Thursday 30 October 2008

Water Water Everywhere

Woke up today to a garden-full of birds. Mostly the usual suspects but lots of them charging about all over the place! A nice treat though were three Redwings; only about the third time I've ever seen this species actually in the garden. Whilst on the topic of Redwings, they are passing over as I type this fairly frequently - easily one of my favourite sounds of the autumn : )

The estuary this morning was SERIOUSLY flooded, as these photos show....

Bridge Marsh, which is normally just a field!

The view from the farm gate

Another view from the farm gate, note Colyford Hide towards the left of the picture, and notice that it is surrounded by water!

The A3052 at Colyford

The only bird of note was a single Ringed Plover with a Dunlin on Bridge Marsh - pity it wasn't a Killdeer! I've got a long working day tomorrow, well for the next three days, hope I don't miss much...

Wednesday 29 October 2008


Axe Cliff this morning hoping for some vis mig. This is the time of year that Wood Pigeons really get moving - and the weather conditions this morning looked perfect....

Perfect Pigeon passage conditions

So did I see any? YES! Nothing like the numbers I counted from the same spot on the same day last year (11,150), but still it was nice to see some fairly big flocks passing over head. Only draw back though was that it was FREEZING COLD! I can't thank Karen enough who loaned me her gloves, otherwise I wouldn't have any hands left!

Anyway, the totals for 07:00 - 08:45 were: 2 Shelducks (in/off), 3 Lapwings, 1 Golden Plover, 2,835 Wood Pigeons, 25 Stock Doves, 58 Skylarks, 6 Redwings, 152 Starlings, 13 alba Wagtails, 108 Meadow Pipits, 2 late House Martins, 224 Chaffinches, 1 Brambling, 7 Goldfinches and 3 Siskins.

The only reason I left so promptly was because I was sooooo cold, Karen retired with me too. Whilst wandering back towards the car, after I gave Karen a tip-off about an area containing good numbers of lost golf balls, I heard the distinctive and familiar noise Karen makes when she see's something of interest. And what was it? A Lap Bunt maybe? Woodlark? No...... a bright yellow gold ball!!!

A quick look off Seaton a little later in the day showed singles of Common Scoter and Razorbill on the sea.

Monday 27 October 2008

Winter Is Here

Wow, how the birding has changed during my 'time-off'! Today saw my first decent stint in the field for over two weeks and it just feels so wintery! For a start, small flocks of Redwings were zipping about everywhere - plus it got dark at 5pm!

Having spent the first day off I've had for zonks in Plymouth with Kym, I returned to Seaton at about 9am this morning to spend my second one out and about on patch. First port of call was to have a gander at the two Black Redstarts that have resided at Axmouth Yacht Club for the past couple of days. Didn't take long to get them both in the bag, then there were three.....then FOUR! On several occasions all four were perched up on the pinnicles of the red roofs of the houses on Trevelyan Road at the same time - cool! The camera soon came out....

The star of the show

And again

One of the ladies

The other lady-type

I didn't get a snap of bird number four, but it appeared to be a immature male with a little black around the face and a shadow of a white wing panel. Not a patch on the main man though!

Yesterday Phil stumbled upon a pair of Tufted Ducks at our prime diving duck haunt, Lower Bruckland Ponds. This morning they were still present, not the most attractive pair I've ever seen but hey ho, patch quality never-the-less! Surprise surprise, the camera came out again.


'Just the two of us'

The fields around Colyford WTW are still appearing attractive to birds, with 250+ Wood Pigeons, 5 Stock Doves, 64 Curlew, 20 Redwings, 30 Skylarks, 2 Stonechats, 10 Meadow Pipits, 40 Pied Wags and a scattering of finches. A look around the Whitford area produced two Siskins.

The river today has shown 32 Black-tailed Godwits, 1 Dunlin, 3 Green Sands, 1 Common Sand and an adult Med Gull. The same Med was in the roost a few hours later off Seaton Hole. I've checked several Long-tailed Tit flocks today, but a couple of Chiffchaffs were all I could muster.

Thursday 23 October 2008

Back To Normality

No posts for a week...virtually no birding for a week! I've been working every hour of the day (and half of the night!) over the last week as the shop's been shut for a full on re-furb. Yesterday and Tuesday were both 14 hour working days for me! All done now though, the doors re-opened at 8am this morning and it all looks pukka! So I'm pleased to see it's back to normal working hours for me : )

My 'day off' this week was Monday, I only worked 6am - midday. For the entire afternoon though it rained! I did have a look around but it was basically a waste of time!

This morning I tried a seawatch from the Spot On, I spent an hour and a half watching from 08:15. Although nothing with any local rarity-value flew past, it was fairly busy out there. My totals being: 334 Gannets, 3 Balearic Shearwaters (singles west at 09:00, 09:30 and 09:35), 11 Common Scoters, 2 Curlew, 2 Common Gull, 33 Kittiwake and 5 Auk sp. I fluffed a distant Duck/Grebe flying south with white secondaries, but only saw it for about half a second between the waves. Always frustrating!

Within the last week I did receive a reply about that colour-ringed Herring Gull I snapped last week. Nothing too exciting, but it's always interesting to find out the details of any individual bird. It was ringed on Heathfield Landfill, which is near Chudleigh. It was ringed as a first-winter on 15th November 2000, so that makes it just under eight years old! And rather surprisingly my sighting was the first time it has been reported since it left the clutches of the ringer's hands that day in 2000. Cool!

Once again, I apologies for the recent quietness of this blog, but I'm back now - all guns blazing!

Thursday 16 October 2008

Some More Productive Vis Mig

Axe Cliff again this morning, 07:45 - 10:00. Despite the cloud and slight drizzle good numbers of birds were on the move, all west.

Full totals are: 2 Mute Swans, 9 Golden Plovers (1 U-turned, then a flock of 8 flew SW), 1 Dunlin, 127 Skylarks, 1 House Martin, 68 alba Wagtails, 1 Grey Wagtail, 167 Meadow Pipits, 2 Starling, 1 Dunnock, 743 Chaffinches, 1 Brambling, 52 Greenfinches, 198 Linnets, 25 Goldfinches, 21 Siskins, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Crossbills and 7 Reed Buntings. The Crossbills today were the best 'vis mig' ones I've seen as they flew west along the cliff-edge below eye-level, showing themselves as a male and two female/immatures. They were though the least vocal out of all the ones I've seen this autumn, giving just two audible 'chups'.

There were again good numbers of Goldcrests, plus a few Chiffchaffs and Song Thrushes in the under cliff, the latter having a hard time from the two Sparrowhawks that were patrolling back and forth!

Wednesday 15 October 2008

A Blast From The Past

Apologies for lack of updates, but have spent far too much time at work recently and spent a couple of days off-patch with my beloved.

Tonight though I had a bit of time before darkness fell so made my way to Seaton Hole. The Gulls were right in the middle of the bay and all facing directly towards me, which isn't good! Still managed to pull out two adult Meds though.

So, why the title to this post? Well it was here at Seaton Hole whilst I was scouring the roosting Gull flock a few Novembers ago that a wing-barred Phyllosc popped up in the bush besides me shouting its head off prior to roosting. The next morning Hume's Warbler was nailed. And here, courtesy of BBRC panel member James Lidster, are a couple of previously un-published pics of it (I think!). I found them whilst rooting around the old emails in my inbox yesterday!

The dullest, but rarest of the three wing-barred wonders that grace the UK most autumns

I will hopefully find the energy to get out of bed promptly in the morning, where to go.... decisions, decisions...

Sunday 12 October 2008

The Indian Summer Continues

What another gorgeous day, unfortunately I spent most of it at work! But I did have 45 minutes out tonight, and this was the scene at Lower Bruckland Ponds...


In the river valley tonight I could see 26 Lapwing, two Ruff, three Green Sands, five Common Sands and the Egyptian Goose. Hopefully a look about tomorrow morning will reveal a goodie or two...

Friday 10 October 2008

A Mostly Boring Post

Seemed to be fairly quiet this morning, with the sea producing very little; a couple of adult Common Gulls and the odd Common Scoter and auk sp. passing. Plenty of stuff moving about 5 miles out, just a little too far though! Lower Bruckland Ponds gave a Lesser Redpoll over and Colyford Scrape showed two Ruff (one up!). The estuary revealed nothing much of note but this colour-ringed Herring Gull.

This is the second Herring Gull I've seen this autumn bearing a yellow ring with green script, but can't seem to find where they are coming from! This one read '0407'.

Rewinding the clock to last night (Thurday evening). I'd been at work all day so wanted to make the most of the 45 minutes of light left. A look through the Gulls on the estuary revealed this really dark Lesser Black-backed Gull.

It wasn't a hefty one though like most darker-backed birds seem to be, but a real slim one

And here's a rather pants video of it, but you can see it's mantle colour compared with a Great Black-backed Gull and size compared with that immature Lesser Black-backed Gull to it's right.

Also last night, the Cattle Egret roosted on the Borrow Pit - Seaton Marshes, with Little Egrets.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Some More Vis Mig Action

I made sure I was up Axe Cliff fairly early this morning, as the conditions looked good for overhead passage. I left my house full of optimism and my 'vis mig kit'; a scrap bit of paper, a broken pen, a blunt pencil and one click-counter (I own five of them, but four were nowhere to be found at half six this morning!). By the end of my watch the scrap piece of paper looked like this....

I'm not the neatest of individuals!

The highlights of my watch were without doubt the Crossbills. At 09:20 four flew west along the cliff-edge, and at 10:20, when I was walking back to the car a group of five flew over north west.

My full totals for 07:20 - 10:20 were: 1 Little Egret, 3 Mute Swans, 1 Collared Dove, 1 Redwing (my first of the autumn), 2 Song Thrushes, 153 Skylarks, 141 House Martins, 14 Swallows, 354 Meadow Pipits, 1 Rock Pipit, 126 alba Wagtails, 472 Chaffinches, 12 Greenfinches, 81 Linnets, 28 Goldfinches, 27 Siskins, 2 Lesser Redpolls, 9 Crossbills and 4 Reed Buntings.

It wasn't just in the air that birds were on the move; Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were obviously moving through the undercliff westward, most coming up over the cliff-edge just to the west of me.

One last photo. Yes it is just my scope! But I want to prove to a certain local patcher that I can carry my scope more than 5 paces from my car! And I was on my own and no I didn't get it air-lifted in!!!

Proof that the donuts aren't taking their toll on me....yet!

Looks like tomorrow could be another good day for overhead passage, it's ashame I'm working a day shift!

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Some More Quality Patch Birds

Fantastic timing this afternoon, I stepped out of work for my lunch hour at 16:00 and about five seconds later a text came through from Dad about a (or should I say the) Marsh Harrier quartering over Colyford Marsh. Ten minutes later I was watching it from the farm gate at Axmouth - lovely bird, and it was amazing to see how many Snipe it was flushing!! It certainly looks like Karen's bird from yesterday, thanks to her superb pin-sharp photo of it on her blog!! ; )

Back to this morning, Karen joined me at Beer where we sheltered from the elements to watch the sea. It was quiet, though there was a hint of some Skua-action. Three Arctics flew west, and another Skua was most probably a dark(ish) juv Long-tailed. Hopefully the features we noted about it are enough to eliminate a small Arctic. Otherwise it was just a few Common Scoters, a couple of Guillemots that was it!

After this we went to Colyford Common, and a scan over the scrape gave me a nice surprise. The RSPB 'bird' in all its glory, yes an Avocet! It's been a bumper year for this species on patch, this being our fourth - they are usually less than annual. Also on the scrape four Ringed Plovers, three Dunlins, one Ruff and 15 Black-tailed Godwits.

Sorry for no pics today, all my optics were rather sodden after this morning's seawatch! For a couple of pics of the Avocet have a look at Karen's blog (link to right).

Monday 6 October 2008

A Patch Tick!

I enjoyed a nice couple of hours birding at Beer Head this morning. First of all, here's the moment the sun broke through the cloud - it soon disappeared again though!

My new desktop backdrop!

Grounded migrants were at a premium, with just six Chiffchaffs, five Blackcaps, a Goldcrest and a Stonechat. Mind you, I didn't spend all that much time looking in bushes because despite the low cloud and occasional drizzle, all the action was in the air. My totals for 08:00 - 10:00 were: 2 Merlin (1 west over the sea and 1 gorgeous juv on the head, it even spent five minutes perched on a fencepost giving excellent views), 21 Skylarks, 32 alba Wagtails, 835 Meadow Pipits (a very good Beer Head count), 2 House Sparrows, 206 Chaffinches, 1 Brambling (my first of the autumn, a nice male too!), 68 Linnets, 12 Goldfinches, 6 Greenfinches, 1 Sisikn and 2 Reed Buntings. Also quite a few Swallows and House Martins but as most were just milling around I couldn't be arsed to count them! I always carry my camera with me when wandering around Beer Head, so if I do bump into a mega I can at least take some 'digi-binned' record shots (holding the camera up to my binoculars). I tried this technique with the Merlin today, good to see that it does kinda' work!

The coolest species of falcon on earth!

Went along the estuary early afternoon, hoping that the Marsh Harrier Karen and Ian had seen this morning was still present, but no luck. I did see a Ruff, 9 Dunlin and 9 Lapwing. There were lots of Gulls present for the first time in a while, but the only notables were a couple of dark mantled and rather hefty Lesser Black-backed Gulls.


The wind had picked up a little by now, so I thought a look over the sea would be worthwhile so I went to the Spot On Kiosk. Alas there was very little on the move! A first-winter Common Gull was feeding close in, I tried stringing it into a Ring-billed but failed miserably.

At 14:39 I just happened to be looking through my bins towards the harbour mouth when I noticed a small Gull alongside a Herring Gull flying around the corner from Dorset. I lined my scope on it..... CHUFFIN' HECK...... SABINE'S GULL!!! I got straight on the phone as it hadn't even passed the harbour mouth (which is at the extreme east end of the beach). It flew in towards the river over the yacht club and disappeared behind a row of houses for me, at which point Karen stepped out of her house and had it fly literally right over her head! It flew back down towards the sea shore and continued flying west. It remained REALLY close in, and was about to pass me....I knew now was the time to get a pic! I didn't want to faff around with my scope, so time for some more digi-bin'ing! I got just ONE photo of it.....and this is it....

A BEAUT! Both a patch and find tick too....

It remained really close in but continued to head slowly west along the beach, occasionally landing briefly on the sea. It seemed to go as far west as Seaton Hole where it headed out south but soon landed on the sea next to a Great Black-backed Gull (little and large if ever I've seen it!). After a few mins it took to the air again and came back really close in, it flew back east to the harbour entrance, circled over the Yacht Club once then flew out south east. Must have watched it for about half an hour in total, Bun and Ian McLean also got to see it....WHAT A BIRD!!! It is probably still in the bay somewhere, I only lost it because it landed on the sea.

Time for work, what a day!!!

Sunday 5 October 2008

Another Day On Patch

A seawatch this morning commencing at 09:00 from Spot On Kiosk on Seaton Seafront gave a highlight I wasn't expecting! It didn't take long for a distant and rather elusive Grebe to show itself as our first Red-necked Grebe for a couple of years. It was hard to pick out, and even harder to stay on as it showed for no more than a second at a time! It eventually came closer though and became much easier to see as the sea calmed down, in the end we actually had good views of it. 'Jam of the Day' goes to Phil, who turned up to see it moments before it took off and flew west! Other birds I saw included my first Great Northern Diver of the autumn, five Balearic Shearwaters, three Arctic Skuas, several Kittiwakes and Common Scoters and one Common Tern past.

Later on in the day Ian McLean turned up our third Grey Phalarope of the year, this one being the first twitchable one though as it spent the afternoon feeding on Colyford Scrape. I paid it a visit mid afternoon, also eight Dunlin and a Ruff here. 

A little gem, just a little too far away!

And here's a short video clip, nice to see it actually walking! This is the second Grey Phal I've seen on this bit of water, the previous one was actually the first time I'd ever seen this species - or any species of Phalarope in fact!    
The Cattle Egret is still on patch, it was with the cattle north of Seaton Marshes this afternoon. A look along the estuary revealed the Great Crested Grebe still, a Common Gull and a dark mantled Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Saturday 4 October 2008

Work Gets In The Way....Again!

A strong south westerly wind has been blowing for most of the day, with several squalls and very BIG waves. Certainly the worst conditions to be working in! And today was the ONLY day of the week I've not worked a late shift, but an all-dayer (8 - 5!). Typical! After I had missed all the action I legged it out of work at 16:59 and sped straight to the seafront to see not much at all; 2 Balearic Shearwaters, 1 Arctic Skua, 1 Kittiwake and a Razorbill were all I could muster up until 18:40. I see there's been lots of ocean-based goodies seen everywhere along the south coast this afternoon, hopefully tomorrow will produce the goods?

Anyone who has read my mini-bio will notice I am a trainee bird ringer. I started off at Dungeness, then Spurn, and am now a member of the Axe Estuary Ringing Group. We formed this group nearly two years ago. Last night (Friday) there was a wader ringing session at Colyford Common, and where was I?? At work! And what did I miss?? Lots! 31 birds in fact, lots of lovely waders; Curlews, Redshanks, Dunlins, Oystercatchers, etc. The highlight was this first for the ringing group. Thanks very much to Fraser Rush for these photos...

What a little stunner

Here it is with a Common one....yes, it's a Jack Snipe!

So let's see what tomorrow brings....lots of rain by the look of it!?

Thursday 2 October 2008

Yesterday's excitement!

I've been working lates all week (normally starting at one and working to til half ten/eleven), which is great for morning birding - but means I get very tired very quickly! Hence why this post is a day late!

I started the day yesterday at Colyford Common, which was all quiet until a Cattle Egret flew north up the river before landing on Bridge Marsh. I nipped round to Bridge Marsh but it had moved on before I got there. I assume this was the same bird as a couple of nights ago, it's probably feeding up river somewhere and roosting in the lower estuary area. Cetti's Warblers were suprisingly vocal, even a couple of birds in full song!

Lower Bruckland Ponds showed the drake Pochard still, he's a fussy one though. Also here three Lesser Redpoll and nine Siskin flew over. Here's a photo of the top pond, notice the mass of Ducks!

The local riff-raff!

And two ponds down the scene looked like this, the Pochard all on his tod!

Nice to see a bird with some self-respect!

So at midday I went to work, and had been here for a few hours when Fraser phoned about the Pec Sand he had just found! Now finding a Pec is good as it is, but imagine finding one on your own nature reserve on an area of water that you put there! Nice one Frase!

I toddled off down there in my lunch hour and enjoyed lovely views of it feeding at close range. Didn't have my camera with me though, but there's enough photos of it anyway on my fellow patch birders blogs. If I remember rightly this is the sixth Pec I've seen on the Axe, this one was certainly the most showy though! A yank at last!!!