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.