Sunday, 31 December 2017

My Top Five Wildlife Moments of 2017

Happy New Year everyone! I really hope 2018 is a great one for you, and I wish nothing but good health, plenty of happiness and lots of successful wildlife watching for you all.

Just before 2017 is out, I thought I'd share my top five birding/wildlife moments of the year, but first there was one last treat for me in the year.  A Boxing Day family stroll in Branscombe gave me absolutely knock out views of a male Firecrest. I watched it for about fifteen minutes feeding at eye-level along the ground and perimeter fence of the Water Treatment Works. I simply could not leave it, to the extent that it took me ten minutes to catch back up with Jess, Harry and Honey! What a Boxing Day bonus.

And now to my top five wildlife highlights of the year...

5. Red Kite influx on 24th May 2017. This was two days before Harry was born, and I missed a better passage on the 25th when even more were seen over Seaton. But it was amazing to watch 18 Red Kite fly west over the patch in the space of a couple of hours mid to late afternoon, and out of the blue too! Many of them passed really low overhead.

Red Kite


4. Slapton Humback Whale. The only off-patch entry to the list, but it just couldn't be ignored. What a privilege to see such an incredible animal off the coast of Devon, and so close too. We made the journey down on 4th May and were treated to some amazing views of this monster from the deep.



3. 30th April 2017.  This was my best day of the spring, and was just what I needed after a very uneventful (and mostly sunny) month. My full account of the day can be found here, but in brief it included a superb morning sea watch with sea birds, wildfowl and waders passing through, a Marsh Harrier over Colyford Marsh and on the Estuary some stunning waders in absolute stunning plumage - next stop the Arctic! Migration is just so SO exciting to witness, and it really makes you marvel at the journeys these birds have to make. 

Bar-tailed Godwit


2. Hawfinch influx. Although the patch has seen only the very smallest of slices of the incredible nationwide Hawfinch influx this winter, just having the feeling of the very real prospect of seeing Hawfinch any time I've stepped outside has been really exciting. An influx on this scale is possibly a once in a lifetime event, so I urge everyone to make the most of it while you can. I have managed to find three on patch, all in Colyton, and off patch five in Exeter and a single in Axminster (whilst delivering Christmas cards!). I don't think anyone would argue that they are such super impressive birds.

Hawfinch


1. That Pomarine Skua flock. As they flew out of view, I knew right there and then they simply could not be topped. And I honestly think they would take the top spot in an all-time version of this list (and I've seen some cracking birds here over the years!). I was delighted to share the amazing and close flock of nine Pomarine Skuas with Richard at the Spot On Kiosk, and numerous other sea watchers as the flock was tracked all away along the south coast to Sussex! It was the morning of 12th May, and was the cherry on top for my best spring Skua tally for many years here which included 12 Poms, 5 Arctics and two Greats. I will finish this post with the best birding video I have ever taken, enjoy...




Monday, 25 December 2017

Merry Christmas

I have a seven month old son, yet I'm still the first one up on Christmas morning! So this is the perfect opportunity to fire up the laptop and wish you all, my lovely friends and blog readers, a very Merry Christmas...

 

Friday, 15 December 2017

Busy Bridge Marsh

The last few days have seen excellent numbers of wildfowl and waders feeding on Bridge Marsh, well over a thousand birds. My best counts have been 650 Lapwing, 85 Curlew, 79 Black-tailed Godwit, 290 Wigeon and 160 Teal. Really superb birding and thoroughly enjoyable, just a pity I've not been about to pull a rare out of the mix. Well that's apart from the wintering Glossy Ibis, which hasn't always proved easy to catch up with since its arrival. He/she joined the masses of birds on Bridge Marsh this morning...



Earlier in the day it was nice to finally catch up with the Seaton Hole male Black Redstart, which was actually on the houses near where the cars park at the top of the slope and not down on the beach.  A brief look out to sea showed it to be fairly quiet, although a lone Brent Goose flew west.  

To finish, another sunset shot I'm afraid, taken this evening from Seaton Beach. The tip of Beer Head looked to be glowing thanks to the angle we were viewing from...


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

A Frosty Morning and Another Patch Hawfinch

What a stunningly beautiful morning, with the temperature gauge showing -4 when I stepped out the front door pre-sunrise. I've been feeling left out with all the snow photos coming in from north and east of us, but this morning helped quash some of this jealousy...



I saw quite a few bits and bobs too, including this Mink. This species always makes me feel a bit odd when I see it. I don't see many, but when I do I feel like I should be excited, but then remember the havoc they cause...



On the bird front, just by where the Mink was a flighty Water Pipit proved a bit of a surprise, as they have become a real scarce winter visitor here in most of the recent years. On the Estuary, four Shoveler were resting with Mallards...



There were plenty of Redwing and a few Fieldfare scattered about all over the place, along with a few more Skylark than usual. At Stafford Cross a brief look showed at least ten Brambling, but the main prize came during my journey back through Colyton.

Driving along Burnards Field Road (our Hawfinch hotspot) I caught a glimpse of the unique shape of a flying Hawfinch, heading low south parallel with the road. Thankfully it did the right thing and pitch down in a Field Maple (I think), which it fed in for the next ten minutes before I had to leave...



Hopefully this one will stick around!?

Monday, 4 December 2017

Red-necked Grebe Chard Res

I have a real soft spot for the winter Grebes, so an inland Red-necked not all that far away proved too tempting to resist. Late this morning I found myself crossing the border heading to Chard Reservoir where Dave Helliar had found a Red-necked Grebe on 25th Nov. Apparently this bird represents only the second record of Red-necked for the Res, following the first way back in 1978!

As soon as I arrived I picked it up where it spends most of its time, loafing with the large spread out flock of Great Crested Grebes in the north arm of the Res...



But on two occasions I was lucky enough to watch it swim in close to the east shore of the north arm to fish...



Amazing. Absolutely amazing. Thanks to the Grebe, it really was smiles all around for this little off-patch jaunt...



Thanks Dave!