30 November, 2015

About Time Too...

Finally got my first grebe of the year off Blackball yesterday evening.

Great Crested, just the one.

Also 6 C Scoter, 1100+ Kittiwake [it'd been a good blow] and 2500+ mostly Herring Gulls by the time light closed play.

Earlier at the Nose, there was nothing but Shags in Hope Cove, and a few Kitts and a Fulmar passing with the Gannets.
The odd Blackcap and a lone Mistle Thrush about the Patch [which I gave a bash], but no sign of any Blackstarts.

Even earlier.. no less than 16 Goldfinch queueing up to have a go at the sunflower hearts!!  :D

Well, that's November...


28 November, 2015

Very Little Very Quickly

Too much time spending money, not enough time chasing birds.


I did get to Dart's Farm this morning, and shamelessly taking bins and heading first for the ponds I found that there remains at least 1 Brambling with the horde of assorted finches [who are worth a look on their own, by the way]. No sign of the Gyppos, and nothing yank among either Wigeon or Teal flocks . [If you don't check...]. Blackwits and Curlew in the wet fields, all put up by a swiftly Crow-bashed Buzzard.

Also of note, 3 Goldfinches on the sunflower hearts this morning! [I had to go and get more, the greedy gits!]

Count 'em!

Please Tom, can we have some more?

Be Seeing You.

26 November, 2015

Winter Thrushes Post II: Revenge Is A Dish Best Served.. er, Soggy?

It's getting to be THAT time of year again, and things got very much in the way of chasing tweety birds last weekend. [And indeed of posting about it]. But I did get out, and here at last I am posting away. Yay me.

Rather than belabouring my suddenly-accelerated Things To Do, I'll just cut to the chase.

And there even was a chase!

Not a very successful one [puny human on foot over rough country vs flying birds; yeah that'll end well...] but still, there was a chase.

Anyways, on with the fun, which had to wait until the end of the weekend;

So, Sunday dawned with more sunshine and less wind than had been seen for some time. Also a fair bit cooler since the airflow had shifted from 'warm storm' to 'aaargh that's cold'. Even though Sundays are traditionally the busiest days up on't Moor - and nothing makes stalking thrushes harder than civilians wandering about * with their wonderful sense of timing** - I figured all the rain would make it boggy enough to deter most folk. In this I was delighted to be right, though of course there was the exception..

Reckoning that I might have to relocate, I parked at Venford and bounced straight over the ridge to the Mardle. This was less fun than it should have been and reminded me that it had been 3 weeks since I'd done anything more strenuous than lugging the Big Scope to the Nose. Still, at least it was leg pains and not chest pains, eh? And it did give me plenty of chances to look out for any passing Hen Harriers or SEOs.

::Long silence::

Yeah, so, up and over to the Mardle, where there were still a few Hawthorns with berries on, but a noticeable lack of thrushes to eat them.. Hmm.

I worked down to the deer park and still no joy. However, while scanning the slopes below Puper's for the nth time, the air filled with the calls of Fieldfares, and a flock of 22 came up over my head and headed down across the Holy Brook valley behind me. Yes!

I gave chase, carefully in case they had dropped into the berried patch by the watershed, but no sign. Then I meet the first civilians of the day, chatting loudly as they come.. Drat. So, I knew my only hope was the slope betweenHoly Brook and Holne Lee - which was fortunately where I've had my best encounters in earlier years! So I contoured towards the Sandy Way and while I never caught up with the big[ish] flock, I soon met a few Redwing and Fieldfares in small groups.

Right then. This time there were no distractions, just light winds, sunshine, and a few twitchy mobile birds...

..Who were very pretty from less than 20m, I can tell you. Especially through my li'l scope. :D

Having found a group of Hawthorns that seemed to be popular, I decided to stay put, have some lunch, and maybe dry off a bit [low cover and wet ground makes for damp stalking]. No sooner was I in a nice spot and had sat myself down, though, but the other civilian of the day showed up and wandered right past both trees and me. Ye Gods...

Ok, thrushes flushed, time to find somewhere else. This I did, but while I had a good area to watch over, there was a lack of close birds to watch. Ho hum..

Cue a view;

Looking Patch-wards

Time passed fairly uneventfully, despite my best efforts to find something to look at. Having finished eating, I decided I might as well move.. And then it started raining! At first just light 'you packed up at the right time, mate', it soon developed into 'put your rucksack cover on and cower!'.. With the wind picking up, I found a nice chunk of gorse and waited it out.

When the clouds finally got bored and moved on, I moved too - to and up the Sandy Way. Then I turned and followed an arc back towards the Res, taking one of the big paths. This was a good call, as I managed to find something decent - right next to said path, a Woodcock! It flew off low, [muttering something about semi-evolved monkeys], while I failed to suppress the urge to do the Dance of Joy.

I followed my much more civilised [if more cow-poached] route back to and past the car park - meeting a big flock of Fieldfare on the way - and on to Bench Tor, where I got out of the wind and finished my coffee watching to see if anything was flying along the Dart valley. I lucked out with a redhead Goosander and 105 Woodpigs! [Well, at least I got some Woodpig movement this year..!]

The Dart from Bench Tor

As time was passing, and the sky had cleared, I figured I'd hang about and see if any Goosander were feeling like showing to roost before it got dark. The redhead from earlier had joined the one that had stayed on Venford all day, but nobody else joined the party. The scenery was quite pretty, though;

Dusk at Venford

 My final scores were 142 Fieldfare, 5 Redwing, 62 Starling, and one each of all the rest!

I heard Golden Plovers calling over the Mardle, but never saw them. Needless to say no Bramblings, GG Shrikes, wintering raptors...

[[*Ok, maybe 50 birders standing around smoking and chatting loudly..]]
[[**How do they always know to show up exactly when and where is least convenient??]]

19 November, 2015

A Quick Note Of A Post

Couple of things I wanted to share..

First up, yesterday an adorable little 1w male Greenfinch spent pretty much all of the day on my balcony. He alternated hanging on for dear life on the sunflower feeder with cowering in the shelter of the Bay*, with the odd bout of trying to fly in the patio door..! This latter was done from very close range, and called to mind a big green bumblebee..

I guess he'd gotten blown away from separated from the local flock. He was the only bird in [that I saw, anyway]. More normal Greenfinch service today, with plenty of zippy Coal Tits.

Also of note, a very overdue LOOKIT!!
He's back. Not Quite Scilly 2.0 is up and running and has been for a while now, but you don't expect me to be on time, do you? Really?

That is all.


[[*I now have an ickle Bay Tree to go with my darwinii and Hawthorn. Because they're great, both for birds - ultimate spider source - and for humans - fresh Bay leaves.. :) ]]

16 November, 2015

Warm November Rain

'cos nothing lasts forever, and we both-

Ok Ok, I'm stopping...

One of the less obvious things about the night shift is deciding when to sleep. [Didn't see this line coming, did you?] Three days, one of them at least needs to not be an early start, so which to choose? I went for Sunday, reasoning that Abigail's back and Kate's front would be more productive*.

Well, Abi [[Don't call her Abigail.. ;) ]] was a pretty sunny affair, with the odd big munchy shower - which after the early line mostly missed. To be honest, it was a little disappointing, and despite the strength of wind, I didn't give it long. There were birds passing - mostly Kittiwakes - with a Bonxie [waaay out] seeming to be the best bird. Well, until right before I gave up, when a frickin' juvenile BTD came in from what seemed like mid- Lyme Bay and zipped around the corner towards Blackball! First diver of the winter and it's a Black-throat. Who'da thunk it?

Also around to the north was a small group of Harbour Porpoises; I think 3, but they were being a bit sneaky.

Somewhere under the rainbow..
Most of the showers missed.

Kate proved a much rainier business, and while it was never epically heavy, it just didn't let up. You'd get a few minutes, the brolly would come down, and then back up it had to go... But there were birds. The greater degree of south in the wind might have helped, too.
Also of interest, it seems, nobody at Berry Head. Again. Ex-hurricane, come swinging over the Atlantic and nobody covering the other side of the Bay. Ah well, all ya'll losses.

This time I was in for the day [such of it as remains this time of year] and again Kittiwakes were moving in numbers. 772 went south, with more still tarting about the slick when I left. This compares with Gannet numbers of 182/11 and auks of 199/47 [Primarily Razorbills, with northbound mostly Guillemots]. Oh yes, the slick. Nothing when I arrived, but then all of a sudden someone somewhere must have pulled a lever;

Kate shows Abi how to do seawatching weather

And 5 minutes later..

The SWBCM attracted a variety of gulls, including 2 different 1w Meds, 15+ Common, 5+ BHG, 19+ LBB, but no Fulmars. Also hanging around were 11 Turnstone - at first I thought they were just passing, but I kept hearing them calling.

A lone Balearic came through, with an Arctic Skua, 2 Bonxies, and an RTD. Also a group of Common Scoter accompanied by my first shiny white secondaries at the Nose for a long time :)

Yesterday I got some sleep, and was going to spend the day doing useful stuff, but then as I sat down here to have a bite and just check [you know, just in case..], I saw Leach's Petrels [[which might have been the primary target of all this seawatching..?]] all over the damn place. Including the Warren. At this point, some norty words may have been uttered. Having played the 'twitch Leach's at the Warren' game before, I instead hurriedly decamped to the Nose.

This time the Gannets outnumbered the Kitts, and a Bonxie [v dark one], a Puffin!, and an Arctic Skua were the best birds. The Arctic being of especial note, as it scragged a couple of Kitts with great persistence, then came in and plonked down, revealing what had seemed a light morph adult [with streamers] had a little barring in the secondary coverts - the medians - and was thus perhaps a 4s?

The Turnstone flock was still present, though now only 10 strong.

In other news, new bird for the feeders; Chaffinch. :)

[[*Perhaps I ought to find a better way of phrasing that, but who decided giving weather systems human names was a good idea anyway? They name typhoons after monsters in the Philippines, which makes more sense to me; "Storm Hydra is coming!" is more likely to provoke caution than "Storm Derek is coming!"...]]

09 November, 2015

It's Raining Again!

He says in what to a normal person would be far too cheerful a voice.

After a long spell of frustration, finally a frontal system [and quite a nice-looking one, too] that I could get to grips with!

Yes, it was all with the seawatching at the Nose on Saturday. I managed a little over 5 hours before the sun came out and there were birds, oh yes!

Not the storm petrels I was hoping for, mind, but there were skuas and assorted gulls to go with the reasonable Gannet and moderate auk movement.

And rain it certainly did, with several vicious squalls - most notably the 15 minuter around 0900 - that had me hunkered down under my bumbleshoot. [Their arrival being announced by the wind sharply backing to SE didn't help... ouch]. There had been plenty of rain overnight, which was still going as I arrived with the useable light, and the SWBCM was going nicely. So nicely that I even took a little montage of it..

The actual outfall is around the corner.
Lead and Ore Stones [and the blow hole] are due SE

Two of those white dots are breaking waves, the rest are gulls

Now looking pretty much towards The Backwater.
The slick is spreading out N to NNE 

Despite that pretty slick, the conditions weren't spot on for storm petrels, but they weren't awful either. I suspect the old 'you can't see what isn't there' may apply. Ah well.

Gannets and Kittiwakes were the main movers, with circa 250 and 350 in the first hour alone - final scores 580/3 and 674/12. Auks started slowly and evenly [6 each in the first hour], but ended with 89 Razorbills and 12 Guillemots. Nope, not one Puffin. Also light on the shears, with 2 probable Balearics [together, only seen head-on] the only ones, and only 1 Fulmar.

The skuas did better, and made up for some of the slack; no less than 4 Poms - including one on the first scan! - came by, with a light imm accompanying a dark-intermed juvenile and team-harrying Kittiwakes the best showers. A sudden slacking in Gannet numbers preceded a lone juv [intermed] Bonxie powering through [with a fair-sized group following it at a respectable distance!]. 4 Arctic Skuas [again 2 singles and a twosome - this time adult light and markedly bigger intermed juv] also didn't tarry.

At least 4 Common, 12 LBB, and 11 BHG were attracted to the slick with the Herrings and Geebs, but the best gulls were right at the start; a 1w Little and a cracking [if only it had come in and tarried] juv Sabine's! :D The latter went through inside the Lead Stone at 0750. Also of note, one of those interesting LBBs just after 0830 - it too didn't hang around, the bugger.

It was a good watch - though a very soggy one - and I wasn't surprised to eventually have company [though said birder didn't dare the Steps and went to the TSWS] a little after ten.

Sunday.. My blimmin' head attacked again, and though I eventually got out it wasn't until well into the afternoon. I gave the sheltered bits of the near Patch a bash [a Mistle Thrush at Tessier being the highlight] and wound up making my first check of Blackball of the winter. There were at least 78 Kittiwakes in a raft, but no grebes.

This afternoon I went over to Blackball again. This time no Kittiwakes were discernible, but the light was not great. Not great at all. There were a whole heap of roosting gulls - at least 6000, and still arriving at the light went - in big rafts and on the cliffs past Petitor. No grebes either, but I was delighted to get something; scoter! A group of 8 Common Scoter were tootling about not far out - 2 adult males with them - and looked like they were staying put for the night. Not a common sight [ho ho].

Finally.. I keep hearing Redwings after dark. I'm starting to suspect they're roosting hereabouts. More on this if I get it.

Be Seeing You.

05 November, 2015

Boom! Bang! Ow....

"Backward Birding would like to apologise for the delays to our services 'Halloween Post Of Horrors' and 'Mo'vember Mo' Posting', and wishes to announce they have been combined into this right mess. The cause was an unfortunate technical issue. And leaves on the line."

Yeah, so....

I've been utterly knackered this week. I blame naughty little birds who show up when I can't get at them, personally. But anyways, onwards and downwards!

Back to last Friday, when 2 Fieldfare flew over at work. [Wow, huge numbers..]

On then to Saturday, where I did make no small effort and had a very up and down sort of day, as shall be told;

So, started at the Nose. Light easterly and sunshine! There were birds and everything too. This was a bit of a surprise as I'd figured all the good stuff [like sodding Pallas' Warblers...] would have been through earlier in the week. And it is true that no yearticks did I find, but a friskin' Sibe Chiff is never to be understated. :D It even popped up right in front of me, opened its little black bill and called the call. Now that's a nice considerate bird for you. Also of note a very brief Ring Ouzel - exiting stage left at speed while chacking rude things about my parents - and not one but two of those wonderful eastern Goldcrests! They really are incredibly grey-headed [and almost white foreheaded, too].

Things then got in the neighbourhood of even better, as a YBW promptly popped up [following a big band of LTTs]. A very dull-looking one, even. It steadfastly refused to call and wouldn't even give me a decent look at it before legging it off around towards Thatcher [as all the tit bands and associates were moving]. A might-have-could-have-maybe-possibly one, that.

Mipits were moving overhead and there had been a small fall of Chiffs.

Not bad for a 'quick stop off on the way'.

Because next up was Teigngrace and a chance to succeed where once before I had dipped by the breadth of a byre. [Literally - the bastard was hiding behind it!]

Very nearly a dip again, with 7 Little but no Cattle among the horde of Block'eads. Eventually, though, with the aid of [Paignton Birder], the two yellow-nosed gits were discovered hiding up a tree, visible only from 3/4 along the causeway 'walk on here and die' road...

Yup, both turned away at the same time...

Having realised they'd been seen, they then flew off towards Teigngrace in a huff.

I pressed onwards and upwards, as I had business on't Moor.

Yep, that time of year again meant more fun playing with the thrushes. Up around Holne, the Mardle and Venford I wandered, and it was... Well, I lost.

To make excuses be fair, I had the deck stacked against me very thoroughly. There were the farmers moving stock. There were the loud families. There was the bfb who wandered up from the deer park, and stood shouting for several minutes for some reason, then took his shirt off [[aarrrggh, pass the brain bleach..]]. There was The Hunt, who were out riding around in circles exercising their lovely quiet hounds. There was the slight lack of thrushes [wonder why], with mostly flyovers..

Anyway, I only found one party of Fieldfares on the deck, and as I was circling to make an approach, The Hunt came pounding down the valley [I felt them before I even heard the hounds].. Drat.

Not that there weren't compensations.

Chief being the brilliant Fwap! sound a female Merlin's wings made as she came screaming past 5' from my right shoulder!! I was just packing up after lunch and the Fwap! was her announcement as she came by from behind me and went zipping onwards at bracken height. W.O.W.

Also really good was the Jack Snipe flushed by the hounds from near the Sandy Way [they have their uses], and the poor Kestrel which met the wrong Crow and was mercilessly mobbed far beyond all necessity..

Sunday was a Day on't Moor with the Folks, but after Saturday I couldn't not have another go at the Nose in case there was any sign of that little stripy git. Needless to say there wasn't, with a clearout having happened [or maybe I was just there at the wrong time], despite all the lovely mistyfog. The 2 eastern Goldcrests were still there, favouring the Sweet Chestnut and environs. Overhead, large numbers of Goldfinch and Woodpig, with one flock of 28 Jackdaw [lots for the Nose]. Offshore, a Little Egret [checked carefully] was picking about on the Lead Stone.

With the fog and general dampness it was agreed we head to Fernworthy. Where we arrived to brilliant sunshine!!

Spot the Reservoir

It was toasty warm and indeed verging on balmy - more like early September... There were even butterflies on the wing - a Peacock [v fresh] and a Red Admiral - plus assorted lbj day moths.

Things changed when it was mooted we head out onto t' Moor to look at the new circle [and the views therefrom]. I kid ye not, no sooner had we spoken than clouds started to appear. Then the mistyfog descended and visibility went bye-byes..

Pressing on in the hope that it would pass, we headed out and around, only to find out the low cloud seemed set to stay. Muttering about pesky weather, we decided it wasn't worth dragging the LBD past the ponies [they were waiting, naturally] to see very little. So we turned back into the plantation and headed down to the res. The mistyfog followed us, eventually surrounding the lake, then pouncing with a chilly and rather smug breeze..

It was still very pretty, though;

'Affix burble about the Circle of Life here'

It was also periodically birdy, with actual Crossbills! They were naughty when the sun shone, but in the misssst, they eventually showed a lovely big flock, with sleighbell sound effects and everything.

Also of interest, a tit band by the hide contained a Treeeecreeeeper and a Marsh Tit! I think that's the first one I've seen there [maybe]. Mixed blessings, though, what with their habits.

Out on the water, there were plenty of gulls cycling through; high counts of 170 LBB, 25 Herring, and 12 BHG. Also 4 Wigeon, 5 Tufty, 3 Teal, and a Moorhen, plus 2 Cormorant.

So, a pretty good day. [Again, far too long since I've been out with the Folks].

Annnd finally, to continue even further..  Monday saw 38 Redwing over at work, accompanied by 2 Fieldfare, 9 Starlings, and 7 Woodpig [looked like they'd been flushed from a field].