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....]]

16 October, 2013

Something About The Weekend..?

Oh yeah, gotta post on the blog!

Saturday morning saw me at - surprise surprise - the Nose again. Also shockingly, there was bugger all in the way of migrants about. I found ONE Chiffchaff. A couple of Gannets were well out at sea and 3 Ravens put on a bit of a show. Oh well and all that, eh?

I decided to wander over to Yarner, and before I'd even got to my li'l car, it started raining! It rained all the way over, and looked set to keep at it as I resolutely set off up towards the Old Hide [now that there's a New Hide by the Pond, the old Hide - the Bill Oddie one! - needs a distinguishing name]. Then, fickle as the weather is, it decided to stop raining. Indeed, eventually the sun almost came out and it got very warm.

[[I should explain that Yarner has a reputation among the family as a rain magnet. This mainly stems from various school trips when Sisters and I were very young..]]

Nothing like a little downpour to keep the crowds at bay; for a weekend it was nicely quiet [my wandering straight off the beaten track helped, too]. 5 flavours of tit and 4 of 'tree birds' were on display, with a nice Grey Wag at the Pond and Siskin at the Old Hide. But I must admit that birds weren't my primary reason for visiting; I spent a lot of time wandering the ways, just soaking in the quiet. These are interesting times I live in right now, and a little solace was most welcome.

Not that birds weren't on the agenda, far from it. I took a long lunch at a nice [and sheltered] vantage point where I waited to see what would fly over. With the conditions, it was what I would hear fly over, but there was a fair bit of that. Mostly finches; with 5 groups* of Chaffinch, 2 of Bullfinch, and single groups of Siskin, Skylark, Mipit, and alba Wagtails. Not epic, but it being inland, middle of the day in not super conditions, I'll consider it not bad.

Later on I pushed up onto the fields and open ground above the woods, looking for thrushes. Black and white ones ideally [though a just White one would do! ;) ]. I didn't find any Ouzels, just a couple of Mistles and my first Redwing of the Autumn.

Finally, I circled around the top to Trendlebeare to try for more [and perhaps actual] vismigs. No joy, with only low level local [and very vocal] Mipits about.

It was still a very worthwhile visit, giving me a little calm amongst the madness [which I will spare you; Real Life has no place here, after all! ;) ]

On to Sunday, which saw a family trip down to Cornwall to see Sister, BIL, and the Nephew of Doom. Mostly we spent the time catching up and cooing over the increasingly less little one, but eventually we took pity of the Hounds of Hell and went out for a walk. As seems to be traditional, it rained, but we had a nice wander anyway. At least until it decided to really rain.. Not that the dogs minded; "There's a ball and somewhere to chuck it, come on!!" I must admit to not minding being out either; I even managed to almost get a Firecrest - unfortunately it stayed up high in it's tree [the Goldcrests it was with came lower, of course] and called derisively while only showing me its arse...

To the here and now, with work getting in the way of the interesting weather as per usual [at least I have work, I suppose - knock on wood]. Great Grey Shrike would look very nice on my Patch List**, now wouldn't it...

Oh, stop laughing.

[[*Very hard to count them when you can't see them! 'More than one by call frequency' is a group, so could be 2, could be 52. These all sounded like smaller parties, though.]]
[[**Nice bit of habbo at the Nose, plenty of food for it - hey, I can dream!]]

11 October, 2013

The North Wind

Finding myself back on Nights, I had today sort of free [yet more Stuff to do..]

I started at the Nose, where, despite the Top Dell and South Side being sheltered from the biting wind, there was very little in the way of grounded migrants. Two Chiffs, that was it.

Mipits were moving overhead, along with finches and the odd lark, and at sea the only things on the move were a Gannet and a Common Gull.

After a little pondering, I went over to Bowling Green for the tide. Not a big tide, but the wind should bring the birds in for the shelter, I reasoned.

I was right. KB will post scores on DBN in due course, I am sure, but suffice to say there were four figures present and it was good. Shedloads of waders and quacks is always fun. It also was quite warm, with Migrant Hawkers still on the wing :)

Unfortunately, I had to head off to get the li'l car sorted, and was unable to help with the Wild Swan Chase - sometimes hopeless causes are fun, after all ;) - but I was able to admire KB's fancy new scope. He's got a Swaro 95, the flash git...

I'm not jealous.

Apologies for the brevity, but I've been up for more than 30 hours now and I need to sleep if I'm going to get out before dark tomorrow... ;)

09 October, 2013

I Said I Wouldn't Post On Monday..

My shifts shifted on me more than expected and Life got in the way [as it has this habit of doing], so here we are.

Just to do things differently, before I talk about Sunday, here's the last couple of days;

Not much.

A few small groups of alba wagtails over, Sparrows, the odd Chiff, and a few Greenfinches in the Garden..

Sunday started out much like Saturday, so needless to say I was down at the Nose sharpish!

It wasn't as OTT as the day before, but there were still plenty of migrants about. A lack of quality, but the quantity of Chiffs and Blackcaps was, if anything, slightly higher. They were being much less obvious, though, and took a lot of patience as they popped in and out of sight all around the First Slope, South Side, and Top Dell. I again spent a lot of time in the Top Dell, which was it's usual vexing self, but did get the odd rewarding byproduct for all the time waiting and flicking bins onto another standard Chiff..

3 Clouded Yellows, for starters! At first I thought it was only one, and a very sadistic one at that, being oh so good at not quite posing for photos, but then as I stood back to call it names I realised there was another over there.. and another! All standard ones - I've never seen a helice - and all sneaky, but dogged persistence gave.. well, something;

Spot the Clouded Yellow

They like the pink ones.

There were lots of butterflies for October; one flowering Ivy had ten Red Admirals crowded onto it! Also Small Copper, Small White, Speckled Wood, and a Peacock.

Staying put helped with picking up some overhead passage; fewer Mipits than the day before, but the odd Skylark and a few Swallows to compensate [these going the right way!], plus a bonus Yellow Wagtail :)

What looked like a Spot Fly flew into a sycamore and vanished with amazing thoroughness - drat - but down on the Sole [when I got there] a couple of adorable Wheatears were a bit showier [though into the bright sun and too mobile to try Yet Another Wheatear Shot]. The sea was very calm again, with a lone Gannet the only seabird of the weekend!

The rest of the Patch provided a few more Chiffs, plus a couple of vocal Nuthatches, and Green and GS Woodies. I didn't see any interesting gulls, not even a LBB.

There was more I meant to say, I'm sure, but darn it if I can remember! Getting old........

Oh yes, one thing was my vexation at being too busy birding my own Patch to hear about the Bonelli's in time to go after it. Will it stay 'til Saturday? Ha ha.

The saying is true; No good deed goes unpunished.

That Buff-bellied would do nicely as well... ;)

05 October, 2013

And It Rained


Ye Gods and Little Fishes was the Nose jumping today...

Unfortunately, when I got down there this morning, it was as a flying visit before I took the li'l car for a service... Aargh.

I wasn't expecting much - well, I wasn't expecting anything really, other than vismigging Mipits, maybe. But despite the blazing sunshine, it was heaving. I didn't get ten feet from the gate! There were Chiffs everywhere; in the trees, the bushes, flying about overhead... Boom! Pied Fly! PATCH TICK!!! Shit! Got to go..

Cue a couple of hours to kill just outside of The Patch. Might as well wander over to [Famous Devon Artist]'s Jewel in the Crown; Clennon! A few Chiffs - no Sibes yet* - and no fancy little stripy phylloscs, either. On the lowest pond, a couple of Little Grebes and a couple of Shoveler were accompanied by a couple of Snipe, just sitting in the sunshine! Too much in the sunshine for my phone;

The one on the right is preening. Honest.

Further up, a Grey Wagtail posed on a post [came out very blurred] and a big surprise as a Green Woodpecker actually stayed still in plain sight!

Even struck a pose...

A Clouded Yellow flew past low and a couple of House Martins went over high.

Right, got the car back - to the Nose!!!

A few clouds had shown up, but this helped cut the glare and fortunately, most of the birds were still about. Not sitting still, of course! No further sign of the Pied Fly, but 30+ Chiff, 6+ Blackcap, and single Garden and Willow Warblers in the Top Dell and First Slope alone...  Wow. Plenty of tits about, too, including a nice band of LTTs - they didn't have a YBW with them, though. Mipits were moving overhead in small groups and lower down both Clouded Yellow and Painted Lady failed to settle close enough to try phonebinning.. A GSW struck a pose in one of the Planes, but was sneaky enough to not get snapped. Less able to dodge was this wonderful piece of geology;

The Ore Stone from the Top Dell

A lovely example of thrusting here; the rocks being compressed from either side have folded before the strain got too much and the right side has been pushed up over the left. You can see the diagonal plane of the fault running up at about 45°. Also you can see where the upthrust strata [layers] have thickened [to the left of the boat] as the rocks deformed - think of them as plasticene and you're not far off!
That little light spot above the 'the' in the caption is why I took the photo; it's a hole through the island!! I didn't know this existed; you can only see it from the right angle when the tide is a long way out on a calm day - the sea must have eroded away the shattered rock along the fault. Isn't it brilliant?? :D

This was a classic day at the Nose, real migrant city stuff. The variety in the Chiffs alone was amazing.

In other news; at least one Bullfinch overhead late this afternoon, earlier yet another Clouded Yellow over the Garden. Yesterday, a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the front garden!

As for Thursday... Bugger.

[[*Not many places you can say that!]]