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.