Monday, 31 January 2011

Bewick's Is Back

I've had plenty of County Recorder work to catch up on over the last few days, so haven't had any time for birding. Last week, Gallinule related-things took up most of my time, so other aspects of the job just had to take a back seat...now they're in the front seat again! I'm pleased to say though, today has been a very productive day and I can now see light :-)

Mid morning, I just had to get out for a drive - my laptop was doing my head in! I zoomed along the Estuary to Boshill Cross, back to Colyford then home again. I'm not totally sure why I did this, it wasn't to go birding because I ignored an Estuary full of Gulls!? I did stop in one place though - Stedcombe Vale - where I was pleasantly surprised to see our Bewick's Swan back again. I haven't seen him anywhere since Jan 1st, and not down this part of the valley since about mid Dec.

Anyway, he was fairly close and on a nice frosty ground, so the camera just had to come out....

A gorgeous bird :-)

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Ringing At Radipole

I was late leaving home this morning, and as I turned in to Weymouth, these three shapes that I spied from behind the wheel on a road side tree made me even later...

Justify FullWaxwings!

I knew there were three in the Weymouth area somewhere, but didn't know where. So quite jammy really :-)

Anyway, I finally rolled in at Radipole half an hour late, where this was waiting for me...

First-winter Black-headed Gull

We spent the next hour and a bit catching birds, and by the end of the morning I'd ringed two of these...

Coot - this was an adult male

I am starting to 'warm' to Coots, but their sharp claws can be surprisingly painful! I was wearing thick jeans, and I wondered what was stopping me from lifting this Coot away from me...

So powerful!

I processed (meaning they were re-traps which just needed measuring and weighing) two of these...

Drake Tufted Duck :-)

And last but not least, I ringed one of these...

First-winter Herring Gull

So, I hear you ask, how did we (and regularly do) catch this nice array of birds?

Well there's three things you need; bread, grain and Luke Phillips - it is that simple! Mind you, I think the fact the birds here are used to being hand fed is a rather important factor too!

This is Luke baiting the catch area...


And you just gotta watch this - this is Luke in action....


Impressive or what!?

Though not everything always plays ball, like this greedy Mute Swan...


And these two Gadwall that just didn't come close enough...

Just 'too wild!'

The drive home was enlivened by a couple of Black-necked Grebes and 40 Med Gulls in a surprisingly choppy Portland Harbour, and several Scaup - including a couple of stunning adult drakes - viewed from a distance at Abbotsbury Swannery.

What a cracking day :-)

Monday, 24 January 2011

Ticking Over

I have a week off work, which is always a good thing! The birding hasn't exactly been exciting though...

This afternoon, the flat light and calm seas meant I just had to head to Seaton Hole and Seaton sea front...

Ideal sea scanning conditions

This revealed 80 Common Scoters, nine Velvet Scoters, three Eider, 14 Great Crested Grebes and two Red-throated Divers. The Wigeon were also resting on the sea, with about 500 off the Yacht Club.

I only saw two adult Med Gulls on the Estuary mid afternoon today, but yesterday there were five, including a new red colour-ringed bird. There are good numbers of Common Gulls about at the moment (150+ today), am just waiting for one of these to pop up...

Found this bird in January '08 on our delightful little Estuary, a stonking adult Ring-billed Gull!

Finally I had a bit of a nasty 'grip-off' this morning - a rarities form containing all the gory details of five Waxwings in Colyton on Boxing Day landed on my doormat; I was over the moon - honest.....

Friday, 21 January 2011

I'm Still Here!

I can only apologise for the lack of blog updates of late, I have had such little time for birding and/or blogging. Records and descriptions are coming in thick and fast at the mo!

All you need to know is I have still not seen a Waxwing on patch! I've seen nine in Axminster, which is close. But not close enough!!!!

The weather over the last week has been so much better than the dull and damp disaster that was last week...

This afternoon from Seaton Hole

I did manage a look on the sea off Branscombe yesterday morning, with Ian Mc. This showed 20+ Red-throated Divers, good numbers of auks, and a Velvet Scoter passed west. Off Seaton, I could see only seven Velvets yesterday, the week before I counted 11 - my highest count for the patch ever!

Also yesterday, the male Black Redstart that has been in residence at Seaton Hole lately, was replaced by a female. Nice to know at least two are still on patch since the big freeze! The female remained too distant to snap, but today the male came close enough...

A very smart fella! Presumably the bird that was in our road over Christmas?

Also today, whilst at Seaton Marshes a smart drake Goosander flew up river. Another surprise came my way about half an hour later. Whilst grilling a flock of 200 Skylark and 150 Linnet in the fields above Axmouth, a flock of 16 Golden Plover flew over west...

As you can see, I only JUST about managed to snap them!!

Hopefully the next blog update won't take as long to come as this one did - sorry!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Waiting....

...is what I'm doing at the moment. My beloved 106 is currently at the 'car doctors' - just a service, I hope!!!

I am in desperate need of a break from typing up bird records, so thought I'd knock off a quick post...

Yesterday I had chance for a quick whirl of the patch early/mid afternoon. The biggest concentration of birds was on Bridge Marsh, where several hundred Lapwing contained two Golden Plovers - a species we only usually get in the valley during spells of cold weather.

Lower Bruckland Ponds showed 12 Tufted Duck and a drake Pochard still, and the Greylag Goose was opposite Stedcombe Vale again.

Yesterday's weather was ideal weather for Gulls for us, and the Estuary duly showed good numbers of them, though amongst the 'small ones' all I could find were two adult Meds.

Each birder has different birding techniques. Mine, especially on our small Estuary, is to scan over large Gull flocks with my binos before even unzipping my scope case. There's a few reasons why I like to do this, but I find if there is anything 'different looking' in the flock, this usually reveals it (unless its sleeping or partially/wholly obscured).

Anyway, nothing but a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls had caught my eye so far during this Estuary sweep, but then I got to the tram sheds and clocked this bird...

Hows that for a first-winter Caspian lookalikey!?

Excuse the horrendously bad photo - but the light was abysmal, and the strong wind was causing no end of telescope/camera shake.

Anyway, this is my take on this bird (don't worry folks, this is as 'heavy' as it gets on this blog - and if you really get bored I've bolded the important bits!)...

Bare parts looked spot on for Caspian, very narrow and long parallel sided bill with very slight gonys angle. When it was walking about it showed nice long tibia, longer than all the Herring Gulls around. The bird showed a nice pale head with slight shading and light streaking only around the eye. The above photo shows well the grey flecked collar around the back of the neck. The mantle showed plenty of grey - more so than the average 1w Herring Gull.

It all fell to bits though on the wing feathers and overall structure. The bird showed well notched GC's, in fact none of the coverts looked 'plain' in anyway. And the bird (structure wise) just 'looked' like a Herring Gull, lacking the long wings, high breast and long neck of Caspian.

So does this mean this bird is JUST a Herring Gull, or does it have a bit of cachinnans (or something else!?) in its DNA?? Who knows!! I actually found this Gull very interesting, and even invited Gav to have a gander at it - though when he turned up he looked suitable unimpressed - probably 'cuz he was too busy worrying whether he'll get Jack Snipe on his year list this winter ;-)

Isn't birding fun, now where's those ten pages of hand written bird records....

Saturday, 8 January 2011

2011 Birding

Here it is, my first post about 2011 birding, bet you are excited.....!?

00:00:01 on Jan 1st my year list was precisely zero... and at 10am it was STILL zero as I was still in bed asleep!! I did soon get up after this time though and ventured out on patch....

Five Velvet Scoters had been seen off the sea front earlier in the day, so I headed here first. I was pleasantly surprised to see there were now eight Velvet Scoters loosely associating with the flock of 42 Common Scoter - all female-types (the Velvets not the Commons!). Two Brent Geese flew in from the east and landed with the Scoters, a Jan 1st bonus! I also logged three Red-throated Divers and several Razorbills.

The Greylag Goose was still opposite Stedcombe Vale (and still is today), and a scope of the viewable Swans in fields between Musbury and Colyford revealed the continued presence of our adult Bewick's Swan. Lower Bruckland Pond revealed an incredible array of diving ducks (for us anyway!). Three days later 14 Tufted Duck and two Pochard were still there...

Nine Tufties on top, two Pochard and two more Tufties below

A big BIG bummer on the 1st though was missing the patch's first Waxwings, with nine briefly on the edge of Seaton before flying towards Colyford. A nice Ruff opposite Axmouth FC the following day made things a little better.....oh who am I trying to kid!? Did it heck!!! Bloody Waxwings!!!

I've also managed to miss a patch Bittern already this year, but whilst looking out for it yesterday evening from the farm gate a total of five adult Med Gulls flew down river to roost. A red head Goosander headed the same way, but much slower - swimming all the way! The eight Velvet Scoters were still present on Thursday and to complete my patch sightings for the year so far, two male Pochard were on the Estuary today.

Back to Waxwings, and I have wasted so many hours cruising around our local housing estates with my windows down and my eyes looking everywhere else but at the road! I have totally failed, and am really getting frustrated by it now! So frustrated in fact that when I had to pop to Exeter to complete a bird survey a few days ago, I went to get my 'Waxwing-fix' at Marsh Barton. This is exactly what I have wanted to see during my efforts on patch...

Even from two miles away, it is just so obvious as to what these are - there is just 'something' about the way Waxwings sit up like this

Anyway, I very much enjoyed watching these 29 stunners, despite the fact the weather was totally shite...

They spent 99% of the time I was there sat up in the tall bare tree, and only 1% of the time on the berries!

And that's how my birding year looks so far! Now time for bed....

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

So That Was 2010

This post really should have been written and posted five days ago.... better late than never though I suppose!

First of all, I'd like to wish all my readers - whether you are avid followers, or just dip in once in a while - a Happy New Year!

Any birding blog wouldn't be complete without some sort of review of the year, so here's mine...

I will most remember the year of 2010 on patch for...

The Mega; Solitary Sandpiper on Black Hole Marsh - first for Devon. Thanks for the photo Brett.

The Other Yank; Long-billed Dowitcher at Boshill Cross, a nice late autumn surprise and patch first number two.

The Educational; the greyish Yellow Wagtail at Colyford WTW, it was nice to be a part of helping to clinch the I.D. of it - hopefully! Potentially another patch first.

The Overdue; this Bittern and two Bearded Tits (unphotographed) at Colyford Common being long overdue patch ticks for me. I am STILL waiting for a patch Turtle Dove.

The Spring Delight; a one-day Alpine Swift over Musbury and Lower Bruckland Ponds.

The Endearing; this autumn Dotterel at Axe Cliff.

The Brute; this stonking Glaucous Gull in November - a long overdue find tick for me!

The Swans; both Whooper and Bewick's Swans were present during both winter periods.

The Waders; as well as the rare waders already mentioned, we enjoyed superb wader fun at Black Hole Marsh, with good numbers and excellent variety - Little Ringed Plover and Ruff pictured above.

But most of all, I will remember 2010 on patch for....

The Snow; Exceptional spells of cold weather at each end of the year caused havoc for our feathered friends. Although it was sad to see so many birds struggling and having to come into gardens to survive, some of the spectacles it produced were incredible, with thousands of birds searching for food (mostly wildfowl, waders, thrushes and larks).

I had a few off-patch highights too, including two little trips away....

Norfolk in January; I will miss not going this year.

A Trip Down Memory Lane; My first trip back to Spurn since working here in 2004/05.

There was even the odd twitch too...

Black Kite Gigrin Farm

Bufflehead The Fleet

Stupidly tame Lapland Bunting Berry Head

I had a very productive year bird ringing too. I am close to my C Permit now, and all these helped me along the way....

From top to bottom; Storm Petrel Hartland Point, Tufted Duck Radipole Lake, Ruff and Shoveler Seaton Marshes, Common Snipe Colyford Common

Back to the patch, and there were many non-birdie highlights for 2010 too. I could be here for another day writing about my top moths of 2010, I just simply don't have the time. But I just couldn't write this post without an Otter photo...

At least three of these spent the first winter period on patch - what a treat.

Other important landmarks this year included my parents' Ruby Wedding Anniversary and on Oct 1st, becoming Devon County Recorder.

Now to balance things out a little, there's a few things that 2010 on patch WON'T be remembered for...


Sea Watching; it really was a dreadful year for this 'pastime', with few records of even some of the commoner sea bird species.

Summer Migrants; it was a poor year for grounded spring and autumn migrants, the spring was especially a total disaster! For example the Grasshopper Warbler shown above was the only one I saw OR heard in the whole year, most springs I hear several reeling birds.

Wrynecks; we did have one on patch (the lower bird at Seaton Marshes) and one just off patch (the upper bird at Waggs Plot) my ability at NOT being able to find my own Wryneck continues to shine!!!! It was a incredible autumn in the UK for this species, so I really should have managed to find one this year.

And that is that. 2010 is gone, and 2011 is well underway. Birding wise it has started off very well, and you will be able to read about it on here in the not too distant future. Once again, Happy New Year.