27 May, 2014

Red Wunz Go Fasta

It is one of the Laws Of Reality that anything with even a bit of red on it goes faster. This is one of those irritating problems as far as scientists are concerned; as disproving it* comes up against various issues of quantum physics - the whole observer thing - and so it is generally ignored for the peace of mind of all concerned.

What has this nonsense to do with the price of fish?

I'll get to that.

I spent a lot of the weekend doing boring things, enlivened only by bursts of kitchen mad science - usually entertaining to watch, sometimes safe to eat - and the odd scramble for bins as something flew past a window. I did manage to make some time on Sunday evening to get down to the Nose for an hour's seawatching. I even dragged the Big Scope along [oh, it was much easier when I had to drive to bring it...]

Said hour - with the wind brisk in the SSE and less chop than earlier in the day - gave 39 Manxies, 16 Gannet, 27 Kittiwake, and 9 Fulmar, plus a lone [and very very low] Stormie. The latter took sea-skimming to a whole new level, though with the sun and all the hungry gull chicks, I don't blame it..!
Before the hour I gave the Ore Stone a scan - nice light being helpful - and totalled 336 Guillemots [including chicks] and no Razorbills. There were birds arriving back through my watch, so said Razorbills might be among them [I have seen them going onto the ledges this year, even this month, after all], but the arrival of some stone-lobbing chavs made me decide to cut things short.

They weren't lobbing stones at me, they just didn't look too hard where they were throwing them, and to my pleasant shock they did apologise, at least when they realised that I was there and knew what they'd done. Even so, sunny BH weekends and seawatching.. maybe not such a good idea.
Stones falling from the sky aren't new, unfortunately; I've had it at the Nose before - mostly people chucking without thinking what's downrange - and at Berry Head - from the clifftop, seemingly with more intent - though it isn't common, I am glad to say.

Yesterday was another matter - time to get out and have some fun!
I went looking for Marsh Fritillaries at what I thought was a good site for them - unfortunately not, as I found not a sniff, though the habitat was excellent [if a bit fragmentary]. I did find someone from Butterfly Conservation - also looking for them - so maybe not such a bad idea. Note to self; just because there's lots of signs and things saying 'These are here!', doesn't mean they have any bearing on reality..

I was at Fernworthy; because it rocks and finding a new butterfly there, especially one as pretty as Marsh Frit, would be just brilliant.

Oh well. It was a lot sunnier and warmer than forecast, with lots of teneral damselflies on the wing - mostly Azures, of course - but the only butterflies were GV Whites. The birds were better, with lots of warblers in song - four flavours - and a Cuckoo vocal around Thornworthy Tor. Redstart, Tripit, Mistle Thrush and Siskin were all present and correct, and my first Devon Spot Fly of the year almost sat and posed on a wire fence [little git]. Up above, a party of Swifts and the odd Swallow passed over.

Having spent the morning and into early afternoon on the wild butterfly chase, I mooched about the plantation for a while before striking out onto t'Moor - ending up sat atop Sittaford Tor surveying the landscape for any passing kites / storks / Bee-eaters / hallucinations.


Oh well, it is always a treat to be at Fernworthy;

Very Blue Bells

First Orchid of the year - Spotted

And finally...  Yesterday evening, 16 minutes past 8, I was sat losing patience with Springwatch [why do I keep giving it another go?] when movement caught the corner of my eye. I turn my head and out the patio I see an incoming raptor, head-on and flapping hard; falcon! Then it screams past the windows at eye level, banking to turn as it does. Heavy streaking! Red goolies! HOBBY!! Holy shit that was fast...
Type does not in any way convey the speed of this bird. The local Swifts go past my windows and this was faster, not diving but flying slightly up, too - hell, it was probably after them!

Wow.   Just, just wow....

You know, I think I might enjoy it here.

[[*Good scientists attempt to disprove things; if they can't prove something's wrong, it might be correct.]]

24 May, 2014

One Good Tern Deserves A Load Of Others

Apologies for the tern pun. Again...

Well, I've got back into my blog, so I'd better get posting while I can.

Being back on lovely nights, I had today to, well, do stuff, but I got to the Nose first thing and had a look at the sea that stretched out until it got sunny. The forecast overnight showers had clearly enjoyed themselves so much that they didn't want to go anywhere else - it was absolutely pissssing it down!

Seawatching in heavy rain is very little fun unless you have a big boss bumbleshoot under which to shelter [with a nice cuppa]. Fortunately, I happen to be in possession of such a thing. Isn't that handy? ;) With the wind in the NW, I was able to set up on the very little-used South Steps - utterly exposed to anything S, but with a great view over the slick now being blown across the mouth of the Bay. It rained and rained and the slick spread out and chopped up and I kept my eyes peeled [fruitlessly, but you try anyway] for little black and white things. 0:)

This kept up until, with a final crescendo of a squall, the weather finally broke just after 0820.
Cue a wonderful pulse of birds, the highlight being a big flock of terns coming seething out of the Bay. They started north, split pretty much off the Nose; with some heading back south for a while before turning again and heading off north. A stunning Black Tern stood out a proverbial mile from the mass of commics and Sarnies, with at least 2 Arctic and 3 Common pinned down among the former. The group which temporarily headed back contained the choicest treat - at least by Nose standards - a beautiful Roseate, with all that tail!

The terns were only in view for about 1% of the watch, but they dominated it. After the main pulse - including for example a flock of 37 Manxies - things quietened down a bit, then a bit more, but still it took a long while to die off totally.

Running second was the second of two Balearics - the one which came later on and very close in :) - among 95 south-bound Manxies [with 16 going north]. Interesting odds and ends were 2 Shelduck and 9 Sanderling south, and 6 Common Scoter [5 female and one male] north.

On shore was my first Hummingbird Hawkmoth of the year - right down among the Mounds, too, so it might have been fresh in itself?

Finally.. This week I've encountered my first juveniles of the year; Bullfinches, Blue and Great Tits, and not forgetting the Robin!!

22 May, 2014

Delayed News

Google are still being total shits about letting me log in. Word to the wise; if you ever move, just delete your account and start a new one, as otherwise they will be convinced that you've been hacked and don't even have the capacity to listen to you tell them otherwise [as in, there is no actual way to complain, you only have a list of problems you can choose from...]

May the darkness take them.


Ok, so Sunday...  [yes it really takes time to log in these days...]

I got down to the Nose in the evening - just loving the flexibility  :D - hoping for passerines emerging after spending the day cowering from the hordes, and maybe a feeding party of terns or Manxies offshore.

I got a few resident migrant warblers onshore and nether tern nor shearwater offshore, but I did get a treat! A few Kitts and Gannets  [6 and 8 in 15 minutes] were passing casually as what looked at first like thick haze turned into proper sea fog, but then heading the other way.. Pom!!! Lovely adult light morph, [big breast band meant probably a female] cruised by inside the Ore Stone and was stunning in the low warm sunshine.. :) It had a quick look at a passing Kitt, but in that way predators and prey have of communicating that there's nothing doing, it was only one 45° shift each before both kept going. [has anybody ever studied that, I wonder?] A few minutes later, a dark morph Arctic Skua also went by north, though further out.

By the time I got home, the mist was just starting to pour inland through the gaps in the hills - very Stephen King ;)

That night, a very vocal Tawny Owl spent about half an hour seemingly right outside my bathroom window. I was in no way displeased with this! [Though the local passerines might be!]


If you're reading this in europe and before the polls close, please do get out and vote [if you can]. It doesn't matter who you vote for - this is the EU, folks! - just as long as you do. Even if it is only to write 'None of these idiots' on the ballot, it matters that you express yourself. Go on, exercise that franchise..

Be Seeing You


18 May, 2014

You Look Like A Hedgerow

Thus spake Sister, amusing me perhaps more than it should have.

The major piece of news since last I wittered is of course my sudden yet inevitable dip of the Terek Sand down in cornywall yesterday..

[The Crane after I'd left and the two drake Garganey today are just rubbing salt, the bastards]

I could have gone on Friday afternoon. I'd got in from work, fired this thing up, waited for the hamsters to get up to speed [oh how I miss my 50 meg fibre optics...] and.. !!!!!
However, there was a Family Dinner that evening. This would be starring roast pig [and had surprise scream and cream for pudding!] - definitely not to be missed. Also the small but definitely not unimportant detail of not putting birds before family. So I decided I couldn't be sure to be back and well, it was it's second day, so it was likely hanging around, right? Ah.. sweet sweet hubris.

Of course, if news had been put out when it was found, instead of halfway through the next day, then I could have twitched it straight from work and got a double win. But that's hardly a new problem, is it?

Anyway. It was lovely to be back at Walmsley*, after far too long an absence. I've kept wanting to go, but I've been trying to be good, [and petrol costs a frickin' fortune..] so it's just slipped. The place is like Bowling Green, only with more habitat [and usually fewer waders] and a better hide. Well, a higher hide anyway! Like Bowling Green, but more so also stands with the way there's always something interesting there. The TS may have done a Friday Night Special, but a couple of Wood Sands appeared from amongst the swords - after quite a few of the [not very large**] crowd had given up - and looked stunningly spangly in the sunshine.
It was also nice to run across a few familiar faces from out west, not least the warden himself - one of the nicest blokes around [unless you're fond of setting your dogs loose on the birds..] - and a couple of chaps from the Plimoth Posse  ;)

Speaking of them, they also ran across something else. Hearing about it, I went a looking and either saw it or another. What was it?

Not a bird, but a very welcome consolation was this sunbather, lurking in the grass...

Relaxed May Hare

After I'd given it 4 hours [with the amount of cover available, I reckoned it was possible the Terek was just being elusive - and while some have 'trouble concentrating' after an hour looking with optics, I am made of slightly sterner stuff ;) ] I decided to make a move. The temptation to head down to say Carn Brea and look for kites was strong, but I had things that needed doing, so I settled for heading back via a meandering path with several stops to scan for raptors.

The haze didn't help, it's true, but in the end I managed to find a whole heap of Buzzards, a distant but mobbed by Commons so unmistakeable Honey Buzzard, and a single K...estrel. Drat but not double drat, as HBs don't grow on trees [no, they grow on bees. Thankyou folks, I'll be here all week], though unfortunately it was over the border so not on the Devon yearlist. A few Swifts were moving about as well - though all the Common kind and yes they came close enough to grill - and Ravens [being mobbed by Crows] completed the high level line up.

Lower down, I'd had afternoon coffee on the edge of t'Moor and on my climb up to my voewpoint, I passed many of these, growing in a mire;

Teeny bog flower sp.

Also of the botanical.. the Bluebells are out like nobodies' business! The Moor slope ones were an amazing blaze of colour, and the woodland ones were still going strong, too. Here's a wee taste;

Meadow Bluebells, with Hawthorn and Gorse
Dartmoor fringe.

Apart from yet another horrific dip - it's starting to stop being funny, now... - it was a lovely if very hot day.

[[*I suppose for the sake of anyone daft enough to read this blog and then try to follow my lead, I should state for the record that most of the reserve is private - CBWPS members only - with only one hide open to the public, and that accessed off a footpath. Also, the views from there aren't exactly ideal. Parking is incredibly limited and you have to play frogger with busy traffic and a bridge.  The wonderful tower hide is kept locked, with keys for members who apply for them. Yes I am and yes I do, btw. The rules are relaxed and in-field parking provided when rarities are in town,- such as yesterday - for a donation, at the Warden and the local farmer's discretion.]]
[[**Now, I was expecting a lot of people to turn up - after all, this is a proper rarity and a major one in the SW; '96 for Devon, '61 for Cornwall! - but there were less than 30 all the time I was there, and that's total, not present at one time!]]

12 May, 2014

Oh For The Love Of...

Google suck.

I just spent the last four hours trying to convince their stupid robot to let me onto my own blog. As you can see, this eventually did happen, but for the love of all things shiny what unnecessary idiocy...  GRR!!


Because of this brainless piece of mis-coding, I now don't have time to burble on at you about my weekend, and shall just inflict the very short version instead;

Friday evening and a trip to the Nose saw a steady trickle of Swallows in/off but no other migrants and no terns..

Saturday saw me seawatching at the Nose [shock!]. On land a Reed Warbler was a pleasant surprise and indicative of a bit of a fall - I didn't find any Spot Flys, though. At sea nothing stupendous, but I did get a Patch Tick in the form of two Sanderling - which even came in and landed [alas out of sight, so I couldn't tell if they were Sanderbling or the ordinary kind]. Also in and landing was a Wheatear of the leucorhoa type - right in front of me too, which was considerate. Not considerate enough to sit for a photo, though.. Manxies were the most common bird, with 3 Bonxies, a vexing small skua sp. [which hung around way out, the git], and a nice close Puffin among the highlights.
The evening's window gazing gave me some lovely close Swift views and then later a wonderful Home Tick.. Tawny Owl flypast!! :D

Sunday saw an early nip down the Nose for Spot Flys fail - though the locals were their usual lovely selves -  followed by a trip down to cornwall to see Sister and her familials, with a nice [hail aside] wander along a wooded valley giving 4 flavours of warbler and yes, you guessed it; my first Spot Fly of the year :)

You know, that was my first trip out of Devon this year!?! What is the world coming to....

09 May, 2014

And Now...


That's right I'm back, the Backward Birder - birding from the Channel to the Celtic Sea - blogging to you live from the Eyrie on the sunny Riviera and I've gotta tell you it's glorious to be here folks, really it is. It's 0600, what does the O stand for? Oh my god what am I doing posting this before work....*

Yes, I'm back - internet is up and running and while there's still plenty left to do I can announce I'm doing it from a place of my very own. That's right lovely people, I am a man of property. [[To be clear; I own this place, the bank owns me...]] Thus all the slacking off from birding and being unable to twitch Pratincoles and even hear about Kentish fucking Plovers that stay overnight the little [CENSORED].. Ahem.

Anyway, here we are again.

FYI 'Twas not a radical move; I am still on the same Patch, I now just live a hill closer to the Nose  :)

Speaking of...  Early visits over the weekend got me a couple of nice scarce sylvias - Garden and Lesser Whitethroat - the latter a singing male vexingly driven off by a couple of Commons! :(  Speaking of them.. I've counted up to 12 singing males, so that's pretty much a full house, which is good. The Nose is a good place for up close Whitethroats [though slogging back up in hot sunshine is even worse than the climb up after a seawatch..] - due to the proximity and density of some of the bushes to well-used paths. Also of note on Sunday were two pb Brents passing south - at one point in formation with a Cormorant!

Also on Sunday a wander about Yarner with the Folks - 4+ Wood Warblers were lovely, and we covered plenty of ground, getting up to 12 male and 2 female Pied Flys! Two of the males were having a proper claws-up fight, too! [I'm using lots of !s again, but I care not, I'm too excited!] 3 male Mandarin and an inevitable Mallard [they've everywhere - including on the cliffs by Thatcher frickin' Point..!?!?] were on the Pond, a Redstart, 3 Willow Warblers, and 5 Chiffchaffs were in the trees, and a lovely male Siskin was on the feeders.

That evening I finally connected with the Swifts, too - at least 6 over Ellacombe at 2000. This is, I think, the most appropriate time to see Swifts. Why? Add an 'm' and you've got zooom!! ;)

And zoooming is what my new Swifts were doing yesterday when I got in from work :D  Oh yes, I'm still in Swift Country, so all's right with the world. I didn't know this for certain - one of the many punts in buying a new place, as 99% of sellers don't bother to record what birds they get [most inconsiderate] - so I am a most happy chappy about that.

Ah, but what I have seen. May Day, what a day. I have a sea glimpse and I've been keeping an eye on it and oh but that's paid off already.. Only seen an Osprey!!!!!!!
At last, at long long last.... :D

Not only Osprey on the Home List, either. I've had flyover Cormorant [!] and in the first week, a bird that's spent decades coming so sooo close to the Garden List but never quite made it; Jay!

Yesterday, with the weather still being frisky when I got in but having no time to actually get to the Nose, I tried a Woolley-style seawatch; Big Scope set up at the wide open window. What did I get? Gannet! Fulmar! Kittiwake! Auk sp.! [it's a rather long way, even for the Big Scope..] Canada Goose! [15 of them went south!] I'm hopeful of getting Manxie [in ideal conditions] but I doubt Balearics will show up well enough to nail. Soaring Bonxies, though... ::Rubs hands gleefully::

I've been rather happy.

Well, apart from when I got my phone to work online again on Saturday afternoon...


Monday saw me heading up looking for Whinchats. I needed no other reason to be out. Whinchats ROCK. I must admit I like them more than Wheatears [heresy!] Mooching about Vitifer, Golden Dagger, Challacombe, and Headland Warren got me 14! Score! Some cracking males, too, but with the wind they weren't even vaguely photographable, alas. 3 Cuckoos, a singing Redstart, a stunning male Crossbill [looked like it was coming to drink, but got flushed by cyclists... Grr], 14 Willow Warblers, displaying Siskin, my first Wall of the year [up there!] and this beautiful thing..

Just look at the amazing eyes on that!

A superb male Emperor Moth! WOW!!!! Never seen one before, they're amazing..

Speaking of pictures;

Here be pretty flowers!

Wood Anenome

Wood Sorrel

Both from Yarner - and next to each other!

Right then.. I don't know when the new normal service will start, there's still so much to do, but I am here. Oh yes, that I am.


[[*With apologies to Mr. Williams' best performance..]]