25 April, 2017

It Is The 25th Of April

And it is snowing.

What the actual.

White streaks = snow!

Not big flakes and certainly not settling, but wowser....

That is all.

Be Seeing You..

23 April, 2017

"I Saw It. Honest"

Post title as promised to a Famous Devon Birder yesterday, after one of the most ridiculous "It's in there, really" situations I've ever had the pleasure of. To be fair, it was in there, really.

Yes, it was a long day yesterday, trying to get a good view of a Crossbill with Two Barred coverts, preferably one good enough to get a photo. [As these days, if you don't get a photo, it didn't happen.] Hearing it was easier - it even gave the trumpet call at one point! - but for whatever reason, it was playing silly buggers. Maybe it was playing up the the crowd, maybe it was the Saturday factor, maybe it had just gotten out of the wrong side of the roost..

It's just a finch, really

Now, taking pictures of Crossbills of any flavour is not easy, as you might have noticed from my efforts. They like sitting up the top of hundred foot high conifers, and tend to be dark against bright skies, to boot.

But they are so very pretty, and a lot more varied than 'red ones and green ones';

Red one in a tree

Green one in a tree

Yeah, you see what I mean.
Now, if you are very favoured by the Goddess of Birding, you might find one on the deck, where you can not get photos due to your useless autofocus try to get better pics;

"This is my good side"

"I'm flying without wiiings!"

"I've just got out of the gym"

"Real Crossbill are red!"

"If that's your attitude, I'm staying up here.."

Lots of Crossbills, showing wonderfully.

As a point of interest, the show-off Crossbill is showing nice wingbars, of the kind regular Common Crossbills sometimes have. Note how the bars are formed by thin even fringing to the coverts. With the Two-barred Crossbill, the bars are formed by white tips, making the bars both thicker and less neat and even. Rather Chaffinch-like, if you see the bugger flying past you.

There were also Siskins and some cracking Redpoll in the same trees [though not showing off like the Crossbills were]. Willow Warblers were everywhere, with Cuckoo and Tree Pipits notable out on the heath, and singles of Hobby [It cruised right over; I would have got a wonderful photo, but autofocus said no] and Swift overhead.

I should get to where I was, for the befit of those with lives who don't chase tweety birds; Haddon Hill, south of Wombleball Res, and on the edge of Exmoor. Just over the border in zumerzet - so be out by dark or they'll sacrifice you to the worm go  [[Ahem]] and reached by a lovely drive up the Exe; I was even treated to a flypast Pied Fly! Travelling early, I managed to get through Eggsitter without chaos, and while Tiverton's Escherian roads sent me out the wrong way again*, I didn't do too badly.

It wasn't just standing [ok, and sitting - having played these games before, I took the foldy stool along]. I took a break from the long wait to stretch my legs up said hill, which is the standard lump of Old Red Sandstone you find all over that part of the world; a reminder that yes, Dartmoor is special. As ever, I found myself going 'is this it?" at the top. A trig point and the view was pretty much it, and speaking of, here is a little of the view from the top;

Looking towards t'Moor

Turned around, the view towards Wombleball**

It wasn't just views and birds, here's some lovely ORS soil, just as a treat!

As you can see, despite being called red, ORS is actually more of a purple

This picture with free Tiger Beetle, for those poor souls who don't appreciate close up photos of bare soil [I feel for them, I really do].

As I said, I'd taken precautions [half a hundredweight of them, but necessary], as despite the site being right next to the frelling car park, I had seen enough Crossbills to know they can be buggers. Even so, I was a little surprised at how long I ended up staying there.. How long? A bit more than ten hours. Yes, that many.
True, the cold windy start was soon banished by ever-growing amounts of hot sunshine - coat and winter hat were changed to silly hat and nosi shirt - and there was always something to look at. No hour was Crossbill-less, either. It is a lovely site.
My attitude - and that of the final hard core [all locals, mind] - was that it had to show well eventually. Every single day before it had posed at least once, yes people had dipped but only when they gave up quickly***, so sooner or later it would show. Side on. On the deck.

I think he was laughing even harder than you are.

Still, I managed to get there and back in one piece - not bad seeing as I'd last slept on Friday afternoon - which may well be more than one driver can say. As I was coming back along the M5 [like I was going through Exeter on a Saturday night!] a 4x4 went past at what was well into the 90's if not a ton. As I was in the middle lane at the time in my li'l car - performing a very safe and legal overtaking manoeuvre, of course - I was paying no small amount of attention to this fool, and then what do I see from the line of traffic behind me, but another vehicle pulling out and accelerating hard, too. Then the blues came on. :D Gotta love an unmarked police car, and I hope they got him good.

Be Seeing You..

[[*While there are far worse places to attempt to drive through - Bath and Salisbury spring to mind - the seemingly simple 'follow the route to the north' through Tiverton just won't work****. I suspect a Cthonian planner was employed to inflict non-Euclidean geometries.... ]]
[[**Yes, I know it's supposed to be Wimbleball, but come on.. :) ]]
[[***For a given value of 'quickly', I admit]]
[[****I know where I went wrong, but doubtless they'll have changed it again by the next time I try it.. ]]

18 April, 2017

The Long Weekend

Was shocking in the amounts of sunshine. I mean, wasn't the weather looking? Not one but two bank holidays should mean downpours of an epic nature, wind, hail, low-flying trees.....

My attempts to find sexy migrants on Patch proved unsuccessful [oh, there's a shock], and so I put my energies into taking care of various Things that needed Doing. As this included making Eostre Cupcakes for the Family, this wasn't all bad.

I have been out and about - I couldn't resist the lure of Yarner and Trendlebeare before the leaves filled out - and I got a yomp up on t'Moor in, too.

My Yarner time was limited, and there were lots of people about, so it wasn't super birdy. I heard both Pied Flycatcher and Redstart singing, but saw neither! :( I did see a very nice Tripit - which as ever dodged the camera - and my attempts at seeing flypast migrants gave a few Swallows and House Martins, if not the hoped-for kite [we'll say nowt about storks... ::Muttermutter::]

Greening up


It's Tough To Be A Buzzard..

Yesterday I left just before certain news broke [but of course] and so was not zooming up to Wombleball for a lovely Lifer, oh no.

So it was that in blissful ignorance I toddled about the western Moor, and I did see many many Wheatears! Not a huge distance, but a few nice climbs [ie. exactly and precisely judged to fall just short of giving me a coronary. Oh dearie me...]

Pictures pretty;

A Pretty View From Cox Tor

Another Pretty View

Looking Thattaway From White Tor

Now Where's All Those Kites At?

"No mate, I can't see any, either"

I really don't know why it's got that name..

The Langstone
[That name makes sense!]

Langstone Moor Circle

Oooh! Lookit!

Didn't expect to see this little lady, though perhaps I should have, given past history.

Great Staple in the sunshine.

Despite the cold wind, the sun - when it showed - was warm. Eventually the clouds had had enough and wandered off, leaving a glorious evening of golden sunshine. A passing Kite [[ok, ok, that was the last time]]  would have been lit beautifully, but no joy. A very distant soaring raptor was not a Buzzard, but that's the closest I got. Drat.
On the plus side, all that skywatching - lurking along the Moor's edge was not a co-incidence - did get me my first Swift of the year [as well as lots of Buzzards and Ravens].

Be Seeing You..

13 April, 2017

Looking For A Rock Thrush

With that little cracker popping up on Scilly, I just had to, didn't I?

Ok, would have been along to the Nose anyway, with the weather and a need to look for Whitethroats, but still..

Of course there were no blue and orange things. Or any Subalpine Warblers, despite them turning up at other points southerly.

I wasn't in the least surprised.

I did at least get some nice yearticks; a lovely Sarnie was fishing in Hope Cove and best of all a Whitethroat had a quick sing in the remains of the South Side. :)

Bailey Jr. had been by in the AM and had no less than 10 Wheatears. I was jealous, I admit it.
I could only find 8, and here are a few shots of some of them;

Mrs. Wheatear



Higher Wheatear

"That's 'Mr. Wheatear' to you"

Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were plentiful, with not only singing birds, but groups of migrants moving through and hoovering up insects with impressive determination. Also among them were two lovely Willow Warblers, which showed to crazy close range - I was so caught up I forgot to even try to photo them.. [oops]

One of the singers was in a particularly effusive and un-Blackcap-like subsong. I was intrigued by this weird song coming from thick cover, and spent far too much time stalking and waiting on the off chance it was something good [or at least 'not another BLEEPing weird Blackcap']. As if to make up for wasting my time, the naughty boy did at least strike a pose for me;

I can't believe I got him

Offshore, I could only find 4 scoter between the two Buoy Farms. Closer in, I could as usual find no interesting gulls [not that this ever stops me], the Oyks were still present and noisy, and the Fulmars were present and not noisy!

In other news, last night I saw my first bat of the year out of the window, silhouetted nicely against the remains of the day[light]. What species? Very good question.

I am finally delighted to report that my trees seem to have survived the Great Re-Potting, as they are both now showing new growth. I had to wait a bit on the Blue Spruce, as ever, while the Hawthorn has put on more than a fingerlength of growth already...

Be Seeing You..

11 April, 2017

Another Sunny Wander

Another Sunday of sunshine up on t'Moor, this time with the Folks.

We walked 15km rather than 15mi, with far fewer boggy bits and water crossings [though the one crossing was quite interesting..]. It was a lovely day and fun was had by all; though the LBD had to wait longer than she would have liked to find anything woolly to bark at [poor thing].
We even met some birds, though my hopes of a steady Swallow passage up the valleys, and more than one Wheatear [I'd had dreams of Kites...] were dashed. There were Willow Warblers, and 4 whole Swallows, plus standard moorland type birds of various kinds, so it wasn't bad at all.

Once more, I'll vex and annoy by showing and not telling;

We Went Up High

Stopped For Lunch Here

Saw Lots Of Daffs Here

Flown Over By Only One Group Of Swallows Here

Just Purdy

In other news...  Well, there was nowt else of note to report about the Patch after I'd posted on Saturday - bar the odd singy Blackcap - and while the Greenfinches have started hitting the sunflower seed again, the Nuthatches have become elusive [at least visually].

Be Seeing You..

08 April, 2017

A Surprise Awakening

I was rudely but not unwelcomely awoken this morning by the dulcet tones of a foghorn*.

Only a birder would be prompted to bounce out of bed with a "Woohoo!" at this, but I did and to the Nose I scuttled.

There were a few migrants grounded, and a whole two of them were Willow Warblers. One even started singing when the sun burned the mistyfog off..

Also once things got sunny, Swallows started coming in/off! AT LAAAAAAAST!!


Also in/off were Mipits, Goldfinches, Woodpigs, a pipit sp., another pipit sp., and finally a definite calling Tripit! :D

The air was full of birdsong, but none of it from Whitethroats :(  It was also full of the, er, 'song' of the Guilles on the Ore Stone - which remained a black shadow in the remains of the mist - audible from the road, but then 400-odd auks make a fair noise. At least the wind was offshore..

I did see a few pretty things, and some even stopped long enough to zap.
Yup, here we go;

Actually Posed.

SumPlum Rockit

Bathing Beauty

A little further inland, greenery also posed for the camera;

Throwing Out Some New Leaves

There were no visible Wheatears, and no sign of any scoter off the Buoy Farm.

Be Seeing You..

[[*Berry Head, no less!]]

05 April, 2017

Off For A Toddle

A vaguely accurate guess forecast had me taking a wander about the Moor on Sunday. I covered a fair bit of ground and met a fair few Wheatears, so it was time well spent. On the down side, I could still feel my poor legs the day after. Not in the 'oh good, they're still attached' way; in the 'ahh, my poor achy legses, why did I abuse thee so?'. [Oh dear, getting old...] Yes, I did do 15 miles over rather up and down terrain, plus nice soggy bogs, but still.

Anyways, with the blue skies and fluffy little clouds, the camera got a work out, and so now will your eyes;

Glorious Devon
 There are Wheatears in this picture, though you'll be doing very well to see them! As promised, bluest skies and fluffiest clouds.

I'm going thattaway

Yes, this is a path. Just a little more attention required, is all. Also, you may notice the highest of hills in the far distance? Yup, went there. Via the ones on the left. :)

Quoth the Ravens: "Got any sarnies?"

The highest of hills from one of the ones on the left. Still more detour to go, though. And lunch. Don't forget lunch!

Doing its best to loom

Lunch at the bestest of Tors. Oh yes. :D

I didn't actually go there, 
but you've got to include a piccy of it!

Not from that High Hill - for reasons varied I didn't take a single pic up there - but from on the way to my next objective.

Whirligig Beetle!
But where was I??

The tide was in, and while a frog sp. was quick to hide from my attentions, this li'l spinner decided to pose.

Time for a long jump in space and time.

Looking back

It clouded up a bit late on, as I finished coffee and Efficient Dunking Biccie on this here tor. This was actually quite handy, as it let me get all arty for my final stop;

The Ancestors could really pick a spot

[Though it does help to approach from the correct direction to get the effect.. :) ]

Ah, but I mentioned Wheatears, didn't I? I got into double figures and great they all were, too. But I won't unleash every pic I took. Not every pic..

Party time!

See, more than one!

You lookin' at me?

Wild Wheatear

"That was my favourite Gorse bush..."

Ok, enough.

Less good was the lack of the hoped-for [ideally low-flying] migrants and wanderers. I saw exactly one House Martin [also my first for the year - what's going on??] and no Swallows, let alone a lovely wandering Red Kite.. :(  A Wheatear did fly past me in a determined manner, well away from any rocks, so I reckon that one was migrating [I want to believe!] and an alba Wagtail was a flyover and surely not local to the High Moor.

Since that happy yompy day I have seen exactly no hirundines, though a soaring male Sprawk at work - which a Crow got up to and then decided wasn't worth bothering (!) - was a welcome sight.

Be Seeing You..