31 August, 2015

Pretty Pictures

Time gets away so easily.

You can be grateful for this as I again don't have time to prattle on inanely.

Instead I shall let pictures paint thousands of words [and not all of them "Aaaarrrgghh, my eyes..." this time, either]

So, from the Nose, while a Clouded Yellow got away from me, a Painted Lady was less cautious;

Yarner was light on the butterflies, but there was many a fungus busy fruiting away. Here be a couple of examples for your delectation;

Artist's Bracket

Bitter Bolete, 
growing in a mossy stump

Ok, enough of those, time for today!

After making what was arguably a very wrong call in not being at the Black Hole on Sunday afternoon, I resolved to correct matters today and showed up for the morning tide.

I was not alone. Many of Devon [and zumerzet]'s finest were on site in the vain hope that that wagtail had hung around. With plenty of Backwater birders unsurprisingly present too,  this concentration of talent produced early results in the form of an alleged Spotted Crake and a theoretical Wryneck. Plus a bunch of Wood Sands, many Ruff, and a Little Stint.

Little? Looked  pretty big to me;

Big Stint

After much looking, Stoney managed to see the Crake from the corner it was hiding in [don't blame it, those Moorhens are vicious..]. Eventually the crake gave up cowering in the reeds and started showing very well indeed. So well that even I, with my 3 pixel phone camera, was able to do this;

Walking puffball

Crake. Spotted.

"Beep! Beep!"
It's the Reedrunner!

What an utter star of a bird.

The soggy juv Blackbird Wryneck proved typically invisible after the first encounter, but I wasn't so bothered. Yeah, would have been nice, but that Crake... I may have seen more of them in cornwall, but the two I've now seen here have both been utter beauties.

Speaking of things wonderful, have you seen the Black Hole recently? They just keep on adding things! The RSPB really need to take a look and then pull their linguistically incorrect socks up - this is how you do a reserve!

A couple of things;

This is for looking at dragonflies!
It has a roof and seating!

This is the Sand Martin and bat bank, seen from a comfy bench.
In front is another great dragonfly pool, 
behind it a visitor centre, a third dragon pool, and loos.

It was all I could do to stop myself going 'I'm not worthy..', I tell you. No wonder there are so many great birds here, this place deserves them.

30 August, 2015

Three Mornings, One Afternoon, One Evening

No yearticks.

The Nose produced nowt better than Garden Warbler [and an interesting gull], a visit to Yarner produced many pretty fungi, and a hope for a returning Little Stint at Bowling Green produced Wood Sands and Ruff plural but no teeny tots..

[And yes, I very nearly went to Black Hole for the afternoon*...]

Tis late and I may well be up early tomorrow, so that's it for now.

[[*Many naughty words removed]]

26 August, 2015

It's A Bird!

And what a bird!

This very morning, as I was finally stuffing my face [having got in from work and after dealing with the laundry*] I saw something wonderful grab and fly on the sunflower seed feeder. Amazingly it came back and even posed for a piccie!



Not only was I visited by this wonderful bird, but it was then displaced by another one!! Yeeehah!


[Can you tell I'm in need of a birding fix?] But seriously, Nuthatches rock at any time, and seeing them on feeders is always wonderful. [Well, unless you're the poor Blue Tit looking down the wrong end of that bill coming zooming towards you...] Seeing them in my ickle garden** was a treat as unexpected as it was delightful.

Now if only all this wonderful weather will keep it up until I can get to it...

[[*Laundry demands doing first, or it'll sulk..]]
[[**Ok, I'm stretching the definition a bit]]

24 August, 2015

Not What It Says On The Tin

In that this post does not include any proper birding. At all.

Excreta occur, as they say.

So, no seawatching, no twitching reachable Lifers, no hordes of Wood Sands, no yearticks, not even any dips...

Very much a weekend not as planned [which would have involved Fraggle Rock, the Black Hole and hopefully a few very satisfying two-part motions with the pencil...]

Friday got taken up, and then Saturday was lost to my bonce once again. This is getting annoying.
But that's definitely well out of scope for here.

Sunday started iffily, and I wasn't sure about driving anywhere, but never mind as there was something non-driveable to do!

A family trip to Slyme to do something I've idly wanted to do for years - the Philpott.

It were dead great, a wonderful little museum, especially if you're into geology such as landslips and the marine fossils of the Jurassic! [And really, who isn't?] Plus all the usual local history, all packaged in an amazing house with not one but two staircases of death spiral staircases. Very highly recommended if you're in town - eats an hour or three easily.
Speaking of eats, another plug; the Cobb Inn - good beer, good food, even put up with the LBD! [What more is there to say?]

The weather started a bit soggily - see the Cobb;

The French Lieutenant's Woman definitely needed a good brolly..

But then the sun came out and it were almost like Summer or something...

Charmouth and Golden Green Cap

The most exciting bird I saw in Lyme was a Collared Dove. [Though there was a Stock Dove just on the Devon side of the border]. All the gulls were Herrings and all the Feral Pigs were incredibly cocky - much to the annoyance of Tilbury, though she did get to scare one which didn't realise she was on an extending lead [very impressive emergency vertical takeoff!]

There was some sort of folk festival on, though it seemed to mostly consist of crowds, some Morris dancers, a very small choir, a very empty beer tent [tut], and a very loud PA..

Still, we had a good day.

And finally, I couldn't resist buying something in the museum shop - only to express my thanks for the place, honest - a very nice oyster*.

[[*Gryphaea arcuata if you're interested]]

19 August, 2015

One Word, Three Letters

Describes the result of what I alluded to in my last post - namely the doomed Spot Sand twitch - and that is of course DIP.

In the company of 5 other foolhar brave souls, I did see 6 Common Sands and a Kingfisher, plus a wake that might have been an Otter [well, it might] so not a total loss. And I got to the Passage House for the first time in well over a decade. Eventually...*

[I feel old]

I suppose 4 yearticks [two of them Devon ticks] in as many days was pushing it a bit. There would have had to have been at least a little gloating [just a little]. So the Goddess of Birding was evidently smiling on you all.

I have not been able to seawatch today, it looks like I won't get any in tomorrow either. Ho hum c'est la vie karma is karma and other random platitudes...

I shall revert to this location!

[[*'First left after the roundabout' was complicated by a new housing estate and forgetting there were two roundabouts..** Oh dear. Still I got there in the end..]]
[[**Did I mention I'd not been there for a long time? I did?]]

17 August, 2015

Or Is It October?!?

Ye Gods and Little Fishies, they just keep coming, don't they?

I'm not complaining!

So, instead of the weekend rundown that I had planned, it's a very brief precis;

[[Oh, stop cheering..]]

Saturday I was unable to get out until late late afternoon, due to Stuff, but the lovely Baird's Sandpiper waited for me and showed exquisitely.

I know I say it a lot but WOW.

This is a phonescope shot

Look at those primaries!

Also about the Black Hole were a Wood, at least 7 Common, and 3 Green Sand*. Not bad!

Sunday morning I toddled over to Dawlish Warren for yet another go [effort 6, I think...] at Little Tern. Two of Devon's Finest were present at John's Watch and apparently so were 3 Littles, but they'd evidently heard I was coming and buggered off out to sea and into the haze and gunk...

After an hour or so of the odd possible out there somewhere, the third member of the Dawlish Three arrived and within 30 seconds had summoned a Little Tern, which then flew up and down fishing spectacularly...

At. Fragging. Last.

Plenty more to see on site, most notably a very yellow yellow wag flying over, but brevity is needed.

[[*And a whole bunch of other stuff too]]

14 August, 2015

Did They Move St. Swithin's Day?

Just a leeetle bit of rain recently...

Got a surprise this evening, with news of a White-Winged Black Tern at Exminster.

Despite not getting the news until well after seven, I threw caution to the wind and zipped up to see if it was still around.
I have history with WWBT in Devon [I still can't look at the buoys on Slapton Ley without wincing..] and I wasn't going to wait to see if it stuck.

It seemed worryingly quiet when I arrived, but I eventually found someone at the platform of pitiful views, who uttered that dread phrase "It was here 5 minutes ago.."

Fortunately, the bird waited about that long to show up - hawking and dipping its way up the far side of the canal. It flew very low and gave a wonderful view as it passed.



It would repeat this routine, with higher passes back south and over towards the river a couple more times, before moving to the lagoon and motoring about over it until I called it an evening at 2040.

Despite several very close passes, it was far too erratic to get camera onto it - my only photos were at range as it passed towards and then hawked over the lagoon. And they are beyond awful. I blame the lack of light.

Don't believe me? [Of course you do, you've seen them before..]

Here's a flyover tern!

Juvenile WWBT.
[Plus UFOs bits on the lens..]

I think this is my worst ever 'record' shot. I am really quite proud.

But seriously, the bird was beyond fantabulous and a Devon Tick to boot! :)

13 August, 2015

The Joy Of The Moor

I spent Hen Harrier Day not driving all the way to Arne and back [the country stops at Brizzle, dontcha know..] but actually up on a moor. One of the few where harriers don't have to worry about low-flying shot. [Pity they can't breed there, but that's another rant story]

Ah, Dartmoor on a wet, windy, and generally 'orrible day.. ::Fond sigh::

Except it wasn't really. Some lovely hill fog, which lifted mid afternoon. One shower. Even some sunshine. Quite a lot of warmth. Oh, and a brisk sou'westerly. :)

I packed for everything from blazing sunshine to sideways rain - it was that sort of forecast - and got a humid 20° with aforementioned ah, 'breeze'.

Quite an interesting dichotomy starting from Fernworthy; close if not muggy, as I yomped up through the plantation to the Hornbeam Gate, then out into the wind and.. woo! You'd think it was October, maybe late September. Certainly not August with all that hillfog.

Anyways, after diverging from a party of Happy Hikers who'd arrived at the same time as me, I wandered over to the Grey Wethers, before on up to Sittaford Tor, then out to the rediscovered circle beyond. And very nice it is too; 30 stones plus a dinky outlier; quite similar to White Moor. I've heard they're going to leave it as it is, but I must admit I'd prefer to see it back up. I know the victorians were, well.. the victorians with other circles, but we can put it up properly, so what's the harm, really? Excavate properly first, then put them up as they were.

Cue pictures;

The Grey Wethers.
Cosdon Beacon in the distance, 
the cloud base just skimming the higher hills

Inside the Sittaford circle, looking at the outlier

A few of the 30 stones,
they've been cleaned up and so are easy to see..

..though some are buried deeper than others

Anyways, as I was enjoying the circle, the cloud base dropped on cue and even Sittaford Tor vanished!

I do so love it when the moor does that. It didn't quite get to '40 foot bowl', but still..

After a quick cuppa out of the wind at the Tor, I pressed on to Quintin's Man;

Looking towards White Horse Hill from Quintin's Man
[there's a hill in there somewhere..]

Then on up White Horse Hill, where even in some very nicely dense mistyfog, I found an unmarked-on-the-OS hut circle;

Just a wee one

Then up over the top via the old way to Hangingstone Hill and onwards [passing the Happy Hikers for the third time!*] down to my main stop of the day.

Yup, favourite tor again; Wild Tor.

Approaching Wild Tor from the south

Evidently the coobeasties' favourite too, as they had been emptying their bowels all over it..
Muttering "Steaks and mince, steaks and mince.." I eventually found somewhere out of the wind to have a lazy and [as usual] late lunch. I don't consider it a proper break unless you stay put for at least an hour, and you need a good amount of time - especially on somewhere as 'desolate' [[::coughsniggercough::]] as t'Moor - to see what's about.

Wheatears, for example.

And this youngster;
Never seen one of these there before!

Eventually the sight of a distant but closing horde prompted me to move over the Walla Brook to Watern Tor, where there were even more Wheatears! Including a very fluffy just-fledged juvenile [awww...]. It didn't sit and pose for a photo, and I was too busy cooing anyway.. [Ahem]

I closed the loop via Teignhead Farm - no Wheatears, surprisingly - and met a juvie Redstart in the plantation on my way back.

My last encounter was definitely my least enjoyable; a frickin' horsefly sp. waiting for me by my li'l car! Not the usual clegg, though it had the patterned eyes and wings, this one was a bit longer and had white between eyes and mouthparts [if it was a dragonfly, I'd have said frons] and flew with an ominous hum. It was also typically persistent and forced me to perform an 'emergency unload and dive into car while fending off attacking fly' manoeuvre that would have been most amusing for any witnesses..

On my way out I stopped off to check the reservoir for any passing waders, it being nice and quiet along the exposed shore, what with the weather. Not to be though, as I drew a blank. There were at least 30 Swallows hawking over and 2 Cormorants in the water, however.

All in all, it was a cracking day out [eh, Gromit?] and well overdue.

Saturday... Well, after dark female and male Tawny Owls called. I darned yet another bit of the big bumbleshoot [which got bent in July and I'd only just noticed on my last seawatch..], and not a huge amount else of note happened.

Ditto Friday, but without the brolly repair.

Ooh! I did add a new species to my [very short] feeder list! House Sparrow! Get in!!


[[*The second was at Sittaford, as they came up the other side as I was leaving to look for the circle. Small Moor, eh?]]

10 August, 2015

Hen Harrier Day

There's something missing from our country.

Vicarious liability for the United Kingdom, backed up by custodial sentences.

"One of your employees shot a Hen Harrier. He may lose his job, but you are going to prison."

It's time for the sledgehammer.

06 August, 2015

If The Weather Won't Come To You..

.. You must go to the weather.

Temporally, anyway.

So it was that yesterday when I got back from work I tooled up and scurried over to the Nose. There I got in 2 hours of drizzle, interspersed with bands of both clear and light rain. The wind started at a stiff SE, and eventually bothered around to a S-SSE.

At first it was dead. Not even a vague exaggeration, either, I literally had no birds passing. Then after a couple of sweeps it was just the local Cormorants and Shags. Finally, after maybe 10 minutes, a Gannet came by at zero metres [a nice sight]. Eventually 2 more passed. I was starting to think about a new record, especially given the weather...

Then it changed. Two wonderful Balearics! A classic and a darker classic, line astern and very close in - though they headed off to pass outside the Ore Stone - I was so happy to see them!

And then there was passage. Not much, not much at all, but some very nice birds.

4 Balearics went south in all, including a near Sooty-a-like, and another went NE - I watched it tacking off into Lyme Bay!

14 Manxies, a cracking juv Med Gull which lingered, 14 Kitts [10 juvs!], 43/1 Gannets, 8 Fulmars, 2 Oyks, 2 BHGs, and a juv LBB, plus a Guillemot sat on the sea.

Not a vast horde, [certainly not 118!] but worth the trip. As I sat there early on, looking at these seemingly good conditions minus the birds, I couldn't help wondering if a nice Feno's* was doing loops and things off Berry Head** [probably flying rings around a stonking adult Sabs...]. Turns out it was 'gwarra, so not so gripping...

In other news...
The Swifts mostly went [as I suspected] on Sunday, with about 8 lingering on until Tuesday.
So Summer is now officially Over. [And indeed the rain duly showed up!]

[[*"No one knows pterodromas like Feno's" ;)  ...Sorry.]]
[[**I know, I know, like I'm in a position to complain!]]

03 August, 2015

August Gets Off With - Well, Not Much Really...

Birding-wise, it was a bit of a non-event, this last weekend.

Lost Friday to a sick li'l car, and Saturday to a sick me, while most of Sunday was spent doing important things that I'd put off due to chasing birds for various important reasons.

I did get down to the Nose in the morning, for some vague notion of things that might be moving. I did indeed find a single migrating bird. It was a Swallow. And it was going north.

I'm not really surprised.

One notable sighting on Sunday was not at all birdy. A lovely pod of at least 9 Bottlenose Dolphin - including 2 calves, one young and pale - were feeding about 750m offshore. Well, they were feeding and porpoising and generally messing about, until 2 cabin cruisers and 2 speedboats came roaring by in quick succession... ::Sigh::

Also of note was a Jersey Tiger, which was unfortunately no longer with us, having landed on the wrong flower and been nabbed by a very small and very lucky spider!

I do have some not so pretty pictures to inflict upon you. One is a bit older and I'd forgotten I had it, the other was from Sunday.

Ta and indeed da;

Peach Blossom
[from 22/7]

Guess the butterfly? Maybe not...
Wall, Hope's Nose

There have been numbers of Swifts screaming around each evening, so at least until last night they were still here. Last night they managed to stay up back where I can't see, but I could hear multiple birds screaming. It may be the bulk have gone [after stuffing on flying ants, which have been abundant all weekend] and as usual left a few [presumed later juveniles] for a day or so.. I shall hope to find out tonight and will update on End Of Summer Day when it happens.

Finally, a feeder update. I have switched one over to sunflower hearts, in the hope of attracting Goldfinches. So far this has proved quite popular with the Greenfinches [who are supposed to prefer the tastier if more work whole sunflower seeds, but there you go..].  We shall see how things go.