29 March, 2016

Wandering and Wows

Here it is, that somewhat delayed photo-filled frolic;

I had a couple of good Moor days last week, first with the Folks, then on my tod.


Monday saw us heading up to Scorhill and doing the Wild Tor loop for the first time in 5 years. Yeah, ouch.

The sun shone and it were glorious up there, oh yes indeed!

Watern and Wild Tors

Bird-wise there were many many Skylarks and Mipits, plus a flock of 71 Golden Plover which flew over in loose v formations.

And speaking of formations...

By utter chance, we happened to be on Hound Tor when there came the sound of rotors.. That's right, the Farewell Flight of the Junglies. We had no idea why 5 RM Seakings were flying our way so low and in such neat formation, but oh did we appreciate when they saw us waving and turned to treat us to a burst as they passed by towards Okie.

Wows fail me..   :D

So yeah, we had a great time, even if we all were feeling it by the end of the day [oh so out of practice..]

After a day doing quieter more responsible things [and creaking a bit..], I was out again on Wednesday, this time playing with a couple of circles I hadn't gotten around to visiting before, and then doing some path-finding and map-correcting. I was to the north and west of Ryder's Hill, starting from Hexworthy and messing about the upper reaches of the O, the Avon, and the Swincombe.

Hexworthy Circle has an amazing location,

Approaching from Hexworthy
[and the Bronze age settlement]
On the north slope of Down Ridge, it overlooks a vast swath of the central moor and Dart valley, from North Hessary to Buckland Beacon. No attempt at a picture could do the panorama justice, so you'll only get bits in the background.

The circle is mostly fallen and/or missing, but some of the uprights are very impressive;

The stones in the SW are overlapping,
a style not often found in this part of the country

  There is also one 'official' outlier - a teeny thing off to the SE;

I took a shot of it from the circle, but it's a frickin' dot.

I also noticed a couple of stones sitting at interesting points on the skyline, and when I went up to have a look at them, they looked very much as if their placement [aligned with two of the still-standing stones] wasn't likely co-incidence.

Again, in the picture it's a pixel, so reversing the view;

There are a fair few stones on the hillside, but not so many have been wedged in place.

The third one is a little different - I describe it as a backsight, as it's actually notched.

Again you can't make it out thanks to my 3 pixel phone..

How's this for a sighting point?

Ok ok, enough with the circle...

After wandering over to the O, I had lunch in the workings by the Henroost. Deliberately no pics of that; go see it. Ultimate gert.

I also noticed something else..

Oooh, what's that bird?
Only a Merlin!
The change in perspective being due to me having circled around into those tin workings you can see in the background in that first shot. Where I had lunch. Watching said falcon sitting on her boulder. For two hours. Two hours!
[There are those who may think spending two hours watching a small falcon do very little other than the odd bit of preening 

is a bit odd. I say, you've never watched a Merlin. Up on t'Moor where they belong.]

After she got bored[!] and flew off, I moved on in search of the cairn circle on Skir [or Skaer] Hill. This I found, it didn't photo well;

  Can you see it?

The rushes are growing out of the flooded cist. They came out.

While the site had a serious view, and the circle was a neat little thing, the best part was the accompanying letterbox, which had a truly wonderful stamp. Again, no spoilers; you want to see this.

Anyways, I then played 'update the map', as time and hordes of 10Torsies will change things up there, and the last time I'd been to Avon Head, Blair was PM.. [oh, the horror..]. I took the chance to bounce up Ryder's but it was a little hazy for the full 360° panorama of wowness.

With the afternoon wearing on, I headed down via Ter Hill and the Swincombe, and on the famous wall on said hill found a Wheatear!! He was irritatingly mobile, and I just could not even get him into frame, let alone focus...

To further improve my mood, the path I was scouting then led me into flooded tussocks [if you don't know what these are, be grateful]...

Finally getting to Swincombe Res, I found a spot in the lee of a big rock to finish my coffee and admire some swaling [crispy..]. One last bird encounter; a flock of 67+ Fieldfare and 9+ Starlings foraging by Deep Swincombe.

It was a good yomp, with great birds [unexpected ones, too] and great stones, and while the path-finding didn't go exactly to plan, at least I didn't fall in anything.

Be Seeing You..

28 March, 2016

Katie's Seconds

After very rudely passing by overnight, Katie has left us with a few things to think about. On the home front, this unfortunately includes my inability to properly seal a window.. :(

The morning seemed to be far sunnier than I expected [cheers, Lucy], so I concentrated on putting things back where they should be and mopping up the damp bits. After that fun, I thought 'ah, what the hell' and took the Big Scope over to the Nose. There were some big clouds mooching past, and there'd been enough rain to turn the SWBCM on, so you never know, right?

This was a good call.

When I got there, the wind was a lot more SW than NW and good and stiff to boot. So I toddled down to the Mounds and found a GC Grebe [full s/pl] on the remains of the slick [though sod all else other than Herrings] and a GND [small one, w/pl] in Hope Cove. Even better, what I assume is the same pod of Harbour Porps from Saturday were feeding off Black Head.
Then a big shower gave us a sideswipe as it passed to the north [I think it had seen people on Exmouth beach...] and I flashed back to a certain day at 'Gwarra.. So despite having none of my seawatching kit with me, over the edge I went, across the rocks, and plonked down on to The Steps to gave the sea an hour as a nice tight shower line duly came over.

This was a very good call.

It was a very good hour to be looking at the sea, though with sunshine between the rain bursts much of the passage was waay out. Good stuff included 47 Manxies and a Balearic! Gannet rate had reduced by 2/3 from Saturday and the Fulmar rate had halved, but that was still a fair few. Smattering of Kittiwakes headed north, and again the odd Razorbill amongst the Guilles. No Scoter this time, but a Sarnie was again a year's first. But this was not all.. my first skua of 2016 was none other than a dark phase Pom! Well out but really nicely identifiable [which was considerate of it]. Another, smaller-looking skua was less obliging, shearing past at about 2mi...

Star bird? Oh no. That honour goes to the little devil who came zipping past south at 1213. I picked it up head-on as a little whirring black blob; the lack of white belly made me stay on it and it passed the Nose at maybe 600m out, then angled out to 1km to pass outside the Ore Stone. Showed wonderfully in the mixed cloud and sun; I could happily call it an adult.. summer plumaged Tystie! :D    Get. In.

After that the movement quietened down and then died as my hour came up, so I slung the scope back over my shoulder and wandered around the Sole path, picking out a female Wheatear by the Grassy Ledge, and then went my way homewards, feeling most joyous and Spring-y I can tell you.

Now all I have to do is finally finish that Moor thing [oh dear...]

26 March, 2016

Yet More Birding

Nope, not the Moor thing yet.

Today I wandered down to the Nose to take over the baton from MB and catch the forecast front coming through midday-early PM. Naturally the forecast wasn't what happened, but the wind blew and there were some birds.

[[I'm starting to feel I should be calling the Met Office 'Lucy'...]]

Anyways, before the front showed up, there was a light passage of Gannets, a few Kitts now and again, and a more marked movement of Fulmars - 139 in 4 hours! By the variety in morph and moult they were not the same birds going around and around either. More welcome were 5 Manxies - two nice and close - and a couple of male C Scoter, who came through very close. A 2cy Med Gull and an adult LBB both had a look at what passed for a slick before moving on, as did a couple of Common Gulls late on.

In the sea, a pod of at least 5 Harbour Porpoises were a suprise to see, given the big swell, and again late on the spotty Grey Seal popped up and spy-hopped a couple of times.

After the front finally came through, the weather momentarily cleared and almost got sunny. As if by magic, the quarry came alive with Wheatears! At least 4, including a my first female of the year. Ah, what a joy to watch Wheatears playing tag with the Rockits. :)

Then the rain set in and all the birds vanished... so I called it a day.

That's it. Not even a photo..

Be Seeing You..

25 March, 2016

Shock News:

The Backward Birder actually goes birding!


Yeah, today I dragged myself [ok took myself, dragged the Big Scope..] over to Exminster in search of Spring Things and amazingly even found some!

After a lot of wandering about, I eventually realised there were neither waders nor hirundines about Exminster proper, so I lugged the scope through the blazing sunshine [seriously, what is it with the weather??] over to Powderham Marsh. There while sat on my behind, I was able to see not only a nice Ruff [when it stopped hiding, anyway] but 2 lovely if very mobile LRPs. Also present with the ducks [lots of assorted duckth about] were 159 Golden Plover, a spotless Dunlin, and a very well-marked Green Sand.

The LRPs were being buggers;

It's scratching...
Well, its a plover...

 Should have gone to the Otter...

The GreenSand was better behaved;

It spent the whole time doing a creditable WS impression..

 No attempts at Ruff pics even got close.

A Water Pipit was 'around' [ie elusive], but it wasn't until late on that I finally scored hirundines - over the lagoon, of course - and then quite well; a small cloud of 30+ Sand with at least 1 House amongst them. :)

Also of interest were the dozen Peacock butterflies along the Powderham path, and the male RB Merganser sat amongst the duckth on the Exminster scrapes..?!?

Ok that'll do. I have a long and very pictorial post coming up about my adventures up on t' Moor [don't bother running, the door's already locked...], but that's currently on hold.

So I shall simply say

Be Seeing You..

20 March, 2016

Someone Needs To Remind The Weather It's Spring..

'Cos day-umn but it's a bit nippy out there...

I wandered over to Trendlebeare to try some more vismigging today [well, there's been bugger all on the coast and it worked so well last year.. :) ]. I got a Fieldfare, 6 Redwing, and 2 parties of low-flying Canada Geese. Hmm.

I also got bladdy cold, despite taking coffeee and warm scarf thing.

Giving up on flyovers, I then stomped about Yarner to get some feeling back in my bits, where there were many Siskin but no Marshies. I did hear a lot of woodies, though.. :)

It were still all wintery, like;


The weirwood

One splash of colour was on the pond, where the Mandarin were showing, well?

Wood. Ducks.

Finally, somebody's been doing 'art' again, with various posts stuck about the place...


It was, as ever, lovely to be there.

Be Seeing You..

18 March, 2016

Official News: SPRING!

Spring is here! Woooo!

Yes, that's right, at last I've found a Wheatear!!!!!!!!

At Hope's Nose this morning, tarting about the rocky bits of the South Side. Never close [and vexed by a blimmin' Crow, too..] it was a typical 'early type' male.

And now... The truly awful white blob Wheatear pics!

Itsa Wheatear

No, really, it is

Just very far away.....

Shock then followed, as a male Stonechat got jealous enough to forget to fly off in time;


Also of note, Mrs. Kestrel nailed a small lizard!, and there was much activity among the Guilles, though the present mistyfog prevented any attempts at counting them. Having delayed my visit for Wheatears, there was no vismig to be had [assuming there was any to begin with..].

Also of note was the point-blank Nuthatch on the RF feeder this morning as I was hanging laundry in front of the window..! Meanwhile, out across the valley, a Green Wood alternated drumming [nice and loose] with yaffles.

Ah, Happy Happy Joy Joy...

[For once said without irony]

16 March, 2016

Stretching The Legs A Bit

One as-threa promised post with piccies and stuff about what I got up to;

Sunday. It was time for a change. I took a day off from my Wild Wheatear Hunts and went up on t' Moor to have some fun.

And fun I did indeed have!

The sun shone, the wind was light [though pretty toothsome] and the Skylarks were singing all over the place...

I even managed to get a bunch of stuff in; birds, rocks, and archaeology!


So, I parked at Sourton and after hopping over a few runnels [because taking the easy way up is boring], got up onto the Tor. There were lovely rocks [well, if you're into agglomerates..]


Sourton Tor, not made of granite.

Oh yes, lots of lovely pictures are a' comin'... [Mua-ha-ha-ha-ha]

Here's a better one;

Limestone inclusion


So, my primary target was this place;

Managing to brood even in the sunshine..

Can't make it out? Here's a closer view;

The Barad-dur
Great Links Tor

Scuse the 'orrible sunblasts - only a dinky mobile camera...

Here's a nicer shot of the main outcrop;

The walk was brightened by a surprise in a puddle on the track;


It was definitely spring-y, with many bumblebees [white- and red- arsed varieties] and a Red Admiral on the wing. 

Lunch was enlivened no end by an utterly amazing - indeed almost surreal - flypast. I was sat close to a nice chunk of rock when whoosh! a bird shot past from behind me. It passed me at head height between me and said granite - inside arm's length! What was it? Male Sprawk!!

You know what surprised me the most? [And we're talking degrees here, lots of surprise to go around] The sheer teeniness of it. You read measurements, see them compared to other birds, know that they're tiny, but it's not until they're that close that you truly appreciate it.

Speaking of birds, there were also quite a few of these about;

Golden Plover
[yes, that is s/pl]

The odd ones and twos dotted around on the deck were not the half of it. Not the hundredth, even! A massive flock of ~600 was joined by another of ~180.... So with the non-flyers that's about 800 Golden Plover knocking around the upper Lyd valley on Sunday. Wowzer. And yes, quite a few were in resplendent black-bellied s/pl. With that many birds, I was watching underwings and listening hard, but didn't get a sniff of anything transatlantic with them [well, you don't know unless you check].

The show they put on - especially when the ~600 were flushed by a party of 18 happyhikers - was quite something, I can tell you. Detouring around all the parties on the deck was less fun, though..

After the GP had settled, I took a good wander about the upper Lyd valley, as I'd seen what looked like a stone row that wasn't marked on my map.

Passing a small settlement,

Hut circle
[Little Links Tor on skyline]

I found what was indeed a dinky and slightly damaged alignment. Three small stones were standing, with a fourth leaning, and several more fallen and covered by vegetation. The row stopped suddenly a distance short of a partial pound reaching from the bluff by the Lyd; I suspect more than one stone ended up there. With the lack of steep slope, the stones were still very well lined up;

Looking east towards Woodcock Hill

With annotation;
And looking towards the Great Nodden;

Those rocks in the foreground may be a terminal feature. Or they may just be rocks..

Speaking of standing stones... Further upstream, an area worked by tinners contained some very impressive uprights. These were not natural poses, and I'd suspect someone had a sense of humour if it hadn't involved such a clear amount of effort [these were multi-ton chunks of granite...].
Here's a good one;


The misty haze which had hidden cornwall through lunch was still present when I toddled up Great Nodden for coffee at the top. So nothing flying past to be seen. Still, with nowt but Skylarks for company, I wasn't that disappointed.

It was a good day, I covered about 15 k's and found some lovely little spots. Even if the only white-rumped bird I saw was a Stonechat*...

There's always next time.

Be Seeing You..

[[*Nope. Way too much orange underneath.]]

14 March, 2016


Still no Wheatears.

Actual on the ground migrant at the Nose today, though. It was a Mipit.

That's it.

There will in the imminent future be a longer post with many pictures both pretty and otherwise, but not today.


12 March, 2016

Oh Drat..

Shushinfrushinrushinscrushin Wheatears...

North Devon?!?!?

Oh well.

Anyways, todays Wheatear Hunt went like all the others so far this year.

Not that it was awful. Down at the Nose, the sun shone, the wind was far lighter than yesterday, and the Rockits put on a show, but no Wheatears.


From Sandy Point looking up the Second Slope,
with LookOut on the skyline.
No Wheatears.

I ran into a few birders, with whom I comiserated our mutual lack of white-bummed passerines. Despite all the sunshine and singing, the normally showy Stonechats decided that they weren't going to pose for pictures, and in fact the only bird which did was this poor benighted thing;

Who's that hiding in a tree?

Buteo crowbaiteo
[also gullbaiteo, goldfinchbaiteo and even woodpigbaiteo....]
It's tough to be a Buzzard...

Be Seeing You.

11 March, 2016

Winter Sunshine

Yes, Winter.

Still no Wheatears, so still no Spring.

Male and female Blackcaps still about [at the Folks and mine respectively], and of note a few birds moving at the Nose this morning - Mipits and Linnets - but not a sniff of the white-bummed ones....

Now 5 Oyks on the rocks along the Sole with the low tide - looks like 2 pairs and an immature - and lots of song and display. I'd left it late in the hope of new arrivals, but no dice.

The feeders are still very popular - that 'favourites' mix really is doing well.

And now time to gotoyourhappyplace if you fear the arachnids...

Many of the hibernating Ladybirds have woken up and started wandering about, but so too has a great big spider, which noshed one this morning in the top of my kitchen window!

Spider and lunch ladybird

It was red and orange!

Be Seeing You...

08 March, 2016

Not Yet

Negative news from the Patch; it's not Spring yet.

How do I know? No Wheatears.

Fair chunk of the weekend also taken up with prep for and execution of Mothers' Day nicpic. This year we actually had vaguely decent weather [and an unbroken pog] so we got a proper outdoors one and everything. The wind blew a bit and it was cloudier than forecast, but we didn't get rained or hailed on, so yay.

We went to a nice little spot on the coast we know. You have to suffer a little to get there, [and more to get back..] but the views are well worth the effort;

The Dancing Beggars
Start Point.
And a Little Black Dog.
Don't Go Near The Castle...

Despite the wind, up top the Skylarks were singing. Glorious.

As the weather had decided the appropriate accompaniment to the Mediterranean style views was doing a Mistrale, we cut lunch reasonably short and adjourned back to mine for tea and surprise coffee and walnut cake [surprise cake is always fun] :)
 No, we didn't scoff a whole cake in one go, see?

The Blue Tits were very obliging with arms-length views, the Green and Golds tried but suffered from stage fright, while the Nuthatches were feeling bashful and didn't show at all, alas.

No Wheaters at the Nose, but the Stonechats tried to make up for them. Still one GND hanging around near the Ore Stone, but otherwise things moving away from 'winter' - only 3 Oyks and more than 220 Guillemots, for example.

Finally, here's a nice hail shower with its own rainbow, or should that be hailcurve??;

Just moochin' along..

Be Seeing You...