Friday, 19 October 2018

Mostly About Egrets...

I didn't make it out birding at all yesterday which was a massive shame. It was the first still day for a while which saw a significant pulse of bird migration along the south coast of the UK.  I couldn't even cash in on the five Great White Egrets that flew west from Abbotsbury Swannery, and were later seen at Dawlish Warren.  They left Abbotsbury at 09:10, continued west past West Bexington at 09:22, Charmouth at 09:47 and finally Dawlish Warren at 10:30. I reckon they would have gone by here pretty much bang on 10am - right when I was conducting an appraisal at work! 

Oh well, I may have missed five big yellow-billed egrets yesterday, but this evening during a ten minute check of the Estuary, I saw five small yellow-billed egrets!  I don't know how many Cattle Egrets were actually present, as egrets were bombing about all over the place in the half-light, roosting in two different places, but five was my highest definite count.  As I said in a tweet a few weeks ago, to me it now feels like Cattle Egrets are here to stay, unlike their last influx four or more years ago.  Apparently there are up to 95 wintering just in Somerset! 

Here's three of tonight's five (plus)...

It was a pretty decent ten minutes along the Estuary actually, with masses and masses of pre-roosting gulls on show.  I wish I'd had more time to look through them, as a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull stood out in one of the first gatherings I looked at.  Another highlight came in the form of a flock of four Goosanders that flew downriver at 18:10. 

So a rather pleasant end to an all-round pleasant day....

Sunday, 14 October 2018

A Surprise Yellow-browed

Well that was a bit of luck!  

I was walking Harry between my house and his Grandparent's house late morning yesterday when a Yellow-browed Warbler started shouting at me.  Amazingly it was coming from the very same group of trees one inhabited last autumn, and represents my fourth in the street that I live in (Primrose Way) in four years!  I have to say I didn't think I'd get one this year as there have been far fewer in the UK this autumn than the past few years.  

Once I'd dropped the little one off, I returned with my bins and enjoyed some decent views of this little sprite. It was in a mixed flock of tits, which also included a couple of Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff.

I also spent some time yesterday looking through the Estuary gulls, it was a really windy day and early October often proves a great time of year to find scarce gulls.  There were a heck of lot of large gulls about (three large flocks) but despite trying I couldn't find anything of value within them.  It was nice to see five Med Gulls dotted around though, four first-winters and an adult, my highest count since late summer.  Also on the Estuary was this Bar-tailed Godwit...

And to end this rather short and sweet blog post, here's a couple of random photos taken from Seaton Beach during the past few weeks...

Monday, 24 September 2018


So this post is about three months late...

Early in June I visited Portugal for my first time, the vibrant city of Lisbon to be precise. This was far from a birding trip, but during the three days I was there I managed to snatch a bit of time out. Most of this was just walking the parks and small strips of green within the city, which proved surprisingly productive..

The commonest species in Lisbon were; Serin, Black Redstart, Spotless Starling, White Wagtail, Ring-necked Parakeet, Pallid Swift, Blackbird, House Sparrows and Yellow-legged Gull

Male Serin. Although Serin was probably the commonest bird - they're not always easy to see!
Adult Spotless Starling - just as it says on the tin! 
Adult Yellow-legged Gull
Adult White Wagtail
Male Black Redstart
Male Black Redstart
Juvenile Black Redstart
Juvenile Black Redstart
Juvenile Black Redstart begging Daddy for food
And it worked!

Unfortunately I didn't have a camera to hand when I stumbled upon a Short-toed Treecreepers nest. And more parrot action was provided by a pair of Monk Parakeets that flew past us whilst we were stood on the roof of a high rise hotel.

Away from the city, the salt pans along the Tagus Estuary were bonkers. Absolutely crammed full of birds, I could have spent a week here alone. Totally amazing place...

Tagus salt pans from the air

There were so many waders here. Black-winged Stilts breeding on every pool, with a pair of Kentish Plovers on most. Interestingly, despite the date (early June), there were large flocks of non-breeding waders too; 450+ Dunlin, 5+ Curlew Sandpipers and almost 200 Avocet!  The local guides said how unusual these numbers were so late on in spring, especially the Avocet as they don't breed here.  The massive numbers of breeding Little Terns were a spectacle for the eyes and ears, and larger birds on the water included the usual Cattle Egrets, Spoonbills and up to 100 Greater Flamingos...

Sleepy Flamingos, almost all were first-summers with just a couple of adults on site
Some feeding Flamingos with Avocets behind

Fan-tailed Warblers were everywhere, along with one Sardinian Warbler, a Great Reed Warbler, several Crested Larks and Hoopoes.  Hunting over the marsh were a couple of Black Kites, a Marsh Harrier and at least one stunning Black-shouldered Kite...

Flight views were close, but the only perched view was distant.

The trip finished with me sharing this view of Lisbon...

....with hundreds of Common and Pallid Swifts, a chorus of singing Serins and this very showy Turtle Dove...

I miss seeing Turtle Doves in the UK
Such a beautiful bird

And don't get me started on the food... wow! Some of the simplest yet finest food I've ever eaten. Completely uncomplicated, they simply allow the quality of the ingredients do the talking. And it's easy to tell they only use the finest and freshest of ingredients. Sublime.

Better stop writing really as the memories are making me hungry...

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Autumn Moves On

Thought it was high time I wrote a few more words here. I am getting out now and then just not finding the time to blog about it.

I suppose the biggest news is we are well and truly in September....and don't we know it!  Meadow Pipits streaming over with fewer and fewer Tree Pipits, Yellow Wagtail vis mig replaced by Grey Wagtails and alba Wagtails, Chiffchaffs taking over from Willow Warblers as the most common phyllosc in the bushes. Autumn has well and truly moved on to the next phase, which I think of as the 'middle phase'...

Wheatear Axe Cliff - 14/8/18

The Estuary has seen a run of good birds this month, with four Spotted Redshanks together on the 1st being an amazing local sight. Osprey, Ruff, Turnstone, Wood Sandpiper have all been seen by others, with Cattle Egrets being frequently seen over the last couple of days, in fact Mark Dobinson had ten on Seaton Marshes this morning!

I was hoping to get a look at the sea this morning considering the rough weather, but only had time to muster a couple of quick scans of the gulls on the Estuary.  Proved worthwhile though as there were a couple of first-winter Yellow-legged Gulls in with them, one in the morning and one early afternoon. I didn't have a camera to hand for bird two but the first allowed some pics...

The bird on the left, nice pale headed individual

A flash of its tail

Hope to see some of the Cattle Egrets soon!  They may be getting commoner but I always enjoy seeing them.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Whale in the Bay

Last Thursday Phil texted with news of a large cetacean off the Spot On Kiosk, which encouraged me to take an early lunch break in his company. Compared with the views others had mine were dreadful (a brief head-only view) but we weren't really sure what it was.  Although I think we all knew it wasn't any of the usual Whale species on the radar.

Chris Townend kindly confirmed the identification when he saw Roger's and Phil's photos a couple of hours later, a Northern Bottlenose Whale. He then jumped in his car and headed over, although the Whale vanished at about 12:30 and wasn't seen again, so sadly he missed it. Maybe good news for the Whale though - hopefully this means it went back out to deeper water.  Take a look at Roger's photos HERE and Phil's on his Twitter timeline HERE.  I wasn't really sure about the status of Northern Bottlenose Whale in UK waters or beyond before seeing this beast, but here's a good overview...

You may remember the 2006 London Whale, which was a Bottlenose Whale, observed swimming up the Thames.  She sadly stranded and died on day two.  I looked to find some more information about her online, and was surprised to see she has her own website;

Seeing as I didn't manage any pics of our Whale, and the fact I don't like posting photo-less posts, I'm going to rewind back to the hotter parts of the summer, when I spent some time looking for a patch Southern Migrant Hawker.  I never did find one, but it was the best summer here for Small Red-eyed Damselflies and a pretty good one for Ruddy Darters too.  The latter have really dipped in numbers over the past few years, but this year a wander around Lower Bruckland Ponds would often reveal several individuals, with six on 3rd August being my highest count...

More birdie posts to follow...

Sunday, 26 August 2018

A Flavour of August

As can be guessed by my subdued social media and blogging presence of late, it's been a busy few weeks! August is one of my favourite birding months of the year, so with a window of opportunity to get out towards the end of the month, I took it...

The birders who've been getting out to Beer Head this month have been well rewarded, with good numbers of common migrants (including a few Pied Flies) and a bonus Wryneck found by Bun on Wednesday 22nd.  I knew Beer Head would be busy with birders on Saturday morning, and following a glimpse of some decent vis mig during a dog walk on the edge of Colyton on Friday morning (five Tree Pipits and six Yellow Wags flew west in a ten minute period), and the fact Saturday morning saw a cloud-less dawn, Axe Cliff lured me...

The view over Seaton from Axe Cliff

I was up here 06:00-08:15 and saw; 

44 Yellow Wagtail (all west, including two groups of ten)
7 Tree Pipit (all singles, west)
1 Wheatear
1 Redstart (a cracking male)
3 Whitethroat
5 Willow Warbler

So not loads of birds by a long way, but it filled me with so much joy. The joy of autumn birding.

After this I headed down to Black Hole Marsh, another venue that has done well this month, although unlike Beer Head hasn't offered any real patch scarcities. The second Spotted Redshank of the month (with a third found today!) had been found the day before, and showed well around the Island Hide whilst I was there. Exceptionally well...

As you can see it's a juvenile - and an incredibly fresh one at that! I don't think I've ever seen one so young, rewind just a few weeks and it was probably stumbling around a damp Arctic taiga landscape peeping at its mother for food!  Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

Also on view were a couple of juvenile Little Ringed Plovers, c25 Dunlin, a Green Sand and a Greenshank.

Won't keep you waiting as long for the next blog post I promise!

Friday, 3 August 2018

Wading Birds

I have just written the Axe Estuary monthly report for July, and what a great start to 'autumn' 2018 we've had. Yes I know it is early to be using the 'a' word, but before you start throwing your keyboards at the screens let me clarify I don't mean autumn as in the calendar autumn, I mean it as in the autumn bird migration (southward post breeding passage). Every year the autumn passage for wading birds starts in July, often in June in fact, but this year in particular we've had an excellent variety of species. This sadly though probably indicates they've not had a good breeding year, so although we are seeing more, it's bad news.

I missed the first two Wood Sands of the year here (and the first since 2016), and I guess I missed the third as only one of the two that Tim Wright had drop in on Black Hole Marsh on Wednesday night was still present on Thursday.   When I saw it Thursday morning it wasn't close like it was later in the day, but great to see nonetheless...

A juvenile Wood Sandpiper along with an adult Dunlin

Personally I've also seen a couple of Greenshank, three Green Sands (great comparison on offer of adult and juveniles), the lingering Spotted Redshank, 40+ Black-tailed Godwit, up to 16 Dunlin and Common Sands and a Snipe.  The first few gorgeous lemon yellow Willow Warblers have been noticeable in the bushes over the past week, looking extremely lovely. A lovely adult Hobby flew low south west through Black Hole on Thursday too, which could well have been a local bird.

With a couple more sunny days now upon us, my search for a local Southern Migrant Hawker continues...