20 April, 2014

A Post Actually Involving Birding

Just for a change...

EDIT: This Post May Contain Nuts and Does Contain Rants. Reader beware..

So, with the long Easter weekend I had a chance to misbehave and do some proper birding - with the Big Scope and everything - for the first time in what felt like months. It felt like months because it was months!

Early let-out meant I was abroad on Thursday - oh, the shock - and as I just happened to have business up Topsham way, it would have been wrong, if not downright rude, not to drop into Bowling Green for the tide. :D

An interesting mix of summer and winter was on offer - including the odd duet of Wigeon and Reed Warbler! - though the star birds were feeling shy and hid out of sight for most of the time I was there. I speak of the insanely pretty s/pl Spotshanks. Fortunately, one did have a brief fly into view. Unfortunately, it saw me go for my phone and promptly scarpered back onto the hidden shore again... Better behaved were the 24 Greenshank who just stayed put at the back.

Speaking of staying at the back.. I had my first look at Goosemoor.

Oh dear.

I don't know who designed that, but they need dipping in warm marmalade. What we've been given is a nice wide racetrack, with a railway line on one side and a big fence on the other. Most of it is raised wooden boardwalk, with grip rumble strips, to maximise the noise of movement, especially the wheeled kind. At regular intervals there are nice big viewing slots, thoughtfully provided with no backing so every passer-by, never mind every watcher, is silhouetted. The new bridge over the Clyst is a wonder of design, with wooden slats on the upstream side carefully spaced so that while again everything on the bridge is silhouetted to the birds, no-one can see clearly out, and it will give absolutely no shelter whichever way the wind blows! The downstream view is a lovely unobstructed one of the railway bridge.

On the plus side, watchers at Bowling Green will no longer need to curse as birds fly past to roost at Goosemoor - they'll soon be back.

Marks out of ten? A very generous 1.

Right then, now that that's been vented...

I had lunch at Exminster; my psychic powers failed utterly and I went inland to look for LRPs and so missed the Garganey. I did get to watch Lapwings beating up Crows, which is always amusing, though, and there were hordes of butterflies on the wing. Mostly Green-veined Whites, Peacocks, and these;

Orange Tip
[Yes, it was very sunny]

Moving on, after failing to find an Osprey at Powderham, I ended up at the Warren, where I spent a merry hour playing peekaboo with the Scoter flock. There was a nasty bit of chop, a blustery wind, heat haze - despite the now overcast skies - and of course diving ducks doing what they do to make things interesting. What made things bladdy hard was the gang of immature gulls who continually harassed the poor Scoter, despite never even getting close to them. The highest count I had was 144, so 140+ Common plus the additionals.

Elsewhere I couldn't find the female LTD who's been hanging around, though one GC Grebe was on the sea and an RTD flew past south. 9 Sarnies were on a bar offshore and a pale-bellied Brent was off the Bight.

Aside from the first House Martins of the year on Patch, there's nowt to report from Friday, aside from me swearing at my computer late on!

Saturday saw me back at Dawlish Warren bright [well, sort of] and early. Naturally the stunning male Kentish had done a Friday Night Special - [MANY NAUGHTY WORDS REMOVED] - but the morning wasn't a total loss, as eventually the female Snow Bunting showed brilliantly for a small but appreciative crowd of Kentish dippers;

How close?

This close!

With apologies for the windshake - she was on a log on the seaward side of Warren Point and it was blowing a bonefreezing hoolie out there!

Yes, an odd day, with very hot sunshine but a wintery blast of a nor'easterly.. Toasty in sunny shelter but finger-achingly cold in the shoreline blast.

Getting back to the birds, at least 3 Wheatears were in the vicinity of the SnowBunt, and while we were looking at it, IL managed to pick up a Swift heading past inland! One Swallow may not a summer make, but one Swift certainly does! :)  Offshore at least 9 Gannets - the first group I've seen for a while - were fishing well out and the female LTD popped up, close in and looking very fancy.

I spent far too much time looking for and at the small wader flocks, getting - when they actually coalesced - 110 Dunlin with 2 Sanderling, plus 13 Ringed Plover who went their own way after high tide. Bigger stuff had less focussed counts, though sheer attention on the Bight eventually got me 5 Brent Geese; 2 pale and three dark. My 394 Oyks pre-dated the high tide so is an undercount - also notably did not include a single CR bird?!? - as may be my 2 Whimbrel, 2 Barwit, and 6 Grey Plover. I could only catch 5 Sarnies in view at one time, but that too is probably an undercount.

Along the Dune Ridge was my first Small Copper of the year - it didn't want to be photographed - but I failed to find the reeling Gropper that had been reported.

One last bright spot amongst angst was being treated to my first Whitethroat; merrily singing away in a big Teignmouth bush while I crawled past in a very long clog of grockles...

The afternoon was mostly taken up with busy business, though it too ended well, with a very grey Willow Warbler out the back; cleaning the philistines' half-Birch* of aphids. I watched it for several joy-filled minutes before it moved on to the cover of a nearby Elder.


Today I have been busy. Also it has rained. The best bird I saw was a Great Tit.


[[*The philistines are neighbours who concreted every green thing in their new garden except for a Silver Birch. Which they cut in half. Literally. {Mr. philistine used a chainsaw held at just over head height.} He has put in a big raised pond full of Koi, though, so that's all ok.]]

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