Thursday, 29 April 2010

Quality Over Quantity

Well there weren't loads of moths in the traps this morning at all, only 25 in fact! But there were 14 species, including four new for the garden and several new for the year.

It was nice to have Nigel Pinhorn with me whilst going through the contents of the traps, good luck with trapping at Exminster Nigel! :-) It's also nice to see so many moths looking fresh and ultra stunning.

The firsts for the garden were...

Coxcomb Prominent; one I missed out on during the end of summer/autumn last year

Twin-spotted Quaker; well overdue!

Streamer; my pick of the catch...what a stunning moth!

And Waved Umber, minus the tip of its left wing! Another fine moth though :-)

The rest of the catch was made up of: 5 Brindled Beauty, 5 Common Quaker, 2 Muslin Moth (males), 2 Early Grey, 2 Hebrew Character, and singles of: Early Thorn, Brimstone, Flame Shoulder, Shoulder-striped and Nut-tree Tussock.

The birding has been very poor today, with a Greenshank on Colyford Marsh the best from me.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Pearl-bordered Bloody-nosed Muslin Skua

With that title you are probably thinking he has lost the plot.... I lost that AGES ago! But I felt writing "Butterflies, A Beetle, Moths and Birds" was just too boring!!!!

As this is suppose to be a local patch birding blog, that's where I'll start...

I was out early this morning...though not as early as Bun! At high tide, Blackhole, Colyford and Seaton Marshes, the salt marsh on the Estuary and Seaton Beach were all checked....and all had no waders worthy of mention at all! Which was very surprising! As the tide dropped the river offered little better with just eight Whimbrel and a Greenshank.

Whilst walking the beach a flew glances out to sea showed a few birds were on the move, so I tried a sea watch, 07:45 - 08:55.

The highlight was my (and I think the patch's) first Skua of the year, with a dark-phase Arctic close east at 08:22. When I say 'close', I could see the protruding central tail feathers, so that can go down as 'close' for here!!!

The rest of the list from the watch includes: 2 Common Scoter (on sea), 29 Manxies, 3 Whimbrel, 22 Black-headed Gull, 3 Kittiwake and 10 Sandwich Tern. Although not fantastic by any means, it was much more than I expected from a flat calm sea!

One of the Whimbrel briefly landed on the beach

Still on patch, before I talk about Moths I should mention the Otter I watched for five minutes on the river from the farm gate. It looked really big, but considering the distance I was watching it from I wouldn't put money on it being any bigger than the usual two.

Moth time! So I had both moth traps out last night, did it make any difference...?

I was expecting some cloud cover during the night, but it never seemed to materialise, so numbers wise it was much the same with just 19 moths. There were a few more species though, with 9 including three smart new ones for the garden...

Mullein Moth

Lunar Marbled Brown - my favourite of the catch!

Muslin Moth - a male

The rest of the catch was made up of: 8 Common Quaker, 3 Hebrew Character, 2 Brindled Beauty, 1 Clouded Drab, 1 Powdered Quaker and 1 Purple Thorn. I'm hopeful for tonight, I have both traps out again...

To round of the patch part of this blog, whilst out ringing with Mr T a couple of days ago in Beer, I picked up this beetle and it started bleeding all over my hand....

...that's because it's a Bloody-nosed Beetle! Thanks to Mr T for the photo :-)

So that leaves the 'Pearl-bordered' bit of the title...

Late morning today I headed off to Dartmoor and really enjoyed watching good numbers of Pearl-bordered Fritillaries. I spent an hour going up and down the hillside, and every single PB Frit was acting like it had been taking speed! They just wouldn't stop flying around like they had a rocket up their arse! The best photo I got was this...

This one only paused briefly because it had a bit of its left wing missing!

So after an hour of chasing PB Frits around like a mad man, I returned to my car. And guess what was feeding on a dandelion virtually right besides the road where my car was parked...

Check out its funky eye!!!

Also saw a Green Hairstreak and a Tree Pipit.

Off to bed now, am hoping to have a large catch of moths to sort through in the morning....

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Odonata Year Begins

Early this afternoon a visit to Lower Bruckland Ponds revealed my first couple of teneral Large Red Damselflies...

Quite late though, most years I have usually seen them by now

While on insects, I'll talk about my mothing attempts over the last couple of nights. Really the catches should have been much better than they were, for example last night I only caught 12 moths of 3 species! These species being Brindled Beauty, Hebrew Character and Common Quaker.

The night before though I did get a couple of firsts for the garden, my first two Carpets of the year....

Water Carpet

Shoulder-striped, which just wouldn't settle so had to be snapped inside the specimen pot!

I'm going to get my Skinner trap out tonight for the first time this year and leave both running overnight. Let's see if that helps....

Now to birds, and a look at the Estuary late morning showed three Greenshank, a Ringed Plover and a couple of Whimbrel...

...not quite the 447+ roosting at Barnacre Res (Lancs) at the moment!!!

Lastly, the Lesser Whitethroat is still singing from scrub south of the track to Blackhole Marsh.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Two More Year Ticks

Today was the day we finally had proper decent fall conditions.....the day I went back to work!!!

Walking to my car in the driveway just before 7am, a Tree Pipit flew over west in the gloom, calling as it went. Tree Pip is a surprisingly scarce spring bird on patch, and although it was great to see, it annoyed me even more that I had to go to work!!!

After my shift, I 'endured' an hour's seawatch from 17:15. It got worse and worse as the watch went on as the wind dropped and cloud cleared, but I still managed another year tick with three Common Terns west (all singles). Also noted three Common Scoters, 12 Manxies (some quite close), 13 Black-headed Gulls and one Razorbill.

Roll on tomorrow...

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Back To Work For Me

Well I've had an excellent week off work, despite my car giving me a bit of a headache! Today was the last day of my break, nothing exceptional happened, but this is how it went...

Started the day on a surprisingly cold (but very atmospheric) Seaton Marshes...

looking east from the Borrow Pit over the northern half of the reserve

I couldn't resist taking a few pics of this Mute Swan which was just too photogenic to ignore!!

Sorry!

The reason we (AERG ) were here was for a public ringing demonstration...

And what is Doug holding...?

a Whitethroat!

We caught 23 birds in all, but the only other migrants fondled included two Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler.

I spent the rest of the day out birding, Beer Cemetery produced a Sedge Warbler (a site first for me!) with a plenty of hirundines and a Swift overhead. Otherwise everywhere seemed very quiet.

Later on, news of some cracking sea watches in Dorset today encouraged me to try an hour's sea watch from 17:45. It was quiet, and visibility was pretty poor...I don't think anyone has seen the horizon today! The highlight was my first Manx Shearwaters of the year; three flew east at 18:05. Also saw four Sandwich Terns, 16 Black-headed Gulls, a Whimbrel and two Common Scoters.

One of the Sarnies

I'll finish this post with a couple of random photos...

The Common Sand at Lower Bruckland Ponds yesterday

A Little Egret on the Estuary this afternoon...one of the few birds NOT flushed by the canoes!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Dartmoor

I allow myself at least one day of off-patch birding when I have a week off work, but not having a car for a couple of days this week has so far prevented this! I'm glad to say though, I had my car back with me at 5pm Thursday. That evening I headed off to Exeter and spent the night at my brother's.

I woke up in the city at 6am, and headed for my Cirl Bunting survey site. An hour and a bit (and no Cirl Buntings) later, I got back in my car and headed even further away from patch! Yarner Wood was my destination...

I haven't been here for YEARS, it was great to be back! I had a very enjoyable few hours wandering about...

At least two Wood Warblers were singing well. It was nice to have one quite low down for a change, allowing me to get these rather pleasing shots...

Such stunning birds! (click to enlarge if you didn't know that already)

Pied Flycatchers were very conspicuous, I counted 16 during my walk. All but two of these were males so there's clearly plenty of females still to arrive...

None of them allowed close approach though

Every single one of the males was singing, so I thought I'd take a video. You can hear a Wood Warbler singing too...



At the start of this video you can hear Siskins as well; several of these and two Crossbills flew over the wood during my walk.

A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker tormented me and a couple others as it drummed for a few minutes and sang once in the treetops near to us, couldn't see the bugger though!

On the common above, a lone Tree Pipit sang. I was so busy watching it that I nearly fell over the mother of all ants nests!!! Check out this...


Not a good thing to fall into!

After Yarner, I headed to Challacombe Farm. Opposite the entrance a pair of Redstarts were busy feeding, though the male soon took up a spot in a large Oak tree and began singing away. A Cuckoo called now and then from up the valley.

From here, I went to one of my favourite places on Dartmoor...

The Warren House area

Another Cuckoo was here and sang almost continuously and two Wheatears looked very small and pale compared with the Greenland-type hulks I've been used to seeing on patch lately...

Totally different from the big orange things I'm seeing down here at the moment!

Best of all here were a gorgeous pair of Whinchats, which are just about identifiable in the following photo...

The stonking male is the one hidden behind all those twigs!!

It was getting on for lunch time, so this place looked very inviting...

The world famous Warren House Inn!

And this was my end of trip treat...

Cheese and ham baguette

Verdict: definitely overpriced and could have done with more ham... but I love the location of this place so much that none of that mattered :-)

I spent a bit of time on patch late afternoon when I returned to Seaton. A Lesser Whitethroat singing south of the track down to Blackhole Marsh, a Common Sandpiper at Lower Bruckland Ponds and seven Whimbrel on the Estuary being the best.

So I have had a very enjoyable day, and it's so good to have my car back...


Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A Minute Marsh Harrier

I've not had a car for most of today, so yet again my legs haven't known what's hit them!!!

I did have time to drive up to Beer Head first thing, but could only whizz round part of it - had to be home by 8am. There were Phylloscs EVERYWHERE! Mostly Willys, moving through the bushes rather rapidly in small parties - it looked just great! I counted at least 60 Wills, but there were probably at least four times as many in total!

Also saw singles of White Wag, Whitethroat, Redstart (a female) and nine Wheatears.

I dropped my car into the garage just before 08:30 then began the same marathon walk I endured yesterday afternoon....

Seaton Marshes gave me three Whimbrel and singles of Wheatear, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler plus a brief glimpse of a Redstart sp. (a male Black Redstart was reported in the same place a little later).

Blackhole Marsh gave me two Wigeon and singles of Greenshank, Yellow Wag and Sedge Warbler.

Colyford Common gave: Greenshank, four Dunlin, Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail and Reed Warbler. Also watched an Otter for five minutes from the hide feeding in the river.

Karen kindly picked me up, and via good views of the Kilmington Lesser Whitethroat (with my first Swift of 2010 flying about over head) returned me to base.

This evening, still car-less, I decided to walk around Couchill Woods and the surrounding farm land. It was all very predictable; a few Willys, Chiffs and Blackcaps. But when I reached one of the highest points of our patch, it all went very UNpredictable!!!

I was taking a few photos of the river valley from near Tower Services....

Note how big Blackhole Marsh looks from this distance

Seaton

....when a text came through from Bun "Marsh Harrier below farm gate"...

After a little bit of scanning with the bins I picked it up hunting over a small patch of reeds adjacent to Colyford Marsh. It quartered back and forth for barely a minute, before purposely flying low NW over Colyford Marsh, Colyford Common, then seemingly off over Colyford.... and that was that gone!!!

It wasn't the closest view I've ever had of a Marsh Harrier mind.... being at a distance of 1.74 miles!!!!

The rapid departure of it meant a couple of locals dipped, and Phil and Bun only managed brief views of this brief visitor. Here are three local birders hoping it would return, this is taken with the Lumix at a distance of 1.43 miles....

Can you guess who's the one wearing the white shorts?

I'll finish this post with a couple of photos I've literally just taken....

A regular visitor to our garden

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

A Silent Spring Gropper

The average spring Grasshopper Warbler makes a lot of noise, and if you're lucky, you may get a glimpse like this...

Actually this may be described as quite a 'good' view!

This evening though I stumbled across one in Beer, which wasn't being 'normal' at all!

I first flushed it out of the middle of a bog standard grassy field, it flew into the nearest hedge. After some watching and waiting it was clear what it was doing. It was feeding in the grass (mostly at the edge of the hedge), and now and then when spooked it would fly back into the hedge before shortly returning to the ground.

It was almost impossible to see in the grass, only occasionally glimpses of its head, but when it returned to the hedge it usually perched up on the outside before disappearing in. Just like this...

Nicely flaunting its undertail coverts in the bottom pic!

The other odd thing about it is it didn't make a noise during the 45 mins I was with it, so I reckon it may be a lady. Its routine behaviour meant Bun and Ian M both successfully twitched it.

Today I've put lots and LOTS of leg work in (for me anyway!!!). First thing this morning I walked Axe Cliff and the Undercliff below, and this afternoon, walked from Seaton Town up to the platform at the north end of Colyford Common via Seaton and Blackhole Marshes. Believe me I've had to eat a heck of a lot of chocolate to keep me going!!!

Wheatears have been the most obvious migrant today, I counted at least 22 during my tour of the marshes, and this one was at Axe Cliff first thing...

A first-year male I presume?

Axe Cliff was quiet, with this Wheatear, a Redstart and two Whitethroats being the best. My tour of the marshes offered me five Ringed Plovers, 15+ Dunlin, nine Whimbrel, three Snipe, three Common Sands, several Willow Warblers and three White Wags (as well as the Wheatears).

Showing its grey rump nicely

And I reckon that's the lot from me today. So shall finish with the view from above Beer Cemetery tonight...

It's a wonder we are getting any migrants with the skies as clear as they are at the mo!!!

Monday, 19 April 2010

The Warblers Are In (Including One With A French Accent!)

I'm back from the big city! It was a great trip and enjoyed every minute, but Devon welcomed me back in fine form...

On the way back to Seaton after being dropped off in Exeter by National Express yesterday late afternoon, an Osprey flew low over the road up the River Clyst. It continued flying north for a short distance before it began to circle and gain height. Makes up nicely for the one I missed on patch whilst away!

I managed an hour out birding on patch before it got dark; two Ringed Plovers on the Estuary being the best - our first ones for the year. Here's one of them, distantly...

About a month later than normal!

Now to today, and I had a VERY enjoyable morning with the AERG at Colyford Common. We caught 36 birds, and as the title suggests, during the previous night there must have been one BIG arrival of warblers...

We caught eight, and I saw/heard another three of these...

Sedge Warbler

We caught two, and I heard another one of these...

Reed Warbler

We caught one, and I saw another two of these...

Whitethroat

These three were firsts for the year for me. The other warblers we caught were three Cetti's Warblers (both re-traps), two Chiffchaffs, and this female Blackcap...

Well a brown cap!

There was one obvious highlight out of all this lot though...

Yes it is a Sedge Warbler again...

But this one had this on its leg...

Yes that does say Paris... this Sedge Warbler had already been ringed... in France!

The best of the non-warblers caught were a couple of Reed Buntings and three Goldfinches.

Whilst wandering about I scored with another year tick in the form of a Greenshank which spent a few minutes flying about over Colyford Marsh. Also saw three Wheatear on Colyford Marsh, and a Yellow Wag (in flight only - it seemed to have a very pale head), two White Wags, five Dunlin, one Ringed Plover and this Little Ringed Plover on Blackhole Marsh...

This is the plumpest you'll ever see an LRP!

There were a few butterflies about in the sunshine, including my first Orang-tip. I didn't get a photo of it, but did get a photo of this sleepy Peacock...

Found resting in the ringing hut!!

I got home at about 2pm, and after some food was out again for a couple of hours. The highlight of this foray being yet another warbler! It was great to see a/the Lesser Whitethroat back besides the railway line between Whitford and Kilmington...

Welcome home!! :-)

To complete my bird sightings for the day, three more Wheatears were on Seaton Marshes this evening with two Common Sands on the Estuary. Lower Bruckland Ponds offered singles of Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, and good numbers of Willow Warblers and House Martins.

Had the moth trap out last night, which gave me one new for the garden...

Brindled Beauty

I shall finish this post with an 'awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww' photo...

I couldn't see Mum anywhere!