29 July, 2015

Dip Sandwich

Let's get the irritating bit out of the way..

Saturday was spent around Bowling Green, Goosemoor, the Clyst, and Exminster/Powderham, looking for an invisible Pec Sand. Needless to say, I did not see it.
I did see several great big well-marked juvenile Dunlin. I saw a Green Sand. Also Kingfishers, Spotshank, lots of Greenshank, cute and very late baby Lapwings...

Other than that, there was much looking and walking.

And my first Horsefly of the year. Joy.

Oh well, sometimes the Goddess of Birding requires sacrifice as evidence of our devotion to Her.

Speaking of sacrifice..

Hope's Nose in an onshore wind + lots of rain = suffering. I know this. It's why I used to head to Berry Head in such weather. Well, until TCCT upped their subs by 60%, anyway. [But that's another rant]

If you do dare it, you must hope the wind is feeling generous and allows you a brolly. Sometimes it won't. You get hard gusts from all sides and no matter how you wedge yourself in, or where you retreat to, there is just no escaping it. Then you have to choose; test your waterproofing to the limit and beyond, or run away retire until the weather improves.

If you can beast it out until something shifts; the rain eases [or starts] or the wind kicks around, then you can get some amazing views. But I'll say it again; you will suffer for them. Soggy and sewage-sprayed, aching from huddling in wrong positions and wrenching your brolly against gusting gales, crawled over by snails [they get everywhere], and peep!ed at by hungry Rockits..

Friday had a Balearic pass so close that it was barely visible over the rocks. Wonderful view, it was a classic type, and came by slowly as it hugged the coast to keep out of the headwind as much as possible. Wow.

A Sooty was further out, with 119/16 Manx in 4 hours [it was good but not busy!]. 4 Med Gulls together [2 ad, 1s, juv], a 3s Pom and an ad Arctic Skua, 4 Sarnies, 2 Guilles, 37 Kitts, 14/4Fulmars and a mere 18/6 Gannets.

Big surprise was the Common Sand, which came in from the north and landed on the weedy bit by the quarry beach! A couple of gulls gave it some casual hassle, but it stuck around to terrorise the sandflies and things for at least an hour.

The weather was just about 'orrible, I have to say. Going from a SE in gusty jerks to eventually ENE, the rain did not let up. The birds did, though, so I called it a day after 4 hours and went home to dry my kit off for Sunday.

Probably didn't need to have bothered with the drying, as the wind on Sunday, despite being more in line with a 'proper' watch, was feeling particularly vindictive. I'd taken my smaller brolly along as well, hoping to wedge into the Traverse, but no dice. I had to hold out with just my silly hat to protect me. [To be fair, the thing is nearly halfway a brolly in itself..] The wind did eventually kick to a SW and I scuttled around to the relative comfort of the Steps, but most of the birds were already past.

I was late starting, due to feeling somewhat under the weather [ho ho], but I wasn't going to let it stop me and I got to the Nose eventually.
Definitely worth doing. In the first 5 minutes my clicker smoked as 192 Manxies streamed by in a river of shearwaters such as you normally only get on the north coast. Wowzer.
[I had got there right after the really heavy rain stopped, to be fair]

Bird of the day was the Sooty, which came by at 1144 at point blank range - not much further out than Friday's Balearic! Best view I've ever had of one, the immaculate feathers made me think it was a juvenile [plus tarting around inshore when it should be blazing past a klick out!]. 9 Balearics [including a wonderful Sooty-a-like at 1238, with pale underwings and all dark belly], 1329/9 Manx!, 4 Bonxies.. There were numbers all right.

Also terns, loads of terns. Almost all very close terns, too. Most numerously, 69 Sarnies included about 1/5 juveniles - all yarking away. 205/5 Gannets and 53 Kittiwakes show the shift in numbers compared to 2 days before, as does the impressive 80 Fulmars. [Though as ever I can't rule out the old 'zip back high north overhead' routine]. 19 Guilles, 5 Razorbill, 5 Whimbrel, a Swift, and 31/3 C Scoter.

Also of note, a Hummingbird Hawkmoth right as I was packing up.

Very mixed watches, those. A lot of getting cold and wet and cramped, but also some of the best seabird action I've had. Ok, so Manxies might not be more than clicker-fodder to many, but I never tire of watching them fly, no matter the wind. The contrast between them and Balearics always intrigues as well [never mind getting anything else].

Also the SWBCM didn't exactly work as it can - the weather wasn't quite right for it - and the best gull on Sunday was a Common, but it could have been better. Hell, the first bird I saw on the battered excuse for a slick on Friday was a really good Sabs-a-like 1s Kittiwake; really bleached and tattered, it even moved more like a Sabs than a Kitt. You never know. And any of the passing terns on Sunday could have been a Little.

Or a frickin' Caspian, come to that. [Nope, still not over that one]

The high season is yet young, with months of possibility to come.

And finally..
I have been getting a new visitor to my feeders; a young Magpie, which has been balancing on an arm and nibbling away at the nasty remains of buggy nibbles in the top one. I've even put some fresh ones out in gratitude for not having to dispose of them! After a brief pause in the Greenfinches [I'm guessing wing moulting?] when the Coal Tits put in an appearance [or at least, a more protracted one], the Greenies are back again and hitting the sunflower seeds like nobodies' business.
Also, still Swifts.

And I am up to date at last! ::Cheers, applause, wild celebrations etc.::

27 July, 2015

More Of It

As threatened promised, more about the fun and frolics had down at t' Nose over the weekend before last.

Yeah, abandon hope all ye and so on...

Friday I arrived back from work full of determination. So much so that I didn't even stop for breakfast, but grabbed and ran. Ok, grabbed, waited for kettle to boil, and then walked briskly, but you get the idea.

It was pretty bright, but the brisk WSW was picking up the waves a bit, a few light showers were coming through, and more importantly, there was some passage early on. Very much a two-stage watch, with the early passage and then the offshore show. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

A Balearic and 2 Puffins were the stars, with a skua sp. [dark, probably Arctic, and going north] and a few terns. Only 56/14 Manxies - compare 54/8 Gannet, 82/5 Kittiwake - with again Common Scoters moving, 89 of them. A Whimbrel, a Swift, a Swallow were other passers-by, but as passage died right off, my attention was caught by a frenzy much further offshore.

Starting about 2km out, due east from the Nose, a group of 115 or so Gannets were maintaining over something. Said something was gradually moving offshore but also gained a few Manxies and Fulmars, and eventually [to the Gannets' discomfort] a party of 5 Bonxies!

After much looking I started to catch dolphins porpoising - dark backs, with big falcate fins! Common Dolphins, at least 5 of them. [Patch Cetacean Tick, folks :)]  I had about 50 minutes of watching them before they got too far out - all the while staying on the same bearing, too.

Not bad.

Fast forward to Sunday evening, yes evening, where I gave the sea an hour and a half - stopping at sunset [proper hardcore.. ahem]. I took a bite and a flask and sat on The Ledge* for the first time in years.

The SSW was theoretically possible, but I was still surprised to actually get some passage! A Balearic and 66 Manxies, even, plus juvenile Med and YL gulls, a Whimbrel, 71/6 Gannets, 9 Kitts, 6 Guilles, and a Fulmar.

Also of note was a great big saily ship, the 'Tenacious', which came down the coast [on motors, the wimps!] and went into the Bay.

Even better, well out to the due east again, at least 9 Gannets were lingering over a cetacean / some cetaceans. I use the term as despite much staring, I only got one glimpse and all I saw was a dark back with no obvious fin. There might have been a blow, but it could just as easily have been spray from a particularly vigorous wave. It was definitely an animal, but as to size and fin or not - it could have been a trick of the angle / light or it could have been.. well a frickin' Humpback for all I could see! It was something, anyway.

Now to Monday - yes Monday! - when I snuck out for a sneaky afternoon watch. I just couldn't resist, even though I only got to give the sea a half hour or so. I scored a few Manxies, but the best bird was as I was leaving - Bonxie!

And last and definitely but not least, some piccies!

Lead and Ore Stones from The Ledge

Watercoloured by the evening heat haze..

Told you she was big!

[[*Very roomy and private, higher up than The Steps or the TSWS, though not useful for proper seawatching weather, as it's exposed to the south and has a big bank of soil behind it...]]

It Worked Perfectly On Paper...

Yeah, so that whole 'more updates' thing kinda fell through...

What can I say?

Well, I have another weekend to report on; some proper 'ardcore seawatching wrapped around one of the most protracted and vexing dips I've suffered in some time.


In places, certainly. I might even get to telling you about it.

[[With kudos to the Incredible Falling Machine ;) ]]

20 July, 2015

Little And Often

Was the seawatching at the Nose this weekend [and indeed today].

The totals were not that different from the one big watch last Friday week; with a couple of Balearics, a handful of skuas, a few auks, and juv Yellow-legged and Med Gulls among the passage of Manxies and Gannets [with a few Kittiwakes and the odd Fulmar]. Also of interest, continued cetacean activity - though now well offshore.

Time is pressing right now, so I shall come back to this with a longer more decorated post [uh oh] later in the week.

13 July, 2015

The Sun And The Rain

An interesting week, though perhaps at times a little too much in the Chinese sense of the expression, unfortunately..

Friday saw an interesting start in the moth-y sense, with these two on my way home from work;

Good thing those are sturdy railings,
that's a big moff.

And very pink.

An elephant hawkmoth, but which one?? All I can say is "Er..."

Buff Tip

This one I know - but was surprised by how big it was; the size of my thumb!

After that excitement, I had to go out chasing butterflies. [There is logic in there somewhere...]

I went over to Great Plantation, on the Bovey road, where many White Admirals had been reported. I eventually caught up with at least 4, one of which posed briefly for my paparazzi setup. A shot may come out... I also zapped Small Skippers and Beautiful Demoiselles [what they are doing along stagnant ditches is anybodies' guess...]. Hordes of Meadow Brown, several Silver-washed Frits, plus Ringlets, the odd Large Skipper, and a good Red vs White Admiral fight [white won] also of note, with Keeled and Black-tailed Skimmers and Golden-ringed Dragons patrolling about.

It's a very nice spot for butterflies, and with luck and patience should yield great results, but you really have to watch where you put your feet [both shod and tripoded...]

Saturday I pretty much lost to a crippling headache. Have you ever had that one that feels like someone has shoved a needle through your eye and not stopped until it hit the back of your skull?

Yeah, fun times.

Brief relief meant I got to the Nose near dusk, for yet another windmill til fictional evening tern movemen where to my amaze a tern or two flew past calling and shock; not Sarnie! I didn't actually see it/them, but they sounded interestingly little... Unfortunately, I'm not sure and as I didn't get eyes on, they stay as 'tern sp.' - lack of non-sarnie call practice! [Even listening back to BWPi I'm still not happy.. tut]*

On to Sunday, where delayed sleep due to my head meant I was unable to get up as early as the sudden shift in the forecast required.

But at least I got to the Nose in time to catch the pod of Bottlenose Dolphin come by at point blank range, breaching calves and all!
At least 13 animals, including 3 calves, they split around the Lead Stone but seemed to be travelling with intent to mess around rather than hunt. They certainly moved past quickly.

After that fun there was quite a lot of not huge numbers.

I amused myself by playing the Manxie game. [It's like the Dunlin Game, but..... with passing Manxies**]. They obliged by passing at various ranges and visibilities, with the odd one thrown in. Best odd one had very white underwings, especially the hands. This made the uppers look darker and oh yeah, it was fluttering like a frickin' fairy. Well worth a look, as it was.. yes, a Manxie!

The C Scoters picked up - more than a hundred in all eventually - though the Manxies didn't average 30/hour overall and the standards even less. The weather proved even better than the forecast, with gunk lasting into the afternoon - coming and going with the odd demi-squall - and the quality picked up. Balearics and Arctic Skuas most noticeably. Singles of Sarnie, Whimbrel and Curlew, 4 Med Gulls and my first juv YLG of the year [which hung around but didn't pose].

As with last year, I again wonder at the lack of coverage at Berry Head. I mean, I know it's not August, but still, that river of squiggly frontal wind blowing right up from interesting places...
Ah, never mind.

No wait - one thing more; auks. Many of which had been roosting[?] on the Ore Stone [bare the day before]; I guess those would be females and perhaps a few failed breeders [the males being offshore with the juvs]. All Guillemots, and also all but one passing bird [of those that came close enough to ID in gunk and rain]. Interesting the contrast between the Nose and the Point, isn't it? Colony proximity, I guess?

[[*Nasty phrases are started to circle in my head, like 'bogey bird' and 'the one that got away'. They are accompanied by that little bugger which was flying up and down in front of us at Pagham. I knew I could hear it sniggering...]]
[[**If you've never played the Dunlin Game, you're not a proper birder. Sorry.***]]
[[***How to play the Dunlin Game.
You need a scope, ideally somewhere to sit out of the wind, and a good sized flock of Dunlin, preferably actively feeding on some juicy mudflat. Use the scope to go through the hundreds/thousands of teeny, grey, and very active birds and try to find something that isn't a Dunlin. If you fail to find an oddity, or are just a masochist, go through again and age/sex/race them. If you do this often enough, you will either go raving mad or get scarily good at small waders. Possibly both.]]

06 July, 2015

They're 'round The Halfway Marker..

How time flies when you're having fun.

Or indeed, just sitting around doing very little. [It's odd that, you'd think if you're idling around that time would stretch, but the hours just vanish]


July started with me getting some gen on a repeat-sighted Turtle Dove at an [understandably, I'm sure you agree] undisclosed location. As this wasn't one I was familiar with, I checked it out on a few days before and after work, but got not a sniff. Apparently the bird buggered off as soon as word was put out [[damn psychic doves..]]. Oh well, I did see some lovely farmland, almost got flattened by the bin men [A full-size bin lorry in a narrow lane is not fun when you're on foot. Especially when they don't brake. I mean, even the combine harvester slows down...], oh and I saw my first Stoat of the year - which pulled their famous 'turn in their own length' routine to dive back into the hedge!

The weekend was split between a yomp on t' Moor and a nip down to Slapton in hope of thunder-downed terns. No terns, but t' Moor was lovely! I had a good day on the south moor, with a veritable horde of Wheatears, including as many fluffy new juveniles as adults! Ah, but they were adorable.

In between Wheatear bouts, I was up on some proper blanket bog. Real moor this, with only the odd stick to navigate by;

The Stick,
Black Lane 

The moor was lovely and green - nothing like a touch of rain to get all the grass growing. The lane itself was still a bit dry, though. It is getting increasingly noticeable how the bogs seem to be getting smaller and dryer over the years. Routes which used to be 'pass with care' are now casually traversed, bogs you had to circle around even in summer can be walked right over. It is concerning, to say the least...

But climate worries aside [and curses on the horrific erosion caused by all the frelling cyclists; just look at the Princetown-Sheepstor path - or don't, it makes you weep -] I had a very nice toddle.

And finally... Cocky sheep at Eylesbarrow;

"I ain't afraid of no Little Black Dog"

The yearlist comparison date is 4/11 btw.. yowzer!

Finally, huge congratulations to the Lionesses, who showed Hodgson's boys how you wear an England shirt.

Why aren't they going to the Olympics, again?