29 February, 2016

Getting Out Moor

Also very overdue has been getting out and about with the Folks.

Yesterday this was remedied [only been 4 months...] as we went for a nice wander about Fernworthy.

The biting NE wind had rendered our list of choices quite short, but Fernworthy is always worth a visit and this was no exception. We even got onto the Moor proper [for the first time in nearly 11 months.!].

The sun was shining [well, mostly] and out of the wind it was pretty warm - you'd almost think it was summer [apart from it not raining] - and so we in a fit of optimism decided to try what the weather had stopped us doing last time. To whit, wandering up onto t'Moor proper to have a look at the circle which had been rediscovered last year.

The trip out included a small incident of amusement - well, looking back on it - as Tilbury Dog decided stone sheep were just as worthwhile targets of her barkfrenzy as the wooly version... Dearie me. I'm talking about the twin circles known as the Grey Wethers*, which we passed on the way and she barked at quite determinedly both going and coming. Mad dog...

Now that the stones have been uncovered, the 'new' circle is really not hard to find, so I won't bother listing directions. Its also very flat, due to the stones all being fallen. But the views are something else. This being the first time I'd been there when you could actually see them, I appreciated the Ancestors' sense of location.

The wind [which was powerful enough to blur any attempts at pictures] and the whole soggyness thing decided us on not going any further out, so we retired to the nearby Hornbeams for lunch. Being out of the wind, this was very nice - though the views are somewhat limited, I must admit.

Now you get piccies;

It's a really subtle name for the place.

With Hornbeam Gate in the background.

Looking along the perimeter wall

See what I mean about limited views? But you're sheltered from wind while usually in the sun and out of view of any passing livestock. Which matters when you're in the company of a LBD..

After lunch we wandered about the plantation, taking in a couple of the loops. Or at least, we tried to, but unfortunately, the FC have been playing with their great big mecha again, and with all the rain, the tracks are in many cases somewhat impassable. They've actually put warning signs for deep mud up, and they really aren't kidding...

But we did find some routes where you didn't need stilts and had a nice meander. Finding somehwere to stop for coffee that was out of the wind was a bit problematic, as even the hide was a bit chilly. But what can you do?
A w/pl GC Grebe and 5 Tufties were on the res, and a big flock of Starlings and winter thrushes [200+] were messing about the fields near Thornworthy Tor.

It was most definitely good to be back out.

Switching gears.. This year has been an odd one to start with [though Feb lurgy is nothing new..]. perhaps March will come marching in with a change?

And a Wheatear?

Be Seeing Them...

[[*'Wether' being a name for sheep around here. The stones so named due to them being sold to a gullible fellow who saw them from afar in the mist, or so the story goes...]]

27 February, 2016

Home Front Update Post

Well, I'm feeling better in myself, but I've not yet been properly out having fun. Things to do, you know..

The only birdy stuff to report is all from here;

Yesterday morning pre-dawn a Tawny Owl flew over, heading up-valley. As I watched it go I thought to myself, "That's a funny-looking Crow.... Oh wait, it's a Tawny." I'd had a nice profile view [you know, of the great big head etc.] but that took a few seconds to work its way through all the clockwork. I blame long nights.

The feeders have been getting hit more - since it got windy, not when it was all 'super-cold' earlier in the week. There have been more Great and especially Blue Tits coming in, the mix seems popular with them. There may or may not be an actual link, of course. Green and Gold finches both continue in small parties, as do the ubiquitous Coal Tits. I haven't caught any more Nuthatches, but I'm sure that's just lack of effort.

[Not mentioning the flying rodents.]

An afternoon trip to Towne gave me the chance for a quick look about the Harbour. The brisk wind was north of east, so while most of the Bay was taking the cold onshore blast, close in there was some shelter, with only an impressive rolling swell.
Birds were to be seen; with a GND in the Outer Harbour, at least 7 Purple Sands feeding along the Real Living Coast, 7 GC Grebe and 1 grebe sp. [probably a Slav] off Torre Abbey and Livermeade, along with a dinky 1w Razorbill, and 3 Common Gulls with the usual larids.

Time for a game, Spot the Purple Sand!

Can you see it? Can you?
Looking over the edge. 
There is a Purple Sand in shot. Honest.
 Time for the phonebins.
Can you see it now?

Be Seeing You..

22 February, 2016

Getting Out More

Taking my own advice [look down, or maybe not..] yesterday I finally decided enough was enough and some proper birding had to be done.

Well, it was that or give the carpets a proper cleaning...

So I went off to do something nice and gentle and toddled over to the Exe to have another go at getting a better [ie under 1km] view of the Ridgway's Cackling Goose that's been wintering.

Setting off under leaden skies and gusty wind, I must admit to not having been too hopeful, but after crossing the Haldon Hills I found miraculous sunshine. Parking at RVP I was shocked to see no less than 17° on my li'l car's thermometer - though the stiff breeze made that a very variable experience.

Heading back over the canal, I started to follow the path around Matford. The main pools are in the angle of two main roads coming off the Matford roundabout, so starting from the road to the Exe you can view three sides with varying degrees of distance height and obstruction - checking the rushy bits near the thatched cottage from as many angles as I could. This was necessary as picking out a teeny goose from amongst the maze of rushes and wet bits is not easy.

There were the usual array of waterfowl on display [including 2 Gadwall], but no sign of the RCG until I got quite close to the thatched cottage and then..

Ridgway's Cackling Goose
That's the perimter fence there. To those who know the site, it was between the big oak and the gate [that's very close!]. This shot was taken after I'd backed off about 50' and was scoping through bushes. It was still looking right at me - note the eyeshine.

This gorgeous little goose was with 3 Mallards, grazing on the lush grass, but unlike the laid-back ducks, oh was it alert! I'd been moving slowly and carefully and had seen it first, but still it was head up and watching me.
Very soon a couple of dog walkers came by and woosh they were back in the rushes.

Taking the opportunity, I moved past them to the other side of the little bridge over the stream - thinking the cover and distance would let the birds relax and come back out. Come out? Yes. Relax? Not for a second. The Ridgway's was keeping an eye on me the whole time I was there. Anyone came past and it was head up, frozen, tracking them past.

Time for more pics...

Spot the goose

 Still keeping an eye on me

It was dinky!

Very rufous breast 
- this from thin fringes, visible when it wingflapped 

As the bird wasn't going to relax, I backed off and had lunch watching the other pool from the surprisingly exposed to all winds viewing platform. There were 123 Wigeon [I had time to count] and 11 Shoveler on view, and a poor Buzzard got mugged by no less than 5 Crows..

Heading back with as much stealth as the terrain allowed, the Ridgway's and friends had come back onto the grass, but it still wasn't dropping it's guard. I left them to it. 

 In softer light, with more realistic depiction of barring

With daylight left, I had a quick look at the RVP pools, where some very thoughtful felling has made one of the blinds quite quite redundant.. On the 'good' pool, a flock of Wigeon lifted off for the watermeadows before I could get to count them [about a hundred, though], but they left a Green Sand - which was coming into s/pl by the spangly look of it.

So, mission an absolute success. It took fortune, fieldcraft, patience, and not too many passing civilians, mind, but the views were something else!

That's right, a Canada sp. worth looking at. I know it will get binned by 'the committee', but that's only due to NIN - this is a bird worth seeing.

Oh, and speaking of the Powers That Be, a major CONGRATULATIONS! to The Boss and The Artist, for No. 600.

Be Seeing You..

[[At least there are some birds we're allowed to see on this side of the country]]

21 February, 2016

Pointless Babbling

I've kept this post on ice for 36 hours or so, wondering if it weren't best to just delete the thing.

Then I reckoned, ah whisky tango hotel...

[You may want to just hit the little button marked X...]

Lurgy is a terrible thing.

It forces you to become far too responsible, so you go to work but you don't go out birding. Necessary shopping, yes. Necessary seawatching, no.

Bah and indeed humbug.

I know shuffling about the nearer bits of the Patch is technically birding, [as is watching the Coal Tits sort through the new mix thing* I've put in one of the feeders], but it's not quite the same as lugging a scope about the place, getting soggy and cramped, let alone actually looking for and finding something. You could probably make some conclusions about the old hunting instincts here, and you wouldn't be alone.

So, what's he doing posting?

That most dreaded of things, thinking.

There are so many non-'what I saw today' posts that go through my head. The vast majority keep right on trucking straight out the other ear, and the rest tend to be edited for brevity or sanity. So only the odd paragraph makes it through here and there.

Even now, as I'm sat here actually writing a post about this stuff, I'm wondering what I ought to put in..

It's not easy.

Something that keeps coming back to me is the nature of sight. The trouble is that I can't find a way to convey my feelings on this mix of biology and philosophy in a way that conveys all I want to put over, while being in at least some way legible.

There is a line in a Lovecraft story; "Do you know that Life is Illusion?" which I often come back to as neatly summing it up. But unless your mind looks sideways at classic horror and modern biology**, you may not appreciate it.

It would be lovely if I had the skill to post a neat essay on this, as it's very relevant to birding. After all, once you know the truth, how can you trust your eyes?
Photograph everything? But as has been shown, whoever said 'the camera never lies' was a liar.

Perhaps we should accept that there are things we can't change and just [sorry] keep calm and carry on. Or as has been put more concisely [and as I'm going quote-happy] Don't Panic.

Maybe even accept [Heresy warning!] that birding is not science and stop trying to pretend that it is.

Ah, but this is another topic.

I'm going to steer away from this potential rant [and several others looming] to go completely off topic and completely on topic at the same time. How so? Well, this is a blog mostly about birds, but it is still a blog, and thus primarily an exercise in getting nonsense out of my head and into yours.***

So, dear readers, I must share something with you..   Just saw my first referendum poster! Right out that there window. Talk about moving quickly.

Yes yes, I have an unofficial 'no politics' rule.

No no, I'm not going any further on the subject - just impressed at the reaction time.

Right then...

Rather than go on about anything else, I'm going to make a confession [more good standard blog material, then]. I have been resorting to photographing flowers. [[Oh stop laughing, KW!]]
I've been trying to remember when all of these have been out at the same time [and not just in sheltered and tended gardens, either].

Cue pics:



That Pink Thing

And you remember the fakebells. Well, aparently there are real ones on Patch too.
Also primroses and all the kinds of daffydowndillies going. Plus Daisies and buttercups and dandelions and many more I can't name..

I fear that soon small childyrens will know snow only as CGI...

[Isn't that cheery?]

Ah, the Wheel turns, what will tomorrow bring?

I've really got to get out more.

Be Seeing You...

[[*RSPB's interesting mix of sunflower hearts, mealworms, and suet nibbley things - it was on offer.]]
[[**Briefly; a main theme in his stories was that the world as we perceive it is not true reality. Turns out a lot of what we see is not what's there, but what our brains think is likely to be there.]]
[[***Or at least, what you think is in my head... ]]

15 February, 2016

An Actual Catchup Post

Ok, I'm far too plague-struck to write a vast epic in the style of Tolstoy, let alone Tolkein, so I'm just going to crack through these...

Starting on the first lost Friday;
Inspired by the early front, I scurried over and seawatched at the Nose. Not a lot doing; 12 GND, 2 RTD, and a nice adult YLG the best of the birds. Star sighting was the Grey Seal which hauled out on the mainland [by The Mound] - not usual!

Saturday was windy and increasingly wet. I got around the Patch and ended up at Blackball, where all 4 grebes were on display! A high count for the winter of 28 GC Grebe, plus 3 BN 2 Slav and the/a RN. I was not expecting that. Also 8 GND and a probable BTD, but only 3 C Scoter.

Sunday I had a grand day out and no mistake. Despite the overcast and sogginess, I was determined to get out somehwere at least Moor-ish. I went up to Fingle.

Turns out they've been very busy up there, among others things turning the riverside path to Clifford Bridge into a racetrack. Now, I'm all for encouraging people to enjoy the great outdoors, but trying to watch Dippers is hard enough with the regular flow of civilians, without having to keep at least half an eye out for zooming cyclepaffs. Maybe I'm being overly crotchety, but does everywhere have to be made cycle friendly? What's wrong with walking?


So, they've also put in a big easy way up to another of the dinky hillforts that overlook the Teign gorge. There already was a nice hardcore route [pretty much straight up the hillside..], but certainly not a Parent-friendly one. I went up the fun way, which had almost as much water coming down it as the stream it parallelled, and down the easy way, which had views and everything. Time for piccies!

Adorable ickle waterfall.

View from Wooston Castle
[guest starring new scarf, knitted by Sister!] 

 The new track, cut into the hillsi-
-ooh, look at the strata!

Three hundred million years ago, 
these were ripples on the seabed

After that, I went upstream and took the extra fun way to Hunter's Tor, then back the high way. They've been busy up there, too. I covered some ground, got a bit muddy and had a fair old time.
Scenery, rocks and birds, the day had it all.
It didn't even rain on me :D

On to the end of last month, and a weekend I stayed on Patch. Numbers were down on the previous weekend, but the C Scoters were back up to 6, and I found 11 Purple Sands at the Real Living Coast on Saturday and a 1w Med Gull at the Nose on Sunday.

February's start saw another seawatch at the Nose. Yes, the day of rain rain and more rain, with lots of wind too. I foolishly believed the forecast of a tight front in the early afternoon, followed by a wind shift and a clearing...

The wind stayed between S by E and SSW [with much gusting and more sea devils than I've ever seen in one day before] and the rain stayed too. Mostly sideways. Still, there was a slick, and while I couldn't keep a brolly of any kind up and still look at anything, I had my waterproofs and a bit of shelter at the TSWS, so I beasted it out.

3 GND and 19 GC Grebe were hiding in Hope Cove, a variety of gulls were at the slick and a fair few Fulmars [plus Kitts and Gannets] were passing. Hmm.
One of the Fulmars was a lovely Blue one. A really soft and blue-looking bird. It didn't tarry. Neither did the tatty moulting one with the dark-looking tail..
Oh well, you put the hours in.

Best thing about the day after was the 2 Nuthatches on my feeders at the same time. :)

And here we are back to last weekend! Being rather under the weather, I didn't do much more than a slow toddle each day for some air. Saturday had nowt to write home about, but Sunday I actually saw something good!

With the NNE wind, I figured Meadfoot was worth a try, and scored a variety of divers and grebes. Best by far though, was what zipped along the shoreline; Kingfisher!! Not seen one on Patch for a while now.

Also on the shoreline [a bit further east] was this beauty;


This is a slab of sandstone showing textbook palaeoripples. Phonebinned from IMD, if it's still intact when I'm feeling better I'll be after a closer look. [Definitely low and falling tide only, folks..]

Also of note;
I know they're fakes, but still,

Dearie dearie me, second week of February....

Ok, th-th-th-that's all, folks!

13 February, 2016

Yes It's A Horrible Catch-up Post

NOT, I must insist, a ketchup post.

Forgive me, I have been trapped in a seemingly endless loop of monitor-bashing frustration and pent-up postiness. And I'm stricken with plague.

The good news is that I haven't actually done a huge amount in my enforced sabbatical. One trip, two proper seawatches, and a bit of Patch-bashing. Easy, right? We shall see...

Just not right now. I shall instead treat you to a piccy or two as a teaser..

[[oh, the plague has warped his mind even more..]]

Primroses on IMD
Snowdrops and violence, somewhere.

Yeah, pretty flowers... ::Gasp::

I know. I'm despicable.

I also know I ought to change this post around and retitle it, but I'm not going to. Oh, the power of editorial control.. Mua-ha-ha-ha-haaa


Now I really must go, the Coal Tits are insisting I give them more seed [yes, even in this weather]. And well, I don't want them going all The Birds on me, now do I?

Be Seeing You

[Oh, the joy in being able to type that.. :) ]

12 February, 2016

Pride Goeth Before A Fall

And doesn't it just?

Yes dear readers, I am back.

My technical issues were a pain in the neck to say the least and have required some reasonably drastic action. However, I am hopeful that I can now resume tormenting your eyes and melting your brains posting.

The title and contents of this here post were what was left stranded in blogger's workybitz when it decided it didn't like me any more. Ironic to say the least...

So, here it is, a very delayed post indeed.

Cast, if you will, your minds back, back, baaaaack in time to the 17th of January**;

 Pride Goeth Before A Fall

Well, sort of.

So, another Sunday and the day started very well with a Treeeecreeeeper outside the kitchen window! I like Treeeecreeeepers.

The weather was being naughty, neither really here nor there [and of course, not what was forecast..], but I said terhellwi'it! and went up on't Moor.

With things seemingly threatening to get brighter, and the wind less fierce than expected, I decided to have a look around Vitifer, in case of shrike. After a fair bit of wandering about, I got to the clearfell in Sousson's [previous year's hotspot] to find assorted birders with the same idea. They included The Boss, who had seen said shrike a couple of hours earlier. ["It was right up there" he told me].


Having been upvalley, I tried down valley and around to the Farm. No joy.


I figured it had probably gone to the little valley below the WHI [sight of my first ever GGS, btw]. Now, I could either yomp over, or, it getting on, I could stay put, have some lunch [a plan] and see if it came to me.

I went for option lunch. Within 10 minutes of sitting myself down in a nice inconspicuous [and sheltered] spot - where I very handily flushed a moderately unlucky* Woodcock! - my bet paid off as the GG Shrike came skimming low between the piles of shorn-off branches!

And then disappeared down slope.


Go after it or wait for it to work up to me? Down slope was less sheltered from the now somewhat increased wind, and there were now no noisy civilians to disturb it. As I was feeling very pleased with myself for predicting the shrike's return, I waited.

The cloud base then decided to drop in. Visibility tanked and it was Game Over Boys.


Here's a better-behaved shrike in better-behaved weather from a year ago;

Great Grey Shrike, Sousson's

Then, the Crossbills showed up. Very mobile, about 25 of them, so enough for the proper sleigh bells effect, they did not stop in sight. But they were nice to have pass by.

Once lunch was done and as it was clear the mistyfog was here to stay, I mooched around both trees and Moor to see what I could find. Of note were a very unlucky Woodcock. Well, a bit of it, anyway...

Wing of Woodcock;
hand with feathers, arm somewhat barer..

Also a couple of Red Grouse, a couple of lost walkers, and some wonderfully atmospheric scenery;

Nothing like surprise drops in the fog...

I do rather like the Moor when it's all mistyfog and you can't see. This wasn't quite the full-on 40' bowl - more like an 80' veil - but it still served the HotB effect pretty well. :)

Ah well, another weekend bites the dust. If work did not beckon tomorrow, I'd even be seawatching... ::Sigh::

[[*Look down...]]