Monday, 27 October 2014

Dog Walking Delights

My only birding over past few days have been whilst walking Honey - and finally I've seen some notable birds whilst doing this.

On Saturday, an early afternoon walk around Axmouth with Jess and Honey was just coming to its end when a Yellow-browed Warbler started calling from a tree above us. I can't tell you how nice it was to finally hear one on patch this autumn after so much trying and hoping!  After a few minutes it flew out of the tree, and spent three or four minutes in small bushes and trees either side of the road, before flying back into the large tree where it had come from.  It was always elusive, but did show well in the end, and it remained very vocal.  This is the tenth Yellow-browed Warbler for the patch, my seventh.  

Today, had a lovely afternoon walk with Honey and Mum, and jammed into a load of crests at Seaton Hole.  To be honest I thought I was going to turn up another Yellow-browed as there was just so much activity, but I was more than happy with the two gorgeous male Firecrest, with one in particular showing really well.  Mind you, although it showed well, it never stayed still for long...



This following photo was so nearly a cracking photo - but the damn auto focus as usual decided to focus on the branches in front and not the bird...



.....gutted! 

I wonder what tomorrow's dog walk will show...

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Caspian Gull

Yesterday wasn't the best of days for me.  First of all my laptop wouldn't turn on and kept telling me there was a critical error during start up and all programs may be lost - bugger. Then there was the loaf of bread I made, totally cocked something up and it was completely inedible. And thirdly an attempted ringing session, which ended with me ringing no birds, and a female Pheasant having made a massive hole half way up and half way along my newest 60 foot net. I also got very wet as I hastily took the net down during a sudden heavy rain shower, which is also when I stood in a cow pat.

I'm pleased to say today is a much better day, and my laptop has been fixed (I'm currently backing everything up!).  There was one upside to not having a laptop yesterday though - it meant I didn't waste my day staring at it!  And my third check of the Estuary gulls mid afternoon gave me a rather nice reward, a lovely first-winter Caspian Gull.  It was by the tram shed from 15:25-15:50, when it flew south towards the sea...



As first-winter Caspian Gulls go it was a pretty classic bird, nice and hefty in size, long-legged, long-billed, etc. In general it looked so pale (mostly thanks to the white head and pale grey mantle/scapular feathers), never would a Herring or Lesser Black-backed in first-winter plumage look this pale. This is what made me jump out of the car for the scope in the first place.

The only slightly different feature to what I am used to seeing was the faintly grey mottled flanks this bird showed, but I think I can explain this. We see most our Caspian Gulls here between Christmas and March when their necks, breasts and flanks are pure white, but this bird is much younger and could have been in full juvenile plumage less than two months ago. It did have clean white centre to the neck and breast, it was just the flanks and breast sides that had this faint mottling - I reckon give it a month and they will indeed be Daz white.

With the demise of the Not Quite Scilly blog, I best get a bit technical and explain exactly why this was a Caspian Gull in more detail. I hope this helps (click on the images to make them bigger and the text more readable)...


  

So with the gull taken into account, and the fact my laptop is fine, was yesterday really that bad?  Well it sure could have been worse...

Near Boshill Cross this morning

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Wishing West Was East

Please bear with the lack of action on this blog. Although I don't have time to blog at the moment, I haven't much to blog about anyway!

Every day my dog walks have been getting me out for a bit, but it does seem pretty quiet out there. The weathers not been helpful though, and this I'm sure is why the 'vis mig' has been so below par. Apart from a few SkylarkMeadow Pipits, Swallows, House Martins and four Siskin over Seaton Hole on Monday - very little has been flying over this part of Devon when I've been out and about.

Seems equally sparse in the trees and bushes at the moment too, with Chiffchaff numbers having dropped right off this week.  Ever hopeful for a Yellow-browed, and I'm sure there's at least one out there, but it's a needle in a haystack job.  I did hope my varied dog walking locations and routes would increase my chances of seeing/hearing one, but not yet...

Yesterday I fancied a change of scenery and actually spent ten minutes proper birding, with a look along the Estuary before work.  There were lots of gulls, lots and lots, but sadly nothing better than an adult Med Gull and at least four adult intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gulls...

As black as the Great Black-backs

It's been sickening and so frustrating seeing the reports coming out of the east of the country over the last few days, with Dungeness bragging 550+ Ring Ouzels on one day, and numerous rarities appearing along the whole length of the east coast. Thousands of Redwings have also arrived into the UK now, and finally I heard one flying over Seaton at about 9:30 last night - yet to see one though.

The only other slightly notable birds that I've seen were a couple of new Cetti's Warbler, one singing in Axe Reedbed (my first singing male in the valley for years) and a calling bird at Lower Bruckland Ponds. 

Thanks for staying with me viewers, hopefully within a couple of weeks blog posts will become more regular again...

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Best Beer Head Ringing Morning Yet?

Sorry again for the lack of updates, I simply haven't the time at the moment. I really need a break from all the numbers and dates that I'm in the middle of writing up though, so lucky viewers here's a blog post...

Ideally I would be ringing every morning up Beer Head at the moment, but am limiting myself to one morning a week so I can get my work done. This week I decided to head up on Monday just gone, and I was joined by Peter again (who brought along two incredibly tasty vegetable tarts - yum!). Must just add my congratulations to Peter who following  a ringing course on the Isle of Wight has been recommended for his C Permit - well done.  Hope you and your vegetable tarts still want to join me on my Beer Head outings.

The weather was absolutely perfect for ringing, with no wind and complete cloud cover. At first though it didn't seem like there was much about, but this clearly wasn't the case as two nets open for just over two hours caught us 53 birds!  The first hour was steady, and we were catching a few Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, as well as my first two Meadow Pipits for the site. But then a Long-tailed Tit flock appeared, and spent ages just milling about - this is when it went a bit busy and I decided to close the nets...

Luckily my Dad was about, and acted as scribe.

Out of the 53 birds, 48 were 'new' birds (means unringed when first caught) and compromised: 9 Blackcap, 23 Chiffchaff, 7 Goldcrest, 6 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Meadow Pipit and a Wren.  Interestingly, and I guess this indicates a good breeding season, out of these 48 birds, only one was an adult (a Chiffchaff), with the other 47 being birds born this year.

Following on from my last Beer Head post, the variation in crowns of first-year (3) male Blackcaps still amazes me (both these birds had seemingly completed their post juvenile moult)...

On the right hand bird note just a few brown flecks above the eye and at back of head.

Since Monday, the only trips I've had out is when I've gone to work or walked the dog. This morning Axe Cliff showed four Wheatear and lovely views of a Stoat, and a woodland walk yesterday gave nothing more than good numbers of Goldcrests.  This morning I pulled over briefly when driving along the Estuary, and am pleased to report Honey does indeed take after her 'Dad' - although I will be peed if she finds that Pallas's Gull before me...

She doesn't even need optics!

And to complete this post, my first post in October (which by the way I can't believe - its over 20'C outside by day at the moment!), a shot of a Robin singing its winter song with clear blue sky behind...

Talking of Robins, it'll be Christmas soon...