Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Who's Nicked Our Swans?

Today I checked every Swan in the Axe Valley from Seaton beach up to the Axminster by-pass just north of Kilmington....they were ALL Mutes! That's buggered up a few new year listers plans I guess....

I started today in Exeter, wandering around a piece of land I've not surveyed for a couple of years. Nothing mega but a nice Brambling and a few Reed Buntings made it rather pleasant. I was home a little after 10am.

Although the valley didn't give me any decent Swans, it did give me a cracking pair of Pintail. They were on Bridge Marsh late morning, but late this afternoon I saw them fly south down the river. Nice to see a smart male for a change, just wish it was closer....

A lot closer!!!!

Two adult Med Gulls were on the estuary late on, but grilling the Gulls produced nothing more. Couldn't see the family party of five Brent Geese today which have been in fields to the north of Seaton Marshes for the past week or so.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

I Am Still Here!

The build up to Christmas is always a horrible time at work - and this year proved no different!! I worked the two weeks up to Christmas without even a half-day off, lucky me! This meant I had no birding time, as any non-work time I did have I had to get on with Crimbo preparations. Hence why no blog posts.

I was very gripped to miss our second Caspian Gull, but very pleased to cash in on the Bewick's Swan. It wasn't until today that I have got round to getting some snaps of it though...

I LOVE wild Swans....so to have both species in one flock is just BRILLIANT!!!

I couldn't get a pici of the four swan species in one frame, so went for a video to capture them all instead....



The only other birdie news I have to offer is of loads of Golden Plovers alongside the A3052 on Christmas Day morning; at least three flocks were in roadside fields between Tower Services and the Hontion turn-off.

The highlight of my prezies (aside the smellys, chocs, socks, pants, etc....) is the totally brilliant BWPi I now own! What a MASS of info!

Finally I'd like to wish all blog readers a late and belated HAPPY CHRISTMAS :-)

Monday, 14 December 2009

2009 Becomes A Five Grebe Year :-)

After spending most the day Christmas shopping, I was well up for some birding from mid afternoon. As the sea was rather flat that was where I looked first.

Beer was poor with just four Common Scoters, a Teal and a Great Crested Grebe.

Seaton Hole was miles better. 230 Wigeon were sat in a raft off the river mouth with eight Shoveler. Singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Crested Grebe and Common Scoter were diving in the bay, but the big treat came when I was scoping west towards Beer.

A small Grebe appeared in the middle of my view, I zoomed in and was ecstatic to see it was a Black-necked Grebe! By far the rarest of the Grebes on patch, and the recent records have all been very brief. This was my third for the patch, but I know of another local lister who is yet to see one here....

Ian M, Bun and Karen soon joined me but it had quickly drifted much further out....giving Karen a right conundrum!! Am pleased to say they all got on it though, I hope it sticks for everyone else to see.

After this a look along the estuary revealed something which had been a bit of rarity so far this winter, a Med Gull! They have just been so scarce, weirdly so! The light was crap but I had to take a snap....

Unbelievably my first one this month!!!

....then it got dark!

Today was my last day off before Christmas, how rubbish!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Colyford Common Ringing

There was one mega highlight for me this morning, a ringing tick in the form of this....

But what is it?......

(scroll down for answer)....
















What a beaut!!!!

And again! Lovely :-)

It was a very enjoyable outing, not only was there a steady trickle of birds to ring, I also had some great views of Water Pipit.

Most importantly though, I had the oppotunity to stuff my face full of mince pies and other Christmas-related cakey things....then there was the stilton and crackers (yes, how posh!!!) and home made sausage rolls. This was all washed down nicely with two glasses of VERY lovely Mulled Wine. Now that's MY kind of ringing outing!!! :-)

Finally I have a couple of recent bird sightings to mention.... nothing earth shattering though! On Tuesday morning the lone drake Gadwall was floating on the estuary by the tram shed and a lone Brent Goose was sat on the sea with the Wigeon flock. I saw four female-type Black Reds on Beer beach on both Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

Monday, 7 December 2009

'If Only It Were October'

I said this on more than one occasion today.... mind you August/September would do also!

There were more strong south westerlies blowing all last night and for most of today.... just a bloody shame it's December!! Mind you, if there had been more northerlies before today I guess Little Auks would have been on the cards...

A sea watch from Beer 08:30 - 09:45 produced: 3 Brent Geese, 63 Gannet, 67 Kittiwakes and stacks of Fulmars. The latter were both passing through and lingering so I didn't even attempt to count them. On the sea were two Great Crested Grebes and plenty of Common Scoters. I can't wait for the sea to flatten out so we can give this ever-growing scoter flock a darn good grilling... we could do with a Black Scoter.

Again the estuary - albeit it well and truly flooded - produced nothing. Great news with the Black Swans though!

When they first turned up they kept themselves to themselves, not mingling with any of the 'more usual' white ones, this made some people (including me I have to say) a little sceptical about their origin. Well that was until today, they were in the Mute flock opposite Stedcombe this morning. Look....

Wow - don't they look so much more wild!

All we need now is for them to start mingling with the two Whooper Swans....then we are really on a winner!!!

Finally I've also seen five Black Redstarts today, all female-types. A single bird near the Yacht Club and four together on Beer Beach; at least one of these looked like a young male.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

As Smooth As Velvet

Last Wednesday I saw Ian M's car parked up in Beer, so wandered along to the shelter where I thought he would be....he was indeed! Before he could finish saying "hello" to me, a drake Velvet Scoter flew through his scope view!

We watched it as it flew west before plonking down on the sea near to the semi-resident flock of Commons Scoters. This is the second record for the patch this year, the first being a pair that flew west past me on Jan 26th. Also saw singles of Red-throated and Great Northern Divers.

Now to today...and the highlight is the continued presence of these plastic beauts....

Still on Bridge Marsh

The two Whooper Swans are still with us (on Colyford Marsh), but I haven't seen anything else noteworthy today.

Evening update: I've just put the bins out and a flock of Wigeon called from the nights sky above. Not sure which way they were flying but it sounded like there was quite a few of them.... movement!!! Could well be a garden tick too : )

Monday, 30 November 2009

It Actually Feels Like Winter!

There was a nice cool northerly wind whipping through Seaton today. There was that crisp coolness in the air....first time I've felt it this autumn/winter...lovely : )

I tried a seawatch for an hour from dawn, unsurprisingly not much was going on; 2 Brent Geese, 6 Common Scoter, 2 Great Northern Diver (one of which landed on the sea for ten mins), 1 Red-throated Diver, 7 auk sp. and an adult Med Gull.

A look up the river showed the two Whooper Swans still present, but nothing new was obvious.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Leach's At Last!

Before today, Leach's Petrel was certainly my most dubious tick on my local patch life list. That's because my only Leach's Petrel on patch was this one....

Looking well.....!?!

Well there's no doubting its ID! And it is alive, despite having its eyes shut in this photo! This bird was caught by a cat a few miles inland (still on patch) and brought along to Seaton hide in a box on a Meet The Birds morning. That's where I saw it! Sadly this following day he/she passed away...

But these events need no longer nag my listing conscious.... : )

This morning, Chesil Cove birders witnessed the most amazing wreck of Leach's Petrels. Wow - the stories I've heard sound awesome, I so wish I was there. Thanks to Brett for keeping me updated with the days happenings.

I've been tied up most of today (not literally I must add!), and missed a couple of Leach's Petrels off Beer early afternoon; I was especially gripped by Buns as it sounds like it passed rather close.

Anyway, at 14:45 I was free....and headed straight for Seaton Hole. I settled myself at the top of the cliff to give me some height advantage. The winds had eased quite considerably from earlier in the day, but I felt this was a help, as it meant the waves had decreased in size. Half an hour had past and next to nothing was in my notebook... I felt a change in tactic was due....

I went from 20X zoom, to 40X and started grilling a slightly more distant bit of sea. Within a few minutes a Leach's Petrel came into view, and I watched it for a good few minutes as it made its way west. I lost it for a few minutes but re-located it again and watched it for another five minutes as it continued west. Within the next ten minutes, I saw another two fly west at similar distance. A fourth bird flew west at 15:50, but this one was a little more distant. Result!!

So now I think I know why we haven't really been seeing Leach's...they are simply passing too far out! If the light hadn't been so good, and the waves how they were, then I would have struggled to see any of the four this afternoon.

Too be honest, despite the passion I have for patch birding, and seeing birds on patch, I would have swapped my four for a few hours at Chesil Cove today.....it sounded INCREDIBLE!

Leach's Petrel is my 183rd patch bird of the year. I think my target of 200 is looking unlikely!!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

LOST - Help Wanted In Finding My Lost Pet

It was a couple of weeks ago, that when I went out in the back garden I noticed my beloved pet goose was gone. Her name is Geraldine and I miss her dearly.

I have put up posters locally, but as yet have had no joy so am hoping for more luck by posting this on the web. I have heard she was seen to fly off west, so at least she isn't fox food (yet!)

This is what she looks like...


She responds well to peanut butter on whole grain toasted bread, and also (rather surprisingly) tuna and pasta bake. If you approach her without either of these two food items she may look very wary.

If anyone has any information then please reply to this post.... I must get her back ASAP!

Thankyou for your time....


If you aren't a Devon birder then you probably won't get this at all!!!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Portland Hogs All Scarce Sea Birds!

Seawatched this morning with Gav from Beer; I did 07:35 - 09:00. It was pretty rubbish!

By the end of the watch my notebook read (all west): 1 Brent Goose, 3 Common Scoter (plus 30+ on sea), 1 Great Northern Diver, 63 Gannet, 9 Fulmar, 17 auk sp. and 5 Kittiwake.

The two Little Gulls were still performing well this afternoon off the yacht club, with a Black Redstart on nearby roofs.

A sweep of the estuary mid afternoon revealed one of my favourite large Gulls...a stonking adult Yellow-legged Gull : )

The light meant the photos were never going to be stunning, but still, here you go....


Stonker!!!

And I'll attach this photo which shows how big its hooter was...

That's a right finger-cruncher! Also note the square head shape and red orbital ring

After five minutes of watching the Yellow-legged, a Peregrine came in and flushed everything! It was great to watch the falcon as it attempted to pick off a Teal from the water on a couple of occasions. The Teal kept diving under to avoid becoming supper - it worked! The Peregrine went away empty taloned.

The two Whooper Swans were still opposite Stedcombe Manor this afternoon, though they weren't there first thing this morning.

Will try AGAIN tomorrow morning for a decent seabird.... fingers crossed....

Sunday, 22 November 2009

It's Not Over 'Til The Fat Lady Sings...

In October the UK was stuffed full of Ring Ouzels. Despite Beer Head getting daily visits, a five second flight view was the best anyone got of one here....or anywhere on patch in fact! Having passed this Ouzel-filled period Ouzel-less I thought the chances of one making it on my 2009 patch year list was nil.

So it's now nearing the end of November, the latest Ring Ouzel reported on Birdguides is of one in Cornwall on 15th. But yesterday, Clive changed that by finding two on Beer Head! I was in work all day so couldn't do anything about it. Today though, despite the shite weather, I trudged up here early morning.

I was soon rewarded with excellent views of one, but the weather got the better of me and I retreated to my car. Later on in the morning though when the sun came out I returned. Am very glad I did because I got super views of both of them. The light was pretty poor, and the wind blew everything in all directions, but I still managed a couple of ok-ish photos...

My first on patch for a good couple of years, and my 182nd patch bird of the year : )

There have been two Little Gulls off the yacht club all day; what is presumably the lingering adult, along with a new bird - a gorgeous first winter. An adult Med Gull was also loitering here late morning.

Up the estuary, the two Whooper Swans remain, but I've seen little else today.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Wind Still Blows...

This is what the sea has been looking like for a good five days now...

Big waves! Even bigger today!!!

Yesterday's highlight though was not a wind blown sea bird, but the wonderful Snow Bunting on Beer Head; photos of it can be found HERE and HERE. I only had about one minute with it, but what a stunner! It's still there today, and according to various locals has been around for at least five days. Just shows what can be lurking on patch without the local birders knowing... and this was lurking ON a track, think what is lurking just the other side of the hedge!!! We must miss SOOOOOO much.... Thanks to James Mc for getting the news of our third Snow Bunt in as many years to us as soon as he could : )

Also yesterday, an adult and second-winter Little Gull were excellent to watch - I think Little Gulls are great. Second only to Sabs (maybe Ivory and Ross's too - so fourth in fact!).

Seawatching from Beer this morning was ok, but still no Leach's or Grey Phals! I watched 07:40 - 09:15, Ian M joined me for the last 25 minutes. By the end of the watch my notebook read (all west): 19 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Diver, 1 Great Northern Diver, 122 Gannet, 14 Fulmar (some blogging), 1 Balearic Shearwater (certainly 'bird of the watch' - it flew close west at 08:00), 54 Kittiwake and 79 auk sp.

After this a look at the river showed the drake Gadwall still loafing with the Mallards by the tram shed, and that there was lots of water about! But that seemed it....

Friday, 13 November 2009

Two Spoonfuls Of Jam

Although I feel 100% better than I did last week, my throat is killing me today. So mid afternoon had to nip into Co-op to get some throat sweets. After this I felt a tour of the estuary was in order, the tide was well up.

I stopped besides a small flock of Gulls resting on the water mid way along the estuary. As I pulled in they all took the air, and in the air beyond them were two immature
Spoonbills! Shocker! They circled around and dropped down onto Seaton Marshes.

I started fiddling about with my phone and sent the texts out, but then noticed they were in flight again and were about to pass right over my head! I grabbed the camera out of my car and managed to take three photos. Two of the photos looked like this...

Ooops - missed!

But the other photo, the first one I took in fact, looked like this...

That's better.... only slightly mind!

Same photo but with a little more zoom. Looks like the right hand bird is missing a secondary from its left wing, have you seen this bird?

They carried on and flew south over town, where Karen got to see them from her house. I drove to the seafront and watched them fly west over Seaton Hole into the distance. This is where Ian M also managed to get them on his house list, a cracking Durley Road tick that Ian!

The two Whooper Swans are still with us, a female-type Black Red remains on Trevelyan Road and 13 Common Scoters were off Seaton Hole (one drake).

These Spooners just go to show how brief some of our scarce visitors can be, and how easily they can be missed. When something like this happens it really makes me wonder what else we've missed over the years...

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

It's Not All Tits

Went ringing this morning at the 'governors' house (aka Mr T), in Shute.

Caught 15 birds between the showers, mostly Great and Blue Tits. But it was nice to process four of these...

Coal Tit - not that I need to tell you that!!!

A very fine diamond came in the form a Firecrest! Mike caught it first last Friday, but hadn't seen it since. I heard it calling throughout the morning and saw it a couple of times, but was over the moon when I extracted it from one of our nets!

I have ringed Firecrest before, a wee while ago at Dunge, but it really felt like a privilege to have one in my hand today. They are SOOOOOO my favourite bird...

Wicked!!!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Colyford Common Ringing

Had an enjoyable day ringing with the AERG (Axe Estuary Ringing Group) today, a fine way to spend a day off.

We put most the nets up in the small crop field at the north end of the Colyford reserve, by 2pm we had caught 72 birds...

Look, lots of birds!

The most numerous species was Long-tailed Tit, with 18 trapped and ringed...

Sooooo cute!

Next numerous was Reed Bunting with 18. During the last ringing session here (a little more than a week ago) 22 of these were ringed. Amazingly all of the 18 netted today were un-ringed; that's an impressive turn over!

A male; they are all so smart in the hand

The Cetti's Warbler was nice, and it is surprising how many of these we have caught since ringing on the marshes...

It was certainly the 'most photographed bird of the day'

It wasn't the only warbler caught today though, we also had two Chiffchaffs...

Both were nice green/yellow ones

We caught quite a few of these too...

I'm sure at least some of these have flown a long way to get here

And to finish the photos off, there was one of these...

Not the most pristine Goldfinch I've ever seen mind!

Birds seen of note here whilst ringing included two or three Green Sands, two Water Pipits, six Rock Pipits and a few Redwings and Fieldfares.

I've also seen the two Whooper Swans again today and a female-type Black Redstart on Trevelyan Road.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Wild Swans!

Yesterday late morning I had a look at the Swan flock opposite Stedcombe. There were ten of them, all Mutes....

This morning Phil had a look at the Swan flock opposite Stedcombe. There were twelve of them, they weren't all Mutes....

Mid morning I just couldn't help but twitch them, I do love wild Swans....

Two Whoopers! The sun was quite bright as you can see...

There were a couple of Whoopers at Abbotsbury last week, I presume this is them. We seem to do very well for this species, and grey Greese, on our little estuary - there must be a reason why? Bewick's next please....

I would have got up this morning to count Wood Pigeons, the conditions looked perfect. But in the night I came down with the lurgy and spent more time coughing, sneezing and shivering than I did sleeping : (

Friday, 6 November 2009

Some More Vis Mig

At first I was going to get up early this morning, but last night felt so rough I decided not too. In the end though I woke up before 7am anyway - so thought I might as well get up and go out!! I went back up to the stables.

I couted until 9am, in which time 9,370 Wood Pigeons flew west. After I finished they continued to stream over, so the full total would probably be bigger than yesterday's! Here's a couple of pics from this morning, I especially like the first one cuz of the backdrop...

There are Pigeons in these photos, you may have to enlarge the pics to see them!

Amongst the Woodies were 22 Stock Doves and one Feral Pigeon.

Finches were on the move more so than yesterday, with the highlight being a lone male Crossbill west at 08:33. Chaffinches were very obvious with 547 noted during the watch, in with them (at least) five Bramblings. Also logged over were 1 Curlew, 6 Blackbird, 4 Redwing, 2 Song Thrush, 66 Starling, 3 Skylark, 14 Meadow Pipit, 7 Linnet, 24 Goldfinch, 2 Greenfinch, 2 Siskin, 1 Lesser Redpoll and 2 Reed Bunting.

In the bushes around me were singles of Blackcap (fem) and Chiffchaff.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

A Wood Pigeon Or Two...

I did it....I got out of my bed early (ish!). And zoomed straight up to Beer stables, my favoured late autumn vis mig watch point. I watched here 07:10 - 09:40.

Wood Pigeons were on the move in force, with a final total of 14,570....result! All west. Most flocks were flying straight over head or slightly to the north of me, but a couple of large flocks later in the watch were over the sea. Here's some pics, you need to enlarge them to get the full effect...

A stunning display! Bravo!

Other bits that went into my notebook included: 24 Stock Dove, 5 Feral Pigeon, 23 Jackdaw, 4 Redwing, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Blackbird, 92 Starling, 15 Skylark, 12 Pied Wag, 1 Grey Wag, 5 Meadow Pipit, 308 Chaffinch, 2 Brambling, 32 Goldfinch, 3 Lesser Redpoll and 1 Siskin.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Finally!!

Mr Black Red of Durley Road stayed put long enough this morning, allowing me to get a couple of record shots...

Who's a pretty boy then?

No sign of either of the two female-types as yet today, but a look around Beer gave me another four Black Reds; one male.

I was going to get up early and do some vis migging today, but a look at the weather forecast last night put me off. After a late wake-up this morning, I've been kicking myself as several fairly large Wood Pigeon flocks have been flying west over my house. Here's part of one...

I reckon several thousand of these have gone over this morning, all uncounted... bums!

I've just checked the weather for tomorrow morning, it looks like it's going to be clear. Whatever I read or hear between now and then I'm just going to ignore. I WILL get up and I WILL get counting, watch this space...

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Durley Road Black Reds Still In Residence

All three of our Black Reds are still kicking about, including the stunning male - and boy - he is a STUNNER! From the back he looks like a Pied Fly with the whopping great white patches that he boasts! When (if!?) the weather picks up I'll try and get some pics of him.

Only other birds worthy of note were the Pintail, 13 yesterday on the estuary, with three on Bridge Marsh this morning. No nice drakes though : (

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Garden Watch

Have had a few birdie highlights in, around, and over the garden within the past couple of days.

A couple of nights ago, at about 02:00 whilst lying in bed not being able to sleep, a Golden Plover flew over calling. Heard thanks to an open window!

Redwings have been frequent, but the highlight have been three Black Redstarts which are feeding on the roof-tops between our house and number 30A. One of these birds being a stonking male, although I haven't seen him today, just the two female-types. Black Red made its way on to the garden list about a year ago, thanks to a female which spent the entire winter in the area.

Have been out and about quite a bit today, but can only offer three Green Sands on Blackhole Marsh (was hoping for my first ever November Wood Sand!) and another Black Redstart on Trevelyan Road.

I did have the moth trap out on Friday night, but when it began hammering it down in the early hours I was forced to bring it in. The small collection in the trap included another Scarce Bordered Straw (I still had my first one in a pot!) and my first Western Conifer Seed Bug. For details of this alien species click HERE.

Back to Thursday morning, I conducted my monthly woodland bird survey in Colyton. Lots of Redwings, a couple of flocks of Fieldfares, a couple of Lesser Redpolls and Siskins and an over-flying Brambling were the highlights.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Trap Is Back Out!

It's been ten days since my last moth trapping attempt, for various reasons. So I was pleased to get it out again last night, it was very worthwhile.

I caught 44 moths of 20 species, including three first for the garden. One was this immigrant...

Scarce Bordered Straw

I had two of these....

Red-green Carpet number one

Red-green Carpet number two

And two of these...

November Moth

The rest of the moths were: 8 Common Marbled Carpet, 4 Large Yellow Underwing, 3 Blair's Shoulder-knot, 3 Grey Pine Carpet, 2 Spruce Carpet, 2 Cypress Carpet, 2 Yellow-lined Quaker, 2 Double-striped Pug, 2 L-album Wainscot, 2 Feathered Ranunculus, 2 Angle Shades, 2 Silver Y, and singles of: Dark Sword Grass, Merveille du Jour, Snout, Shuttle-shaped Dart and Black Rustic.

One last photo, one of today's two Cypress Carpet - my second and third for the garden....

Gorgeous thing!