31 December, 2014

Winter Wonderland, Now With Added Wonder

Minus snow, but with snowballs.

I may have mentioned before that I rather like Fur Tor. Try to get there at least once a year, preferably more. Well, with the things that have been happening, this year has been a stretch. Fortunately, on Monday I got up there! [Just in time!]

In case you're wondering, here it is;

Fur Tor, from the NW

'Twas pretty cold - got down to -4° at Mor'n'ampster on the way - and up on't Moor, while not that cold [a balmy -2° at Postbridge, more like 2° up in the sunshine], the NW wind did its best to get to brass monkeys.

Still, the sun shone, what few birds about.. didn't really sing, but hey there were the ones here and there, so at least there was occasionally something to look at besides the spectacular view. Which, for the morning at least, I had all to myself! Ah, such solitude, it fair took the breath away [oh wait, that would be steep icy hills in't frickin' cold..]. The Moor had been very wet, with two hard freezes hitting all still water with ice to a depth of up to an inch. This included all the runoff, which became sheets of ice all over the place. Deeper water [and mud...] stayed liquid beneath, though, making the going rather interesting; every time you put your foot down, you weren't entirely sure if it would be solid ground, slippery ice, or ice that would break and dump you in water/gunk of an unknown depth...

Birds were few and far between - generally being far too sensible to be up there in that sort of weather, but a Jack Snipe and a Merlin [get and indeed in!] were among the exceptions.

Ah, but it were glorious up there!!

Fur Tor In Winter

Looking north from the shelter of a nice rock;
Great Links Tor, Amicombe Hill, The Wilhay and Yes Tor

Moon over the East Dart,
seen from the waterfall

Contrary to what I read in a paper recently, 
this is what you call a waterfall - see, the water is falling*

Closer to home, I managed a big Patch patrol on Saturday, with a very creditable 14+ Purple Sands on Haldon Pier the highlight [with 112 BHGs and no RBGs loafing off Torre Abbey, btw...]. Sunday was notable for 6 [yes, 6!!] Blackcaps in 9 houses worth of road, while today I could only manage 3 males in one tree - though that was on the property :)

Other than that, I've been busy with other things.. It's tragic, really it is.

A Top Ten is in the works, as is the New Calendar Year's Little Project.

I'm hoping for more frequent posting next year, really I am.

Frickin' Kentish wouldn't go amiss, either...

[[*Apologies for the gratuitous sarcasm, but some 'journalists' need a good clip 'round the ear...]]

26 December, 2014

He's Back, Must Be Bonxing Day

Yes, at long last I am back.

Woo and indeed hoo.

Ah, so much time, so little fun to report on... Well, it is that time of the year, isn't it?

So, this month I have mostly been working and when not I've been doing Important Things, sometimes involving my Beast of an oven, but mostly the extraction of money. Joy.

The big day went well for all concerned, so that was good. I even got a little birding in - with a mighty 4 GC Grebes off Blackball!! Wow.

Today I even got to the Nose to do a little sitting in the rain seawatching, which after much to do with auks, Gannets, different hues of Fulmar, and assorted gulls, eventually paid off with a Big Bad Bonxie. As it is Bonxing Day, that was only right and proper. And no, not a single grebe or diver did I see [I'm sure they were all off Broadsands].

Cut back to the weekend, and while up on Haldon looking at trees, I twice met a flock of circa 15 Crossbills, which was a very pleasant way to be distracted.

The Solstice saw me at the Nose, where aside from a lovely adult Med Gull, the main attraction was this cracking male Eider, tarting about by the Lead Stone;


As you can see, he got up out of the water, but then felt a little bashful..

The week before, a GND was in the same area [though staying in the water], while 14 C Scoter and what was probably a BTD flew past south.

Finally... At least 4 Blackcaps in the immediate neighbourhood [seemingly spending most of their time saying rude things about each others' Mums..] and Great Tits seem to have found my feeders [the colder weather induced me to put the nibbles out again. Now it is raining. Hmm.]

Be Seeing You.

03 December, 2014

Something From The Weekend

Delays delays delays...

It's that time of year again, and to make things even more fun, even more problems than usual are colliding. Ah, sweet joy.

But anyway, I have made a brief window to tell of the weekend, so I'd better get on with it...

On Saturday I had to be up Exeter way, so I made a window to drop by Bowling Green [because there are limits]. This was for lunch in the hide - alas I got there too late for the tide, but I did get to see circa 500 Avocets, albeit briefly. The Brents [about 1100 of them - not bad!] came past in formation, too, so that was great. I really like Brents. It was thus less about waders than is often the case - with 3 Pintail, 3 Pochard and 3 Gadwall [plus no less than 10 Greylags of uncertain and probably shifty origin] notable. There were still a fair few Blackwits feeding in the wet paddock, and at least 25 Snipe lurking on the far side of the water [that low afternoon sun was quite handy]

I'm still not sure I approve of the hide - I mean, what's the point in making it bigger, with a better aspect and better access, when you just keep a locked door in the way??


Sunday morning at the Nose saw a slightly unexpected seawatch! Not much at all was passing, but the Harbour Porps were on fine form - with at least 5 active fairly close in. 2 Guilles went north, 7 Razorbills, 2 Kitts, and 2 RTDs went south. 8 Gannets were milling about well offshore, but most interesting bird was a frustratingly brief Slav Grebe - driven off by idiots in powerboats - which was my first Patch grebe of the winter. I'm hoping it's a sign of things to come; back in the day, the small wintering flock of Slavs was something I cherished.

After dark, I went for another owl prowl around the Warberries and Lincombes, with a couple of female Tawnies calling [to each other? - "Sod off!"] the only noteworthy occurrence.

Finally.. Advance notice that service may be slightly interrupted by the Time Of Year. Never mind not having time to post, I may not have time to bird........ ::Is aghast::

Oh, the humanity..

28 November, 2014

Black Friday

Most used post title of the day..

And speaking of.. a shiny new interiors shop opened on the Patch today.  Just. They were working day and night and only finished this morning! Oh, but the mayhem therein...

Never mind that, though; I got the Yellow-brow!! This afternoon, I was coming down through Wellswood and right by the school, there was the band of LTTs and 'crests. After a few minutes of awful attempts at mimicry, it appeared, called twice, and flew off. Score! :D

Before all that.. Big Scope over the shoulder, I got to the Nose in the howling ENE wind and gave the sea an hour [mainly due to there seemingly being nothing doing on land]. I was eventually rewarded by a lone diver.. but it was a Black-throat! Looked like it went into the Bay. Otherwise just Gannets and auks [mostly Razorbills] with a handful of Kitts and Fulmars.

Wandering back along IMD, I stopped for a group of Blue Tits. I like Blue Tits, they're very underrated birds; could fly right into any rainforest you can name and look at home. Anyway, after watching them for a few minutes, all of a sudden an amazing male Firecrest pops out right in front of me and works the ivy and vine clad conifers like I'm not there. Not one call did it give. WOW. Second best ever views [after the minimum focussing distance one at Bellever]

I also gave the more sheltered bits of the Patch a bash this afternoon, finding 6 more tit bands [and of course the YBW] than I had when trying a similar thing on Monday. Go figure. At least 3 Blackcaps but no Chiffs were found also.

Just goes to show. If at first you don't succeed.. Keep on trying far beyond all logic, reason, and even vague notions of common sense. Reality will eventually give way.


Right, time to quote Zebedee.

23 November, 2014

The Unseen Warblers Post

Not actually an entirely accurate title, but since when did that matter?

Well, today I did not see a Hume's Warbler. This is not a new experience for me, I'm quite good at it. This time it was really easy as I didn't even go for it. This being mainly due to being covered in sealant for most of the afternoon. I won't go into details, you might hurt yourselves laughing at me...

If it's pinned down tomorrow, I will make an effort to dip properly* - forgoing valuable pre-work sleep and everything - but today I just didn't have the time. I did just have time to wander about the more warbler-y bits of the Patch, including what passes for a sewage works around here [more a pumping station - the 'sewage works' is more properly known as The Channel...], where I found a few Blackcaps. Mostly saying rude things about my Mum** while hiding in bushes, as many warblers do.

My prime target continues to elude me, though. This is the NAG. As in 'not a Goldcrest' [my first thought on seeing it] and also as it remains a nagging irritation. It is almost certainly a YBW, but just possibly a HLW - I have been able to rule out PLW. Its mostly hanging around Wellswood [so a posh bird] and its irritating because I've only seen it in the distance. Nope, not one call! It's with a posse of Goldcrests and LTTs, with a few BTs and CTs thrown in. Seems simple enough? Well, not when you factor in the vast and dense plethora of utterly inaccessible gardens in the area. Viewed from some range - like across the valley - the band can be picked through when they go up high, but on the ground you have to catch them as they cross a road; which is both infrequent and brief, and so far beyond my fortune.

More easily observed has been the group of 4 1w Mistle Thrushes which have also been knocking about, munching berries and posing in treetops. Also visibly around are small groups of Redwing, a couple of decent sized bands of Greenfinches and Chaffinches, and today a flock of ~300 Woodpigs.

Ah, I'm a little out of order.. Ok, this weekend I've been vexed by the weather forecasters lying through their incompetent teeth and then doing important things that needed to be done. And having coffee and flapjacks [made by me! Shock!***] with Sister The Younger. Though that was Important and needed to be done as well.

Anyway, I've bashed the Patch a bit but done little else bar look out the window.. Oh, and look at the stars and count at least 3 calling male Tawny Owls just now.  :)

[[*See my past woes in Dorset for How To Dip The HLW Everyone Else Sees. I even managed to hear the bugger but not see even a UTV...]]
[[**Most of what birds say to each other is basically expletives, after all. Especially Wrens and Robins.]]
[[***She didn't die. Or go green and pass out. I count that as a win.]]

17 November, 2014

And Now For All The Nattering

Before we get to Sunday's fun, there is the brief matter of what else I've been up to.

Which is pretty brief as the answer is 'not a lot'.

I did get to the Nose first thing on Friday, though, where the 1w male Yellowhammer was still in evidence, a lovely male Blackstart popped up in the Top Dell - with at least 3 male Blackcaps, too - finches and pipits were still moving [though in smaller numbers] and all the rest of the fun was out to sea.

A cracking GND was off the Toes - north of the Lead Stone - with at least one Razorbill and there was some [slightly surprising given the sunshine] passage; a few Gannets were to be expected, but also 14 Dunlin, 2 Purple Sands, and a Puffin!!

We then montage through all sorts of getting stuff done to Sunday, where after a late Swallow over the Teign Bridge, I picked up Bun and Karen and we battled the rain, floods, and [Expletive Deleted] Sunday Drivers to Fraggle Rock. After amusing them with my pathetic attempts at parking, we joined the small crowd waiting by Avalanche Road for the Dusky to deign to show. It had apparently been out before a large shower hit, but now there was not even a 'tchak!' of it.

The wait was enlivened by a couple of Chiffs showing the Dusky what it should be doing, and a couple of Robins trying to show each other what their internal organs looked like... The odd inbred unclefucker colourful local attempted to cheer us up whilst driving by, by either wildly sounding their horns or going for a conveniently large puddle, too. Ah, the joys of twitching.

After a mere two hours, the bird did indeed show, and show very well. After my token efforts [see last post if you dare], I gave up trying to take pictures and just enjoyed the bird. And those smashing jaffa orangey legs!

We shamelessly ticked [ok, or yearticked] and ran; pausing only for Karen to spot two Blackstarts, one on a roof, one on a gravestone. Fare thee well Fraggle Rock, on to Darkest Hampshire!

It was pretty bloody dark too, with the rain tipping down.. Blashford Lakes being WT, there were no helpful signs to aid birders who'd forgotten to take their carefully prepared directions with them, and we ended up circling the block, so to speak. Still, we didn't find any properly flooded roads in our way and got to the Lakes to find we could even sit down in the Tern Hide! [Needless to say, any thoughts of Fudge-hunting were right out!]

Once the rain stopped coming in the windows, we were treated to a vast panoply of LBBs, plus all manner of other waterbirds in a brilliant setting. Goldeneye, Goosander, and BN Grebe were the official star attractions, but with a plethora of other ducks and grebes about, there was lots to look at. This included an adult YLG, which dropped in and flew about a bit. I thought the bill was a bit wimpy, but the wing tips were good and apparently so was the leg colour, so I'll bow to the crowd and say it was one.

We were wondering if it was wise to stay put, though, with the Franklin's having apparently often come in further up Ibsley Water, where it might be out of sight from Tern. Hmm.. There was also the matter of the car park being locked in the not distant future, and not least the prospect of yomping over in the rain and maybe having to yomp back sharpish.

In the end we stayed put, and a good thing too, as the Gull dropped in right in front of us!

Well, off to the left a bit, but point blank compared to most of the roost. We duly admired this very smart-looking yank - I'm sure Karen will have much prettier pictures if she posts on WWaW - in very nice soft light, before getting out ahead of the rush and wending our merry way back.

So, two very nice birds seen, both with history for the seers [which makes it all the more satisfying to nail them!]. Ah, its so good to have a proper twitch again.. All that frelling dipping really had me down, but I feel some of the weight has lifted.

Only some though.

Bloody Bee-eaters...

And STEs.

And don't get me started on those fucking plovers....


The Dynamic Duo

Dusky Warbler and Franklin's Gull, that is!  :D

I went off filthily twitching, in the company of Bun and KW, and in a major upset to normal expectations, actually managed to wind up 2 for 2. I'm still a little in shock.

The Dusky was super skulky and made us wait for 2 hours before finally showing very well indeed.
'Showing very well' did not, however, mean I had much of a chance with it..

But what the hell, right? Of course, that doesn't mean my attempts at pretty pictures succeeded..

Preening Dusky Warbler.
aka Spot The Birdie!

The Franklin's came in early and 'closer than it's ever been'. Which was considerate of it. The rain even cleared off for us  :)  So, with a bird sitting put [more or less], I did a little bit better;

Franklin's Gull.
[Subadult? Moulting into w/pl]
Blashford Lakes, Hampshire

More babble will be forthcoming, fret ye not!

11 November, 2014

The Post With The Seawatching

Ok, catching up on the other stuff that I didn't have time to last time because I was burbling on for too long about Autumn and stuff..

Last week at work was tiring. Not just due to the usual fun and games, but mainly because of a nasty bout of insomnia. I'm not going to moan on about it, but it was enough to make me try sleeping when I got in on Friday morning. Didn't work, so I got up and out and over to the Nose. On foot [lugging kit would help induce sleep, I hoped].

It was pretty darn good, I must say! First bird was a juv RTD - first diver of the Autumn! - and 3 GNDs would follow it. 30 skuas - mostly 'spp., probably Pom' due to range and murk - a Sooty, a Manxie and 4 Balearics, plus a Stormie, 5 Puffins and 2 Little Auks! Very nice indeed. This was over a Kittiwake rate of ~210/hr, with Gannets at ~150/hr, but not huge numbers of commoner auks; 37 Razorbills total, for example. 4 Med Gulls came to hang about the slick, but nothing sexier, alas.

After getting some much-needed sleep, I was not out at the crack of dawn, so missed getting very rained-on. I did still walk over though, and the Goddess of Birding appreciated my act of devotion to Her.
The fun began before I got to the Second Slope with a 1w male Yellowhammer! Did not expect that - cowering from the wind around the Top Meadow.

Getting down just in time for the post-rain exodus, I saw 54 skuas, including 22 Poms and an utterly gorgeous juv. Long-tail at very close range [plus probably another - a brief 'sp.' whose timing ties up with one that passed Berry]. 4 Puffins, a Manxie, 4 Balearics and 2 Fulmars were all welcome passers-by over a reduced Kittiwake rate of ~125/hr and Gannets at ~60/hr. 6 GNDs [plus 2 more in Hope Cove when I left] were an increase over the day before, with also more auks; 224 Razorbills and only 6 Guillemots. The gulls coming to the outfall were markedly reduced in variety, with not a single Med, but saved [a bit] late on by a lone 2w Little Gull*. Finally, a couple of waders; a Knot and a Purple Sand, with 2 more of the latter hanging around on the rocks.

Monday saw very little other than Gannets and Kitts on the sea, but the Yellowhammer [or another] was still around, and it had company; a Cirl! With the wind, I didn't exactly get great views; a nice olive rump to clinch ID as it blew past was pretty much it, to be honest. It was almost certainly a 1w, but I can't rule out an adult female. With a few Mipits and the odd Linnet also hanging about [literally, if they didn't want to be blown away] I got silly ideas and spent far too much time irritating the Rockits stalking about the rocks and the quarry, only leaving when it got dark.. Ah well.

Ok, that's it!

[[*Sorry Mark - it must have been waiting for you to leave, like most of the Poms...]]

10 November, 2014

Proper Autumn Birding

Well, this feels more like Autumn, doesn't it?

Soggy underfoot, a nip in the air, plenty of fallen leaves, divers.. Ah, yes the divers are back!

[About zoggin' time too.]

So, in the last 4 days, I have been to the Nose three times. Friday and Saturday were both late-start seawatches, and today was an afternoon leg stretch [not really a seawatch because Gannets and Kitts aside, there wasn't much out there, despite the wind!]

But let us start with Sunday, when I was mostly very good, cleaning all manner of things about the place [even the kitchen floor...]. Having completed this mighty labour, I decided to take a [slightly late] lunch out.
It, as I have said, being more properly Autumnal, I decided to do one of the old walks along the Bovey. I parked at Trendlebeare [having been considering Yarner as well], and headed down to the Pack Bridge*. It was wonderfully wet down there, with a zing in the air as the sun came off the valley floor. There were tit bands in the trees and even a few Redpoll. I had intended to have my lunch sat on a nice bench which overlooks the valley and would not only give me any passing birds, but also a good shot at closer stuff [including possibly the aforementioned Redpoll]. Unfortunately, I had not expected it to be occupied, but it was [this has happened only once before in more than a decade, folks]. Very occupied, in fact, by a couple doing something horizontal. I didn't know whether to laugh, curse, or put them online, but being very British, I left them to it [aren't I good?]

One of the downsides of my chosen route, especially when its wet, is the slight lack of choice in picnicking spots. The bridge was also occupied [though by a guy taking pretty pictures], and I didn't fancy a long yomp out of my way, so on I went. My eventual stopping point was the Log Bridges** - still present and intact in spite of the new one put in to replace them. 'Lunch' was more like 'lea' by this time, but the place is so lovely I forgave it.

Observe, regardez, the awful low-light phone shots!

The Bovey, upstream from the Log Bridges

The Log Bridges, and their replacement.
What do you mean, you can't see them??

The main span Log Bridge, seen from the new bridge.
Rivers have been crossed like that for millennia

The sun was getting very low as I crossed the Bovey and headed back, but not so low that I missed a cracking Dipper [Though it was point blank and posed for me :) ] and then another one :D  I got back to my car as it was starting to get properly dusky, and had a last cup of coffee watching to see what was flying about to roost - assorted thrushes, mostly. Tawny Owls were calling, and I had slim hopes of a sallying Woodcock, but they were dashed.

It was a very nice afternoon indeed [the bacon and cheese {both smoked} omelette, with oat crunchies for afters, didn't hurt either! ;) ]

Ooh dear, look at that. I have been going on, haven't I? Oh well, all the lovely skuas and things will have to wait...

[[*It has a proper name, but 'the pack horse bridge by the doughnut' is how it's referred to in my family]]
[[**How to cross a river like the Bovey? First, find a good spot, like where there's an island [or just a really big rock] to reduce the span. Get a tree, cut off the roots and branches and secure it across the gap. Plane off the upper side and cut grips, then use split branches to make a hand rail. Repeat if required by said island. Simple.***]]
[[***Unless you're the HSE. Then you need to make the National Park spend a LOT of money making a great big fancy bridge next to the old ones, which will stand high of floods yes, but will do so in isolation as the raised river level spreads around its footings, so nobody can use it anyway... But at least its harder to fall in.]]

06 November, 2014

But It Isn't [well after] The Weekend?!?

Ah, true, but I have News. And a couple of minutes to post it in, too.

Yesterday afternoon I got down to the Harbour again and this time I can with great pleasure report that the Purple Sands are back! The tide was right up, [and so it was not possible to get a full count without risking flushing them from what was left of their roost], so I can only say there were 3+. Despite the near dead calm, I couldn't pick out anything interesting in the way of divers or grebes out in the Bay. Far more than 3+ alba Wagtails in their roost, though! [How do you count scores if not hundreds of wags in several trees, with buildings and lights all around, btw??]

That morning I was a bit late to bed, as I was distracted by all the birds knocking around!
It seems if they're not around the coast they're inland*..  A flock of 110 [I counted them twice] Woodpigs went over south in a long line, while a mob of thrushes [including 6+ Redwing and 2+ Mistle] and a band of 5 Blackcaps worked the nearby trees and large bushes for assorted berries. A big flock of mixed finches - mostly Green and Chaff, with several Gold and Bull - were also in the vicinity, as were a group of 8 Jays and at least two different bands of  mixed tits and crests. As you can see, it was really busy! All this under bright clear skies, too.

Finally.. I think I have the Mystery Cetacean Mystery from last month solved, thanks to a lovely bit of VT on the Devon Birds site. Watching it, it [finally - duh!] occurred to me that despite most views being side on**, what if the MC wasn't? Then in my mind, my view of a tall Orca-like fin and white marking underneath turned into a tall falcate fin with white underneath.. Of course it was one of the Lyme Bay White-beakeds... It just goes to show that perspective does play tricks; I thought the body looked a bit short, but figured it was an unfamiliar animal arching more than say a dolphin, would. Idiot. [[Also, while I'm at it, that '50 fathom dolphins' will come closer in when there's shedloads of food on offer.]]

[[*Ok, this is High Logic, I know...]]
[[**Ever wondered about that? Aside from point-blank HPs, most cetaceans you see from shore are side-on. My thoughts go two ways; that side-on is the easiest to see, and so what you're most likely to notice while looking generally, also that cetaceans are most visible when in transit - staying shallow and breathing frequently - which would also mean they're in view for a long time from land watchpoints as they pass. Again, not exactly rocket science, but what is a blog if not a means to unload junk from my brain onto yours??  ;)  ]]

03 November, 2014

A Post Starring Woodpigs??

Who'da thunkit?

But at the Nose on Saturday morning, Woodpigs, moving in no small numbers, were very much in evidence. More than 1300 passed in the near two hours I was there, but 1100 of them were in the first ten minutes! This may not seem like much in comparison to other sites, but the Nose, being stuck out and not that high, is frequently bypassed by strong-flying migrants who just pop over the peninsula. So, large numbers of Woodpigs are a rarity.

Not to say there weren't other, far better, birds around. :)  Not just pigeons on the move [and finches and pipits and larks and wagtails... of course], but thrushes, too. Oh yes, Ring Ouzels - yes, plural! - at the Nose! I almost got a picture of one, too. Well, I DID get a picture, but the evil bitch [twas a female] turned her incredibly scaly back at the last moment and came out all dark; so indistinguishable from a Blackbird! Aaaarrgh... The other two were even less co-operative. They were with a band of Redwings and at least one Fieldfare, mobile and vexing around the berry bushes of the South Side.
Still, 3 Ring Ouzels is not to be sniffed at, not at all. Not least in having almost doubled the number I've seen at the Nose! Why am I not crowing more? Well, I was so close to getting a lovely sunlit shot of the scaliest Ouzel I've ever seen, that they've quite annoyed me. So the Woodpigs get the title.

I also managed to find some warblers.. Well, 3 of them. A female Blackcap and 2 Chiffs. [[Yellow-brows everywhere else.. Mutter Mutter]]

Later on I - while getting things done - managed to have a spot of lunch at Yarner. Evading the press-gangs, I took up my favourite vismig spot and watched a few flocks of Woodpigs seemingly milling around - 104 went east, 172 went west! A flock of 8 Crossbills - very close, too - were better, but it was mostly quiet on the bird front.. just nice and Yarnery.. :)

Finally, in Towne, I had a look at the Harbour, where the weather and tide weren't favourable for Purple Sands, so no surprise I didn't see any. The wagtail roost was impressively busy [and still impossible to count accurately!]

Sunday I was also busy with non-birding things, and as I'm shifting onto nights [yay] I wasn't up at the crack of dawn. So no chance of any interesting falcons coming from the north... Bugger.
Anyways, IMD near the Nose did have one or maybe two Firecrests - they were keeping down out of the wind - and the Nose itself had some offshore passage, including 2 Med Gulls and a cracking juv dark morph Pom Skua, which gave a flock of poor Kitts a hard time.. Also of note, a Peacock and at least 4 Red Admirals still on the wing.

28 October, 2014

Work n Wild

What, you thought you'd escaped the puns?

After too much work last week I only went and did even more.. Ah, when will I learn? So, only a quick stomp over to the Nose on Saturday afternoon for the Patch.

I was quite surprised by the amount of movement, with pipits, larks, and finches passing overhead in small but steady groups. The bushes were blown out, but on the Lead Stone an impressive number of waders; 28 Oyks and 15 Turnstone! Well out in Lyme Bay was a big feeding flock - seemingly south of the Otter or maybe Straight Point - of at least 550 large gulls with 11 or more Gannets [too far to pick skuas, though I think it likely there were some!]

On Sunday I was determined to have a good yomp and succeeded! I found the parking bit at Scorhill empty - shock! - and set off into the brisk to stiff SW-SSW. Only to stop very quickly as the last field on the right was full of thrushes! 4+ Ring Ouzels, including a very showy male, were with 18+ Fieldfares, 29+ Redwing and 73+ Starlings. Get and indeed in! :D

After that great start, I headed off in a loop around the Teign basin with Wild Tor my lunch destination; I went deosil for a change, passing Shovel Down, Fernworthy, Teignhead Farm, Manga Hill, and Watern Tor. The rivers and streams were full, but I only had to make one jump [I like clapper bridges] - picking my spot with care [the banks are quite undercut in many places]. I then finished the loop, coming off the big ridge at White Moor Circle and stopping finally at Scorhill Tor for.. well, I'll get to that.

The forecast was 'windy with showers', but said showers were more like low-flying clouds and didn't even need my hood up :) - there  were also a few patches of actual sunshine, and it was all rather lovely up there. Been far too long and all that.

I had the usual hopes of some sort of wintery raptor; picking coffee and lunch spots with care for wide vistas of possible hunting territory and frequently stopping to have a good scan.

Unsurprisingly, any harriers or Merlins present on t'Moor chose other bits to be at. I did find Golden Plover, Snipe, Curlew [in October??] and Red Grouse [at the usual place, natch], plus a yellow-stained male ReedBunt [which really got me going until it started calling and popped up to mock me]. Plus the odd Buzzard and plenty of corvids, including Ravens. Always nice seeing Ravens [well, unless you're a Buzzard...]

A couple of bad mobile shots for you lovely peoples;

Watern Tor, looking towards Wild Tor, with a few others in sight

Wild Tor, with Watern visible in the distance

Two incidents of note; firstly at Wild Tor, when a great big falcon came up to say 'Hi!'!!!
It flew very low up the slope from the Taw side, made a sharp right and circled the outcrops, then powered down towards Steeperton Tor. And when I say great big I kid not - this wasn't a Peg, boys and girls. Whether a proper one or some falconer's hybrid that looked like one, this fitted 'juvenile Gyr, grey or dark grey [terminology may vary depending on literature] morph' very well indeed. [Nope, not the lost 'white morph-a-like'] It certainly gave me a shock. After the mounting "what the hell is that?!?" as it came in, I got a fleeting but seriously close fly-past [contrasting u/wing coverts, check, dangling jesses or transmitter wires, nope] as it appeared to my right, [having presumably checked the rocks for unwary grouse!], then a decent view of its arse as it flew away.

Holy shit. Even though it will have escaped from somewhere, I have no doubt, it was still an awesome sight...

Secondly was at Scorhill Tor, where, with the sun westering, I was treated to a very nice passage of birds going to roost. Minimums of 7 Mistle Thrush, 66 Fieldfare, 284 Redwing, 130 Woodpigeon [this one flock!] 76 alba wagtail [with 3 White and 2 Pied to race], 7 Grey Wagtail, 105 Chaffinch, 5 Great Tit, 4 Robin [together!], and 3 phyllosc sp. [with the Robins; looked small, might even have been Goldcrests], plus at least 1 Linnet and assorted finches that didn't call. Also various Mipits and Skylarks that seemed to be flying around rather than purposefully moving.

This wasn't the incident, though. That was when a Mistle Thrush decided to land on the low outcrop I was sat next to, a bare 4' from a surprised me! Both parties were shocked, with the thrush being the more vocal about it..!  I've been wondering if that counts as a win in Fieldcraft vs Fieldfares [which I'd considered for the day, but put off due to the wind], as the bird voluntarily came actually inside the close focussing distance of my bins. However, the Mistle did flush [quite emphatically, too], so the whole 'not disturbing' bit kinda rules it out..
Still a big prop for just sitting quietly in unobtrusive colours, though.. ;)

So, a good yomp [about 17k's], some great birds, and just the joy of being up there again, oh yes indeed. All in all a cracking day up on't Moor!

19 October, 2014

Hope At The Nose. Also Skuas.

Work was a right bugger this week and that was before the overtime.. Ah, what can you do?

Anyways, I was dead tired and, though I was planning to be at the Nose for first usable light the next day, this plan was shot by my not turning my alarm on. Or possibly turning it off in my sleep*. Whatever the cause, I ended up not waking until mid-morning. The weather didn't seem that awesome, so I wasn't too vexed, and figured I might as well take some lunch down and just see if anything was about. As due penance to the Goddess of Birding, I walked over. As the forecast was right about the heat, I suffered as I deserved.

It was actually pretty good - the wind was a stiff to strong SSW to SW, there was a vestige of a slick from the SWBCM, and the horizon never fully cleared of gunk, even when the sun came out. The sun also duly went away again - only a bright hour between one and two was ever troubling, really - and while it spat a bit, I didn't get rained on, either.

There were even birds! About 110 Gannets, 100 Kitts, and 40 Razorbills an hour [though rates waxed and waned a fair bit] was better than I had hoped. Oh, also skuas and shears! 2 Sooties, 13 Balearics, a Manxie and a shear sp. [B/M] - not bad at all. One of the Sooties was out just past the Manxie line [and followed  a few minutes later by a 'Sooty-pattern' Balearic; pale underwings and dark belly, the works!] but the second came by much much closer, and treated me to some lovely shears as it tacked to pass outside the Ore Stone  :D

41 skuas - including 11 Poms! - came by, with some lovely behaviour, mostly involving unlucky Kittiwakes [4 on 1 is just unfair... ouch]. Most of the age-able birds were juvs - outnumbering adults by more than 2 to 1.

Quite a few Med Gulls - all immatures, mostly 1w - and LBBs - including some very interesting looking individuals -  were about, with a half dozen Common Gulls also passing. A lone Arctic Tern was a pleasant surprise; it managed to dodge the marauding skuas, too!

20 Guillemots and 19 auk spp. [range], plus 2 Purple Sand and 11 C Scoter finish up the seabird passage, with 5 late Swallows tail-end charlies. On land, a Wheatear was about the rocks of The Sole. On the sea, 2 female C Scoters hung about all afternoon, but no sign of any divers or grebes yet. A Grey Seal hung about, proving very elusive; I only saw it when not looking for it. This was not the 'usual' big grey [bull?], but a smaller browner animal, adept at posing its head to look like an interesting bird sat on the water!

Finally, a cetacean sp. has me scratching my head; a very tall seemingly black dorsal fin with a black-looking back and a clearly defined horizontally-bordered white marking on the flank below the fin. Waves too big and too far out to see anything else and only the one sighting.
The fin shape shouts Orca, but the white flank rules that out. White-beaked has a flank marking in the right place, but fin shape and the sheer black-and-white -ness of it makes that unlikely. Common has the strong marking, but fin shape and marking location [under the fun the flank mark dips down to make a dark point] are again against it.

EDIT: Thanks to some nice VT from BH making me remember what perspective and angle of view are, this was a White-beaked Dolphin.. Obviously...

Today I had many things to do that did not involve birding, but I managed to get to the Nose anyway this morning, where overhead Skylarks, Mipits, alba Wags, Linnets, and Goldfinches were moving. A couple of Chiffs - including a nice green one with black legs [!?] - were in the bushes, but nowt else. A Razorbill was on the sea and a couple of nice adult LBBs were loafing with the local gulls. The smaller Grey Seal was again lurking about, being as slippery as it was yesterday.

[[*This irritating habit is why I have a second alarm for work mornings, carefully located on the far side of the room. It's also very loud.]]

16 October, 2014

Shameless Filler Of A Post

Time. Time. Time.

Yeah, yet more 'I have no time have had no time may have some time at some point'-type posting, I'm afraid...

Let's see;

Last Friday I went out after owls again and struck out utterly. Dammit. I did hear my first overflying Redwings of the Autumn, so not utter fail, but still much cold tramping for not a lot [indeed, said Redwing were so close to home that I could have stayed in and done as well...]

Saturday and Sunday I was at the Nose first thing, with moving pipits and finches, plus a nice Grey Wag on the rocks on Saturday, a Whitethroat [very late] on Sunday [[plus a bush-skulking bird that's call could only be described as a hoarse hiss! No idea what it was...]]

Sunday after my Nose check, I went up on't Moor - for the first time in far too long - where I found no Merlins or ringtailed anythings, not even Golden Plovers! To be fair, I did get Ring Ouzel and Dipper; but both only on calls, due to the hordes of bods - Happy Hikers and DofE's doing Navigation 101 - wandering about.. :(

I'd gone to Shipley Bridge, and headed up the valley, then cut up to the Sub, before looping the tramways to Three Barrows, and back down Diamond Lane. My thought was to see what was moving from the Sub while I had an early lunch, then check as many open [slightly] sheltered spots for raptors as I could.
It was a good plan, but the only raptors on show were a couple of Kestrels [which did show very nicely] and an unhappy Buzzard [there were bored Crows. And Ravens. Lots of Ravens. It wasn't pretty...]. A cracking juv male Sprawk came the other way while I was en route in the lanes [[it raised momentary hopes of Merlin, but that tail...]] and a lovely leuco-type Wheatear was hanging around Skylark Tor.

And now here we are, back in the now, with me happily at work while the North Atlantic looks like that.

Zen and the Art of Working For A Living, folks.

[This post may acquire piccies at some point, btw]

08 October, 2014

October Begins

Oh, I love the day shift....

But anyways, what have I been up to this last week? Other than not posting anything, that is..

Well, Friday last, I took my final morning to the Nose, where there were lots of Chiffs and a few Blackcaps in the bushes. [[Nothing like a frickin' Tanager of any season, though.. :(  ]]

Overhead, a decent passage of Swallows and finches was continuing, with the odd group of Mipits thrown in. Also a group of 4 Jays - these being reckoned migrants rather than locals due to flying high, straight south, and not calling once.

After getting the li'l car serviced without major expense [and still being in shock from that] I moseyed down to Berry Head, in hope of some showy Firecrests. After much searching [and muttering at insanely noisy and irritatingly-spaced dog walkers, I must add] I found at least 2, within barking distance of the radar array thingy. None were feeling co-operative, despite having some nice sheltered sunny bits to lurk in. Oh well.

I toddled down to the quarry, which was inhabited by one Chiffchaff. I had a look at the sea [the wind was blowing, after all] and in half an hour scored 2 Bonxies and an Arctic Skua! Get in. They were zipping south with seeming intent, so I decided to make use of my discount and head up to the Fort.

There is no coffee like reduced coffee, and sitting at a slightly windy table I thought 'what the hell' and had what turned out to be a very cushy seawatch indeed. Yes, that's right. Seawatching from a cafe table with proper coffee [with hot milk and everything!]. Oh how spoilt I felt :)

There was a big feeding thingy going on, way out to the south. [I reckon 2 miles or so.] A hard distance unless you have a Big Scope. Oh, what a fortunate coincidence! There were 4 fishing boats working the area, and in the spaces in between, the crowd of large gulls, Kittiwakes, and Gannets was being worked by 2+ Bonxies [probably the two I'd seen earlier, maybe with another] plus 2 probable Arctic Skuas and one probable Pom [on size and behaviour; even the Big Scope has its limits!]. There may well have been a YLG in there too, but its a 'might' at that range! I watched the fun for 40 minutes before an empty coffee cup and time getting on sent me home.

Saturday saw me up at aaaaarrrggh o'clock for the Nose. I know the forecast wasn't anywhere near as ideal as say Monday, but there is this thing called Having A Job, you know... :(

I got lots of rain, and watched for four hours before presciently bailing just before the sun broke out, see?

Here comes the blue sky...

I saw not a lot in terms of numbers [5 skuas, 5 shears, a 10:1 Gannet to Raz ratio where the total of both fell shy of 200...], though a fair bit of variety and one lovely piece of quality; Long-tail!! :D  On the Manxie line in a pause between harder pulses of rain at the very civilised time of 0941. Well worth getting a little soggy for.

With the cleared weather, I tried for Patch owls that evening and scored! Tawny is pretty much a shoo-in here [::Grins::] and did not disappoint, but there is another, oh yes, and a periodically vocal one, too.


Sunday's efforts at the Patch suffered karmic levelling for Saturday's success; I found one Blackcap and not a single Chiff!! W T F....  A passing flock of 6 Jays [again high, straight south, and silent] was the most notable record.

Most amusing was this 1w Herring Gull, which had clearly been watching the Little Black Dog;

That's a tennis ball, which it had fought hard to keep. 
It kept dropping it, watch it roll away, then chase and catch it again.
It even gave it a few 'chews' like LBD does...

Birds, eh?

This morning on the way to work, I passed a Fox sat on the roadside, waiting to cross. Neat as you like, watching the traffic go by.

30 September, 2014

New Record For Brevity

Sunday and Monday; about Patch, notably the Nose, with many Chiffs, a nice group of 3 Sand Martins and a Swallow going the right way, and my first Firecrest of the winter [lurking with small group of Goldcrests, mobile along IMD - good luck!].

Also on Sunday, up on't Moor with the family; plenty of the expected, with only a lovely Wheatear at Combestone late afternoon [with down-valley passage of Swallows] worth special note.

That's it!

27 September, 2014

Normal Service Resumes

In other words, more posts but not necessarily more birds.

Not no birds, though...   :)

Lots of work this week, including today, so less birding [boo].

I did manage to get to the Nose first thing yesterday, and was rewarded with many many Chiffs. There was the odd Blackcap, but it took almost three hours [yes, really] to finally find a different warbler.. Reed. [Not even a sniff of banana about it, either - tut]

The early stuff cleared off vexingly quickly to bright sunshine, and most of the following showers missed by wide margins. The one that didn't dropped a Tripit almost on top of me - I got a very nice if brief view before it decided it didn't want its picture taken [drat]. Moving overhead were mostly Mipits and Linnets, with a lovely v of three Yellow Wags being a notable exception.

The sea looked vaguely promising, and as I had the li'l scope with me, I gave it half an hour. 11 Gannet and a Razorbill were almost as bad as they sound, but again a most notable exception. I heard [yes, seawatching and picked up on call!] a very odd call coming.. loud and nothing I was familiar with. Then there came two birds, flying fairly high up - enough to miss through a scope, maybe even bins - divers! But that call's not GND, I know that one [everyone knows GND]. As they approach and pass I get a good look, as they're well inside the Ore Stone; BTDs!!!!!! The lead bird is indeed calling and still in pretty much s/pl too.

Did not expect that.

'Calls very rarely and not in winter' says the literature. No kidding; I've never heard a BTD make so much a peep before [and only RTD once, I think], while GNDs can be very noisy when the mood takes them.

The rest of the day was something of an anticlimax. I found another Blackcap near Stoodley, it was singing. That's it.

Today I toddled down to the Nose after work, not expecting much. On shore there were lots of Chiffs and Blackcaps, but again a miss on the funky warblers and things turning up everywhere else..

The sea once more saved the day. Well, a nice blue trawler did. It towed in 478 large gulls [I like it when they line up to be counted!] and 3 large skua spp., which were almost certainly Bonxies but just too far out to be sure. What definitely was a Bonxie came south along the Manxie line before angling out to wreak havoc join in the fun. It was a pretty good few minutes [as I'd promptly plonked down to watch] with an adult Med Gull, an insanely close Razorbill [ID-able without optics close!], and 3 Sarnies all passing by.
I even considered bolting for home to fetch bigger optics, but evidently thought too loud, as passage promptly died. Even the Gannets stopped.

A very pretty juv LBB showed up and started flying about in front of me, but otherwise there was only calm seas..  Well, calm apart from all the frelling powerboats....

The Coal Tits continue to pinch sunflower seeds, and this afternoon, a dozen Crows, Magpies, and Jays had a three-way fight on the roof. It was noisy, to say the least, with no obvious winner [though it may be one group will be more evident from now on, we shall have to see]. I had thought they were beating the crap out of a juvie Buzzard mobbing something, but no, just after each other. Corvids, eh?

24 September, 2014

An Even Slower Update Post

I would like to blame work for the long delay since last I posted, really I would.

What's worse, I don't have time to go into things in deserved detail either [oh, stop cheering].

Let's see...  Last week.

Friday I got to the Nose first thing, where migrants were moving - mostly Mipits and finches overhead with a few Swallows [going north still...]. Chiffs and Blackcaps in the bushes, yadda yadda. A few Small Coppers were on the wing, as was a female Emperor. Star moment came with a low flock of 11 Crossbills - which as I was admiring them suddenly became 10 as a passing Peg snatched one with insouciant ease! Ho-ly shit...
The rest of the Patch and day had no noteworthy additions after that.

Saturday saw a strong late afternoon passage of Swallows over my place - they seemed to be dropping out of the clouds. And yes, still heading the wrong way!

Sunday morning first thing at the Nose saw Chiffs heavily outnumber Blackcaps, with pipits and wagtails passing overhead. At least one Tripit among them.

Most of the day was taken with an outing to Prawle with the Folks and staying rellytives. My aunt [who is quite birdy] needed Cirl for Britain, so where else to go?

The sun shone but the wind blew, and the pesky buntings evidently had had word of our mission, as they were very elusive. Plenty of glimpses and calls, but no TVs until we got past Horseley, when all of a sudden a nice male popped up, and then it rained Cirls! Score.

At least 8 Wheatears were also very welcome, with 31+ Oyks, a Ringo, and a Dunlin on the shore and large numbers of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the bushes. The sea was unsurprisingly very quiet [I counted 3 Gannets while we had lunch..] and too rough for cetaceans to be obvious, but the scenery was its usual gorgeous self and much appreciated by all.

A final coffee stop on the sheltered slope below the car park was notable for at least 5 Clouded Yellows fluttering about [and often clashing], and House Martins took over from Swallows overhead. Finally, a Migrant Hawker patrolled the car park clearing itself.

No Wrynecks or shrikes, alas, but we didn't get to Pig's Nose, so who knows? [Sorry]

Coal Tits continue to snaffle sunflower seeds  :D  but a couple of Feral Pigs have noticed and started hanging around. Hmm.

Next update should be more timely.

That harrier sp. TM saw will have flown past behind us, as we were having lunch at Horseley at the time.


15 September, 2014

A Slow Update Post

Try as I might, I can't escape the puns..

Nor the lurgy, which attacked and put a fair dint in my plans. Said attack seems to have fizzled out just in time to go back to work. Joy.


Last week I got down to Prawle, where my attempts to find migrants that weren't Chiffchaffs largely failed. No rarities or even scarcities, though a Wheatear at the bottom of Pig's Nose was nice, and a flock of 18 Yellow Wags [none with fancy heads, alas] was pretty welcome, too. I did better with butterflies - many on the wing out of the wind - the best being 2 Clouded Yellow, one a helice.
With all those Balearics wandering past Berry Head, I figured the sea would be worth a look, and in 3 hours saw 4 Balearics. Pretty quiet, really, with what might have been a silver lining foiled by the sunshine [they looked like Common Dolphins, but.. ::shrugs::]

The evening went better, with another Home Tick! Audiomig strikes again, this time with at least 1 LRP over calling  :D

Friday was lost to lurgy, as was much of Saturday, though I managed a wander about the Patch - with the only notable bird being a Mistle Thrush sat stock still in a tree. It had damage to its head and neck feathers, which gave it the silhouette of a Wryneck. Gave me palpitations, I can tell you! Especially as this was seen out of my window.. I brought the Big Scope to bear and discovered the truth. As to the reason? Well, I suspect the narrowest of near misses. The bird stayed stock still for  more than 40 minutes before finally flying off, I reckon it was in shock.

Yesterday, I felt a bit better, and decided to go and have a nice bit of fresh air. Nothing too energetic, a nice sit down. [You can see where this is going, can't you?] Berry Head is far more genteel seawatching than the Nose, and I rolled up to find The Boss there, to boot. He'd been on site since 0700, and I stayed from 1200 [I'm ill!] to 1800.

The odd Balearic and a few Arctic Skuas - harassing the hordes of Kittiwakes - were on offer, with lots of Harbour Porpoises all over the shop. In my 6 hours I saw 6 shearwaters and 11 skuas. Also in that time, more than 800 Kittiwakes passed south [most later on, when the rafts tired of being skua'd, I think!], with 53 nipping back north right at the end.

Auk numbers may be starting to pick up for the winter; 24/2 Razorbills and 8 Guillemots, with small parties also rafting alongside the Kittiwakes.

Gull-wise, small numbers but variety, with a light passage of LBBs, a couple of Common Gulls, a YLG and 3 Meds - 2 'juvs' and a '1w' [hmm, some variation in breeding times, there?]

The quarry held 2 Chiffchaffs, and the only land migrant was another Clouded Yellow - in/off!

EDIT: This post is for some reason incredibly popular [as in 8x more hits than the average]. If anyone reading this would care to let me know why, I'd be grateful.

10 September, 2014

A Quick Update Post

Even shorter and simpler than the last one, I'm afraid..

I've been hitting the Nose a lot, as you might expect at this time of year, though without any Wrynecks of my own yet.

Warbler numbers have waxed and waned with movements and weather, with the odd Wheatear thrown in for very good measure, while star birds were the group of no less than 6 Spot Flies on the 5th! One even sat still for an awful phonebin shot:

Far Eastern Phoebe
[sorry.. ;) ]

Kittiwake numbers have gradually dropped off from their maximum on the 3rd; today 'only' 230+ - and also today, the first increase in Oyk numbers, with 9 now present.

Elsewhere, on Friday I went up on't Moor. Which was very hot, very humid, with very little wind... and millions of bloody flying ants. Flying red ants are not fun.
4 juv. Goosander and a juv. Grey Heron sort of working together to batter fish in the shallows of Venford Reservoir were fun, though. The walk come stagger-while-beset-by-winged-devils I did was the Holne Moor, Huntingdon, Ryder's loop - with a good long watch for drifting raptors from Puper's for lunch.

I spent the weekend dropping down to cornwall, with the birding highlight a Hobby scattering a big flock of Swallows - these seen from Restormel Castle [which is a lovely spot, and even worth paying EH to get in].

Don't Go Near The Castle...

Monday belonged to the LBD, as I was dog-sitting. She had a lot of fun, and we both got very hot.

Little Black Dog 
in Very Long Grass

Yesterday I got to Bowling Green for the evening tide and had a look at the new hide. Jury is still out. A Little Stint, 2 Curlew Sand, and 7 Ruff! were very welcome, with 4 Spotshank and 15+ Greenshank also notable. I stayed on until it got dark [there was coffee to finish and I could still see! ;) ], but no bats appeared.

Today I had business in Exeter, but that didn't stop me mooching about looking for Sands afterwards. It took 4 hours of sustained battering of Matford, RVP, and finally the Exe banks down past the frickin' sewage works, but I finally scored 4 birds.. Yes, 4. The water levels are very high there, and so is the vegetation, so views are not at all easy and there isn't much mud away from the river. Still... 2 Green, 1 Common, and a Wood!!! Ok, I only heard the Wood - on the 'Sand pool' at Double Locks - but it still counts! :D  Other notable encounters were no less than 7 Little Grebes on Matford [all that time was worth something - I got no Sands there at all] and large numbers of dragons on the wing; mostly Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers, with a couple of Southerns and an Emperor.

04 September, 2014

The Ninth Dunlin

Yesterday I resolved to amuse myself.

This involved getting down to the Nose first thing, where a lovely Willow Warbler was very obliging in the Top Dell. Migrants were not as thick as the onset mistyfog had promised, though, with any dreams I had of falls rapidly evaporating. There were still warblers around; territorial Robins kicking a bunch of Chiffs, Blackcaps, and Whitethroats about the South Side, for example. Overhead, a few hirundines went by. North. [Of course]

Spectacle was provided by the sea, where the 420-odd Kitts were still loitering about on the Ore Stone. There were also rafts further south towards the Bay; these too also Kitts, as revealed when a Bonxie came through them with an effect similar to playing skittles with a bowling ball...

The air just became thick with birds, it was akin to being at Bowling Green, or Steart maybe - with the more open environment. The noise was something else, even from a klick away... It took me several moments to stop gawking and take the chance to start counting. With the mass of them, a proper count was never going to happen, so I counted in tens and rounded down to the nearest 50, getting 850 Kittiwakes.


Onward - having waited until after the school drag run - to The Backwater! I was lured by the prospect of many Curlew Sands, over and above how good it is to bird there. Naturally, they were feeling elusive, but there was plenty else to look at [3 Green Sand, 6 Common Sand, 5 Greenshank, and a juv Reeve being the best of them] and the time wandered by merrily. The Marsh Harrier wasn't bad, either. ;)

A flock of 8 Dunlin included a couple of bright little juveniles - small of stature and bill, I'd guess male schinzii - and also a hulking great long-billed adult, a female alpina? Seeing the two in incongruous settings was a salutary reminder of how variable this most ubiquitous of waders is, and how tricksy they can be [especially when you can't see the fore underparts clearly].
They moved about a bit, sometimes splitting up, sometimes together, but no matter how many times they were checked, they were 8 Dunlin, with no Curlew Sands or Little Stints [don't ask] with them.

The ninth Dunlin up there in the title? It flew out past the Tower Hide not long before I left. From whence it came? No idea.

With the sun finally having burnt through the mistyfog here too, I decided to get ahead of the traffic. Clearing NP, I figured that, seeing as it was right on the way, a small stopoff at Aylesbeare wouldn't hurt.. ;)

Well, this seemed to be where all the migrants were hiding! Finding a Whinchat, a Wheatear, a female Redstart [oh, also 2 Stonechats and a Dartford] in one bush was.. amusing to say the least! It was ridiculous as one bird after another popped out to look at me! The next bush over was quieter, merely holding a Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler..

I backed off and left them to it, setting up the Big Scope for a little scanning of the valley. You never know, maybe a nice drift migrant might appear? No chance. But hey, it's always nice to watch Swallows mobbing a poor innocent [ish] Kestrel.

Back then to The Patch in reasonable time for the evening's festivities, whose after-effects have resulted in today's sad lack of anything productive birding-wise..

And no, I didn't go up again, despite naughty re-appearing Curlew Sands. I'm not chasing a yearlist.

Blimmin' Crakes...
[It'd only be a yeartick.. ::Mutter mutter::]

02 September, 2014

Even More Terns

Yesterday morning I was down at the Nose bright and early - it is annual hollyday time after all :) - hoping that the forecast overnight weak front had dropped some poor passerines into the bushes for me to see. This sort of happened, with lots of Chiffchaffs around, plus Whitethroats and Blackcaps. Also at least one interesting sylvia that kept me staring at bushes for far longer than I should have. [Ah, the joys of pass-bashing..]

The weather clearly hadn't read the forecast, as despite what was promised, a bunch of bands of drizzly rainy gunk showed up and made me wish I'd brought my seawatching kit along. Lack of Vital Kit notwithstanding, I gave the sea an hour as I was - braving the rain from The Mounds - and was rewarded with hordes of Kitts, lots of terns, and some skuas. One very nice juvenile intermediate Arctic came in very close - inside the Leadstone close - and showed quite beautifully. The rest [2 more Arctics and a Bonxie] were further out.

I counted 220 Commic and 3 Sarnies past south, with 65 Kittiwakes also passing. That number was dwarfed by again around 420 resting on the Ore Stone [this time I got 424] and another ~460 in three rafts to the north [though strictly speaking, those should be 'small gull sp.' - as I didn't have the Big Scope with me]. Also-flews included 7 Common Scoter and a Razorbill. After I'd gone back to looking through the lower bushes, I still stopped periodically to scan the sea, and on one of these I picked up a Little Gull - not a juv - which made me wonder what else was going by.

Later on, I was just getting home from a milk run when I heard the distinctive creaky call of a Sarnie flying up the valley! Dammit! I broke into a run, dived across the street.. but nothing. No more calls and no sign of the bird itself... I'd missed a brilliant Home Tick by seconds. Bugger.

On Sunday afternoon, a wander about Yarner with the Folks was enlivened no end by a couple of passing juv. Hobbies, who were very vocal with that computer effects-sounding call as they zipped about [presumably after Craneflies]. Also of note were 2 juv. Mandarin on the pond and the first proper tit band of the winter.

Today at lunchtime I had a wonderful treat. I was delighted to watch at least 2 [and quite possibly more - they were coming one at a time from the conifer] Coal Tits coming and taking sunflower seeds from my feeder. :D  I am so happy about this I'm still grinning like a loon.. :)  Longer term plans to make my little garden ::cough:: even more bird-friendly are in the works, too, but it's so encouraging to actually see birds coming in already.

At the same time, a lovely pristine Speckled Wood flew in to have a look about the place. I was able to rescue it, fortunately [though the spiders were cursing me] and it fluttered off on its way.

30 August, 2014

Fewer Terns, Fewer Puns

Also fewer words.. Honest.

To the Nose this morning, where I managed to find some scarce migrants!

Scarce for the Nose, that is; Sedge Warblers!!!
An adult in the company of a juvenile, and very confiding [compared to previous bush-lurking subsong-singing examples] too. Sylvias were very much the order of the day, with a Garden Warbler, several Blackcap, and a heap of Whitethroat far outnumbering the few Chiffs.

Overhead, the Star Award was shared by a couple of Sand Martins and a lovely Yellow Wagtail - with only a few finches for compant, though.

At sea, there was another surprise, as I discovered the Ore Stone ledges to be loaded with roosting Kittiwakes! I counted an impressive 419 - mostly low down and away from the Geebs [and who would blame them]. The light was not helpful, and so a flock of 68 terns were Commic as they headed for the Bay, though the 8 behind them were Sarnies. I didn't see any shears or skuas, but at least 23 Gannet were still in the vicinity.

Wandering back up, a cracking Small Copper was sunning itself by the First Slope; a typically awful pretty pic may be added here in the future.



Small but perfectly formed.

While I'm at it, here's a Magpie Moth, too!

Looks like there'll be a few more about next year.

29 August, 2014

To Everything, Tern Tern Tern, There is A Season, Tern Tern Tern

Yes yes, sorry... Even worse than usual, I know but I couldn't resist.

After work today I nipped over to Berry Head and spent a merry 4 hours watching hordes of Common Terns. They spent most of the time hanging around feeding on poor unfortunate whitebait, with only the odd group getting bored and moving on. Even then they were only passing in small numbers - at least until later on, when a combination of vexing skuas and low-flying Red Arrows persuaded more to go. My final total passing south was a decent 481 [or twice the number that passed the Nose on Monday in less than half the time]. I say Common rather than Commic, because the light was good and every single 'commic' I zoomed in on was a Common and most were easily close enough to not need much of that.

As well as said Commons there were at least 4 Arctics [which stood out nicely] and 2 Sarnies [with more I didn't get on], plus two Black Terns, who despite hanging with the tern mob just to the NE of the Head, were evasive to the point of driving the poor observers - trying to get others on them - to near insanity...

5 or more Arctic Skuas - one staying about for more than an hour, and another a yellow-headed juv. - and a Bonxie were their tormentors, with at least 148 Manxies and 7 Balearics also coming in to join the Kitts and Gannets in the fun. Attacking from below were at least 10 Harbour Porpoises in two groups.

Non-seabird passage consisted of three [single] Swifts - all Common, alas - while there were both a Clouded Yellow and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth reported in the Quarry [but missed by me.. Drat]

It was a brilliant watch, with birds everywhere - though the irritating way the showers all missed made me wonder what else might have been out there - but that's seawatching. Especially when you look across the Bay to see the Nose getting hit.. ::Shrug::

26 August, 2014

The Birds They Are Moving

Got to work this morning to find a flock of 18 Mistle Thrush sat in a treetop. Must be Autumn, then...

Yesterday.. Ah, yesterday. 9 merry hours at the Nose in rain, sideways gunk, spot-on, and sunshine.

What a fascinating watch that was. A huge variety of species, some very unexpected numbers, and all in odd conditions to boot.

Where to begin?

There's just too much to be even vaguely comprehensive, so I'll try a few interesting points.

The weather started out really really promising in everything but the strength of wind, which was strangely absent, given what the forecasters implied. It did pick up, markedly so, and in direction did what was promised, but early on it was surreal - sat on the Steps in a SSE with my brolly almost upright.. It should have been torn from my hands as the spray drowned me!

I'm not complaining, mind.

Perhaps this was the reason behind the utter lack of early shearwaters.. I saw exactly 2 Manx in hour 1, and those in the last 5 minutes of it! I was shaking my head, thinking back to how optimistic I'd been.. Ah, the moon is away AND the tides are high, the wind's been blowing.. Should be good. Ho Ho Ho. Evidently there's a floating laptop out in Lyme Bay, with assorted seabirds sat around it going "Oh, they think THAT, do they? Right.."


The numbers themselves were interesting.. Remember how I saw zero Kittiwakes at Prawle? Not today. Oh, no. Counting the flock of 76 who plonked down on the edge of the slick, there were more than a thousand. Not bad.

In fact, here are raw numbers for you - for a change - my hourlies of Manxie, Gannet, and Kittiwake [the latter two rounded down to nearest ten, for simplicity].

M:    2,    6,      3,   7,    9,     3,    0,  27,  29
G: 120,  70,    40, 10,  10,   10,  10, 10,   20
K: 180, 100, 220, 30, 100, 120, 20, 20, 140 [+76]

Also notable was the proportion of juvenile Kittiwakes - I reckon about 30% - which was very pleasing to see  :)

I tallied 259 terns - almost all either Common or Commic - and 33 skuas [plus one lingering dark morph Arctic which was doing circuits well out]. There were 5 species of waders, including a nice group of Dunlin, [and a funny Redshank without it's white back wedge - looked very odd, that one] but not the famous 17 Whimbrel. I had 20 in all, but my biggest flock was 13.

My first Balearic came past at 1025, and I had to wait for the other six - they all passed in an amazing 7 minutes just before half two - including a group of 3 at close range. Speaking of close range.. Alas there were no Storm Petrels, but several passing shearwaters did come in to investigate the slick, giving wonderful views. As did the odd tern; one Common pulling such a beautiful snatch in perfect light that I found myself twitching for the camera I do not own. Maybe one day [after I win the lottery...]

There were Scoter, a couple of Teal, a couple of duck spp. [in the gunk early on], Fulmars of course, lots of assorted gulls, 3 Razorbills.. Oh yes, and at 1503 - well out and moving - it looked like a Cory's to me [pressed carpals and very white underside].

Finally, on the way back up, a male Emperor Dragonfly was stuffing its face with small flies in a sheltered spot on the Rock Path; evidently very hungry, it didn't even bother to perch to eat its catches, which was a shame, as it looked a bit funny [dark eyes, most notably]. Oh well, probably just cold or something.

Anyways, it was a very enjoyable day, even though the visibility was a bit of a bugger at times and that blimmin' bulker evidently scuppered any chance of the Prawle Great - though at least it did eventually move!

And yes, that was the very short version!

24 August, 2014

Look! Up In The Sky!

I'm not chasing any yearlists this year.

Why did I tell you this [again]? Well.. Just because I'm not chasing doesn't mean I'm not keeping count, and I happened to find myself on 199 for Devon yesterday [ok, been there a little while, but what the what]. And there was this ten minute stint which hadn't read the script. Plus spotty cripes. All at Bowling Green.

What to do, eh?

So, after a day spent doing other things, I figured I'd wander over late afternoon, when things had quietened down a bit, and see if I could get a notable 200.

This may well have happened smoothly, except for Topsham fair, which they hold in the evening on the frickin' August bank holiday weekend, and to do so close most of the roads. I had seen no advance warning of this, so it came as a lovely surprise...

A far less sarcastic surprise came not long after I'd arrived.. What is that sound??



They flushed everything, coming over very low, but not a single person minded.


So, Bowling Green, now with near-finished bonfire for the local chavscum [don't the RSPB remember what happened? No, of course not, and breeze blocks are evil, aren't they? Certainly not stronger, longer-lasting, better insulation, better waterproofing, better soundproofing, and oh yes, fireproof... Good grief.]

Ahem, where was I?

Oh yes, I arrived to find the Crakes hiding and no sign of the Stint for about 4 hours. Oh joy.

Still, keep looking, it is here, just hiding in the dead ground. Also here was 200 for the year - an Avocet! I'm not sure which is funnier, that there was an Avocet in August, that I hadn't seen one yet this year, or that it was 200 for the Devon year...

Plenty of other things to watch, but then Bailey Junior arrived, and before he could even finish setting up his scope, out came the Temminck's Stint. Which showed rather well [ok, I had the Big Scope - so I should say 'at 75x it showed rather well']. Certainly better than the other one.

After the TS decided it had shown enough, I gave the Crakes an hour but they were feeling bashful. A Common Tern plonked down, some Sarnies flew over, a Ruff was about, as were 3 Snipe, 19 Greenshank, and 11 Whimbrel [and plenty of other stuff]. A Sedge Warbler worked through the far reeds, but no Ospreys came to sit on the crane, which was rude of them.

Temminck's is not a common species, and perhaps deserves more exultation at getting good views [it even ran at one point!], but I must admit the Lancs totally overshadowed it, both literally and figuratively.

In other news..

Today the Nose was vexingly quiet, with a Marbled White the closest to quality.
On Friday, I stopped off at Stover for a late lunch, where there were hordes of Common Darter, quite a few Emerald Damselflies, a couple of Migrant and a Southern Hawker. The birds won, though, with a lovely family group of Spot Flies by the Dragon Pool - adults feeding one or maybe two juveniles! :)

A couple of phonebins from Stover;

 Male Common Darter
Look at those huge yellow stripes on the thorax

Terrapin sp.!!
Never seen one at Stover before.. 

EDIT: And now a picture too!

Juvenile! Mandarin

Right then.. As it is the August Bank Holiday, there is the inevitable rain on the way, and oh I can hear the wind has already picked up.

What to do, what to do...???


18 August, 2014

Should've Gone To Prawle - Oh Wait, I Did

I've been doing some research.

What sparked this? Well, the latest Devon Birds came through the door and it included a phrase which got me wondering;
"When the moon's away, the shearwaters play"

Having just seen a whole bunch, with variety and quality if not huge quantity, under [so to speak] a full moon - indeed a supermoon - I wondered a great deal.

So, instead of going out for a yomp on't Moor as I had planned, I spent far too much of Saturday digging through my records. I recorded which watches I had seen something special on, and also those with large numbers of Balearics [not always the same]. For each I noted the location, phase of the moon [to nearest phase], and the weather type. I eliminated out of Devon records for consistency* and then it was a case of looking for correlations..

What did I find?

Of large shearwater days; roughly half were 'with' a full or near it moon, and half 'without' [more or less], but looking at it another way, the full and new moon watches outnumbered the half moon watches by 4 to 1, and of the half moon watches, 3 to 1 were on waxing moons.

Of 18 big Balearic days; 6 were full, 6 were new, 5 were waxing half, and 1 waning half.

Counting everything, including notable events for storm petrels and skuas, there is an overall 3 to 1 ratio in favour of new/full to halves.

I rather suspect that the true harbinger of birds is not so much the moon itself but the tides. This is not proper science by any means - you'd at least need proper tide height data - but there does appear to be a pattern.

The logic behind a lack of moonlight - darker nights encourage birds inshore - is certainly true, breeding site analysis has shown it. It also seems to me that there is another piece of logic at play; as birds may have an opportunity via darker nights to come inshore, but they also need a reason to do so. Stronger tides mean a more disturbed water column, especially inshore, meaning more available food for both birds and their prey. As The Boss says, 'The birds have to be there'. Stronger tides would encourage birds to come a bit closer, sustained winds do the same, as does a long warm spell, or a surge in numbers of a food source. Then you just need a weather event.

Nice theory? Something to think about, anyway.

Anyway, I have a new saying: "When the tides are high, the birds are nigh"

So, yesterday.

Waning half moon, but after some very high tides and with sustained westerlies and a weak cold front coming to say 'hi'.

What to do?

Yup, I went to Prawle. I've not been there this year, which is scandalous, so I had to rectify the situation, plus I figured with the wind that way, any showers would be dried out before they got to the Nose, but Prawle might catch some.

I took my time getting there, as it was an on spec watch [they usually are at Prawle] and only started at ten. Ah, what could have been...

My first bird was a Balearic. There were 13 in hour one and 30 in total for the 6.5 hours I gave it. 30 Balearics!!!! Manxies? 225 in hour one, 954 in all [plus 52 east, all in the PM].

3 Bonxies, 4+ Harbour Porpoises, 473 Gannets, 0 Kittiwakes [!!] and 33... yes, 33 Med Gulls..

If that wasn't enough, a couple of juvenile Hobbies came past at high speed - straight down and yarking their heads off! I've never seen juvie Hobbies playing like that before, so it was a treat, albeit a brief one..!

And all this without getting rained on once. While listening to England mangle India.

Twas a nice day.

I even managed to find amusement in the sheer cowering incompetence of the grockles trying to navigate the lanes. Seriously, one fellow - whom I had seen coming and pulled into a passing place {that would fit a tractor} for - came up and instead of passing by, stopped in the next passing point up from the one I was in! It took several seconds to compose myself sufficiently to check my mirrors to see if there was a combine harvester that had magically appeared behind me - there wasn't - and then move off. I did try not to laugh too obviously, really I did....

[[*Though the ratios stand up, as it happens]]