29 June, 2013

Back To Business

And horrifically un-funny title puns...

My pesky back issue [apparently a nerve was displaced, which is why it's been so unrelenting] is slowly resolving itself, though massage and codeine were required. [Apparently both are addictive, though I didn't enjoy either of them..] After a happy working week, enjoying the summer temperatures in my little metal box of a workplace, I decided to have a go at carrying weights about my neck today and went for a lunchtime visit to Little Bradley Ponds.

They're what I think of as a proper WT reserve; small, out of the way, not incredibly easy to access, but a real gem once you're there. I took the paparazzi rig - because when the dragons are in the mood you really want a camera there - but as I'm not fully pain-free yet I carried it in my rucksack. [Not that quick shots are really possible with it over my shoulder, anyway..]

It was warm; 23-24°, humid, and a little breezy, so while no absolutely ideal, it was still pretty good. Clouds did turn up and end the party [then bugger off completely after I'd left] but I was never intending this to be anything more than lunch and a test of how I'm doing. [The answer to which is 'not bad but still not right', so no expeditions for me tomorrow..] [[And that was the last shoulder/back reference]]

The east pond was very quiet - a Downy Emerald zipped off right after I arrived, so maybe it was just my timing, but there were no other dragons at all. Plenty of Azures and the odd Common Blue were the only odonata. Hmm, not good.
The west pond was another matter, fortunately, with 3-4 Four-Spotted Chasers doing battle with 2-3 Emperors [the island and insects coming and going meant getting exact counts was not going to happen]. As well as the Azure horde, Large Red and Blue-tailed Damselflies were also present, including this one;

Dodgy mobile shot

Better images may appear of 4-spots and an Emperor, which [when not dogfighting] both tried posing for me. It was to my great grief that said Emperor actually hovered for nearly ten seconds right next to me - and just inside minimum focussing range of my lens! This also meant it was too far out for the maximum range of my lens' macro mode, too... aaaaarrrrgghhh... 

Anyway, pictures may appear here in the future. Speaking of, last shot of the old roll - taken of Sister-Scaring Spiders at Aylesbeare - is here...

I think it's a male courting a female - very carefully!

 ...as the new roll should hopefully maybe will have the pics for the previous post [[that one down there  \/ \/ ]]. As the first one, taken as a 'quick get 'em!' shot, it's not great; more a 'spot the spiders' than Sister-repellent, but never mind, eh?

Here as threatened promised..

A present for my beloved Sisters... ;)

Four-spot at Little Bradley. [Don't bother enlarging...]

21 June, 2013

Ups and Downs

Well, these have been an interesting few days. This post is going to be a bit shorter than I was intending - also a day later - as I have done myself a mischief and typing is a little painful [as are most things..]. It's nothing serious, I've just hurt a tendon in my upper back - which effectively also means my neck and shoulder, too. It happens now and again and until it decides to stop hurting like a bastard I've just got to put up with it. I pinged it lugging the paparazzi setup around the Exminster and the Exe Canal on Wednesday - though it didn't manifest until I woke up yesterday - and it has naturally curtailed my fun. Bugger.

But before that...
Waterloo Day saw the Patch wreathed in mistyfog, so I set off looking for the sun. I eventually found it [for almost 2 hours!] at Aylesbeare. I also found my first ever Large Skipper! :D Alas it didn't feel like being photographed and skipped off rapidly.. Plenty of odonata about on the ponds and another small Fritillary sp. again gave me the slip :(  Later on I went to my favourite spot to look for Nightjars and was rewarded with 7 churring males, a very noisy bout of wing clapping, and as a wonderful finale getting circled by a female :) She gave me 2 and a half circuits at about 10' distance - brilliant!

Wednesday being very very warm and sunny had me mooching about Exminster, the Canal, and the Old Sludge Beds. Amazingly few dragons with only one Hairy and not a single Emperor! WTF?!? I did manage to find and attempt to photograph a truly gorgeous freshly-emerged Scarce Chaser. There was just enough of a breeze to make it challenging, and easily enough brambles, thistles, and stingy nettles to make it painful. I think it was worth the effort...

Scarce Chaser

What a beauty....

Damsels were not in short supply, with reasonable if not epic numbers on the wing. Having lunch at my favourite spot by the Sewage Works [I'm used to seawatching at the Nose, so a little reek doesn't put me off my food! ;) ], I noticed an interesting damselfly among the Red-eyeds.. 'Odd' thought I 'It's a bit early for a Small..' I followed it's course, waiting for it to settle in a convenient pose. [[Ok, hoping it would!]] Alas this was not to be, as before I could get a decent look, the poor little thing was taken by a fish! Ah well, c'est la mort...

The Exe Canal is a truly dangerous place to be small and tasty - not only damsel-munching Trout, but also 2 Pike [albeit one an ex-Pike] and best of all a Grass Snake!! WooHoo! I picked it up swimming across and as it paused to warm up on the far bank I entertained thoughts of a picture, but the wily snake escaped while I was trying to align phone with bins [too far for the camera]. Drat.
I had better luck when I went over to Exminster in the vain hope of dragonflies [even the big channel was empty] as this Painted Lady sat and posed. Sort of..

This was by the road. Naturally, as soon as I went for the proper camera, a car came along...

Thursday's forecast downpours meant I'd scheduled it for getting Stuff done. Naturally they* didn't appear, though with my shoulder playing up it was for the best that I only mooched about on Patch. Nothing outstanding to be found, the best thing being an Emperor exuvia at Tessier.

I wasn't going to miss the sunrise today for some pesky pain, so off to the Nose I went. Sun duly hid behind clouds, as per usual, but at least I didn't miss a decent seawatch. The sun did shine on me - for all of 5 minutes at about 0545 - and at least I didn't get rained on either. I headed home, took more painkillers [which pretty much bounced off] and have been out again since, with bugger all to report.

EDIT: Saturday morning, and no seawatching for me as my little knife in the back is still very much present.. Joy. :(

Ups and downs indeed. [And yes, much less babbling than intended!]

And Finally...
The DWT has been putting in new signs and signposts at the Sludge Beds, which is great. Alas, whoever designed them might need an eyetest;

 Oh dear.

[[*The downpours, plenty of Stuff in evidence!]]

17 June, 2013

Those Moments of Delight

Yesterday being Fathers' Day, I did not go off seawatching or for that matter twitching Greenish Warblers [Aren't I good?]. With the weather forecast being definitely dodgy, the traditional picnic was out and descending on Sister the ElderYounger was also not on the cards as she had a new Father of her own to spoil.

So, Sister the YoungerYounger and I tried to find somewhere to take Dad out for lunch. This was as you'd expect not easy on very short notice, but Sister succeeded and so after morning coffee and cake [also provided by my favourite Sister - isn't she a star?] we toddled over to - yes, here comes a plug - the wonderful Angels Tearooms on Babbacombe Downs. I'm not one for eating out, especially on Patch, so have never been there before, despite it getting assorted rave reviews. I can now say that said reviews are not overstated. If you get the chance, go there. I won't go on about it any more than to say it is at the other end of a little road to Hanbury's and there must be some serious mojo in that stretch of tarmac... :D

Much wonderful scran later, the LBD was collected and we went for an amble. No birds of note; a Hornet was the most interesting thing in the air. I did see something very welcome, though, at the area of grass between St. Marychurch and Petitor [by the Model Village]. To my surprise, the Council have actually done something right and have left the majority of the grass unmown! It's a sea of wild grasses - I can probably only dream about finding butterflies there - and Tilly bounced through it like a Springbok.. ;)

Today I determined to try the Nose, even though the forecast NE would make finding shelter tough. As it happened, the wind was a lot less than implied, and the rain [after an early soaking] was a couple of brief periods of spotting... Oh well, I settled down among the Mounds - the lack of howling wind at least meaning I had shelter and view, and got to it.

Passage was.. well, it was shite.  Gannets 19/hr, Kittiwakes 29/hr, Manxies 10/hr. The Kitts were mostly late on and came in little pulses over a background trickle, said pulses often pausing to feed from what there was of the slick. Three Fulmars passed south as well.. but not all gloom, as there were 4 good birds: a distant Puffin and 3 skuas; one of each. An hour or so apart, first a 4cy dark Pom, then a Bonxie, then a 3cy dark-intermediate Arctic all came south, all harassed unlucky Kitts, and all showed very well doing it! :)

With it being quiet and the light being mostly ok - the sun tried to come out a few times, but never fully succeeded - I had the chance to give the Ore Stone a going-over with the Big Scope and counted 391 auks, including 6 Razorbills, on the ledges. This is an excellent count for the site; it looks like the locals dodged the PIB [sign the petition!] bullets  :)

It got brighter and brighter, warmer and warmer, and birds got scarcer and scarcer, so I packed it in after mid day and went to do some shopping. It's non-stop excitement.

15 June, 2013

Shears and Sixes

Ah, the weather can be a pain in the neck, can it not? After a week of interesting stuff while I was trapped at work, the next front decides to come through overnight..

I'm not even going to curse the week-early tern, the big-nosed bastard...  Oh, ok, so I did anyway.


Right then, so this morning dawned with a lovely strong SW [ish] wind, but also blazing sunshine.. Right, that put the [and my] Nose right out, so time for Plan B. Off to Prawle it is!

The drive down is surprisingly smooth - though it is quite early so the grockles are probably still having breakfast - and soon I am heading for the Point. After I shut the gate so the cattle can't wander up the road..  Arriving at the nice sheltered spot amongst the rocks, I find [Devon Birder] on site - he [having this 'dedication' thing] has been there since 0530*  - and as I'm setting up, he finds a Stormy. Despite much looking, I can't get on it and it buggers off out to sea. Oh well, it's not like it was a Wilson's**.

Birding being fond of evening things out, later on I get on a Balearic which duly vanishes behind a big wave [plenty of these about]. Drat.
Otherwise, there's not a great deal going on apart from Manxies - once again the Met Office have spoken with forked tongues and the weather stays sunny with the odd cloud, so quelle surpris - though they are coming through in decent-sized pulses. [Devon Birder] had had not quite 100 an hour and over my six hours I average about 108 - though the hourly figures illustrate the passage better: 175, 111, 170, 90, 74, 26. The Gannets, those great indicators of movement? 19 an hour west. Not great.

Yeah, it died after the forecast good bit early PM failed to appear. On the up side, another Stormy showed up and this one performed at bin range for a couple of minutes before it, too decided to head out and vanish.
[Devon Birder] had had enough after 7 hours, but I hung on to make it 6 for me - being rewarded with the decreasing Manx movement, a few Kitts and Fulmars, and a couple more Balearics. These two naturally show much better [I swear they know and do it deliberately] - one's all dark and the other is one of those really light ones.

It wasn't horrific, there were birds passing most minutes, just not usually many at once. This is by no means a disaster; it gives you the chance to better study what you're looking at. Interestingly- marked Fulmars, 'dirty-winged' and other odd Manxies [one of which had an oil stain for the full-on 'mini-Great Shear' effect!], oddly- moulted immature Gannets, and so on..

And finally.. I get home, feeling quite satisfied with having swanned off and actually seen something, to find that yes, there were big nasty showers moving through here... Bugger. I'm telling myself there still wouldn't have been anything. If I do it enough, maybe I'll believe it?

[[*What does the 0 stand for?***]]
[[**That's not foreshadowing, it's what I actually said.]]
[[*** 'Oh, to live closer to where I seawatch! ;) ]]

10 June, 2013

Bacon Baguettes And Beer

I type at the end of a long weekend, scene of a big clan get-together and much relative-ity. As the title suggests, there has been high quality provender going around, and I fear to tread upon the scales, really I do...

With the north Wales branch staying here, outings have mostly been of the sedate variety, with an amble about the Patch on Friday nearly being notable only for the cracking scream - proper Devon stuff, too - until a male Golden-ringed Dragonfly [immature, with brown eyes] appeared! Patch Tick! :D He sat and posed on a bush for us and gave excellent binocular views.

The birds picked up on Saturday, as a stroll along a section of the Teign* gave stunning views of a very confiding Wood Warbler  :)  as well as Pied and Spotted Flycatchers and a Dipper having a kip on a sunny rock. Beautiful Demoiselles were out in force where the sun shone and among the many Blackcaps singing away, one was very sneaky [those sylvias... ;) ] in mimicking Garden. There was also a small Fritillary spp. [Pearl or Small Pearl] messing about, but the little git pulled a Houdini before I could get bins on it's underwing pattern. Drat.

On Sunday we had the big get-together to introduce our newest member to the clan. Though the chosen pub had spectacular views, the only birds flying through it were singles of Buzzard and Raven. Also, I was a designated driver. Despite this, it was a good day, with fine scran laid on and much cheer among those assembled. :)

Today was much cooler and cloudier than forecast [well, than the one I saw, anyway] and so hoped-for dragons and butterflies were utterly absent. Birds didn't do too badly, though. At Stover, the GC Grebes have chicks! 3 good-sized ones, too  :D  We also saw a Grass Snake!! : Only my second ever - the other was at Stover too - it was swimming merrily along until a family of Mallards saw it and chased it off!
After more of the title [I love not having to drive ;) ] we wandered about Yarner, where Wood Warblers were vocal but not visual, but the Pied Flies more than made up for it! We had some superb views, the only problem being that one so typical of Yarner; you find an occupied box, move back to avoid disturbing the birds, and then realise you're right beside the next one...

[[*Schedule 1 vagueness applies]]

05 June, 2013


Birding's a funny old game. Not only do you have to be in the right place at the right time, you also have to be looking the right way. If not, you get gripped off by your frickin' parents... But more on this in a bit.

Saturday saw Another Bug Hunt fail even more spectacularly than the previous attempt, with no dragonflies at all. I did find shedloads of Azure Damselflies at Exminster - cowering out of the wind [also out of the way of a 1s Hobby, for that matter] - along with the expected Large Reds, but really the stars of the day were all feathered. Well, feathered and downy - those ickle baby Lapwings are just sooooo cute... Also a day of warblers, with 8 species about. These as well were less than obliging in the main - notable exceptions being a couple of showy Sedges and a Reed which decided to take a bath right in front of me. What an exhibitionist! ;)

Sunday's outing was another wander out on't Moor with t' Folks. We went from Lanehead to Great Links Tor - out the west way, back the east way. It proved to be a trying day, as the big fire had instead of leaving the usual blackened wasteland, instead encouraged the grass to grow like crazy. This combined with the recent dry spell meant that the only lush grazing on Dartmoor - and so pretty much all the livestock - was there. This we only discovered after we'd climbed over Hare Tor and up onto the tops..

To look on the bright side, we did successfully weave a path well clear of all the cattle who had young calves with them. In doing so, we crossed some areas we've never crossed before, including a wonderfully boggy area of tin workings. We also met a truly stunning Adder; easily the biggest male I've ever seen, he was getting on for 2' and well-rounded with it. As my parents are among the minority who do keep their dog on a lead, that 'we' didn't include the LBD, as Dad once again demonstrated his lightning reflexes in pulling her away. While she'll happily snuffle after anything small and furry - especially mice - Tilly is always cautious around reptiles and a good thing too.

And so to the great grip-off.. We were stopping for lunch at Great Links Tor and I was scouting for somewhere out of the wind where a certain member of the party wouldn't have any distractions in sight. Nothing unusual there, then I hear my name being shouted and I round a large chunk of granite to see both parents with their bins up, looking off to the side. I follow their sight line but get nothing, so I run over. "Harrier! Male harrier! Over there!" I get on a Crow, then 3 more - they're clearly after something, but I can't find it. BUGGER!!

With the bird gone, I ask a few questions and yes, an adult male Hen Harrier it was. Oh Great Big Furry Rats In Hats.. [To put in a bit of context, I've seen more Monties than male Hens - it's one of those odd things] Oh well, at least it wasn't a Pallid, eh? Could have been worse. Then it gets worse; the damned thing had come from where I was - it had flown right past me, probably less than 100m behind my back, the second I'd turned away from surveying that very bit of moorland for stray sheep...

That's birding, folks.

Later on, there were Wheatears, the LBD stayed quiet for nearly an hour [a chew may have been involved], and other wonders occurred, but I kept looking out for that harrier...