhen on the pontoon - they were heading southeast, flying into the wind and using a more clipped style that made me wonder if they were Martins when I first saw them.. :)

Bugger all on the sea, but the 9 Purple Sands I could find along the Real Living Coast included one in near summer plumage - very nice indeed! More at sea off Meadfoot, where at least 12 Sarnies were fishing and further out a dark bird bobbed.. WTF?!? Dark birds on the sea are Shags or Cormorants, but not riding that high and looking that compact... A name came to mind at once, but it was a mad name, a fanciful name.. A Scoter? Nope, just not right and oh look, white bit. Far too uniformly dark to be a female Tufty.. It is, isn't it? A compact black bird which is in the habit of nodding off on the water and has a white bit on the face.. A COOT!!!!!!!

Mad? Fanciful? On my Patch, dear reader, I have now seen a total of three Coots. That is going back to the eighties. The eighties. They're a less than one a decade bird. The reason for this oddity is the utter lack of decent fresh water - there are a few ornamental ponds [at Torre Abbey and Cockington], which are basically concrete bowls. You get Moorhens, Mallards, gulls. That's it. The odd brief vagrant until it realises how shite a spot it's in. Coot on the sea? Odd. Coot on my Patch? AMAZING!



Inland there were plenty of singing birds, but not a one of them a Chiffchaff. I've still not heard one doing what they do this year - what's with that? The sun was shining and out of the wind it's positively balmy, the trees are coming out and things are greening up at last. In the Garden, male and female Blackcap this week, not trying to kill each other. Now, here's the interesting bit - Brits returned or Germans hanging on? Answers on a postcard [or a shiny ring!]. Two at a time Goldfinches are also very regular visitors to the sunflower hearts.

And finally, I saw this this afternoon and suddenly broke into song [The Hero Of Canton, naturally]. I have to share it with you;

There's no place I can be..

08 April, 2013

Between Zero And None

So, two weekend days, two early trips to Hope's Nose in search of migrants and what did I get?

I'm not alone in this, it seems, though I unfortunately don't have any nice sheltered muddy rushy streamy bits to attract passing Bluethroats....

Saturday I, seeing all the blue skies, decided that I might as well do what I was going to do the week before and head up on't Moor. There might be Wheatears. Or passing Ouzels. There could even be a passing Red Kite, if I happened to have a long lunch on a nice viewpoint..? [[Hell, there could even be a lost trip up there??]]

I took a good long yomp, had a quite good time, saw some very nice stuff - both hoped for and unexpected - and then got home late and said some very norty words at my poor innocent computer. Again. But no more on that.

I wandered up Holne Moor, mooched about the Mardle, climbed Puper's Hill, then crossed over to Huntingdon Warren, went up to the Heap Of Sinners, then on the Ryder's Hill, before taking the long coast back down the Holne Ridge. Simple.

On the way... Things started well, with a smart male Ring Ouzel at Fore Stoke [a bit distant, but a Crow disturbed it and it flew towards me - such a pleasant change!]. The inevitable male Yellowhammer was where he usually is and buoyed up I went up and around.

The whole while I was up there, the Mipits and Skylarks kept up a constant accompaniment of song and calls - it was wonderful and such a contrast from earlier in the year - with a trio of Ravens having a very vocal day-long dispute to add a certain je ne sais quoi to matters ;) .

Cue a couple of surprises. First a poor innocent Buzzard with an ex- Bunny [I did apologise for making it carry all that weight off..] then a surprise typical of Spring on the Moor's edge; a Badger! It was out on the flank of Holne Moor, well in the open, foraging merrily and had no idea I was there. I even tried photos - one is down there [Shot blind due to glare on my phone's screen. You'll regret blowing it up, just trust me that that's a Badger, ok? You can see a white cheek and a lot of back.]

Another Ouzel was nearby, but both Ouzel and Badger were disturbed by a couple coming the other way. It heard them, looked up and saw me, went "!!", and scurried off into that big gorse bush behind it.. You know it's Spring when the young Badgers are kicked out to fend for themselves.. Poor li'l mites. Anyway, giving the gorse bush a wide berth I pressed on [the Ouzel had naturally gone, too] - with no migrating Swallows flying up the Mardle this time, but there were a couple of Mistle Thrushes and a posse of Starlings.

As I climbed the long diagonal way up to Puper's Hill I met.. another Badger! This one saw me first and went cantering off down the slope, so I again gave it's vanishing point a wide berth. A two Badger day :)
Finding a viewpoint out of the wind I casually started scanning for soaring raptors [well, you never know, one was out there somewhere..]. I got at least 7 different Buzzards, a Peregrine, and a Kestrel, but no Kites. One of the Buzzards was a wonderful soft mid grey - a gorgeous bird to look at [it was fortunately quite close] and something new for me; I've never seen a properly grey one like that before. [[Said Kite eventually turned up at Teignmouth, which was in my field of view [albeit far far away] though hours after I'd stopped looking.. oh well! ;) ]]
I did get some very close fly-past Skylarks for my trouble and a distant flock of about 30 [darn haze; it could have been anything between 25 and 35!] Golden Plover.

Huntingdon held two smart Wheatears! They weren't feeling very confiding, so no more dodgy pics, but the showy-er one was a proper classic icy cool job [ie. not a trace of buff on it; GGS colours!]. My last encounter to report was on the way back down Holne Ridge - first lizard! of the year! :D  A nice brown-flavour Common.

Yesterday I did get something from the Nose. I'd lugged the Big Scope down and with nothing on land, counted 348 Guillemots and 1 Razorbill on the Ore Stone. [There may have been more Razorbills, the light wasn't perfect] With at least 35 more Guilles on the sea in the area, that makes a full colony present and correct. :) Also, a light passage south; I counted 9 Kittiwakes and 3 Gannets in 5 minutes. Yeah, apocalyptic numbers! :D

After giving up on any twitching, I took a stroll with the Folks about the Teign above Fingle Bridge. Though it was cloudy and not exactly calm [especially coming back along the Hunter's Path] the birds were certainly about! Many were the calls and songs and though we didn't see Dipper [too many people] all the woodland birds were about. No summer migrants yet, though - just the residents. There were some winter migrants moving - we had coffee on Hunter's Tor [wonderful spot, but far too many bods wandering out and back in summer to be worth trying to stop, alas...], which was a treat. Out of the wind, with a stick or five to keep LBD busy, the view was great and the eye-level passage wasn't too shabby either! Not enormous numbers, but April Fieldfare and Redwing were the highlights. Buzzard and Raven pairs displayed - staying on either side of the Tor and carefully pretending the others weren't there - again really close [brilliant!].

The National Trust have been very busy and the views are a lot clearer now - you used to have outcrops lost in trees, with no appreciation for just how much fresh air was right there - though the path is less sheltered in places now. Devon's gorges may not have the sheer scale of those over the water, but for beauty they stand a match for anywhere. I don't know if the Angler's Rest sorry, 'Fingle Bridge' still does those fabulous bacon baguettes, but it's worth looking in if you haven't had lunch, just in case they do. I may have had them on the mind the whole afternoon...

05 April, 2013

April Showers

...Of snow!?!!

Unseasonably cold easterlies continue and the Patch has seen a few events in the last few days. Cliff falls behind Oddicombe have continued and the sea has breached the sea wall at Livermead, causing the main road to Paignton to be closed. Alas, the main sewer also runs along there, so that's been shut off too. However, there is an emergency system to protect the northern half of the Bay from experiencing Unfortunate Consequences. Yes, you guessed it; The South West's Biggest Chumming Machine is now firing live ammo... Now, where's a nice Sab's when you want one????  :)

I could go on at this point about how our belovedly incompetent council and south west water conspired to delay the repairs that that wall has needed for, oh years.. But why waste type? As for the sad case of Petitor House [now Petitor Half] and it's soon-to-be ex-neighbours.. Well, when buying a big fancy house, I personally would take some care as to what it's built on. Median and distal alluvial fan deposits - light on massive aeolian sand, with thin conglomerates and heavy on the silt and even mud - between two big faults - so lots of nice mini faults and jointing - where the strata are dipping towards the sea? Maybe not.

Birds? Oh yes...  Got out for a meander this afternoon and a good thing I did. I actually feel a bit better, despite a working week best described as "Aaaaarrrggghh...."

No singing warblers of any kind - though the 'common' ones were making up for that - the fun was all at sea! Or by it, at any rate. Off Meadfoot - after I'd cooed over a cute Rockit on the sea wall - at least 6 Sarnies were knocking about, with two more off Haldon Pier at point blank range! They were fishing right up to where the waves were breaking on the defences - watching them diving for Sand Eels at circa 40' was such a treat! :D On the defences were at least 15 Purple Sandpipers - I think that's the highest this, er, 'winter'. In April.. They were starting to come into s/pl and so looking quite odd for here.

Better yet, as I scanned the Bay I picked up something dark asleep on the water off Torre Abbey - hmm, that's interesting-looking... Not a GC Grebe by the lack of a white bit at the front, with the wedge-looking head, maybe a female Eider?? The light wasn't great so I moved and got a better angle and it duly woke up and no, not a duck at all! [Bloody perspectives..] That's a grebe - but still very dark. Think about s/pl grebes, because while that head shape doesn't look right for GC, it could be still moulting or just evil. But no, no white bits at all; a paler cheek but not pale enough - dusky would be right - and, oh look, a nice spot of pale - the lightest part - at the bill base. Yellow. It is! It is a Red-necked Grebe!

Thus does blind stubborn persistence pay off, as finally I catch one [of the two!] in my half of the Bay. Yes!

Speaking of blind stubborn persistence... The Inner Harbour gulls numbered in excess of 85, two of them were GBBs, they had 3 Shags with them, but they were all Herrings.

Finally, in the Garden; a Goldcrest made a quick visit first thing this morning [most likely more than one have been visiting all winter, but catching them in the act is not easy], Goldfinches have been coming in in twos, and the 2 male Blackcaps were still present on Wednesday. The Sparrows are nest-building if not more in next door's eaves, but no activity in the nest boxes yet [that I've seen].

I get the impression that the Spring-y-ness is building up, mostly held back by the weather, but the metaphor of a dam thrown across a big river seems right.

We're all waiting for the flood.

01 April, 2013

Happy Holidays?

I had had a plan for Saturday which involved checking the Nose early, then heading up on't Moor. Lighter winds and more sun made this seem like a good idea. However, reality got in the way, as a surprise family get-together happened instead. It was all very nice, but a naughty little part of me was quietly wondering why it couldn't have been the day after? Oh well.
I did get out for a wander with assorted family in the afternoon, and was pleasantly surprised to actually get myself a Patch Yeartick - we were went to Oddicombe and Babbacombe beaches and I naturally took a look out to sea. A couple of Gannets fairly well out and beyond them were terns! I may have spent a bit longer than was politic watching them, settling on scores of a Common and 3+ Sarnies. Not bad.

Yesterday I felt utterly drained for some reason [there may have been a lot of cake* the day before... ;) ] and just about managed a stagger around Yarner with the Folks. [[Having been at Prawle a day early may also be a factor. Nice one, Pat. :) ]] We found it amazingly quiet for an Easter Sunday with some sort of event on - the frozen rain may have helped - and saw among a scattering of the usuals 4 & 2 Mandarin, Marsh Tits, and the near-expected Woodcock. [This one was maybe 11' from the track when Tilbury found it {on her lead, as standard}, so can't really complain!]

Today I again got to the Nose early - the wind was not quite NE and strong, there were at least 4 Wheatears, 3 Chiffchaffs, and a Blackcap about and the Running Man was doing his thorough laps to make sure I had utterly no chance of a Bluethroat.. But visibility was murky, gunk might be forecast [opinions varied] for the morning, and it was definitely too windy for the Moor. I considered heading South again, but thought words to the effect of 'sod it' and stayed put.

I plonked down in a nice little sheltered spot in the middle of Wryneck Country** and got to it. An interesting mix of seawatch and vismig followed, sadly cut short after an hour and a half, when the wind went round to E and I had to move. The Traditional Seawatching Spot was in the wind, with a stand-up nook behind it out of the wind but in the spray. A lot of spray, as with the tide up the sea was really having fun. Right... I retreated to the one place out of the wind with any view of open sea; the Last Resort*** I stayed put [aside from a couple of quick forays to check if the wind had shifted] for another 3.5 hours. At this point, the sun started to come out and my feet had frozen solid, so I called it a day.

What did I see?
Firstly the migrants; three groups of Mipits, an unidentified dark passerine - a chat or warbler of some kind - plus a male alba Wagtail, a Swallow, and a brilliant male Merlin! The latter tore through at wavetop height - wow!

EDIT: Rule 157; Always do your recording before you blog. Thus avoiding [one way of] looking like an idiot.
Why reminding myself of this? Merlin is a frickin' PATCH TICK!!! That's why! I can't believe I forgot that one... Anyway, Yay! Woohoo! and so on.

Seabirds; Gannets were 18N 20S, Kittiwake 1N, Fulmar 6N 12S, Razorbill 6S, Guillemot 1S [none on Ore Stone], Sarnies 12N 33S, C Scoter 11N, Manxie 1S, RT Diver 1S, LBB 2N, Com Gull 2S, BHG 11N
Also, single GC Grebe and RT and BT Divers on the sea [the RT being a different bird than the flyer]. In the sea, at least one Harbour Porpoise and the seemingly resident Grey Seal. The Seal caught what looked like a Conger Eel - it brought it up to munch it [far too big to swallow whole!] and attracted a mob of hungry GBBs, who got several chunks for their efforts! I attracted the attentions of a Rockit, who was very bold and came right up to me to scrounge bits of fruity-oaty bar  :D

And speaking of.. Here's a dodgy mobile shot of the little blighter, with scenic background. If this had been taken with a proper camera [even my SLR] it'd be crippling. Honest.

[[*Hot Cross Buns, Duffnuts, and Sister's Guinness Cake! Oh, the Guinness cake..... ;D  ]]
[[**This being the 'bit between the Lower Meadow and the Traditional Seawatching Spot', an area of long grass and scrub covering quarry spoil heaps and lots of hidden holes and fissures. This is where JR had that nasty accident..]]
[[***A raised grassy ledge on the east wall of the Quarry, between the Seawatching Spot and the Wall, you can only see to the north [little chance of seeing the slick and forget the Big Shear Line] and even the view of Hope Cove is partly blocked by the Mound. On the plus side, you won't miss anything hugging the coast, nothing can pull the 'fly-over' on you, it's wide and flat enough to park a chair or two and even has a little stone seat/table.]]