27 January, 2015

A Very Overdue Edited Catchup Post

Delays in posting, lack of content, blah blah blah...

Friday week I went over to Powderham Bend for the SnowBunt, and deliberately didn't take its picture [as it was being booted around by tactless would-be photographers quite enough already]. It rewarded my sitting quietly and just looking at it by wandering right up to me. Wow. I like SnowBunts.

I also had a look at all the birds on the Exe/Clyst mud - 631 Avocets stand out, along with about as many of the Brents rotating through a river bath.

Much fun also here, with a look out of my kitchen window rewarded by not just a nice male Blackcap in the tree opposite, but a frickin' female [yes, seen that well] Firecrest! I ran for my phone, but when I got back, only the Blackcap remained [oh what a shock..]. Still, he sort of posed for me;

Male Blackcap,
phonebinned through double glazing, at an angle
[I'm amazed it's identifiable!]

The weekend was taken up by family business - Sister has had a ridiculously cute daughter and we all gathered to coo over her. In Wales. Yes, she's moved even further away.

Oh well, two mitigating words... Red Kites. With Sister the Even Younger doing the driving, I got to have a good count; 73 on the way out and 91 on the way back. Not bad considering we didn't stop! [I didn't beg. Much.] We also took a little trip to the seaside while we were there, to the scenic if soggy Aberystwyth;

Yes, it is raining.

Wales means mountains, so here you go;

Pen y farthing 
[taken from a moving Sistermobile]

Middle of the week, I got down to the Harbour and had a quick look there and about the northern half of the Bay. Only 5 Purple Sand and 4 Turnstone [plus a Rockit] on the Real Living Coast, with 2 BN Grebe close off Torre Abbey/Corbyn's Head, and this sea monster off the Harbour mouth;

Grey Seal

Friday I battered the patch for Blackstart and failed miserably, but was consoled by 4 flavours of grebe in the Bay. One of which came ridiculously close to Thatcher Point and stayed there long enough for me to a) bomb 'round, and b) get this awful shot;

Red-necked Grebe
One of those 'honest' shots..

For Saturday I had a Plan. I went to [A Site In Devon] in the hope of a roosting Hen Harrier, SEO, or even both.

I failed.

Drat. But a surprise flypast Red Grouse and finally getting Tawny Owl made up a bit for standing around in the cold. And the sunset was rather nice too. So were the stars. Oh well, not giving up.

Ahem, where was I? Oh yes, Sunday.

News of a 1w Glonk hanging around Brixham Harbour had me scurrying over, but when I arrived I found no sign of it or anyone else..??? I did find a friendly trawlerman, who told me that a load of 'chaps like you' had been around looking at something, but had all gone off at 9:30. Ah.

I have since been assured that while the viewers departed together, the bird had remained on site, seemingly very happy where it was sat.

Birds, eh? They do have this irritating habit of flying off when you look away.

[That being said, and in no spirit of criticism to my fellows, I do have a thought; when divulging valuable gen, in person or online, it may be a good idea to not leave out small but vital details such as the time of the sighting not being the same as the time of the posting. Might help.]

I hung around until it was too dark to see, as various day boats came in with many gulls in tow, but no Glonk. Not even a Med Gull. The horde of Turnstones [at least 50 of the little darlings] were some entertainment, as were at least 3 Grey Seals, but otherwise it was mostly very standard fare. I didn't even see a grebe, let alone a diver!
I did run into a certain [Famous Somerset Birder], who was equally vexed to discover the minor fault in the gen, but hey, that's birding.

Feeling somewhat disappointed, I headed home and attempted to cheer myself up by making some currant and walnut flapjacks. [Which turned out very yummy indeed, though probably about 10,000 calories a go... :D ]

This week, the sight [albeit a brief one] of 3 Blackcaps [2m 1f] in the kitchen tree was pleasant. One of the males is there every day, checking the new twigs for aphids. No further sign of the Firecrest, [Not entirely surprising, what with that Blackcap on guard..] but today a nice mixed tit band came by and were only lightly bothered by the Blackcap.

Time for a splash of Summer! [Yes, he had a film developed..]

Male Four-spotted Chaser,
 Stover 2014

Yes, one actually sat still at all long enough for me to draw a bead on it. Wonders never ceased.
Don't worry, no more this time [though my old posts have had some back dating, if you're very bored curious].

Ho hum, 'arctic blast', 'arctic blast', will you give us some nice gulls? And a sexy sea duck or something?

[Whisper it] Even a Gyr?


Pretty please?

With a cherry on top?

Be Seeing You.

I've Been Struggling To Find The Words

I didn't know Dave Norman as well as many, but I've been bumping into him on and off since I started 'proper' birding. Sometimes as little as 2 or 3 times a year, sometimes every other week.
I remember the first time we met; at the seawatching spot on Prawle Point, and I'm not sure who was more surprised to see the other! I'd found the place entirely by accident and this was the first time I'd arrived to find somebody else there. As for Dave, he [as those who knew him will be unsurprised to learn] was the model of polite welcome to this weird bloke who, after a not very well hidden double-take, plonked down next to him with a cheery 'Hiya'.
Especially when said weirdo found out who he was and went slightly fanboy on him, the famous author [yes, I used those words..]

It was a rather sunny day to be seawatching, but we persevered and Dave pulled out the bird of the day - a Stormy, no less! It was a piece of typically understated skill; the level of which was shown by my utter inability to get on the bird before it got to the sun. And then after it passed back into view, when Dave picked it up again..

Stealth petrels aside, it was pretty quiet, so we spent a fair amount of time chatting - by which I mean Dave shared a few of his stories and I said 'Wow..' a lot! The intervening years have blurred the details, but I still remember the sense of wonder, I'd had no idea just where and to what birding could lead you.

Dave was one of the rare kind who makes you a better birder just by his presence.

I'm going to miss him.

15 January, 2015

Back To Reality

Aka work.

Oh joy.

But before I got to go and be a useful productive member of society again, I have a little more to report.

Friday saw the painful necessity to do things other than chase birds, but I still got to the Downs to check the Blackball roost - a mere and paltry 3 GC Grebes, with about 400 Kitts and 2700+ large gulls in a strong SW and attacks of light rain.. Hmm.

Saturday went better, with a decent seawatch!
While main force of the weather went by overnight, there was still enough in the conditions to give a morning's worth of entertainment at the Nose. While mostly it was the usual Gannets, Kitts, and auks with the odd Fulmar, this time Fulmar and especially auk numbers were markedly up - more than 1000 [again about 60/40, but I suspect most of the passing Guilles were going to BH] mostly in the first two hours. Also very much of note was a grey style Blue Fulmar  :D

Twice a Pom Skua showed up to harass Kitts then sit on the sea - neither time did it pass and I suspect it was the same bird. A Bonxie went South, then what again looked like the same bird came North. A lone male RB Merganser and a lone female C Scoter were surpassed in the curiosity stakes by a flock of Canada Geese [!] - rare here, I can tell you - which came over calling in a band of really thick gunk. By volume and frequency of calls, I reckon there were at least 10 of them.

Finally, to my relief, the divers finally showed up. Ok, three of them. But they were 2 passing GNDs and a superb BTD - sat posing in a patch of sunshine in the lee of the Ore Stone!

I spent much of the afternoon bashing the Patch for Blackstart, to no avail. Couldn't find a Bullfinch, either..

So to Sunday, glorious Sunday...

Fourth time was the charm at Dart's Farm, where along with a few of Devon's [and places further off, too] finest, I was treated to some brilliant views of those pesky Pendulines. Here you go;


"Dammit, he's seen us!"

Also on display was the Black Brant, tarting about with the Brents;

Obvious when you got on it...

I stopped off at Matford on my way home - no dice on anything novel; 6 Shoveler, 2 Little Grebe and a Common Gull the most interesting - before taking an afternoon stroll about Yarner with the Folks. Very nice it was too, amazingly quiet for a Sunday.

So, back at work. Though I did get to Blackball on Monday; 5 GC Grebes, 550+ Kitts and 3100+ large gulls [plus a Cormorant and 2 Shags out late]. I blame all the warm weather.

Finally, having had a better look at my records, I'm going to take the more logical step of making comparison with my standing Devon record year - 2012. So I can tell you that I'm up to the 11th of March.

08 January, 2015

The Quirks of Yearlisting

Such as seeing Water Pipit before Meadow, and not just 'a few minutes before', try a whole day and a half before..

I still might [if those little gits behave] get Penduline before Marsh Tit, too.

In other news, the Ally produced the hoped-for Treecreeper yesterday on the [only slightly circuitous] bread run to Scarychurch. I like to walk to get my bread - there's a very good bakery over there, so I buy in batches and freeze it - stuffing a rucksack with loaves, much to the ladies' amusement. The trip there and especially back is always a chance to see what's about - Blackstart and Firecrest being past highlights. Nothing like those rarified heights of scarceness this time, but possibly two Treecreepers [one each way] were definitely worth the happy grin I sported as I got back.

Sometimes, though, you see things you're less happy about - such as this example of the council's standard reaction to any 'complaints of antisocial behaviour';

At Tessier

First and only response: deny/destroy/demolish

Other examples include giving away selling our land, kowtowing to their masters developers* every whim, walling-off coastal paths, and trees felled for one branch's worth of squirrel damage..

Councillors, what can you do? No matter what, they still keep getting elected...

Sorry about that, folks.

Right then.. Today I got back to more important matters, such as seawatching! Alas the weather cleared up rapidly, so I didn't get long at the Nose, and while 98+ BHGs was a good number on such slick as remained, there wasn't anything sexy with them...

There was one bird of definite note among the seemingly standard light movements of Gannets, Kitts, auks and the odd Fulmar.... A Red-necked Grebe!! Presumably the same individual went past Berry Head about 20 minutes later - not bad pace.

After muttering at the nice squall that showed up just after I'd left, I went over to Decoy to see if the Scaup felt showy. It eventually obliged - coming out from under the branches to look pretty in the sunshine.

Then it was up onto t'Moor! Vitifer was very soggy and also very deserted! I saw one cyclist the whole time I was there [and about Sousson's]. This meant I had the Great Grey Shrike all to myself, once I'd found it, that is!
From 1357 to 1441 it sat on a variety of trees [mostly snapped ones] in the new clearfell by Golden Dagger, looking very raptor-y as it held itself in the rather stiff breeze. Shrikes rawk!

They're Grrrrreat!

On the way up I'd seen 5 different sizeable bands of Chaffinches, but only one had a Brambling with them. [One's enough, though ;) ]

After a mooch about Sousson's, I headed home via Venford, hoping for roosting Goosander.. only saw 18 of them!! The light was abysmal - I was counting silhouettes - so only 3 confirmed males [as they flew in!]. Still, its a good score all the same.

The Yearlist is now well into March, folks  :)

[[*I've always disliked that term. It implies that what they do is inherently an improvement.]]

Je suis Charlie

We laugh because we choose not to weep


07 January, 2015

Dips and Grips

So, I've been busy.

A Hunting I have gone, and my Devon Yearlist is looking.. well not bad at all.

This is not to say I've had it all my own way; I'm on 3 Penduline dips now, with GGS added to that. But I have had one or two nice birds - via the application of patience, persistence, and a fair slice of spawny jam.

Yesterday afternoon, after dipping the Pendulines and the shrike in a few merry hours, I toddled down to Exminster to see if the reported White-fronted Geese would make it a hat trick. Fortunately, they were far more accommodating; hanging around in plain sight by the lagoon at a nice scope range. I also ran into a few of Devon's Finest, who mentioned that the wintering Merlin had been seen around most of the day and tended to roost 'off towards the bridge'.
'Hmm..' thought I.
So, even though the sun had dipped behind the hills, while they scurried off home, I wandered off up the canal bank. I had a big scope and a small amount of hope.. I'd almost got as far as Turf Lock when I noticed an interesting lump on a cattle byre.. Scope up and what did I see?

Merlin's Back

With apologies for my phone's awful low light setting...

A prettier picture from yesterday at South Huish;

Glossy Ibis

The Ibis kept us waiting - but the show it put on was worth it! :) We did have the Ruddy Shelduck playing hide and seek to keep us occupied in the mean time - surprising how well a big orange bird can hide in an open field..

I went on to Slapton and stayed until dark [something about a Bittern right by the bridge, I think?] - having spent some time counting ducks beforehand*, and also checking bathing Common Gulls for yankee visitors**.

Sunday afternoon I got down to Broadsands in search of the YBW [it being far more co-operative than the Patch bird] and friends. The Yellow-brow showed very well in the car park, I picked up some nice grebes on the sea - plus cracking views of the two Velvets - and then the Firecrest turned up from the road, followed by seconds of YBW! [Or was that 'second YBW'?? No way to tell - though my money's on the former]

Finally.. Rather than go on with a running total, I'm going to go with how far into last year it took to get to where I am now.
So.. I've now reached where I got to on ::Drum roll but no interminable pause:: the 28th of March.

Bloody hell.

[[*5 Goldeneye, 11 Pochard, 31 Tufty, 3 Gadwall, 7 GC Grebe, 'not that many' Coot...]]
[[**No dice]]

05 January, 2015

The Inevitable 2014 Post

Yes, here it is...

Ok, here is the entirely arbitrary Top Ten Birding Events of 2014! WOO!

10.  Double Trouble - Dusky Warbler and Franklin's Gull
    Proper twitching fun, with plenty of waiting, followed by getting two bogey birds. Said birds well seen and shared with my favourite couple of reprobates [who this time behaved and didn't plaster my poor mug all over the net - well done.]. After a year mostly spent dipping, it was a very welcome return to how things should be.

9.   Coal Tits
    My own place. My own feeders. My first birds. Happiness.

8.   A Bay Full Of Baitfish
   Brought all manner of delights in for most of the second half of the year - shears, skuas, terns, you name it!

7.   Those Storms
    From a mass of Little Gulls at the Nose, to a horde of GNDs, to my first Patch Scaup. Oh, and also propelled Dawlish railway station to national prominence..

6.   Ross' Gull!
    One of those Never birds. Didn't look that much on the ground, truth to tell, but when it took off...

5.   Lancasters!!! Oh, and a Temminck's
    More fun at Bowling Green. Lancasters, plural.. Oh such joy. With a bonus TS that was far too excited about the Lancs to remember to fly off after 10 minutes.

4.   WBD Frenzy, Part II
    Carrying on from last year, but even better! Not just continuing wonderful views of the Super Sabre'd One, but BTDs and Black Guilles and even a RNG at insane distances... Ho Lee Sheet.

3.   The Big One
    I will most likely never know where it came from, let alone what it truly was, but that falcon* at Wild Tor was simply breathtaking.

2.   Three Of Them...
    No places. No dates, even, but in 2014 I was honoured with three Goshawks on one day, including a wonderful view of an insanely close juv. male. Those magnificent creatures are pure wildness distilled into avian form. It don't get much better than this.

1.   OSPREY!!!!!!!
    Not only on Patch, at long long last, but out the window, so on my Home List too. Oh, such sweet sweet joy. That such a brief distant view gets Number One tells you how much this one means to me.

Right then, I am tempted to follow that with my lowlights of the year, but I'll limit myself to again bemoaning the lack of coverage at Berry Head in June. Especially on the 27th. Tut.

Right then...

Saturday saw me doing lots of boring non-birding stuff, managing to see the odd Blackcap but nothing sexier.

Sunday... Is another post.

[[*'That falcon that looked just like a grey morph Gyr', to give it its full name, but that kinda ruins the flow..]]

02 January, 2015

The First Two Days

New Year, new cliches.

[They will be coming, we are currently experiencing minor technical difficulties]

I started the year with a seawatch at the Nose [oh, shock, horror...]. This was rather brief, as aside from a nice YLG, it was pretty dull, despite the very nice wind. As I had things in mind, I gave up and headed to the Warren - traditional spot for lots of birds in one day. This may not have been a great call, as as I did so, several RTDs, a GND and a Pom were heading the other way.. Drat.

But I wanted to see if I could get to 100 species in one day, so what can you do?

Hopes of the Bony's were fulfilled in some style, with the bird showing very well from the hide, as did the Water Pipit [speaking of, I suspect there may be more than one, maybe even three of the little buggers..] Withstanding the Four Stooges'* 'humour', I stayed at the Warren until I finally pinned down the LTD, then headed to Bowling Green and Dart's Farm, where the day ended dipping the Pendulines. In between [nothing after dark - still far too windy] I ended up with 93. This is a new personal best [ok, by 1 bird!], but still a fail. Though, given the weather, I think it was pretty creditable!

Today I had things to do, but after that I managed to get the DYL over 100 - to 104, in fact - and again dip the Pendulines!  Hmm. I did see a Water Rail [and not at Bowling Green, either] though, which.. no it doesn't make up for it. The Kingfisher, on the other hand...  :D

Not bad..

Oh yeah, and a Top Ten of 2014 is coming, too.

Consider yourselves warned...

[[*They were from zumerzet, which does explain things. ;) ]]