30 December, 2020

White Wings And Wanderings. Pt. 3; An Icy Dish

After the Glory of the Glonk, I went happily home via the shops and switched on the computermabob with a cuppa brew to put up my news post [that one down there with no pictures] to alert All and Sundry to the Good News.



Needless to say, leaning that That Cursed Bird had actually stuck and was showing Right Then made me go Looney Tunes; assemble kit, make lunch, pack above, don'tforgettoshutthewindows!, and byeeeeeeeeeeee

It took a lot less time than I expected to get to Bude [Due to nice roads. Apart from the wheel-ripping potholes..!], where ensued a not that stressful hike down the canal to eventually find a semi-flooded field with assorted birds in. 
Oh, there it is. 
Ooooh, it's flying.

Sabine's Plover

Sociable Plover
In standard pose.

Yes, wonderful pictures, but getting anything at all was a major victory.
Once it had stopped raining- And then stopped hailing- 

Once the Sun came out, it was quite nice. Very pretty bird. Don't know why the Lapwings were so mean to it, though...

Views through a scope - which doesn't rely on a sadistic autofocus and doesn't need to be held up at arm's length to work - were so far better than these that it would be quite funny if it wasn't so frustrating.. [[Thus my utter vexation when, after one takeoff, the bird decided to land right next to us, so to speak [maybe 70m, tops], in clear reed-free view. It was there for about three seconds before a Lapwing attacked it and drove it away... Arg.]]

This is about binocular view.
Spot the Sociable.

Speaking of those flying kazoos...  I counted 281 Lapwings in one flock photo [I'm considering posting it and holding a proper 'Spot the Sociable' quiz...] and they were quite a sight as they wheeled overhead. 

Despite the icy wind, frequent hard rain and hail attacks, and my scope getting caught by the wind and somersaulting over a barbed wire fence - I had both hands on the camera at the time, of course.... - it was actually quite enjoyable.
The revenge helped, of course, as did sharing a cracking bird with friends old and new, not to mention assorted interested passers-by :)
Just to add to the festive spirit, it sleeted on the way home.
 What. A. Day.


Be Seeing You...

29 December, 2020

White Wings And Wanderings. Pt.2; Bella's Charms

Storm Bella came roaring through betwixt the 26th and 27th, causing chaos, panic, and disorder. I naturally dragged myself to the Nose at first light, to see what severe wind and lots of rain had done. The forecast said West-ish strong winds and lots of showers, which meant maybepossibly something of note...?
I got one epic squall with sideways hail and Doom level rain, then sunshine.

Still, when it wasn't Sunning in my eyes, the whole hour I gave the sea really paid off.

Oh yeah, then there was that lovely Glonk, too.

You know, this one;
Glaucous Gull, 1cy
The very non-standard wind direction meant I was able to sit up among The Mounds, giving a good view of the Slick and also well into the Bay. Passage of auks [~250/hr and 3:2 Guillemots], Gannets, and Kittiwakes aside, it seemed slow for about 20 minutes. Then it got exciting. This being because the seabirds like to roost, especially when it's rough, to the north of the Nose, but they like feeding in the Bay, to the south of the Nose. You see where this is going?

So, 2 GNDs on the deck in Hope Cove and 13 past south;

Great Northern Diver

Also past were 2 RTD - which looked to be heading past Berry Head -  and a BTD [presumably the one that's been off Broadsands], which went into the Bay. Likewise, the Pom Skua that flew into the Bay is likely the one that's been hanging about the place recently [light morph], while a Bonxie - much further out - seemed to be heading towards the Gannets congregating off BH. Two Fulmar came by close in, likely to be the residents having a wander rather than transiting birds, but again no grebes or seaducks [the 1cy female LTD aside].
[[There are no scoter about at all, as far as I know. This is unusual.]] 

The slick attracted gulls, with highest counts of 129 BHG and 53 Common Gull, with lots of passing Kittiwakes coming to have a look as well but nothing fancier. Not even a Med.
The slick, chopped up by the wind

Most of the divers came by in pulses [ie. at the same time, but not together] of two to four over twenty manic minutes [told you it got exciting] - as did the Pom - and after an hour of sunrise it was pretty much over. Checking Hope Cove on the way out for GNDs - after noting the continued presence of the female LTD - I got a lot more than I bargained for, though..


This was the closer of the two present, seen from The Pulpit [Making a total of 18 divers for the morning :) ]. Then a big pale thing flashed across my field of view..

Giant Bird Terrorises Teignmouth!

I spent far too long cooing, as I had stuff to do, but well, it was wonderful! Too fast for many good pictures, though. I have an awful lot of blurry ones.. But this was far more 'got one sharp one, stuff it and just enjoy the bird'.  :)
Eventually tearing myself away, I ran into one of the local birders on the First Slope and made sure to go into effusive detail about said Glonk, then took the time, despite having That Bird waiting, to put out the news [yes, that post down there, the one with no pictures] before skedaddling North to- 
but wait, that's another post.
Be Seeing You...

White Wings And Wanderings. Pt. 1; Ho Ho zzzzzzzzzzzzz....

Oh it's Christmas Day, what is a birder to do? Get up early and go birding while the rest of the world is either catatonic or buried under sugar-frenzied kids, that's what! 

[I ought to note I was expected and did indeed get to see the Family mi- er, late morning, and spent the rest of the Day with them. So I'm not [that] bad, really.]
I decided to zip down to Brixham and see if anything was feeling showy. I took a flask as despite all the sunshine it was a bit nippy, and wound up stood up on the fish quay viewpoint, looking at a 1cy Iceland Gull, which had wickedly hidden from all but the most determined on an offshore slope of the fish market roof.. [ooh the rotter];
Iceland Gull
Dark [mostly] bill and dark eye confirm a [well weathered] 1cy.
Highly active
This was the standard pose

I was a little surprised to only find 10 Turnstones around the Inner Harbour, but I suppose it was the 25th, so they were likely all off after cake! 
As I'm on a photo quota these days, I'll not put anything else up [mutter mutter], so you can add imagined versions of awful long-range shots of the usual things you'd expect me to shoot...
A short trip but a nice one, and I think my first successful Iceland twitch since Coronation Corner, many many years past..!!  [Also only my third successful gull twitch at Brixham... Don't arsk about Kumlien's Gulls...... {or Mrs. Cake}]
Be Seeing You...

27 December, 2020

Breaking News. Again.

Shock! Actual fresh news!
Glonk again at Hope's Nose and this time before I left!  :D
1cy and showing wonderfully, annoying the GBBs by the fishing bods. [Slight damage at/bewteen P6/P7 on right wing?] Best views I've ever had, though always in flight. Still there looking back from the road as I left.  :) 
[PS, The Iceland was still at Brixham - lurking on the fish market roof - first thing on the 25th. :) ]
Photos will be along when I have time, but as I've got back and seen the news that That Bird is still over at Bude, it's time to make like the Roadrunner..... 

Beep! Beep!




Despite getting very hailed on [though not at all muddy, as I walked down the very tarmaced tow path!], I got wonderful views of the Sociable Plover at Bude. Woooo and Hoooo. At and frickin' Last.

Not wonderful photos, as a combination of the bird's talent at landing in the wrong place, a bunch of psychotic Lapwings' fondness for trying to kill it when it did land right next to the assembled twitch [it was so close...], waving reeds, and the intransigence of my autofocus meant while I do have pics, well they're usual standard.

My Glaucous ones aren't bad, though. [Just don't look at SM's...]. Speaking of, it's great that so many of the Locals got to have a look at it. :)


[Said Pictures will arrive. Honest.]

Be Seeing You...

22 December, 2020

Patching Over The Holes. Pt 3, New Year, New Start

The new solar year has dawned with, well, drizzle and rain.
I will be posting 'properly' about the Solstice, but first I wanted to put this up, which I actually found the day before, but what can you do?
Full of gratuitous Violets, 
this blog
The more observant among you may be wondering why this is number three. The answer is that while I have started number two, I have far too many photos to go through [and now I have to be very strict due to goggle's extortion], so it's taking a while. Wanting to post something, and wanting to include said Violet, the answer was to ignore proper numbering. [[Why not just call this number two? Because that would be no fun at all, come on now!]]
And no, that one isn't the solstice seawatch post, which will have even more blobs and gulls! Mua-ha-ha-ha-ha....
Be seeing You...
[If you dare]

20 December, 2020

Patching Over The Holes. Pt. 1, Another Scwewy Duck

After spending far too much time utterly failing to add to my Life list, which it seems I am now doomed on for the near future at least, what with all the Other Stuff, I have turned my attention back to the poor neglected Patch.

Other people have been looking at a Long-tailed Duck, which has been hanging around the Nose all month, so it was just Wrong for me not to at least try to get an awful blob of it. Especially as it seems that nobody's gotten even that on it so far. 
[Shocking... I know, where's SM?? ;) ]
Still having Things to do, now and again, I didn't get to said Nose early enough for my liking either day this weekend, but get there I did, and said duck was about, diving for [one assumes] Mussels by the Lead Stone and generally being a right little so and so.
Saturday saw more wind and rain, but also a lot more GNDs and Grey Seals, as well as PD and his boys. Sunday was far sunnier, also comparitively lacking in Common Gulls, but gaining in MB - fresh from rounding up a posse and hunting down the rogue Dusky Warbler at Exwick - and after said LTD was driven off by a tourist boat [yes, really], he used his Power to summon her back, and she even came quite close to shore. Until, that is, I went scurrying down with camera in hand, whereupon she sniggeringly swam back out to the Lead Stone.. 

Awful pictures ensue;

Very cute

Long-tailed Duck. Female, w/pl

 You can at least see what we're talking about and 'tis not an auk. ;)
Coming up, a longer post with more stuff about more things, including away from the Nose and yes, the inevitable fungal pictures, too. Also gulls. Heh heh.. 
Said pictures in better focus. Possibly even the ones with gulls, even! Also pictures not in better focus, due to annoying autofocus and me not noticing at the time. But generally better and certainly closer-to.

Anyways, I shall
Be Seeing You...

17 December, 2020

Just Desserts

"Good luck, mate. You deserve to see it."
I got that Saturday week, and again this time around, as last Saturday I kept my word and went back for another go after the Sociable Plover.
Yes, despite no 'official' sighting since the previous Sunday.
The weather, while still not exactly ideal, was far better, and I found a whole heap of Lapwings in 'the' field at Crows-an-Wra; 143, in fact.
Obviously, not even a sniff of the Sociable, which has either permanently shifted to somewhere else in Penwith's masses of walled fields or snuffed it [the weather's been too iffy for a proper relocation].
Things were rather like my response to the chestnut about madness. You know 'defined as repeating an action and expecting a different result'. I say - among other things - 'flip a coin'. Or roll a die, or.. You get the idea. 

Short version; Crows-an-Wra until clear bird not present, then a meander looking for other sites, taking in a circle, then Crows again until all birds depart, then stop off at Hayle on way home.
Long version;
Lapwings [et al].

Lapwings airborne.
How many do you see?

Yup, definitely Lapwings.
One vain drive around looking for plovers later, I found something in a more helpful mood;

Dans Maen.
Aka, The Merry Maidens.

At least one lifer then. ;)
The Maidens are a lovely circle, if a bit popular [it was like Picadilly frickin' Circus...]  for my tastes. [Ok, yes, sunny weekend day]. Pity the neighbouring circles* were turned into field boundary walls [a couple are still there, fallen and forlorn-looking, with more 'obvious' ex-standing stones in nearby walls.]

Nearby, some lovely-looking standing stones in the edges of fields, though not particularly accessible.

The Fiddler

One of The Pipers

Proper Drizzlecombe-sized menhirs, these. :)
Also in the immediate vicinity;

[Replica] Cup-marked Stone and
Tregiffian Chambered Tomb

Hard to miss, this one, as the road bends around it...

Things then took a turn for the dramatic, as an unfortunate cyclist slipped while trying to carry his bike over the stile into the Maidens' field, breaking his ankle. I found him with a friendly couple who were already on the phone with the emergency services, so I dug out a waterproof picnic blanket [unused in 2020 and so def. C-19 free..!] to help him stay warm. Being right next to the road made the wait for the ambulance a less trying experience than the last one, and soon after they'd arrived [right on ETA], we had a special guest join us;

Cornwall's Shiny New Air Ambulance!
Not sure why it's green and white [surely if not an emergency-style colour scheme, black and white would be more appropriate?], but very impressive all the same. [Wonder when / if we can upgrade the Devon one?? :) ]
After heading back to C-a-W - completeing my search loop - and finding zip, zero and indeed zilch, I again stopped off at Hayle on my way home. This time the plug had been left in, and so there were some birds on Ryan's;

Waders on Ryan's Field.
Lapwings, Redshank, Curlew, and Spot The Barwit! 
No gulls, though. [I'd harboured foolish dreams of a close RBG.. It's showing close somewhere!]. Over the road...

Assorted ducks and waders blobs
on the estuary.

Spot the Knot? Ho hum... It was after sunset at this time, so unsurprising that I got grainy little.

And so it ends, with another dip and another big failure on the level of- oh wait, I already went through this spiel, didn't I?

I'll spare you and just say   It Hurts.

Birding, eh?

Be Seeing You...

[[*Surely one, probably more. A habit of circles in the south west - and indeed henges all over the shop - to be made in lines. In my blog, see The Grey Wethers. Or search The Hurlers, Priddy Henges, etc.]]

10 December, 2020

The Flapjack Of Consolation

Rather than edit the last post, I'm just writing a new one.
So, we have me taking my only chance to try for the wonder and glory of a Sociable Plover [it's a plover, Lapwings are plovers, 'sociable lapwing' sounds silly, get over it]. If you've read my last post - spoiler alert - you'll know I failed miserably, along with everybody else. [Only for the *^&£^£@&^% thing to swan about the next day, then really start playing les buggeurs risible... Birds.]

Here's a little more detail and some pictures. They're mostly taken in howling gale and sideways rain, even the 'sunny' ones [it was fun weather], so even worse than usual.. Oh well.

That Field, Crows-an-Wra

This is after all the birds have flown, in the afternoon, with sunshine and a lack of sideways hail.

Earlier, with plovers.

As well as vainly hoping a little bird would wander up out of the dead ground, I did a lot of wandering around the area; looking for fields like that one, finding a few, and also finding absolutely no plovers in them. As it was mostly raining and very windy, no pictures of, well, nothing [I know, you're shocked]
I was not alone in this venture, though maybe the proportion of 'going looking' vs 'cowering in car' was not great... 

When things cleared up a bit, and the wind eased from 'blow you away' to 'not quite a gale', I tried a bit further afield, to places the bird had been in previous days. These had all been checked already, but not by me, so what the what.

Boscawen-Un circle

At least I didn't dip that..! [Ahem]. After visiting the circle, back up to the lovely view afforded by Creeg Tol [drop by, it's worth it]. This was what I would have done far more of if the weather had behaved, [same tactics I used with the Pelican, btw];
View from [cowering next to] Creeg Tol
Lots of nice fields off in the distance; this is what Big Scopes are for! Zero Lapwings and only one overhead flock of Golden Plover. Hmm.
Nearby, a field the Sociable had once visited [walls twitcher-scarred] contained no plovers but some thrushes. I didn't set the scope up, just gave them a quick bin scan and opened up with the camera before it started raining again..
Fieldfares and Blackbirds
Fieldfares and...
What the Frick is that?!?

Really odd Fieldfare?? Serves me right for not digging the scope out.

Anyways, after finally [and lastly, he says with just a little pride] admitting failure, I found myself passing Hayle with some daylight left, so swung by to mutter darkly to myself and try to find something for the day.

Ryan's Field and...
look closely.

Yes, up in front of those great big rain-packed clouds! Two great big huge flocks of Lapwings! About 380 in all, and I scoped each and every one of them. Because it would be so funny if... Wouldn't it?

Looked even more closely, have you?

No chance.

I stomped over to the causeway to look at Lelant. Scope into a gusty drizzly wind and oh my look at all the birds.

The birds are out there...

Time for Spot The Birdie!

Yes, I mean the line of gulls at the back.. Which is the far back right in the first photo, btw. [C'mon you don't get decent pics on this blog]. I can attest, with the certainty of a massive scope [and a convenient turn of the head] that the adult Ring-billed Gull is in this picture! Can you see it?


Oh well.

Slightly closer.

Because females are lovely, too.

Finally, as well as the hordes of Herring, Black-headed, Great and Lesser Black-backed, Gulls [oh, a couple of other spp., too], and the standard ducks and waders you'd expect on a muddy estuary at low tide [no, I didn't see a Curlew Sand, alas], there was, finally, back at a wind-blasted and thoroughly wet 'hide', a Curlew and a Redshank, which wandered into view.
I munched a flapjack [one of mine; a little too nutmeggy, but not bad for several months old!], was inspired to a blog title or two, and watched them do their thing.
I felt a mote better.

Then, when I arrived back at my li'l car, I got mugged by a Robin.

Unphased by the flash

This little devil flew up and landed on my parcel shelf, right next to me! Then cocked her head and went "If you don't give me some rations, I'm going to fly into your car, land on your headrest, and empty my bowels all over your seat. And I had a curry last night."

Ok, Robins can't actually talk, but this was clearly conveyed. I had no choice but to dig out my only remaining food and hand some over. It vanished with enough alacrity to suggest it had been slim pickings that day. [Cars had been present, and folks were even then coming and going, but evidently no food on offer for a poor starving little bird and it December, too....]

Aside from a Curse Unto The Seventh Generation on whoever is responsible for the average speed cameras on the whole Fowey road, that's it. The end of a dip that ranks with Short-toed Eagle, Elegant Tern, Terek Sand, White-crowned Sparrow... Argh, you get the idea.

Be Seeing You...

07 December, 2020

The Nutmeg Of Consolation

Sometimes you have to suffer for your birding. The Goddess of Birding can be a harsh mistress and She demands we her acolytes make sacrifices to show our devotion to Her. Time, discomfort, [outright pain and injury], the ridicule of the unthinking masses; all these we offer up to Her, and in return She may at Her pleasure give us such sights as lift our hearts unto the divine.

I had Commitments this last weekend, Things To Do, and I believe I did them well [the Irish Coffee Cake in particular.. :) ].  I had, thus, only Saturday to go chasing a bird I honestly doubted I'd ever even get within a hundred miles of, if not a thousand...

I gave it my all; I covered ground, I withstood wind, rain, and sideways hail, fought through mud, flood, and thorns, and stayed longer than all others.

But She did not smile.

As dusk mounted, I stopped off on my way home at Hayle, and finding Ryan's empty, I walked through another shower, played frogger with the traffic, and stared into the wind at a Lot of gulls with their backs to me. Seawatching teaches a few very particular skills, and Use Scope In Storm is one of them. Thus I picked out the Ring-billed Gull at horrific range [it also turned its head at a useful moment, which admittedly made it easier, but I was already on it* :P ]. So better than last time I was there looking for one.

A small consolation, and I think if you get the reference you'll appreciate it's quite a good one... :)
This post will be extended and possibly extensively rewritten, with some awful photos [oh the gulls are bad...] at some point when I can face it. 
The knowledge the Sociable was tarting about to all and sundry again today is bittersweet.

Guess where I'll be next Saturday?
Be Seeing You...
[[*Tertial crescents, people. :) ]]

04 December, 2020

Oh, The Horror...

A quick trip to Towne last week somehow included a detour past the Inner Harbour, where in a shock turn of events, there were actually some horrid gulls for me to look at and find nothing good amongst.
O yes, here we go... [Abandon sanity all who scroll past here]
Inner Harbour

Gulls*, Mute Swans, Pied Wagtails.. Wooh, seriously exotic. [Ok, if this was, say the other side of the Atlantic, then yes...].
Let us look at one;

Herring Gull, 1cy

Fairly evenly coloured; all black bill, checkered coverts and tertial fringes, quite fresh second generation scapulars. [I figure anyone not into gulls has already hit the red button, or if too slow, passed out in horror, so no explaination of those terms needed...]

Another gull;

Herring Gull?, 1cy

Far more variation overall; bicoloured bill almost Glaucous-like, far darker coverts and tertials, well-worn 2nd-gen scapulars...

It's still a Herring Gull, isn't it? Even odd-looking from being mid-preen [like the 'better' Herring behind it], you can tell it's not got the chops to be anything else; there's no pale head or underside, no stalky legs, no long wings, no neat tail bar [or dark underparts and Pom-like tail coverts! ;) ] or any other feature that might make you consider another species. At most you might say it has an interesting ancestor or two, back somewhere.

I do love that bill, though. Especially how the black runs down the cutting edge, very dapper. [For a young gull, anyway!]
Yes, that is it. Just a horrid Herring Gull. When you don't live on a rarity magnet, 999 times out of a thousand**, this is all you get. So this is what you get.

Ain't I a stinker?

Be Seeing You...
[[*Herring, Black-headed, Great Black-backed. Wow.]]
[[** I'm an optimist, a realist would add at least another 0.....]]

01 December, 2020

Out For A Toddle At Last. Or; £*%&$!!%$& Lockdown.....

The Lockdown Curse struck with extra venom this weekend, with another amazing bird and this one in twitching range and not suppressed by think-they-know-betters or anything...
One of those birds which instantly show birder from mundane; merely saying 'Sociable' will show the former with a quite impressive display, oh yes..
Especially those of us who've never seen one and were wondering sceptically if they ever would.
To say Wednesday looks like a masssssive twitch seems an understatement. 
I still have this job thing.

So, to take my mind off it and being as I'm now fairly sure my shoulder isn't going to suddenly go "Ah ha! Gotcha!!" on me.. [[knock on wood]]  I went out for my first proper Dartmoor walk in a very long time [Dartmoor is local enough for The Law]. I found some wintering plovers of my very own, but that's to come later. And they really weren't in any way Sociable - at least to me - so not much consolation.

Anyways, I put in a 10 miler; the Ryder's - Heap of Sinners - Puper's - Holne Lee loop. It was utterly glorious up there; the Moor an island of blazing sun in a sea of mistyfog, with light breeze and not that soggy underfoot, considering. This was in drastic contrast to the 'cold wind and low cloud / drizzle / mist' that the brayne forecast the day before. Typical. Being prepared, I'd gone equipped for late November with an option on January. Should have added an 'August' element, too!

[Not a bad problem to have, though.. :D ]

On Holne Moor
The View From The Heap Of Sinners;
The Sub, Avon Res., 
and the South Hams vanished under a sea of fog!
Looking over the Dart from Puper's
As well as the more usual spp., a scattering of winter thrushes [maybe 50 or 60 in all] were still to be found in various valley sites; more than I'd expect considering how stripped most of the berries are! 



Ring Ouzel!
[1cy male]

That one was, I admit, just a bird shape in a Holly; I shot it on the off chance - it duly scarpered after that one frame - and looking at the boc, I was quite surprised to see the silvery wings and scaly back, there! You can just see the [rather shaded] paler crescent on the breast.

Golden Plovers!

Several small groups on the high tops, at least 14, probably a few more! Up there they invariably see you first, so only lightning reflexes get a chance of a photo. And you'll merely record their rear ends vanishing.. Oh well. 
[Better views possible when they're on a valley side, where you can get line of sight without walking into them...]

Now for the inevitable...

Meadow Waxcap
[really nice one!]

Blackening Waxcap

Fairy Inkcap?


Dung Roundhead

Again, the expected fungal spp. with lots of waxcaps and assorted dungi [ho ho]. Here's something colourful;

Moss, Ryder's Hill

It may not have been the high of a bird like a Sociable [oh stop it], but it was a good day and wonderful to be up there, if a bit warm [!]

Coming up..

A bit more from the Patch.
[[Anything else? I dare not even hope.]]
Be Seeing You...