25 April, 2016

On Crystal Beach

Devon has many landscapes, and what may be argued the prettiest and certainly the oldest lies at its southern extremity.

I'm about to go on about rocks for a bit. You may wish to skip down a way...

When looking at a topographic map of Devon, you may notice that the general theme of rolling hills does not quite carry everywhere. At the bottom, there's an invisible line, south of which the hills are more a high flat plateau. The sea cliffs change from sheets of sheer slate in various ruddy hues to hog's backs looming over jagged reefs and islets, the clifftops studded with sharp outcrops and coloured in sparkling swirls of metallic green and blue.
These are old rocks, twisted and melded like molasses by the immense forces of tectonism. Formed under an ancient ocean, buried, altered, then thrust up as continents collided.. It's almost romantic, isn't it?

One of the consequences of this geology is the nature of the beach sediments. Basalt volcanoes give black lava sand, sedimentless atolls [and hard granites] have white sand made from shells, rivers draining china clay workings give beaches of silver sand; the schists of the south give beaches of crystal. Fragile chlorite and tiny hornblende pretty much disappear, leaving pebbles of the veined quartz to make up the beaches. Quartz is a variable mineral, taking in all manner of elements into its basic SiO2 lattice and giving a rainbow of colours; white as snow, yellow as citrine, purple as amethyst, pink as rose, and so on..

And so it was on Sunday that when I found myself having lunch with the Folks [yes, and that LBD as well] in a little cove 'tween Prawle and Start, that the scenery was something special.

What a little beauty

And a bigger beauty. 
Gotta love an intrusion.

Amethyst underfoot

Oh, wait, you want the other scenery....

Only the sky came out right, alas

How about the gems in the rock pools?

An enome

Ok, enough fun. On to the reportage;

The sun shone, the wind was cold but not strong and out of it things were positively balmy... and there were even a few birds! First Spot Fly of the year, a near heart attack inducing grey Willow Warbler, some very confiding freshly in/off Wheatears, lots of lovely Whitethroats, a party of 3 fishing Sarnies, and lots of little stripey buntings what you're not supposed to talk about even though the entire world knows they're there.

Also a scattering of Whimbrel along the shore [when not attacked by the Oyks], 4 Grey Seals at Peartree, and several groups of I think more hopeful than successful birders [though one did get a Redstart].

We had a very nice day.

Either side of that, I'd failed and then succeeded in finding Whitethroats at the Nose, with bonuses of a mimic-happy Sedge Warbler on Saturday and both Garden and a very bright Willow Warbler today. Wheatears continue to move through, along with the odd hirundine, but apart from Chiffs and Blackcaps, there haven't been hordes of migrants when I've been there. [Yes, I should be there more often.]

Be Seeing You..

21 April, 2016


Blimmin' birds..

First late, now early.

I was so happy quite cheerful when I got up this afternoon [dontcha just love nights?]. I'd had a calling Cuckoo at work [and a proper one, not a frickin' CD], seen a bat sp., seen a dove sp...

Ok, that last one was a bit vexing, as it truly was a dove sp.! Usually a 'sp.' means you think you know what it was but just can't be sure [[Cue: grizzled american police captain slamming desk and growling "You need evidence. Give me proof, dammit!"]]  [[Ahem]]
Anyways. this one was just that, a sp. - I truly have no idea which one! Size, structure and jizz were all 'I'm no pig, I'm a dove; look at me!' but aside from 'looks a bit dark' I could get nothing on it. That's birding.

So yeah, now I turn on for a quick check of whatsgoingon and find oh look, my new Number One Most Wanted is [or has been..] at the frickin Warren today.


Annnnd, yesterday a Certain Someone found what could be a very nice Devon Tick for me at Orcombe.....

Time for that Dick Dastardly impression [with added Muttley]...

19 April, 2016

A Day Late And A Few Raptors Short

I'm not going to moan about the whole 'job of work' thing and how it gets between you and seeing Red Kites and frickin' Monties going at it [I mean, come on....].

Well, not any more than I just did anyway.

On Sunday I wandered over to Exminster in search of pretty Yellow Wags and in the reasonable [or so I thought] hope of Hobbies and maybe even Ospreys and Red Kites.

It was cloudier than forecast and the wind was cold enough to make one wonder if it might not be February in disguise, two things not conducive to sunny weather birds. [And it is notable how many birds are much more evident in sunshine]. However, the sun did shine now and again, the birdies were singing, and I thought, ah why not. Worth a try, right?

To cut a long story short, I eventually got a Yellow Wag - after hearing flight calls twice - but it took 'til gone 6. It also took that long to see a single raptor - though this was a lovely female Sprawk [who looked like she was after Yellow Wags, too...] - and that was it.

There were warblers, singing and otherwise, so it was by no means a write-off. Most notably in terms of performance was a lovely Sedge Warbler along the canal path [which I was wandering up to get closer to the coobeasties, as the darn wags were going to be near them and they were almost all right by the M5...]. I spent a fair amount of time watching the hirundine flock gradually building over the Lagoon - from about 60 at 1600 to more than 100 at 1800 - but while containing all the usual three, there was nothing else I could pick out with them.

Back here, the colder mornings have seen an increase in tit numbers, including actually catching LTTs on the peanuts. [You cannot know how happy it makes me to have seen that]. I've also been amused watching a Nuthatch hopping about the ground under the feeders like it's a Chaffinch or something...

16 April, 2016

Things Going Frack To Bont

Very mixed up Spring, this one.

Certainly didn't feel too far past winter this morning, as despite bright sunshine the northerly wind was blimmin' freezing...

I got myself to the Nose, despite said clear skies, and found.. Well, wait and see.

Lurking vocal warbler numbers had shifted from 'many Chiffs and the odd Blackcap' to 'many Blackcaps and a few Chiffs'. What sounded very much like a Garden Warbler turned out to be a Blackcap - plus ca change - which not only made me hunt it for a fair while but then had the indecency to pop up and gloat...

Vismig.. well, it wasn't really. I had a Swallow. Just the one. Yes, this was first on Patch this year [yay], but even so, all these flyover Yellow Wags and Tripits and things seem to be elsewhere [don't arsk about Ospreys or sodding stealth Kites...].

At least the sun was shining.

Things did perk up, and in a pleasantly surprising way. I was listening to the cacophany of Blackcaps and Wrens in the Top Dell when another call cut through. Shorter and cleaner than the tongue-click Blackcaps; Lesser!
But to see it...? Yeah right. Still, a tiny chance of a bird in the maze of the South Side had me moving around to the Overlook, sitting down on the soggy grass [no pain no gain] and waiting for something, anything to move.

Things moved. Ok, I had to wait about 10 mins for the sun to come out again, but things moved. Wheatears! A nice male there. Oooh, another over there. Hmm, looks to be the same one. Wait, something else moved, no two, no...Four! Four identical males sat for a few seconds on the same bit of scree. A further period of looking found a female sat higher up. Brilliant!

Then a flash of movement, bins up and a small sylvia.. Oh come on! Yes, in defiance of all expectation the Lesser Whitethroat popped out of a bit of bramble, sat side on for a whole 5 seconds, then ducked back out of sight.

Get. In.

Feeling much happier, I went on to find another female Wheatear along the Sole, and then.. well nowt. Well, 5 Mallards [wow!], 330+ Guilles on the Ore Stone* and a few Gannets fishing fairly close in.

No Whitethroats [the Common ones, that is]. Not a sniff of one.

Ok, this chap had some white on his throat;

The Second Slope male.

So, Lesser before Common Whitethroat. Birds, eh?

And now some bugs! Well, beetles, anyways. These two showed up on my window;

Giant ladybird attacks feeders!

Uh oh...

[[*I'm going to have to lug the Big Scope over to get a proper count]]

13 April, 2016

The Stuff That Wasn't In That Last Post

As, vague though they are now in my KP-eclipsed memory, I did actually do more than just get sandblasted for a Lifer over the weekend..!

Right, so, Saturday morning I toddled over to Yarner to look for fresh-in migrants. Pied Fly and Redstart were indeed present, though what with all the rain they weren't exactly super-showy. The male Redstart which flew across a valley towards me and then right over my head before angling up the ridge was pretty nice, though!

Other birds were far more evident, but due to reporting restrictions I shall say no more about them.
Instead, here's a hard-working chap I ran into;

Yes, they went there.

It was a good trip, even with getting rained on.

On to Sunday, and before I was brought to try my 'zen and the art of kentish twitching', I was about the Patch - most productively down at the Nose.

Blackthorn doin' its thang

No less than 4 brave souls were trying a seawatch in the strong SE and bright bright sunshine [the latter being why I'd stayed off] to some reward. Certainly more than I'd had on land, with only Chiffs and a singing Blackcap to report..

After they'd given up, I couldn't resist having a quick look myself and soon [isn't it always the way?] found myself questioning my eyes as a frickin' Arctic Tern showed up!* This was followed by a couple of Sarnies that tried fishing in Hope Cove, but no skuas, alas. The odd Manxie wandered past, and there were Fulmars and Kitts a plenty [nothing fancier than the odd double-light].

Heading homewards, I discovered that there had been a stray bird fallen on Patch, and a mighty interesting one at that!

It was sheltering in the corner of a field off IMD. Observe, regardez;

What the....?!?

Its a bird..
Its a plane..
No, its- wait, it IS a plane!!!!

With a neat blue cover and fancy yellow guyropes, its a small [2 seater, I think] plane in a small steep surrounded-by-houses-and-woods field.

As to how it got there..

Not through that gate!

Wonders never cease.

[[*This is very early, and before I've even seen a Common, so I must admit I'd crossed it out as a 'must have screwed up', before getting to DW and being told there were 2 there...]]

10 April, 2016

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Sandblasted..

As you may have noticed from my last post down there, I am quite happy right now.

This is due to getting the near heart-attack inducing news of a male Kentish Plover at the Warren. News more than 2 hours old by the time I got back from a Patch patrol..

Having dipped those little bar stewards of birds more times than I care to remember in 3 counties, this was something requiring of immediate action.

Getting out there to be told mid-yomp by dejected leavers that there had 'been no sign for hours' was vexing but not surprising. Arriving through the sandstorm - a strong SE at DW is not to be ventured out in lightly - to find many of the Usual Suspects at the Bight, this was confirmed. The situation was not hopeless, as falling tide might bring it to the semi-sheltered feeding grounds of said Bight, and if not, IL had gone on a suicide run recce to see if the bird was around Warren Point.

My usual KP twitch result.

Then the call, and the stampede not-at-all-rushed-and-in-fact-very-orderly walk over to first find where Ivan actually was, and then where the bird was.

He very charitably even had his lovely scope on it when I got there.
Cue a Renton moment - which fortunately nobody was in position to film - as at long long last that most eeeeeevil of bogies bit the dust.

Right then;

It was quite far away.
But then it got closer
Until it finally showed wonderfully.

Considering the wind, I'm frankly amazed at these shots. I mean, you can even tell what it is!

Anyways, after 40 minutes of wonder, it pootled off towards the end of the point and out of sight and I decided not to pursue - it had been brilliant [when you could see it - did I mention sandstorm? Not kidding] and I didn't want to risk accidentally getting too close and disturbing it.

There were other birds, and also other birding today and yesterday, but they will have to wait.

I still can't quite believe it. I'm worried I'll wake up....

Be Seeing You



::Sings::  At last....

With enormous thanks respect kudos and gratitude to Mr. Collins [for finding it] and Mr. Lakin [for going out and refinding it when it tried to do a bunk on hearing I was coming  and then keeping 4 civilians from a terrible fate flushing it while we came over]



05 April, 2016

Egrets, I've Seen A Few...

And I did it myyyy way.

No I couldn't resist.

Yeah, so I decided that the iffy weather on Sunday was right for a wild egret chase. [The Cattle Egret being reported nice and early didn't hurt, I admit..] [Ok, neither did the Osprey said to be headed there from the other end of the Exe]

So, over to Powderham, where I picked up a nice egret with a pale yellowish bill and a notable underbite* from my car as I drove past. This is what you call considerate, birds!

It was with a regular-flavour Little Egret in the western stubble field and I duly parked responsibly and yomped back up the road in the rain.

Yes, it was raining. This state of affairs only varied in intensity for the whole time I was there. [['Showers', my arse.]]

But I, mad seawatcher that I be, fear no rain; my scope is well-sealed and I had a waterproof!

Unfortunately, that mouse quote sprang to mind as while I was focussing said scope, something coming from the far side flushed everything [even the Pheasants] in said field, and I could only watch in vexation as the 2 egrets flew off towards the deer park, black legs trailing.

Hold on a minute.

Black legs?

Little Egret, regular, with black legs and yellow feets.
Pale-billed egret with black legs and feet.

So it's a young Cattle, then?

They weren't close together and the angles and rain were not kind. 

I cursed the weather and the timing and went off down the road after them.

Let's cut an hour of getting rained on short: No Osprey sulking in any tree I could see. No pale-billed Little Egret or whatever it is. No Cattle Egret of any leg colour. At least 5 regular Little Egrets.

There were Swallows, House Martins and a couple of Sandies over the Kenn. Also a Snipe flew into a rushy bit. It wasn't awful, but the birds I was looking for just weren't to be seen.

Eventually I started working back, and then, finally, through the Oaks...


Getting closer wasn't too bad, the problem was not just the trees [since when do egrets feed around big trees?] but the more mobile scenery;

Bladdy deer!
[Steep forehead and bill colour sort of visible]

Pale legs visible

 They didn't get better
So, one nice Cattle Egret. Mobile and often hidden behind trees/deer/both. I know this is a deer park, but it was ridiculous...
As you may be able to tell, the bird was heading away all the time, so these are it.

As for the other one?

The egret sp. had vanished.

Somebody with a better camera needs to find this bird. I'm pretty sure its a really odd Little [they can have dark feet sometimes], but there's the tiny speck of doubt. That head is irritating. Mostly irritating specks get removed, but just sometimes they form pearls.

I apologise for that one, but seriously, somebody find that bird and let us be sure.


[[*On a Cattle Egret, for example, the feathering under the bill extends markedly further forward that the forehead. An effect enhanced by the bird having a steep forehead and comparatively short thick bill. I call this underbite for what I hope is an obvious reason.]]

02 April, 2016

Spring Migrants [er, somewhere...]

Again a day of birding, oh shock and horror what is the world coming to???


So, I started first thing at the Nose, where the stiff SSW and overcast combined to make it a chilly and generally unSpringlike place. Despite the Top Dell and South Side being blown out, I found 2 migrants; they flew past going [quite sensibly] south - Shelducks!
A Chiffchaff started singing as I left, but that was it.

Time for a change, so I [expecting the overcast to clear mid morning like Holly said it would] went up on t'Moor to follow up a report of birds with black and white bits.

The weather clearly had been watching itv [well thankyou very much] as it was hill-scraping clouds and rain up there. Joy. However, non-ironic joy as when I was getting out of my li'l car [yes, actually getting out!] guess what flew almost over me?

'This must be the indication of many birds to come', thought I.


The well-known migrant stop-over point was not only absent of any more of my quarry, but not even a Blackbird, let alone a Wheatear! I saw Crows. And a Magpie [which is black and white in places, I suppose].
 Oh, there were Chaffinches, too.


Mountains and so on, right? I put in time and effort, I covered ground, all to no avail. Eventually the sun did show, and all of a sudden there were more birds around. There was also The Artist, who'd seen no blackandwhite birds, but had seen a Blackbird and Wheatears and a singing Willow Warbler. He'd had a very good start too, with a flypast dashpast Merlin, and also been disappointed by not getting more. [These things are relative].
After staking out the main site for lunch [still not even a Blackbird!] I toddled off to where he'd had joy and did indeed find a Wheatear, but not the WW. I went back up and.. ah! Wheatear! Singing! And it posed!


A nice pale one
[Pity he turned his head away.. ]

As for yesterday's birds, I reckon they'd cleared off to more secluded and sheltered pastures watered by the overnight rain - mine being the last out.

That's birding, folks.

On the Home front, I'm still getting Nuthatches..   :D

Be Seeing You..