28 February, 2015

There Is Always Hope

Even when beset by plague and 6 day weeks..

Last couple of days I've staggered wandered over to the Nose after work in the vain hope of finding a nice Eider tarting around. Today in doing so, the faster-than forecast front caught me out without proper waterproofs and took great delight in inflicting sideways rain on my poor suffering body. I do have another Devon Yeartick, though - Med Gull [a nice 1w].
I also took the chance for a quick seawatch from the Crack o' Doom*, from where I saw there was bugger all in front of the front. Hmm, maybe the sustained winds will change things? You never know.

EDIT: Here be the view from thar Crack o' Doom. So named due to it being a bit that's cracking off the top of the cliff behind the quarry. Also for the impressive drop right by your feet when you sit there. The shelter is pretty good though. Just not if you have any vertigo issues.

Looking north of east 
- the Toe is the last visible promontary

I am slowly recovering [enough to look at tomorrow with at least some calculation, anyway] from the lurgy - a vicious one which has many of my co-workers similarly afflicted - with the aid of some decent medicine. None of that honey and lemon nonsense, I prefer decent Kentucky bourbon. Kills all known germs and clears your pipes out a treat. :D

In other news.. I don't think there is any. Oh wait - a Chiffchaff on IMD today was the first on Patch for a while. Also, lots of flowers everywhere [but hey, this is Glorious Devon, where there's always something blooming]

11th of April, folks. :)

[[*A lovely if somewhat precarious spot behind the quarry.]]

23 February, 2015


Sunday. Not a lot to report as I stayed in.

Why was I here and not freezing my ar merrily seawatching at the Nose? [You never know what might go by, after all]

Came down with the lurgy.


Saturday I was mostly working, with a quick zip up to the Becka in the afternoon in search of Dippers. I didn't find any, just lots of dogs. The two things may be related.  Oh, and I also met some nice sharp showers, with added snow and/or hail. Despite my vexation, it was a pleasant little stroll, and there were catkins.


I felt fine then, but come the evening..

I suppose I should have done the proper hard core birder thing and gone anyway. [Pneumonia, pah!] Maybe I'm just getting old...

Anyways, I consoled myself by making cupcakes*. I was very good and waited until I got in from work today** before I had one. Verdict? Not bad.

Finally, another drat, but this one was very different! The YBW has shown up again, or rather called up again. The little git started 'sweet!'ing outside my frickin' kitchen window and did so from cover dense enough to avoid showing even a trace of movement. I went barrelling out after it, but of course it had moved on.
At least I know it's wintering ok. Hey, maybe its great great grandkid will pay my trees a visit [possibly even when I'm watching]. I can but dream.

[[*Coffee with a twist.]]
[[*If you can walk - or at least drive safely - you can work.]]

20 February, 2015

At Last, A Post. And A Blackstart!

With superbly tuned comic timing, a female type popped up just over there ::points out the window of this very room:: on Saturday. I'd just been trying to call Sister The ElderYounger and was staring out feeling moderately vexed, when there it was in a small tree-thing atop a rockface. It swiftly flew down and away out of sight, but not before my bins got onto it [and I had the good ones handy, too. Prescience, that.].

So, like any good brother, I gave up trying to contact Sister and went after the bird. I got another brief view of it - this time on the classic rooftop - before it lost me properly. The area is all big gardens, some nice outcropping of limestone, and a surprisingly large number of palms - most showing many berries. So pretty much perfect in a nice sheltered valley near the coast. I don't know why I overlooked it.. [[I suspected I could hear the Goddess of Birding chuckling quietly]]

Sunday saw me get out in the afternoon to chase down the definitely-not-plastic-as-everyone-else-has-yearticked-it Barnacle Goose, which I'd missed in January, but had been reported the day before on Powderham Marsh. It was feeling co-operative and was in the first field to the north of the road on Exminster! I was very happy to be surprised by that, I can tell you, expecting it to be hiding out on the main marsh somewhere.

Caught Off Guard
and Clearly Embarrassed

After making sure there weren't any Pendulines on the pool, I toddled happily over to Powderham anyway, where there was a big flock of Linnet and a few very smart buntings to look at. My hopes for a wandering raptor-y thing were dashed again, though.

On my way home I got another nice surprise - another Little Owl on a power line! This one was right out and up in daylight where any passing Peg could nail it with ease, I don't know what it was thinking?!?

Finally, getting out late from work on Monday afternoon proved fortuitous, as a lovely male Sprawk in full 'look at me' mode came drifting over, scattering Mistle Thrushes and finches before it!

13 February, 2015

Taking The Scenic Hoot

To work this week proved a very good idea [maniac pickups aside] as in a couple of delicious minutes I saw not only a low-flying Tawny, but better yet a Little! Seems like bladdy roadworks do have some uses.

This was in prahb'r Deb'n countryside; rolling hills patched in green and orange fields, copses, hedges, and lovely twisty lanes with insanely picturesque villages and the odd gastropub. For those of a local disposition, both were seen from the road to the Ruptured Duck - Little closer to Stoke, Tawny nearer to Combe [so actually the Little was first, but the sentence up there flowed better the other way - blogtistic licence, folks ;) ]

The Tawny was just flying past after a busy night terrorising the local wildlife, but the Little flew up and landed on a phone line and looked down into the lane in front of me. It seemed for all the world like it had noticed me passing and was using my headlights to see what was there!

In other news, today I was at work and so not seawatching the first front in aaaages. Hmm.

Oh well, eh?

11 February, 2015

Another Thcwewy Duck

The thing about chasing a yearlist is that it means that you have to go chasing yearticks. Birds you may well otherwise not bother spending hours looking for [note the absence of the word 'seeing', there]. Then going out again and again until you do get that seeing thing. Or hearing, to be fair. [[The thought of a seen-only yearlist is frankly unnerving, I must admit. I mean, there's commitment and then there's sheer masochism...]]


Not a huge amount to report, really. I had a wander about Yarner on Saturday with the Folks. There may have been a flask and the last of the currant and walnut flapjacks involved. There were certainly 5 flavours of tits showing very nicely at the hide and the Primroses were starting to show leaf. Must be getting on for spring or something.

Sunday saw me knuckling down after Spoonbills. I'd failed to slog all the way up t'North when I had the chance last month, and fortunately, those 'orrible north winds seem to have blown them down a whole lot closer. Also a certain yankee quacker. [[Assuming they are the same birds, which is at least possible?]]

So, with some amusement, I headed over the Tamar to cornywall to try for Devon birds. :)

China Lake Country Club. Never been there before. Interesting place.

I must say, I approve of golf clubs which provide free access to hides overlooking interesting bits of scenery. I took great pleasure in parking in their nice car park, wandering along the track beside the driving range, then spending the sunny side of two hours looking for an American Wigeon that wasn't there. The Spoonbills were there - mostly asleep*, just off the sewage works - when I arrived, but they too soon made like bananas. [Turns out they went up Ernesettle, though of course this is with the aid of hindsight and DBN]
The rising tide kept me hopeful, and I hoped a great deal. That one of those nice groups of Wigeon out on the Devon side of the Tamar would turn out to have an AmWig with them, say...

The Goddess of Birding was not that pleased with me, alas. Though She did favour my persistence eventually, as the pesky yankee flew in at 1705 with a couple of Wigeon and settled firmly in cornish territory. Bastard. They seemed to have come from the south, and as I'd checked everything right down to the Bridges, I reckon they'd been along the Lynher. No picture, as it was too dusky for my pesky phone... Oh well.

Other birds included 4 GC and a Little Grebe on the Tamar and at least 8 Greenshank showing amazingly well along Kingsmill Lake. Its a little bit of a trek to the second hide, but the possibility of views like that makes it worth the wander.

No fluky low-flying owls or raptors to report, but being late out of work yesterday did pay dividends in the form of a courting couple of Collared Doves. Ching!

Comparing to 2012, I'm now up to the 6th of April.

Not bad, not bad, but I still need frickin' Blackstart.. This is primarily due to my determination that I'll find one on Patch. In any other winter that would not usually be much of a problem, but evidently they read this blog and have decided to vex me. Now, I know that for listing purposes, Blackstart is no more important than Spoonbill and if I went to frickin' cornwall to get them..  But Spoonbills don't winter on Patch.

Ok, blabbering over.

[[*One of them stretched a bit - showing off its spoon - then went back to sleep. This is the Spoonbill equivalent of a brisk jog around the block.]]

03 February, 2015

Winter Wonderland [You Knew It Was Coming..]

Snow snow snow, what's a birder to do?

Say "I ain't afraid of no snow!" and get up on't Moor of course!!

Lookit! Dartmoor!

Ain't it purdy?
Vitifer and Hamel Down

By employing my kunnin' plan of sticking to main roads I did not find any ice at all and arrived at my chosen spot - Warren House - intact. From there I was able to merrily toddle straight into the teeth of the arctic blast and all its horizontal hail and snowballs up to my target; Fernworthy!!

Getting to Fernworthy in cold weather is tricky due to a stretch of very steep, curving, and above all wet road. This turns into a very good likeness of a glacier and is nigh on impassable to anyone without a badass 4x4, nerves of steel, nothing coming the other way, and no worry about insurance premiums...

While I could probably get up if I had to, it's not that important, so instead I just park to the south and wander in. There are even paths, and a handy gate or three. There's even the chance of a bird. This time I actually saw one! Ok, it was a Mipit, but still - more than expected.

The snow was probably about an inch deep, plus and minus drifting and scouring thanks to that breeze, but the ambient was above zero and stayed there, so not that nasty, really. I ended up getting quite hot actually - but I had dressed for 'Levels in cold winter' and the sun shone quite a bit. When it wasn't snowballing..

[I did take a picture of it snowballing, but it just looks overcast and slightly out of focus..]
[[So nothing new there, then..]]

As well as just enjoying being at Fernworthy - there were bits where nobody else had been before me and none followed, either!  - I had a few birds in mind. The Crossbills were present in numbers but not big flocks. Siskin and Redpoll did give a couple of nice big groups, though none of them really posed for me. All the snow was great for tracks; at least 2 different Foxes [paw size], though there could have been as many as 8 around. Definitely a group of 6 Red Deer, plenty of Rabbits, also the Ponies and a couple of small flocks of Sheeeep [LBD would have had such fun...] Nothing else, though [I was hoping for a Stoat or Weasel or something..]

The reservoir was pretty quiet when I had lunch in the hide; a small band of Herrings and LBBs were driven off by snowballs, a few ducks [7 Teal, 1 Tufty] and a Little Grebe cowered by the far bank.. But ah, then some waders appeared! At least 1 and possibly a couple more Snipe lurked in the flooded tussocky bits and were revealed [a bit] when a Grey Heron landed there, and a Common Sand flew down the shoreline! Result.

My primary and secondary targets were both present, with the secondary putting on a very vocal display notable also for its staying below the hilltops and thus out of the wind's force! Smart boy.
Needless to say, I nearly had a cow and am still rather giddy with it. My primary target was more elusive, giving me the run around before finally popping up just as I'd given up and was on my way out. Birds, eh?

For the Devon Year, I'm now 30 birds ahead of this time in 2012; up to early April. And I still need blimmin' Blackstart!


Friday saw a Patch bashing with little result apart from a very nice 15 Purple Sandpipers on Haldon Pier. I got there at high water and found ten roosting on one boulder!

Saturday's birding was terribly constrained and would have been 'bugger all', but for an audiomig Home Tick - Grey Plover!

Late News; Sunday night, after a silence that kicked in in late December [the gits] the local owls finally remembered how to call and did so with vigour. [Bit late now, you feathery buggers]

And finally....

Wandering up a track looking at tracks in Fernworthy, I wondered why a couple had gone up and come down the same track at a run. When I found the point they'd turned around, I found the answer....



Be Seeing You

02 February, 2015

What's Short And Has White Things In?

This post.

Thursday afternoon I woke up to the sight of snow.



After driving home that morning listening to the world and their Aunty Ethel going on about the snow on the radio, through sheets of very cold but definitely liquid rain, this was quite welcome. It didn't settle much at all [corners of plant pots, that sort of thing], which is probably also good.

Wednesday morning saw me not driving home after work, but instead heading over to Brixham for Glonk II - The Revenge. Standing around in sideways drizzle for an hour wasn't the ideal way to spend time that should have involved sleep, but fortunately, a Big White Thingy decided to make an appearence;

1w Glaucous Gull

Actually a cracking bird - for the few minutes it sat sort of still in view. It was very mobile around the Fish Market area, frequently changing position even when not sallying down after bits. A couple of other brave souls were also there and fortunately we all connected with good views. [[I get any kind of picture means it was sat nice and close for a couple of minutes at least!]]

Weekend antics to follow. There may be more schnoooow, and possibly even a picture thereof. Consider yourselves duly warned...