Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Last Two Days

I shall start with yesterday, and I spent most the afternoon along the Estuary - where better to be when it's wet and windy!

Just so I don't bore people yet, I'll start with the waders, and I saw the Spotted Redshank (which now seems to be hanging out in front of Seaton Hide), a Common Sandpiper (drat!), three (maybe four?) Barwits still and 35 Dunlin.

Amongst the gulls I chalked up six Med Gulls, and guess what lucky blog readers?... I managed to photograph four of them...

3 ads and a second winter

A fourth adult and another second-winter remained un photographed as they were way north of Coronation Corner.

'Gavs warbler' called a few times in quick succession from the same large garden (known as Pallas's Garden to me!) that he heard it in a couple of days ago. I spent the next half an hour looking and listening for it but to no avail. Bloody bird! It did sound good, but from what I heard I couldn't rule out an Eastern(ish)/dodgy Chiffy.

And now to today, and I went down to Colyford Marsh this morning for high tide...

It was quite a high one too!

There were still 7 Greylags on the marsh, with a zillion Canada nearby. The highlight though was a very vocal Grey Plover that flew in and landed briefly beside the scrape. Nice - but not the 'Grey P' I was after...

I only had my Lumix with me, and it was raining - hence the crappy pic!

And that's about it really! Although I should take this opportunity to sum up my garden ringing over the past week. It has been good really, whenever I've had the net open I've been getting a steady flow of birds. The highlight was this...

A VERY fat 1w male Blackcap

There were many pointers as to why this was a first winter bird (aged 3), though the brown flecks visible in and around the black crown was probably the most straight forward way of telling...

Interesting to see a slight hook-tipped bill, can't say I noticed that in the hand

And that's a wrap - as they say.

Monday, 28 November 2011

What Links The Axe Estuary And Rutland Water?

The answer is....a White-rumped Sandpiper!

It was sometime last week, and I was aimlessly browsing the interweb, clicking from blog to blog, and I came across Username's blog;

http://username-beast.blogspot.com/

And I just happened to see this post here;

http://username-beast.blogspot.com/2011/10/rubythroats-n-local-stuff.html.

Which has this photo in it...


White-rumped Sandpiper Rutland Water (c) 'Username'

....I recognise this bird!!!

I quickly fired up BirdGuides and checked some dates, and surprise surprise, the Rutland Water
White-rumped Sandpiper was last seen on Sunday 6th November - the day before I found one on the Axe.

I have since been emailing various bloggers and photographers, and I am now convinced it is indeed the very same bird. There are several features that seem to match exactly, including the patterning of moulted (grey) and umoulted (much darker) wing feathers (coverts and tertials) and scapulars. The head pattern, breast and flank streaking is also exactly the same.

Other features include a dark mark on the body where the wing joins, and a couple of odd streaks or marks on the lower flanks. These are all pointed out (along with some of the obvious similarities in the scaps/coverts) here...

Please click to enlarge

The left hand picture is a still taken from a video clip filmed by 'The Drunkbirder' of the bird at Rutland. The right hand photo is one of mine.

The main problem I had when comparing the two birds, is that the photos of the Rutland bird were pretty much all excellent! Whereas all the photos of our bird were 'record shots' at best. (No offence to any of our patch photographers - the light was truly awful).

If you want to see some excellent pics of the Rutland White-rumped Sand, look here...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/matthewberriman/6273864694/in/photostream/ (go left and right to see more)

http://seeswoodpool.blogspot.com/2011/10/18th-october-2011.html

I would like to thank all who have helped me from 'up north', in particular Dave Hutton, Colin Towe and John Hague. As a thankyou there will always be a link to your blogs from mine - oooohhhh I bet you are overjoyed at that ;-)

Actually, The Drunkbirder has written his own post about it, which can be found HERE.

Right, time to go out birding....

Saturday, 26 November 2011

No Birding = A Devon Atlas Plea Post

If you read the Devon Bird News Blog, then you should have already have seen this. If not, then have a read....

As many will know, the BTO Bird Atlas survey period is now over. All the data is in and the guys at Thetford I'm sure are busy sorting it all out. BUT.... Devon still needs YOU!

We still have two years of surveying left for the Devon Bird Atlas - a Bird Atlas for Devon has not been published since 1988 (Sitters, H.P.), and this is your chance to get involved for the brand spanking new addition!

There are two ways you can help with the surveying...

1/ Roving records:

These are just casual bird sightings that can be entered. Now fear not, if you already submit records in to Bird Track or to the DBWPS - which I hope is everyone :-) - then you have to do nothing more, as all these records will automatically get uploaded into the Atlas database. If not, then see our website about how to help.

2/ TTV's:

Just like the National BTO survey, Times Tetrad Visits are required (two winter, two summer). Many Tetrads have been allocated and completed, but there are still a worrying amount still to be done - we only have TWO YEARS LEFT!

More information on what Tetrads have been done/still need doing can be found on the website. Please do do DO check as you may well live IN or NEAR TO a Tetrad that still needs completing.

We do REALLY need your help, as so many common breeding species are missing from so many Tetrads. I am as guilty as anyone for not recording or reporting the common breeding species, but for The Atlas we NEED THESE RECORDS.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Lyme Black Red Update (Updated!)

Well I was planning to go to Chew Valley Lake today, it took me an hour to get to Chard, and I couldn't really be arsed so was thinking about turning back. See, I told you I was the world's worst twitcher!

Anyway, the final straw came when Mike Langman phoned me, expressing interest in that Black Red - I'm glad at least one person reads my blog! (cheers Matt ;-0)... Anyway, I headed for Lyme Regis instead!

It didn't take long until I saw it, but it was bloody elusive at times and could be a right bugger to pin down. I somehow flukily managed a pic of the underwing coverts though! And when I looked at the pici on my camera screen they looked nicely orange, but when I got home and got them up on my laptop, as you can see below they aren't much more than buffy. Still, it is a very interesting bird, and nice to see it causing some interest this afternoon....

But is it the real McCoy?

Unfortunately not one of my pics show the wing formula - which apparently would pretty much clinch it. Drat!

As well as the obvious, there's another thing I think looks just a bit odd with it - its head and face. I can't quite put my finger on what, but there's something 'not typical Black Red' about it.

UPDATE: I have a picture, and a cracking one at that, from Dave Helliar, which shows the primaries...

I think this rules out a hybrid doesn't it!??

Monday, 21 November 2011

Off Patch Antics

I tried again for the Spotted Sandpiper at Lyme this morning, and scored! It was on the lower rocks just east of the mouth of the Lim. It could have been a lot closer, but I had to make do...

So should be on our patch!

And here's a quick video...


Looks so out of place!

After this, a look around the patch showed very little new. Although it was nice to see this huge flock of Fieldfares, Redwings and Starlings near Axmouth...

If you enlarge this photo, you will see all the dots on the tree tops - and they are all birds!

I then spent the rest of my day with my head buried in my laptop - it just had to be done!

Yesterday, I enjoyed a splendid day with Pat around his patch - Prawle Point. He really is the 'guru' of patch birders! Here on the Axe, we can pop out for a swift look along the Estuary, and return home within the hour to enjoy tea and cakes.... When Pat steps out the door, he's gone for at least ten hours (17 in the summer!).

Don't jump - there will be another Dartford Warbler this year I'm sure!

Although it was a quiet day for birds, it's easy to see why Pat makes the effort - what a place, just oooozing with potential. It's been proved too, with the tremendous list of birds that this place boasts.

The scenery ain't bad either...

Looking west and east

And the sunrise was rather nice...

Morning :-)

The best of what we did see were three Water Pipits (on a beach - not typical Water Pipit habitat - apparantly!), a Brambling (although we didn't actually see it), and for me anyway, about a hundred of these...

Easy to take these for granted down here, they are literally everywhere!

Sadly it really did and does feel like autumn is over though...

That Black Red

There will be a much longer post later today, with my exploits of the last few days. But I've just had a look on bird forum, where Roger Boswell has posted a much better photo of the Black Red I photographed the other day at Lyme Regis....

http://www.birdforum.net/attachment.php?attachmentid=357580&d=1321811849

It really does have quite a russet-looking belly!

Its clearly a 1st winter bird, presumably a male. Is it one of the less obvious (female-type male) phoenicuroides, a hybrid, or just an 'odd looking' bog standard Black Red!? Discuss.....

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Frustration...

Yesterday wasn't a good day! The Desert Wheatear that was meant to land on Seaton beach, didn't - and a Spotted Sandpiper well and truly stuck two primaries up at us as it was feeding on the rocks at Lyme Regis (and looks like it has been for several weeks!). Let's just hope the Spotted Sand does what none of the wintering Purple Sandpipers ever have...

The best yesterday had to offer me was this...

A Black Swan with the Stedcombe Mute flock - still present today. Oh dear!

Today I had just over an hour out this morning, this is when the real frustration came! Whilst walking through the boats at Axe Yacht Club I glimpsed a Wheatear....

Shortly after I spotted it perched up in full view....

And....

It.....

Was....

A....

Bloody Northern Wheatear. Bugger.

You ****!

The Brents and Greylags were still on Colyford Marsh, and there were at least 24 Dunlin on the Estuary.

This afternoon I had a gig in Lyme Regis, so I headed over a little earlier to get an eye full of this Spot Sand. It's a well known fact I am the worst twitcher, and five minutes before I got there it flew off over to the end of the Cobb, and I didn't have time to walk round and see it.

Oh well, a stonking male Black Redstart was nice compensation though...

Stunner!

After the gig I had another look, despite the fact it was getting on for dusk. The Spot Sand hadn't come back, but there was now a female-type Black Red on the rocks...

It was dark so these pics are a bit shabby!

Is it my eyes or does the lower pic make the bird look like it has a rusty breast/belly? I have to say I didn't notice it in the field, so I presume it is something to do with the dreadful light, and nothing to do with the fact it could have come from a long way east!

I'm a bit concerned by the urges I felt today to go to Chew Valley Lake. Maybe if I look at this photo of Lyme Regis at dusk for a bit it might sort me out...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

A Much Needed Patch Update

Well I've got a few days to talk about in this post. And because today has produced the best bird, I'll start here and work backwards....

Thursday 17th

It was a non birding morning for me today, well pretty much a non birding day. But at about 10am I had a phone call from Ian Mc, he had a wader on Colyford Scrape from the hide that was ringing alarm bells. An hour later when I was almost available to twitch it, I found out it had yellow legs - but had flown off.... FLIPPING HECK!

At half 11 I was back on patch, and Gav had seen it and was convinced it was a Temminck's - Devon's first November record I believe. By the time I had got to Colyford hide all the key features had been seen.

Don't get me wrong, it is a cracking bird, with bright yellow legs, and a proper patch rarity - only our second ever. But a yellow legged stint in mid November, after the autumn that the UK has had, just a bit gutting....

Cracking bird like I said though - mustn't be ungrateful!

It's with a Lapwing flock rather oddly, and every time the birds on the scrape were flushed by a Peregrine, it always flew around with them before returning to the scrape.

Wednesday 16th

With a whole load of Desert Wheatears turning up in the UK the previous day (including a corker my mate Dave tripped over on Skomer - lucky bugger!), I just HAD to walk this first thing in the morning...

What wonderful Desert Wheatear habbo!

I walked the whole of the beach! At the very start of the walk I saw these two crackers...

Just a pity the sun didn't come out for me!

And by the end of the slog - that was still all I had seen! Oh well, it had to be done.

I then had a quick look up the estuary, and was excited when my eyes could see about seven brown blobs on Bridge Marsh...

Ooohhhh - grey geese!

Bugger it - they were Greylags! There were still 12 Brent Geese on Colyford Marsh, and about a billion Canade Geese.....well about 70!

Tuesday 15th

Today was the day I did the dirty on the patch (see my previous post!), but not until I had given the Beer Cemetery Fields a good look...

There was very little grounded, it was in the air where of the action was happening. With the south easterly wind, all vis mig was heading that way - including loads of Wood Pigeons! In just over an hour I counted 17,600...

It was quite a spectacle!

Also overhead my first Brambling of the autumn, 20 Redwing, two Fieldfare and a Mistle Thrush.

Monday 14th

I put lots of leg work in with very little to show for it, despite a couple of flocks of Redwings flying low over the house soon after dawn. My first stop was Lower Bruckland Ponds, where the previous day James Mc had seen a very grey Chiffchaff.

I had seen bugger all, and was just heading back to the car, when I could hear a tristis-type Chiff calling. It was very elusive, and I didn't get enough on it to 'tick off' all the important plumage features, but it was very grey indeed with not a hint of yellow or green. Although you wouldn't know that from the only photo I took of it...

You can barely see it I know!

As I said though, it sounded spot on - nothing like the other calling greenish Chiff that was present.

The best the river offered was a Knot with the Blackwits off Coronation Corner...

Yes another awful photo!

When I pulled up to check the Swan flock near Boshill Cross, they all took off. That was because of this...

After some dinner!

The weekend as usual was a birding free zone for me, although on the way to Kilmington on Saturday afternoon I saw a nice flock of 60+ Fieldfare near Whitford bridge.

And that's that. Hopefully I will keep on top of blogging for the remainder of the autumn. Yes - I still think there is more this autumn has to offer...

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Exe Red-breasted Goose

Apologies for the lack of recent updates, I have been out and about on patch when I've had chance. Before I headed over to the Exe yesterday I had a few hours out on patch which were rather productive, I will get up to date with my on patch sightings in another post, but this post will be all about a certain Goose...

I actually think this is as good as a Red-breasted Goose can get, especially if it proves to be the recent Dorset bird. And this is why I wanted to see it! I've been fortunate to see Dave Land's excellent photos of this bird, and when comparing them with photos of the Dorset bird (in my opinion) there seemed to be a few anomalies. So I wanted to see what it looked like in real life!

This was rather easy, as when we rolled into Darts Farm we could immediately see the Brent flock...


And very quickly found the bird...

There's no denying it is a cracking looking beast!

So did seeing it in 'real life' help? Well yes and no.....

To me, most things match the Dorset bird. The head pattern and coverts I think look ok, but the flank barring is undoubtedly different...


Now compare it to these (miles better) pics taken at Stanpit Marsh and Portland...

http://www.chog.org.uk/Rarer%20Species%20Photos/Red-breasted%20Goose.htm

http://www.portlandbirdobs.org.uk/latest_oct2011.htm

I think the left side isn't too dissimilar, but the right side does look strikingly different. But then I got thinking again....

The CHOG photos (without doubt the best) were taken almost a month ago, and surely the time difference may account for this plumage difference? Feather wear, maybe feather growth and certainly feather loss has to be taken into account - especially as it apparently got regularly beaten up by Brents at Stanpit!

So at the end of this post I can conclude that I'm not totally sure either way - although personally I 'think' it is the same bird. Forgetting about any plumage 'glitches', the movements of the Dorset bird, and the timings are massively in its favour. I know (at least some of) the CHOG boys, and the finder of it on the Fleet have it down as the same bird.

The ultimate conclusion though is that I do not think anyone can say this is 100% the same bird, but at the same time, no one can say it 100% isn't the same bird. Us birders, well actually all humans in general, like to think we can solve, resolve and conclude beyond doubt. Well in this case, I don't think we can.... So it's over to the BBRC!

Normal 'on patch birding news' blogging will be resumed within the next few days I promise....