Thursday, 31 March 2011

Every Little Helps...

So Tescos have well and truly taken over Seaton - and I don't just mean on the land! This morning I had my first proper sea watch of the year, and I'm pleased to say one of the biggest worries of the Seaton sea watcher is no more (for now anyway!).

Many sea watching localities have 'markers' - very useful when you are trying to get fellow sea watchers on to passing birds..."it's coming up to pink buoy 51", or "just going past red trawler E-341", or "just passing the offshore rocks"....not in Seaton!!

We usually have about half a dozen identical black flags, and if were are lucky the occasional small fishing boat! But thanks to Tescos, we now have...

Although it is hard to see in this misty pic, there's a massive floating pontoon out there, with a green flag and that huge yellow marker in the foreground

This boat is always out there - complete with lights!

And every now and then, we will have this....

This boat is literally about three miles long - it's bloody HUGE!

Well I'm sure you can tell from all this gibberish and random photos that it wasn't the most exciting sea watch! A Manx Shearwater west at 08:30 was easily the highlight - our first of the year. Other than this; 17 Gannet, 11 Fulmar, 1 Kittiwake and 3 Sandwich Tern were all that went into the notebook.

On the Estuary for most of today, an Avocet has graced the mud. This species is only just about annual for us, so it's always good to see one...

Photo taken during a rain shower

I've been disappointed with the Gulls today; 30 Lesser Black-backs and a second-winter Med being the best. At one stage, I even got bored of Gull watching, so pointed my Lumix at an unsuspecting Blackwit...

The yellow-red-yellow combo of rings on its right leg tell us it's an Axe Estuary ringed bird

Lastly, whilst driving along a woodland track I came to a drastic halt! For a weird moment I thought I'd been transported to Scotland as a large black game bird came walking through the undergrowth! But no, it was just a Pheasant - a rather funky looking one though...

Maybe in a couple of weeks!??

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Gulls And More Summer Migrants

The weather totally changed overnight, with the high pressure and blue skies of recent days replaced with rain and mist! A drastic change in weather conditions during migration periods usually means something happens on the birding front, so this morning I chose to leave 15 minutes early for band practice so I could give the Estuary the once over.

A scan with my bins over the rather small collection of big Gulls just north of Coronation Corner revealed the very exciting sight of an immature white winger! I quickly assembled my telescope to see...

...a first-winter Iceland Gull :-)

This is the first Iceland Gull (seen) on the Axe since August 2009. As you can see it was a very well marked individual with a fair bit of streaking around the eye and head, and some dark markings still on the scapulars and coverts.

It spent a few minutes in the water, before flying a short distance and landing amongst the main gathering of Gulls...

Note the second summer Med in the foreground!

After watching it for about 25 minutes, and just as Ian Mc pulled up, it took to the air and flew off north. Despite looking for it this afternoon, there's been no sign of it since :-(

Today has seen a fair bit of Gull action, with up to 40 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the Estuary and six Med Gulls...

All six of today's Med Gulls - the only adult was the metal ringed bird

The weather conditions really did 'feel' good today for some migration action, but aside ten Sand Martins, a Swallow and two singing Willow Warblers at Lower Bruckland Ponds late morning, it wasn't until I got to Black Hole Marsh mid afternoon that I noticed some actual passage.

Here 20 Sand Martins, several Meadow Pipits and a surprise flock of eight Ringed Plovers flew north over. Afterwards at Seaton Marshes I saw just four hirundines, but one of these was my first House Martin of 2011. It was with two Sand Martins and a Swallow feeding low over the southern part of the reserve.

To complete today's post, the Bewick's Swan is still in the valley, and during a quick sea watch late afternoon, my first Sandwich Tern of the year came in and flew around for a few minutes looking totally lost in the sea mist!...

Sorry about the awful photo, but as you should know by now - it never normally stops me! :-)

Monday, 28 March 2011

My Weekend And Today

This post (as ever with my post weekend posts) has some moth action in it! I will please the ornithologist first though, and kick off with birds...

Saturday was a non birding day, but in the evening I did managed a quick wander around Black Hole and Stafford Marsh. The Little Ringed Plover gave crippling views and my first Willow Warbler of the year sang from trees bordering Stafford Marsh. Two drake Gadwall and a drake Shoveler complete the list of notebook worthy birds here.

Today the best bird came when I wasn't actually birding!! Whilst mowing the lawns, at 14:00 I noticed all the local Gulls were up making a racket. Then I saw why...

Another Red Kite!

This one flew in low from the north, circled a few times directly over the house, drifted off west/northwest before circling again over Couchill Woods with a Buzzard. Here it obviously found a good thermal as it gained height rapidly.

Early afternoon, a look along the Estuary produced little but two Med Gulls again north of Coronation Corner, a first-year and an adult summer. The adult was definitely the same bird that was here last Friday as it has a metal ring on its right leg, so I guess there's a good chance the first-year is the same one too...

Both the Meds

A stroll from Black Hole Marsh to Colyford Common platform mid afternoon produced only a pair of Wheatear and the male Ruff still on Colyford Marsh. Later on in the evening from 'the farm gate', a few Sand Martins over Colyford Marsh (less than ten) were accompanied by my first Swallow of 2011. Just up the road, the Bewick's Swan was still with Mute Swans opposite Stedcombe Vale.

Now to moths, and on Saturday morning I was treated to a three figure catch! Moth numbers seem to be well up this year; in 2010 I didn't get more than a hundred moths in a night until the 4th June!

My catch of 110 moths included 13 species - one of these was new for the garden...

The Satellite

The rest of the catch looked like this (new species for the year in blue):

37 Common Quaker
28 Small Quaker
9 Early Grey
9 Clouded Drab
8 Hebrew Character
6 Oak Beauty
4 Twin-spot Quaker
4 Double-striped Pug
1 Powdered Quaker
1 March Moth
1 Shoulder-stripe
1 Brindled Pug

So all in all, I've had a good few days :-)

Friday, 25 March 2011

A Wader Day

Although I haven't had much birding time today, I only needed to have bothered with the first two minutes!

My first port of call was 'the farm gate' just north of Axmouth, where I was over looking an ever rising tide on the river. Almost as soon as I put my eye to the telescope, there was a huge male Ruff picking about in river side vegetation, with an adult Ringed Plover poking about on the mud near by. Then the calls of a Grey Plover rung out, and one flew through my scope view heading down river, landing just out of sight. This wader excitement warranted a text out, and Gav duly responded - although his main target was not on show (the Grey Plover - a scarce visitor to our little Estuary).

I drove to the next gateway down nearer Axmouth, from here two Med Gulls (a first-year and a stunning adult summer) were loafing with the Black-heads, and on the little remaining mud, six Dunlin, and both the Ringed and Grey Plovers...

Waders from either of these two gateways are always distant - hence the rubbish photo!

I don't know if Gav did 'connect' with this valuable year tick in the end; I phoned him several times, sent another text, and when I drove back to 'the farm gate' - he was gone!

So as the first paragraph suggests, I have nothing else to really say about any of the other birding I've done today. But I shall pad this post out a little more with a photo from Lower Bruckland Ponds...

A Coot!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Good Weather For Kite Flying

A few hours at Colyford Common/Black Hole Marsh this morning was lightened up no end when a Red Kite came flying north over the reserves just before 9am....

Clearly an immature bird (a first summer/second cal year)

It was easily the lowest flying one I've ever seen on patch- passing just above tree top height. I didn't get my camera on it until it was flying away, the views shortly before I took this photo were just exceptional - of Gigrin Farm quality!

The only other bird of note here was a single (and invisible) Golden Plover over at 8am.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Mixed Day

The day didn't start all that well...

I had just had my windscreen replaced thanks to the nice men from Autoglass (£75 - ouch!). There I was sat waiting for the glue to dry, being a good boy doing as I was told....

First came a text from Kev Rylands 'I'm at Portland, at least 100 Wheatears here'...

About three minutes later came a text from Karen 'Male Ring Ouzel Beer Head in the Dell'...

SOD THE GLUE - I WAS GONE...

Ten minutes later I was at Beer Head with Ian Mc. Karen was nowhere to be seen - but thankfully the male Ring Ouzel was! It only showed briefly, but it was nice and close - only the third spring Ouzel I've ever seen on patch! There were several Wheatears (including my first females) dotted about, and Meadow Pipits were heading north in small flocks quite frequently.

The Monarch of the Dell!

All this migration action fired me right up I can tell you - I was up for some excellent spring birding so decided to head to the Estuary and marshes for the rest of my birding day. This included two visits to Blackhole and Seaton Marshes, single visits to Colyford Common and Lower Bruckland Ponds, two looks out to sea, and two jaunts along the Estuary..... I saw absolutely naff all!

Well when I say naff all, that doesn't include the Hoopoe that's still present in Axmouth. I had two drives around Axmouth Camp Site today, the first one drew a blank, but I struck lucky on visit number two...

One sexy bird!

I'll end this post with a short, and rather uninspiring video of it. I do love the way they move though...

Monday, 21 March 2011

Hoopoe!

As I'm sure you will have seen by now from other local blogs, this afternoon we were graced by a (twitchable!) Hoopoe. A nice pre-work distraction - and certainly worthy of a second blog post :-)

As you will also have already read, Bun's nephew found it in Axmouth, whilst walking home from his school bus. The local grapevine worked well, with almost all patch birders on site within twenty minutes!

At first, although we all saw it, the views were quite frustrating...

In coming!

Until it landed long enough for me to rattle off three (very distant) shots...

At least in this photo it is identifiable!

It quickly flew up and off though, and went missing for another twenty minutes. The assembled birders spread out a little, then all of a sudden, Bun relocated it on a small lawn right in the middle of us...

A little closer

It remained here for a minute or two before flying over the main road. A little later though, after I'd left, it was back in roughly the same spot.

Hopefully this is a 'taster' of the spring ahead of us....

A Foggy Morning

I woke up to thick fog today, but still thought the reserves would be worth a look over. Bird of the morning was the Ringed Plover on Black Hole Marsh. As it was the first one on patch this year, I deemed a record shot was necessary...

Can you see it!??

A single Sand Martin at Lower Bruckland Ponds, and several singing Chiffchaffs dotted about were the only summer migrants I've seen today.

This was always going to be a short post, but I'll pad it out a little more with a photo of a Blackbird that posed nicely for me and my Lumix on Seaton Marshes...

Pity it wasn't an Ouzel!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Some Big News!

Well, the major talking point today is the preliminary results of the DNA sequencing of the grey and white Yellow Wagtail present at Colyton WTW last December. I've posted the full details on the Devon Bird News blog for all to read: http://devonbirdnews.blogspot.com/2011/03/colyford-yellow-wagtail-uk-first.html

This post is going to have to be a quickie, as I'm of to work shortly. I spent a bit of time out and about today, new birds seen include eight Sand Martins at Lower Bruckland Ponds and a Bar-tailed Godwit on the Estuary...

Taken in the pouring rain

'Hangers on' include the Bewick's Swan and Greylag Goose opposite Stecombe, and four Velvet Scoters still off Seaton Hole.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Axmouth FC

As readers of this blog will know, the flood/semi-permanent scrape opposite Axmouth FC has been a favoured spot of mine during the past five or six months. Continuous checking of it throughout the late autumn period eventually produced the goods with the patch's first Long-billed Dowitcher. There always seemed to be plenty of common birds on it, and as well as the Dowitchter, some cracking scarcities with four Whooper Swans, two Ruff, two Water Pipits and a Lapland Bunting all seen here.

So it is with great sadness I report that the end of this super habbo is near. I am still checking it often, but each day the water levels are getting lower and lower. This is how it looked today...

Soon to be just mud I'm sure!

The whole point of this post though was to say 'it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings!'. Over the last two days, although I've done very little birding, this is the only place I have seen any summer migrants!

Yesterday my third Wheatear of 2011, another stunning male, was hopping about in the grass behind the remaining scrapes. And today, a cracking male White Wagtail was with the flock of Pied Wags feeding on the fast drying mud.

So is there time for one more surprise on this bonus bit of habbo that has served us so well?....

Saturday, 12 March 2011

A Day (And A Post) With A Bit Of Everything

Today has been a day of a bit of everything! Gardening, visits to the local tip, shopping (well Argos anyway!), county recorder work, watching sport, birding and mothing!! I shall start with the latter...

This morning I was very pleased with my 35 moths of 6 species. This included no new species for the garden, but several (in blue) were new for the year...

22 Common Quaker
5 Twin-spotted Quaker
3 Hebrew Character
2 Oak Beauty
2 Early Grey
1 Small Quaker

Here are a couple of pics...

Oak Beauty - one of my early spring favourites :-)

Examples of the three species of Quaker, I'm sure you can work out which one is Twin-spotted and which one is Small!?

The birding today hasn't been too exciting, a first-year Med Gull on the Estuary and a drake Gadwall on Blackhole Marsh being the best it got...

Distant - but still exciting.....yeah?

I'm ashamed to say it, but yesterday was the first time I'd been to Blackhole Marsh since a whole load of work has taken place here. We have a new...

...car park

...field studies centre - very posh it is indeed!

....and track, though this won't be opened until the new hide is up and running

To make up for that shockingly bad photo of the drake Gadwall above, here's a pic of a male Wigeon taken on the Estuary yesterday. Just for interest, this is the original photo...

Good old Lumix, you just have to do what it 'says on the tin' - point and shoot!

But then, after a bit of 'playing', I can post this....

This is why I love my Lumix even more - you can crop ruthlessly and still get a decent enough image!

Since my Sand Martins the other day, there has been little more evidence of the imminent spring, although in the garden a male Blackcap has been singing well over the past couple of days - very pleasant. Whilst talking about the garden, I must mention that I've just been watching a Marsh Tit out the front room windows - a very scarce and highly irregular visitor to our garden.

This weekend it is the Grizzly race, an annual cross country run which starts and ends in Seaton. So I have been in a bit of sporty mood today, and whilst out and about this afternoon, couldn't help thinking how any one out 'being sporty' and 'fit' should be prepared as dull rain clouds were encroaching fast. So when I saw
this chap cycle past...


I just couldn't help but analyse his 'gear'. I personally give this keen (and I have to say very quick!) cyclist 9/10....

If you can't read the writing, click on the image to enlarge it

And why not 10/10? Well, I think he could do with a red woolly hat ;-)

Thursday, 10 March 2011

More Summer Migrants!

A quick look about late this morning revealed two Sand Martins at Lower Bruckland Ponds. I always find it tricky to photo hirundines, especially in dull light, and these two never came that low. Still....

...here's one of them! You can see what it is at least!

Also saw a couple of adult summer Med Gulls on the Estuary and the Bewick's Swan still opposite Stedcombe Vale.

The Tesco building site has been mentioned on the other local birding blogs recently, so I must say something about it on here......there you go - that was it!

I have got to post this photo though. This chap was sat on this chair for the whole half hour I was along the Estuary yesterday, he was probably sat there all day! He must have the easiest job in the world...

Mind you - it doesn't look all that much fun! I wonder if he is guarding whatever is in those white bags!?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Spring; Day One

A quick check of BirdGuides early afternoon today showed news of four Wheatears on Portland Bill - after seeing this, an afternoon stroll over Beer Head immediately became a necessity!

For a couple of springs, I was really lucky with early Wheatears and bagged them on my first Beer Head visit of the year. But over the last couple of years, my luck has changed drastically, with several blank mid and late March visits to our migrant hotspot. Was today going to see a change in fortune again...?

Whilst scanning over a field near the end of Beer Head, a bird caught the corner of my eye as it flew close past me. My next binocular view looked like this...

This is the sight I always long to see after a winter of birding!

TWO stonking male Wheatears :-) I didn't want to get too close to them, so no cracking photos I'm afraid, but here's a couple of distant efforts courtesy of the Lumix...

Bliss, total and utter bliss!

These two beasts weren't just my first Wheatears of 2011, but also the earliest ones I have ever seen on patch!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Exe Estuary Boat Trip

I was hoping to write this post yesterday at the latest, but this is the first chance I've had. I should really be out looking for a Sand Martin - but can't face the disappointment of not seeing one - some would say "how pessimistic!", I say "just being realistic!"

Before I write about Saturday afternoon, the night before was the first night of the Garden Moth Scheme. I woke up to a car with a layer of ice over the windows, and a sharp frost on the lawns, so I was somewhat surprised to find five moths in the trap! Four were Common Quakers, but the fifth was another new species for the garden...

March Moth; the female is flight-less

Saturday afternoon, as the post title suggests I joined my old man who provides the commentary for the Stuart Line bird watching cruises on the River Exe. The skies were grey, but it wasn't as cold as expected and I had a thouroughly enjoyable three plus hours on board the Tudor Rose.

I'll use photos to tell the tale of the trip....

The 'Tudor Rose' is the smaller boat used by Stuart Line, they usually use the larger 'Pride of Exmouth' for these trips. She is currently undergoing a service on the edge of the Estuary...


The Tudor Rose is still a lovely vessel though...


With a very comfortable and warm downstairs...


Complete with a very complete bar...


As I was with the 'expert guide', we boarded the boat first. Here are all the punters excitably waiting to join us...


Then they were allowed on, full house...


We set sail from Exmouth Docks at 13:30, and headed south to the river mouth...


And we carried on going south along Exmouth sea front...


The tide was crazily low, so we spent a fair bit of time down the lower part of the Estuary/the sea! There were vast sand bars and mussle beds exposed becuase of the low tide, this is looking NORTH towards Dawlish Warren. Yes, this could normally be described as 'the sea'...


And whilst out here, we had our first glimpse of the 'rivals'. The RSPB also do these Exe Estuary cruises, and funnily enough Saturday's one was being lead by my mate Ed...


We turned around, then began heading back north, passing Dawlish Warren sea front...


Then Warren Point...


And along past the Bite and Dawlish Warren hide...


Here we started noticing waders, with flocks of Bar-tailed Godwits on the shore along with a few Turnstone and Sanderling, and on the water good numbers of Shags...


Heading up past Starcross and Cockwood, about six Greenshank fed on the edge of the Estuary, and I picked out the wintering Long-tailed Duck with a couple of female Goldeneye though the trio remained very distant. We then passed the very grand Powderham Castle...


A decent flock of Brent Geese were here on the water's edge, though soon flew over towards Exminster Marshes...


As we approached Turf Lock...


A nice Slav Grebe popped up next to the boat...


And gave the opportunity of taking a photo of a Slav Grebe and a Curlew in the same frame, something I have always dreamed of!!?!...


When we got to the area where the Clyst Estuary flows into the Exe...


A cracking female Scaup offered good views...


Red-breasted Merganers were common throughout the trip, so had to take at least one photo of some...


It was from here that we started seeing really good numbers of waders, including plenty of 'the bird' many people come on this boat to see...


Grey Plovers, Dunlin, and Black-tailed Godwit were the most numerous waders up here, though surprisingly few Knot. A large flock of Blackwits were feeding in an area of cut reeds...


We got to Topsham, where the turn around point is...


Then headed back down river, and docked back in at Exmouth at 16:50. A very enjoyable trip, it was great to see so many places I've been birding before from a different perspective!

Well I hope this post hasn't bored you too much, and maybe it has inspired you to try this trip out for yourself. If you do STILL need convincing though, I have four words that just may do just that... home made minestrone soup! :-)