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.