Thursday, 31 January 2013

Where I'm At Now

I said I would tot my year list up at the end of January, so I have.

I will always keep THIS PAGE updated, which you can also get to it by clicking on '2013 Patch Year List' just above this post.  Here you will find mine and the patches running totals and lists, Steve's Patch Year List Competition and a little bit about the patch and previous patch year listing attempts.

For people who simply can't be bothered to view the other page, the overall patch total for 2013 is 119, and I'm on 112.  Only 88 to go.....

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A Fitting Way To Go

Well a heck of a lot has happened since my last blog post!  Obviously the Green-winged Teal was fantastic, and winning the Buttons has literally made my hour, but there's been one major change in my life which comes above both of these...

My 106
I've had this car since I started driving in September 2004.  110,000 miles and eight years later the time has finally come to say bye bye.  This car has been just brilliant for me, yes I have spent money on it, but it's always kept going.  I have had a few near misses, a few bumps and prangs (as you can see!) but it's never let me down.  It was the middle of last year when my garage first advised me to start thinking about getting a new motor, so I started looking around - although I was always reluctant to let the Peugeot go because of how economical its 1.5 diesel engine is. I could drive from Seaton to Spurn (320 miles) and use only 2/3rds of a tank of fuel. And whenever bits did need replacing, they were always at the cheap end of the scale.

It has been getting more unwell within the last few months though, in fact within the last few days it hasn't let me reverse!  I actually think this was the cars way of protesting at me as it knew what was coming. 

Tuesday was my last day driving in it, and on the last 'lap' of the river, and the very last pull in, I found the Green-winged Teal.  This car has so many birding memories for me - good and bad (Pacific Swift...ouch!), so I thought this was a wonderful way of ending our time together.

So, out goes the old.  And in comes the new...

Say hello to Mr Toyota!

I have always wanted and often needed a 4x4, so I have gone with the most economical of them all - a diesel Rav4.  I've just come back from Plymouth in it, and it averaged 50.6 miles per gallon, which has really impressed me.  It's much bigger than what I'm used to, but I'll get used to it! :-)

Ok - enough about cars. Bird talk now...

I just have to start with the bird that won me chocolate yesterday.  I was only out because I'd be told about a Glaucous Gull that was seen heading our way.  Earlier in the day I had been to Colyford Common (dipping Stonechat - yes I still need it for the year!) and noticed lots of gulls on a flooded Colyford Marsh, which is why I went to the 'Farm Gate'.  I was disappointed on the gull front, but that soon turned to jubilation when I panned over to the main scrape and had a look through the Teal.  A long awaited addition to the patch list, and pleasingly one that we have (almost) all seen - hope you get it Ian and Dave!

The Green-winged Teal wasn't the only year tick yesterday, I managed another one during an hour's sea watch from Beer (08:30 - 09:30).  At 09:15 a Great Northern Diver flew close west, this is the first non-Red-throated, Diver that I've seen this year (oh, except a distant larger diver sp. on Jan 2nd), but the larger Divers have been very scarce so far this year.  The full totals of my watch were:

1 Great Northern Diver
7 Red-throated Diver (5w, 1e, 1 on sea)
14 Gannet
24 Kittiwake
6 Dunlin (flew w - unusual in a mid winter sea watch)

I will admit now, as I touched upon it earlier, that I then went to Colyford Common to twitch a Stonechat.  I found out Gav had seen one here a couple of days ago during my sea watch.  I just haven't bumped into Stonechat yet this year, and yes I know I will see one, but I was hoping to get all the easy stuff before I tot my list up at the end of the month. So I went to Colyford Common, I saw a second-winter Med Gull, but no Stonechat. Probably because of this...

Flood!!!  There was in fact a Little Grebe just the left of this picture - very odd for Coly Com!

Well you know what happened next (well after an hour at home and a half hour sea watch anyway!)... Green-winged Teal.  And it's about time I pointed you all to here: http://karenwoolley.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/green-winged-teal-on-colyford-marsh.html  Superb photos too considering the distance and weather!

So that sums up yesterday. To sum up the weekend, I had a brilliant weekend off, and even squeezed in a patch year tick thanks to Phil and Karen.  I've dipped these little critters several times this year, so was very pleased to see them feasting on alders on Sunday afternoon....

They are both in here - I think I did extremely well to ensure both were out of focus!

Monday was a day of lots of patch birding - just no birds! The six Gadwall being as good as it got.

I have very limited birding time for the rest of this week and this weekend - so nothing until next week please birders!!!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Still Time For Two Ticks!

Spent the day surveying in Cornwall today, managed to get there and back no problems thankfully. 

I was back home by about 3pm, and went for a quick tour of the river valley before I returned home.  This proved a great idea as I chanced upon a very valuable year tick - Greylag Goose.  A Bean Goose would have been much better, but a Greylag for the patch year lister should never be sniffed at.  They're a bit like Pintail here really, we usually get at least one a year, but you could easily go a year without seeing one.

It spent the first ten minutes asleep...


It had obviously flown a long way to get here!

Before finally poking its head out (after a bit of encouragement!)...


Good to see my headless grey goose ID skills are still up to scratch!

Still lots of Golden Plover about, but didn't see anything else new.

After an hour or so at home, I met Jess and Bun after they'd finished work and enjoyed two very lovely Barn Owls.  We had superb views, although it was too dark to take photos. Didn't stop me trying though...


The views were alot better than it looks like they were with these photos!


After seeing my photo failures, Jess said "why not take a video?". Great idea...



 
As you can see, that worked a lot better!

So, only had about an hour out and managed two patch year ticks today. More of that please! :-)

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Aythya Action

We have finally had settled snow here in Seaton and around the Axe Estuary - it was rather odd how it happened though!

Yesterday late afternoon/evening it was snowing almost constantly, but it wasn't settling and it really didn't look like it was going too.  At about 7ish Jess and I went up to her Mum and Dad's in Colyford, we were there about half an hour, and when we came out it was a complete white-out!  We slowly drove back home and were surprised to see everything white here too...


At last!

I spent the night dreaming about all the year ticks I was going to get in the morning with all this snow around, but when I woke up almost all the snow had gone!!!  A quick look around soon after dawn was disappointing, so I headed home and buried my head in my laptop.  I noticed it had started snowing again, so mid morning I headed out again.  And boy, did it snow...

Seaton Marshes
The Borrow Pit
Golden Plover over Seaton Marshes
Bridge Marsh
Thrushes and Lapwing on Axmouth football pitch
From the Farm Gate

And I just have to post this photo.  It was really quite odd. I didn't drive past it, but when I stepped out of my car at Lower Bruckland Ponds it was just there, walking down the road...


Took me be surprise!

It was snowing so heavily it was actually pretty much unbirdable, so I came back home...

Same view as the first photo - but a different dumping of snow!

Whilst at home it was good to see a few birds in the 'garden' today - it really must have been tough going because we had a whopping six species. And not just in the garden, but eating our food too! Here's three of them...

You wait, I'll get a Dark-eyed Junco one day :-)

I spent a few hours out early afternoon when it had stopped snowing, but I didn't see anything better than a Green Sandpiper on Black Hole Marsh and about 100 Golden Plover.  After returning home, I was only back long enough to pour out but not drink my tea, when a text from Gav had me scurrying down to the Estuary to get myself a year tick...


Three sleeping Tufties

Actually, calling this post 'Aythya Action' is a bit of a misnomer. They didn't do anything other than sleep whilst I was there!  But I don't care, three sleeping Tufted Ducks = patch year tick :-)

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

An Easy One

My only year tick today was a rather easy one, Marsh Tit

There's been one regularly in Mum and Dad's garden over the past few weeks, so when I was up there earlier I spent a short while looking out the window. I saw it within about a minute!  The amazing thing is this Marsh Tit is ringed, so it surely has to be this one...

Ringed in their garden on 09/06/11. See blog post here: http://www.stevesbirdingblog.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/week-of-ringing.html

This is the only Marsh Tit I've ringed here.  After ringing it, and before Dad started seeing it a few weeks ago, we haven't seen it or any Marsh Tit once in the garden!  Also whilst looking for the Marsh Tit this afternoon I noticed a ringed female Blackcap too.  I really must get the nets back up, and find out if these are indeed 'my' birds.

Earlier today, I just had to have a sea watch because of the rather breezy southerly wind.  It looked promising with a few Gannet out there, and a few more auks.  In reality though, in the hour I gave it, four Red-throated Divers west were as good as it got.

With more snow forecasted I hope this cold spell has a few more patch year ticks to offer. Come on wildfowl - get moving!!!


Monday, 21 January 2013

Should Have Been Better

I know Gav shared my optimism about today - with freezing temperatures over night we were hoping for some wildfowl action. 

Any aythya here is a goodie; Tufted Duck is the most regular (usually get several a year), Pochard - we didn't get one last year but usually get one or two, Scaup - well the last one was at least twenty years ago, and anything else from that family would be a first for the patch!  Smew was also on my radar for today, and Goosander!!!  Bloody Goosanders.

Anyway, none of the above happened.  There did seem to be more Wigeon and Teal around today, and whilst sea watching this morning, the only slightly notable event were four Shelduck that flew in from the south and then west.

I have had several looks along the Estuary today; the wintering Bar-tailed Godwit and nine Shoveler were as good as it got. 

It's still here!

Around the top end of the river (Bridge Marsh, Boshill Cross), there's been a few Golden Plovers all day (no more than about ten), but at 15:45 there were about 800!  And an hour later, around 1,700!!! I would like to claim that epic count as mine, well 118 of them were mine - Gav counted the other 1,582!  This is easily the most I've ever seen here, they are obvious roosting or pre-roosting here.  I'll be back again tomorrow, earlier, to have a proper look through them. Caspian Plover anyone?

Had another patch walk with Jess yesterday, we went up the Coly to Colyton, then back home via Colyford. With the surrounding hills looking like this still...


 ...there were thrushes EVERYWHERE! Epic numbers, flying over and on the deck. Also several Skylark.  The alders alongside the Coly held many Goldfinches, about ten Siskins, and exactly zero Redpolls.

It's going to be freezing again tonight - hopefully this will do it! A Bittern wouldn't go a miss...

Friday, 18 January 2013

Snow But No Snow!

First of all - let's get it out the way. Yesterday afternoon I dipped the Goosander. For the umpteenth time.

Today we were promised a white-out.  Well we did have snow showers, some very heavy...

From the farm gate early this morning

...but Seaton and the river valley remained green.  There was snow all around us though.  This was the view from Colyford Marsh hide mid morning...

Musbury Castle in the back ground

More impressive than the above snowy view was the number of Golden Plovers.  From the hide I could see c300, and a little later on Ian M counted 600 from Bridge Marsh gate way.  Amazing!  Weirdly though there seemed to be fewer Lapwings about today, and I'm surprised we haven't had any Ruff yet. A flock of 40+ Skylark were flying around the marsh today, which is unusual.

Best of all though were the two year ticks I clocked up from this visit.  Four Stock Dove were rather unexciting year ticks, but a stunning pair of Pintail were VERY exciting!  This species is pretty much annual on patch, but you could easily go a year without seeing one.  I did try and take a photo of them, they showed best during a heavy snow shower...

Another great addition to my photography year list!

I did get much better views of them later, when they were showing on the Estuary.  Much much closer...

What a stunner!!!

I'll be on patch all of tomorrow, but will not be birding. I will though be able to twitch, so local birders please bear me in mind :-)

Now - and last of all.  I want to point you all to a new page I've created on this Blog...


The 2013 Patch Year List Competition

At the top of this page (the bottom of the red bit) click on '2013 Patch Year List'. Or you can just click HERE. This a page dedicated to my patch year list (and will include a regulary updated patch year list as from 1st February), but for now, please join in for a bit of fun and place your bets at what you think my final tally will be. I'll repeat the rule though that a number can only be chosen once.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

A Huge Dollop Of Jam

The moment of jam came just before 1pm, when I was driving down to the Estuary for a check of the gulls.  

Just as I was approaching the end of Scalwell Lane, my brain - that was busy dreaming about the Ring-billed Gull I was about find - had a sudden shock.  I could see a very distinctive shape flying east (well east south east to be precise) probably only less than 10m above roof top height, right opposite me. In the few seconds it took me to pull over and grab my bins, I had already sussed it as a medium-sized harrier-like long-winged raptor. Bins up - Hen Harrier!  I was looking at a bloody Hen Harrier!!! As it continued on east (and as I was causing a traffic incident!) I got good views of its upper parts (nice big fat square white rump - so am happy I eliminated both the smaller harrier sp. despite the relatively brief view) and the birds left upper wing.  I phoned Gav, and quickly sent a text out, then shot round to the Estuary in the hope it was going to hang around.  Stupidly I went to the farm gate, when really I should have stopped near Tesco and scanned Seaton Marshes, as this is where it would have passed over if it continued flying in the same direction.  I soon bumped into Gav. Sadly neither of us bumped into the Hen Harrier.

This is only the second Hen Harrier I've ever seen on patch - I ticked it as recently as Oct 2011. And as far as I'm aware, this is our first mid-winter record (though I could well be wrong).  Hen Harrier certainly kicks Goldeneye off as my 'most precious patch year tick' so far.  It was totally off the radar too - my brain has been thinking about waders, wildfowl, gulls and finch flocks - I haven't once thought about a bird of prey. We do have a lot of food about for it, so there's got to be a chance its going to linger. It may even roost in the valley, if not, maybe Trinity Hill or Gittisham Common? Got to be worth a look.

So, how has the rest of my day been?

Well Gav saw the Goosander again late yesterday afternoon on the Estuary, so I was out before dawn today hoping to finally get it on the year list.  She's certainly an early riser - as yet again there was no sign of it.  Two Gadwall on the Estuary just north of Coronation Corner were very nice to see though, another cold weather-related year tick.  I think my best photography year tick too...

In my defence  it was still fairly dark!

I then went for an hours sea watch off Beer, which would have been seriously dire were it not for a five minute spell of action.  There was nothing too exciting, but 15 Wigeon, 10 Common Scoter, four Red-throated Divers, a Teal (with the Wigeon) and a Shelduck flew west.  Outside of this five minute period, three more Common Scoters east (a pair and a single) were as good as it got. 

This afternoon, after the raptor excitement, the Estuary showed nothing better than two adult Med Gulls.  One looked like this...

Not quite the 800 at Ferrybridge!

 And the other looked like this...

Already getting a bit of a hood

With two year ticks today, and another just prior to work yesterday (in the form of Common Sandpiper from Coronation Corner at 14:45) - that's three year ticks since my last blog post.  Hopefully soon after I've posted this I'll notch up another.  For the first time this week, I am able to be where a Goosander should be at 4pm.  It's been here at this time for the last three days, but each day I couldn't be there. Today I can, so let's wait and see. Keep an eye on my twitter feed to the right, you'll read it there first!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A Few More Year Ticks

Didn't have much time out and about yesterday, but this morning I spent three hours in the field.

Yesterday started with me looking for a Goosander which was found on Monday just after I went to work.  There was sadly no sign, so I headed off to the sea front...
 
Another sunrinse photo
Gav was already in place just to the east of me at the yacht club, but neither of us could pull anything good out the bag. Three Red-throated Divers on sea, with a fourth west, was the best I could manage.

I drove back home via the Estuary, and was pleased to locate a single Golden Plover from the Bridge Marsh gateway with Lapwings. Always a bit of a worry for the year lister these cold weather-related species, but thankfully this cold weather does seem to be doing something.  Even thought it isn't all that cold here. Arctic weather my a***!

Today started how yesterday did. Annoyingly the Goosander returned yesterday afternoon, again just after I got to work!  There was no sign of it this morning, but from the farm gate it was nice to see six Shoveler floating up river - our first for 2013. Another cold weather-related year tick!?

A quick look at the sea showed it was too lumpy, and quiet, to stay for long. Although the Shoveler were now flying around offshore. This enabled me to add them to my photography year list...

Just about identifiable

I then devoted the next hour or so scouring the fields behind Axmouth for Red-legged Partridge.  A species that can be tricky to catch up with (if not enough have been released!).  I found some really bird-filled fields, one in particular with 140+ Skylark, 80+ Chaffinch, 10 Yellowhammer and two Golden Plover. These two Golden Plovers were a bit of a surprise, so when I stumbled upon a flock of at least 100 I was stunned!  Proper evidence of cold weather movement.

I know by writing 'at least 100' it makes it look like I didn't bother counting them, but the 100th bird was at the pinnacle of a rise in a field, and I am sure there were at least a few more on the other side of the rise.  I also managed to add this species to my photography year list...

Dead pleased with these ;-)

I had all but given up with Red-legged Partridge, but driving back into Axmouth, one last stop in a gateway revealed four feeding on the edge of cover a couple of fields away from me.  If any other local birders are interested, I saw them from the first gateway as you turn into Stepps Lane from Leggetts Lane, just west of Dowlands.

It looks as though the forecasted Snow on Friday is going to be rain for us.  Oh goodie - more rain. Just what we need...

Monday, 14 January 2013

Struck GOLD!

Isn't it funny how powerful sounds are at bringing back memories.  I was lying in bed this morning at about 6:30 with the window open, and could hear the distant calls of Curlew. I was instantly transported back to when I was about 16, and the few days Dad took me up to mid Wales in late spring. Where we stayed, we could hear Curlew bubbling away on the nearby moors from our beds - I felt like I'd gone back there this morning, briefly.  Aren't our brains weird - well mine is anyway!

OK, now to today. And although we haven't got snow and ice, I was hoping the fact that other parts of Britain did meant I was in for a few birds. To be honest I didn't see much different, but I did notch up a very useful patch tick.  

I was down the beach for sun rise this morning. Here's the proof...

Red sky in the morning shepherd's warning

And I soon had the golden moment, when I picked up a cracking drake Goldeneye sat on the sea, close in amongst the groups of Black-headed Gulls still present from roost.  It didn't stay long though, just as I sent the text out to say it was there, I had to start writing a second text as it had taken off and was flying off east.  Dead pleased with this one though - you can easily go a year without seeing one of these on patch.

There was a tiny bit of variety during this sea watch, and some numbers - especially Black-headed Gulls with several hundred noted flying west in flocks numbering between five and 80.  Apart from the gulls, this is how my note book looked:

5 Red-throated Diver (3w, 1e, 1 on sea)
1 Great Crested Grebe (flew distant w, certainly not one of our wintering birds)
3 Shelduck (w)
15 Wigeon (12w, 3 in-off)
1 Goldeneye (woooooo!)

Sadly I haven't seen much else today, although I've finally seen non-Mallard ducks at Lower Bruckland Ponds this winter! Sadly they were just two Teal though, and not any of the diving ducks I'm after. The vocal Cetti's Warbler was still here.

Yesterday Jess and I embarked on another five mile walk around the patch.  This time we left home, walked down in to town, up over Axe Cliff Golf Course, around the back lanes of Axmouth almost to Rousdon, then over the A3052 and down to Lower Bruckland Ponds. This is where, thankfully, I had earlier left my car!  The weather was glorious...

 
 

Not many birds though, except for a few flock of Skylarks and Chaffinches in the Axmouth fields. I've still not seen Stock Dove or Red-legged Partridge this year!

Walking down to town, it was nice to see a small number of Wigeon and Teal in the south west corner of the Axe wetlands... 

Nice and close too!
Maybe this is where our Green-winged Teal has been hiding!? It wasn't there yesterday but I'll certainly be checking this area out a few more times before the winter's out...

Friday, 11 January 2013

Not Quite Not Quite Scilly

Well I spent several hours out today, hoping the freezing night before would have done something. I can conclude it has done absolutely nothing. Nothing new obvious anywhere. I even went for a wander in Morganhayes Wood hoping for maybe Crossbill or Redpoll. I basically saw nothing. Things were so dire that I was even distracted by this Cormorant on Bridge Marsh. Yes - I have clearly been spending too much time with Gav lately! 

It was distant, and in very dull light, but did look nicely slight - especially compared with the two clear carbo's to the right...

The bird on the left - check out the head and bill.
Sadly the shot that shows the size comparison best came out rubbish. Still, here it is...

A small and a big out-of-focus cormorant!
But what about the crucial gular pouch angle? Well to be honest I think it was a tiny bit too far away to be sure, but this photo may just about show it...

Looks okish to me. Not a huge angle - but seems to be big enough maybe?

I have this weekend off work, although I won't be around for most of tomorrow.  Hopefully some time out on Sunday will show an improvement in the birding situation...

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

At Least The Sun Is Out!

Well it wasn't as cold as I was hoping this morning, with 8c on the garden thermometer.  The wind has shifted though, with a light but chilly northerly wind. Because of this I thought I'd give the sea an hour...

The highlight of the sea watch was without doubt a dog walker.  This dog walker had a whistle, and the pitch of the whistle was bang on for Common Sandpiper. The first time I heard this whistle he even blew it to the rhythm of a Common Sandpiper call!  It sounded so good that I actually started scanning the edge of the beach and just offshore.  But then he blew the whistle again.

The lowlight of the sea watch was without doubt another dog walker.  She had five dogs, and they were all out of control!  She spent her whole 'relaxing' dog walk screaming, shouting and whistling at her dogs - which weren't taking a blind bit of notice. I actually found her incredibly irritating! Oh dear - I'm sounding like my Dad.

All the birds I saw during this sea watch in excitment terms came in somewhere between these two episodes.  I noted just eight Red-throated Diver (two of them sat on the sea), two Common Scoter (east), eight Shelduck and four Curlew.

Lots of birds on the Estuary, with the wintering Bar-tailed Godwit being the best.  Opposite Axmouth FC a Green Sandpiper improved my year list by one. Wooooo! There was nothing of note at Lower Bruckland Ponds, except for a vocal Cetti's Warbler. My fifth this year on patch - which is absolutely tremendous news!

I then spent a good forty minutes by Bindon Barns - my life there are stacks of birds up here.  Didn't seem to be quite as many thrushes today (only c500), but over 200 Skylark, 100 Chaffinch, 30 Meadow Pipit and ten Yellowhammer. I am going to keep checking on this field - the potential for something scarce/rare/a year tick has to be pretty good.

To complete my day's birding I went to Seaton Marshes. Twice. And didn't see any Redpolls. Again.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

A Dull Few Days

The post title summarises both the weather and the birding.

Except for standard fare, I've had no year ticks worthy of mention within the last couple of days. I really hope the forecasted cold weather happens - and that it does something!

This has to be the poorest winter for wildfowl that I've ever experienced on the Axe. I've seen no Shoveler anywhere, and Wigeon and Teal numbers seem to be very low. I would expect at the very least to be seeing about 800 Wigeon now, I can't say I've seen even half that number. Oh well, I guess it will make finding an American Wigeon or Green-winged Teal that bit easier! :-)

I keep dipping these two bloody Redpolls too, at Seaton Marshes. A visit here yesterday gave me nothing better than these Snipe sat out chilling on the Estuary mud... 

Why don't Jack Snipes ever do this?
I found a lovely muddy field yesterday near Bindon Barns which was just packed with birds.  Easily 700 thrushes, 100 Chaffinches, and plenty of Pied Wagtails, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits.  When the weather does brighten up, I'm definitely going back here - there's got to be at the very least a Brambling amongst them.

I spent quite a bit of time with the gulls yesterday too, but just have two (non-ringed) Med Gulls to show for it, a first-winter and an adult. Both 'new' birds for me.

I did promise more blog posts this year - I didn't say they were going to be interesting ones though...

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Some Snipe Action

Got a few more patch year ticks today, although most of them were 'expected' species...

Excellent!
Bird of the day goes to Jack Snipe.  I met Gav at 8am at Colyford Common, and we soon had seen two of these lovely little birds. Along with several Snipe, two Cetti's Warblers (there's at least four on the Axe wetlands, the most we've had since the cold weather in 2010) and a Kingfisher (a real one!).

A quick sea watch showed very little (just a few Kittiwake, Razorbill and Guillemots), and then I dipped a Firecrest. Bums.

After breakfast, Jess and I decided to take our 'New Year health kick' up another level by going for a five mile walk. Basically we walked to Colyton and back, which gave me Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Siskin and excellent numbers of thrushes - including a flock of over 200 Redwing near Holyford Woods. There were also lots of birds around Colyford WTW, where we bumped into Phil (wherever there's birds there's Phil!). Sadly neither he or I could see anything different.

On our return home, I tried for Bun's Redpolls at Seaton Marshes - but that proved to be dip number two of the day. Ho Hum.

Tonight, we've been busy taking down all the Christmas decorations - including the Christmas Tree. Now I know why my old man always insisted we had an artificial one...

Jess is still hoovering!

Friday, 4 January 2013

The Human Hoover

On the day 2013 begun, Jess was keen that we started eating a bit more sensibly after the four tonne of chocolate and mince pies we devoured over the festive period. She was right to point out though how hard that is to do when there's still chocolate dotted about the house. I took this as a hint, and as a moment that as the man of the house I had to step up to the mark. In the following half hour I went round and ate the lot. The Quality Streets that are always left at the bottom of the tin, half a tray of Milk Tray, a few Thornton's, the bottom half of a Lindt Bear, a whole bowl of Twiglets and even the handful of popcorn left in the packet of Butterkist. I am proud of how I helped our new year start healthier - although I must admit eating all this just an hour before dinner wasn't the best timing.

So, how's the birding and year list going? Well I've spent most of the last few days surveying in Cornwall, which has given me some nice sights. Namely two Spoonbill today, and a cracking pair of Scaup yesterday. The drake was as stunning as they always are.

 

I have still managed a bit patch birding though, whenever I've had the chance. And I've decided that during January I'm going to concentrate on the sea - this has already produced the goods. Best being a fine drake Red-breasted Merganser and a lone Brent Goose, both of which flew west. There's good numbers of birds out there too, lots of auks (Black Guille and Little Auk are certainly on the radar at the moment), plenty of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Red-throated Divers and a few Common Scoter (29 on the morning of the 2nd). Frustratingly I've had two single larger Divers fly west, but both too distant to be sure of.

Away from the sea, year ticks have been a bit sparse. Although I have caught up with the wintering Bar-tailed Godwit and Blackcap made it not just on to the year list, but the house list too!


I see a few people this year are doing photography year lists, including our very own Karen on patch. On her blog she states "I'm not going to count blurry record shots and distant specks. The photos must be easily recognisable". I think that's a great idea, and I know we are going to see some amazing photos. Its such a good idea that I thought I'd give it a go too, but with a slight difference...


I'm only going to count blurry record shots and distant specks. The photos must be barely/unrecognisable.

Here's my first two... 

Black Redstart - I saw this bird on 1st and 2nd
Passing Red-throated Divers
I'm pleased with my start...

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Well, I'm afraid there's no huge review post for the year of 2012. To be honest - birding wise it was mostly a bit pants.  Adding Long-eared Owl, Spotted Crake and Crane to my patch list were obviously amazing highlights, but the autumn was without doubt one of the worst birding autumn's I've ever had - in terms of numbers and rarities.  Spring though was great at times for numbers, with two of my visits to Beer Head being some of the best ever spring birding I've had here - migrants EVERYWHERE!  Missing a Kentish Plover was a massive low light but we won't dwell on that.......

Christmas 2012 was brilliant - our first in our new house.  I got some lovely presents (never too old!), and this was a real surprise from Jess.  I took a photo of a Mute Swan last year, she got hold of a copy of the photo and turned it into this amazing canvas...

It looks fab on the landing wall!

And how is the house?  It's brilliant - already feels like home. Yesterday we FINALLY got around to sorting out the last room - the room I'm sat in now.  All I need is a sign for the door that says 'Steve's Office'...

That china cat isn't mine!!

Ok, now to birds again.  I said I was going to give a 2013 year list a go if the Bewick's Swans remained. They have remained so the 2013 year list is ON!  And what do I hope to achieve from year listing I hear you ask?

My target is to see/hear 200 species on the (lesser) patch in 2013.  

This has never been done before, and will prove very hard to do, but it is ever so slightly possible. We just need to have a VERY good year, and I need to see almost all of it!  I do hope all the fellow local birders will help me in my quest.

My January tactic is going to be 'go for the goodies, and let everything else come to me'.  That is why I am not going to do any list totting 'til the end of this month.  I do have several off patch surveys to do, so could well end up missing some winter scarcities/rarities - but I hope not.

I was out at 7am this morning, didn't see any Owls or Red-legged Partridges, added the Bewick's at dawn, then headed over to Beer where no Velvet Scoters were on view.  Pants.  Few Red-throated Divers and lots of auks about though.

After breakfast, Jess and I headed over to Colyton where a wood survey gave at least five Woodcock, a Green Woodpecker, a Siskin but very little else.  

A few hours later we fancied a New Years stroll along the sea front.  There were far too many people about for my liking - and a Black Redstart felt the same way.  It wasn't in any of its usual haunts, but instead down a small cul-de-sac one road inland from the beach.

The last birding action of today was an evening stroll at Black Hole Marsh. This is where my most surprising sighting came.  We were stood on the viewing platform, where I was getting glimpses of two very vocal and mobile Cetti's Warblers, when I could suddenly hear a Dipper calling!  A very out of place looking Dipper then flew right past us, circled around (quite high) over Black Hole Marsh, before heading back NW up the Stafford Brook. So bizarre!  I had checked the more usual Dipper haunts earlier in the day, and the water levels were way too high.  I guess this is why today I saw my first ever Dipper on the Axe reserves!

I hope to have an hour or so out in the morning whilst getting a couple of new tyres. Hopefully I can add some more species to the list...