Tuesday, 15 August 2017

First Wigeon

Enjoyed a bird-filled morning down Black Hole Marsh this morning, with the bonus of some lovely weather. And there was an Axe first.... three Mr Waite's on the platform at once...

My totals for the visit were;

2 Wigeon (first of the autumn - bang on cue)
3 Teal
14+ Ringed Plover (maybe 19 as had five high west over Colyford Common)
70 Dunlin
68 Black-tailed Godwit
3 Whimbrel
6 Greenshank (a good Axe count, and included my first juvs of the year)
1 Yellow Wagtail
5 Willow Warbler 

There's just so many wading birds on Black Hole Marsh at the moment, with many of them showing really close to the Island Hide. A photographers dream...


The Wigeon weren't quite so cooperative though...

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Glorious Twelfth

I have been meaning to post this video up here for a while now, but today being the 'Glorious Twelfth' (the first day of the Red Grouse shooting season) has reminded me to do so.

I have seen this several times on social media, but realised that if you're not social media savvy (which I think many of my readers aren't) you wouldn't know anything about it at all. Typically it received zero coverage (at least that I saw) on TV, radio and the newspapers.

In June 2013 on a shooting estate in Scotland, a camera placed by the RSPB to monitor a Hen Harrier nest filmed this. It's upsetting but not overly graphic...

As you can see this video shows someone with a very large gun (and undoubtedly a very small *****) flush a female Hen Harrier from its nest, before shooting it then collecting its life-less body and the inevitable scattering of feathers. Good solid evidence.... you'd think!

This case was subject to a prolonged Police investigation, and nine separate court hearings. But a matter of weeks before the trial was due to take place earlier this year, the Crown Office informed all parties the case was to be dropped and the prosecution to be abandoned.

Obviously the RSPB went completely mental, but in reality there was nothing they could do. And the pathetic reason given was basically "because the shooter didn't know he was being filmed".  The Crown Office alleged the camera had been deliberately placed there on private land to film exactly this, but actually RSPB insists it was simply there to monitor the nest (how many young fledge, how many feeding visits by the adults, etc).  

But does it really matter why the camera was there!? You can't get more solid evidence of illegal raptor persecution than this! And if this is apparently not good enough, then oh dear we have serious problems.

It just shows how hard us conservationists need to work to save our birds. Especially our birds of prey. They really are in serious trouble.

You can find more details about this sorry tale here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/rspb-news/news/440987-court-proceedings-dropped

Normal Axe Birding service will be resumed from the next blog post...

Monday, 7 August 2017

Quick Update and Icelandic Blackwits

Only time for a short update. The last few and the next few days have been and will be a bit hectic for a variety of reasons. I have managed a bit of time out though which I'll summarise here...

A morning wander around Black Hole Marsh last Friday showed the bushes were the busiest they've been so far this autumn. The highlight was a cracking juv Lesser Whitethroat along the track to the Tower Hide, but the ten Willow Warblers were just as exciting to see...

Autumn Willow Warbler - hope I get to ring some soon!

The marsh itself revealed a Greenshank, c18 Dunlin and two Cattle Egrets.

Saturday gave me less than above, although three Green Sands showed well.  In the afternoon I saw my first settled Yellow Wagtail of the autumn (but my third of the season) on Seaton Marshes.

Green Sandpiper

And that's about all the bird news from me, although there has been a few other bits and bobs about. The six Goosander are still around, as are at least two Cattle Egret. And this afternoon Dad had a juv Little Ringed Plover on Black Hole which was new in.

Lastly I have been showing my (annual) love for juvenile Black-tailed Godwits on Twitter over the past few days. I saw my first on Wednesday 2nd which showed really well in front of Island Hide...

Juvenile Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit

This dull photo doesn't really do it justice. They are the most beautiful colour, with soft yet crisp plumage and amazing patterning on their scapulars and tertials.   Despite the gloomy weather, a nearby adult meant I was able to take a nice adult vs juv comparison shot...

Moulting adult Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit (left), juvenile Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit (right).

There are so many differences visible and I would happily go through them all...but that would be boring so I won't. All I will say is just look at how different they appear, the adult is a tatty worn looking bird, whereas the juvenile is so so fresh - you can just tell all those feathers are new.  Such smart birds.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Curlew Sandpiper

It wasn't just teeming with rain at Black Hole Marsh this morning -  it was teeming with wading birds too!

I've lost count at the number of times I've praised rain on this blog, but it really does makes all the difference. There was a perfect example of this this morning, at 06:15 there were 35 Dunlin on Black Hole Marsh, five hours later there were at least double that! And they were feeding all over the place, not just in one or two tight flocks - looked amazing!

My reason for the second visit was because Mr White spied our first Curlew Sandpiper of the year drop in at around 8am. We often don't see them here til September when the juveniles arrive, although saying that the epic flock of 15 in 2013 arrived in August (right at the end of it though). Tim also reported four Turnstone and a Sanderling - the latter our first of the autumn.

Being early August I was expecting to see a nice red Curlew Sandpiper, but it was surprisingly pale with only slight remnants of summer plumage...

A Greenshank, two Cattle Egrets and six redhead Goosander (first seen yesterday morning by Ian Mc) were also on Black Hole Marsh at 06:15.

It's also worth mentioning that today is the one year anniversary of the Least Sandpiper! Well not for me, that's tomorrow, but Tim Wright first found it on the 2nd. I wonder what this year's autumn Black Hole rarity/ies will be...