Friday, 18 April 2014

Why Bother Going Out?

Beer Head aside, I enjoyed the best birding of last week from my house! One Devon A rarity, two Devon B rarities, a rare British breeding bird and more.

Last Friday, whilst I was at work, at Cattle Egret was discovered with the cattle on Colyford Common.  Once I'd finished work I didn't make a mad rush for it, as once upon a time this species could have been described as an almost regular visitor to our valley - but I was keen to see it from the house.  I thought I'd blown it when I heard the Cattle Egret flew off mid afternoon, but in the evening Phil re-found it on the east side of the river. So the scope was up and I waited and waited and waited.... Five Little Egrets came flying down the valley, with a sixth Egret a short distance behind - the Cattle Egret!  The six Egrets landed in the roost above Axmouth, and I watched the Cattle Egret find its spot in the trees before settling down.  What a mega house tick!

The next decent house bird came on Sunday, and was almost exactly the same as two Sundays previous (see here) - an Osprey!  I knew something was up before walking through the front door, as the gulls were calling, and several were clearly fleeing from the lower Estuary.  Straight in and upstairs, and over Colyford Common there was an Osprey circling.  It disappeared for about ten minutes before reappearing again low over the upper Estuary. Then, in about two minutes and only about five large soars, it was suddenly a dot in the sky miles high. It pulled in its wings then powered north.  Wow.

Later on Sunday, after hearing a Barn Owl was seen not too far from the house, I was on dusk duty with the telescope from the bedroom window.  I didn't think for a second I'd get lucky, but soon had a few brief flight views, and then a Barn Owl perched up for two minutes! Wahoooo...

Tuesday afternoon dinner in the back garden gave me my first House Martins of the year. Two spent about an hour feeding and calling low over. My favourite hirrundine, and about a week later than usual.

Wednesday afternoon, again whilst having lunch in the back garden, at about 12:40 the Estuary gulls got me on my first house Red Kite circling high over the upper Estuary, although it soon headed off east.  It was always distant, but that didn't stop me grabbing what is truly a record shot...



I have been out birding. If I'm not up Beer Head or at work, I've gone for a walk around Black Hole and Colyford Marsh after breakfast. I've had a single singing Reed Warbler (still no Sedge), one Whimbrel, one Greenshank (on two days) and a couple of Wheatears. Yes, I have now seen a grand total of three Wheatears this year!

I made a good call about when to re-visit Beer Head for ringing this week, I picked Thursday morning.  This time I invited Peter, a trainee from Budleigh...

Peter ringing a Willow Warbler. Note the simnel cake to the side - well it is Easter...

Like Monday, it felt at first like it was a very VERY quiet, but also like Monday, birds started to appear about half an hour after dawn. Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs mostly, but also saw a respectable total of four Redstarts, two males together and two different females.  Two single Yellow Wagtails over were my first of the year.

So what did we catch? Well there were fewer phyllosc about, as we trapped and ringed 13 using the same net set up and in the same time frame as Monday when I caught 30. It was still pretty impressive though that each time we did a net round, at least one new phyllosc was there, and we didn't re-trap a single one.  Of the 13, eight were Willows and five Chiffs.

Although there were less phylloscs in the net, the Redstart count was double that of Monday's session.  The first was a stunning adult female, a really colourful bird and what an eye-ring...



And then another male...



It's such a drag ringing such fantastic birds with stunning views like this...


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