Wednesday 31 December 2008

Today And The Past Year

Spent most of today in the field, which is the first time I've done that for weeks!

This morning, the Axe Estuary Ringing Group had an outing at Colyford Common, we remained here 'til just after midday. In all we caught 38 birds, nothing outstanding, and as the weather was soooooo cold there are no 'in-hand' photos as we wanted to let the little critters go as soon as possible. I had a stomp around the new reedbed area whilst others were processing some birds; 11 Snipe, one Green Sand and one Water Rail the results. On the actual common there were at least ten Rock Pipits, a lovely Water Pipit and another six Snipe. It was REALLY REALLY cold today, most the frost remained 'til it got dark again tonight! Here are some scenic snaps....

Proper chilly today!

After a bite to eat and a spot of shopping I headed out again to have a look over the fields alongside the A3052 west of Tower Servies. Despite several hundred Lapwings dotted about I could only find a single Golden Plover. A single flock of about 250 Redwing was nice to see.

Gulls had all my attention for the rest of the afternoon, I couldn't find anything scarce though. At the moment Ferrybridge have somewhere in the region of 150 Med Gulls, so I think it is somewhat unfair that I could only rustle up six! Two adults, a second-winter and a first-winter were in the Gull roost off Seaton Hole, then a look along the estuary revealed two more adults.

2008 summary

So it is the end of 2008, and the patch has produced some excellent birding and some cracking birds. My personal fave....hmmmm....dunno! I love Gulls, so to finally get Glaucous Gull on my Axe list was very pleasing indeed, plus it was a right brute! The Glonk isn't the Gull that could be my bird of year though, but the stunning juv Sabine's Gull which basically knocked me for six on 6th October is a serious contender!

The only pic I managed of it - a real stunner!

Although we've not had that many actual rares this year, there has been lots of unusual sights for the patch. A flock of 22 Woodlark (never seen one here before), some close and really showy spring Roseate Terns (only ever seen one here before), lots of decent raptors (Red Kites and Ospreys galore!), some superb seawatching fit for a headland and some exciting 'vis mig' sessions. Along with the Glonk and Sabine's, the other patch ticks for me this year included a fly-over Dotterel and a gorgeous dark juv Honey Buzzard (a bird I well and truly earned after all my sky scanning!).

Unlike most the other local birders I didn't yearl ist this year. Well I started, but got bored by about May! I did just have a tot up and my final total stands at 185. This is a long way off my total last year of 197 (a patch record!) but I'm still pleased with it. Easy(ish) birds I missed included Garden Warbler, Ring Ouzel, Puffin, Slav Grebe, Long-tailed Skua and a Hen Harrier or two....

Right folks, time for some celebrations to begin! I wish everybody a HAPPY NEW YEAR, let's hope 2009 is stuffed full of action packed birding in the Seaton area! Best wishes to everyone.

Thursday 25 December 2008


I wish all readers of this blog a very Happy Christmas, and I hope everyone had a great day!

I certainly have, lots of lovely presents this morning thanks to my parents and girlfriend. Best birdie present goes to this book.....

I've had a quick flick through and it looks SUPERB!

Everyone have a great Boxing Day, hopefully I'll find at least half an hour of birding at some point!

Sunday 21 December 2008

One For The Larid Enthusiasts

Haven't had any birding time at all recently, when I've not been at work there's been too many other things to do! This morning I had a bit of time some gave the Gulls a mid morning glance on the estuary.

There weren't that many Gulls really, and an adult Med Gull showed itself pretty quickly. I spent most time looking at the large Gulls though, and two highlights emerged from my grilling. First of all, and much more straight forward than the second was this nice adult argentatus Scandinavian Herring Gull.

I do well with argentatus, found three last winter. This is the first one of this winter.

Then I found this, it was striking! It stayed for about ten minutes then flew off south west over Seaton Marshes, this happens too often with interesting Gulls! Before I saw its head and bill it gave off Caspian-vibes, but I can't say it did when I saw it well.

Still not really sure what it is! It was a sub-adult bird, probably fourth year, so possibly just a sub-adult Yellow-legged Gull which hasn't acquired its yellow legs yet - but that is rather surprising as all near adults of this species I have seen have had at the very least dull yellow legs. So, calling all Gull people......WHAT IS THIS BIRD?! It's mantle was obviously darker in the field than the surrounding argenteus and it looked soooooooo long winged.


Looking at these photos again, the bird still gives off a nice Caspian-ish vibe, look at those eyes.......hmmmmm....?

I do love Gulls SO MUCH, and what I love about the big ones is that every now and then I find one that stumps me. For example over the past few years I seen at least four of what I presume to be Herring X Lesser Black-backed hybrids. I'd love to hear what everyone thinks about this bird...please post some replies with your ideas.

Thanks, and Happy Christmas!

Wednesday 17 December 2008

An Unprecedented Diver Passage

Sorry for the lack of posts of late, I worked all of last weekend then spent a couple of nights in Plymouth, returning yesterday late morning only to go straight to work!

I had a small window for birding this morning, so looked at the sea from 08:40 - 09:30, Ian M soon joined me. As the title suggest there was a fair bit of Diver action! In a 25 minute window 13 Red-throated and three Great Northern Divers flew west. The biggest single flock was of five Red-throats. Another Red-throated Diver was sat on the sea along with 12 Great Crested Grebes and 13 Common Scoters. A flock of six Teal flew into the bay from the south, another Common Scoter flew west as did 10+ Auk sp.

Really busy time coming up, work will be getting busier and busier, days off even more sporadic, and in the mean time the last minute Christmas shopping list is getting bigger and bigger!!

To ensure this post isn't a boring photo-less one, here's a snap of THE bird of the season....

A winter plumage Restart....well that's what they used to think!

Thursday 11 December 2008

Some More Ringing....Not Ducks Though!

This post could go down in history on this blog as having the most photos! As the title suggests it what an outing for the Axe Estuary Ringing Group this morning, at Colyford Common. It was flipping cold, but the scenery was absolutely stunning....

I promise no more 'scenic shots!'

Up until I left for work, we had only caugh six birds, of which three I ringed. This was one of them, a 'fresh' (meaning un-ringed) Cetti's Warbler.

He was a chunky boy!

Cetti's Warbler is the only passerine in Europe with ten tail feathers

One of the six I didn't ring was this Water Pipit, the fourth the group has ever catched here (the three others last winter).

And here's a bit of an educational pic. The outer tail feather is white, which is important for Water Pipit, but not as important as the next tail feather in. Note the upside down white 'V' protruding up the feather from the tip, even the palest littoralis Rock Pipit would only show, at the most, a white/grey tip to this feather.

Back to work now for me......

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Another Med Gull Photo... Yawn...

First of all, I'll write about what I saw yesterday during my brief sortie into the field late morning. The sea was quiet, with 13 Common Scoters, six Great Crested Grebes, a Red-throated Diver and a Razorbill resting on it; another Red-throated Diver flew west past. The best on the estuary was this very lovely-looking adult Med Gull.

A different adult to the bird I saw the previous day

This morning we were hoping to catch some ducks on Seaton Marshes, but failed miserably and caught none, did see four Water Rails though (two in the north west corner). Leaving here just after 9am I went straight to the seafront, and was greeted by yet another patch scarcity - a young male Eider. This is mine, and I think our, fifth Eider of the year. Also on the sea 14 Common Scoters, now eight Great Crested Grebes, two Razorbills and a Guillemot. On the estuary, just over 450 Wigeon which is an increase.

With the other local bloggers talking about lists, I'm totting up my totals for various lists (patch/house/life). I will post details of them here in the near future.... stay tuned....

Monday 8 December 2008

Another Cold(ish) Day

Not as cold this morning, but still a bit of a frost. This is how Bridge Marsh looked at about 08:30....

Can't get much more wintry than this!

My day started with a sea watch from Spot On, didn't last all that long though because it wasn't overly exciting! A single Red-throated Diver east was notable, as was a nice adult Med Gull west. On the sea were six Great Crested Grebes and a few Common Scoters.

Could only see two Golden Plovers alongside the A3052, and no more than 20 Lapwings. They must have found a new field to hang out in. I then headed even more inland to the Farway area. One field proved especially productive with 120 Linnets, 40+ Chaffinches and at least eight Bramblings - including several smart males. This is what said field looked like....

This field is opposite the exit to Farway Countryside Park

Lower Bruckland Ponds produced the two Tufted Duck STILL and on the estuary today; seven Dunlin, 50+ Black-tailed Godwits, ten Snipe and another adult Med Gull. Four Rock Pipits were in the salt marsh north of Coronation Corner, but no Jack Snipe again.

Early this afternoon I gave Colyford Common a visit - my first visit here for weeks! Good to see Water Pipit numbers have built up nicely, with at least ten present along with similar numbers of Meadow Pipits. As always the Rock Pipits were on the reserve-side, with five here. It's always hard to get a pic of our Water Pipits, they don't stay still for long! I managed to get a few snaps though as one briefly perched up on overhead wires....'tis a bit crap though!

Actually it's very crap, but still, it is a Water Pipit!

Also at Colyford a couple of Water Rails (with three others seen/heard earlier in the day elsewhere), a Cetti's Warbler, six Snipe and a Green Sand.

Sunday 7 December 2008

It's Proper Cold

Look at these....

This is winter 'proper'

Looking out in the back garden this morning I thought it had been snowing, it really was that white! Had lots to do in the garden today, and went off for a sunday roast at 1pm, so didn't have all that much time out birding. What time I did spend out I didn't see that much at all! Pretty hairy moment too as I skidded along an icy road on the way back from Lower Bruckland Ponds, stopping moments before an impact with a car travelling in the opposite direction! Best of what I saw were four Green Sands and very good numbers of Snipe about.

Prediction of the day most certainly goes to Bun. At 09:42 I received a text from him which contained these words.....

"going 2 do beer head i think, may b darties?! 2 at dawlish".

A couple of hours later came another text from him which read.....

"dartford warbler beer head".

Any chance of some lottery numbers mate?

Should have more time out tomorrow, hope for some better winter birding.

Friday 5 December 2008

Back To Nothingness

The temperature is rising again, which is 100% PANTS!

Over the sea this morning, during a short watch from 9am, apart from about a dozen female Common Scoters bobbing offshore everything was passing just off the French coast! Mind you there was quite a lot out there, several Kittiwakes and Gannets plus a few Auks moving through (mostly west).

I then took Karen for a stomp north of Coronation Corner. No Jack Snipe today, but 27 Common Snipe, singles of Green and Common Sands (the former U-turned north overhead) and four Rock Pipits.

To ensure this post is boring and uneventful I have attached no photos.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Some More Ringing

We had another go with the duck trap this morning. After waiting for what seemed an age, we let the lid down and caught 17 Shelduck and a Moorhen. The latter was an especially attractive individual so I rather rapidily wrapped my hands around it and gave it a leg iron!

See - she is a stunner!

And here's a couple of Shelduck shots, this is an bird born this summer (so aged as a 'three'). In the open wing pic notice the broad white tips to the secondaries and dark marks in the white scaps.

This is just one of the 17 caught

And finally here's the moment this young Shelduck was released by Fraser....

Monday 1 December 2008

The Cold Weather Continues

Drove home from Plymouth this morning, arriving back on patch mid morning. I was extra keen to get out birding for two reasons; I just LOVE birding in cold weather - you just don't know what is going to 'drop in' next! And reason number two, there have been two patch goodies seen over the past couple of days; a Snow Bunting along the tramline yesterday (whilst I was in Plymouth) and a Slav Grebe on the estuary on Saturday afternoon (whilst I was at work!). I had kitted myself up and left my house just after 10am.

The sea gave no surprises with three Great Crested Grebes and 20 Common Scoters all I could manage. A look at Lower Bruckland Ponds showed a drake Tufted Duck has joined the lingering female - it looks like the same male that arrived with her but disappeared a couple of weeks ago. The estuary showed three Dunlin and about 50 Black-tailed Godwits.

Seeing as it was cold, I thought I'd wander north of Coronation Corner again, for the second time in the last week, to stomp around in some Snipe habbo. This is what it looks like....

This is the salt marsh immediately south of our biggest reedbed.

And how did my stomping go, well very well indeed! 21 Snipe flew up, and best of all, a gorgeous little Jack Snipe. It gave superb flight views as it flew up from between my legs and banked around just feet off the ground before dropping back into the reeds. Another nice surprise here was a flock of six Gadwall which flew low south past me, briefly landing on the estuary. A decent sized flock for the patch, and more evidence of cold weather movement.

On the way to Plymouth on Sunday morning I saw 40 odd Golden Plovers besides the A3052 in the usual field near the Hontion turn-off. So mid afternoon today I went back up there and this time counted 62, with surprisingly few Lapwing. I could hear more Goldies calling from adjacent fields too. Here's how it looked with the naked eye.....

It must STILL be cold if we STILL have these!!

And this is how one of them looked through my telescope....

I really like this photo!

This evening the Gull roost off Seaton Hole gave me just two adult Med Gulls, still, two better than none I suppose! Other bits and bobs today included good numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings everywhere, a Peregrine causing havoc over Colyford Common, and on Seaton Marshes the showy Cetti's Warbler remains in the same place as I saw it a week ago, and three Water Rails squealed.

Re-winding the clock back to Saturday morning and we had a excellent ringing session on Seaton Marshes. Karen has a good run-down of the event on her blog so take a look if you haven't already.

Thursday 27 November 2008

A Woodland Wander

This morning I carried out my monthly bird survey near Colyton. I'm pleased to report that Woodcocks are back, I saw four in total, two of which gave excellent flight views as they took off just feet from me. The woods also gave me the opportunity to try out my new toy.....
An Audubon Bird Caller

It actually worked really well, Goldcrests were literally throwing themselves at me! Also in the woods a couple of Siskins, with some Redwings over.

I came back home via the river and Lower Bruckland Ponds, were the female Tufted Duck remains and a large flock of Fieldfares and Redwings were near by. The estuary produced two adult Med Gulls, both of which look like new individuals.

I hope Med Gull photos don't bore anyone, because you can be sure of many on this blog!

Won't have much birding time over the next few days, but I'm quite happy with what I've seen of late. It's been rather enjoyable winter birding really!

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Some Duck Ringing And Another Patch Scarcity

I will start this post with the patch scarcity bit. Late morning I had time for a quick scan over the sea from Spot On, 18 Common Scoters were loafing about, eight Teal flew in from the south and plonked down, two Great Crested Grebes were close in and a lovely Red-throated Diver was even closer in! Then the top prize drifted in to view, a stunning Black-throated Diver! One of the closest I've ever seen off here, but because I'm a plank my camera was not with me or in the car! It soon drifted out to usual diver-range, which is when Ian M and Karen rolled up to enjoy it too. My third of the year.

So, I will now rewind the day to early this morning....

I've not had many, if any, posts about bird ringing. There is a good reason for this, an obvious one too, I haven't done any! I am a member, well joint-founder really, of the Axe Estuary Ringing Group, and this morning a date was set with our duck traps on Seaton Marshes. Fraser Rush (reserve warden a fellow T-ringer) and the man himself, Mike Tyler (Group chairman and A-ringer) were also there and we met at 08:00. This is what our duck trap looks like....

And this is what we caught.....

In these bags (and a couple of others out of shot) were nine Shelduck! All nine though were already ringed as we have processed hundreds of these ducks over the past two winters here, it's interesting to see that they do come back though winter after winter.

As I will be handling and photographing stacks of Shelduck over the next few month I'll only post a couple of pics from today. Here's a couple of Shelduck wing-shots....

An adult male

And this a younger female - look at all the differences!

One last photo, our leader Mike who has obviously just fallen in love with this young lady....

Mr Mike Tyler

The only other bits of birding info I can inform people of today was of a Siskin west over my garden this morning, and on Seaton Marshes a really showy Cetti's Warbler in the north west corner of the reserve along with some Fieldfares and two Mistle Thrushes over west.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

A Better Than Average Winter's Day!

Nice and cool this morning, with crystal clear skies. Went to work at one, and had the dentists late morning so only had a couple of hours in the field.

Lower Bruckland Ponds produced the female Tuftie still, and a sweep of the river produced nothing new or different. So, to the sea - I was here from 08:25ish.

There were 15 odd Common Scoters on the sea and two Great Crested Grebes. Two Teal and a Wigeon flew in from the south to join the Scoters. Shortly after this a Tufted Duck also flew in off, heading inland over town. Then I picked up three distant ducks sat on the sea, they were female-type Goldeneyes! Any other year this would have sparked a local twitch, but this year has been a bumper year for this species on patch. These were my sixth, seventh and eighth of the year, our tenth in total! Ian M and birding friend Alan came to see them, and they remained here until I left just after 9am. Lastly, a flock of c30 Common Scoters flew distantly west.

Before I returned home I had a look along the top road (A3052). Didn't take long to find what I was hoping for amongst a few fields-full of Lapwings near the Honiton turn off, about 30 Golden Plovers. Wanted to get some real good photos but as I had just started clicking they all moved to the next field over, which was out of view! I will try again at a later date if they remain, here's one photo anyway....

It must be cold if we have these!

I wonder what tomorrow will bring...??

Monday 24 November 2008

An Average Winter's Day

A belated phonecall from Kym was nice this morning, the fact it was at 2am spoiled it somewhat!! And after it I just couldn't get back to sleep! So at 04:30 I found myself watching two hours of recorded telly from the night before in front of a roaring fire in the front room!!! Anyway, as I was up early, as soon as it looked like it was getting light I headed down the seafront. It wouldn't be right if I didn't have a 'sky shot' (or two!) in this post, so here's one...

07:30 this morning

The sea was quiet, with three Great Northern Divers easily being the highlight; one flew in from the east before landing distantly then about 15 minutes later two flew east together. The only other birds passing (aside Gulls) were 40+ auk sp.. On the sea were 23 Common Scoters. I stayed here 'til just after 08:30.

Lower Bruckland Ponds produced the female Tufted Duck still (the male's not been seen here for about a week now). A stomp around in the saltmarsh north of Coronation Corner produced ten Snipe, a Water Rail and three Rock Pipits. The estuary early afternoon gave this single adult Med Gull and a couple of Common Sandpipers.

It just wouldn't get its bill out when I wanted it to!

Haven't seen many Wigeon today at all, they must all be hiding somewhere I haven't looked, but there was a nice gathering of a few less than ten off Coronation Corner. They weren't doing much but I just couldn't resist!

Sleepy duckies!

At 3pm I met Fraser at Seaton Marshes, and remained here 'til dark. Black-tailed Godwits have exploded in numbers over the last day or so, with just over 50 on show. Also on the marsh seven Shoveler and two Snipe.

As I was taking snaps of the sunset from the hide, my eyes picked out a duck flying away south with shallow wing beats. On putting my bins up it was clearly a female saw-bill (a GooseMerganser). Which one I don't know, as it was always distant and always flying away. After it flew over the town it dopped down, sharpish, maybe it roosted on the sea? With a single female Goosander on the estuary on Saturday, I guess there's a good chance it's the same bird - hopefully one of us will see it again. Finally, to end this post, here's the sunset over Seaton Marshes.....

Saturday 22 November 2008

A Small Detour

Stayed down with Kym last night in Plymouth, watched the new James Bond film - excellent! Followed this with a shopping trip to ASDA at 23:00! The delights of living in a city!

Woke up at 9am this morning and left a little earlier than I needed too. I made a slight detour, and found myself at this gateway....

And the view from this gateway was this.....

After a minute or so scanning with my bins, I 'just happened' (as far as Kym is concerned anyway!) to come across this.....

I love Cranes!

If you look back at the landscape photo the Crane was at the foot of that big hill on the right hand side, just to the left of the corner of that copse.

I took a video too, it has gone a bit blurry after I've uploaded it on youtube, but still looks OK. If you watch it long enough it stretches its wings! Awesome!