27 October, 2015

Very Quick Update Post

Ok, Sunday's Post is now fairer of face than it was when I wrote it..

Also, yesterday lunchtime at work; 38 Redwing over NW, today 6 Song Thrush over S.

Er.. Yeah, that's it!

EDIT: Ok, please tell me, what is it about this post that makes it about an order of magnitude more interesting than most of my rubbish finely crafted work? I just don't get it...

25 October, 2015

We Happy Few

Celebrated the 600th anniversary today with a Clan Meet down in cornwall [as much of said clan are holidaying down there]. Being very good and not even trying to sneak off after birds, I didn't see much more than gulls - though there were a fair few gathering offshore - [let alone a Chough..], though there was some pretty scenery and some impressive surf! [There was also roast dinner AND cake.. :D ]. Picture of said scenery here;

That's about a 5' swell there..

Yeah, the landscape was pretty, the buildings less so...

Yesterday I actually got some seawatching in! Pulled more than 4 hours at the Nose before the sun came out and there were even birds!

2 [yes, 2!] Balearics, a Pom, a Bonxie [which viciously scragged a poor GBB..!], a few interesting-looking gulls, a fair few Gannets, Kittiwakes, and auks [2-300 of each]... oh, and 19 Puffins!!

Also present were a couple of ships for the first time in ages. I took pictures [the ships were far more co-operative than the birds, I must say] as one had an interesting motif at the bow;

Front end of the large Stena Bulk tanker 'Stena Arctica'
[I guess she's ice-hardened?]

Yes, that's a Polar Bear, mouth gaping with all the teeth going on!
[Also an impressive scrape, which went right down her side..]

In the late PM I got down to Towne and took the opportunity to check the Real Living Coasts, where I was rewarded with 3 Sandpipers Purple!!! First ones of the winter and weren't they cute in the low sunshine.. :D Also 2 Rockits and a Turnstone.

Friday.. I got about the Patch and there were a few Chiffs and Blackcaps at the Nose, but best bird was a Firecrest accompanying Goldcrests in the pines opposite the entrance! :D  A few parties of alba Wagtails were passing over, but otherwise pretty quiet.

Ok, that'll do for now.

21 October, 2015

Great Scott!

Happy Back To The Future Day everyone!

[Where's my hoverboard?]


Right then, so.. Sunday.

Feeling a bit better but still not anything like 100%, I did not go out a' yomping over t' Moor or anything like that. I did decide to do some proper birding instead.

I had this cunning plan, you see. I had noticed the day before [and indeed often in the past before that] that quite a few birds seem to like flying up and down the Bovey valley. If you look at a map, you'll see why - especially when they are going west. [Short version; 'oh look, there's a big lump of granite in the way, let's follow this valley past/through it rather than go up and be exposed to passing raptors / strong winds etc.']. This also seemed to extend right through the day - indeed on Saturday, passage seemed stronger when I left than when I arrived.

So, getting to Trendlebeare in the afternoon, instead of wandering around as I usually do, I took my foldy stool and my li'l scope and found myself a nice viewpoint. I was aided in this by the rangers, who had helpfully hacked down the gorse by the res., leaving a lovely spot on the ridge with some shelter from the prevailing and a 180° view to the east! Wrapped up in two fleeces and with flask and rations to hand, I sat myself down and waited to see what [if anything] would fly over.

Yeah, there was a bird or two.

In 2 hours 164 Mipits, 121 alba Wagtails [plus 2 definite Pied], 17 Grey Wagtails, 76 Woodpigs, and a whole host of other passerines went by. To the left, to the right, and straight up over my head! Very few winter thrushes - 13 Redwing, 2 Fieldfare, 5 Mistle Thrush - with lots of assorted finches in small numbers; only Chaffs broke 2 figures.

Finch-wise, Crossbills [7] and Redpoll [2] were good, but the star bird was undoubtedly the one that went over giving well-spaced 'tsic!' calls...  Did not expect that one, I can tell you. :D

There were some patterns in the movements; the wagtails almost entirely came by late - with more than 100 albas and all the Greys in the last half hour - and the Mipits passed in noticeable waves, with odd groups of no more than a half dozen in between pulses.

Also of note; a big group of corvids tarting around towards Lustleigh included at least 80 Jackdaw, and when I arrived, there were 17 House Martins feeding over Yarner.

When there wasn't anything flying over, there were a few birds knocking around the Down too, including this lovely buff-bellied Mipit ['scuse the humour] [and the handheld phonescope shots...]

It sat on this Birch for almost 40 minutes
 and  I thought 'why not?'

You might be able to see how buffy it was underneath
[yup, I had time to get up and move]
[[and this was still the best I could do.. oh dear]]

Less fun were the sodding Deer Flies... Yarner seems to specialise in the damn things [if you've been lucky enough not to find out what they are, think a big tick that moves as fast as an ant and can fly!] and one even snuck home with me - going for my neck when I was putting my kit away..

So, after all the fun of the weekend, it was back to work.. but wait, there's more!

Time for a prettier picture;

Who's a pretty Goldie, then?

"Oh shit, he's got a camera!"

At least 3 Goldfinch [2 ads and a 1w] on my feeders on Monday! :D In the company of a dozen Greenfinch, with Coal and the odd Great and Blue Tits as well.

Aaaand that's all, folks.
The plague is hanging on by its fingernails [claws?], but I am hopeful that I will be free of its clutches soon.

Maybe just in time for The Artist to pin down a twitchable White's at Berry Head? [Hey, I can still dream!]

Be Seeing You

19 October, 2015

A Post I Forgot To, Er, Post

[[NB This was written Saturday evening, but for some reason I forgot to actually put it up... Anyway, here you go. A further post about Sunday will be forthcoming later in the week. It may even have some non-twitchy birding in it, believe it or not.]]

I am still unwell and will not be doing any awful shrike-related puns in this post.

I will instead settle for inflicting the phonescope photos I took before I gave up to coo, sketch, and coo some more over that wonderful little bird. Yes, all of them. [Mua-ha-ha-ha-haaa]

1w Isabelline Shrike
South Huish

Sadly, my phone really doesn't like subjects lit by the afternoon sun...

A very cute wasp eater.

"Like a Spot Fly from hell" was the comment I made at one point, after the bird had popped up onto the line right next to me and, front-on [while munching a jasper] and crown fluffed, it really did remind me of one. Not that different in size, either. [Just look at how it can't get its toes around the wire!]

All shrikes rock [well, unless you're smaller than they are, then it's quite another matter...], and Issys* are no exception, but this one was just..wow. Very confiding, and just so pretty. Ok, maybe not quite as pretty as the Portland one, but far better to watch!

What else it there to say? Got to the Nose on Friday and.. bah. Saturday I was crashed out - first catching up on lost sleep, then wasted by another one of those headaches..
I eventually cracked and went out anyway. I had stuff to do, so I resolved to defy my brain and had a toddle around Yarner. Which was nice and quiet. A few bands here and there, most birds around the feeders; Marsh Tits, Siskin, and Chaffs were the only things I saw that haven't been on my feeders [ :) ] too, but the day was saved by a passage of Redwing, with a couple of Fieldfare. They were going west, too. [Always nice to see migrants going the right way]. They were my first winter thrushes of the Autumn, and very nice too. Also a few finches [assorted] moving.

I'm typing nice too much. Must be the painkillers.


[[*Like many far better birders, I have no time for all this 'daurian' nonsense. Yes, the split is right, but the latin name is perfectly acceptable; they've split Turkestan off, not disproved the existence of Isabelline.]]

12 October, 2015


Or, 'Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud'

In this case, a wonnnnderful roast dinner at the Folks [it doesn't get much better than roast pork with crackling.. ::Drool::] seems to have had the unfortunate side effect of me coming down with the lurgy. I blame Sister, who was also there. [Did I mention the crumble, too?]

EDIT: Apparently, Sister is innocent, and has herself now come down with said Plague. The Folks claim they are unaffected by any plague, and so a) they can't be the vectors, and b) can I please stay away so they don't get it too.

Anyways, now that I am duly struck down wit' t' plague, I'm in posting and not out birding.

I did get out over the weekend, despite the evident onset, because, well. Because.

So off I headed to the Nose both mornings, to find bugger all on land due to the wind. I mean, it's the second week of October, and I had 2 warblers total each day! 2 Blackcaps Saturday and a Blackcap and a Chiff yesterday. Sheesh.
Some overhead stuff, but even then nothing really noteworthy in terms of numbers, let alone species.

Sunday I also took the li'l scope along and stared at the sea for half an hour, on account of the misty gunk and brisk NE wind. There were a few Gannets and a light auk passage, but bugger all else. Not even a Kittiwake!

I did see that the Mad Axeman of the Nose has been back;

Almost felled it...

[I suppose wondering about the possibility of an unfortunate yet karmic axident would be wrong, wouldn't it?]

I've also been checking the various sheltered bits of the peninsula for anything stripey, but while the tit bands have formed up, there has been nothing sexier than the odd Goldcrest or Nuthatch with them.

At least, until Sunday afternoon, when I was checking the evergreen oaks* by the Battery on IMD and came across a band of at least 3 Goldcrests accompanied by the Autumn's first Patch Firecrest!


They were in 'last feed of the day' mode and very mobile, this not helped by a party of chatty walkers who came by. I always appreciate interested civilians, but the smile can be a bit strained when you're just about to actually get a [maybe even good] view and then you have to take your eyes off and...

In other news, the Greenfinches are hammering my sunflower feeders, abetted by the Coal Tits. I haven't caught anything else on them, but that's not to say other birds haven't been around [the pace of munching does imply that the GSW may still be snarfing away].
Cunning use of fishing line stretched over my bird bucket has at least stopped the winged rats pigeons from flipping the pond weed therein right over when they take their baths, and brought daily spillage down from 3" to less than 2cm.
With colder weather now arriving and the prospect of Nuthatches and woodies, I have scrubbed the nut feeder [with the fancy cleany stuff and everything] and am going to try some peanuts [gasp!].

Right, time for some more honey and lemon tea...

[[*Some people may mutter "non-native!", but I'd reply "global warming" "european species" "wonderful winter habbo" and "slope stabilisers"]]

07 October, 2015

The Less Happy Post

Ok, so here is the other stuff I was going to rant [Health Warning: yes, we have a rant - with norty words and everything - incoming fast..] about.

Sunday morning at the Nose and as I arrive at the top gate, I am greeted by this;

What was the Hope's Nose entrance sign.

This is the work of somebody who took the trouble to bring a saw - a decent sized hand saw judging by the cut - and did this.

What. The. Fuck.

And if you're wondering, the sign on that signpost is indeed no longer there.
If you're also wondering, that thing between the stump and the post is a bag full of rubbish, helpfully littered no more than 10 yards from a bin.

This is only the latest act of vandalism, I am sorry to say. Have a look a way further down, at what used to be the fence where once upon a time I saw my first Wryneck;

Fence where the Rocky Path passes The Wall

This was done with an axe. An axe! Some person took an axe all the way down - I assume to chop firewood for one of those illegal camping trips that are a now seemingly permanent feature of The Quarry - and hacked away...

What the hell is wrong with these people?!?!?!??

I... Ach, words fail me.

Ok, normal service will resume at some point in the hopefully near future.

05 October, 2015

Hope At The Nose

I can't believe it took me all these years to finally come up with that one...

Yeah, so.. Apathy.

It's a pain.

So is work, but those bills keep on coming.

Thus it was that I have only a few trips to the Nose to report [I was also about Patch several times, but bugger all came of those bar a Badger*].

First thing on Saturday felt good, and indeed was pretty good, with falls of phylloscs and sylvias. 10 to 1 ratios for both Chiff:Willow and Blackcap:Garden. The Garden was a proper one, btw, all olivey and contrasting neck side like they should be. At least three of the Chiffs were possible abietinus; very pale underneath and grey-brown on top with standout eyerings. Another looked interesting for Sibe, but it didn't utter a peep, the little bugger. The rest were the usual mix of browny, greeny and yellowy Chiffyness. An overhead passage of assorted finches was light but steady, and a couple of Swallows went north [but of course..].

Then there was work. Happiness.

Sunday morning was radically different! Mass mistyfog, but also a brisk rising to stiff SE-SSE. The hope I had of interesting passerines was blown out, but at least a proper passage of Swallows going the right way was something. I counted 44 in 15 minutes.

Such was the wind and dark clouds looming that I figured the sea needed at least a look. So it was I wandered back in the afternoon. I wasn't holding out much hope; in the morning there wasn't even so much as a Gannet moving!

So I took the li'l scope and baby tripod [usually used for counting roosting grebes] instead of the full monty.

In the bit under two hours before it got dusky [and the birds stopped moving], I was shocked to actually score!

The wind was a stiff verging on strong SE with twisty gusts - so finding a spot away from the TSWS was tricky. [I didn't want to go down there, primarily due to not having brought a stool and not wanting the score or so of fishers walking over me when they went!]

Eventually scouring The Mounds got me a spot in the lee of some brambles, which was surprisingly sheltered. Here's the view;

Lead and Ore Stones from The Mounds
[They are due SE from the seawatchy end of the Nose]

There was gunk along the horizon, but the rain didn't arrive until it had gotten dark [ie. after I was back home!]. The wind was quite warm - especially for October - which was just as well as I was without flask [shock].

But not without birds. 118/3 Gannets, 11 Kitts, 9 Guilles, 2 Razorbills, a Puffin [1731], 3 Med Gulls, 2 BHGs, a Balearic [1623], and a Manxie at 1642, which was wonderfully overtaken by a Sooty!
The Puffin had been a sneaky one, but the Sooty showed wonderfully as it went zooming along. Bird of the day? Nope.

1738. Going north [running before the storm? I have no idea]. Juvenile Sabine's Gull. Close enough for scaleyness. :D
Damn, but it's been too long since I saw one. Its not just the whole prettiest gull thing, it's the way they fly. Wonderful wonderful birds....


Right. I was going to switch tone at this point, but I just can't spoil the happy smiley mood remembering that has brought out in me. So it can wait for another post in the near future.

Ooh, almost forgot; a subadult [plumage looked ad., but black smudge on bill] probable HerringxLBB on the Lead Stone - one of Matt's ones, maybe? - nice-looking bird, anyway.

[[*Which came trotting up my road as I walked down it on Friday evening, to much mutual surprise. It took off at a claw-clicking canter - an actual canter! - to and down an alley. Brilliant!]]