29 June, 2014

A Bit More Detail

Just had another Tawny Owl flypast - this one flushed by a firework display...  WTF!?!?

Anyways, here is some more blathering about what I've been up to [which isn't that much - I've suffered a terrible lack of energy this week and haven't even managed to twitch that sodding crow. I mean, come on...]

Monday at Fernworthy saw loads of birds, dragonflies, and butterflies. 9 species of lep's and 5 of od's may not be much compared to some sites, but the Azure Damselflies and Meadow Browns were present in such numbers - easily outnumbering all others put together several times over - that it was still pretty impressive. It was pretty warm, so not much was sitting still, and the best I could get with the phone was this;

Orange and brown blob
Large Skipper

I had another look around for Marsh Frits and was entirely unsurprised to find none whatsoever. However, this was not wasted effort, as if you don't look for them you can't be sure they're not there...

Skippering forward to Wednesday, when I toddled a brief 15 mile meander over t'Moor, and the best bits were the hordes of adorable juvie Wheatears! 8 different sites held them, often more than one age group present. they too were very good at moving, and here is my best effort;

It does look like something quite different, doesn't it?

A more typical view would be this;

Actually an adult male. Honestly!

The Devonport Leat was well stocked with both finger to hand-sized trout and also odonata - in favoured stretches - with Golden-rings and Emperors patrolling over Azures, Large Reds, and Beautiful Demoiselles. In Princetown I added a sixth species with a flypast Black Darter - I don't think I've seen one in June before  :)

Oh yes, the way I went.. From the Tavistock road I followed the tramways south to Burrator, then the Devonport Leat to Nun's Cross, before cutting down to Hingston Hill Circle, then across to Eylesbarrow Mine, up the crystal path to Princetown, then over North Hessary Tor back to the Tavvy Road. Paths all the way, though as the plentiful cattle have young calves, perhaps not one for dogs for a little while [I was eyed carefully despite being alone]. If you cut out the Hingston/Eylesbarrow and started and finished at Princetown, it would be a very feasible year-round walk, too.

A pretty picture;

Hingston Hill Row from the Circle,
Eylesbarrow Hill in right background

Friday's watch - I can't believe nobody was at Berry Head - was far better than I expected or indeed had a right to hope, especially considering the brisk [at best] wind and all the sunshine, plus the lack of a proper fast-moving low. In terms of passage, Manxies ruled the day, with 320 in 5.5 hours - all but one south! - including an impressive flock of 56. Highest numbers went to the Guillemots of the Ore Stone, with a high count of a brilliant 472 adults and young! :D Also 3 Razorbills [though all adults]. I think this is the highest number I've ever counted there, though of course I usually don't have the visibility and time and Big Scope all together so maybe it's actually down on past years?

I've already mentioned the variable-strength showers and how the birds were around their edges [as you'd expect], so on with the bits; a Puffin, an Arctic Skua, and a Bonxie all went straight through, but at least one adult Med Gull stopped for the slick. A Grey Heron also passed south; getting grief from the breeding Geebs [whose wingspans weren't much smaller than their target!] but passing on unscathed.. except maybe for nerves! Gannet rate was about 16/hour and Kittiwake 6/hour. Twas a fun watch - well, except when the rain was bouncing off the ground, under my bumbleshoot, ricocheting off my hat and into my ear..!

On my way back up the Second Slope in the lovely hot sunshine, I came across a new species for me;

Scarlet Tiger

Getting that shot took far longer than you would credit..

Oh, almost forgot - first juvie Herring Gull!

And now back to work. Joy.

P.S. This is post number 600. Who'da thunk it?

27 June, 2014

Sometimes You've Just Got To Hang On And Hope

To your brolly, that is.

Ye Gods and Little Fishes but there was some weather at the Nose today. I have never been rained on so hard; it was like when The Boss and I got waved at Berry Head, but it just kept coming...

Having had this week off work, I was determined to get some seawatching in and today looked like the best bet. Which is was, though the increasing sunshine meant it wasn't an all-dayer.

Why was there nobody at Berry Head, though? Why?? Yes, a weekday, but that doesn't normally stop at least one person from being there.. Ah, well.

 Passage was in bursts before and after the [moderate to apocalyptic] showers and so the hourly Manxie rate varied by an order of magnitude.. The big ones were able to activate The South West's Biggest Chumming Machine, though the lack of sustained rain, or a strong sou'westerly meant it wasn't at maximum capability. Still brought in a spanking adult Med Gull, amongst others, but no storm petrels.

Cutting back a little.. I must apologise for my lack of postage. Really, I meant to blog again on saturday night, but something got in the way [it may have been in Brazil.. ] and it slipped my mind. And again. And ag- you get the idea.

So, lots to burble about and again not that much time. A quick overview for now;
I've been seawatching, doing boring stuff, yomping over t'Moor, ambling about Fernworthy with the Folks, bashing the Patch, chasing lepidoptera and odonata all over eastern Devon with possibly even success, planetgazing with my new view, and watching the Swifts doing their thing veryveryquickly! :D

Yes, this is it. For now. I will be back, honest, with some pretty er, pictures, even.



21 June, 2014

Hail to the Sun!

A very Merry Litha to you all!


This morning, the Sun graced Hope's Nose with its glory, behold;

No Solstice Shearwaters, alas, though plenty of Gannets and a few Kittiwakes moving. On shore, loads of juvenile birds - most entertainingly a pack including Blue, Great, and Long-tailed Tits, with Green and Bullfinches!

Soooooo cute.

A quick roundup before I head out into the sunshine, which is hot already...

Yesterday morning, Nuthatch and Treeeeecreeeeeeeper got on my Home List within seconds of each other and on Wednesday, a juv. Tawny Owl tried roosting in the tree outside my kitchen and almost got away with it; it was found early evening by a Magpie, 2 Jays, and 3 Crows.. Ouch.

I've also had up to 15 Swifts screaming about the place. :)

Fathers' Day saw a family picnic at Burrator, with the cornish collective coming up to join in the fun. A great time was had by all in the blazing sunshine, with enough breeze to stop it getting too hot and keep the midgies down. Of interest, a Cuckoo was singing in the Meavy valley, and there were plenty of Beautiful Demoiselles and Golden-ringed Dragonflies on the wing.

Migrant breeders were still in evidence, with Redstart, Tree Pipit, Willow Warbler, and Wheatear all seen.

Later, the Devonians stopped off for afternoon coffee at Madman's Laughter Tor; with flyover Redpoll and Crossbill, though once again no Red Kites were forthcoming.

One last pic;

Little Black Dog on the lookout;
"There's got to be some sheep out there somewhere..."

14 June, 2014

Sunshine and Suffering

Once upon a time there was a backward sort of birder who, on realising that he couldn't actually seawatch every second of the summer, cast about for pretty things to look at. He discovered dragonflies, and they were good, but there was more. Butterflies, too, he realised could be looked at on those sunny days when the shearwaters stayed happily miles and miles away.

Yeah, I've been out in the noonday sun again...

Yesterday, anyway, as I've gone and bent myself again. I had an unfortunate incident with the sill of my patio door and my poor toe has gone blue, black, red and is now purple.. Hey, at least it didn't break ::knocks wood::

So, I've been waiting for a kite to fly over today instead of getting out and about. Nope, not a sniff.. :(

Yesterday I decided to go on another fritillary hunt, this time going after the violet munchers. I went to a publicised site, this by BC themselves, and I even managed to see some butterflies! I did not have the paparazzi setup with me, and this I came to regret as when I eventually found the right bit of the place [its not a small site, but the right bit is] and one small patch of Brambles had more than a dozen frits of 4 species, plus plenty of others, coming and going....

My attempts at phonebinning were... not good. But here you go anyway;


They liked the Bramble flowers.
A little too much, as there were frequent disputes,
not only with other butterflies, but also flies and beetles!

With small targets at close range in bright sunshine,
 it was more luck than judgement getting anything!

Name That Fritillary
While the Dark Greens were the best posers, 
this one seems to have an awful lot of white on the underwing??

As well as the assorted large and small fritillaries, there 9 butterfly species on the wing, including quite a few Brimstones, a single Wall, and loads of wonderful sparkling Green Hairstreaks. Watching a pair of duelling males come right up and around me, so close I could have touched them, flashing jet and emerald in the sunshine, was I have to admit, even better than the frit-fest that was to come..

They were even worse at sitting still - as they'd do it, then bugger off as you lined up! So, this blur is all I got;

That is a butterfly. 

Small Heaths also in good numbers, very mobile all, though none as bad-ass as one of the hairstreaks, which beat up a Small Tortoiseshell 4 times its size! Even more bad-ass was a Hornet, which cruised through while everything got out of its way - well, I did anyway! :)

Very hot, but worth it.


11 June, 2014

Air Jaws

I don't know if you remember the documentary a few years back about White Sharks doing spectacularly fatal things to poor innocent Fur Seal pups? Well, I was treated to something a little similar at the weekend and boy oh boy was it a sight!

'Twas Saturday morning and I'd toddled down to the Nose to have a look at the sea - the bushes had a Holly Blue and the usual breeders but nothing in the way of late migrants - after all the thundery fun last night. There was a slick of sorts, but it was more a suspicious stain than a stream of bird-tempting goodness*. With the heavy showers interspersed with near [and eventually total] sunshine, conditions were a bit iffy, but I gave it a go anyway.

This was a good idea as there were even a few birds; most notably a Stormie, with a Balearic in with the Manx.. er, well not so much stream as trickle. A flock of Common Scoter also enlivened the otherwise duotone of Kitts and Gannets. So, not amazing, but not dead either. For a change, I counted the number of visible chicks on the Ore Stone, and came up with 48.

The real fun came at 0926 and commenced with a huge splash well out - south of the wreck, north of the tanker**. This naturally drew my attention. I got on and zoomed in, in time to see something big making another big splash - breaching megafauna!! The next one came seconds later and a little further south - big, long, pale belly.. My first thought had been Minke Whale [there was no way this was a dolphin, let alone a porpoise; did I mention big??] but it didn't seem right. Then again another breach! This time I got a much better view as the animal came out about 2/3 of its length at an angle of about 50°, turning belly-on as it did so. Pointed head, huge triangular pectoral fins - Basking Shark! They look much sleeker when they're not feeding, and Ye Gods can they move!! Twice more it breached, no more than ten seconds apart and probably less - the whole display lasted less than a minute! The sheer athleticism to do that; to get that much fish clear of the water, recover and breach again so quickly. You normally see Baskers just cruising along, so slow and laid back, but the power they have...

To try to get a [slightly] more accurate idea of how big the shark was, I worked along the range to see if anything scalable was at that distance. I was in luck, as a small angling boat was indeed that far out - closer to the wreck. The Basker had only got about 2/3 of it's length out of the water, but that was longer than the boat. Very hard to judge, of course, and impossible to get a proper measurement, but I reckon that shark must have been the far side of 20' and probably well past it.

I'm saying it now;


That afternoon I took a stroll about Yarner with the Folks. We didn't get rained on, but didn't find a single Frit either - wrong place/time/weather, probably.. We did see Speckled Wood and Brimstones, so not butterfly-less. Wood Warblers were vocal, Pied Flies were showy, and LBD found a Roe Deer fawn.. :(  A very young one, it was in the leaf litter next to one of the tracks - Tilbury is always on a lead - so hard to miss. She didn't do anything more than sniff it excitedly, but I fear that will have been enough for its mother to reject it. I can only assume the doe was inexperienced, to leave her fawn in such an exposed location. Oh well, nature is what it is. Beautiful little thing, it was.


I spent Sunday doing things about the place, such as getting covered in polyfilla, with screaming Swifts outside and the local gulls - I can see a nest from my kitchen window! :) - battering a poor passing Buzzard for distraction. Of note; polyfilla and binoculars are not friends, but if your bins are waterproof it's not fatal.. ;)

Heading further back into the mists..

Friday morning at the Nose saw another lovely s/pl GND fly past, with not a great deal else; usual Manx/Gannet/Kittiwake/Fulmar mix plus plenty of auks to and fro from the Ore Stone. The first Speckled Wood and Silver Y were on the wing onshore.

Before that, I got a really nice surprise! Heading back from work along a nicely rural stretch of road, what flies before me? Only a frickin' LEO!!! As it was light enough to see your hand in front of your face, I can only assume it had been disturbed [though there weren't any photographers chasing it that I could see  ;) ]. Working antisocial hours does give you a shot at some nice birds - Tawny and Barn Owls, Woodcock, that sort of thing - but I never expected a Long-ear***..

Otherwise, it's been pretty quiet.


[[*For a given definition of 'goodness', I suppose.]]
[[**The 'Sanko Mineral' seems to have finally moved on, but not before handing over Artificial Island and Big Shear Repellent duty to the 'MV Irina'. Bugger.]]
[[***The Spanish Inquisition, on the other hand...]]

01 June, 2014

He's Singing....

"Some things in life are sad,
They can really make you mad.
Others things just make you spit and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble - give a whistle!
And remember in the end it's just a bird.


Always look on the bright side of dips.

::Fi-fu fi-fu,fi-fu-fi-fu::

Always look on the light side of dips.

::Fi-fu fi-fu,fi-fu-fi-fu::

For life's a piece of shit, 
When you look at it,
From the wrong end of a day like this.
So all that you can do,
Is mutter a curse or two;
One day you'll get that bastard on your list!

Aaand always look on the bright side of dips;

::Fi-fu fi-fu,fi-fu-fi-fu::

Bee-eaters are flighty little shits

::Fi-fu fi-fu,fi-fu-fi-fu::

Always look on the bright side of dips


Ah, you get the idea.

So, today I double dipped in tragic style.

Why? Well, yesterday I went out to play with the Nightjars - and did very well, despite the wind - and so didn't get back and find out about the Short-stayed Eagle until late. I could have been there for dawn if I'd left straight away, but having had a rather sleepless week I had serious doubts about my safety to drive. [This 'responsibility' thing is such a bitch, I tell you] So, I figured as the bird appeared reasonably settled, it would be ok to catch it in the afternoon. Which went well.

As I was setting out, a last check for news saw me suddenly detour to the Backwater. Too late. I knew it would happen - Bee-eaters just don't stay put if they're even slightly in my reach - but I had to try. There are very few birds I value higher than an eagle, but they are one.

Not to say the day was a disaster; a few nice year ticks, plus some good Hobby and amazing Honey Buzzard views.. :)

Going back..

Friday saw me at the Nose, though I found nothing of note, despite it looking good.

Thursday saw me twitching this little darling;

In there somewhere..

The Incredible X-ray Shelduck!

It looked a lot better irl - hey, what doesn't with my photos? - and even more so when it tired of hiding and flew over to the pool on the left to forage. Oh, that tail....

Fascinating fact; that Ross' Gull is the only thing I've successfully twitched this year. The only thing.

::Falls to his knees and casts his eyes skyward::
Oh my Lady, Goddess of Birding, what have I done to offend thee?