30 March, 2015

They're Heeeeere!

The wind it doth blow, and while we shall not have snow [though you never do know], we do have Manxies!!

Took 'til yesterday to actually see one, mind, but that's seawatching, folks.

Friday didn't start very seawatchy at all, with me prowling around for migrants instead. I found 5 singing Chiffchaffs, which was nice, and counted the sunny side of 300 Guilles on the Ore Stone, but nothing sexier. I had things to do and so I went and did some of them.
Of course, The Boss then went and showed us how it's done and I considered myself schooled.

Saturday saw me properly at the Nose. Despite having stuff to do, I managed to get down there before the front arrived and duly saw all that passed.

Which was bugger all.

2 Kittiwakes. 2. Ok, one was a 2cy and nice to see, but still! There were Gannets and auks and quite a few Fulmars around - including passage birds as well as the local breeders - but it was utterly shearless..
Not as bad as the Dread Watch Of Infamy, but a lot less than I was hoping from what was quite a nice little front.

So, to Sunday and again after being responsible, I headed to the Nose more out of persistence than expectation. The wind blew pretty well, though with a lot more west in it than you'd be wanting. Indeed it got from WSW to near NW by the time passage dried up at six.

Read that last bit again, perhaps?
Yup, actual passage. Sustained winds being important, I reckon.

As time progressed, there was a general lessening of the gunk and lightening of the passing shower bands, but the whole day was marked by these odd little squirrelly squalls - which in the strongest cases were making sea devils* - coming through and evidently stirring everything up.

How about some numbers? No local birds included here, so nothing closer than Berry Head / Straight Point, and all south unless stated:

70 Fulmars
164S 38N Gannets [plus at least fifteen out in Lyme Bay]
95 Guillemots
2 Razorbills
15 Kittiwake [6 2cy] [with a group of about a dozen in Lyme Bay]
2 Common Gull north
1 RT Diver [2cy]
1 Bonxie [harrying Gannets way out in Lyme Bay]
3 skua spp. [2 probable Arctic N and a poss LTS out in Lyme Bay]
11S 4N Manxie [plus at least one loitering out in Lyme Bay]
1 Eider [adult female]
1 C Scoter [2cy male - one of the odd moulters; all dark!]

Not enormous numbers - though that Fulmar passage wasn't bad - but there was always something to look at. The feeding out in Lyme Bay was not a big obvious frenzy, just birds hanging about doing circuits.

The Ore Stone was markedly less-occupied [only about 155 Guilles], with two areas utterly bare of auks. This was a little odd. I remember someone reporting a Geeb snatching Guilles off the cliffs here a little while ago, so perhaps those areas have been abandoned as unsafe? If so, I'd expect numbers to be up at Berry Head [there only being so much room on the Ore Stone]

A really nasty one. There is a Fulmar out there with oil on the top and sides of its head. This gives an horrifically pterodroma-like head pattern of cowl and shawl [also probably not bad at long range for GS]. As it's one of the darker ones - no stand out near-white rump and tail but grey and fairly brownish on top - this gives an impression [when looping and towering in the wind with angled wings, as it was when I saw it] of something no seawatcher should see without heart medication to hand...
Fortunately, it is a Fulmar; a view of the underwing will set pulses down to where they should be.

It certainly had me WTFing; passing at range as one of the mini squalls shook my scope all over the place and mizzle threatened my view.. I was able to get on it again after it passed the Ore Stone and it popped up in better viewing conditions to show its underside for long enough to be sure of the markings.

I've said it before; you never know what's going to go by.

You know, I've just checked back, and that was the first proper seawatching I've done this year! I knew something was missing from my life...

[[*Like a dust devil, but on the sea. Not Doctor Who extras..]]

26 March, 2015

It's That Time Of Year Again..



aka That Slippery Little Git
aka The Psychic Plover
aka What Do You Mean You've Never Seen One?!?!!?

For Information Leading To Successful Tick
'Choose Your Poison'



25 March, 2015

Sunshine And Siskins

Pretty much sums up Sunday. I went up on't Moor, though the long yomp I'd been planning was altered to a shorter 'bit of a wander and a lot of a sit and see what flies past' by pinging my knee the evening before. [No damage done, but better safe than sorry].

So I went up to Bellever, and over to Madman's Laughter Tor, and then back around Bellever quite a bit, before getting mobile and checking assorted promising-looking areas for possible birds with white bits. I didn't find any of them, or any other yearticks come to that, but I did have a nice day [getting bitten by Bellever Tor aside] and there were [as you might expect for the title] Siskins everywhere.

Shedloads of 10Torsies too, many sporting matching rucksack covers in various shades of 'aaarrgh my eyes......'. Now, I've nothing against rucksack covers - they're wonderfully useful things - but normally they're meant for when it's, you know, raining? Oh never mind...

Also of note, some considerate soul has hacked down all the shrike perches conifers that had seeded on the slopes south and west of Laughter Tor. And just left them there. Now, I can sort of see the justification in preserving the 'moorland', but to just leave the felled trees [even the teeny foot-high ones were cut, though not the bigger trees south of Bellever, I notice] lying there.. I suppose somebody may be along later? With my poor Noble Fir looking like its dying of exposure*, I can't help but feel a little vexed.

Time for a piccie, I think.

They've been busy getting their swaling in, and as I had a quick look about Vitifer, I noticed some interesting interaction between a gorse fire plume [from just south of Sousson's plantation] and a layer of thin stratus cloud that was moving over..

Pyrogene cumulus over Sousson's

This looked really cool; properly boiling clouds, very volcanic [understandably - same process!].

[[*Live xmas tree, now living on my balcony**. Apparently, young conifers don't like being out in the wind; it's going worryingly brown everywhere the wind hits, despite being as sheltered as I can get it without building it an enclosure.]]
[[**If it survives, not only environmentally and fiscally prudent, but also a source of winter aphids for any passing YBWs.. ;) ]]

21 March, 2015

After The Cheshire Cat Disappeared, I Went Birding

Spent a lot of time wandering around various bits of Topsham and environs looking for a certain male Garganey.

Didn't find it.

I did find the reported Ruff, which was good, then also the lovely LRP [after I had given up on thcwewy duckth and headed over to the Otter], which was better, as it sat and posed ran around with just short enough stops to photo, see?

LRP strikes a pose; 
nice eyering, almost came out

The sun was shining, as you can perhaps tell...

I tried moving a bit;

"You've had your side-on pose. You're not getting another"

Still not great, but what can you do? [[Buy a proper camera?]]

The two Spotshank [one which came close now sporting some nice new coverts] were quite showy on the Clyst - all three shanks together at one point - and three lingering Snipe [2 at BGM, one on the Otter] were picked out by the sunlight. Also of note was a very fancy Water Pipit - on the scrapes, not above the bridge - but it was the epitome of mobile and elusive, the little sod.

Today I've been doing some of the non-birdy things that I'd put off due to work and chasing Wheatears.
Yup, lovely sunny day and here I am hunched over the computermabob - blogging as my reward for putting up with all the other stuff. Oh happy happy joy joy. I might get out to the shops in a minute, even.

Nothing spectacular has been seen out of the windows, and the most notable thing heard has been the Greenfinches singing [which they started earlier this week at said Nose]. The local Herrings have been cruising around [some collecting nesting materials] and have entirely failed to go off at anything. So I guess that bladdy Red Kite's cleared well off, and no Ospreys have passed by [I'm still remembering last year, oh yes]. Hmm, that 'guess' ought to read 'hope', he says, remembering a certain Marsh Harrier...

There's always tomorrow, right?

22nd of April, btw.

20 March, 2015

It's The Cheshire Cat!

Stayed put for the near-total eclipse today ['partial' didn't do it justice]. Typically, the weather had other ideas, but the power of Sun and Moon together overcame the masses of clouds and mist, so the event peeked out periodically. [It's a thermal thing; sudden drop in insolation breaks the clouds up]

Not unlike in '99, come to think of it.

It did look for all intents like a big bright grin hanging in the sky. It appeared, it vanished, the grin waned and waxed - getting to so close to totality that I was half expecting to see prominences..! - and ah, but that familiar chill. Brought it all back.

My attempts at pictures did not fare well, which is a shame as it was AMAZING!!

There's this grin in the sky...

I had been rather vexed by all the clouds, but I'm now horribly chirpy. I shall have to go inflict myself upon some birds.  :D

Speaking of...

My absence from posting was due to my determination to be able to report my first Wheatear at the Nose in my next post. This took rather longer than I expected. Ten sodding goes longer, in fact. I'm not sure I like Wheatears any more. And the male I found late yesterday was lurking on the bottom scree of the South Side - no chance of a nice piccy, either.

Oh well.

10 March, 2015


If at first you don't succeed, Mr. Nudge?

Try try again, Mr. Wink.

Well, I have been trying, trying, and trying again for a nice Wheatear, but to no avail. Late last week I actually dared to have something akin to hope, too. After all, if they'd arrived at Fraggle Rock and Marzipan, they should be getting here also. Stands to reason. I know I usually see my first at least a week later here, but the weather seemed promising...

Blimmin' little white-arsed gits.


What else to say?  First migrants at the Nose on Saturday - two flocks of Mipits in/off. Nice Chiff there on Sunday; very vocal, very yellow. Guillemots on the Ore Stone, though not picked out any Razorbills among them [yet - I hope]. Oh, and the weirdest-sounding Blackbird I've ever heard [seriously, I was wondering what the hell it was making that racket; so I hunted it down, merrily singing away in a treetop]

What else?


Yeah, exactly. Oh well, at least I'm back on nights, eh.?

01 March, 2015

Ice Ice Baby

Funny how things turn out, isn't it?

I'd been planning to wander down to the Nose this afternoon to see if the nasty tilty front coming in would send anything interesting past, and possibly make up for my plague-aborted watch last week.

That was, until I got a text from Bun telling me about an Iceland Gull on the Axe [It was thus; "Iceland Gull. Axe"]. Hmm, thinks I. Twitching gulls on the Backwater has had some very mixed results in the past [::CoughfuckingAudouin'sCough::]. The time needed to get over there doesn't help. Buut... To get a big year you need to twitch things like this. Annnd, the only gull I have successfully twitched there was an Iceland.

Plus, it has been a very long week, and I need a good diversion.

Sod it.

Tally ho!

I rocked up to Coronation Corner [you want gulls? Start there] and in very quick succession was blasted by the wind, actually had a brief conversation with The Master*, and saw the bird!

Ta and indeed da!

It is physically impossible to photograph an Iceland without burnout.

Sending Bun a text of victory and thanks [and finding out I'd only just missed him] I also learned of a lurking SEO up by the golf course.. Oooh.

So I went for a shufti.

Unfortunately, at this point the front decided to arrive. It rained and hailed sideways with impressive vigour - it almost got around the corner I was hiding behind - and as said front was supposed to be sidewinding across the country, I reckoned the day was going to be a washout. Owls don't like rain and everyone else up there had already bailed. This is not to say I fled at the first drop, oh no. I checked all the fields and links in case the owl was sitting somewhere in view, but no joy. [Smart bird]

I admit I was tempted to try to wait it out, but my li'l car was running on fumes**, and petrol stations have a nasty habit of closing earlier than is convenient on Sunday afternoons, so I headed back Patch-wards.

The bright sunshine and light winds that greeted me were not a surprise. Drat he says. Double drat on seeing how well the owl showed an hour or so after I left.

Oh well, might was well try something. I went to the Nose, on offchance of an Eider or some remnants of passage.

No Eider, nothing passing at all. A couple of Chiffs were new, or newly vocal, on the way down, so not a total blank. Right, I went over the gulls on the Lead Stone as usual, because you nev- wait. I got the Big Scope on a pale one which didn't have its primaries tucked away, they really were white...

Adult Iceland Gull with immature Herrings

It had the typical talent for moving at the wrong moment 

Lovely dinky straight-sided bill, and quite a dark-looking eye [but very white primaries, more's the pity]. The git only gave me these two shots before walking down the far side of the Lead Stone and out of sight, though these are still easily the best Iceland shots I have from here.

How's about that? Two Icelands in one day.

This time I'm sure I can hear the Goddess of Birding chuckling...

[[*Not a very long one, true, but the first time we've actually spoken!]]
[[**When I twitch, I try to do it properly; no stopping if you can get there! Especially when you're racing gulls...]]