27 May, 2015

So I Went For A Stroll..

Up on t' Moor. Been a while, weather seemed ok, needed a bit of exercise.. usual stuff.

It being a bank holiday, the place was a bit busy. Just a teensy bit.

Even Wild Tor, [which is against the Rules, btw] and it only started to quieten down after four or so.

But hey, what can you do? [Keep moving and stay out longer]

Ok, enough of that.

I parked at Round Pound and wandered over to Watern Tor via Shovel Down. The pole bridge over the Teign has been fixed up and is a lot less hairy than it used to be [even got non slip paint on it - spoilsports! ;) ]. The yomp up the hill next to the wall is just as nasty as the last time I went up it, though... [ouch]

After a quick cuppa at the tor, I headed over to Wild Tor for lunch. I really like Wild Tor. [I may have said so before once or twice??] The outcrops may not be particularly impressive, it's not sat brooding atop its own mighty hill, there may be far too much rush and bog, and it is definitely always a bugger to get to.
That last one is one of the points, though. Wild Tor is wild; you have to make an effort to go there, you have to climb at least one nasty hill, cross bog and water, and be exposed to the weather's wrath. No choice. No easy way out. No great big track up the back way [Yes Tor, I'm looking at you].

This time I wasn't the only one there [to be fair, this does happen occasionally]. I know, I know, I'm an antisocial git...

When it was time to move on, I headed up Hangingstone Hill, then cut across above Walla Head to Manga Hill, Teignhead Farm, and into Fernworthy. After a final coffee stop in the plantation's shelter - enlivened by my first tick of the year* [joy] - I headed back to Kestor via the Three Boys standing stone.

About 17km in all and I can feel it. This is good.

Time for some scenery, with photos that are actually [vaguely]  useable;

Watern Tor from Wild Tor

Time for your close up, madam

High Wilhays and Yes Tor from Hangingstone Hill

Getting to birds, four Cuckoos were vocal; one of them, by Fernworthy corner, even gave me a flypast, showing off the brown secondaries of a 1s. In Fernworthy, the wind kept the birds a bit subdued, but Redstart and Tripit [plus lots of Siskin] were present. Out on the Moor proper, the Mipits and Skylarks were around in numbers, and the various stoney places I passed held at least 15 Wheatears :)

There were a few hirundines knocking about - House Martins and Swallows - though whether these were passing through or wide-ranging local nesters I couldn't tell. No passing Red Kites, though.

Now for some nonsense [you may want to skip this bit]

While I was sat at Wild Tor, this young lady came by for a late lunch;

Blob Bird sp.
Heading west, ~150m south of the Tor

Given the buffeting wind and the glare that meant I couldn't see what I was aiming at, I'm amazed I even got one in shot [just]. 

What is it with Wild Tor and raptors? 

Anyways, this is me saying that I give up; I have got to get me a 'record shot' camera. If such a thing exists that can give a decent - you can tell what it is without needing to be told! - image at that sort of [ie. real life] range without weighing a ton and costing a fortune...** 

Back at home, a juvenile Greenfinch on the sunflower feeder! :D

Finally, I have to give a shout out to the Three Amigos on Hangingstone Hill.  ;)

30th of September, btw.

[[*I'm still itchy...]]
[[**Answers on a postcard..]]

24 May, 2015

...And The Ecstasy

From the lows to the highs, ah but how She does tease us...

I had set yesterday for the Great Wild Dove Hunt. In the morning, my post looked like it would be something along the lines of 'Looking For Turtle Doves In All The Wrong Places'. After I'd headed back for lunch and a double-take at this here computer screen, it was something altogether different.

So, rocking up at Exminster to find [as I'd expected] car parks full of assorted types, I yomped the length of the lane to find many of the Usual Suspects lined up on the canal bank, looking at a tuft of sedge. Behind this was [allegedly] a nice 1s AGP. Well, its head, anyway. Eventually it did show fairly well. Ok, it got up, then hunkered down again. Still, it's birds like this that you need to get a decent yearlist. And 'twas only my third, so still quite special.

With Bailey Senior on site, the banter flowed [KB was fairly restrained about finding yet another goodie in the Bowling Green GBT] with much speculation about how Mr Diamond had managed to even see the AGP - hiding in an invisible channel as it was for 99% of the time...

After most of the crowd had departed, the Gull-billed Tern duly showed up; "I've got a tern coming in - it looks pretty big" was the first call from the chap with the camera. The Big Scope left no doubt, and I had trouble not cackling with the joy of it..

When it first arrived, the GBT was barely 100m from the AGP - not bad, eh? Neither bird was super close, and the sun was going around too, so these aren't great;

Adult Gull-billed Tern

Having a quick wash

The masses re-assembled, but the tern only stayed for about 45 minutes of sitting, preening, picking along the mud, and catching flies. The last done from the ground; the bird would fly up, grab a passing victim, and drop down a few feet from where it started.

It flew off and left us with another question.. where had the plover gone? It had disappeared more than an hour ago. 'Just asleep' or 'wandered off down its hidden channel'. The way a Grey Heron vanished into said channel made me think one answer, and I set off south a ways to see if it was viewable from another angle somewhere else.

I didn't find it, but as I came back I was aware of a crew [down from yorkshire - for the day!] up ahead looking at something through scopes, and the rest of the crowd coming towards them from the other side. Ah ha?

Yup - and right where I'd been looking 2 minutes before, too.

Not only closer, but actually out and visible, was a lovely American Golden Plover, see?

Feeling less bashful

Things then got even better, as a call gave the amazing '23 Red Kites just went over Wembury castle!!'

Eyes east, and then here they came.... First two, then three more [plus a local Buzzard {going "git orf ma sky!"}] then more and more and more... 10 came right overhead, the ninth no more than 20m up, with 2 more angling a little north. All but one were in inner primary moult [that one in inner sec moult] and all low enough to check looked to be immatures.12 Red Kites in Devon!! KB had a better viewpoint and counted a total of 28!!!

Ho-ly shit.

After that, I got back to my Turtle Dove Hunt. My best sites on Haldon and Little Haldon all proved a bust. I didn't even see any more kites. Lots of dog and kid walkers, though. Oh, and a few Swifts.

Lone bright point was a lone Pearl-bordered Fritillary. It didn't hang about for a photo, though.

Then on my way home, sat on a wire annoyingly close to the Patch.. Oh Fucking Hell.... :D

There are days when She smiles upon you.

As I sat myself down at home, I noticed a bird flying across the valley. Oh, that looks a little off for a Woodpig. I got bins on it. Stock Dove. Home Tick.

Days like that remind me why I do this crazy thing.

Today I was Good and among other things, cleaned my oven. A bit.

This evening I went up onto Ideford Common, where a female Nightjar flew through my headlight beams before I'd even stopped! At least 6 churring males, one of whom showed quite wonderfully; flying past croaking, then landing in view and churring for several minutes before flying off again. :D

Also a bat sp. - out on the common, contouring one of the clumps of trees.

The wind was right up at the top end of useable - so no midgies at all! :)

18 May, 2015

::Muttermuttermutter:: I Don't Like Herons..

Just in [yes, before a night shift..] from dipping the Squacco Heron[s]. Again.

This is starting to become vexing.

On the bright side [he says, reaching almost far enough to do himself a mischief], Beesands is somewhere I've not been for too long. And today there were Swifts to look at among the hirundines [one was very fluffed up and big-looking; clearly on purpose as it stayed very close to the sun for an irritatingly long time]. Yesterday there were a couple of Hobbies passing by. Also assorted ducks and warblers - notably an insanely confiding Reed Warbler - to pass the heron-less time.

Yesterday was a busy one, as before I went out for an afternoon-into-evening dip, I was out with t' Folks on t' Moor.

Fernworthy always delivers.

This time it delivered Siskins. The Folks were treated to 'adult male in full breeding regalia, showing off and everything' and were duly impressed. Also some very nice Redpoll. No Crossbills - which was odd - but the Bluebells made up for them. Oh yes indeed. And all proper ones too, none of those rubbish tacky spanish things.

Saturday saw more yearlist related effort. Once more I made a determined try for those pesky invading Red Kites. I resorted again to lugging the Big Scope up an even bigger hill and this time scored! I tried two skywatches from neighbouring hills in late morning and early afternoon [the gap being full of down and up again...] Both sightings in the morning, NE of South Brent - a lone bird being mobbed by 2 very determined Crows, then 2 together heading N-NE towards Holne / Buckie. Also seen were a dozen assorted Buzzards, 3 Kestrels, a Peregrine, and a few Ravens.

The Avon valley held 2 calling Cuckoos, a Wheatear was up on the moor edge, and a Painted Lady landed briefly next to me, but scarpered before I could photo it!

It was rather glorious up there - I wished on more than one occasion I was going for a yomp and not weighed down with kit [especially in the long hour it took to actually see any raptor..]. This also as the twisty shifting wind meant getting a sheltered enough viewpoint was tricky; I'd get set up and then the wind would kick 30° or 40° and my scope would be vibrating like a fly on a hilltop..

Ach, I'm burbling. Did I mention I have to work tonight?

Oh dear.

Be Seeing You.

14 May, 2015

The 'It Is Now Summer' Post



Back on Tuesday evening, with 6+ from 1855 'til I had to go to work.
Also right outside my window just now - before heading to a nest site I'd missed last year! - which was just wonderful..  :D

This is the latest date since I've been paying close attention; not surprising, given how late everything else has been this year, I suppose.

So, a ray of light in a rather vexing week. [Bloody herons]

Speaking of things summery, my ickle cactus* has gotten into the mood in a fairly OTT manner;

'Overkill'...What's that???

[[* It lives in a pot on a window sill until it gets too big for the biggest pot that will fit on said sill, when one of its babies gets promoted to a new small pot and on the cycle goes. This is has been going on since the last time the tories had a majority!]]

12 May, 2015

The Weekend

Interesting birding over the weekend proper, with a Home Tick on Saturday; Yellowhammer!

That evening I toddled over to the Nose, hoping for an evening tern passage, but was disappointed. 4 Gannets in 30 minutes. Drat. Nowt else to report.

The following morning was considerably better there; an hour and a half gave 3 lovely s/pl GNDs, 2 Puffin and 8 Manxies [and this with only the li'l scope, too]. Also a flock of about 8 Sanderling south.

A couple of other birders were watching as well; notably Bailey Junior getting a Pom which I missed, though he missed the Sanderling [that's seawatching]. As the early mistyfog cleared away, things died off, with the only other interest being a steady passage of in/off Swallows - 110 were recorded.

In the afternoon, I went over to the Exe to try for Little Tern again, and despite one being seen I managed to miss out. Again. An Arctic Tern [which headed off east] and a very fancy dark morph Arctic Skua made up a little, but not much. Better were the dolphins! A pod of about 11 Bottlenose moving north. First seen off the seawall, they got to John's Watch as I did - so a speed of 5mph. [I don't hang about]. They were not all in one tight bunch, so it is possible there were as few as 5 [most seen surfacing at same time] but there could have been as many as 19. I think 11 is pretty accurate, though [I got a lot of looking in]. This includes one very young and two slightly older calves, plus an adult with what looked like a pale mark on its dorsal fin.

At least 48 Whimbrel were either on site or moving through, with 4 GC Grebe on the sea and a minimum of 35 Sarnies around and about.

So, DevonYear-wise, I am into September!

Just don't mention herons...

08 May, 2015

Just A Quick Post, Now Updated

Saw my first Swallow from here yesterday. :)

This morning I was down at the Nose early, and while there were only the usual Chiffs and Blackcaps and Whitethroats on land, passing by to sea were a Puffin and a high-flying GND. Otherwise a bit quiet. [I should point out I didn't do a 'proper' watch with the Big Scope, though]

This afternoon I decided to get around to Dipper for the year, so went up to my favourite Dipper site.
This is not the easiest Dipper site, especially as it tends to get busy and the Dippers get elusive and they can fly upstream far more easily than you can follow the increasingly shiny* path.. ::Deep breath:: But, it is a lovely spot, and when they are behaving, the views can be wonderful.

The Dart valley

The weather was an interesting mix of damp and full on rain. This was one of the reasons I went; more rain = less chance of flushing idi civilians. Evidently, the Goddess of Birding was in one of those moods, as there appeared on the other bank a chap with a brolly and a very irritatingly matching pace to me.. Also the psychic habit of stopping when I did. [[I reckon he didn't even know I was there, btw - just one of those things..]]
So I had the choice of 1; stay put and wait for the birds to come back after he'd gone [and before he came back], 2; try to outpace him - which would mean jogging, thus flushing the birds myself, or 3; keep going and hope he ran out of will to go on before I did...

Adding to the fun was the nature of said path, which I knew would terminate in a lovely collapse up ahead [and that after various scrambly bits]. Fortunately, the brolly bloke did eventually give up. But not before I'd gone a fair way further than I intended to.

Still, silver linings and all that; it seems some one has been very busy and built a new path. Unfortunately, it's about halfway up the slope, but at least it looks like you can get up to Dartmeet without risking unfortunate events traversing slip scars. And the views aren't too bad;

The new path - running along the top of the scree slope

Cream teas thattaway!

Please excuse the burnt out sky - its actually hillfog!

Right then, birds.. almost forgot them. Not long after I took those shots, a dozen Swallows seemed to drop out of the cloud base and fed over the trees for 5 minutes or so. Nice. there were more later as I was leaving, too.

I eventually did see Dippers, including a lovely sustained one of a colour-ringed bird. I only had to sit in the rain for an hour too. [It is amazing how close Dippers will come of you sit quietly in the rain for an hour...] Colour rings were on the tarsi; right leg Purple, left leg Light Blue.
Also 4 pairs of Grey Wagtails [I mentioned I got a way upriver] and a couple of Willow Warblers [but nowt sexier].

Anyways. Earlyish night, and hopefully a Blue**-crowned Treat for the 'morrow?  ::Looks upwards in devout supplication::

EDIT: Or maybe not..
OTHER EDIT: I'm not saying any more about small herons.

Be Seeing You..

[[*Old Non-PC joke about hidden twisted shining paths...]]
[[**As I said when I saw my first NH; "Black-crowned my arse, that's royal blue!"]]

05 May, 2015

Seawatching, And Not For Nuffin'

Looking back at my records, it seems that I spent most of this [lovely long] BH weekend seawatching at the Nose.

This does not really reflect the truth of the matter, as I only got three proper watches in and spent far more time doing other things, but still. 'Hope's Nose' again and again. I even spent my time at the Traditional Seawatching Spot, as the Steps are not exactly hospitable in an easterly of any flavour above 'moderate breeze'...

The fun proper began on Saturday, when three hours in the late afternoon misty gunk and a SE - SSE best described as brisk produced only 52/12* Gannets and 17/3 Kittiwakes. Not much doing? Well, apart from the 159 Manxies, 2 Balearics, Bonxie [a 2cy or so - yup, nice and close] and 2 Puffins!

Also 45 Razorbill [mostly immature], 16 Fulmar, and 2/7 Whimbrel. Plus hundreds of Guillemots to-ing and fro-ing. [It's just not practical to even try counting Guille passage this time of year in an easterly - as you can't see enough sea from the Traditional Spot to be sure birds aren't heading to or from the Ore Stone. It is of note that they will circle quite widely around the far side, sometimes...]

Sunday evening, despite the onset of a strong SSW with squally showers, gave not much at all. A few Manxies, a nice flock of Sarnies...

Yesterday was supposed to be a calm sunny morning, with a frontal system coming up mid to late afternoon.

Yeah, right.

It started like that, and I had lugged the Big Scope up onto a big hill on Dartmoor, hoping for drifting raptor-y things. In fact, I got 5 Buzzards, 2 Ravens, and a Kestrel before the wind and cloud made it clear it was time to go.

On the plus side, a Cuckoo or two [plus three pairs of birders!] on the way down was some recompense. Also a few couples; of Wheatear, Tripit, and Yellowhammer. Loads of Stonechats and Mipits, a few Skylarks. It was nice. I even came within half a second of a singing Wheatear shot, but a pesky Mipit came charging in on him and.. ouch! [Right where it hurts, too...]

I repaired home and re-equipped, then on to the Nose.

The stiff wind was wandering from SE to E and as the rain bands got heavier and heavier, those lovely little Puffins just kept on coming!

Final score was 18. Biggest group a 4, and they got closer and closer in, too.

Not bad.

Not a lot else, mind; 48/18 Manx, 35 Kittiwake, 16/9 Gannet, 7/1 Fulmar, 2 Whimbrel, 12 Sarnies, 19 Razorbill.

I had considered going back again today, but there are things that have needed doing, and aside from the very odd squall, it's been horribly sunny here despite the wind. Oh well, I look forward to some lucky bugger's report of WISP** or something...

[[*As ever, South passage is listed first]]
[[**Kidding - wrong conditions - but a Barolo's is not inconceivable. Insanely unlikely, yes..]]