Thursday 26 February 2009

Perfect Timing

Yes - for the second day in the row - two posts in one day!!

I was due for my lunch break at 16:30 today, at 16:29 I noticed a missed call from Phil, he has four Whooper Swans just north of Axmouth, excellent! It wasn't long 'til I was watching them...

Yeah I know there's only three in this pic, the other one wandered off to the left! At least they're all looking the same way

Here's a pic that does show all four....

And all the Mute Swans too... hahaha!

There have been four Whoopers on the Fleet for most of the winter, this is almost certainly them. We regularly swap birds with this place, especially this species. I can think of four other occasions we've had Whoopers drop in that have been wintering on the Fleet. Spoonbills do this quite often too, as has a Pale-bellied Brent Goose over the last two summers, and once a Black Stork! I just wish some Scaup would do the same!!!

Thanks for the call Phil - and am glad Mike managed to see them before he headed back home.

An Hour Late Morning

Been doing some outstanding jobs in the garden this morning, but had an hour out from 10:20.

From Spot On the sea was a bit more lumpy bumpy, and I couldn't pick out any Grebes other than Great Cresteds. Seems to be a few more duckies on the move at the moment, with small numbers of Common Scoters bolting both ways, and three distant Shovelers (2 drakes) past west.

A sweep of the estuary gave the pale Iceland Gull and two adult Med Gulls including a green colour-ringed bird. I think this is a new colour for me, no chance in reading it tho as it was way too distant. It was encouraging to count 24 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, my highest count so far this year - very promising indeed!

An average Axe Estuary Gull flock!

Blackhole Marsh has been drained again, but the habbo there looks superb! Loads of small pools and short reed-stuff, there were a couple of Grey Herons and Little Egrets feeding and a couple of Green Sands flying about. I just wish it could be like this in September - it would be covered in Pecs!

The mystery visiting birder has been sighted again, on Beer Beach. And he DOES have a name... HELLO MIKE : )

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Yet More Grebe Excitement

If this morning wasn't enough - scroll down to read this morning's post 'Branscombe's Back To Form' - before work I had a 45 minutes look about, the last ten minutes were the important part.

Earlier this morning, on the way to Branscombe I was talking to Bun (bluetooth of course!) and he told me that Ian McLean had seen three small Grebes distantly from Seaton off Beer, but when he got to Beer he couldn't find them. I had them in mind when I was at Branscombe but when the Red-necked popped up forgot all about them!

So then to early this afternoon and before work... I was along the estuary with Karen looking at the dark first winter Iceland Gull, with a shoe!....

Note how its left eye is again closed...

Then a visiting birder came up to us, and I told him about the haul from Branscombe this morning, his response was....

"Oh right, I've just seen three Slavonian Grebes off Beer, about an hour an half ago, really close in"...

The next few moments were a bit of a blur (especially as I only had ten minutes before work), I suddenly found myself stood next to Karen along Seaton Seafront! Karen soon picked the three Slavs up, and they looked SO COOL! They chased each other about a bit, then dived down a few times. Have to say, they really looked at home. I sent the texts out then went to work.

Today is only the second time ever I've seen four species of Grebe on patch in one day; the first day this happened was 3rd March 2006 when singles of both Red-necked and Slav were off Branscombe. Also the three Slavs today is a patch record count. Well done Ian and mystery visiting birder.... : )

Branscombe's Back To Form

After an outing with the Axe Estuary Ringing Group on Seaton Marshes I headed over to Branscombe. Lovely flat sea, though a misty horizon meant it was slightly less than ideal. I got here at 09:50.

At first the sea seemed quiet, with only a few Razorbills and Guillemots on view, no divers at all....but then it all went mad! After ten mins of nothingness two really close Great Northern Divers popped up together, one spent half a minute or so trying to swallow a rather large flat fish which was fun to watch. I looked a little further out in the same scope view, and another Great Northern Diver was preening on the water. I then scanned slightly left and there was a Grebe - A RED-NECKED GREBE! WOW!!! Once again my phone kicked into action, and I started jumping up and down like Tigger....ON SPEED!

Bun appeared at about 10:30 and was soon watching the Grebe - a patch first for him! The three GND's were still in view but had drifted a little further west. If anyone is going for the RNG it was virtually straight out from the small grassy area I watch from. The Grebe flapped for us a couple of times which was nice, and once, even rolled over a little and showed us its left leg - almost like it was waving at us!! I obliged and waved back of course!! Also saw a few Common Scoters flying about but only eight Red-throated Divers.

Earlier (before the ringing), a look from Seaton Seafront revealed a single Great Northern Diver, three Red-throats and 12 Common Scoters. The other day I was moaning about the lack of large divers here this year, and I've seen four GN and one BT in the past three days!!! The next few weeks could be VERY interesting!

Now to the ringing, and we caught seven Shelducks - three fresh ones! At 08:20 an Iceland Gull flew high up river, looked like the dark one. No photos today, so will include an 'artists impression' of how I looked after nailing today's Red-necked Grebe...

Surprisingly accurate!

Monday 23 February 2009

Yearticks At Last!

February is usually a pretty poor month for year ticks on patch, and this year is no exception - for me anyway! I've not had any since Pintail and Woodlark on 7th. Today though, another two fell - both 'tricky ones' too.

As the sea was flat I made the most of it, starting with a sea watch from Seaton Hole at 08:00. It was rather quiet, birds on the sea included five Red-throated Divers, eight Great Crested Grebes and eight Common Scoters with a further six Red-throats and three Scoters past.

Birder friendly sea - no waves and no bright sunshine!

As it was so birder friendly I tried looking over it from Branscombe too, a site not visited often enough but has in the past produced some superb birds. This proved a very good idea as it was HEAVING with birds!

Most of these birds were Razorbills, over 400 in all - with only four definite Guillemots! Several Kittiwakes were loafing about, the occasional Common Scoter flew past with a group of three landing close in. Red-throated Divers were scattered all over the place - some very close in, I counted 22 but there were probably many more. And then there was the year tick....

This year I reckon I've seen about 250 Red-throated Divers on patch - I've witnessed some impressive movements, but the only other diver I've seen was a single Great Northern east past Seaton on 26th Jan. So - back to today - when a distant larger diver appeared in my scope view sat on the sea I smiled.... when I realised it was a Black-throated Diver I started jumping up and down like Tigger! A patch goodie like this certainly deserved a text frenzy; Ian McLean was the only one to react and enjoyed the bird alongside me. Well chuffed : )

I'll finish the ocean related part of this post with a couple of photos I took at Seaton Hole, it's nice to hear their chattering again from above...

Yes Seaton does have a seabird colony....this is it!

Now to year tick number two...

The saltmarsh north of Coronation Corner seems to be our most reliable site for Jack Snipe, but I've wandered up here on five occasions already this year and have seen naff all. Today I thought I'd give it another go, but with my recent lack of luck here and the current mild weather I thought I'd have no chance. So why did I bother I hear you ask? Over breakfast this morning I was flicking through a few months old copy of Birdwatch, and in it was an article on the ringing of Jack Snipe - including some stunning photos - that was enough to make me try! And how did I get on? Well I wouldn't have written all this drivel if I failed would I?

The saltmarsh was dead quiet, and it wasn't til I got to the western edge that I started flushing birds.... three in fact! The first one was a Snipe, the second a Skylark, and the third... a podgy little Jack Snipe! Result!! It landed just inside the main reedbed, soon followed by another two Common Snipe. Back at the car the pale Iceland Gull played about over the water with a lump of something in its beak, and a look through the small Gulls gave eight adult Meds.

All in all, a pleasant birding day in very pleasant weather. If it stays this mild Sand Martins won't be far away...

Sunday 22 February 2009

Then There Were Three

It was my Sunday to work today, so was stuck in Co-op from 06:30 - 16:30! I was always planning a sweep of the estuary after I had finished. My Sunday roast was due to be served up at 17:30, giving me an hour.

Shortly before 16:00 a text came through from Gav informing me of a couple of
Iceland Gulls again on the estuary. News like this would normally encourage me to change my plans, as the Gulls would have already received a good grilling, but for some reason today it did not...

As I got round to the river nearly all the Gulls were gathered on the lower estuary where the only mud was showing. As I pulled up half these Gulls got up and flew out to sea - bad start! When the ones that didn't fly away settled I started my scan through, and soon enough located the two
Iceland Gulls. They were the usual two.

The dark one...

He spent a lot of time with his left eye shut, hope he's OK

The pale one with small dark loral spot...

Seems to be looking even paler now!

Looking up the estuary there was very little, but I did notice a few Gulls that had flown down the valley and landed on a small margin of mud near Coronation Corner. So up here I drove, and the first Gull I looked at was an Iceland Gull! WOW - THREE! An Axe record! Here it is...

Slightly out of focus I'm afraid - number three never-the-less!

It took off and landed a little further south, the light was rubbish but I still fired off a few shots...

Is this what they call atmospheric.... or is it just cr*p?

This one is noticeably darker than the pale one, but at the same time noticeably paler than the dark one.... so I shall name it 'the intermediate one' - original hey? Note how different the head is compared with the pale one, overall much more patterned with a distinctive dark dot below its ear coverts.

It took off and flew down river, joining the dark one
. But where was the pale one? After a good scan I found it. This is surely another Axe photo first.....

I've said "showing near tram sheds" a lot, but never ON the tram sheds!!! Also is this the first picture of an Iceland Gull on the Axe in front of a tree??

Friday 20 February 2009

Early Iceland Gulls

The general rule if you want to score with one or two Iceland Gulls on the Axe at the moment is to be here late afternoon, about 4pm. Well, this morning at half ten both first winters were on the estuary, and showing very well.

The dark bird was about half-way up the estuary....

I've seen this one before for sure

Is this the only published photo of an Iceland Gull actually running on the Axe!?? I'd run too if a first winter GBBG was about to fly up my arse!

Then there is the pale bird, he was by the tram sheds (NOT clam sheds - BirdGuides!). I've seen this bird every day for the past four days now, and his most distinctive feature is a small dark loral spot on an otherwise fairly pale head. The other pale bird that has been seen within the last week doesn't show this.

He was asleep most of the time!

I also saw him yesterday during my lunch break at 16:00...

Note how head shape changes with birds behaviour, he looks cute in this pici - but today's shot shows him looking far from cute!

There seem to be fewer Med Gulls about now, with six on show this morning - though there wasn't many small Gulls to look through. Pleasingly 'White 3P65' was one of them...

Only a little more black needed for tip-top plumage

This morning a nice treat landed on the door mat. I LOVE reading bird reports, especially when they are crammed full of stunning pics. This one always is....

Can't wait to get stuck into it

Wednesday 18 February 2009

And This Post Is All About...??


Spent all my birding time today on the estuary, and it has been certainly worthwhile. Two first winter Iceland Gulls were on view from mid afternoon, at first both were together at Coronation Corner before the darker bird flew down the estuary and landed opposite Seaton hide.

The dark one eventually showed really well

But the pale one remained distant

It was nice to share these white-wingers with others, Nigel Pinhorn has been about all day and during the afternoon devon.birder himself and Brain H dropped in for their helpings. Nice to see everyone.

Amongst the large numbers of small Gulls were 15 Med Gulls - a local record! I actually think we've had more like 18 through today, but 15 is all I can say for sure. This total includes two second-winters (one a new bird) and at least two new adults; a red colour-ringed bird which ended in '4' - the ring was too muddy to read in full - and a bird bearing just a metal ring on it's right leg. 'Red PAR7' was also on view but I didn't notice 'Red 5P5' or 'White 3P65'. Here's one of the Meds, it was just begging to be photographed...

Doesn't he/she look cute!

Also saw a colour-ringed adult Herring Gull which I will post details on when I get them and the female Common Scoter still looked at home munching on crabs.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Festooned With Med Gulls...

...but not much else!

I returned home from my romantic weekend away yesterday morning, spent a couple of hours in the field then went to work (yes - I worked on a Monday!). This morning I've had a look about and am off to work this afternoon. Tomorrow - day off! : - )

The patch remains quiet; the sea has little on it, wildfowl numbers are low and few passerine flocks are in the fields. All that leaves is Gulls, and there's stacks of them! Nothing different yet though....apart from Iceland Gulls!

Yesterday at 13:30 there were an impressive 12 Med Gulls on the estuary, including a second winter and three colour-ringed adults; the two I've mentioned before on this blog and a new one - 'Red PAR7'. At 09:00 this morning, despite not all that many Gulls about - there were still ten Meds on show. Here's four of them.....

It's a good job I love Med Gulls, they are sooooo smart! : - )

I've already mentioned about the sea, and it has really poor since the rough seas and big waves last week. Yesterday morning a short watch gave nine Great Crested Grebes, three Red-throated Divers and three Common Scoters. On the upside though, a further 16 Common Scoters flew west - the biggest flock I've seen here for ages - and there are still lots of auks out there, mostly Razorbills and mostly very distant, but one flock of 34 flew really close east.

With all these Gulls about a rarity can't be far away, hopefully better than a Ring-billed....

Thursday 12 February 2009

Med Gulls

Two posts in one day! Lucky reader.... : )

Just before work I had a sweep of the estuary, this revealed five adult Med Gulls. Two were too far away to photograph, but here are some snaps of the other three....

The darkest hooded individual of the three

An un-ringed adult

Oh look - it's 'red 5P5' - nice to see he is still with us!

Two together

Birding time does look very limited for me tomorrow and the weekend.... let's hope I don't miss anything BIG!

Great White Who??

Last night Birdguides carried a report of a Great White Egret on our estuary, and also mentioned the Iceland Gull in the same post. We had a single Cattle Egret yesterday....has someone at Birdguides HQ clicked on the wrong Egret sp? I think so..... I hope so..... There could be a non-local birder grinning at this post, and will reply with a stonking photo of a Great White Egret, that would be seriously GRIPPING!

This morning, the Common Scoter which should have been a Little Grebe remains on the estuary, it didn't look so out of place as the tide was well up. She looked well happy munching on a seemingly never-ending supply of small crabs.

A rare chance to photograph this sea duck!

Swimming head on

The Cattle Egret returned to the sheep field along Harepath Road this morning, he also screamed out for a photo to be taken....

It didn't look very active at all!

A quick flash back to yesterday, and my daily lunch break sweep of the estuary revealed the first winter Iceland Gull again. This time I managed to get a photo of it with it's head out!

Lovely : )

And that's that for today's photo-filled post. I won't have much birding time now for the next few days, but If I do you will read about it on here...

Wednesday 11 February 2009

All Misted Out

This was the view from the Bridge Marsh gate way this morning....

Eventually the mist did clear, but revealed nothing of special note. Well over two thousand Lapwing were on Bridge Marsh which was pretty impressive, but that's it. I am planning a sweep of the river before I start work which may produce a goodie... hopefully!?

Last night, my lunch hour was fairly productive. A female-type Black Redstart was along Trevelyan Road, and on the estuary this lovely first winter Iceland Gull - always great to see!

Another new one? Surely not....

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Big Sea!

Wow - went down to the sea front this morning and it was MENTAL! This is what some of the action looked like.....

The west walk

Too close for comfort!

Looking east - note the lack of beach!

And this is some of the mess it made......

It was fun watching this guy dodge the waves!

More mess!

It wasn't just the sea, with yesterdays non-stop rain and the high tide this morning the river had plenty of water in too....

The view from the farm gate

The estuary from Coronation Corner

This is how the Axe looked from Shute, hmmm... I wonder why I was in Shute Woods...?? I failed anyway!

Ok, now to the birds - this won't take long because I've not seen all that much. As usual the flooded river valley showed all the wildfowl well, but the only oddities I saw were the single Greylag Goose, Egypytian Goose and drake Tufted Duck and a pair of Gadwall. All of these were in the Bridge Marsh/Colyford Marsh area. Also a couple of Golden Plovers still kicking about in with the Lapwings.

Sunday 8 February 2009

What A Difference A Day Makes

Yesterday morning was a fantastic morning of excellent winter birding..... today was just pants!

Sea watching, first from Seaton - then Branscombe - produced nothing unexpected. Good numbers of auks both on the sea and flying past, with all the identifiable ones being Razorbills. Also a few Red-throated Divers and Common Scoters but that was it!

The river today has produced four adult Med Gulls (two winter plumaged birds, the other two not far off full black hoods).

Bun and I went for a nice wander around Trinity Hill, didn't see much at all, no hoped-for Crossbills but four Bullfinch were nice. The scenery was stunning...

The common

The woods

The white stuff even tempted Bun to have a go with his new toy.....

Look at the concentration. The second person in his family to get their photo on this blog in two days!

A search for the Woodlark flock proved fruitless, but I pulled one back on most with two wonderful Red-legged Partridges! Well, they were very distant, doing little, in rubbish light.... but they were wonderful 'cuz they were a year tick!

Now, with all this cold weather, nearly every backwater birder has moaned about the lack of interesting geese! I quite agree, but I've found one! Late this afternoon, showing very VERY well, am having trouble identifying it though....

Soon to be eaten whatever it is - YUMMY!!!!

Looks like tomorrow is going to be rough! Let's hope for some wind-blow rarities...?

Saturday 7 February 2009

Woodlarks And Another White Winger

And ICE! Lots of it! More about that later....

Started the day with a seawatch, arriving at the Spot On at 08:00. There wasn't much on the move, except for a fairly constant movement of Gulls (both big and small) heading west.

At about 08:20 amongst a small group of large Gulls that had just come over the horizon, some white wing-tips were gleaming nicely in the sun - it was an Iceland Gull! The bird was young'en which looked quite pale, it appeared to pick something up off the sea a couple of times but otherwise went through rather rapidly and continued around Beer Head - excellent!

One other huge highlight for me after the gripping I got from Karen a few days ago, a flock of 12 Pintail flew past west, albeit rather distantly. Apart from these two highlights, and about 15 Red-throated Divers, it was all quiet. Then at about 08:40 Phil phoned to reveal he most certainly retains the 'Woodlark crown', he had one over the fields near Axmouth. So I left Spot On and headed straight up there, it took me a fair while though, snow and ice everywhere!

I met up with Phil, and within moments a Woodlark appeared overhead and landed right in front of us, allowing me to take this photo....


Karen turned up, and soon after Phil picked out a few more birds scuttling about in a nearby field, all Woodlarks - 17 of them! Our flock is back! For people who don't know what I mean by saying 'they are back', last January after my Dad had a single Woodlark near Axmouth, Phil turned up a flock of 22 though they disappeared towards the end of the month. Then for the rest of 2008, and Jan 2009 no sign - but they are here! Great news! Also a flock of 400 Skylarks were in another field - an impressive sight!

We all left together, Karen heading east, Phil and I west. The roads were a bit dodgy, but as we were coming down the hill towards the main Axmouth road, I had to stop for this....

Oh dear!

As I stopped, Phil behind me also had to stop - though he skidded a few feet first! We had stopped on a blanket of ice, on a rather steep hill, ******!

Totally snookered!

Luckily, we were outside Bun's sisters house, who Phil knows well. And there was some ground salt nearby. So Phil set to work, at first allowing his car to back up - then mine. It took about half an hour.

It was pure ice - I nearly fell over on countless occasions!

From here, a look along the estuary gave five adult Med Gulls, including 'white 3P65'. I last saw him on 26th Jan, when he had the usual winter head pattern, he now looks like this....

Well on his way to fine summer wear

What a brilliant morning of winter birding - am real glad work phoned early today asking if I'd swap my day shift for a late!