Sunday, 17 November 2019

Red-throated Divers

A nice flat sea this morning encouraged me to start my day on Seaton Beach...

As expected there was next to nothing flying over it, but on it were my first two Great Crested Grebes of the winter and a locally respectable count of eight Red-throated Divers. Unusually six of these divers were really close in, presumably indicating we've got some pretty feeding conditions close in. Really enjoyed watching them...

This was followed by a quick look along the Estuary, which showed a single Knot with the roosting Redshank. Another quick look later revealed an Avocet too, another bird that first dropped in yesterday.  I then had just enough time to confirm the continued presence of at least three Water Pipits opposite Colyford WTW (which I continued to photography abysmally!)...

Find of the day however goes to Mike, who turned up an extremely late Whinchat on Beer Head this afternoon.  Can't be far off Devon's latest ever?

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Water Pipits

The large field opposite Colyford WTW along Cownhayne Lane is looking rather tasty at the moment - it's crammed full of birds!  Seeing them isn't always easy mind...

For a couple of days I've seen a lone Water Pipit feeding just inside the gate during some some fairly brief checks of the site. Today though I had time to set the scope up and spend a decent amount of time here, which revealed a total of (at least) five Water Pipits...

Dreadful picture - sorry!

Four of them spent about five minutes feeding around the cattle right inside the gate, with a fifth seen and heard in flight along the southern edge of the field (where there could actually have been many more!).

Watching these birds reminded me very much of early 2005, when a flock of up to twenty Water Pipits were feeding in the field on the opposite side of Cownhayne Lane (just north of the WTW).  Back then Water Pipits were an annual winter visitor for us, but they were usually confined to Colyford Marsh.  That particular winter however I remember they went missing just prior to our New Year's bird race, but a few weeks later Gav stumbled upon them in this field.  It was a real surprise to us as they had always been so site-faithful, and we had never even heard of Water Pipits feeding on arable land before!  What's odd though is history hasn't repeated itself, and as far as I'm aware not a single Water Pipit has been seen in this field since.  Well - until maybe this year as am sure some of these will cross the lane sooner or later.

As well as the Water Pipits today, this field gave; 80 Linnet, 40 Meadow Pipits, 30 Pied Wags, 10 Skylark and a Greenshank that has been feeding in the same muddy puddle for a few days now...

Looking even more out of place than the Water Pipits!

I have always dreamt of finding a Buff-bellied Pipit on patch, and I can't help but think this field will offer me a good a chance as ever. It is though so tricky to get among the birds properly, mostly due to the stubble and crop height, so it's the kind of site you just need to keep checking as often as possible. Finger's crossed...

Saturday, 2 November 2019

A Casp Double

It's a funny old game this birding.

October was for the most part a wet and windy month, so of course I spent as much time as I could scanning through the gull flocks on the Estuary. I had far more time too, as had almost three weeks off work during the month. The grand result; a single Yellow-legged Gull.

This morning between giving lifts and putting toddlers down for a nap, I managed to muster up enough time to scope through my first gull flock of the month, a group of about 225 mostly Great Black-backed Gulls on Bridge Marsh. Within about thirty seconds I was looking at a stunning second-winter Caspian Gull, and then a couple of minutes later I was looking at a second one! This was the Axe's (and Devon's) second double dose of Casp (previously done on 14th Nov 2015 when I found a first and second-winter from Coronation Corner) and my 11th and 12th Casps for the Axe...

I have got a lot more to say about these stunning birds, but it's late and I have a two year old with a blocked nose, so for now just enjoy the photos...

Bird one, the more advanced of the two;

Bird two, a brutish yet elegant long-billed beaut;

I promise to do a follow post to these pics, as both birds are just such fab examples of pukka second-winter Casps. But for now, simply scroll up and enjoy the pics again. I can't stop looking at them that's for sure!

A little later in the day, eight Black Redstarts (including the ad male but no Common Redstart) were at Axe Yacht Club, but otherwise wind blown rarities were in short supply for us. 

Friday, 1 November 2019

Late Common Redstart

I was keen to get to Axe Yacht Club today due to the ever increasing numbers of Black Redstarts collecting here, I had three yesterday on the houses of Trevelyan Road and Ian Mc reported four this morning.

Gladly I did manage to squeeze in a visit early this afternoon, and saw at least five first-winter Black Reds, although there could have been as many as seven present. One of them was clearly a male showing black around the face and upper breast, a darker mantle, but lacking the white wing panels of an adult.   Mike did see an adult male here half an hour before my arrival, and with Kev's three in Beer this afternoon that makes for an impressive patch day count.  It really is proving a top autumn for this species. 

Amazingly though, even though it's November and I was stood on a beach in the middle of a load of boats, this wasn't the only species of Redstart present...

A female Common Redstart!

I really was not expecting this!  

When a redstart flicked up onto a boat parked up right next to me, I was completely stunned to raise my bins and see exactly just that...a Redstart!  A Common Redstart.  Thoughts of Eastern Black Redstart crept in briefly, as it took me a few views to confirm it's sex as some angles seemed to suggest it had a dark throat and orange breast. When it showed better however I just imagined I was stood on Beer Head in early September looking into a bush... yup that's a female Common Redstart...

Showed really well at times

Maybe it thought it was hitching a lift!?


When feeding among the boats it behaved just like all the Black Redstarts around.  But did differ in that its darker relatives would often fly up to the roofs of the houses along Trevelyan Road, whereas the Common didn't do that once. Despite some really close views, it often proved quite elusive - frequently dropping down below the boats and not showing for several minutes at a time.

Not the usual Common Redstart-habbo!

This is my first ever November Common Redstart, and of course the late date could well suggest she's originated from somewhere further east than our usual passage Redstarts.  But unless she stays for a few days and I manage to somehow collect a DNA sample, we will never know where she's come from or what race she belongs too.

The only other birding time I've managed today was the first hour of light which I spent hunting down Long-tailed Tit flocks with a Pallas's prize in mind. I couldn't even dig out a Yellow-browed or a Firecrest for my troubles, in fact if things don't change soon this will prove my first Yellow-browed-less autumn on patch since 2012!

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Black Redstarts

Considering the impressive numbers of Black Redstarts that have shown up at various other south coast sites within the last week, I've spent my last couple of lunch breaks wandering around Seaton checking the usual haunts.  Yesterday this gave me two first-winter Black Reds around Axmouth Harbour (one either side of the river) and today an absolutely corking male on rocks between Seaton Hole and the end of West Walk.  

The two young ones at the mouth of the Axe were quite mobile and skittish, presumably due to the freezing cold north wind blasting down the valley.  Today's male however was far more obliging...

What a top draw bird, and a real privilege to share my lunch break with.  Kev also saw two Black Reds in Beer today including another ad male, so there's at least five about for sure.

This morning saw a nice little influx of winter thrushes too, with a couple of flocks of Fieldfare and several Redwings whirling around my housing estate this morning.  Not very pleasant out in the cold wind though!

Talking of not very pleasant out, rewind to Saturday which was an absolute wash out of a day. We had high hopes for some good sea watching, but in reality 07:40 - 09:10 produced nothing more than (all west);

1 Brent Goose
21 Common Scoter
345 Gannet
1 Arctic Skua (dark juv at 08:20)
1 Great Skua (08:40)
112 Kittiwake
70 auk sp

Yes the Kittiwake and Gannet counts are pretty impressive, and it's always good to see skuas, but the action died down fairly quickly and by 08:45 it had already gone pretty quiet.  And no stand out scarcity sadly.  There were no scarcities on the Estuary either on Saturday despite several checks, but the three Cattle Egrets were still showing around Boshill Cross...

Spot the three Cattle's!

And that's that.  As ever, thanks for reading.

Friday, 25 October 2019

A Quick Update

It's a rough old night and my hopes are high for the morning... which often means an empty notebook and two wet feet but we'll see.

I haven't blogged within the last week because as I haven't really seen much to blog about - which speaks volume about the three Cattle Egret I saw on Bridge Marsh midday on Wednesday. Just shows how time's have changed, it looks like we are going to have some wintering on the Axe again this year.  The lingering Greylag Goose is still around too, although I must just stress just because I've put this species in the same paragraph as Cattle Egret I am in no way saying Cattle Egrets will ever stoop to Greylag-level in Axe rarity stakes.

There's been excellent numbers of large gulls on the Estuary lately, but I haven't managed to pull anything decent out from then.  Common Gull numbers are increasing by the day however, and there continues to be a handful of Med Gulls about too.  The only snippet of interest from the sea were two male Common Scoters settled close in on Thursday...

Shame the light was poor, but you can see how close they were

Let's hope there's a bit more than that on the sea tomorrow morning however...

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Vis Mig Mini Watch

This morning was one of those mornings that I really could have done with all the time in the world! A lovely start to the day encouraged a flurry of westwards visible migration, which am sure given more coverage would have produced a scarcity or two.

All I was able to do was a 15 minute watch from Mum and Dad's front garden at the west end of Seaton from 08:20, and then a half-hour watch at 9am from my second favourite vis mig watch point on patch, Beer Stables.

Looking east over Seaton towards Axe Cliff from Beer Stables. The great thing about this site is you can see birds coming from miles off!

Watching over this 45 minute period gave me totals of;

3 Lapwing
1 Golden Plover
4 Stock Dove
390 Jackdaw (biggest single flock 220 birds)
2 Crow
7 Magpie (!!)
70 Starling
48 Skylark
85 Meadow Pipit
26 alba Wagtail (one flock of 14)
5 Grey Wagtail 
94 Chaffinch
18 Goldfinch
12 Linnet
1 Greenfinch
8 Siskin
5 Reed Bunting

I can't tell you how much I wished I was up Axe Cliff for the whole morning - although saying that many of the larger birds seemed to be passing inland of me at Beer, so would probably have been completely missed from the cliff edge. Actually what I really wish is that we had a proper vis mig pinch point here on the Axe patch, but we don't... or I've not found it yet anyway!  


More Jackdaws!

Vis-migging Magpies!

Over the last few days I have been checking the usual haunts when I can, like the Estuary for example - especially considering how many large gulls we've had gracing us lately.  Sadly nothing in them worth writing about since my last Yellow-legged and the half Caspian-thing.

Seaton Hole was really birdie about a week ago, several Chiffs, Goldcrests and Blackcaps, with the same selection although in smaller numbers present there today. On Tuesday however when I went there it was oddly quiet, but I soon worked out why...

Sat out proud

Stunning male Sparrowhawk

...and again!

And for the last time I promise... just look at that eye!

Delightful to get such a prolonged, relaxed and close view of our second commonest raptor on patch. They maybe common, but views like this don't come by often.