25 January, 2017

History Repeating

It was deja-vu all over again up on t' Moor on Saturday and no mistake.

Once again I believed [vaguely] the Met Office. Once again they were utterly wrong.

But that's an aside and not the point.

So, I went for the toddle that I'd put off the week before due to plague. This was the classic loop from Holne, over to and indeed over over the Mardle, up to Pupers - where I'd hoped to have a look for soaring things* - then over to Headland Warren, up to the Heap of Sinners, up more to Ryder's, then across Holne Moor to Venford, before finishing the loop. It's 18km or so.

It was overcast and gunky, not so much low cloud as very thick haze.. Hmm. Oh well, I was mostly there for a good yomp and that I had. The ground was firm but not frozen hard - at least not everywhere - though standing water had ice.

Pupers from Holne Lee

Looking up, it wasn't tooo hazy. You could see where you were going and so on. But bigger distances were problematic. What can you do? At least it made for a few pretty pictures;

The Big Heap at Redlake

Crunchy on top

And round the sides

Despite said ice, it was cold not bitter, the ice lingering more from bloody-mindedness than anything approaching sub-zero temperatures [it was 5° according to my li'l car, and that's not in sunshine]. The going up on the bogs around Ryder's was amusing; with the ice creaking and cracking, not thick enough to just go swanning over anything [which is such fun you don't mind the odd skid] but still letting you move with reasonable confidence over the mossy bits. Putting feet over 'frozen' water would have been a bad idea, I put a careful foot on one nice-looking bit with the hope of a skate, but after half of one foot's weight there was a sharp 'Crack'...

Now as to history. Once upon a Samhain, I was up that way on t' Moor and I met some interesting things. To whit; The Hunt, a Jack Snipe, and a holysheeeitethatwasclose!!! Merlin.


The Hunt was out in numbers - 30 followers off for what these days is a hack in very fancy duds - and I can only blame them for the Jack Snipe I met up on Pupers, where no Snipe of any flavour should be skulking! It did the usual up from under the feet routine then back down before you can even reach for a camera [not that a nice towering normal Snipe has ever come out as more than a blob, mind], showing me that lovely pointy dark tail and as usual giving me a good shock..
Trading places with the Jack, the Merlin was more distant this time but again a female.

Other birds were more to be expected, though again I noted a paucity of Yellowhammers. This is usually a really good place for them, but this time not one! Golden Plover flocks were met twice, with the only count being 43 on the flank of Pupers, and a scattering of Goosander were on both reservoirs [look down].

I took a slightly different route down from Ryder's to Venford, and was glad I did as I passed a nice hut circle. So here you go;

Hut circle, Holne Moor

Those near-uprights are a very neat doorway.

The res was.. well, look;

Venford, mirror calm

I stopped to finish my coffee off and see if the Goosanders [up near the dam when I arrived] would come closer and to my delight they did. The light was going by now, but that's never stopped me;

Four of the five present

Time pressing on, I went out the back way to cut back up to the Holne tracks, which was realllly jammy as I - having stopped to go "Huh?" at a Blue Tit mimicking Chiffchaff song** - was in the right spot looking the right way to see the Woodcock that had been flushed by one of the many loose dogs about, go flying past at head height... Wooooooo  :D

Happy days.

Be Seeing You..

 [[*I'd gone so far as to take the li'l scope and dinky tripod in my foolish optimism...]]
[[**Really. Imagine chiff-chaff-chaff-chiff-chaff etc. in a Blue Tit's 'teacher' tone.......]]

20 January, 2017

The Ecstasy And The Agony

Oh, what an afternoon...


Reminds me of an old movie..

Then they got closer..

"Yeah, I think this is my good side"
Waxwing. 0mph, ~40'

Viewing conditions weren't exactly ideal, with the toothy wind and.. interesting locale. The very next pic;

Lorry. 60mph, ~10'....

And my camera almost got it sharp.

About a dozen were present, mobile between trees and the bushes in the central reservation of the A38 between British Ceramic Tiles and the china clay place - best viewed from the Teigngrace side - and there were plenty of admirers braving cold and traffic.

I headed on to Yarner, where, after a lovely lunch enjoying the scenery, I met some little tree birds. Most notably, a black and white one with a red crown. Oh hell yes. I stalked him for more than 20 minutes as he busily foraged near the pony pound. On my way in I got some other passing shots;

I was slow, I was quiet, I was careful, and eventually I was in position. There it was, tapping away on a branch, clear shot, quite low down, well-lit... I held my breath as I zoomed the camera in- the bird flew.


Then I heard them, a retired couple came wandering along from the other direction, past me, not a clue what they'd just done.

I prayed for serenity, and She granted me just enough to stay out of prison.

Then, thinking of this moment, I took the shot;

This is not cropped.

Oh the horror, the torment and the woe. And I'd gone from such joy; this was a glorious bird, showing amazingly, just foraging away, being a woodpecker. Getting a DBR level photo would have let me share it with you; thousand words and so on...

I didn't give up; it had gone thattaway and I followed. Because you do.

Then I heard that tapping, stop-start tapping tapping tapping on my chamber doo-, sorry. On a tree.

And I found the bird again.

Up by the reservoir, higher up but there.. And then a lady with a dog, yapping away on her phone [her, not the dog; cream Labs don't yap..] came along...
Still I persevered. And AGAIN there it was, tapping away.. right up in the canopy. 


What do you mean, you can't see it??

It is there. Not entirely in view, true, but you can see a bit of it if you look very very hard... Then before I could get a proper shot, off it flew all of its own accord, kicking in glee as it went.

To add insult to injury, the darn thing then showed up at the car park as I was leaving, and tormented me and two other birders by calling for ages but not showing a feather.


Be Seeing You..

16 January, 2017

Time For A Wild Duck Chase!

Still suffering from the plague, I was determined to not stay in but get out in the fresh air. It's good for you, dontcha know?

Yeah, so [as you may have guessed..] I decided to do what I'd not done the weekend before [when I swanned off after various other birds.. Ahem.]. So, down to the Deep South [Hams] and a probably hopeless hunt for a little duck hiding amongst hundreds of very similar ducks, in a large area with many bits hard/impossible to see, that might not be there, even if it does exist and wasn't just a Tufty photo'd at a particularly amusing angle....     ::Deep breath::

Arriving, I started up the top end, planning to scan from the Monument ridge, do Ireland Bay, then hit Stokeley, with Torcross a reserve. A reasonable plan, I thought, but what would I find?

Nice flat light, not too windy, lots of birds. Right then....

I won't give a plethora of counts, not least because I didn't do many. [Shock, scandal, burn his rspb card....] I did count some things: there were 5 Goldeneye up the north end, some quite close;

Dum dum-dum-dum


I hear that song Every. Single. Time.

After an hour or so, I decided there were no Scaup of any flavour up top, but on my way back out of Ireland Bay, I met up with a Devon Birder [who I'd passed the week before at Mansands], who told me he'd seen 3 Scaup down the south end, but not anything smaller, so to speak.

So, to Stokeley Bay, where a wrapped up watch with a handy flask ensued.

The Scaup were horribly elusive, and took almost 30 seconds to find...

Now, which one is it??

What a dreadful showoff. Fortunately, the other two were a little more bashful;

1w male, female, Tufties

Also a nice assortment of gulls in that one.

There were at least 8 Goldeneye on view, as were a mere 16 Pochard [I suppose 16 is better than 0], and 5 Wigeon. Various gulls popped in and out to bathe, including this prettypretty;

Only Med Gulls and Englishme-

And this bigugly;

Actual wingshot.. gasp

Anyway, to get to the interesting bit, after a fair while, I picked up something that finally didn't just read as 'another Tufty'. 'Oooh', thought I, flashing back to a visit to Looe Pool a few years back.. 'That looks interesting...' It was The Bird. The One In That Photo. It is indeed real and.. well.

When I picked it up it was next to the 2 Scaup and a couple of Tufties - which was great, beautiful comparison - but they were now well into the neck and getting on for a kilometre away, which was.. fine for my Big Scope, less so for my camera. The Bird wasn't associating with either species, really, just happened to be in the same area when I noticed it. After getting a good long look and taking notes, I tried the camera anyway;

It's next to the male Tuftie, 
and all you can tell is that it's slightly smaller

Yeah, frickin' blobs...

So, no photo = no bird*.

A pity, as in the feather it looks even better than the famous photo, with less contrast between back and flank, and really good head shape - even with the wind from behind it - and bill [allowing for range; it 'looked like the Scaup']. Female and I think a 1w, though of course a little hard to tell. I had the bird for about 20 minutes before it lost me and in no time did she flap her little wings, let alone fly about, so I can't speak for wingbars, alas. That is my only caveat.
Somebody with a big camera and either a rowing boat or better fortune needs to put some time in, because this one looks worth recording.

Tuppence in.

Finally, a bird that did behave.


Also offshore another GC Grebe and further out one or maybe 2 RTDs, plus Razorbills, the odd Guillemot, and fishing Gannets and Kittiwakes.

Ok, two birds that behaved;

Dun lock

[One autofocus that wouldn't..]

Be Seeing You..

[[*Sorry, that should be '= It's a Mallard'..]]

14 January, 2017


..can be a pain in the.. most things. I also stand by my not liking change [there was a court case].

Yeah, so, I've come down with the plague. Plans for a lurverly day yomping up on't'Moor in the sunshine and -30° windchill have been kiboshed. Boo.

Yesterday I had busyness in Trovey Bacey, so I figured I might as well get straight out of work and head over with lunch to Yarner, rather than go back and over and back again. [If that makes sense. Does that make sense?]

Anyways, despite it being quite reasonable in the [very exposed] work car park, up higher a bit the wind was a toothy bugger and no mistake. A bit of fresh air helps clear the lurgy, but there's fresh and fresh... Also, I'd harboured some vague aspirations of small black and white things, maybe with some red on. Ho Ho Ho.

Still, the valley bits weren't too bad, so I made the rounds. After I'd had lunch cowering keeping watch in the hide. Which wasn't unproductive;

Well hello...

Sorry, 'Hello Mrs GSW'

"Peanuts taste good.."

Not just the woodie about, there were lots of birds, including this Grey Wag;


"He did, he really did. So I said.."

Failing again to catch a Marshie on camera, I toddled about all the sheltered bits where I'd met small things in earlier years, but didn't get so much as a 'pi'. I only even heard one Nuthatch doing an impersonation..

Still, apart from the two nice ladies with the horde of assorted 'friendly' dogs [one of which chased a buck Roe Deer across the Lady Chapel], it was very quiet and even had some snow on the ground.. Must be winter?

Looking down the Long Way

On the Home front, the Robin is getting better at feeders, and can now perch for almost 2 seconds before falling off..

Be Seeing You..

[I hope]

11 January, 2017

(Crabrock) Point Break

Hey, no groaning, it could have been far far worse...

It will be no surprise to read that I wandered over to Mansands on Sunday, to have a look at the 1w Surf Scoter that's been hanging around.

It always takes longer getting down there than you remember, that track seems to grow. Then you get to toddle up to Crabrock Point.. Ah, my poor aching- Well, pretty much everything.

As it happened, I exercised great timing, as Bailey Jr was not only on site but had just found the bird! You would be best advised to have a look at his twitter feed, as while the following was taken at the same time, he was phonescoping at [I assume] 60x80-odd, while I was straight camera-ing at 30xnot very much. Cue the difference;

In the middle, about 40 birds from the right

About 45 from right,
gap behind its head

Been to Mark's twitter yet? Yeah, you get the idea...

Here's the unzoomed view.

The scoter are out there..

After getting rained on a bit and seeing that the scoters* weren't planning on getting any closer, I lugged the Big Scope back up the hill and headed homeward.

Note that 'ward', as I stopped off en route at Goodrington in an attempt at revenge on the grebes and velvets allegedly hanging about the southern Bay.

The sea was mercury calm, and a scan of the wide seanorama gave some impressive numbers;

115 Razorbills, 22 Guillemots, 8 auk sp., 1 BN Grebe, 1 GC Grebe, 8 V Scoter, 1 C Scoter, 1 GN Diver.

There were Razzies everywhere! It started to get silly, but in the wonderful calm backlit conditions I could just get bird after bird..

Inevitably, the camera came out;

The scoter saw the camera in time to turn end on,
the grebe popped up at just the wrong time..

Though much was well off in the distance;

A line of Velvets

I gave the water park a bash on the way out, with a nice Shoveler and a few Tufties present. No interesting gulls.

In other news, I am planning a different sort of post in the near future. This will be based in part on feedback, and in part on my own deranged ranting musings. I'm not sure how near, as things are set to change [and nobody likes change] [[What do you mean, "normal people do.."?!?!??]].

Be Seeing You..

[[*Two flocks, of 205 and 170 when I counted them before I left**.]]
[[**Yes, they were in view at the same time....]]

09 January, 2017

A Grand Day Out

Readers of a more twitchy nature may be aware that this winter this li'l country of ours has experienced an influx of orangey things. These are otherwise known as Eastern Black Redstarts [P. o. phoenicuroides]

One of said EBRs has holed up [sorry, couldn't resist] at Mousehole in cornywall and I have been tempted, oh yes.

Then the mighty and famous [or is that infamous?] Bun texts me and asks if I'm up for it? Silllllly question!

So, Saturday saw us meet up and wander off westwards. We have a plan and everything.

It's quite simple: Turn up. See bird.

Which bird?

This bird!

Eastern Black Redstart
1w male
K. Hale ™

It was a bit soggy when we got there, having had an argument with a wave...

More papping, this time from yours truly;

Not always on the beach

I have many more but will control myself.

It's gorgeous, shows beautifully, and, well... WOW.


Also on show was this fellow;


EBR in the bag, we moved over to Penzance in the hope that the Pacific Diver would be as helpful.



12 GNDs [including a really sneaky young one with a pale bill and dark culmen combo - looked really thin unless seen against land - and a habit of holding its head so its throat creased like a chin strap...] and a nice RTD. Not a sniff of the PD. There were these things, though;

The sandpiper of consolation

With the sideways drizzle eating visibility, we gave up after a mere hour, took our dips on the chin, and moved on to Longrock to look for any of the vagrant gulls that kept being reported.

Scenery [its a legal requirement];

The beach turned up nowt more than a Kittiwake and a reasonable intermedius candidate, and Longrock Pool itself.. Well, there was this Thing.

Look away now if you Fear big 'orrible ugly gulls.......

Big and Ugly...

"No pictures!"


This was... a bugger. Didn't look right for anything [even 'weird Herring', which is the standard default]. Some sort of horrific hybrid? [But between what??] I'll probably get back to this in a future post. [[Start running now...]]

The thing having done one - neatly when I wasn't ready to shoot it - and nothing even vaguely Kumlien's-like having arrived, we took what was left of the daylight to Hayle, where the Green-winged Teal was being a little bugger, too. Fortunately, an ordinary Teal gave it a thump and it turned around from its arse-on hiding pose..


Bun the Eagle-eyed then pointed out that it had what looked very much like a darvik ring on its left leg - covered in mud, naturally. It would be nice if anyone has seen it with clean legs and could maybe find out?

EDIT: The latest Palores* has said that a 1w male GWT with a ring arrived on the Hayle on 10/11/16, but nobody has been able to read the ring yet!

Bad light - not to mention some lovely thick fog - stopped play before we could get to the Dozy Lesser Scaup, but we headed back feeling pretty chuffed with how we'd done. [Sadly not Chough-ed, though..]


Be Seeing You..

[[*CBWPS newsletter]]

06 January, 2017

It's 2016 Again...

Yeah, you knew it was inevitable.

I've decided to change things a bit this year, so instead of a Top Ten I'm just going to put up a few [define 'few'...] highlights and we'll see how it goes.

2016 saw some gratuitous twitching on my part, including going to see [that's see, not going after a dip] the same bird twice. Yeah, I'm talking Dalmatian Pelican here. So to my first highlight...

I Tawt I Taw Some Wicked Birds

The pelican had crossed the border, and as a self-respecting Devon birder, I had to go and add it, maybe even see it on the deck? The small matter of getting even with not horribly dipping seeing a Caspian Tern was also a factor. Add on a Glossy Ibis, a posse of Spoonbills and who knows what else around and where's the question?
Turning up after a vexing trip to find not only both my targets were there but in the scopes of some handy Hants birders was.. sweet. Ok, that's something of an understatement, especially after the whole 'last Caspo Tern thing...'. Eventually catching up with the Ibis at very close range [plus the most confiding Redshanks I've ever seen] was pretty good too. Then there was cake. Brilliant day, brilliant place.

Photogenic Rarities

Before the Blue Rock Thrush there was the Desert Wheatear - not even a Devon Tick but well worth looking at! - and before that the Lesser Grey Shrike [what a bird!]. While varyingly elusive, all [eventually] posed to show off their loveliness. Ok, the BRT stayed mobile and up on the rooftops mostly, but it was there and so very pretty.

Less Obliging Rarities

The Black Hole Least Sand was a lovely little bird, but not easy to photo [at least when I was there..]. Blyth's Reed? Blyth's blur in the middle of a bush [it was very cute, though]. Even the Blagdon Blyth's was a bit..  mobile.
Speaking of massive things impossible to see... We cannot speak of Devon's birds without the Bird Of The Year.. Yup, Lammy the Lammergeier. There, I've mentioned it, and out of respect to [almost all of] you, I'll say no more.


Kentish Plover. On. My. List.

And Stone Curlew, too.

Patch Joy.

Watching Pegs insecting.. [I could hardly believe it] and beating up poor innocent Buzzards for fun. :)
Then there was the Wryneck. Actually sitting for photos. Not great photos, true, but you could see what it was without prompting.
And a multi-second Great Spotted Woodpecker on my feeders! Woo!

All The Birds

By which I mean.. All the big shears at 'Gwarra. All the Ospreys on the Exe. All the Cattle Egrets dodging the Teigngrace muckspreader. All the Great White Egrets at Blagdon. Wowzer.

The Grace of The Goddess

The Mardle valley is one of those places. It was with a tiny grain of hope that I'd picked that bit of the Moor, but really I had no expectation. Thrushes were the order of the day, and it was a glorious day anyway. So, I was there and then.. so was the Hen Harrier. For minutes. It was... well, like the title says.


And that was my highest light of the year. Earlier I would have thought it would be the Kentish - it was even photo'd..by me!!! - which was a moment of ecstasy, true, but it was the ecstasy of relief and revenge and then what a bird. The Hen Harrier was joy, pure unadulterated bliss.


You may possibly be aware that a lot of people have said how much they hated 2016. Personally, I disagree. Yes, bad things happen, people die [it's waiting for us all], but not everything was awful. Anyway, the world was supposed to end in 2012, so we're already 4 years to the good.

Smile! :D

Be Seeing You..

03 January, 2017

The Glorious Second

I did not spend yesterday engaged in a Wild Duck Chase down at Slapton. This was because I was up on t'Moor with The Folks. It was very sunny, if a bit nippy in the wind.

We toddled about Fernworthy - a mission made more complicated, not to say noisy, by the bevy of sheeeep who've gotten in by the broken Back Gate - and once hands had been warmed by borrowed mitts, a nice time was had by all.

The water level has picked up a little bit, and there was certainly more doing on the res, including a drop-in female Goosander, a drop-out Cormorant, and a Little Grebe. Out in the plantation, the red and green brigade were in evidence [once they'd become bored of the 'call from just out of sight' game];

One Crossbill

Two Crossbills!

"My tree!"

While only a couple posed at a time, there were a fair few of them about; a flock of 27 went over us at one point! :)

The cone-munchers were definitely star performers, though the usual suspects were all present and correct [bar Redwing, which I still haven't seen this year..]


Gorgeous light
[pretty wall, too]

Risen from the waters

The ultra-low reservoir has led to a lot that is usually hidden being revealed, the settlement by the car park being the most obvious.

In other news... The Dreaded Inevitable 2016 List Post is coming, though maybe not for a little while yet.

Be Seeing You..