28 November, 2014

Black Friday

Most used post title of the day..

And speaking of.. a shiny new interiors shop opened on the Patch today.  Just. They were working day and night and only finished this morning! Oh, but the mayhem therein...

Never mind that, though; I got the Yellow-brow!! This afternoon, I was coming down through Wellswood and right by the school, there was the band of LTTs and 'crests. After a few minutes of awful attempts at mimicry, it appeared, called twice, and flew off. Score! :D

Before all that.. Big Scope over the shoulder, I got to the Nose in the howling ENE wind and gave the sea an hour [mainly due to there seemingly being nothing doing on land]. I was eventually rewarded by a lone diver.. but it was a Black-throat! Looked like it went into the Bay. Otherwise just Gannets and auks [mostly Razorbills] with a handful of Kitts and Fulmars.

Wandering back along IMD, I stopped for a group of Blue Tits. I like Blue Tits, they're very underrated birds; could fly right into any rainforest you can name and look at home. Anyway, after watching them for a few minutes, all of a sudden an amazing male Firecrest pops out right in front of me and works the ivy and vine clad conifers like I'm not there. Not one call did it give. WOW. Second best ever views [after the minimum focussing distance one at Bellever]

I also gave the more sheltered bits of the Patch a bash this afternoon, finding 6 more tit bands [and of course the YBW] than I had when trying a similar thing on Monday. Go figure. At least 3 Blackcaps but no Chiffs were found also.

Just goes to show. If at first you don't succeed.. Keep on trying far beyond all logic, reason, and even vague notions of common sense. Reality will eventually give way.


Right, time to quote Zebedee.

23 November, 2014

The Unseen Warblers Post

Not actually an entirely accurate title, but since when did that matter?

Well, today I did not see a Hume's Warbler. This is not a new experience for me, I'm quite good at it. This time it was really easy as I didn't even go for it. This being mainly due to being covered in sealant for most of the afternoon. I won't go into details, you might hurt yourselves laughing at me...

If it's pinned down tomorrow, I will make an effort to dip properly* - forgoing valuable pre-work sleep and everything - but today I just didn't have the time. I did just have time to wander about the more warbler-y bits of the Patch, including what passes for a sewage works around here [more a pumping station - the 'sewage works' is more properly known as The Channel...], where I found a few Blackcaps. Mostly saying rude things about my Mum** while hiding in bushes, as many warblers do.

My prime target continues to elude me, though. This is the NAG. As in 'not a Goldcrest' [my first thought on seeing it] and also as it remains a nagging irritation. It is almost certainly a YBW, but just possibly a HLW - I have been able to rule out PLW. Its mostly hanging around Wellswood [so a posh bird] and its irritating because I've only seen it in the distance. Nope, not one call! It's with a posse of Goldcrests and LTTs, with a few BTs and CTs thrown in. Seems simple enough? Well, not when you factor in the vast and dense plethora of utterly inaccessible gardens in the area. Viewed from some range - like across the valley - the band can be picked through when they go up high, but on the ground you have to catch them as they cross a road; which is both infrequent and brief, and so far beyond my fortune.

More easily observed has been the group of 4 1w Mistle Thrushes which have also been knocking about, munching berries and posing in treetops. Also visibly around are small groups of Redwing, a couple of decent sized bands of Greenfinches and Chaffinches, and today a flock of ~300 Woodpigs.

Ah, I'm a little out of order.. Ok, this weekend I've been vexed by the weather forecasters lying through their incompetent teeth and then doing important things that needed to be done. And having coffee and flapjacks [made by me! Shock!***] with Sister The Younger. Though that was Important and needed to be done as well.

Anyway, I've bashed the Patch a bit but done little else bar look out the window.. Oh, and look at the stars and count at least 3 calling male Tawny Owls just now.  :)

[[*See my past woes in Dorset for How To Dip The HLW Everyone Else Sees. I even managed to hear the bugger but not see even a UTV...]]
[[**Most of what birds say to each other is basically expletives, after all. Especially Wrens and Robins.]]
[[***She didn't die. Or go green and pass out. I count that as a win.]]

17 November, 2014

And Now For All The Nattering

Before we get to Sunday's fun, there is the brief matter of what else I've been up to.

Which is pretty brief as the answer is 'not a lot'.

I did get to the Nose first thing on Friday, though, where the 1w male Yellowhammer was still in evidence, a lovely male Blackstart popped up in the Top Dell - with at least 3 male Blackcaps, too - finches and pipits were still moving [though in smaller numbers] and all the rest of the fun was out to sea.

A cracking GND was off the Toes - north of the Lead Stone - with at least one Razorbill and there was some [slightly surprising given the sunshine] passage; a few Gannets were to be expected, but also 14 Dunlin, 2 Purple Sands, and a Puffin!!

We then montage through all sorts of getting stuff done to Sunday, where after a late Swallow over the Teign Bridge, I picked up Bun and Karen and we battled the rain, floods, and [Expletive Deleted] Sunday Drivers to Fraggle Rock. After amusing them with my pathetic attempts at parking, we joined the small crowd waiting by Avalanche Road for the Dusky to deign to show. It had apparently been out before a large shower hit, but now there was not even a 'tchak!' of it.

The wait was enlivened by a couple of Chiffs showing the Dusky what it should be doing, and a couple of Robins trying to show each other what their internal organs looked like... The odd inbred unclefucker colourful local attempted to cheer us up whilst driving by, by either wildly sounding their horns or going for a conveniently large puddle, too. Ah, the joys of twitching.

After a mere two hours, the bird did indeed show, and show very well. After my token efforts [see last post if you dare], I gave up trying to take pictures and just enjoyed the bird. And those smashing jaffa orangey legs!

We shamelessly ticked [ok, or yearticked] and ran; pausing only for Karen to spot two Blackstarts, one on a roof, one on a gravestone. Fare thee well Fraggle Rock, on to Darkest Hampshire!

It was pretty bloody dark too, with the rain tipping down.. Blashford Lakes being WT, there were no helpful signs to aid birders who'd forgotten to take their carefully prepared directions with them, and we ended up circling the block, so to speak. Still, we didn't find any properly flooded roads in our way and got to the Lakes to find we could even sit down in the Tern Hide! [Needless to say, any thoughts of Fudge-hunting were right out!]

Once the rain stopped coming in the windows, we were treated to a vast panoply of LBBs, plus all manner of other waterbirds in a brilliant setting. Goldeneye, Goosander, and BN Grebe were the official star attractions, but with a plethora of other ducks and grebes about, there was lots to look at. This included an adult YLG, which dropped in and flew about a bit. I thought the bill was a bit wimpy, but the wing tips were good and apparently so was the leg colour, so I'll bow to the crowd and say it was one.

We were wondering if it was wise to stay put, though, with the Franklin's having apparently often come in further up Ibsley Water, where it might be out of sight from Tern. Hmm.. There was also the matter of the car park being locked in the not distant future, and not least the prospect of yomping over in the rain and maybe having to yomp back sharpish.

In the end we stayed put, and a good thing too, as the Gull dropped in right in front of us!

Well, off to the left a bit, but point blank compared to most of the roost. We duly admired this very smart-looking yank - I'm sure Karen will have much prettier pictures if she posts on WWaW - in very nice soft light, before getting out ahead of the rush and wending our merry way back.

So, two very nice birds seen, both with history for the seers [which makes it all the more satisfying to nail them!]. Ah, its so good to have a proper twitch again.. All that frelling dipping really had me down, but I feel some of the weight has lifted.

Only some though.

Bloody Bee-eaters...

And STEs.

And don't get me started on those fucking plovers....


The Dynamic Duo

Dusky Warbler and Franklin's Gull, that is!  :D

I went off filthily twitching, in the company of Bun and KW, and in a major upset to normal expectations, actually managed to wind up 2 for 2. I'm still a little in shock.

The Dusky was super skulky and made us wait for 2 hours before finally showing very well indeed.
'Showing very well' did not, however, mean I had much of a chance with it..

But what the hell, right? Of course, that doesn't mean my attempts at pretty pictures succeeded..

Preening Dusky Warbler.
aka Spot The Birdie!

The Franklin's came in early and 'closer than it's ever been'. Which was considerate of it. The rain even cleared off for us  :)  So, with a bird sitting put [more or less], I did a little bit better;

Franklin's Gull.
[Subadult? Moulting into w/pl]
Blashford Lakes, Hampshire

More babble will be forthcoming, fret ye not!

11 November, 2014

The Post With The Seawatching

Ok, catching up on the other stuff that I didn't have time to last time because I was burbling on for too long about Autumn and stuff..

Last week at work was tiring. Not just due to the usual fun and games, but mainly because of a nasty bout of insomnia. I'm not going to moan on about it, but it was enough to make me try sleeping when I got in on Friday morning. Didn't work, so I got up and out and over to the Nose. On foot [lugging kit would help induce sleep, I hoped].

It was pretty darn good, I must say! First bird was a juv RTD - first diver of the Autumn! - and 3 GNDs would follow it. 30 skuas - mostly 'spp., probably Pom' due to range and murk - a Sooty, a Manxie and 4 Balearics, plus a Stormie, 5 Puffins and 2 Little Auks! Very nice indeed. This was over a Kittiwake rate of ~210/hr, with Gannets at ~150/hr, but not huge numbers of commoner auks; 37 Razorbills total, for example. 4 Med Gulls came to hang about the slick, but nothing sexier, alas.

After getting some much-needed sleep, I was not out at the crack of dawn, so missed getting very rained-on. I did still walk over though, and the Goddess of Birding appreciated my act of devotion to Her.
The fun began before I got to the Second Slope with a 1w male Yellowhammer! Did not expect that - cowering from the wind around the Top Meadow.

Getting down just in time for the post-rain exodus, I saw 54 skuas, including 22 Poms and an utterly gorgeous juv. Long-tail at very close range [plus probably another - a brief 'sp.' whose timing ties up with one that passed Berry]. 4 Puffins, a Manxie, 4 Balearics and 2 Fulmars were all welcome passers-by over a reduced Kittiwake rate of ~125/hr and Gannets at ~60/hr. 6 GNDs [plus 2 more in Hope Cove when I left] were an increase over the day before, with also more auks; 224 Razorbills and only 6 Guillemots. The gulls coming to the outfall were markedly reduced in variety, with not a single Med, but saved [a bit] late on by a lone 2w Little Gull*. Finally, a couple of waders; a Knot and a Purple Sand, with 2 more of the latter hanging around on the rocks.

Monday saw very little other than Gannets and Kitts on the sea, but the Yellowhammer [or another] was still around, and it had company; a Cirl! With the wind, I didn't exactly get great views; a nice olive rump to clinch ID as it blew past was pretty much it, to be honest. It was almost certainly a 1w, but I can't rule out an adult female. With a few Mipits and the odd Linnet also hanging about [literally, if they didn't want to be blown away] I got silly ideas and spent far too much time irritating the Rockits stalking about the rocks and the quarry, only leaving when it got dark.. Ah well.

Ok, that's it!

[[*Sorry Mark - it must have been waiting for you to leave, like most of the Poms...]]

10 November, 2014

Proper Autumn Birding

Well, this feels more like Autumn, doesn't it?

Soggy underfoot, a nip in the air, plenty of fallen leaves, divers.. Ah, yes the divers are back!

[About zoggin' time too.]

So, in the last 4 days, I have been to the Nose three times. Friday and Saturday were both late-start seawatches, and today was an afternoon leg stretch [not really a seawatch because Gannets and Kitts aside, there wasn't much out there, despite the wind!]

But let us start with Sunday, when I was mostly very good, cleaning all manner of things about the place [even the kitchen floor...]. Having completed this mighty labour, I decided to take a [slightly late] lunch out.
It, as I have said, being more properly Autumnal, I decided to do one of the old walks along the Bovey. I parked at Trendlebeare [having been considering Yarner as well], and headed down to the Pack Bridge*. It was wonderfully wet down there, with a zing in the air as the sun came off the valley floor. There were tit bands in the trees and even a few Redpoll. I had intended to have my lunch sat on a nice bench which overlooks the valley and would not only give me any passing birds, but also a good shot at closer stuff [including possibly the aforementioned Redpoll]. Unfortunately, I had not expected it to be occupied, but it was [this has happened only once before in more than a decade, folks]. Very occupied, in fact, by a couple doing something horizontal. I didn't know whether to laugh, curse, or put them online, but being very British, I left them to it [aren't I good?]

One of the downsides of my chosen route, especially when its wet, is the slight lack of choice in picnicking spots. The bridge was also occupied [though by a guy taking pretty pictures], and I didn't fancy a long yomp out of my way, so on I went. My eventual stopping point was the Log Bridges** - still present and intact in spite of the new one put in to replace them. 'Lunch' was more like 'lea' by this time, but the place is so lovely I forgave it.

Observe, regardez, the awful low-light phone shots!

The Bovey, upstream from the Log Bridges

The Log Bridges, and their replacement.
What do you mean, you can't see them??

The main span Log Bridge, seen from the new bridge.
Rivers have been crossed like that for millennia

The sun was getting very low as I crossed the Bovey and headed back, but not so low that I missed a cracking Dipper [Though it was point blank and posed for me :) ] and then another one :D  I got back to my car as it was starting to get properly dusky, and had a last cup of coffee watching to see what was flying about to roost - assorted thrushes, mostly. Tawny Owls were calling, and I had slim hopes of a sallying Woodcock, but they were dashed.

It was a very nice afternoon indeed [the bacon and cheese {both smoked} omelette, with oat crunchies for afters, didn't hurt either! ;) ]

Ooh dear, look at that. I have been going on, haven't I? Oh well, all the lovely skuas and things will have to wait...

[[*It has a proper name, but 'the pack horse bridge by the doughnut' is how it's referred to in my family]]
[[**How to cross a river like the Bovey? First, find a good spot, like where there's an island [or just a really big rock] to reduce the span. Get a tree, cut off the roots and branches and secure it across the gap. Plane off the upper side and cut grips, then use split branches to make a hand rail. Repeat if required by said island. Simple.***]]
[[***Unless you're the HSE. Then you need to make the National Park spend a LOT of money making a great big fancy bridge next to the old ones, which will stand high of floods yes, but will do so in isolation as the raised river level spreads around its footings, so nobody can use it anyway... But at least its harder to fall in.]]

06 November, 2014

But It Isn't [well after] The Weekend?!?

Ah, true, but I have News. And a couple of minutes to post it in, too.

Yesterday afternoon I got down to the Harbour again and this time I can with great pleasure report that the Purple Sands are back! The tide was right up, [and so it was not possible to get a full count without risking flushing them from what was left of their roost], so I can only say there were 3+. Despite the near dead calm, I couldn't pick out anything interesting in the way of divers or grebes out in the Bay. Far more than 3+ alba Wagtails in their roost, though! [How do you count scores if not hundreds of wags in several trees, with buildings and lights all around, btw??]

That morning I was a bit late to bed, as I was distracted by all the birds knocking around!
It seems if they're not around the coast they're inland*..  A flock of 110 [I counted them twice] Woodpigs went over south in a long line, while a mob of thrushes [including 6+ Redwing and 2+ Mistle] and a band of 5 Blackcaps worked the nearby trees and large bushes for assorted berries. A big flock of mixed finches - mostly Green and Chaff, with several Gold and Bull - were also in the vicinity, as were a group of 8 Jays and at least two different bands of  mixed tits and crests. As you can see, it was really busy! All this under bright clear skies, too.

Finally.. I think I have the Mystery Cetacean Mystery from last month solved, thanks to a lovely bit of VT on the Devon Birds site. Watching it, it [finally - duh!] occurred to me that despite most views being side on**, what if the MC wasn't? Then in my mind, my view of a tall Orca-like fin and white marking underneath turned into a tall falcate fin with white underneath.. Of course it was one of the Lyme Bay White-beakeds... It just goes to show that perspective does play tricks; I thought the body looked a bit short, but figured it was an unfamiliar animal arching more than say a dolphin, would. Idiot. [[Also, while I'm at it, that '50 fathom dolphins' will come closer in when there's shedloads of food on offer.]]

[[*Ok, this is High Logic, I know...]]
[[**Ever wondered about that? Aside from point-blank HPs, most cetaceans you see from shore are side-on. My thoughts go two ways; that side-on is the easiest to see, and so what you're most likely to notice while looking generally, also that cetaceans are most visible when in transit - staying shallow and breathing frequently - which would also mean they're in view for a long time from land watchpoints as they pass. Again, not exactly rocket science, but what is a blog if not a means to unload junk from my brain onto yours??  ;)  ]]

03 November, 2014

A Post Starring Woodpigs??

Who'da thunkit?

But at the Nose on Saturday morning, Woodpigs, moving in no small numbers, were very much in evidence. More than 1300 passed in the near two hours I was there, but 1100 of them were in the first ten minutes! This may not seem like much in comparison to other sites, but the Nose, being stuck out and not that high, is frequently bypassed by strong-flying migrants who just pop over the peninsula. So, large numbers of Woodpigs are a rarity.

Not to say there weren't other, far better, birds around. :)  Not just pigeons on the move [and finches and pipits and larks and wagtails... of course], but thrushes, too. Oh yes, Ring Ouzels - yes, plural! - at the Nose! I almost got a picture of one, too. Well, I DID get a picture, but the evil bitch [twas a female] turned her incredibly scaly back at the last moment and came out all dark; so indistinguishable from a Blackbird! Aaaarrgh... The other two were even less co-operative. They were with a band of Redwings and at least one Fieldfare, mobile and vexing around the berry bushes of the South Side.
Still, 3 Ring Ouzels is not to be sniffed at, not at all. Not least in having almost doubled the number I've seen at the Nose! Why am I not crowing more? Well, I was so close to getting a lovely sunlit shot of the scaliest Ouzel I've ever seen, that they've quite annoyed me. So the Woodpigs get the title.

I also managed to find some warblers.. Well, 3 of them. A female Blackcap and 2 Chiffs. [[Yellow-brows everywhere else.. Mutter Mutter]]

Later on I - while getting things done - managed to have a spot of lunch at Yarner. Evading the press-gangs, I took up my favourite vismig spot and watched a few flocks of Woodpigs seemingly milling around - 104 went east, 172 went west! A flock of 8 Crossbills - very close, too - were better, but it was mostly quiet on the bird front.. just nice and Yarnery.. :)

Finally, in Towne, I had a look at the Harbour, where the weather and tide weren't favourable for Purple Sands, so no surprise I didn't see any. The wagtail roost was impressively busy [and still impossible to count accurately!]

Sunday I was also busy with non-birding things, and as I'm shifting onto nights [yay] I wasn't up at the crack of dawn. So no chance of any interesting falcons coming from the north... Bugger.
Anyways, IMD near the Nose did have one or maybe two Firecrests - they were keeping down out of the wind - and the Nose itself had some offshore passage, including 2 Med Gulls and a cracking juv dark morph Pom Skua, which gave a flock of poor Kitts a hard time.. Also of note, a Peacock and at least 4 Red Admirals still on the wing.