Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Patch List Doubles

Yesterday morning, the list of birds that I've only seen in a deceased state on patch, doubled!

A Puffin that Phil found washed up on Seaton Beach on a stormy winters day many many years ago has long been the only bird I've seen dead on patch but never alive. Well that was until yesterday, when Bun noticed a small brown bird lying life-less on the edge of Park Road in Beer...

A Quail! The lack of any black on throat identifies it as a female

What a surprising find - which proves these miniature game birds do pass through our patch. As you can see from the photos, it was in good nick, so before I laid it to rest in the deep freeze, I got my rulers and callipers out...

All measurements in mm and weight in grams:

Wing length 113
Head and bill 35.7
Bill (from feathering) 8.1
Bill (from skull) 11.2
Tarsus 29.5
Middle toe 26
Tail 39
Weight 97.1

Friday, 20 May 2011

The Unexpected

As I wandered along the track towards the Black Hole Marsh 'island hide', my head was going through all the birds that could be in front of the hide.... Black-winged Stilt, Temminck's Stint, Collared Pratricole, Gull-billed or Whiskered Tern, Bonaparte's Gull, Citrine Wag.... etc etc....

If I did find one of the above birds - yes it would have been a wonderful surprise, but I would have been half expecting it.

Anyway, there was one Dunlin asleep on one of the gravel islands. I then turned to the largest gravel island...

Hmmmm...is that a grey Goose in the middle there?

As soon as I got on it my brain just thought 'oh it's bound to be a Greylag'. But then I noticed the black belly bars - at which point it stuck its head up...

An adult White-fronted Goose!

So although it is nowhere near as rare or appreciated (and maybe wild!?) as any of the birds I was thinking about finding here today - it was one massive surprise! And that is one of the reasons why I think birding - and patch birding in particular - is just so bloody brilliant!

A look over Colyford Marsh revealed just four Whimbrel of interest. Then at half ten, the 'wink wink' of a White-fronted Goose caught my attention...

I got some excellent flight views

He flew up and down the valley a couple of times, before appearing to land on or near Seaton Marshes.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Spring Is Fading Fast...

Colyford Scrape this morning had two Ringed Plover and six Dunlin on it. Which although poor - is twice as good as yesterday morning!

In May most years we get flocks of Dunlin in three figures on the Estuary - but not this year! It really has been woefully poor for wading birds this month - I think the distinct lack of rain has a lot to do with it. The beach is usually a really good place for resting spring migrant wading birds - I've 'endured' several morning beach walks over the past few weeks and haven't seen a single wader!

Anyway that is more than enough negativity from me in this post, so here are a few snaps I've taken over the past couple of days... (yes you can tell it is quiet because I am pointing my camera at these birds!)...

Three breeding plumage Little Egrets acquiring breakfast outside Colyford Common hide yesterday

How exciting - a Canada Goose!!

A Mistle Thrush collecting food in Axmouth - a nice juicy caterpillar and a worm for its chicks

A singing male Yellowhammer at Axmouth

Last night I had a moth trap out in that back garden, a few more new species for the year were amongst the 34 moths of 13 species...

1 Red Twin-spot Carpet
1 Silver-ground Carpet
1 Scalloped Hazel
1 Peppered Moth
2 Poplar Hawkmoth
1 Elephant Hawkmoth
2 Orange Footman
2 Shuttle-shaped Dart
9 Heart and Dart
1 Hebrew Character
1 Ingrailed Clay
8 Trebble Lines
6 Vine's Rustic

Elephant Hawkmoth

Ingrailed Clay

Off to work for me now - something I seem to be doing too much of, of late...

Saturday, 14 May 2011

It's Not Over Until The Spot Flies Are In

Spot Flies are one of the last summer migrants to pass through the south coast in the spring. So the sight of five flycatching in the fields behind Beer Cemetery this afternoon was both excellent and sad!

They were all in the same area - in fact all five were in this view....

This part was sheltered from the NW wind

And this was the closest of the five

The wader situation in the valley seems to be a bit dire at the moment, despite some superb habbo. Yesterday nine Dunlin and five Blackwits were on Colyford Marsh, with just three of each there tonight....but very little else!

Had a moth trap out last night, and caught 37 moths of 13 species. They were...

1 Ruddy Carpet (photo below)
1 Brimstone
3 Muslin Moth
1 Flame Shouler
4 Shuttle-shaped Dart
9 Heart and Dart
1 Bright-line Brown-eye
1 Light Brocade
1 The Shears
1 Hebrew Character
1 Marbled Minor
9 Treble Lines
4 Vine's Rustic
Only the second I've ever caught in the garden

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

False Hope

I haven't been up Beer Head for weeks - but this morning's total cloud cover and lack of wind lured me up there after covering over my moth trap...

Literally the first bird I saw when I got out of my car was this...

Wheatear!

Now this filled me with hope that the whole of Beer Head was going to be dripping with late spring migrants and that this Beer Head visit was going to be one fantastic idea...... or not.

All that went into the notebook besides the Wheatear were a few passing Swifts, Swallows and House Martins, one Willow Warbler and three singing (so probably breeding) Whitethroats.

The only other birding I've done today was an early afternoon look along the Estuary and over Black Hole and Colyford Marshes. All I saw were five Dunlin, two Teal and....well actually - that was it of interest!

So back to my moth trap, and this morning I had 35 moths of 18 species...

3 Buff-tip
1 Cream Wave
1 Brown Silver-line
1 Brimstone
2 Muslin Moth
1 White Ermine
1 Eyed Hawkmoth
1 Poplar Hawkmoth
2 Flame Shoulder
1 Large Yellow Underwing
7 Heart and Dart
1 Shuttle-shaped Dart
1 Common Quaker
4 Vine's Rustic
1 Setaceous Hebrew Character
1 Lychnis
5 Treble Lines
1 Nut-tree Tussock

Eyed Hawkmoth

The first of many hundreds (if not thousands) of Large Yellow Underwing that I will catch this year!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

An Impromptu Moth Night

With all the scarce immigrant moths turning up in the UK at the moment, and as the conditions seemed quite good last night, I put the trap out in the front garden.

No Patton's Tiger or Purple Cloud for me I'm afraid (well, no immigrants at all!) - but the 21 moths of 13 species did include my second ever White Spot for the garden...

Nine days earlier than last year's specimen

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

2 Common Carpet
1 Double-striped Pug
1 Buff-tip
1 Peppered Moth
1 Lobster Moth
1 Scalloped Hazel
2 Shuttle-shaped Dart
3 Heart and Dart
3 Treble Lines
3 Common Quaker
1 Vine's Rustic
1 Marbled Minor

I've had no time for birding today - but to be honest it doesn't 'feel' like I'm missing much at all!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Still No Poms - But Some Nice Moths!

Well I've given the sea as much effort as I could afford today - but to no great avail. I sea watched; 06:00 - 07:00, 08:00 - 08:30, 11:00 - 12:15 and 16:45 - 17:30. I did most of these from the Spot On Kiosk, except the late morning stint when I watched from Seaton Hole.

As the day went on the conditions got better and better, but the birding didn't! All that went in the notebook from these watches were...

62 Gannets E
25 Manxies W (one flock)
3 Kittiwake W
6 Sandwich Tern (2 E, 4 W)
1 Common Tern W
7 Razorbill
4 Black-headed Gull E

Yes it really was THAT bad!

As well as the sea watching, I managed a sweep along the Estuary which was rather fruitless, but an early evening visit to Black Hole Marsh was a bit better. 150 Swallow, 80 Swift and 60 House Martin were feeding over the lagoon - and all went up when my first Hobby of 2011 came bolting through. On the water, a drake Shoveler was a tad unusual for this time of year, but despite my best efforts - no Temminck's Stints yet. I see one place in Notts has got five of these little beasts - that's just greedy!

Now to moths, and last night the catch was smaller than I was expecting, with just 37 moths this morning - but the 19 species included a stonking new for the garden...

Puss moth - what a beauty!!!

The rest of the catch looked like this:

1 Red-twin Spot Carpet
1 Common Marbled Carpet
1 Brimstone
1 Waved Umber
1 Peppered Moth
1 Pale Tussock
1 White Ermine
1 Orange Footman
7 Shuttle-shaped Dart
2 Heart and Dart
7 Common Quaker
2 Bright-line Brown-eye
1 Hebrew Character
5 Treble Lines
1 Clouded-bordered Brindle
1 Light Brocade
1 Spectacle
1 Dark Spectacle

As ever the species in blue are new for the year, and here's a few photos of some of them...

Spectacle and (a rather early) Dark Spectacle

Light Brocade

Clouded-bordered Brindle

Bet you any money - whilst I'm at work tomorrow morning - flock of Poms will be parading up and down the beach!

Friday, 6 May 2011

A Long Awaited Birding Update

Time to get this 'birding blog' back up to date.... and to be honest that won't take much because besides the birding highlights I've already blogged about (including the 'plastic' White Stork!), I haven't seen all that much!

It has been a bit of an odd spring for us (again!). Very few 'good birding days' with lots of migrants about - but the potential has always been sky high with excellent rarity conditions and other sites turning up some cracking birds.

I was gutted to miss the monster flock of Pale-bellied Brents that flew from Portland Harbour to Dawlish Warren on 16th April. They did indeed fly past here, but while I was making a cup of tea - I had been waiting for them for two hours and at THAT moment felt my thirst needed dealing with! There were two small flocks of Brents sat on the sea totalling 36 birds, but that wasn't much compensation for a flock of 220+....

They were pale-bellied, honest!

With regard to the sea, for me this has been poor and very uninspiring this spring. I wish I had more time to look over it within the past week with these strong easterlies, but we have just lacked the much needed wet weather and blustery southerly winds. The odd Common Tern, a few small flocks of Manxies, a couple of Whimbrel and a Ringed Plover is all I can report.

Wader passage picked up at the start of this week, on Tuesday morning on Colyford Marsh there were: three Barwits (two in stonking summer plumage), six Blackwits, one Greenshank, two Ruff (females), nine Dunlin and a lovely Wood Sandpiper (my second of the spring - an Axe first for me!). Black Hole Marsh I have to say has been very disappointing - the water levels look ideal and have done now for several weeks, but birds just aren't interested in it!!

Now to passerine migrants, which as I've said already have been rather few and far between for me. I suppose my highlight was a Grasshopper Warbler which after reeling for a few minutes, showed really well for about a minute on the edge of a bramble bush at Black Hole Marsh.

I got a couple of year ticks on Wednesday morning this week, with a Yellow Wagtail over Colyford Common and a very vocal Lesser Whitethroat singing from bushes alongside the tramline adjacent to Coronation Corner. The Lesserthroat was still singing there this morning, and can be easily heard from the road alongside the Axe Estuary - when there are no passing cars that is!

Swifts are now frequent over the town - they seem to have taken their time coming in this year. I saw my first only three days ago!

The hedges between Axmouth and Rousdon are packed full of Whitethroats as ever, as are the reeds and shrubs in the valley of singing Sedge and Reed Warblers...

Sedge Warbler at Black Hole Marsh

And to finish this long awaited post, I just had to point my camera at this stonker...

A fine male Reed Bunting

Monday, 2 May 2011

Three Moth Nights

Well it's high time I got this blog back on track really isn't it!? So I shall tidy up all my mothing news since my return from Scotland (which seems like ages ago!)

There has been three Fridays since Scotland, so that's three nights of mothing for me.

During the night of the 15th I caught 40 moths of 14 species, and they were:

1 Scorched Carpet
1 Water Carpet
3 Double-striped Pug
2 Brimstone
2 Early Thorn
6 Brindled Beauty
1 Muslin Moth
1 Small Quaker
11 Common Quaker
3 Clouded Drab
1 Twin-spotted Quaker
7 Hebrew Character
1 Mullein Moth
2 Early Grey

Mullein Moth

Water Carpet

The variation in Brindled Beauties!

On the 22nd I caught 32 moths of 15 species...

1 Garden Carpet
1 Small Phoenix
1 Small Rivulet
1 V-Pug
2 Double-striped Pug
1 Waved Umber
4 Brimstone
1 Lunar Marbled Brown
1 Shuttle-shaped Dart
1 Flame Shoulder
8 Common Quaker
1 Clouded Drab
6 Hebrew Character
1 Early Grey
2 Nut-tree Tussock

And finally on the 29th I trapped 17 moths of 13 species...

1 Common Swift
1 Red Twin-spot Carpet
1 Garden Carpet
2 Common Carpet
1 Waved Umber
2 Brimstone
1 Poplar Hawkmoth
1 Pale Tussock
1 Heart and Dart
1 Shuttle-shaped Dart
1 Common Quaker
2 Hebrew Character
2 Nut-tree Tussock

Poplar Hawkmoth

Common Swift

To round off all my insect news, I've had several looks around Lower Bruckland Ponds during the past few weeks hoping for a Vagrant Emperor or two - I've found Lesser Emp here so would love to complete the set! So far I have had no luck (and was VERY gripped tonight when I looked HERE), although there are good numbers of Odonata on the wing.

The highlight of my visits here was actually a butterfly - this Dingy Skipper...

A site first for me

I really hope I get to see a nice spring Pom this year... I suppose it would help if I actually looked at the sea though...