30 November, 2013

Hat Trick

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

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

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

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

It is a Mandarin, honest!

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

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

Oh yes, the birds...

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

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

Here's the view without bins;

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

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

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

29 November, 2013


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

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

Flypast Turnstone!

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

28 November, 2013

Forgot About Sunday..

Apologies for the delay, it clear slipped my mind!

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

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

But enough baby talk  ;)

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

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

You know, that sounded funnier in my head.

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

23 November, 2013

Back To Business

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

Oh get up..  ;)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New dekkers!

And photoing of ships...

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

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

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

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

20 November, 2013

Grey Clarity

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

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

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

Ah, if only things were simple..

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

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

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

If it happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 November, 2013

Co-incidental Thrushes

Seem to be the order of the day.

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

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

To get back to more pleasant things;

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

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

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

13 November, 2013

Sunday's Post

Is late, short, and not very interesting..

Ok, maybe not entirely the latter.

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

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

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

09 November, 2013

Up In The Sky..

It's a bird..

It's a plane..

No... it's NEMO!!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

05 November, 2013

The Catch-Up Post

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Right, on to the gruesome twosome.

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

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

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

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

03 November, 2013

The Big Catch Up?

Not yet. Sorry.

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

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

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

02 November, 2013

Another Quickie

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

Shock, horror I know...

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

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

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

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

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

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