Saturday, 17 August 2019

Most Succesful Dip Ever

Odd title for a blog post isn't it.  And having missed a patch first you'd think this post would be downbeat...

Clive and Liz stumbled upon our first patch Cirl Bunting early afternoon today, a male sat out on top of a hedge for about ten minutes.  Frustratingly though by the time Phil and I arrived it had done a bunk, Kev arrived soon after too.  Well done Clive and Liz, a fine reward for all the leg work and it's good to know this species has finally spread to the far south eastern corner of Devon - our corner.

Phil had to leave, so sadly missed out on what happened next - one my best birding experiences for a good few years. No the Cirl Bunting didn't reappear, but I had the shock of the life when a hulking great juvenile Goshawk appeared in the sky in front of us!  First patch record for about 15 years, epic...

Such a distinctive shape, especially the wing shape - that secondary bulge!!

What made is so special were the views we enjoyed.  I've seen plenty of Gos, displaying birds, fly-overs, perched up - even sat on a nest (under license) - but I have never seen one like this.   It was simply loitering, flying backwards and forwards over a small patch of woodland, mobbing Buzzards that came too close and even had a half-arsed attempt at one of the Wood Pigeons it flushed out of the small copse.  You should have seen the cloud of Wood Pigeons that flew out of the trees when the Gos went in! An amazing experience and delighted to share it with Bun, Clive and Liz.

About 15 years ago we had a spate of Goshawk sightings on patch, including a displaying pair and a first-winter that was seen a few times in the valley, but since then not a sniff.  Sorry the photos aren't great, but as far as I'm aware these are probably the first pics ever taken of a Gos on patch...

Rounded tail, deep chest and again, look at the size of those secondaries!
Although only just about viewable in this pic - could clearly see the white fluffy undertail coverts
Mobbing a Buzzard - crap shot but good size comparison
This was taken when it was at it's most distant, but best shot I managed of its underparts - could almost be mistaken for a ringtail Hen Harrier in this pic!

A Gos and Cirl duo would have of course been even better, but honestly, I would have swapped the Cirl for this beast any day of the week. Am pretty confident Cirl will be on my patch list within the not too distant future, but might not see another Gos here for 15 years...


Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Best Job Ever?

On Sunday evening I was delighted to lead a tram of 19 (plus Allan our driver) up the Axe Valley on a Birdwatch special. 

The weather during the afternoon was overcast with some heavy downpours, and the forecast looked a bit iffy for the duration. But in reality except for a couple of spots of rain as we left Seaton Station, everything including the weather was just so kind to us.  The wind dropped to almost nothing and the rain and clouds soon cleared revealing a magical soft golden light across the valley...


The birds were just as kind to us, and I'll start with the punters favourite as always, Kingfisher.  We had four sightings of probably two birds, with one sitting in full view for several minutes which left smiles on everyone's faces.  The hunting Barn Owl that remained in view for about ten minutes was also a firm favourite, this also posed well for the tram full...

Barn Owl

On the other side of the Estuary, one of the lingering juvenile Marsh Harriers hunted over the reed beds before landing distantly in a field opposite...


For the whole journey, low-flying Swallows, House Martins, Sand Martins and (a surprisingly high number of) Swifts showed really well as they fed low on flying insects. Whilst on the subject of passerines, three Wheatears showed well around Sheep's Marsh...

Wheatear - I just love the pale-edged black primaries

What was really special for me was the variety and numbers of wading birds on show.  At the top end of the trip where we turn around by Colyford scrape, as if three Green Sandpipers, a young Turnstone, a Dunlin and 11 Ringed Plovers weren't enough - a Wood Sandpiper took off from the small pools north of the scrape and flew south, calling all the way.

Adult Ringed Plover left and juvenile Turnstone right
Green Sandpiper

Thankfully on the return journey the Wood Sandpiper showed better, unusually feeding on the Estuary with a group of Redshank...

Look at the size difference - juv Wood Sandpiper flanked by two Redshank

Black Hole Marsh showed good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Dunlin plus a close Greenshank, with the Estuary giving another three Greenshank, a further three Turnstone (four is a cracking good count for us!), two Whimbrel, a heap more Black-tailed Godwits and at the very least 14 Common Sandpipers.  

Next year I'm going to try and arrange a few more Birdwatch tram trips for autumn, particularly August and September.  Seeing large numbers of wildfowl during the winter is always good, but nothing quite beats the variety, quantity and almost endless possibilities that can be seen during a trip in one of these months.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Balearics and a Beast

It's high time I summarised my recent bird sightings, which thanks to today have become a little more interesting...

Black Hole Marsh had a spate of activity early last week, and although I missed the two Wood Sands that dropped in for half a day, three adult Little Ringed Plovers stayed put long enough for me to catch up with, although they were often flighty and vocal...

Little Ringed Plovers - surprisingly all adults!

On the same day I also saw a single Ringed Plover, two Greenshank, three Green Sands (also vocal and flightly), ten Dunlin and two juv Med Gulls on Black Hole Marsh.  Along with a brute of a juv Yellow-legged Gull on the Estuary and a Lesser Whitethroat on Colyford Common.  

I've not had chance to do Beer Head/Axe Cliff so far this autumn, but Willow Warblers keep popping up in front of me. Ian Mc did ok up Beer Head yesterday morning with a Pied Fly and good counts of Wheatear and Willow Warbler - although this wind will presumably have halted any further passerine passage.  Does looks like it's kick started some sea passage though which is good!

I gave the sea a couple of ten minute watches this afternoon, showing the odd Manx Shearwater and several Gannets passing, but things livened up a bit more during a 40 minute watch from 17:40 this evening when I recorded;

11 Balearic Shearwater
4 Manx Shearwater
1 shearwater sp.
1 Med Gull (juv)
2 Kittiwake
2 Common Tern
3 wader sp.

Great to see some Balearic action, with ten of the 11 passing in a ten minute window from 17:45, including a fairly close flock of five which looked so awesome. I haven't had any decent counts of Balearics off here for a good number of years - they seem to be sticking more to the west part of Lyme Bay these days - so every one of these 11 were very much appreciated.

A look up the Estuary just after this watch revealed an absolute beast of a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, a real brute...

A truly epic bird - that juvenile Herring Gull looks so tiny in comparison!
Long legged, long winged, huge billed - what a treat!  Quite a dark one too (esp around the face), although note the pale ground colour to underparts

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Bedstraw Hawkmoth

Thursday night was the first time since my last blog post that I've had a moth trap out (at Mum and Dad's) and would you believe it there was another garden first in there! A spectacular one at that...

Bedstraw Hawkmoth!

Wow - just wow! I actually felt it before I saw it, as it was resting on the underside of one of the egg boxes. My fingers went to pinch the box to grip it so I could turn it over, but my thumb brushed against something that was clearly large and soft!  When I did turn the box over I could hardly believe my eyes -  BEDSTRAW HAWKMOTH!!!!!

This is the ninth species of Hawkmoth recorded in the garden, and follows on nicely from the two Striped Hawkmoths I caught in June 2015.  So what will number ten be?  Well there's one immigrant species that I don't quite now how I haven't caught yet - Convolvulus Hawkmoth. But there's also a UK resident species I haven't had yet, despite pine trees not all that far away - Pine Hawkmoth.  The flight period for Pine is almost over now, so if it's going to happen this year chances are it's going to be the former - unless of course something more unexpected comes along!?  Seems like my Bedstraw Hawk was the front runner of a influx of this species, with several trapped in the UK last night - great that there's some proper moth immigration underway!  And presumably linked to this fresh wave of Painted Lady butterflies?

Anyway, back to the Bedstraw, and here's some more photos of this cracker.  It was quite active when out in the fresh air so I didn't have long for proper pics...

Love the white above the face
Just about to take off

The Bedstraw was accompanied by another 234 macro moths of 40 species in the trap on Thursday night, and came with five Silver Y for company in the immigrant moth department.  Other notables were singles of Four-spotted Footman, Crescent Dart, Dog's Tooth, Mocha (is there something going on with this species this summer!? My third ever but all the space of a week!), Iron Prominent, Small Waved Umber and four Jersey Tigers.

Another male Crescent Dart - looking a bit faded though this one

Dog's Tooth - a well marked moth and showing that distinctive black 'tooth' marking

Iron Prominent. The Prominent moths are never numerous, but I tend to catch one or two most nights


And that's that.  The bird news from the last few days I will roll on to my next blog post...


Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Four New Moths!

I finished work on Sunday and was absolutely shattered, my intentions were nothing but food and sofa-based. But then I noticed how still it was outside, how warm it felt, with the final straw being the Country File weather forecast telling me the rest of the week was windy... I had to get a moth trap out! And boy am I glad I did...

I set a trap up at Mum and Dad's and in the morning was greeted by 285 macro moths of 51 species. So far fewer than the 'Mental Moth Night' of the week before, but the variety was impressive and included an amazing THREE new species for the garden and I!  I've been trapping here on and off for almost ten years, so as you can imagine new species don't crop off all that often - so three in one go is astonishing! 

One of them was really quite special, and actually not in the trap - I found it about 4 feet away in long grass.  Jersey Mocha is a proper 'moth mega', first UK record was in Dorset in 2003 and there's not been that many since, including only a couple in Devon as far as I'm aware...

Jersey Mocha - such a speckly moth!


Less nationally exciting, but for me equally exciting due to their amazing markings, were two stunning examples of The Mocha.  Although supposedly widely distributed in woodland habitat in the south, I've not had the pleasure of one before - what a beautiful little beast and here's both of them...

The Mocha # 1

The Mocha # 2


And the last newbie, but no means least, was a Least Carpet.  A tiny moth but again beautifully marked, and possibly another pretty good record as they're suppose to be largely restricted to the south east of the UK... 

Least Carpet with a Common Footman for size


There were a couple more immigrant species in the trap as well, with singles of Silver Y and my first Dark Sword Grass of the year...

Dark Sword Grass


Other notables from the trap included Scarce Footman, Four-spotted Footman, Cabbage Moth, Lychnis, Scorched Carpet and three Jersey Tigers.

As the title suggests there was a fourth new moth for me that day, thanks to Fran.  It was her first solo trapping attempt but thankfully she kept hold of the Broad-barred White.  Although apparently not a scarce species, I've never caught one before...

Broad-barred White; such a striking moth!

And again - another great moth!


Have a bit of bird news to post up, and some Odonata pics from the other day - but will leave all this for another day as it's time to hit the sack! Night all.


Friday, 26 July 2019

More Yellow-legged Gulls and More Moths!

The biggest group of gulls on the Axe yesterday evening were distant, but I soon picked out my third juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of the year...

Despite the distance clearly a classic juv YLG - the pattern of streaking on the breast and neck is really striking and typical.


I wasn't however expecting to then pick out a first-summer Yellow-legged Gull as well, probably the rarest age class here and it's only the third non-juvenile Yellow-legged Gull that I've ever seen on the Axe in the late summer months.

Just like the juvenile it was distant, in fact it was often stood next to the juvenile.  Thankfully it allowed prolonged views though...

First-summer Yellow-legged Gull (video grab so shocking quality!)

And again, with the juvenile next to it facing away looking right.  Note the similarities in shape, size and structure between the two.


With last nights overnight high temperatures I knew I had to have a moth trap out - so Fran kindly allowed one in her back garden again (which is very handy as it's only about six doors up from me!).

We were well rewarded with an excellent and varied catch of 271 macros moths of 61 species, which included a first for me - and one that looks so much better in the flesh than it does in the books...

Dusky Sallow - a striking beast

A different view - such a beautifully marked moth


Other highlights included...

Iron Prominent

Swallow Prominent

Magpie Moth

Sharp-angled Peacock

Ruby Tiger

Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet


Got another trap out tonight at Mum and Dad's so am looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings!


Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Mental Moth Night and Juv Yellow-legged Gulls

Had a trap out at Mum and Dad's last night, and this morning was greeted by probably my busiest ever moth trap!  Fog had descended on Seaton, presumably in the early hours of the morning, which I thought may have killed off any moth activity - but it seemed to have had the opposite effect! What a haul...

The inside of my moth trap this morning!

Every side of every egg box looked something like this!


Inside (and outside of) my trap were an outstanding 559 macro moths of 70 species!  And bear-in-mind this was from just one Skinner-type trap, my Robinson is still out of action and a Robinson will often hold a huge number more moths than any Skinner-type (maybe 50 - 70% more moths in my experience!).  Because it was such an impressive haul, I'm going make all your day's by listing them all and their numbers;

Large Yellow Underwing - 81
Heart and Dart - 63
Uncertain/Rustic - 39
Bright-line Brown-eye - 37
Dark Arches - 36
Common/Lesser Rustic - 33
Elephant Hawkmoth - 27 (so much pink!)
Common Footman - 22
Shuttle-shaped Dart - 17
Dingy Footman - 13
Willow Beauty - 12
Clay - 11
Mottled Rustic - 10
Four-spotted Footman - 9 (an incredible count and all males!)
Peppered Moth - 7
Buff Ermine - 7
Poplar Hawkmoth - 6
Buff Arches - 6
Rosy Footman - 6
Brussels Lace - 6
Lesser Yellow Underwing - 5
Coronet - 5
Knot Grass - 5
Swallow-tailed Moth - 4
V-pug - 4
Brimstone - 4
Ruby Tiger - 4
Nut-tree Tussock - 4
Double Square-spot - 4
Early Thorn - 3
Common Carpet - 3
Riband Wave -3
Buff-tip - 3 
Scalloped Oak - 3
Crescent Dart - 3 (my highest count of the local speciality)
Flame-shoulder - 3
Dot Moth - 3
Pug sp. - 3
Minor sp. - 3 
Privet Hawkmoth - 2
Light Emerald - 2 
Small Emerald - 2
July Highflyer - 2
Small Fan-footed Wave - 2
Smoky Wainscot - 2
Marbled Green - 2
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing - 2
Silver Y - 2 (yeah immigrants at last!)
Small Fan-foot - 2 
Spectacle - 2
Jersey Tiger - 1
Single-dotted Wave - 1
Clouded Silver - 1
Common Emerald - 1
Engrailed - 1
Yellow Shell - 1
Small Rivulet - 1
Scorched Carpet - 1 (always nice!)
Garden Carpet - 1
Ruddy Carpet - 1
Snout - 1
Black Arches - 1
Leopard Moth - 1 (not caught too many of these - stunning)
Pebble Prominent - 1
Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing - 1
Herald - 1
Dog's Tooth - 1 (a bit worn but don't catch these all too often)
Green Arches - 1
Grey Dagger - 1
Poplar Grey - 1

And here's some more photo evidence...

Leopard Moth - must remember to photograph moths in the spot in future as love the look of the lichen!

Male Crescent Dart

Herald, Four-spotted Footman, Privet Hawkmoth (and Heart and Dart). A nice view!

Scorched Carpet - such a well named moth

Ruddy Carpet

Dog's Tooth (and Dingy Footman and Heart and Dart)

Marbled Green - the weakest marked of the two, but the other stayed high up on a wall!


.....and just when you thought this blog post couldn't get any better, you remember seeing "Juv Yellow-legged Gulls" in the title :-)  

Yes I saw my first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of the season last Friday, it was brief, distant and quickly flew off.  The weather was awful on Friday though, so I thought this was just going to prove my first one of the day, but I was wrong.  No more - well until tonight when this lovely big, long and pale brute stuck out like a flashing beacon north of Coronation Corner.  Again it was distant but it was crying out to be papped...

Juv Yellow-legged Gull from one angle

...and from another view point - which basically offered the same view just of the other side of the bird!


After writing all this I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to going to bed!  Night all.