30 March, 2021

To See A Mockingbird

C'mon, you can't complain about a Harper Lee pun, not on this here blog.
[It could have been so much worse...]

The Scene, Set:
Once upon a January, a ridiculously rare [if a bit 'Just flew in off a cruise ship'... ::Ahem:: ] bird turned up in Devon. Not just anywhere, but far enough away to be utterly outside any walkable range yet still in sight from among other places, The Nose...
This is, I suppose, to be expected from a Mockingbird. [Groan]

It then hung about, showing off to not only those allowed to see it [ie. lived in walking range], but also assorted ne'erdowells and lawbreakers to whom the Greater Good, let alone that Law thing, meant little or nothing. One of those damned if you do's, as those responsible enough to marshall the unruly* were too responsible to go. So we have an angry local with a newly-wavy fence and a whole lot of bad blood.

[Please excuse that rant, it's been simmering for a while.....]


Cut to, Now;

Monday! Day One of Freedom Extended and I was straight over after work. The Sun was feeling helpful, I dared to hope. The traffic was awful, I tried very hard not to say {too many} bad words. Somehow I still had lots of fun driving somewhere other than said work or local superdupermarket. [There's a song from ANBC which has the spirit, if not content... ;) ] 
This was, of course, Responsible Twitching, with no going inside anywhere, properly socially-distanced in the crowd and everything. It has to be said that it helped there were only four of us on site at the time. 

Getting on with photos!

Northern Mockingbird

I had to hold my camera up almost at arms' length - upside down - to get these, btw.**

Easier but more distant views [for normal-sized people, anyway, giants were ok on the footpath] from the main road, looking through a semi-ruined [or possibly very open-plan?] garage thing. Or at a better angle, from the next road south though even further away.

It was quite sunny, as you can see.

Actual proper un-burntout head!
Turned away...
Last one, promise.
Wonderful wonderful bird. [Yes I know I always say that...] Kind of like a cross between a Great Grey Shrike and a Catbird!     Worth. The. Wait.  :D
[By the by: you may be interested to know that that is 'the' Holly. Note the absence of berries {I saw one still left}. ]

Stirring aside; it's wonderful, a bit mobile on occasion [and can show in assorted other much more viewable spots in surrounding streets if you give it time], and if you're under 6'; take a stepladder, sturdy bucket, [[helpful person... ;) ]] to stand on.  Oh and don't touch the wooden fence behind you!

Be Seeing You...

[[* Two volunteers in reflective tabards - one each end of the footpath - with a series of socially-spaced stepladders, and a charity bucket on the In end of a one way system: X twitchers at a go get Y minutes for a donation of at least Z quid. Go-arounds allowed [second donation!] but no time extensions as it needs to be all in, all out at a time. Simple. ]]
[[** Of course I forgot to take my big bucket.... Still Monday. ]]

27 March, 2021

Fretty Plowers

Spring sproings and so on. Oooh, lookit at all the flowers...
Shining Cranesbill
Sea Mouse-ear

Primrose and solitary wasp

Wild Clary

The Nose was fairly quiet today - well apart from all the birders, the mundanes, and the scallop-divers down from Exeter again - with the female Blackstart getting a little unwanted attention [we think he missed, but she hasn't been seen since; probably cowering out of the wind and in shock..! ]. Offshore, a single Sarnie went north, then later 7 came south much closer in and headed into the Bay.

Finally, here's someone else keeping an eye on all the incomers along IMD;

Itsa Buzzard!

Possibly the posiest Buzzard in all of Devon.

More odds and ends to come, at some point.

Be Seeing You...

25 March, 2021

It's Not Just About The Visitors

It's not just fruitlessly seeking Wheatears, you know. Before I finally found a Wheatear, I did see the odd other interesting thing at the Nose. Cue some pictures.

Sometimes you meet one of the residents in a helpful mood and well, stuff like this happens;
Rockit in golden sunshine
 Time for your closeup, sweetie...

Preening not posing, honest


Now compare to

Gloomy shot

This is the 'pale-bellied' Rockit that lives at the Nose. [Actually very white underneath - that grey look to the flank/belly is an artifact - and looks quite Watery at times. {No it's not; olive rump, see?} ]

Rubbish pipits aside [groan], an even junkier bird does look quite good in the sunshine;

"I'm so shiiiny!"

"Oi, Cloud!  Bugger off!!"

And one I want to get in the sunhine is this;

Ninja Pheasant

This dark one - note no neck ring - is verrrrry sneaky and hard to photo. I will get him properly eventually [without scenery in the way, I have plenty of those...].

And finally [for now], something completely different;

Here Be Dragon

I had written a quite long and reasonably technical blurb on why I called Dragon a light AA vessel in my last post, but I realise most if not all of my readers don't really care that much.. [A very short version is here*] So, lookit, it's a funky-looking ship with a big red dragon on the front!

More posting will be coming along soon, honest.

Be Seeing You...

[[* Note lack of SSM; even the popgun Harpoon, let alone land-attack. A destroyer cannot be called such without at least over the horizon anti-surface capability - it's part of the job description - and don't go on about helicopters; as while air-launched AShM may 'count', we don't have any. And what we have in near-readiness is far too light to deal with anything bigger than an IRG swarmboat...]]

21 March, 2021

Official: Spring Arrives

After much and gratuitous delay, it is finally Spring.

This took - despite only looking on long term records to be a day later than last year - a good week longer than it needed to, almost. This being primarily due to recalcitrant weather and even more recalcitrant birds. Hordes of mundanes haven't helped either, it must be added.

But now here we are, as with the Sun setting today*, I finally got eyes and even pixels on a cute li'l male Wheatear at the Nose. Here he is, the bleep...


Lurking about the South Side, despite no sign on my first two sweeps. With him was the female Blackred, who had been in the Quarry - until flushed out by mountaineering toddlers [and parents.. yes, really] - showing, well, like this;

Red Blackstart
[wait a minute..]

Cute but distant and very mobile.

Yesterday, she was a bit better;


So cute.

"At least get my good side"


I have decided to stop here - enormous digression down there aside [[you don't need to read it]] - and post more later on. There will be pictures of birds in slightly better focus and light, some possibly even moderately interesting. Also non-birding stuff, such as the pretty-to-look-at light AA vessel currently anchored off Daddyhole...


Right, where was I?

Oh yeah;

Be Seeing You...

[[* My head, with usual exquisite timing, attacked. You know that queasy feeling in your middle you get when you're unwell? Imagine that in your head, plus pain slapped over the top... Then tension from said pain sets your neck off, and the muscles on the sides of your head, for bonus points. Did I mention it laughs at painkillers.?  Happy days.** ]]
[[** Self-pity aside, I was shocked and delighted that the pain got bored and wandered off mid-afternoon. Still felt sick in the head, but that could be ignored with determined purpose. Also plenty of fluids and the outside hope of a Teatray.*** ]]
[[*** Released {NOT escaped, FFS} imm. White-tailed Eagle in near vicinity today.**** I confidently predicted it would not come near and was right. Alas. ]]
[[**** If you need the nickname explaining, you're probably beyond help... ]]

19 March, 2021

Another Trip To The Nose

Being on Nights is not conducive to early starts [at least if you want to stay awake at work and thus keep said job...], fortunately, my primary target at the moment isn't fond of early starts either. Dear Wheatears being diurnal migrants, they won't show up here until mid-morning at least [As Bailey Senior once said to me, "Don't bother before ten" :) ]. Ok, so birds that arrived the day before may be about [unless they decide to move on, in which case they're off at first light], but to get the ultimate classic; the in/off, you don't need to be there early [and how often can you say that in birding?].

Having Things to Do, especially on Mothers' Day, meant swanning off to the Nose had to wait for the afternoon. I did make up for it by being slightly naughty [not really supposed to be carrying any weight I can avoid*] and taking rations [sarnie, apple, chunk of ginger cake, small flask.. :) ] plus the li'l [I was being quite good] scope in the big rucksack [totally over-bagging it, but the weight on the hips and off the shoulder is a good thing].

The wind was being very naughty again and hitting north and south sides of the Nose at once [I pointed out that that was cheating. It laughed.], and landbirds [aside from a Chiff near the Entrance Bushes] were thin on the ground, so to speak. Lots of gulls and Gannets messing about offshore, with a total lack of divers and a lone GC Grebe in Brandy Cove slightly enlivened by a sudden rise in auks; 35+ Guillemots and 3+ Razorbills were dotted all over the sea, though nothing sat on the Ore Stone.

Main action - in an hour and a half of casual watching [oh, the joy of just sitting and staring at the sea...] - happened waaaay out. Just south of East and a good 2km out [so at the far edge of what my scope could deal with, oh for the Big one], I first picked up 4 Sandwich Terns, moving north, then loitering about a patch of sea. They were clearly feeding out there, but only visable when illuminated by the sun. I lost them after a few minutes, but picked up them or another group a while later, this time at least 5 possibly as many as 7, slightly north of the first sighting. They were again loitering, and were joined by about 4 Kittiwake from the north, with a couple of large gulls possibly looking in, too. [It can be hard to tell at long range and low angle how close birds actually are to each other]. Then it got exciting, as the/a light morph Pom Skua appeared from the south [and seeming inshore] and went into them in classic bowling ball style... I saw it chasing a Kittiwake, then a cloud went over them and I lost the lot. Maybe 5 minutes later, I picked up 3 or 4 Sarnies near that position, again loitering, so presumably the skua had moved on. Lots of fun! [The terns and Kitts would disagree with that point...]

All waaaay too far out to even try to get a photo [camera says 'Ha ha!']. But you deserve something to looks at, so here's;

Purple Sand!

[The worrywart in me requires that I point out that you need to be very aware of what the sea's doing before going after these little darlings, as they're right out over the end and rogue waves happen.]

Cut to Monday afternoon, where, despite having work that night, I was again down the Nose! Well, the weather had shifted and it seemed actually birdy.


However, I did see a Firecrest down in the FirstandLast Bushes and allllmost got a photo.. Also of note, not a single diver or grebe to be seen, and the numbers of Guillemots - now on the Ore Stone ledges - were well into three figures.

Trickle of Meadow Pipits still moving overhead but no Sandy [verrrry hard to get on Patch]. Chiffchaff calling not singing again up the First Slope.


As horrid gulls go, this one isn't thaaaat bad, is it?
[[Not as bad as all that text up there...]]

Bringing things up more to date, it was inevitable that the first day I wasn't there, a Wheatear would turn up. Then hang around until the first time I was there.


I might be able to refrain from moaning, but you're unlikely to avoid a Rockit.  o:)

Be Seeing You...

[[* I've hurt myself again - left shoulder this time, the muscle not the joint - and am again on that lovely cocktail of prescription drugs... Joy. ]]

16 March, 2021

More From The Nose. [Including Horrible Blobs...]

The wind doth blow, the rain doth fall.. Well, the rain doth try to fall and usually winds up hitting something, just not underneath where it started...

Things to Do saw me getting down to the Nose on Friday afternoon and not early, either. It was blowy in a southerly manner and I wasn't expecting much on land and so wasn't disappointed.

On the sea I counted 5 GNDs and a GC Grebe, plus a Razorbill.

Well out, a scallop dredger was headed southwards with a large train of gulls and Gannets in tow. I gave it a good look, because what else is one to do, and caught something else with them. A salvo of photos amazingly caught a bit of it, too;

Follow the line of birds back left..
Keep going..
See the raised dark wing with the flash?
Yup, that's a Pom, that is!!!


This was at about a mile out, too....

Heh heh.

Can you spot it in this one?
A day later and a lot closer to;

Saturday Sarnie

There, isn't that better? I really rather like this one [markedly sharper than the one I put up on the day, but that made a better thumbnail.. What can you do?] just look at those primaries! :)

The best-behaved GND

4 GNDs and no sign of the grebe on said Saturday, Razorbill and a couple of Guillemot on the sea with them. A Chiffchaff's been lurking about the First Slope, mostly around the entrance to the Top Dell. [Ie. the usual spot for them] and Mipits continue overhead northish in small numbers.

Coming up;  More from The Nose [oh what a surprise, will your hearts take the shock??] as four visits in as many days give.. Oh wait and see.

I am, you may be concerned to hear, seriously considering getting a bit more geological. Rocks are far more reliable than birds, and tend to photograph better, too. [Very rarely able to fly off...] The Nose is chock full of lovely geology - it's the geological version of a World Heritage Site, after all - so I've lots to inflict upon you tell you about. [Yes, long-term masochists readers will recall with horror that I have done so on occasions in the past.]

If the Wheatears don't get their alabaster behinds into gear, I may have to switch emphasis. After all, it's all very samey - odd surprises aside - and with that comes staleness and apathy and that's how blogs die.

Reader feedback is encouraged [I've found and - I hope - turned off that captcha abomination they put in without telling me, btw], with bribes always considered and pleas for mercy always appreciated...  >:)

Be Seeing You...

Pretty Pictures, Also Other Stuff

Right then.

This is an interesting sort of post, in that I'm not quite sure what's going into it even as I write it.

Will this intro even survive the laughable excuse I use for editing?

Who knows?  [Time travellers, possibly, but that gets very quantum very quickly and nobody needs causative paradoxes at any hour]

So, I promised pretty pictures, and those you do get, I know because they're here;

Purple and white Crocus

These are without doubt the bestest ones.


It's such a pity how soon they get trampled...

[You could get all poetic and make an argument about the fleeting nature of beauty at this point]

Purple and purple Croci
[also Daffydowndillies]

I took those while running an errand. Because some things need a detour for.

Right. Pretty stuff over, serious face on.

My updating extended beyond the weekend for last week due to me taking some time off work. Holiday to use up and so on [can't think why I've not been keen on using it?] was only part of it, as Duty called.

No need for details, suffice to say I had to go to a funeral upcountry*. This meant getting driven up the M5 and I'm straining to remember the last time that happened. The luxury to just stare out the window looking for birds [er, a moving car's window, that is. I stare out of other windows looking for birds all the time. .].  Even if it was under the circumstances you really don't want.

Thus we have something that's both relevant to this here blog and appropriate to share;

It was a sunny day, cold start, with light winds and the odd cloud later on. Good weather for raptors? Yup.
11 Buzzards, 4 Kestrels, 2 Red Kites.
Also of note were Stock Dove and Green Woodpecker.

Be Seeing You...

[[ * See? I'm not being circumspect due to breaking the rules, {I'm sure someone out there was thinking that} I was obeying them. And no, we did not detour at all, let alone many miles out of our way to Exmouth. ]]

14 March, 2021

Coo! What A Wakeup

I got a surprise when I drew my balcony curtains this morning!

This was at the second attempt [with feeders right outside, I have to check carefully nobody's using them before opening up. I'm too nice...], and I was most-way through when I suddenly noticed a bird right down in the corner. Pigeon?? Wait a minute... I froze. Backed up out of sight carefully, then scuttled off for my camera!

Aiming it around the edge of the half-drawn curtains, I got a photo, then backed off again.



Awful picture, wonderful bird!

Yes, through the reflections and out of focus, but you see, it's a Stock Dove!!!

Maybe it was passing, saw some Woodpigs coming in and thought 'Well, if they're going there...'  ??
I've never even seen one from Home, never mind got one to land in my little skygarden..?!? Never mind, I'll take it. :D

Alas, though, all my precautions were of little avail, as within 20 seconds of my taking that shot and backing off, a gull flew low past and it flushed like a rocket... [Very impressive takeoff, much faster and cleaner than the Woodpigs and Ferals]

[In case anyone is wondering, to the right of the bird is the end of my wintering insect shelter - wedged between two planters - made of pruned twigs and the mass of assorted grasses and so on that grew from discarded seed... Reuse, recycle, etc.! ]

Still, a good way to start the day.

As for the rest? That'll be coming along.

[Yes, I know I have a backlog. Plus ca change and so on...]

Be Seeing You...

13 March, 2021


Rapid news turnaround [ish]

Over at the Nose this afternoon, and as well as 4 GNDs and a couple of Guillemots [plus lotsa gulls, though not inshore] I was delighted to hear a familiar creaky call...


Came in from the South, and fished very close inshore - almost in the breakers - off The Sole. This one got a very big [for a tern] fish, which seemed to be almost half the size of its body [got it down though!], then flew off North. Few minutes later, another one shows up! Then a while after that... a third! 


No Wheatears yet [shock] but, ah 'tis great to see.

And watching Sarnies be mini-Gannets at close range in sunshine is a treat. :D

Less fun for them was a 2cy Herring Gull, which seems to think it's a skua; it chased one of them around - determination making up for what it lacked in agility - for what seemed like a couple of minutes and tried it on with another later.

Speaking of skuas... No, wait, that's yesterday :)

More will come in due course, including a new contender for 'WORST RECORD SHOT EEEEEEEEEVER!'


Be Seeing You...

11 March, 2021

Before The Storm

A slightly different visit to the Nose on Tuesday - and not just being there on a Tuesday* - as with the shift in restrictions, we can now nicpic locally. Still locked down vis-a-vis travel, but it's a positive step. 
So, I was determined to do so and after taking care of Important Stuff, I toddled over with a small flask and sarnies [and a flapjack :D ]. 
It was bright and fairly warm and I had hopes that with the shift in the wind, maybe a Wheatear would appear, sat on a rock amongst the South Side scree, maybe?
But getting on site, I was most vexed to find that again the weatherbods had lied. It was blowing a frickin' hoolie, SSE and frigid with it.


The South Side was pretty much blown out, and there were hoooooordes of mundanes wandering around the quarry.

Things then went even further downhill with the high pitched whine of a drone taking flight... Oh FFS.

Things then improved as not only did the bloke flying it not treat my polite objection with a hail of abuse, he even put the thing away!
So, yes, there are decent people who just don't realise there are rules. :) [To be fair, it's not exactly advertised that you can't really fly them anywhere these days]

Things then got even better as, while my seawatch from The Steps gave only 3 Fulmar, a Kittiwake, a Razorbill, and 6 Guillemots [not a Gannet in sight, let alone a Sarnie...], wandering down towards The Toe saw the lurking Purple Sands still present, and feeling photogenic [they are the coolest of waders]

Sandpiper Purple
[plus rations!]

And another


Also of the good while hunting diligently along The Sole, I did not find Wheatears, but I did see several more Rockits and was treated to a flypast by the female Blackstart :D  Mobile, elusive, and indeed very sneaky. While no Sand Martins flew by [I was keeping ears and eyes open] there was still some movement going on, with a trickle of Mipits coming through northward.

And now for something completely different;

While I was down the bottom, I couldn't help but turn my camera to the rocks [yes, abandon wakefulness all ye who pass this point...]

Quartz veining

This is limestone [which is the last kind of rock you'd expect to find quartz in, btw]. You can see the z pattern [sort of] formed where the rigid rock has been crinkled like a rug** and broken [more in weaker areas], allowing hot water to penetrate; and deposit the silica dissolved in it [it's very hot water] as quartz. Veining can occur repeatedly over the 'lifetime' of a rock - so you can get intricate patterns as force applied in different directions opens different fissures - which can be filled by different compositions of hot fluids.

Wandering back to the deposition of said rocks..

The Quarry
[with civilians for scale]

Some nice carbonate-clastic strata with interbedded volcanics. It may be grey with a side of grey now, but hundreds of millions of years ago, this was a tropical sea, studded with volcanic islands and coral reefs. The reference I like is to imagine Caribbean islands in the Red Sea [nearby continent - north Devon, Mendips, south Wales area; not far off - was rather deserty, you see]. Isn't that better?

Close up 1
If you care to look closely, you'll see there are multiple erosive surfaces in this unit...

Close up 2

...Some more energetic than others!

If I work out how to do the red arrow thing on this computer, and have an hour or two's time with the brain working, I'll try to add annotated versions of these at some point so that those who haven't done geology can work out what the frilly knickers I'm going on about... :)

And finally... There was a bird, briefly, in evidence on the South Side. Here it is;

But what is it???

Yup, that's right. ID Challenge!!

Answers on a Comment, if you dare.


Be Seeing You...

 [[* There is another post coming which will talk about this. I just haven't decided to what extent, yet. ]]
 [[** When continents collide, there's an awful lot of force, if applied verrrrry slowly. ]]

09 March, 2021

More Of Not The Same

Still waiting on those Wheatears.

In the mean time, here's someone I found singing away at the Nose;


With Important Things to do, I've been getting there later than may be considered ideal, though as Wheatears tend to arrive from mid-morning [and I've sat and watched them come in/off late afternoon!], not exactly awful.

Sunday saw me slightly less late, and so I met assorted members of the Usual Suspects [who know who they are :) ] and spent ::ashamed coff:: more time nattering [in a socially distanced way, of course] than looking for birds... Oh dear.

[Ok, technically we were looking out for birds while nattering, so maybe not that bad. ::puts the Shame Bell away::]

Anyways, fruits of labours were very thin on the ground on Saturday in particular, though Sunday gave a couple of GNDs and a Razorbill on the sea. 
This little lady has been much in evidence;


"I didn't do that."

Also in evidence there was this poseur...

"Ru's got nothin' on me, dahling"

Meanwhile, over there....

Buff-tailed Bumblebee!

Rainforest escapee

In case you were wondering what was going on at Home, my skygarden is overflowing with as many as a half dozen tits at a time. [I'm sure there's a funnier pun around that somewhere...] Blue, Coal, Long-tailed, and Great, indeed. Greenfinches [no more than 2 at once and very flighty], Blackbirds, too. No further sign of Blackcap, and no sightings of tree spp. [like Nuthatch.... or even the Treeeeeeecreeeeeper.... ], though of course that doesn't mean there's none coming in.
Tawnys keep their vocal nocturnal mayhem, at least 3 males hooting away as recently as last night*

Though I finish this on Tuesday, [and no, still no Wheatears, and with the shift in weather no likelihood of any any time soon..], 'tis only about events up to the end of the weekend. Yes, more has happened, though how much you get to see I have yet to decide. Regardless, you do have some pretty pictures coming, though.

Upon that ponder, I shall

Be Seeing You...

[[* For a given value of 'last'... ;) ]]

07 March, 2021

The Turn Of The Year

Let's see, where are we....?

Yet more nonsense from the Patch, slight variation of activity, oh and actual year ticks woo.



Different white stuff on the trees  :)

Where to start? [After that lovely sight up there, lots of Almond blossom about now]. Hmm?

Whelp, an afternoon visit to the Nose on Monday saw me find 3 GNDs; two off the Ore Stone and one off the Lead Stone. No Wheatears. Possibly migrants, possibly just wandering around, were a couple of flyover Crossbills - score - which brightened things quite considerably. :)

GND, Lead Stone channel
[look at that bonce!]

The day before, an amble with the Folks [inside our bubble] up about the quietest part of the Patch [upper Ilsham, amongst the Rich Gits] gave us a very nice stroll, though it was a pity we had to return to our [bubbled-wise] property to have coffee and a flapjack.. But soon, that will change!*

Even the Violence are fancier up there.

What was notable were the Chiffchaffs. These have been very thin on the ground this winter, but I had four, including two in as many hundred yards [and I'm pretty sure it was two, not one very quick one]. Not that birds going inland and hiding in rich peoples' masssssssive gardens is a new phenomenon, of course...
Also notable, how much nicer the grassy verges are when there aren't ten meeeellion peoples wandering about over them. [Also, they're just nicer.. ]. You get more and more kinds of pretty little flowers. Like the Violets up there, and indeed these;

Lesser Celandine

Musk Storksbill

Mouse-ear Hawkweed

After we had parted ways, another, even better surprise than the Chiffs was a Home Tick. None other than a Treecreeper!! Wooooooooooo.  :D
Right out there ::points out kitchen window::, calling and everything [I'd not have noticed it if it had been quiet]. Treecreeper is not that easy in these here parts, especially now the best spot on Patch has turned into a giant building site... :/

Your next missive from The Patch will [hopefully] contain a certain little bird with a very pale posterior.



Might happen.

Be Seeing You...

[[* FYI, according to the email our Dear Leader sent, the 8th is 'No travelling but you can nicpic in your local area with your household/bubble' and 29th is 'You may nicpic with one other household {rule of 6}, travel allowed {yeeeeeeeehaaaah!!!} but day tripping only; the further you go the more likely the police will decide they don't like you'. Social distancing etc. still applies. {Up on, say Dartmoor, this is rather easy!} ]]