Tuesday 30 September 2008


I have already admitted my feeling towards flowers, now it is time to reveal my least favourite birding habbo....WOODS!

OK some woods are good, like for example, Yarner Wood on Dartmoor - which in the summer months is full of very attractive birds! But in East Devon, you can pretty much take it as read that any woodland wander will produce just the usual suspects. And if there is an unusual bird in the woods you are wandering in, the chances are you won't see it because it has got a billion leaves to hide behind! But before anyone complains, I do think woods are VERY pretty places indeed, especially at this time of year.

There are two reasons why I will go into woods in this part of Devon:

1/ If I've got more than a 98% chance of seeing a bird that I could only see by entering these woods
2/ For money!

Which brings me on to the monthly woodland bird survey I conduct in a patch of woodland just to the west of Colyton, I have done this for about four years now. To be fair they are lovely woods, plenty of clearings, a few ponds and always plenty of birds. For example in winter, Woodcocks are ten-a-penny here, and 'nice' birds like Repolls and Siskins are fairly regular too. Anyway, this morning it was survey time.


More woods

And now and then they do offer me ornithological rewards. Like for example, last October at about 12:30 on the 30th, a Yellow-browed Warbler graced this tree....

A nice tree, though it does just look like 'a tree'

There were no exciting highlights this morning, just plenty of the 'usuals woodland suspects'.... surprise surprise!

I came home via the river. The Osprey was fishing along the estuary, and I was amazed to see the lengths some people will go just to get that little bit closer for the chance of that ultra special photo...


Monday 29 September 2008

Vis Mig Kicks Off

I actually had a non-birding weekend, first time ever I think! Saturday was my birthday so I spent the day with the family, then went to work at 7pm through to 8am Sunday morning. Which meant Sunday I spent the day in bed!! But now it's Monday, and I've enjoyed a nice day's birding.

I'm an avid fan of 'Vis Mig' watching, I just love it! I find late Oct/early Nov the best time of year, but things are on the move overhead from early September. With the clear skies this morning I was lured up to Axe Cliff with the hope of lots of passage. Not as busy as it could have been, but still a few bits and bobs. The view was nice, as usual.....

I'm lucky enough to be able to say I live here...

Counting up to 9am produced: 1 Golden Plover, 1 Snipe (notable), 4 Skylark, 76 alba Wagtails, 79 Meadow Pipits, 164 Chaffinches, 6 Greenfinches, 9 Siskin and 1 Lesser Redpoll (my first of the autumn) over. Grounded birds were few and far between but did include another Golden Plover, 30 Skylarks, 4 Wheatears, 2 Chiffchaffs and 4 Goldcrests.

From here, I thought I'd go hunting for wing-barred
Phylloscopus warblers. And where better to start than a place where I turned up a Yellow-browed last year, Lower Bruckland Ponds. No luck here today though, but there was this.....

A thing of beauty....

And again....

Its left foot!

To most people this is just a Pochard, but to us, IT'S A POCHARD! Thanks to the lack of deep water on our patch (apart from the sea!) all diving Ducks are fairly scarce, so it's always nice to see one.

Tonight I had a wander up the estuary from Seaton Marshes. A Yellow Wag flew over, 15 Lapwing were in a nearby field, but the undoubtable highlight was yet another Cattle Egret for the backwater this year, our sixth in fact (my fourth self-found)! It flew down river with a Herring Gull at 18:40, pitched down on the salt marsh for 5 mins before upping and continuing south. Other bits and bobs on the river today include the Osprey still showing very well, fishing every now and then on the estuary. Also in the valley two Ruff, a Bar-tailed Godwit, a Great Crested Grebe still and a pristine first-winter Med Gull.

The above photo shows the view from the 'farm gate', looking west. Can you see that yellow digger just the other side of the tramline? Well that yellow digger is making us a huge great lagoon! It's amazing what the EDDC can do isn't it? Even more prime habbo for us to check - excellent! For more info on this, log on to our local patch thread on Birdforum.

I see some cracking Aquatic Warbler photos on the web from Slapton, which reminded me of the only Aquatic Warbler on my UK list. It was on 14th Sept 2002, clinging on to a small patch of Juncus in the middle of a field at Soar, near Prawle. It's a species missing off the backwater list, but surely one that's been here?

Thursday 25 September 2008

How I Got Here Today

This was going to be my first post, but yesterday's Dolphin excitement got the better of me! Anyway, here is a brief summary of my life so far. Hopefully you don't find it too boring!

I was 'delivered by the Stork' on 27th September 1985 in St. Peters Hospital, Chertsey, Surrey. I was the second and last child from my parents, my brother being two years older than me. At the age of six, in fact ON my sixth birthday we moved from Egham to Seaton. Why Seaton I hear you all ask? We had been coming to this part of the world for several years on holiday, and my parents long before I was on this planet. They had fallen in love with the area. Here's a photo that anyone who has been on Birdforum will recognise!

Me at the age of four at Branscombe Static Caravan Site with my old man - who was 'less old' in those days!

I was educated at Seaton Primary School, and then Axe Valley Community College, though the latter really did get in the way of prime birding time! I had always had a slight interest in birds, without a doubt because my Dad was keen, weekend after weekend he'd take me for a day out. I especially remember the time of 'Foot and Mouth'. Portland was the only place open so we went there weekend after weekend for the entire spring! Farther also took me on holidays in Scotland, Wales and Norfolk. OK so Dad started me off, for which I am eternally grateful. But who got me REALLY serious? Well that accolade goes to backwater birder Phil Abbott. Thanks to his very kind and generous self he offered me lift after lift to goodie after goodie. The bug had well and truly bitten!

I stayed on at Axe Valley Community College for my A-levels, I completed my first year but soon after I had started my second year I knew this just wasn't for me. So after a few e-mails, I left sixth form and had landed a month of volunteer work at Dungeness Bird Observatory in October/November 2003. What a lesson in life this was, living on toast and chips and even having to work a washing machine! It was a bird-filled month with lifers galore (most rather tarty ones though, to be fair!). A day trip to Holland was my first ever venture abroad and here in Kent was where I first became acquainted with Paul French, yes the one of Buff-bellied Pipit fame! He was also volunteering at the Obs. If only I knew that in several years time he would be vetting my national rarity records I would have offered to pay for a few more beers!

I returned from Kent to spend the winter months stacking shelves in the town's supermarket, Co-op. The following spring ('04) I spent another month volunteering at a Bird Obs, but this time it was Spurn. This proved a great move, as that September I landed a job here with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. It was a couple of weeks before I left for Spurn that I passed my driving test (at the age of 18). I spent the rest of 2004 at Spurn and the following year from March to November.

Spurn Point, looking south from 'Middle Camp'

The van I got to drive round in looking all important!

Spurn gave me such gripping goodies as White's Thrush, Calandra Lark, Audouin's Gull and Pine Grosbeak as well as a huge list of other rarities/scarcities. The list actually does go on for ever, maybe I will go in to it in more detail one day. Most importantly though, here I met the greatest bunch of guys and girls that could ever be wished for, and they are all missed dearly, I learnt SO MUCH from them. It was with three of these guys that I experienced my first foreign holiday, in April '05 we invaded Morocco and had a superb two weeks!

Me at the famous Cafe Yasmina - prime site for Desert Sparrow (we managed just one male). Behind me is the Sahara Desert

Me a few days later at Oued Massa, a coastal location. I was raptor watching.....honestly! Thanks to Dave Boyle for these two photos (who is now stroking Puffins on Skomer!)

I returned home from Yorkshire in mid November '05, and less than a week later turned up Devon's third Hume's Warbler less than half a mile from the front door of my parents’ house (which is where I still reside, it's cheap and easy!). I saw this as almost a sign; 'yes you can trot off around the UK and see all sorts of goodies, but see what can be found at home if all effort is spent here'. Which is partly why I am still here three years later, along with a cracking team of local birders. We are a exactly that, a team, if any of us were on our own, finding a rarity would be like looking for a needle in a haystack and so so much would go unrecorded, but together we have a chance (though I know we still miss bucket loads!). Thanks to a couple of promotions I still work at Co-op. My work list ain't actually too bad, Alpine Swift, Spoonbill and several Ospreys to name but a few.

And that brings me to today! And it's time for me to go to work, have a good day all....

Wednesday 24 September 2008

A Surprise Or Two From The Deep...

Hi folks, looks like I've been tempted into blog land too! I was planning to write the first post about me and my life history, but this morning I saw these off Seaton Seafront.....

I've seen Bottle-nosed Dolphins off this part of the coast only about four times, with my last sighting being a couple of years ago when two drifted past Branscombe one morning. Have seen Common Dolphins here only once. This small pod (about seven, including two babes!) were in the bay for at least 40 minutes, always heading west. At one point their mood really changed and they started charging at full speed even further into the bay (coming as close as the nearest black and yellow flag!). It was during this charge that several of the animals performed full leaps out of the water, simply amazing!

Also on the beach a nice flock of nine Sanderling (quite a good count for here) and a couple of Ringed Plovers. Also lots of House Martins on the move over the sea.

And todays lesson for this inexperienced blogger, don't post until the close of play! Mid afternoon, sat at the gateway just north of Axmouth (known locally as the 'farm gate' - original!), I struck lucky when a gorgeous dark phased juv Honey Buzzard appeared over head. It circled around just to the west of me, before gliding VERY rapidly south. I phoned all the local birders but nearly all were in the wrong place. It's about time we had one, I for one have been looking skyward in anticipation for a week, but up until today - not a sniff! It's one for the car list too, I first spied it whilst leaning out my passenger side window! As I said, a cracking plumaged bird, as dark as they get!

Other birds I picked up this afternoon include the six Little Stints, three Ruff and Bar-tailed Godwit on Colyford Scrape along with 20+ Dunlin and 35 Black-tailed Godwits. On the estuary a second-winter Med Gull was north of Coronation Corner, along with the Osprey still.

Can you spot the Med?? By the way, incase any blog readers didn't already know it I LOVE Gulls!