27 October, 2021

Sometimes, The Goddess Smiles

After a needed sleep, and a little prompting via others' success [cheers for the text!], I got myself to the Nose.. er.. 'mid'-morning and spent 4 hours getting rained on watching the sea!

Yes, I dragged the Big Scope down and beasted out the weather on The Steps [due to saving weight on my shoulder by not taking a foldy stool... Turned out very well but spoilers] and was rewarded with birds!


The weather was rain and drizzle bands coming through on a SSE-SSW stiff to strong wind, breaking to more westerly wind and sunshine later on. Basically the middle to back end of a cold front.
Despite arriving on site at the horrifically late hour of 1030 [gasp], I was the only person there. No, not one fisher / jogger / dog unleasher, nothing.   Zoinks.

A gap in the rain

I decided to defy the wind and plonk on The Steps, as it wasn't raining that hard [hood up but brolly down] and well, there were birds.
First sweep gave a Bonxie, along with a stream of Gannets and Kittiwakes. This would be the way of the day.


The blowing drizzle played the usual merry hell with my camera, which caught the sulks and refused to shoot anything really good. I really tried, when the Sun shone, but got nothing. So you're just getting what I could hit and came out vaguely recognisable.
Arctic Skuas
[light and light-intermediate morph adults] 
[also, spot the juvie Kittiwake]

Mediterranean Gull
[adult winter]

Arctic Skua
[dark morph]

Bonxie, juvenile
[note gingery hue and reduced wingflash]

On site; at least 3 Oyk [seen at once, probably a lot more around] and 2 Eider. Yes, 2. Seen in flight and on the sea together, both look like 1cy and one's almost certainly the male that's been around on and off.
[They have stuck around, but nobody's got a photo yet that I know of]

The Steps, 1050-1450

Gannet 300
Kittiwake  707
Razorbill  58
Guillemot  1
Little Auk  1 [see below]
Small [distant] auk sp.  3 [ incl. 1 prob. Puffin at 1105]
Bonxie  16
Arctic Skua  6
Med Gull  22
Common Gull  11
BHG  32
Swallow  9
Curlew  1
Ringed Plover  2
Sooty Shearwater  1 [see below]

Little Auk?
Little Auk!
Point blank range at 1204, right outside the rocks, yes, that's less than 10m offshore!?! Only seen due to looking for a calling Ringed Plover [hoped it was sat on the rocks in front of me - they do that, see old old posts for pics]. How close? Observe a helpful Oyk on the same line;

Passing The Notch

Yes, that's that notch in font of me you can see in the first photo..

Now, I've seen Little Auks from the Nose before; they're 'hope to see' each year. But usually on the Manx line, very occasionally inside the Ore Stone, more often outside it.
I've seen them pass close to Berry Head, but that's 50-100m at most close. [And of course 'that's Berry head'..] 
This was whirring blob with naked eye, close. Gorgeous with bins close. Too close for scope close!*
If I'd been sat anywhere else, higher and drier, I'd not have had a hope of seeing it. Ok, the Traditional Spot maybe, but it likely would have come in under line of sight - possibly even following the coastline - and again only if looking with naked eyes, it was that far off everything else's lines.

As posting notebook shots is the thing..
What, you expected neat writing?!?
Here we have a sketch of the bird, note winter plumage - even a touch of bill! - and a diagram of the line it was on. The wings are actually angled at the carpal, but appeared as a curve due to how fast they flap. At longer range it's just a blur full stop.!
Interesting to note that even that close the white in the trailing edge of the wing didn't show up at all. I think you'd need a dark background and a long panning view to pick it out.

Why the Sooty last? 'Cos it took it's sweet time and didn't turn up until 1415; after the sunshine did! Oh, a Sooty Shearwater in the sunshine is a wonder to behold, especially when it has enough wind to play in. :D
And on the Manx line, too, so close enough to coo over with the Big Scope. I did try my best to get a pic, but missed every shot [drat]. They do go quite quickly, you know. [[Blimmin' camera...]]

Oh but what a day! I've not had much seawatching this year, what with one thing and another [and another..], this was a reminder of just how much fun it can be. Even when you're holding on hard to your brolly in sideways rain, hoping nothing good's passing while you're unable to scope....

Be Seeing You...

[[* Panning speed, not minimum focus, alas; imagine a Little Auk too close for your scope.. ]]

25 October, 2021

What Goes Around...

Friday, after a clear cold night and wind shifted to the NW.

I was not at the Nose first thing, due to having to get my new car slightly sorted out [they just don't build them like they used to..]. On my way home, it would have been rude not to swing by the Rose-coloured Starling, which has been loitering around the Foxhole estate.

What was rude was said bird, which refused to sit on any wires at all for me, and barely condescended to fly overhead.

Not like it was on Patch anyway....

What were on Patch [well passing over it] were 60+ Woodpigs. Small beans compared to elsewhere, but taking what I'm given and all that.

I got myself to the Nose, where the Teacher and The Artefact had - once I found them - relocated that Blackstart from last weekend.
After much sitting on the clifftop overlooking the South Side beach [in the wind], I eventually got almost photos. 'It' turned out to be;

"Congratulations, it's a boy!"

[The white bits]

Contrasting juvenile wings

So a 1cy male. Of note, those white bits were only visible from above and behind, it really looked to be more 'female type' otherwise - actually quite pale and almost sandy-tinged..! [That's 'for a Blackstart', btw]

We'd both had a couple of Firecrests independantly, so those are still about. Mipits and alba Wags were still both passing and grounded.

Well, that one's Pied!

Also passing, a nice group of 4 Balearics, with 2 Common Scoter picked up while watching the shears. A few Gannets were scattered about, and well out in Lyme Bay to the SE was another broad front of feeding seabirds.

Also seen in the area..

Red Admiral

A couple of Chiffs and Blackcaps only were in the bushes, though at least 3 Song Thrush looked like lingerers, too.

Finally, I'm hoping you, my dear readers, can help the authorities identify and locate a band of ne'erdowells who were seen acting in a highly suspicious manner in the area;

Wanted by French authorities
for almost 80 years...

Notorious figures 'The Artist' and 'The Boss'
believed to be among the crew.

[AKA @clennonvalley and @SeaSkywatch, for those of you who tweet*]
Time for their close-up;

Not bad for something that'll fit in your pocket.

Ok, ok, enough of all that.

Be Seeing You...

[[* Readers are warned that my ugly mug is visible in the latter's tweets, he having started it with great big cameras..! ]]

22 October, 2021

Battered Into Submission. Pt.3, Usual Service Restored


I was later again to the Nose, due to apathy having a Night shift incoming. [I should stop going on  about that, shouldn't I?]

I had places to go and things to do, so I couldn't spend three hours messing about. However, I still covered the ground and while a White's would have eluded me with ease [Ok, A White's would need a military grade thermal imager, and then I'm still betting on the Thrush..!], I hope I didn't miss anything too obvious.

Slightly more Chiffs than the day before [6 over 4] [[Compare to 23+ on Friday, 17 in one group alone..]], and overhead passage ongoing though a little lighter. Four parties of albas and 3 of Mipits heard to pass in 90 minutes.
Of interest, not one lark [of any kind..] was heard, let alone seen. But a nice group of 11 Jackdaw, and 2 Song Thrush actually seen flying over at travelling altitude weren't so bad. 2 Swallow and more finches than the day before also of note.

Only 10 Oyks to be seen, but BHG numbers up again, with 51 counted passing in ten minutes.

The Eider was still lurking in the Ore Stone channel, but again the Blackstart eluded me [it had been seen the day before after we left!].

The resident Bullfinch family.


"Bloody grockles..."

I saved the Top Dell for last, and was rewarded with Firecrests again teasing me but not posing. Little wotsits.

Yup, much more like usual service.

Ah, is that rain...??

Be Seeing You...

21 October, 2021

Battered Into Submission. Pt.2, The Application Of The Dark Arts

Saturday saw me back to the Nose, though inability to get out of bed night shift recovery prevented me getting there until after 8.

It was very misty, so I wasn't too worried. The seabirds [if there were any] would be invisible and the passerines in the bushes [if there were any...] wouldn't show until the Sun came out.

Which it did, with alacrity and Summer-like heat.

I encountered the Teacher, who was there with Number One Son and now, of course, The Artefact.

::Ominous chanting::

This being the Artist's former scope - he upgrading to the latestest biggestest and fanciestest one - which said Teacher has just bought. 
It's a Kowa 88. 
[If you know what that means, I'll let you go tidy up the drool. If you don't, just think 'very very flash' and shake your head sadly at the optics fetishists....]


Said scope, [which he calls The Artefact, btw] having been so many years in the possession of such a legendary birder, has become imbued with Rare-finding power. The Teacher's already nailed the first GWE for the Teign estuary - from his car - since selling his sou buying it.

[[ ::Stadium full of assorteds:: "GET ON WITH IT!!" ]]

Getting on with it, they'd already met the Top Dell Firecrests when I caught up with them, but said Dell wasn't as busy as the day before.

We worked our way down to the Toes - passing a couple more Firecrest along the Mud Path - where The Artefact ::Chanting:: was set up and assorted parties of auks and Common Scoters looked at as they went their ways past [South] at mostly 1km+ range. Against the light. I recorded 10 C Scoter and 30+ auks [I assume mostly Razorbills]. 
Passing closer in, at least at first, a lone sea duck showed gloriously white flashing secondaries; Velvet Scoter! Brownish hints* as opposed to utter blackness [also lack of standout yellow on the bill]* made it a female, and the dark belly showed not a juvenile [or 2cy, probably]. She angled outside the Ore Stone, but was not seen to pass it. At the time I thought she'd gone offshore out into Lyme bay, but she could easily have plonked down and loitered behind said massive lump of limestone. A Velvet passed Berry Head on Tuesday, so either is possible? [Or that could have been another bird entirely, of course...]
At least 8 Mipits and 3 Pied Wags were still on the rocks, and The Artefact ::Chanting:: picked out a Purple Sand on the Lead Stone, while 14 Oyks were spread out along the shore.

Overhead passage continued; a steady movement of again mostly Mipits and alba Wagtails, with at least 4 Swallow among the standards. Also four parties of larks were heard passing, but we only got eyes on one. Said party - 4 birds in/off from Lyme Bay - was definitely the one to be on, as as they passed over us my bins got on a Woodlark! Woodlark has a very different shape to Skylark [which the other three were]; with very broad wings and dinky tail, they look more like a woodpecker!

Couple of token pictures;

Mipit by the Steps Pool

[Count them.. ID them to sp.?!?]

Also of note, a Smoothhound was very close in at Sandy Point - as in right under the rocks - and the female Kestrel tangled with a female and [woo] adult male Sprawks. Yes, at once [she's hard].

Despite getting lightly toasted by the Sun [felt more like August], it was a lot of fun.

Be Seeing You...

[[* Blazing sunshine has its uses. ]]

19 October, 2021

Battered Into Submission. Pt.1, The Crack Of Dawn

After an entertaining week, without and with sleep, I managed to get to the Nose before sunrise on Friday.

Woo, right?
Oh pick yourselves up off the floor, I can get out early sometimes. [Especially if I'm already up...]

Clouds aided and abetted the chill and gloomy nature of the early times, and it was rather quiet. Until I got to the bottom [well, not quite, I'd clocked him from my watchpoint on the Second Slope...] where a familiar character was feeding right close in, inside casting distance, even, from the Toe of the Nose.

1cy male

Filthy underwing shot...

OoooOOOOOooooo!!! Indeed.

Now showing paler bits, almost certainly the same 1cy male we'd seen earlier this Autumn.

A stream of BHGs with Common Gulls were heading by inshore southwards - from Blackball roost mayhaps? - and I counted 45 and 7 in 20 minutes.
I could only find 7 Oystercatchers in view, though they had been joined by a Turnstone. Way offshore, as well as feeding gulls [no chance of ID without Big Scope] a shearwater spp. was too evenly dark and flying wrong to be Manx, and a skua sp. looked more like Pom than anything, but, well...
Closer in, Guillemots had returned to the Ore Stone ledges, but with the sun right behind them, I couldn't say better than 'more than 20'.

Eventually the Sun sort of came out, and I tried my fortune in the Top Dell. This proved 'quite', as I was not even in before finding myself face to stripy face with a Firecrest! It was far faster than my camera, though.. :(

Further in, and the Sycamore was alive - I kid ye not, alive - with birds! Chiffs and tits and crests all over the place, including another Firecrest [first one went the other way]. I spent far too long searching through for 'others' and indeed just trying to hit anything!



'continental race'

Note the contrasting grey head.

Death from below..

My autofocus can do it
when it wants to...

There's always one...

I counted minimums of 17 Chiff, 3 Blackcap, 1 Firecrest, 3 Goldcrest, 3 Blue Tit, 8 LT Tit, and a Coal Tit in one great group! Very few calls, they were too busy feeding.

Not just Chiffs.

Grounded Song Thrushes were much in evidence, as were Mipits and alba Wags [all Pied that I got on] on the rocks. Also on the rocks, a very slippery female-type Blackstart; which gave me one brief view [near the outfall] then vanished.

Overhead passage of again primarily Mipits and alba Wagtails, though with assorted finches and others - including 2 Redwing, Jays, and a Swallow - mixed in.

It was very stop-start, but the good bits were proper fun. It's been another funny year. Perhaps I should be thinking of it as the new normal, with falls an exception, despite any promising weather...?

And on that oh so cheery note, I shall

Be Seeing You...

[Backward Birding will return, and don't worry, there's more good stuff to come. Just not necessarily on camera.....]

17 October, 2021

Yes. Again.

In my defence, just look at this thing!

Angle Shades!

A very common moth, but oh what a beauty! Photo does no justice to the wonderful three-dimensionality of its camouflage.

Small Blood-vein

Still don't know
what these are,
but a few about. 

Maple Pug

I don't know what this is, either...

It looks like a Tussock, though it's forelegs should be much hairier and held out forwards if it was. More specifically, a Dark Tussock [note yellow marks], but those are a bit out of flight season and a lot out of range..??

Worn carpet sp.

Red Twin-spot Carpet

Still going.

Worn wotsit
that might be Buttoned Snout

Garden Carpet

Beautiful Plume

Enough moffs for this year.


Be Seeing You...

16 October, 2021

Normal Service Resumes

Sunday saw me back to the Nose, with more typical service [I have already mentioned this]. I also got over on Monday afternoon - after hordes of sexy things arrived elsewhere, I couldn't resist a quick check - and, well, observe and so on...


Second accipiter in a row [this was the first raptor of the day, you see... :D ]


Nice bit of moult, there.

Count the Oyks

Not the standard view of a
Parasol Mushroom

You flush my Oyks,
I use you for scale
vs Devonian slates and tuffs!


These being the highlights. Birds? Er... Not much. Still a trickle of standard passerine spp. passing over, still mostly alba Wagtails and Mipits but nothing even interesting, let alone fancy with them.

Sunday saw 22 Oyks on site, and an increase in BHG numbers - with a Common Gull - meandering past southwards. 11 Chiffs and a Blackcap in the bushes.
Monday? 3 Chiffs, no Blackcaps. Enough said, really.

When I got home on Sunday, I got another surprise;

Another Sprawk

Which is perhaps the best place to end.
Keeping on keeping on and all that.

Be Seeing You...

14 October, 2021

Look Down, Listen Up

Good advice when wandering in woodland at this time of year. With extensive canopy still in place, seeing birds is less easy [unless you're already looking at them, having heard them], while the fungi are coming out [and are notoriously unlikely to call...]


So, a toddle with the Folks about, er, 'a wood near Dartmoor'. We took coffee and a couple of boxes of baked goods [Fairings and Shortbread.. :) ], so stopped at a now favourite spot to enjoy the trees. We had visitors.

But before we get to that...

Oh, it's going to be one
of those posts....

I hope you're not expecting pretty trees or actual birds, because you're getting NONE of that. Oh no.

Nope, purely fungal photography.

And can you blame me? They're pretty [mostly] and tend to stay put and pose for the camera [of course, sometimes the camera had other ideas, and if I don't notice at the time... :( ], which is very considerate of them.
Not like birds that come powering past and don't even let everyone see them, let alone a Birder of a Backward nature grab, turn on, aim and focus a camera... ::Pouts::
But as I said, we'll get to that.


And we start with a toughie. I have no idea with this one, which is just as purple [if not more so] than it appears here. I thought it must be a young purple Bolete, but there aren't any, and it's not right under the 'cap', being more like a Club in shape [compare with next sp. which is a Bolete!]. 
All I can do is go 'Huh?!?' and maybe get to an ID forum.
If I find out, I'll update this.
[If you know, please lend me a Comment!]

Blushing Bolete

Ochre Brittlegill

Alder Scalycap



Sulphur Knight

Common Puffball

Beefsteak Fungus
[slightly munched..]

Matt Knight

The Deceiver!

White-laced Shank

So, increasing numbers of funguses, all very good [when I can find out what they are...]

Birds were, as you'd expect for still early in the Autumn, quite thin on the tree. Staying put proved best tactics, as we had passing visitors; notably a couple of Marsh Tits, which moved through overhead. Far briefer but much sexier [well, they are!] was a flypast; downslope from us at maybe 40' distance [so just below eye level]... Goshawk!! 
Juvenile by brownish uppers and heavily streaked unders, and, seeing as my first thought [on seeing a brownish above paler below raptor flying through the trees 15-20' from the ground] was Buzzard, I'd say a female.


Always a treat.

[And so my reticence on where exactly we were is explained, also why where we stopped is now a favourite!]

Ah, the joys of being in the right place, at the right time [looking the right way..]

And upon this most glad of notes, I shall

Be Seeing You...