Sunday, 28 May 2017

Hello Harry

Although you may well have already known this via social media, Jess and I were delighted to welcome Harry Arthur Waite into the world during the early hours of Friday morning...

He weighed a healthy 8 pounds 14 and so far appears to be just like his Dad, he can't stop eating...

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Exceptional Red Kite Passage

Mid afternoon today I headed down to the Axe alongside the A3052 to look for my first White-legged Damselflies of the year, but in the end I spent way more time looking up than down!

Literally as soon as I parked up I had two single Red Kites in quick succession quite a distance to the north over Musbury, one moved off north west and the other straight west towards Colyford. Then about ten minutes later I had a lovely group of three fly low south west over my head, with another three about four minutes later on exactly the same flight path.  That's eight Red Kites within twenty minutes. Amazing!

Just before the last three went over my phone died, so I whizzed back home to give it a charge (just in case one of the Dutch Griffon Vultures decided to drift over my head) . I headed back out at 16:50 and spent about forty minutes stood on the stile opposite Colyford WTW. On my first 360 scan after arriving here there were seven Red Kites in view! Five west of Cownhayne Lane and two east of Cownhayne Lane. They all moved off west/south west, and I know these were all different from my earlier eight as Mr White had seen about seven over Lower Bruckland Ponds in between. All then went quiet for half an hour, but at 17:20 I picked up three more Red Kites circling over Colyton before moving off west, these must have arrived more from the north unlike all the previous birds that had flown in from Musbury Castle. 

So that's a staggering total of (at least) 18 Red Kite west over the patch 15:25 - 17:25, Mr White may well have seen a couple more from the Ponds that I missed whilst at home charging my phone.  Although movements of Red Kites like this have been seen several times in Devon before, I have never been lucky enough to luck in on one, so to luck in on a Kite passage on patch was such a thrill!  You can be sure more will be heading west over the next few days as the weather seems to be staying the same, and am sure within a few days triple figures will be over Cornwall.  

Am pleased to say I did see White-legged Damselflies as well, about twenty but all immature insects...

And my first few Banded Demoiselle of 2017...

 This hot weather really is doing the trick!

Monday, 22 May 2017


With a lack of bird (and baby) news to blog about, I may as well catch up with some insect sightings from the past few days.

Today's warmth encouraged my first two Scarce Chasers of the year to emerge at Lower Bruckland Ponds this afternoon...

The above two photos are of the same insect. Personally I think Scarce Chaser is one of the few Odonata species that look best when they are immature - they are just so orange!  Didn't see any other larger insects at Lower Brucklands, just heaps of damselflies. 

A few visits to Axe Cliff lately have shown a couple of Silver Y and Painted Ladies, one Clouded Yellow and several Wall Browns...

Hopefully I will see a few more birds before spring is out. Unless it is already out...

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Iceland Gull

I think gull flocks get over looked when it gets to May, everyone seems too preoccupied with spring migrants and over shooting rarities.  But if you go back through the county records mid May often brings a little pulse of white-winged gull records to the south west. There was a Glaucous Gull at Slapton at the beginning of the month and I was really hoping for one of these, but I'm certainly not complaining at seeing my fourth Iceland Gull of the year at 9am this morning...

Ian Mc found this bird at about 08:30. I didn't rush out for it but on the way to walking the dog I thought I'd drop by Coronation Corner in case it was still about. I'm glad I did.

Yesterday was a very wet day. I only had a few spare hours in the morning, and I spent most of them walking up and down Seaton Beach with wading birds in mind. The only waders I saw though were a flock of 30+ mostly Ringed Plovers that flew in off and quickly vanished in the gloom. When I later looked along the Estuary gladly they were there, 26 Ringed Plover and ten Dunlin.  The biggest group of Ringed Plover that I've seen here so far this year, just a pity there wasn't a Turnstone or two tagging along...

Monday, 15 May 2017

Sanderling and a Sooty Slips Through

Despite the clear skies and completely calm conditions at dusk yesterday, this morning I woke up to heavy rain and a pretty hefty southerly wind. It had to be worth a sea watch! 

The conditions were really tough, it was really hard to find shelter from the wind and spells of heavy rain often hampered visibility. But I stuck it out and 06:20 - 07:40 from Spot On Kiosk produced (all west);

6 Common Scoter
2 Great Northern Diver (1 sp 1 wp)
3 Manx Shearwater
1 Shearwater sp. (annoyingly I know it was a Sooty, just didn't get enough on it)
31 Sanderling
7 Kittiwake

It was the Sanderling that were most impressive. Flocks of three and 22 flew in off and then flew low west along the beach, and a flock of six did the same but landed in between (photos below). When the flock of 22 went by the six flew up and joined them, making a single flock of 28 birds. This is easily the biggest single flock of Sanderling I've ever seen here.  There were a further three Sanderling shortly after on the Estuary, along with two Ringed Plover, a Dunlin and eight Whimbrel.  I think I'm right in saying that the peak spring Sanderling passage is usually a bit later than the main Dunlin migration, and today's observations would certainly fit that...

I love seeing waders downed on the beach during spring rain - so so thrilling! Resting on the beach in front of you one minute, then off on their way to their breeding grounds the next...

Sunday, 14 May 2017

More Poms and Pretty Polly

Yesterday I just happened to time my only hour out birding with the arrival of some heavier cloud late afternoon, so after a quick look along the Estuary I thought the sea would be worth a look.

No more than three minutes into my watch (17:50) the delightful shapes of two Pomarine Skuas flew into view. They were fairly high, always remaining above the horizon, and were fairly distant (well standard Seaton skua range to be honest!) but I could see the usual plumage features easily enough, and both were boasting very impressive spoons.  They flew south west so it was nice to be able alert people to the west that they were on their way, sadly though no one picked them up until they flew north over Dawlish Warren and up the Exe Estuary at 19:25. There was a heavy rain shower between the two sightings so maybe they spent this time settled on the sea somewhere?

These were my 11th and 12th Pom Skuas of the spring, which is double my previous highest Seaton spring total (six in 2012, which were all in one watch on 26th April).  I do hope there are more to come though as it's impossible to get enough of this fantastic species.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned a Ring-necked Parakeet that was seen several times in Axmouth last Tuesday, but sadly missed by all the local birders. Well the 'grip factor' was turned up several notches this morning when these photos dropped into my inbox..

These were taken last Tuesday by an Axmouth resident who'd like to remain nameless. Thanks so much for letting me share these super photos, it's certainly a sight I would loved to have seen. Hopefully either it will reappear or another will drop in in the not too distant future.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Pom Porn

Where we are here in Seaton, deep in the bowels of a bay, in a bay, in a bay, sea watching spectacles really are few and far between. But today, one of the highlights of my 17ish years birding here occurred...

I was going to go sea watching this morning, and my alarm sounded at 05:30. But a brief look out the window (clear skies and no wind) and the prospect of starting work a few hours later encouraged me to laze in a bed a bit longer... Then my phone started bleeping, it was Gav, and a few texts later he let me know he'd had a skua distantly off Burton Bradstock. With skuas about that's more than enough to get me out of bed (as we know from yesterdays blog, deja vu!).

I was surprised to see a shape already sea watching at the Spot On when I arrived at about 06:20, it was Charmouth birder Richard.  He told me what he'd seen, and finished with "a flock of about nine birds flew in distantly, I thought they were Whimbrel but then they landed on the sea"... 

It took me about two or three minutes to pick up these settled birds among the waves, and when I did was completely gobsmacked to see they were Pom Skuas!  I quickly fired some texts out, but about a minute later the most incredible thing happened. They took off and flew right at us. They kept coming, and coming, and coming... and all of a sudden they were quite literally right above our heads!!!!!  Oh my word. A flock of nine spring Pomarine Skuas (most fully spooned) right there.  This is Seaton not the Outer Hebs - this DOES NOT happen here.  WOOOOOOOOOW!

I thought they were then going to fly inland, but they then turned and quickly flew out south east.  Which meant it was time to alert watchers (including Gav) to the east of us. This sight needed sharing, and share it we did as you will read below. But before that, why not enjoy this little video that I managed to record...

And a few pics...

Within the flock there appeared to be an intermediate phased bird (not completely dark, bur far darker than the other eight), and I reckon seven had full spoons, with two showing only 'stumps'.  And now for the sharing...

I'm so pleased both James Mc at Lyme Regis and Gav at Burton Bradstock saw these birds, then Portland, and then amazingly Hampshire several hours later. I thought I'd quickly throw a map together showing where they were seen and the times they were seen there. The final sighting of the flock (at Hill Head in the Solent) was of eight birds and a single shortly after. The single bird was seen further east but the eight vanished.  For a clearer view of the map click on it to enlarge...

Tracking a flock of birds like this reminds me how incredible bird migration is. I wonder how long before they land on Arctic tundra, and what route they will take north?

It was of course also great to share this with Richard - a lifer for him. And what a way to life tick Pom Skua!! Am so glad he was here as so often I'm sea watching alone at the Spot On. It was a shame that Dan J from Sidmouth missed them (he dropped in here on his way to work) but it was great to finally meet him - a person I've had numerous communications with but never actually bumped into.

So is that enough about Pom Skuas? Well no I don't think so, but I best mention what else I saw during this one hour sea watch; 

11 Common Scoter
1 Manx Shearwater
12 Sanderling (flew east then west along the beach)
1 Med Gull (first-summer)
1 Common Gull

An unusual shot of the Med Gull  - showing a yellow colour-ring too!

I went to work a very happy boy this morning...