31 December, 2015

It's Curtains..

On a mad mad mad mad mad mad year.

NYR: No Chasing Yearlists.

Today I done did get down to the Nose before the front [not hard, considering it was so considerate in coming through early afternoon]. Said front was preceded by a white squall, which was fun. Then the front itself was 10 minutes of sideways hail coming from 2 directions at once..

But I lived!

Lots of Gannets and Kittiwakes were passing all day. I very lazily did not count them. Fulmars I did count, and saw 75 in 3 hours. There were a total of 6 GND and the BTD [4 GND mostly tootling around the middle of Hope Cove, with another and the BTD closer inshore, and a final GND off the Lead Stone] plus late on the first GC Grebe I've seen there in aaages. And it was starting on s/pl too.

Again the SWBCM was working, with lots of gulls attending, and Fulmars this time as well. Unfortunately, I managed to drop what should have been the star of the show as twice I had glimpses of dark wings out in the edge of the gunk and twice I couldn't stay on the bird long enough to nail it.. ARG! Instead the Star Bird was one that came through before the front - of all things a Balearic! :)

So, the Year Of Chasing Devon Yearticks is over. My personal record is dust in the far distance. My new record is not going to get challenged for a very long time. Like when I don't have to work for a living. [I think we're talking that golden promised land of retirement here, folks. If such a thing exists then....]

It was mad. It was blimmin' annoying [I hate herons]. It was quite a lot of fun, too. I rather suspect birds from it will feature prominently in my Top Ten [[Yes, it is coming. No, you can't escape...]].

How many did I get? Oh, yeah, you'd want to know. Well, I have to tell you my final total is two hundred an-

30 December, 2015

In Which I Do Not Have Enough Room

To put in all the themes I've had in mind since last I posted.

The obvious solution, 'post more often you fool', would have been nice, but things rarely work out neatly.

So instead we have a little bit of a catch-up to be hopefully followed by something longer tomorrow. There have been piccies taken, some of which may even be worth looking at, but they will have to wait as well.


Monday, When I Am Surprised.

Something approaching dry weather saw me determined to get some exercise, so off up to t'Moor I went. I decided to keep things simple and wandered the tramways from Yellowmeade [or should that be peachmeade?] down past Ingra Tor, with a goodly stop for lunch in the lee of a gorse bush. Things started well before I even arrived, with a SEO quartering the fields NE of Rundlestone, and they ended well too, when a flock of 95-100 winter thrushes - roughly 3/4 Redwings - were flushed and attacked by a female Merlin! I would have thought even a Redwing was a bit big for a Merlin, but maybe there were small passerines in with the thrushes, or maybe she was just very hungry? Thus the reason for the vague count - they were moving around far too much to be sure of their numbers..
The big surprise happened earlier, when I was to be frank shocked to see a Common Hawker messing about in the shrike valley [near Swell Tor, where that Woodchat was]. What The Actual Foxtrot?!? A great big dragonfly. A DRAGONFLY. In late December.....

Tuesday, When I Am Surprised Even More. And Soggy.

With the day dawning to blazing sunshine and light[er] winds, I cannot resist the call of the Moor once more. So, this time I head north and forgo tracks and tramways for proper moorland oh yes indeed.
I do the Fernworthy to Wild Tor via Teignhead walk. It is, I have to say, a bit damp underfoot. At times it's like walking in rollerskates, the mud is so slippery.. But, its also glorious. When it's not raining sideways, anyway... As I expected, the watercourses were running at 'yikes' levels, but I had planned my route with care and had no problems.
My big wonderful surprise came before I even get there, when driving along the approach road near Tunnaford I flushed two Grey Partridge from the roadside! Get. In. :D  I assume they were gravelling up. Oh, but the joy. The post I'd been writing in my head bemoaning the now year-round idiot grockles on the road went flying off into the aether..
Wild Tor didn't fail me either [though it took a while] as a 1w male Merlin [with light grey mantle and scaps looking actually rather snazzy against the female type juvenile feathers] came dashing by. Ok, trying to dash by as he was heading into the wind.
The Hunt was out giving their hounds a run, and they helpfully flushed a couple of Red Grouse at one point [the grouse were less happy than I was, though]. Also a handful of Golden Plover on Manga Hill and near Watern Tor.

I took a look at the res before I left, where there were 4 male Tufties and a Little Grebe, with a mixed gull roost of a little over 200.

Wednesday, When The Wheels Come Off Somewhat.

I did not feel very special this morning, and all my plans for a day with Frankie boy were undone.

Fortunately, I had shaken the worst of whatever it was off by early afternoon and resolved to get at least some time in. I donned waterproofs, shouldered the Big Scope, and lurched off to the Nose. I got in an hour and a half before dark and no, no Leach's for me. :(
I did get 12 GND, 1 BTD, and 1 RTD. 10 of the Greats rafted and roosted in Hope Cove [showing very well]. Also a few Guilles, a Razorbill, 4 Fulmars, and a host of Gannets and Kitts. At least 110 Kitts were hanging around the slick, with lots of assorted large gulls and a handful of BHG [the rest blown away, maybe?]. Also a funny little auk which took more than an hour to finally nail; a tiny 1w Guillemot!?! Puffin-sized, dusky faced, stumpy billed little thing it was. Really made me wonder [not to mention work to get a good look in the conditions].

Yes, that was a 'little' catch-up...

Be Seeing You

27 December, 2015


So I went down to check the Blackball roost again this afternoon [try as I might, I can't call 4:00 evening..].

To my surprise there were actual Great Crested Grebes! 19 of them! Plus 2 smaller grebes, which looked very Slavonian, but were a bit too far out in the failing light to be sure of.

Conditions were much better than yesterday, and while it wasn't blowy enough for Kittiwakes to be sheltering [and a lot of the birds moved around towards points eastward - including the smaller grebes] I did get a half-decent gull count; 1100 at 1600 rose to 1850 at 1615, and to 3000+ at 1630.

The diver count had picked up as well, with the BTD again and 8 GND [plus a possible RTD].

5 Guillemots and the 6 C Scoter were also present.

Just to add icing, a Firecrest was with a couple of Goldcrests tacking along with a big LTT band along the cliff trees below my viewpoint.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Be Seeing You.

26 December, 2015

Ho Ho Ho And So On..


Well, this has been an interesting week. Despite all the weather blowing around, I haven't done any proper seawatching [fancy that]. I have seen a few birds on and over the sea, though, so not a total write-off.

I am pressed for time, so shall be brief [Stop cheering]. I will find make somehow acquire hopefully get time to write something longer and more blathery before the year's end, but in the mean time, here's a quick roundup of the past three days;

Got to the Harbour to look for that Northern Guillmot. No sign of it or any other auks, but did see 3 grebes off Torre Abbey / Corbyn's Head. A BNG was close to Corbyn's, with a GC and a [the?] RN Grebe off the Grand. The latter two were for some time side by side and made a nice comparison in the sunshine and howly wind...
I'm supposing this RNG was the one often off Broadsands [which did go missing for a day or two], as there have been so few grebes of any flavour down that having 2 Red-necks in the Bay seems unlikely.

It was nice to have actual sunshine, so I took a piccie of the D-Day Embarkation Ramps;

Big Concrete Ramps.

Now, some might say they're a getting a bit long in the tooth, but compared to the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches, they're doing pretty well.

After carrying out the usual Festive Rituals*, The Annual Afternoon Perambulation went ahead despite it raining sideways. For some reason, only 3 of us were up for it [and that's including the LBD]. We braved the elements over the Hill, and down to Meadfoot [GND surfing the waves] and around IMD [BTD and 2 GND {roosting?} in Hope Cove] and back late afternoon to dusk.

Eventually stirring from the usual torpor, I wandered over to Blackball for dusk, and was rewarded with a BTD, 6 GND, 2 Guilles, 6 C Scoter [2m, 1+ 1w], a 1w Med Gull, 32+ BHG, 400+ Kittiwake and 1600++ large gulls. No grebes at all. [[What is going on?]]

Right then, time for more fun; cold cuts, red cabbage and smash! :D

[[*These include such terrors as large quantities of alcohol and The Pogues**]]
[[**No, not just Fairytale, the proper stuff.]]

20 December, 2015

Another Day, Another Post

What madness is this??!?

Not that mad, as I haven't been haring off to cornywall after that tern. [Report today of Forster's Tern off Penzance or something..]. Not that I wasn't sorely tempted, mind, but there's the daylight issue, and the whole things to do this time of year issue... [Oh, and the 'mobile' issue - aka 99% probability that you will dip...]


I did manage to swing by the Harbour this afternoon, and even saw some birds! There were 8 Purple Sands cowering out of the wind among the Haldon Pier boulders, and out in the chop of the northern end of the Bay, I was able to pick out a few birds bouncing around; 1 Slav, 2 BN and 1 GC Grebes, plus a w/pl Guillemot and a scattering of Shags. The grebes were all in the slightly more sheltered waters off Livermead and Torre Abbey beaches.

I had been hoping to find a few birds in the harbours - maybe even in the Inner Harbour among all the frickin' yachts - and after far too much looking I did eventually get one. Just one. It was an interesting one, though. When it popped up I saw a black and white auk and went 'Aah! Razorbill', but then I got bins on it and no. These phonebinned pics in the low sunlight don't do the bird justice;

Itsa Guillemot?
[All colour on bird is artefacts/reflections!]

Preening Guillemot ssp.
[with a hint of the extent of the flank streaking]

Very burnt out alas, this Guille was black [or close as darn it] and white! You also can't see just how much flank streaking - big heavy streaks, too - it has. Yeah, even more than can be seen. Finally, this was a big one - though hard to be certain as nothing was next to it - however it was in the entrance to the Inner Harbour, so not far away at all. I've seen enough auks [and other birds] there to be fairly confident that this individual was large for a Guillemot.

I've noticed the odd 'northern type' among the passing Guilles - ie darker and bigger - seawatching this winter season. Never one close enough to be sure and thus mentionable, and not in any real numbers [such as has happened in the past, for example in early 2011]. The interesting question is where it [and they] came from. Picked up from pelagic Atlantic waters and hurled our way by all this weather? [so Scottish or even Icelandic] Or having moved west to get shelter from the North Sea and now wandering about the inshore waters of Britain? [maybe Baltic/Scandinavian]

Among seawatchers, there's a lot of speculation about birds coming up from the south in Summer. You know, pterodromas and the like. [And a good thing they are too ;) ]  Less so about birds coming south in the Winter. And with the records of Brunnich's and WBD on the south coast, perhaps there ought to be more? Auks, divers, ducks, gulls... There is a mouthwatering list of possible vagrants to our humble waters. Yes, the probability of actually seeing something is tiny, but it's not zero.

Now if only I didn't have to work for a living...

Be Seeing You.

19 December, 2015

Blimmin' Birds..

Well, they can be little gits.

Especially duckth.

Yesterday I went after a right one in the form of the Portworthy Dam GW Teal. Probably the same one that had wintered there last year, it has been reported on and off, but is most likely always around. Perhaps the [one and only] view of the site may lend a clue as to why this little duck should be proving so elusive;

Portworthy Dam

This is an old mica dam - an artificial lake for settling waste out of the spoil water from china clay workings*. Now a shallow lake perfect for dabbling waterfowl. The dam itself is on the left side - effectively a bank of rocks and gorse. This is about 75% of the water, with the north end visible by moving along a bank to the left of the gateway this is taken from.

This is the only viewpoint [now anyway], with the whole area being private and also busy with the mine workings** - note new road in foreground. So yeah, you need a scope. Preferably a big one.

With scope, here's a close up of the dam edge;

Lots of Teal 

This was my first proper visit, as its a fair way to go [being north of Plympton] for, as you can see, not a great deal. But a yeartick is a yeartick, after all.***

So, I arrive to find a lot of Teal [62] and one GW Teal lined up along the dam edge with a few odds and ends, cowering out of the howling gale.
[It wasn't really a howling gale at all, I don't know what the fuss was about {see all the waves on the water? No? Exactly.}, but there you go.]
 I had less than 2 minutes obstructed view of the bird [see the two above the Mallard in the close up? Like that] before said frelling Mallard decides to plonk down in the wrong spot and the GWT moved back out of sight. Then, after a fair bit of waiting, the ducks flushed out a couple of times - though never all of them - and I lost track of it. When eventually a general movement started to go upending for weed at the north end, the GWT did not appear among the 65 birds who braved the party of swans.

A local birder who arrived early afternoon told me the GWT had been with 70 Teal on Thursday, so I guess the blighter was with the missing half dozen. There is easily enough dead water on the near - also sheltered - shore to hide them. [You may notice how the numbers of birds changed...] I gave it 3 hours, wanting at the very least a decent attempt [by my standards, anyway..] at a record shot, but there was not a sniff. Hmm.

I did see a few Mistle Thrushes, a lovely tit band, a nice Nuthatch, and the odd Stonechat [no doubt wondering what the hell had happened*]. Sharing the water were a couple of Wigeon, 2 Little Grebes, and a lone Canada Goose. This got a good grilling, but didn't seem too obviously odd [and certainly not a Cackler] to merit more than one sentence.
Bathing gulls included 5 Commons, but never came in any numbers. A few other birders also showed up hopefully, and left regretfully.

Today I have again been merrily working. Aren't I good?

I also have a new living Yuletide Tree. This one is a Blue Spruce, and hopefully will prove to be actually pot-grown, with all the roots. It looks pretty good, but so did last year's [my poor Noble Fir turned out to have been dug up with ~5cm of root - likely using some sort of corer -  then jammed in hard to look pot-grown..].

In home bird news, this week saw a riot of activity, with at one point, 2 Great, 1 Blue and at least 2 Coal Tits, a Nuthatch, and a Robin [which took offence at, and viciously assaulted, one of the Greats..] all present!
Green and Gold finches still, too, though not coming in in such big numbers.

[[*Quite a lot of this about on this corner of t'Moor]]
[[**Any visit will show the man-made desert that has recently eaten the greatest dragonfly site in the SW. And all the moor to the west of it. Yes, the tungsten mine [it's open cast, which was not mentioned when the 're-opening' of the old mine was mooted..], whose workings have destroyed a huge section of public land - either by quarrying or by dumping huge spoil heaps on top of it. My reaction was far stronger than print could convey, let alone what I could post.]]
[[***Naturally, today one has popped up at the Backwater. Because birds are gits, and She who is our Goddess has a right sense of humour.]]

14 December, 2015

Some Work And Some Play

Made for a varied weekend.

Did I cover Friday before? Not much to say other than at least 2 Great Tits coming to the feeders and hanging off my [now rather twiggy] Hawthorn.

Hmm, I think I have already posted about them, but nm, eh?

Saturday saw me getting up far too early after a week on nights to go back to work. [Get it where you can and so on..]. I had just enough daylight left to scurry up to Bowling Green for my second AmWig attempt of the year, before getting on with the festive stuff. Again I didn't find the git until it was nearly dark, [the blighter was sneaky and had ~1100 Wigeon as cover, plus long grass and undulating landscape] but this time he couldn't hide in the wrong county!

Here's more of the phonescoped horror;

Obvious when you were looking right at him..

..He was very good at sneaking out of shot

Head-on that cream blaze meant there was no hiding.
[Of interest, note variation in Eurasian Wigeon blazes - 
these are not artefacts.]

With the tide down, most of the waders were elsewhere, though a Spotshank showed very well by the Clyst platform. Plenty of nice ducks to look at, with the Pintail definitely the prettiest.

Cut to Sunday, and another of those headaches threatened to take the day out. I abandoned any thoughts of heading Plimoth way and settled for a wander over to the Nose. Vague dreams of finding a Dusky or something in the bushes were thwarted by reality, and a fresh southerly wind. The sea gave up some nice birds, though. Both GND and BTD were fishing north of the Lead Stone, along with at least 42 Razorbills and 8+ Guilles. A lot of gulls around, too - including a dozen Common - I guess there must have been a shoal of something inshore. Also of interest was a marked passage of Kittiwakes, I counted 134 in 15 minutes! Only 3 Gannet, and those well out and passing.

Any hope for cetaceans was dashed by no less than 5 TOJs. [In such situations, I find myself increasingly having wistfully bad thoughts about such film classics as Jaws 3 and Two-headed Shark Attack....]

Before the noisy ones arrived, there was a nice Grey Seal knocking around Sandy Point.

Here's a pic to end with;

Looking down the First Slope to the Upper Meadow.
Left fork to the Rock Path, right to Look Out and the Step Path

And th-th-th-th-that's all, folks.

A Brief Note

Perhaps I was a little unfair in the snark in my last post.

Then again, the third message when I just looked was late news for Friday...

Perhaps if they'd have two sets of icons? One for news, and one for no sign / belated news. Might help.

I have actually seen some birds, by the way.

Ta and Da;

Spot the Shank

'Aww, man.. He's got a scope!'

More babbling posting later, also worse more pictures.

Be Seeing You.

11 December, 2015

You Know There's A Problem..

.. When you do more posting than birding.

Well, between work and All That Festive Stuff, such is life right now. Things may change rapidly [a man can dream], but at the moment a pattern of "ooh, that'd be a year tick - bugger I can't get at it" has been set up.

Today's report of AmWig at Bowling Green being the latest. [[Ok, the report is an RBN symbol, so it could refer to the 11th of December 2014...]]

In better news, a greater frequency of Great Tits coming to the feeders. :)

Also, this lovely two-tone sunset, taken on my way into Towne to Not Look At Birds.

Better service may resume in the near future.

If not, I could well be forced to start airing my thoughts on terrible subjects, such as the nature of truth and reality..

[[Oh, the horror, the horror.....]]

07 December, 2015

A Little Seawatching

Because if you can't do it in August, you might as well do it in December, right?

Only a little seawatching, though, as it's been very Relative down here. Not that I wasn't glad to see them [well, the unspeakably cute kids, anyway.. ;) ].

So, when not hanging with the Clan, I managed to nip to the Nose briefly on Saturday morning and then for longer on Sunday. In between there was a trip out to perambulate about Cockington [which was great, as there were owls there {the Boy loves them possibly even more than I do!}] - which had a few of the expected species, but mostly everything was cowering out of the wind.

Saturday was a very quick morning raid, and I only had half an hour to give to the sea, but I evidently picked the right half hour, as I got 6 divers! 4 GND and an RTD came through, and a cracking w/pl BTD was on the sea north of the Ore Stone channel. Gannets and Kittiwakes were passing in numbers, with Razorbills and the odd Guillemot. Also of note a flock of 8 Purple Sands, and a distant skua sp. which may have been the Bonxie that went past Dawlish Warren, but it was waaaay out.

Also success on shore, with a female Blackstart along IMD - lurking in a sheltered section with most of the other visible birds!

I don't blame her for lurking either, it was blowing a fair whack;

You can sort of see the marbled effect 
of the wind blowing the wave tops out

Sunday was a different kettle of fish, with less force of wind [though with some vicious gusts] but day-long dizzle. With visibility from ~1-1.5km, it was pretty much what The Boss calls big shear weather [alas, without any shears, let alone big ones].

Only 7 divers in 4 hours, but there was some small consolation in a Little Auk! :) It came by at 1242, so probably not the Broadsands one [unless it had done a big loop]. The Gannet rate was about 15% of what it had been the day before [unless they were out in the murk], likewise with the Kitts, but Razorbills were passing at about the same rate. Also of note was a pod of at least 6 Harbour Porpoise, who passed by south at 2:00.

Closer to home, when not being spun like a merry-go-round by the wind, the feeders are still being frequented, though with less fervour, by assorted Green, Gold, and the odd Chaffinch, with Coal and the odd Great and Blue Tits. A variety of ladybirds have again taken up residence, with one 15-spot currently quite active around my kitchen - last seen clambering around on my salt cellar [no, I don't know why either...]

And finally... News that the LBD - the Terror-er herself - has been savaged by a Squirrel. Yes, really. Apparently she chased it into a bramble patch and then emerged [when called] minus Squirrel but with a bite on her flank.

It's a clean nip, and I think the main injury has been to her pride. After all, this is a dog who's sorted out dogs twice her size, stood up to bull terriers...  I mean, getting ambushed by deranged cats is one thing, but a Squirrel?!?

Laugh? I could've died.....