29 September, 2015


Flying post on a flying twitch!

After work, off I toddled and from Cockwood Crossing [aided by nice light and of course a Big Scope], I saw this little thingy;

Cackling Goose 
with Brents.
At range.
Lots of range.

Colours are off; 
the bird is actually a lovely rich chocolatey brown
and its cheek patch is white.

Yes, they were hiding behind the yachts, right out in the middle of the estuary. Well, they were for about 10 minutes, then a considerate chap with a red fleece and green wellies showed up and flushed them all waaaay upriver. Cheers, mate!

Also some nice waders [including 23 Barwits], the Slav, and a couple of flyover Grey Wags.

Sorted. Right, I'm off to bed...

28 September, 2015

Patch Birding? Bah..

Since dropping that sylvia last weekend [Ed: weekend before, now] I've been determinedly attacking the Patch, trying to find a yeartick on my todd [preferably one I can get a useable photo of.. Ho Ho].

This has been interspersed with having to do various things, many car-related and also expensive...

Highlights include finally* [and amazingly] getting a Turtle Dove on Patch. Not only that but out the sodding window! It flew north along almost the same line the Osprey took earlier in the year. Looked lovely in the afternoon sun, too..

At least 13 Greenfinch coming to my feeders, probably more.
Even better, my first Goldfinch!
Even better than that, a frickin GSW!!!!!!!!!

 Both on the sunflower hearts [seeing the woodie bending almost double to snaffle them - which it did with Woodpig-like alacrity - was quite something], neither photo-able, due to sodding pigeons taking off and flushing everything..

The Nose has been hit daily, with Saturday the best, including a fall of Blackcaps and a lark in/off, plus a fair amount of vismig [usual suspects].

Lowlights? Everything else. Capped off by my 'puter seemingly having a twitter issue and so me not finding out about that Cackler until about an hour ago..


Oh, and I'm back on joyous days.

But the moon last night [when it appeared in the gaps in the thick unforecast cloud cover] was quite something.

[[*I've seen 3 in stone's throw of Patch bounds in recent years. It used to be on the list, thanks to a superbly showy one seen for three commutes in a row in the early 'vox days, but when I tightened the boundary it had to go..]]

21 September, 2015

Sylvianian Gits..

After all the fun down in the Hams, I spent the rest of the birding weekend on Patch.

In a stunning break from tradition, I actually found something interesting that wasn't at the Nose. I know, shocking, isn't it?

But I'll get to that bit.

So, morning and evening visits were.. moderately productive and more than moderately vexing.

Sunday morning was the best for birds, with reasonable numbers of Chiffs and Blackcaps about, plus the couple of birds who named this here post. Of note, a couple of very nice and very Greenland-y Wheatears, up at the Lookout of all places [probably driven up by marauding dogs..]. I almost got  a point-blank picture. Also at least 2 Whinchat lurking around the South Side and a party of 12 Blackbirds!

A female Southern Hawker was good, but a male Beautiful Demoiselle was not only a Patch Tick but a first order 'where the vickers did you come from??' Two or three Clouded Yellow - one my first helice of the year - were also highlights, though also far too mobile to photo.

The insects showed up after the sea fog burned away, changing things dramatically and making what had seemed to be a potentially blank trip quite eventful.

Observe pretty scenery;

A line of yachts on a mercury sea,
mist lifting.

Top Dell and Thatcher Rock
in sunshine
Berry Head still wreathed in mistyfog

There you are..

Hmm, that was bordering on artistic, I shall have to watch it.

I spent a long time up in the Top Dell [allowing those pics] because I was being played for a silly bugger by a couple of pesky sylvias. First to show was a little job with a grey head and brown back which did not have the chestnut coverts of the expected Whitethroat. Nor did it have any kind of streaking [so not a Dunnock, the default brown/grey bush bird]. In fact, what was visible looked very interesting, but of course having showed briefly it vanished into a bush and never appeared again.

It was in here;

The Green Wall
Part of the Top Dell

You see the problem?

Bastard bastard bird.

While I was spending a couple of merry hours waiting in vain, another sylvia decided to pop up. This one was big and grey. Naturally you first look at the head for the black cap. Not got one. Hmm.. It too had showed for a few seconds in a bush and then vanished. Not the same bush, of course. That would be helpful.

After a while the big one popped back up and flew up the Dell and away. This is expected behaviour at the Nose. Fortunately I was able to get bins on it as it passed. "Very grey! Male Blackcap or more. Yup, no cap, quite a fierce face, nice stout bill, but a bit short, very white utcs.'
So, the world's greyest Garden Warbler. That white undertail is the real clincher.
I have never seen nor heard tell of a GW that was so grey. I mean, they're supposed to be olivey browny on top, fairly homogenous and boring, with that little grey shoulder the closest thing to a 'proper' marking. This one was not even slightly browny, let alone olivey, and very two-tone - more so than a male Blackcap - and generally wrong. A bird like that makes me wonder about hybrids, I tell you.

I went back when it quietened down and stayed until it got dusky, but of course not a twitch of the other sylvia. Hmm.

Plus side, loads of bats!! Both days they were out well before it got properly dark; 1920 onwards. Lots of feeding, some chasing, all along IMD and right home.. :D

Now, identifying bats on the wing without a detector is pretty much impossible. Not that that stopped me! You get a rough size, you get a flight action, behaviour, the early ones even gave colour [I love my bins]. Ok, it's still 'possible' at best, but I reckon there were [Common] Pipistrelles and probably a couple of Serotines. Maybe.

Whatever they were, they were wonderful to watch, and so hard to track with bins! Even the [probable possible might have been] Serotines, which were prone to gliding, were utter gits to track. They're right up there with Downy Emeralds, I tell you.

Oh, it was brilliant!

Yeah, he's finally gone batty...

[[Oh quit complaining, you were waiting for that one]]

18 September, 2015

Short But No Swifts

Please excuse the even worse than usual pun, but I am fresh off a night shift..

To be very brief, I gave up on the Nose this morning due to it absolutely pissing down. No point pass-bashing if they're cowering under the biggest thing they can find, after all.

So I went to do what I'd meant to last weekend and tarted down to Slapton to look for punks in disguise.

Tried Ireland Bay first [because I've played that game before] then toddled down to Stokeley [a sit down and a roof seemed an even better idea than usual] where I rapidly found the 2 eclipse male Red-crested Pochards hanging around off Scaup Point with about a hundred Coot and 60-odd Tufties, plus 2 regular Pochard and assorted swans and GC Grebes.


Spot the RCPs

[How's about that? A real record shot!]

Yeah, they were a fair way off.

Also of note was a lovely showy Kingfisher [though not that showy, alas] and a party of 5 pale-bellied Brents, who dropped in for a quick wash on their way south;

Observe the sharp covert fringes 
[sort-of] visible on the leftmost bird

A fair few hirundines present, but no Swifts. Lots of dragonflies, too and a Clouded Yellow, plus three LBBs among the gulls which looked interesting for intermedius.

Now if only I could find my x-ray specs and be able to get that wobbler... ;)

14 September, 2015

Stuff The Twitch, I'm Seawatching.

Is what I said yesterday afternoon, as at long long last some half decent weather co-incided with daylight [just about..].

Perhaps I should have been more ruthless about my yearlisting. [Hm, there's a post in this; I'll get back to it]. But I wasn't, so no chasing about the Warren after another sodding Pec Sand. Hell, I have an awful record with them anyway..

So, I got down to the Nose and stayed until it got dark. I even caught a nice little squall, and the ESE to SE with semi-continuous showers which kicked in about 5 [the wind was there before but not the rain] produced some birds.

Probably the star performer was an adult intermediate morph Arctic Skua, which detoured on its way South to have a look at the gulls clustered around the Toes. The fishers had all left with the rain [wimps] and the gulls had moved in, only to be most flustered by the incoming skua! Which was quite entertaining to watch; Geebs alarming at an Arctic half their size... :)

Said skua was in inner primary moult [!] so perhaps they saw more in the wings than an Arctic would have and thought it was a bigger sp.?? Whatever, the skua came right in and then decided there was nothing of interest, so passed inside the Lead Stone at maybe 100m, well up, flying casually, and crippling through the scope!

Only one other Arctic went south, the other 5 [plus a distant probable] went north. It seems there was a lot of activity well out in Lyme Bay, as there was a lot of split movements. The other 3 skuas were 2 S and 1 distant lingering, the Balearics were split 6S 7N [and probably different birds, judging by plumage], the Gannets were 86/24 [that includes a late surge south after the squall]. The only large numbers in one direction were Kittiwakes, with all 65 heading South [about 60% were immature birds].

Only 3 auks [one of each], one party of 19 C Scoter, 2 lone Manxies and 2 Fulmars also went south, with 4 Sarnies lingering early on and a surprise in the form of an immature Grey Heron heading out SE! Brave bird, is all I can say.

It was good to be watching the sea properly again, just a shame the weather's been so inclement..

Oh well.

In the morning [after I'd finished cursing the weathermuppets] I'd wandered over to Exminster, where a Grey Phalarope was showing brilliantly. It even had a fly around. Lovely little birds.. :D

The light wasn't always great..

..Unlike the bird.
1w Grey Phal

Saturday was spent doing stuff like scrubbing balconies [a rather quixotic task] and cleaning feeders, mostly, but I got to the Nose first thing for a whole lot of Blackcaps and some impromptu seawatching. After the night's front, a Balearic [going north], 2 Poms, and an Arctic in 15 minutes weren't bad, but it never looked like being good enough to tool up properly. I was going to head to Slapton in the afternoon, but life got in the way, so what can you do?

Finally, from Saturday morning, here's a lovely photo of part of the Top Dell;

There is a bird hiding in here.
Can you see it?

Right then, back to work. Happy happy joy joy...

11 September, 2015

The [South] East Wind Doth Blow

Which has made a change.

So, last few days I've been getting out and having some fun.

Wednesday saw me down at Prawle - I figured the forecast sunshine would bugger up any chance of decent birds at the Nose [good idea that was..] and that as there was a chance for migrants, Elender/Pig's Nose would be more sheltered and thus more productive than Starehole/East Soar.

Which seems to have been the case. Certainly all the Whinchats, Wheatears, and Spot Flies I found pointed to at least a little movement? The flock of 18 Siskin [where are they all coming from??] overhead certainly did.

Wheatear, Pig's Nose

I did get to the sea, where I was rewarded with one Balearic and one Manx, both east, accompanied by a light passage of juv LBBs. There were a few Gannets and a Fulmar, too. Wow.

Best of all was this little beauty;

Spot the Adder!

She was a young one, only the size of a pencil, and slipped away very quickly - as you can['t] see!

The next day I was up on't Moor, lured by the forecast of more sun and lighter winds. I figured I'd get a yomp in and then do some raptor watching from one of my favourite points.

The weather started with tor-skimming clouds and a, well, brisk wind, to say the least, but the ground was drier than it has been and the klicks wandered past.

Glorious Dartmoor weather
Three Barrows

The sun eventually came out when I was here;

The Heap

Black Darter and Common Hawker present in numbers, also Wheatears!

After flushing a Snipe [early] near the Avon, I headed on to Ryder's Hill*, where I found the first of a line of little orange flags. I have no idea what they were there for - I hope they have been tidied up by whoever put them out is all I can say. Littering the Moor drives me around the bend...


So, on to a nice viewpoint, where I found to my annoyance that there was a great deal of haze. It  eventually died away, but not until it was too late for much chance of anything sexy soaring. I got a couple of Buzzards.

All was by no means lost, though. Soaring raptors? Nope. Flying past and catching Craneflies raptors? Oh hell yeah! Not one, not two, but three Hobbies!!! Two adults and a very vocal juvenile, came from the north and went south, the juv snarfing a cranefly right overhead. Brilliant!

I eventually ended my loop back at Shipley Bridge after 26 klicks - not bad.

This morning, despite the overnight arrival of cloud, there was more of a clear out than clear in at the Nose. Three warblers. Just three. Not even any flyover Siskin.
I ended up looking at gulls. Quite a lot.

Maybe tomorrow??

[[*If you happen to take the path between Ryder's Hill and Redlake, please be very careful. It is littered with cow holes that under the long grass are very hard to see and almost seem designed to break legs..]]

09 September, 2015

Made It!

What possesses a birder to spend the best part of four hours sat in a hide on a sunny day, waiting for birds to move their little white behinds out of the heat haze?

Good question. I think it had something to do with an idiotic self-challenge brought on by reading a book about three americans. You know the one, it's got a big egg on the cover.

So it was that I was at Dawlish Warren on Monday. Kinda fitting, I think, that the place where I started my attempt to beat my own record was where I succeeded.

Not that it looked like I would for a while.

One of those low middle of the day tides that so often give results at the Warren, with the desired bird new in the day before, seemed like a good scenario. The blazing sunshine and resulting heat haze, plus the best part of 700 small waders among the vegetation of the Bight for it to hide among, complicated matters.

Even better, with none of the Three present, I'd have to find my own birds. [I know; the horror, the horror...]

This was assuming it was even still there. [Such a thought I was careful not to voice, for fear of temptation]

After more than an hour, the waders flew in a way as to show all of their uppersides while heading away and yes, there was the square white rump of Curlew Sandiness. "Oh thank fu- where did it go??"

Even the Little Stint eventually came out - briefly - but not the CS, oh no.
So I stayed on, hoping for a photo [hah hah]. And eventually the waders moved onto the exposed mud from the falling tide and started giving good views. The one other birder who'd stayed the course got Little Stint at bin range [a Lifer for her - result], but the Curlew Sand stayed out of sight in the Bight.

So I sat, and I counted and I sat some more. Eventually the thing did show, but never well. It clearly had some sort of ninja training, as it only stopped behind posts, or Oyks, or friggin' Knot, then moved further out and into the haze....

Juv. Curlew Sand, preening
plus Ringed Plover

See what I mean? It had even dunked its belly in that little wet bit to try to look like a Dunlin.

Oh well.

As I spent so long sat around scanning and counting, I shall inflict some upon you;

Curlew Sandpiper - 1 [juv]
Little Stint - 1 [juv]
Knot - 69
Dunlin - 450+
Ringo - 230+
Sanderling - 48
Barwit - 1
Redshank - 2
Turnstone - 4
Grey Plover - 1 [mostly s/pl]

Oyk - 710+
Curlew - 535+

Also Wheatear in front of and Whitethroat behind the hide. As I was leaving, about 17 [distance, haze etc.] Brent Geese [looked pale-bellied but see comments re. visibility] were on the approaches close to the Point.
Yellow Wagtail flyover and a few Swallows were all the vismig, and the only terns I saw were Sarnies [but again, the vis. was not good].

Sunday was very different. Hope's Nose had a Clouded Yellow and a funny-calling Chiffchaff. It went chu-wee, or sometimes sh'wii. [Always disyllabic, but not at all like a WW, btw]. I heard it before I saw it and was naturally intrigued. When I saw a brown Chiff, I was shocked when it opened its bill and proved to be the mystery caller. Go and indeed figure.

After that fun, I went for a toddle on t'Moor with the Folks. We wandered up onto Hamel Down - for views and a lack of livestock - and then back down to the moor edge for a cuppa and some very nice biccies.

The scenery was typical late Summer - with all the grass and heathers and gorse out;

Doesn't do it justice.

Up top, the massive panoramas gave me hopes of picking up anything soaring about - and indeed there were raptors up. Unfortunately the haze was, too. This proved especially frustrating when a broad-winged long-tailed raptor was just too indistinct to clinch. It never gave a classic silhouette, and side-on or 3/4 views meant that while it definitely had a tail longer than wing width [so not the default juvie Buzzard], I couldn't be sure exactly what it was. It looked too 'chunky' for Hen, definitely too pale for Marsh, but with juvenile G a possible as well as Honey.. All I can say is "Bugger."

Lower down, a Redstart on the way up proved to be a foretaste of what was to come, as we found the plantation edge we'd picked was the perfect coffee spot; no less than 5 Spotted Flycatchers were using a nearby fence and trees to hunt from! We ended up watching them [and a couple of Chiffs] flycatching at nice binocular range for more than an hour, with Siskins above us and Stonechats in the foreground. 

Be Seeing You.

05 September, 2015

Dipping For The Tape

The north wind doth blow but we won't be having snow.

[Snow? What's that??!??]

It is with mixed feelings that I look at the weather. Yes, passerines mostly being supercharged on their way is great, but the lack of much at the Nose [ok, that's for the given levels of the Nose, which is a place of 'double figures? WOW!'...] is the consequence. I saw my first Willow Warbler of the Autumn this morning, with a mix of Chiffs and sylvias that just scraped over said line, and yeah, that sums it up, doesn't it?

It was a lovely one, though.

So were the Wheatears at the Nose last night. :)

What else is new on't Patch? Very vocal owls.. First tit band of the Autumn! [A big one too, and mostly Great Tits but with 2 Nuthatches and a Treeeecreeper!]

Ooh yes, the Pipistrelle[s] is[/are] back! Last night, after getting in from sunset at the Nose I was a watering my trees* when all of a sudden there it/they was/were - flying around and landing on the wall. I watched until it got too dark to see, sitting on my railing with a daft grin on my face.. :D

Wandering back a little further, I took at toddle on the north Moor on Wednesday. Hit Cranmere from the north in what were pretty darn good walking conditions. My notebook told me I'd not been there for 2 years, but I'm sure it's wrong... I couldn't check the book there as there's a new one started this Summer. I suppose I ought to trawl this here blog.

No matter, it was good to be back up there, and sitting in the lee of a peat hag with only the wind for company was.. Near sublime.


Cranmere Pool
The First Letterbox

When erosion attacks...

...Just walking on a track can be dicey.
[Yes, that is a big overhang..]

White Moor Circle
From Oke Tor

I looped from Okie camp via East Mill Tor and Oke Tors [because too many tracks are boring]. There were Wheatears around rocky bits and Black Darters around boggy bits and so many humbug coobeasties that I reckon they must have started cloning them..

So, five days and that's all to report? Well, I've been doing other things, needful things. Things that involved getting myself covered in polyfilla, to name but one. And still missing a bit, dammit.

There should be more, or at least more frequent reporting. Especially if the frickin' wind does go to the sweet east..

A blast from the past to finish up, I think;

That'd do nicely.

[[*Not a euphemism.]]