31 October, 2016


Using a couple of days of hollyday [yay!] - today I took a wander with the Folks up on t'Moor.

It was gloriously quiet up there - at least in the morning - with not a soul in sight! Just us and the birds.

Oh, there were birds. We went to Scorhill and wandered down to Middle Tor and Frenchbeer Rock [yup, vast distances] and back, and we met so many thrushes I could hardly credit it.. 1000+ is a very conservative estimate. And more than half were Fieldfares! 'Chachachak!' was everywhere. Redwings outnumbered Starlings maybe 4 to 1, and there was a scattering of Mistle Thrushes and at least 2 Ring Ouzels [1 at Scorhill, 1 at Frenchbeer] with them.

Also of real note was a cracking female Merlin, which actually showed for long enough for all present to get bins on her - very unusual for a Merlin, she also got quite high up - as well as all the usuals, including vocal but not showy [so standard] Golden Plovers.

Here's some Fieldfares;


Two! Three! Fou-, er, lots?!?

Yeah, lots.

Hold on...

...how many?!?!?!?

You get the idea.

It was gorgeous up there, all blazing sunshine and stuff.

So much so that there was still a Black Darter on the wing! He was far too frisky to shoot, alas, patrolling a wet bit near Shovel Down.

Odonates aside, everything was posing;

 Admiral on deck!

Even the archaeology..

The Three Boys
[Doing its 2001 impression]

Also to report, on Patch; last night a listen gave 6 Redwing calls in 10 minutes. Tonight it was 8.

What will tomorrow bring?

Be Seeing You..

29 October, 2016

More Of..

The same, really.

Last couple of days have been interrupted, or perhaps better put disrupted, by an attack of the plague. So no mad dashes Mendip-ward for me.

I have been bashing the Nose and areas adjacent when mobile, and have even seen the odd bird.

More than the odd one yesterday morning, with a big movement of Goldfinches - more than a hundred in half an hour early on [and with the impression of being the tailing-off of a serious overnight movement] - with Woodpigs and Song Thrushes also notable. Interesting species included Crossbills [one group] and Redpoll, plus the first Patch Brambling of the year. The latter was not one I expected, as I'm far more used to seeing them feeding under Beech trees, and so gave me quite the WTF until I realised what it was going over..!

Plenty of Guilles back on the Ore Stone, too; it was so calm you could hear them yarking from IMD..
Offshore, a small southward movement of Gannets and Kittiwakes caught the eye. They were flying with such determination that I was sure there'd be a Bonxie trolling along after them going "Hur Hur Hur" like a comic book school bully. Nope, so I have no idea what that was about.
Also the scoter flock was again south of Thatcher Rock - I got '15+' on them.

I wonder why the birds are so far out...?

Today's designed attempt at first light was stopped by lurgy, but when I was mobile I got down there anyway. Too late if there had been anything upstairs, and dead quiet on the deck, though a thrush sp.* was in/off and away over Ilsham.

Chasing a small auk on the sea, I ended up at Meadfoot, and again the scoters were off out - just SE of the outer Buoy Farm - with ~20 present, plus two more 'ducks that looked very like Eider' not too far from them.
Closer to, the annual horde of Woodpigs were feasting among the evergreens near Kilmorie, and below them, the Goldcrests had at least one Firecrest with them [but nothing sexier that was calling].

Also of interest;

Mmmmh, strata...

Wait a sec, who's that??

Hiding from the Geebs

Time for some pretty scenery;

Meadfoot in calmer weather

 I know, I should stop putting junk shots up, but I just can't stop myself..

 Finally, and even worse [yes, really] was this aerial surprise;


Be Seeing You...

[[*That is all I have on it. Most likely a SThrush, but seemed wrong even for that. Nowt to do with it, really.]]

26 October, 2016


Every home has its own little quirks. Interesting, odd, or even strange things that happen there. What an estate agent might [if pinned down to actually answer] maybe call its own unique set of features.

One of the ones about my place is the ladybirds.

For reasons best known to themselves, ladybirds of many species seem to find it ideal to winter here. So, every Autumn and Spring, when it gets past a certain level of light and especially warmth, they suddenly appear around my windows - inside and outside.

As univited houseguests go, they're not unwelcome. [Ok, maybe not the Harlequins..] 

Here's a few;





[With apologies to Mr. Heinlein...]

In other news..
Madness this morning as, just as I was finally lining up a 'Two Nuthatch' shot, a GSW flew in! Its arrival flushed everything [there were Coal Tits], and the sudden explosion of birds panicked the woodie, which flew off too.  


Be Seeing You..

24 October, 2016


Yes it's a Patchilicious roundup of this, that, and even some of the other..

Yeah, so.. First up;

One of those
Western Conifer Seed Bug

Never mind gardens, this was in my bedroom [eeeek! ;) ]

On the feeders... Multiple Nuthatches have avoided getting hit, but this Blue Tit was less wary;


I quite like these; not the usual angles you get from people with actual skill / better cameras.

Right then, Saturday was less good bird-wise, but Sunday saw me hitting the Nose with gusto.

Not quite as much gusto as the wind, let alone the sea, though..

Strange lack of fishing types...

You will be shocked to read that I found nowt more than a Chiff cowering in the undergrowth, but I was unfazed, as I'd cunningly lugged a scope along, and found a spot in The Mounds that was sheltered from the howling near-gale..

Anything out there?


What was out there? Gulls, Gannets, Guilles.. Not many either, though 148+ GBBs on the Ore Stone [all adults] wasn't bad. Then the Goddess of Birding smiled and.. 'Oooh, what's that?' 'Duck!'

Heading north at pace [when do they not?] and not a scoter but definitely dark.. An aythya.. Which one? Tufty, surely. No, wait, look at it.. Ah! It's a Scaup! A 1w, possibly male.

Get in. :)

Despite this wonderful occurrence [only second time on Patch], things did not suddenly perk up afterwards, though. In fact they dried up, so I toddled home and warmed up via baking*.

After a brief pause it was back out, this time heading Meadfoot way. Why so? Well, wind in the ENE meant that off Meadfoot was one of the very few bits of sheltered [or at least, slightly sheltered] sea that weren't harbours. The thought of seaducks had been kindled in my noggin and, well... worth a try, right?

I arrived to find a lot of sea.

From Meadfoot,
Thatcher Rock on the left, Berry Head off to the right

Also a few posers;

Not quite adult


The swell was impressive, but I scanned away and.. Hah! Yes! Seaducks! A raft of 20+ scoter and what was clearly an Eider, plus 2 other ducks.. And all well out.
Dammit. I'd only got the li'l scope with me - not really expecting anything - and with the big waves mincing about, the birds were also only visible for maybe 2 to 3 seconds in 10..

Right. Decisive action required. I legged it home, grabbed the Big Scope and got back sharpish.

Still there.

25 Common Scoter, plus a female/1w Eider in close attendance, with 2 female Common Scoter off by themselves. Very nice.

Can you see them?

Hide and Seek

What do you mean 'No!'??

A gull is less wary

 To zoom out, they were;

Between Thatcher Rock and the Buoy Farm

So, conclusive proof that a 30x camera lens has not the reach of a 10x binocular, let alone a 75x scope**. Oh well.

Gannets were in the distance, BHGs closer in, with a few LBBs among the scattering of gulls loitering.

Not quite the grebe rafts of the Old Days, but still.. Much better than expected. :)

Be Seeing You..

[[*Gingernuts. Because using the oven warms a place like nothing else, and well, also just Because.]]
[[**Millions of flushed birds will agree with this...]]

23 October, 2016

Fryday's Fun

Started at Hope's Nose [oh, there's a surprise]. The ground was very quiet - I eventually found a few Chiffs and Blackcaps - but overhead a decent-sized flock of Woodpigs came in/off and there was a steady movement of Mipits and alba Wagtails, plus a few Goldfinches, and a small party of Siskin.

It was briskly sharp, and I figured that hey, maybe the season was indeed turning, so I was fairly wrapped up when I got up on't Moor and started ambling down into Vitifer, entertaining hopes for seeing birds with varying proportions of black and white on them.

Before I even got to the start of the workings, I'd already had an unexpected find;

Flint scraper,
presumably Mesolithic

The nice thing about Dartmoor when it comes to stone tools is the utter lack of native flint. If you find flint up there, it's been brought there by a person. This was just lying by the path, freshly washed out of the soil. I'm sorely tempted to wax lyrical about the ancestor who made and used this, millenia ago, after a successful hunt.. But I'll spare you.

Getting back to business..
The sun shone and while the wind was indeed cold it was very well-sheltered down in the valley and through most of Sousson's plantation as well. You could call it balmy, even. I wandered down to the shrike spot - being chakked at by invisible Ouzels on the way, the gits - and with no shrike in evidence, settled down to wait it out.

The Sousson's clearfell 
looking towards Birch Tor and Vitifer

And looking the other way

Anyways, with sun shining I fully near-expected the shrike to be out and about, spreading fear and terror amongst all things smaller than it. Sitting atop snapped trees and generally looking gorgeous. Any time now it'd show up on its circuit, right?



I did see an impersonator, which was doing a very good impression, moving between perches very low and dropping on things with vim and venom;


Also joining in were Buzzard and Kestrel, but no proper shrike to be seen.
One rapid consolation blazed past from behind me, though.. Yeah, did it again, female Merlin!


After meeting three other birders who'd also failed to see anything shrikey, I decided to take a wander over to the west side of Sousson's, then check Warren House valley, before trying the back gerts above Vitifer. ::Deep breath::

So, west side was a bust, but heading to the ridge gate, I met the Crossbills [who'd been vocal but not so visible]. Ta and indeed da;


Lookout failed to notice the interloper..

How many?

Biggest flock was a mighty 9!

Right, after trying and failing WH, it was the fun way along the top of Vitifer. There's an old path I used to use quite a lot; it contours high up the hillside, and is nicely positioned to let you see pretty much everything without being silhouetted while also being surprisingly well-sheltered from the wind. Sounds good, right?
Stealth gert

Stealth Rowan
[You can't see that one from the valley floor ]

Well, not so good to others, as aside from the first sections [where those were taken], even the ponies haven't been using it so much and oy, it was hard going in places.. Bracken, eroded sheer bits.. arg. I suffered for my efforts, but then I heard that sound again; 'chak!' Only now the little git was below me.. >;)

I turned down the gert in question and.. Yes, a couple of Ring Ouzels. :D  I stealthily approached an overlook to get a shot of them stuffing their little faces in a Rowan and- Shrike! From right below me, too. The Ouzels flew, the shrike flew...

 Not so hard to see from above, are you?

 It also became immediately apparent that I hadn't flushed the shrike, as it was being harried by a bruiser;

Then I saw the three amigos coming up the valley, and some frantic waving got them on the bird.. Or not, as it turned out, due to distracting Ouzels. Fortunately I went down to be sure, and got them on the shrike. Much cooing ensued.

Then to add insult to camera-avoidance, a cracking male Ring Ouzel flew right over us and vanished into a Hawthorn. So, at least 3 ROuzels [as the two up the gert were female/immatures].


Also of note were some more ordinary winter thrushes; mostly Redwing. Biggest flock contained 45 Redwing and 9 Fieldfare.

Coming up tomorrow, the rest of the weekend [and some earlier stuff], starring The Patch and featuring some distant ducks!

Can't wait, can you?

Be Seeing You..

21 October, 2016

I Got It!

I went up on't Moor to have a look for that there shrike today. It wasn't feeling very helpful, and not only to me but to the three other [fool]hardy souls looking for it in the blazing October sunshine..

Vitifer and Sousson's were their usual lovely selves, and there were other birds, but I ended up being far too thorough, covered some ground that I've not walked for many years - a path which seems not to have been walked by anyone else, either.. - and in a wonderful display of sheer persistence managed to not only find the bird [which was hiding up one of those TARDIS style gerts] but did so by accidentally flushing a variety of Ring Ouzels past it...

Said 'it';


That's it for now. I suspect I may re-do this post with more details and more piccitures of pretty birds and pretty scenery later.

Also better words.

Be Seeing You..

17 October, 2016

Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

It's been a busy weekend of Patch-bashing.

Dodgy Accentors aside, I've been putting in the effort in the hope that something of all the October Glory would filter my way. Results were present if not epic and nothing brilliant sat put to photo [which was most vexing; if 'skulky' sibes will stay put for crowds of camera-toting bods, then why couldn't one quiet chap score something much less CMF, eh?]

Not to say I didn't get the odd picture, as you will see...

Friday morning saw the best vismigging, with a Woodlark over amongst a movement of Skylarks, a Grey Heron in/off [!] and a Swallow off/out the highlights among large numbers of Goldfinches, Mipits and alba Wagtails.

Saturday had another brush with the local YBW [I'll get it eventually!]. The Nose was very quiet, with the only bird of note a Bonxie hanging around a passing trawler.

Sunday had some passage again, with Siskin joining the Goldfinches, Mipits, and alba Wags. Offshore - well, quite close inshore - a large number of gulls around the remains of the overnight slick were accompanied by a Little Gull, sadly this was flushed by a couple of [BLEEP] kyakers - who seemed to be doing their best to annoy all the gulls around the Lead Stone - before I could get more than a very distant look at it.

Now for pics!

Mr Sprawk




In there somewhere...

And finally, here's some Hammer scenery!

The von Carnstein Playing Fields....

Be Seeing You..