Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Big White Birds

Just a quick update, but one that does include plenty of pictures of big white birds!

On Sunday night Phil found a Great White Egret on Black Hole Marsh (although a tram driver reported to me an egret that looked larger than a heron earlier that day, but from experience I've found sometimes driver's bird ID can be a bit ropy!).  I was stuck home Sunday evening, but a glance out the bedroom window was all I needed because there it was sat on a tree alongside the Tower Hide!  It stayed there about twenty minutes 'til it got too dark to see.  Please excuse the quality of the phone-scoped pic...

My second GWE from the house

This morning Jess suggested an early morning walk in Lyme - which I didn't vote against seeing as Richard let me know the night before that an unringed White Stork roosted near the Cobb.  I thought we had missed it as it was last reported flying east over town, but soon after our arrival there it was flying over town coming back west...

And much to our disbelief, it landed on the RNLI Station which we were stood right next too!!

Amazing views! After about half an hour it took off and flew west a little way out to sea, but seemed to turn back east and drop back in towards Lyme...

As we drove off a little while later, I could see it again in flight and heading west, so as we came back into Seaton I suggested we briefly stopped off at the sea front in case it kept on flying west.  And amazingly this greeted me...

Incoming Stork!

And it did exactly the same as it had in Lyme, it landed right next to us!  On a roof I'm more used to seeing Black Redstarts on...

The big white bird on the roof!
A White Stork on patch!

Soon after I left it, Kev watched it fly west over Beer Head and it's been seen today on the Exe, and finally this evening on a pub roof in Sidmouth!

Sadly though, although the sheer joy of seeing this amazing bird still lives on, the feeling it's given me inside has completely withered....  Look closer at the open wing shot on the RNLI building and there's clearly been some sort of human intervention with the tips of these primary feathers...

And despite the lack of rings, it's wearing some sort of satellite tag.  If anything this makes it even more intriguing though, why tag it and not ring it!??

So come on, own up, who is tracking this Stork!? Please get in touch!

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Honey Buzzard and Brown Hairstreak

Considering I haven't properly been out birding today, as the post title implies it's not been too shabby at all...

I was travelling from a to b this morning with Harry in the back of the car when I figured I had time for a five minute scan over the valley from the Axmouth farm gate (if the patience of the back seat passenger allowed it!). Almost immediately I picked up a super high flying raptor circling over Colyford Marsh and it just didn't look 'right'.  It was at that point much to my frustration I realised my telescope wasn't in the car, so all I could do was watch it in my bins some more before grabbing my trusty P900. The bird was always gaining height, and I managed to get one pic before it got so high the camera would no longer focus on it.  About thirty seconds later it began a determined-looking glide heading off purposely south west.

I'd seen enough with my bins to put out news of a 'possible Honey Buzzard' to my fellow patch birders, but it wasn't until about two hours ago that I downloaded the photo onto my laptop...

Same snap but heavily cropped!

And there it is - a dark juv Honey Buzzard!  Note the long and broad tail with 2 or 3 narrow but distinct black bars, the narrow base to wings with dark bulging secondaries, black carpal patch, solidly dark brown underparts and a nice yellow bill!  Although it's a fresh juv it seems to have a damaged or missing inner primary on its left wing.

I've been fairly lucky with patch Honey Buzzard's as this represents my third, although the last one was way back on 24th Sept 2008!  Amazingly I saw the 2008 bird from exactly the same spot as today's, and that was also a lone dark juv - although thankfully flying much lower in the sky!  2008 was a proper influx year with large numbers noted in September, although most of them staying well east of us. 

2019 really is proving the year of raptors on the Axe with long-saying Osprey and Marsh Harrier, the Goshawk last month and now this! Hopefully a nice Pallid Harrier is just around the corner to finish the year off in style...

To complete my bird news for today, I had a Wheatear land on the roof next to Mum and Dad's house.  When you see a wacky thing like this you know it's a good day for migration! Plenty of Meadow Pipits flying over whenever I was outside too.

And now for the Brown Hairstreak - a first for me and following the Long-tailed Blues another butterfly first on patch!  Exactly a week ago Pam Parsons photographed a Brown Hairstreak on Colyford Common (tweeted HERE) - been only one or two patch records of this species in the last five years.  So whilst I was down the wetlands with Harry and Jess this afternoon, I left them behind for ten minutes to check the general area Pam photographed it.  As it was a whole week ago and probably involved just one insect, I really wasn't expecting anything.

I was wrong to be so pessimistic...

The first view I got - a female Brown Hairstreak!
I can only really describe the orange as 'Gatekeeper-orange'
And what an underwing!

I watched her for about five minutes, egg laying on a blackthorn just to the left of the lower entrance gate to Colyford Common.  If anyone is interested in looking for her, she spent the whole time on the lower left hand side of this bush...

Surely the very same insect!?

I've heard many people saying how hard these are to get good views of - so I was well and truly spoilt today.  A larger butterfly than I was expecting, although if it were fluttering around the top of a tall ash tree am sure it would look far smaller!  Thanks Pam for tweeting the original picture out a week ago.

Today was a nice reminder of how lucky I am to live where I do. From my house I can walk to the Brown Hairstreak bush within ten minutes, and I probably could have scoped the Honey Buzzard from my back garden! 

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Birdwatching Tram - 08/09/19

Led another Birdwatch tram on Sunday morning, leaving Seaton Station at 9am.  I had one bird on my mind, and told the driver if I saw it we were to just "go for it!".  Just a few minutes in and this is exactly what happened because I could see the Osprey over the Estuary!

We had just brief flight views before it disappeared, but having not caught a fish I knew it hadn't gone too far.  A bit further up the Estuary and there it was, perched on a post where it stayed for about 15 minutes...

Osprey from the tram!

It then took to the air and fished on the Estuary.  We looked at other bit sand pieces but timed our focus back to the Osprey well, as we all saw it dive into the Estuary and come up with a huge fish!  It then flew right past us and up to its favoured spot in the woods...

Osprey with a massive mullet!

What a crowd pleaser!  As were the selection of wading birds, with singles of Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, three Ringed Plover and plenty of the usual species... 

Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover

There were heaps of Teal about, but frustratingly the singles of Kingfisher and Water Rail were so brief only a few of us saw them - everyone heard the Water Rail though as they were so vocal!  Cetti's Warbler (singing), Reed and Sedge Warblers and several Chiffchaffs were also very vocal during the trap, presumably due to the still and warm weather.

Several Wheatears were seen along the track, along with an extremely brief Whinchat.  Far more obliging were the flock of 6-8 Yellow Wagtails feeding around a close herd of cattle, and went nicely with the Pied and Grey Wagtails that were also recorded during the trip.

So all in all, another bloody good trip! 

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Mipits are Go

Managed to spend the first few hours of today on Axe Cliff, which was nice.  As I've not been able to get out much during the mornings so far this autumn, Axe Cliff has been frustratingly under watched - well not watched at all as far as I'm aware.  But still, better late than never...

Looking west.  I took this photo from the spot I did most the 'vis migging' from today.

I timed my first visit of the autumn here with the first big push of Meadow Pipits, a sure sign that we have moved into (what I call) the mid-autumn period.  Flock after flock were flying low west over the field pictured above, with many staying tight to the cliff edge.  Most flocks were in the 10-20 region, but there were a couple of 30's and one of c45.  I counted up until 8am and noted the following; 

360 Meadow Pipit
7 Tree Pipit
5 pipit sp. (flew like Tree's but remained frustratingly silent)
3 alba Wagtail
2 Chaffinch

Off they go! Mipits moving west with Beer Head in the background

Despite the passage overhead it was disappointing to see all the fields so empty - often on big Mipit days many of them land and feed here, but not today. In fact there weren't many grounded migrants about at all, just one Wheatear, two Whitethroats and eight Chiffchaffs noted.

On the way home I was going to stop off at Axmouth to see if the lingering Osprey was fishing - but there was literally no space! Fingers crossed we see it on the Birdwatch Special Tram tomorrow morning.

A busy Coronation Corner!

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Many Moths!

Just a quick moth update - be nice to have this blog fully up-to-date!

Since my last mothing post I have run the trap at Mum and Dad's on five nights. And as to be expected with the nights cooling off and the year progressing, overall numbers are dropping but there's still heaps of variety and plenty of potential.  I'm ever hopeful of a garden Convolvulus Hawkmoth so don't expect any less trapping to take place over the next month - fingers crossed this is my year!

First up was the night of 22nd August which gave me 178 moths of 28 species. Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Vine's Rustic and Large Yellow Underwing were the top three species quantity-wise, with the pick of the catch quality-wise being two Orange Swift (don't see many of these here), Mocha and my first Canary-shouldered Thorn of the year...

Orange Swift

Canary-shouldered Thorn

My next trapping night was 25th August which gave me 184 moths of 28 species. Top three species in numbers same as the last catch (although in a different order, Vine's Rustic now top), with the highlights being singles of Dark Sword Grass, Mocha, L-album Wainscot, Chinese Character and three Silver Y....

Dark Sword-Grass

Chinese Character

I trapped the following night too because the weather looked so promising, this produced a much better 226 moths of 35 species.  Same top three species quantity-wise, with 75 Large Yellow Underwings making up a large percentage of the catch.  The highlight was, incredibly, my second Jersey Mocha in under a month (first HERE), along with singles of Maiden's Blush, Four-spotted Footman and Dark Sword Grass.

Jersey Mocha #2.  Although more battered around the edges than my first, what is there is brighter and fresher.

Maiden's Blush

Roll forward to 29th August (after a spell of poor weather) and 101 moths of 21 species trapped.  Setaceous Hebrew Character replaced Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing as the third most numerous species, with some nice snippets of quality from singles of Four-spotted Footman, Maiden's Blush, Silver Y, Small Mottled Willow and a lovely Portland Ribbon Wave...

Portland Ribbon Wave

Male Four-spotted Footman, not caught any females this year

Small Mottled Willow

And finally we come to my most recent catch, the night of 2nd September and the 176 moths of 22 species this gave me the following morning.  Same top three as the last catch and the highlights were singles of Silver Y, Dark Spectacle and Pale Mottled Willow...

An awful photo of a Pale Mottled Willow - sorry it's so rubbish, I was going to take more but it flew off!

Dark Spectacle - a classic example of one (and note three separate kidney marks, in Spectacle the two nearest the head are usually merged to make one big one)

Friday, 30 August 2019

It's Autumn on the Axe

It's been a good week locally for birds, one of the best autumn weeks we've enjoyed for several years I'd say, and this is why...

First of all I'll start with Ospreys. A couple of weeks ago, on the 18th in fact, I happened to be outside at work (in the middle of Seaton) when an Osprey flew low south west overhead shortly after 10am.  It disappeared as quickly as it appeared, unlike the juvenile Sue Smith found from Tower Hide on 25th.  This one, clearly an amateur fisher, is still around today, and can be easily seen fishing on the Axe given a bit of time.  It's great having a long-stayer again, our first proper lingering bird for what seems like years...

Osprey with a typical back drop - lots of alarming gulls!

The Tower Hide is the best place to see it from, although I have stayed clear of here as I know it's proving a busy place for photographers at the moment - and rightly so.  This has to be one of the best sites to photograph fishing Osprey in the UK (away from breeding grounds)?

Going in for a dive

I had a second Osprey on the 27th, when one flew in from the north west over Seaton cricket pitch, then continued south west at quite a height.  Our usual bird was back fishing on the Estuary an hour or so later so am happy this was a different individual.  Whilst on raptors, at least one Marsh Harrier remains in the valley, and I had a second fly west over Lyme Regis on the morning of the 23rd.

Now to the wading birds and Black Hole Marsh.  After another little pulse of Wood Sandpipers with three on 25th, it really kicked off yesterday.  Late afternoon on 29th, inline with something of a national arrival of these species, Phil texted with news of three Curlew Sands and three Ruff - nice.  I went down there that evening and saw all six of these goodies, along with three Greenshank, a juvenile Knot, several Yellow Wags and plenty of the usual species...

All three Curlew Sands - a cracking adult and two juvs
Three juv Ruff - I think a male and two females
Juv Knot

Over the course of today, the three Ruff have dispersed, but a lovely adult Little Stint has joined the fun and games.  Unlike the adult Curlew Sand which is still very summery, the stint is more advanced in its moult to winter plumage...

Little Stint on the left, and Curlew Sand in shot too
On the right here, such a delicate little beauty

A juvenile Bar-tailed Godwit was also new in, mixed in with the vast numbers of Black-tailed Godwits...

Note the difference in leg-length!

Had some better views of the Curlew Sands too.  The adult really is cracking, only seen one or two better than this on the Axe before...

Look at that!
Constantly feeding though! 

Also tonight a Green Sand, two Ringed Plover, the Knot still (which has developed an occasional limp), a Whimbrel and heaps of the usual species.  I am so glad the water levels have now been sorted on Black Hole because the mass of birds it's attracted will no doubt continue to attract even more - the next few weeks could be really good.

The one thing I have really missed this August is Beer Head. I simply haven't had chance to get up there, but those who have have been seeing plenty.  Phil turned up the highlight, with a brief Wryneck yesterday morning, but the large counts of migrants coming in most mornings have proved equally gripping.  Looking forwards, Yellow Wags will start picking up in numbers now, they usually peak over the few days when August ends and September begins, so hopefully I will be able to cash in on this at least.

 'til next time...

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Long-tailed Blues

I've got quite a bit of catching up to do!  Since my last post I've seen quite a few birds, not seen even more birds, and enjoyed a couple of really productive moth nights.  All of that must wait though, because the contents of this blog post, quite simply, deserve its own post...

Late afternoon on Saturday 24th, news broke on Twitter of at least two Long-tailed Blue butterflies at Axmouth Harbour, from Lloyd Evans. Here is the very tweet...

What a tweet!

All this came as quite a shock.  I was stuck at work, but Kevin quickly followed it up and saw two an hour later. They were feeding & egg laying on a small patch of pea plant just to the east of the river mouth.  

Frustratingly the following day didn't allow me any chances to see them, but three were present and well reported on social media, pulling in visitors from far and wide.  Then Monday came around, and thankfully - finally - I managed to spend my lunch hour with them.  What a treat...

Female Long-tailed Blue

What wonderful little butterflies, clearly smaller than Holly Blues, and I found them really hard to keep up with thanks to their distinctively jerky and rapid flight.  They were oddly sporadic in their appearances too, with one period of 20+ minutes of nothing, and then a flurry of sightings right up until I left.  This one spent a lot of time underneath the flowers, so often the views were like this...

Easily to overlook - but once seen so distinctive

This female showed by far the best, resting on flowers and egg laying on the nearest patch of pea to where I was stood...

It actually has long-tails!

As can be seen in the above pic though, she has a deformity on her right wing. Also viewable in this pic...

A cracking underwing pattern - but what's with the wing...

This is a defect caused when the wings are being pumped up during emergency, which begs the question, was this butterfly born and bred here!?  Well personally I think not.  Despite this damage it was flying around just fine, and considering there has been a national influx of this species within the last week or so, I think the chances are it arrived as part of this influx.    

Not easy to see the upperwing - just about managed a shot of it here

As you can see, this conclusively sexes this insect as a female - but when flying around on two occasions I heard others announce it as a male due to how blue it appeared.  When comparing it to the second Long-tailed Blue that was flying around however, this was understandable. The second individual was a really drab, brown and tatty female - presumably the one pictured by others in previous days lacking any tails.  I did see a third insect in flight on two occasions, and this one really did look proper blue, sadly never saw it settled though.

There is a previous patch record of Long-tailed Blue, I know of at least one recorded on Goat Island (where there is lots of pea plant - so there could be a load out there now!) but it's great to have some 'gettable' ones!  Whilst at the harbour I also saw Common Blue, Painted Lady, Silver-washed Fritillary and a couple of smart male Clouded Yellows.

As I said earlier there has been something of an influx of Long-tailed Blues into the UK - in fact it's looking likely to prove the biggest influx ever!  For more details have a read of this excellent BirdGuides article;

And I will finish by ending on a similar note to the article-linked above.  Go out and search your local pea plants, you may not find an adult but there's every chance you could discover some eggs. And if you do then keep coming back and you never know you may just witness a UK bred Long-tailed Blue emerge or take its maiden flight. Something I hope to do in about a month's time...