Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Seawatching and Watching What I See

I was hoping to be able to call this post 'The Ton', but I've been stuck on 99 species for 2017 Patchwork Challenge since Sunday morning, when a lone Great Northern Diver flew distantly west past the sea front.  

I have found my increased effort on the sea this year really interesting.  Every day I'm seeing good numbers of Razorbills, Gannets, along with a few Red-throated Divers and Kittiwakes. Most days I see at least a couple of Common Scoter too, but sometimes more.  What really interests me are the seemingly random spikes of passage. For example all last week I didn't see a single Brent Goose, except for Thursday morning when 32 flew west in three flocks, including my first 3+ Pale-bellied Brents of the year.  That's 32 Brents that would have gone through unnoticed if I wasn't sea watching.  



This morning was a beautiful one, but viewing conditions were tricky with haze and bad light. There didn't seem to be much moving anyway, unlike yesterday morning when a gentle south easterly breeze was enough to get some pretty decent passage going.  Sadly I only had about twenty minutes, but Richard (known to fellow tweeters as @cork_head) spent far longer sea watching and noted good numbers of Common Scoter, a few Brents and several Red-throated Divers.  I was there long enough though to completely ruin my day...

Soon after my arrival I picked up four Common Scoter flying distantly west. I had followed them in the scope for some time when they were caught up by three smaller ducks also flying west. Despite the distance I was pretty happy they were Goldeneye, a cracking patch year tick, but after watching them for a short while something didn't sit right with me. The shape of the white in wing of the male just didn't see right, I could never recall seeing such a distinctive 'oval' of white on a Goldeneye before. And it was just as they were heading away that the thought of Smew entered my head.... I tweeted and texted birders further west but sadly nothing came of it.

I can't tell you how much I wish I had picked them up sooner/they had been closer/I'd looked more at the females. Even if they were 'just' Goldeneye it's a good year tick missed, but I have a feeling I let an absolutely stonking year tick go by....

Back to this morning and I haven't seen much despite a lot of wandering around in this lovely still and sunny weather, except for the Cattle Egret still in situ at Colcombe Farm in Colyton. I have to say I'm amazed it is still alone (except for its Little cousins). I was expecting to have a small flock of Cattle Egrets here by now, but maybe they are still to come?  It's coming into roost at Axmouth at about 17:00 now, when I first found it on 11th December it came in at 16:20 which just shows how much lighter the evenings are getting :-). I have to be honest and say thoughts of spring are already entering my head space, even more so after seeing these Snowdrops last week...



Being out more is making me notice much more about the local birding scene, which is nice.  Stood at Black Hole Marsh until well after dusk the other night (dipping Barn Owls!) showed three roosts. The Starlings have been roosting on Colyford Marsh all winter and number several thousand. Pied Wagtails are roosting on a small island in front of the Island Hide, but best of all are the several hundred Redwings currently roosting behind 'Walters Mound'.  It's interesting that Redwings arrive to roost quite unlike Starlings and Pied Wagtails, the latter often sit up before going down, and we all know what Starlings get up to in the sky before bed.  But the Redwings come in much later when it is almost completely dark, and they zip in low at speed often in decent sized flocks. 

Being out so much has also shown me what species of birds are having a good winter. The current winners include Cetti's Warbler (I've seen/heard eight different individuals here so far this year, and haven't been to Colyford Common once), Water Rail (squeals everywhere!), Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Bullfinch. Man there are loads of Bullies about!  It's not such a good winter for other species of finch though, which I suppose isn't a surprise after last autumn which was so poor for finch vis mig. This year I'm yet to see Siskin, Redpoll or Brambling, and not just on my PWC patch, anywhere in East Devon! Other surprising gaps on my PWC year list are Nuthatch, Blackcap and Barn Owl. Hopefully 'the ton' isn't far away...


No comments:

Post a Comment