Wednesday 29 April 2009

More Border Hopping And 'The Fudge' Revisited

In my last post you will see a very rubbish picture of the male Ferruginous Duck we 'twitched' in Somerset. Roger Musgrove later emailed me to inform me how easy it actually was to get closer to the bird. All we had to do was carry on along the main track...bums!

He also kindly sent me some 'proper' photos of it, so I could see what it actually looked like! Here's one of them...

That's more like it!

Thanks Roger, hope to bump into you when I next venture into Somerset....though that may be a few years away!!!

Now to today, I spent a few hours out in the morning seeing very little. The highlight was easily a huge brown Saker-type falcon that I flushed from my 'Woodcock Woods', it was MASSIVE!!! Last seen flying towards Colyton.... look out!

I had a few bits and bobs to do later on in the morning, but at 13:00, knowing Portland's MEGA was still present I just had to go. WHAT A BIRD! Stunning male Collared Flycatcher! I didn't even bother trying to get a photo of it, because no one is going to get a better photo than THIS. Viewing it was quite tricky, for this reason....

Lots of heads, hats, backs and scopes in the way!

Bun and myself still enjoyed some excellent views of it though, what a stonking bird! Well worth it! Thanks must go to the Bird Obs and the finders of the Flycatcher. Nice to see a few familiar faces again too.

We spent a good hour and half here, before we went to Radipole, where I finally got to see this...

Slightly better than my last effort at scarce wildfowl photography!

Look, you can even count its tail feathers....if you are that way inclined!

For some reason the Hooded Merganser really had it in for a pair of Tufted Ducks, and spent virtually all the time we were watching it chasing them, non-stop! Also here a couple of Gadwall and too many Brown Rats!!!

We then headed home, via a quick stop in Whitford just before 18:00 where we had some super views of the singing male
Lesser Whitethroat alongside the railway.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Sea Watching And Border Hopping

I'll start with something not relevant to the title at all! Early this afternoon a long shot paid off. Two springs ago I had a Lesser Whitethroat singing between Whitford and Kilmington, alongside the railway line.

I didn't see one here last year, but at 13:00 today I was treated to brilliant views of a male rattling away by the railway bridge, it was in absolute pristine plumage with a lovely pink wash to its breast and a clear cut-off to its white throat. Stunner, and a good bird to get in spring on patch.

Ok, now back to the title, which means going back to yesterday....

I started yesterday with a sea watch from the beach hut. 06:50 - 07:45 was actually not too bad in good sea watching conditions, with one Great Northern Diver, 168 Manxies, one Great Crested Grebe, 15 Kittiwakes, two Sandwich Terns, one Oystercatcher and two Whimbrel past.

At 07:45, a front came through and with this, the wind dropped dead. Almost like someone just turned it off! This in turn turned all and any passage off too. The rest of the morning was quiet, with just a single
Wheatear on Seaton Marshes and an Iceland Gull on the estuary.

Knowing Bun and Karen both needed Ferruginous Duck, and the fact I've not seen a drake since Feb '02 (Marton Mere - Lancashire), we left off at 15:00 and headed to Wimbleball Lake, Somerset. I'm pleased to say it was a succesful twitch! The Fudge Duck was here...

The north arm of the lake

It remained distant, as can be seen from my best photo of it, was a smart bird though.

We did try and get closer, but totally failed!

Also here, a singing male Redstart was a nice bonus, as was a calling Cuckoo and a Tawny Owl which flew through a small woodland and landed in full view. Other birds on the res. include just a few Tufted Ducks, Great Crested Grebes and Coots.

After this, we went to a site near Taunton for Nightingales. We heard at least three males singing, and they gave a great vocal performance for us. One stayed loyal to these bushes...

Never showed though!

My camera is rubbish at recording sound, it distorts most frequencies. But this snippet of Nightingale song came out OK, and it's my favourite part of their repertoire. It's only short...

It was an enjoyable jaunt off patch yesterday, but I'm looking forward to an evening patch year-tick hunting session tonight!

Sunday 26 April 2009

My Weekend

So why did I look like this for most of Saturday 25th April??

Not my usual choice of clothing I can assure you!!

Well my brother is getting married in July, but he wanted his stag do yesterday, so that's why I looked like this!!! 23 of us met up in Exeter at 9am, and at 10:30 we were dropped off in three teams on Dartmoor,the task was to navigate our way from our drop off points to Warren House Inn using a map and compass. My team were dropped off here...

The plan was to get to Warren House Inn for our pre-ordered food at 1pm, my team arrived here at 13:10. The scenery en route was stunning at times, though a few hail showers ensured we spent quite a lot of the time with our heads down walking at a good pace. Here's a couple of photos showing some of the views...

A hail storm heading right for us!

Looking south from Grimspound

And this was the first time we could see our destination...

Still was miles away though!!!

As I have already said we got to the Inn at 13:10 - the first team back! WINNERS - GET IN!!! The other two teams had some problems though...

Team A was dropped off a mile too soon, they got to Warren House at 14:00, so it was a very good effort from them.

Here's the first part of Team A arriving at the Inn

Team C got it totally wrong though. Instead of taking lanes and footpaths they thought they'd follow a river! After an hour and a half as they had made such little progress they flagged down a car and got a lift to the Inn, and they STILL arrived later than my team!!!

All in all it was a brilliant day, and to top things off a Cuckoo called just west of Manaton near Vogwell Down. With the luck I've had with this species over the last few years on patch I wouldn't be surprised if this is the only Cuckoo I hear this year!!!

This afternoon I have spent a bit of time out and about on patch. The only real highlights worth mentioning include my first Common Swifts of the year with at least seven over Bridge Marsh with Swallows and House Martins mid afternoon. On the estuary there are now three Bar-tailed Godwits, 17 Black-tailed Godwits (there have only been three of these through most of last week) and at least 12 Whimbrel.

Friday 24 April 2009

An Estuary Update

Haven't had any real birding time today due to preperations for this weekends fun, but I did manage a ten minute look along the estuary late morning. As you can see from my funky moon gadget we are in the new moon period, which is the peak time for passage waders. And it shows.

The highlights were my second and third Bar-tailed Godwits of the year, the third one was the best. There are few waders smarter than a summer plumaged Barwit in my opinion, this photo doesn't do it justice...


Eight Whimbrel show a slight increase in this species but I couldn't see any small waders because they were probably all hiding around the corner up river.

Another highlight was my first Med Gull for weeks and weeks and weeks! It was a nice first-summer, but remained distant north of Coronation Corner, as can be seen from this photo....

It's the one on that bit of wood!

I may have another estuary sweep in my lunch hour, but otherwise I think that's it for me and birding for a few days. You will see why on this blog soon enough, have a good weekend everyone....

Thursday 23 April 2009

A Few Days Of Nothing

A post with this title is never going to be a good one, think that bad and worse! No photos, no trivia, just a short waffle about the slight highlights that I've notched up over the past few days.

Tuesdays highlight was our 11th (I think) Little Ringed Plover of the spring, on Blackhole Marsh with singles of Whimbrel and Wigeon.

Wednesday was a rubbish day, but I finally year ticked Reed Warbler, with single singing birds on Colyford Common and Axe Marsh.

This morning has been a little better. A Beer Head wander revealed a Grasshopper Warbler reeling in the Dell with four Whitethroats scattered about elsewhere on the head. Another Gropper was reeling on Seaton Marshes, this one was REALLY going for it - hopefully he might linger? On the river six Dunlin were the highlight, then I came home.

I've got a very interesting weekend lined up in front of me, watch this space....

Saturday 18 April 2009

Beer Head's Bird Of The Spring far anyway!

My alarm was set for 06:50 this morning despite not getting to bed until gone 1am. This was the reason why I kept feeling the need to hit the snooze button! Between alarms my partially awake brain registered the sound of a text message being received. I glanced at it, it was from Ian M and it read... "Pied Fly by drinking trough beer head".

I received this text at exactly 07:12 when I was lying flat on my bed dropping in and out of sleep. So I think it's rather impressive that at 07:31 I had a bin-full of stonking male Pied Fly near the end of Beer Head!! It showed superbly, spending lots of time perched on a near fence, occasionally making brief forages to the ground to pick up some breakfast....something that I had not had! A good bird to get on patch, it's only my second male here ever, the other five or so I've seen have been female/dull autumn jobbies. It was too windy to bother bringing my scope and camera along, but Karen should have some photos on her blog later.

Whilst wandering back to my car at about 08:30, an invisible Yellow Wag flew over calling, which was a bonus - our first of the year.

Another Yellow Wag flew over me at Seaton Marshes but there was little else on show. After I had returned home for some breakfast I was out again thanks to a phone call from Bun, he'd got a male Whinchat in Beer. Ten minutes later I was there and was soon watching it, another stunning bird! Karen later turned up, so again if you want to know what it looked like take a look at her blog later.

Whinchat is a landmark bird for me, being my 150th species on patch this year (click here to see the Surfbirds Local Patch Year List). 48 to go to beat the previous record....

Friday 17 April 2009

A Late Start And A Belated Update

I'll start with the belated update! An email has just landed in my inbox informing of the latest sighting of our famous colour-ringed Pale-bellied Brent - CILY. If you don't remember this click HERE. We last saw it on about the 15th March, then on 5th April he was here...

View Larger Map
Back on track - he was with 35 other PB Brents too!

Now to today, and as I've been getting up at six every morning this week I thought I deserved a lay in. As I wasn't due to take Kym to work til 10:30 I didn't go out until then.

A brief rain shower early this afternoon seemed to do the trick for dropping a few migrants. I was with Bun at Seaton Marshes at the time and five Wheatears and a Whitethroat appeared, along with good numbers of Swallows and Martins. There were also two Sedge Warbler singing on the Borrow Pit earlier in the day.

After this we went for a Beer Head wander, which produced my second Redstart of the year, another female. There were two Wheatear here too. A look out to sea after this showed ten Whimbrel fly west, which takes me back a few hours....

Late morning a look on the river showed that yet more wader passage has taken place. The highlight was my second Greenshank of the spring, along with an especially stunning summer plumaged Dunlin and this Whimbrel...

In profile

Showing its stripes

Got a busy night tonight, and won't be in bed til late, but am going to try and get up early tomorrow because it looks like it might be a good one...

Thursday 16 April 2009

I Do Knot Believe It!

No prizes for guessing what wader I added on to my (and the patches) year list this morning! My second sweep of the estuary today revealed this lone Calidris canutus; it may be grey, but it's a BIG FAT TICK! Also my first migrant Common Sandpiper of the spring, just north of Coronation Corner.

Spring wader passage continues

This was my second year tick of the day, the first coming during an hours seawatch this morning from 06:40.

At 07:15 two stunning Bonxies powered east through the bay, just what I was hoping for!! Other birds noted during this watch included lots of Gannets, c43 Manxies (c40 distant west incl. one flock of 20 and three close east), two Kittiwakes, one Ringed Plover and a Diver sp. The latter I only saw the arse end of as it flew south west; it seemed to lack the bulk of a GND, plus it didn't have any obvious feet, it didn't look like a RTD either.

Lastly, a bit of forgotten news from yesterday. On Seaton Marshes I saw my first three fully fledged juv Grey Herons of the year.

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Spring Plods On, And Stuff...

I haven't written a post for a few days, mainly because the birding hasn't been over exciting! Plus I haven't had much time. So, the best way for me to summarise the last few days is to break it down into the year ticks, starting with today....

Redstart - an early morning stomp over Beer Head this morning with Bun and Karen revealed very few migrants. A few hours later though, back at home, Ian McLean texts me to inform me of our fourth Redstart of the year in the Sheepwalk. Having missed the first three I wanted to try for this one so went back up to the head. There was no sign of it after half an hour, but wandering back to the car I'm pleased to say I relocated it in the Dell, though it remained elusive. Also two Wheatear and a few Wills and Chiffs with several Swallows flying north.

Grasshopper Warbler - Beer Head yesterday morning revealed three of these little beauties reeling away like there was no tomorrow. Even managed brief views of one as it skulked in a gorse hedge. I'm pleased to have secured this one for the year as they can be a bit hit or miss. Also a singing male Whitethroat. Also on 14th a Redpoll surprised me by flying over Axmouth, especially considering how scarce they seem to be this year.

Sedge Warbler - a single singing male from the farm gate early on 13th. Then on 14th one on Borrow Pit, Seaton Marshes and today a couple singing from the farm gate.

So that's the 'Spring Plods On' bit of the title, now for the 'And Stuff...'! Let's start with some Roe Deer photos. A few days ago while I was watching over Blackhole Marsh a couple of Roe Deer appeared further along the fence line, I managed to get this photo of one...

Nice Deer

Then to my amazement they walked towards me, these photos were taken hand held with no zoom...


And the STILL kept walking, oblivious of me in a bright white fleece!


They got to just the other side of the gate before they finally saw me stood there - then they legged it!!

As everyone knows, Easter has just passed, and my highlight of Easter 2009 was this....

Thorntons too - thanks Kym : )

And lastly, here's the article in the local press about the tragic incident at Seaton Hole on Sunday....

Look at those photos...they're mine!!

I've had several birdie/wildlife photos appear in various local rags in the past, but never had photos for a proper news item published!

And that's that, this is reporter Steve signing off for the day.

Sunday 12 April 2009

Mayhem At Seaton Hole

I had to investigate this action going down at Seaton Hole this afternoon....

50% of the Devon and Cornwall Police Easter Sunday shift!

Even Whiskey Bravo came over, lowering one of its crew down to the scene...

That's one brave man!!!

It doesn't look good for the person they were attending too as WB left empty handed, as did the four paramedics. The Police Heli came, then disappeared, but returned about twenty minutes later dropping a doctor-type person off on the beach, I assume to announce the casualty dead. Very sad indeed, I assume it was a tragic accident.

OK, enough of this doom and gloom. What birds did I see today?

Best of the bunch was easily the first summer Iceland Gull on Blackhole Marsh at 17:30, presumably a new bird as none have been seen here for weeks now. It took off and circled with other Gulls over Blackhole/Colyford Common before heading off north. Otherwise, a single summer plumaged Dunlin on the estuary and two Sandwich Terns past the sea front complete my sightings for today.

Friday 10 April 2009


After a beach walk this morning I bumped into Gav - a surprise in itself of late! Whilst chatting away I noticed two distant blobs heading our way from the east, they were Whimbrel! They flew in off and later were both on the estuary, here's one of them...

Nice to see again!

Only slight downer this morning was missing the second Bonxie of the week, oh well, there WILL be more....

Thursday 9 April 2009

Another Day Another Year Tick (It's Another Wader Too!)

Yes my year list moved up another notch thanks to a pre-work sweep of the estuary. At the top of the estuary were the usual flock of Black-tailed Godwits, and at the bottom of the estuary was this lovely winter plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit; our first of the year...

As you can see, it's an especially long-billed individual!

I was really looking forward to a good sea watch this morning, but a look out my window when I woke up at 06:30 showed this...

NOT promising!

I still got up though and went down to the sea front - where my suspicions were confirmed - it was hill fog and the sea was (almost!) clear as a bell. Well it was 'til it started raining!! There were a couple of showers during my two hour watch, so after a short while I succumbed to the relative 'comfort' of Mum and Dad's beach hut that I mentioned in a recent post. Ian M even joined me here after a while - the more the merrier!

It's a shame that very few birds joined us! With my two hours producing just 58 Gannets, 30 Manxies, at least 14 Sandwich Terns, four Kittiwakes and a lone Common Scoter.....rubbish!!!

Wednesday 8 April 2009

The Met Office.... rubbish at predicting the weather for East Devon!!! I thought I was going to wake up to a roaring southerly wind, instead the view from the Spot On this morning was rather tranquil with hardly a breath of wind...

Pleasant...but not the beach weather I want!!!

In yesterday's post I mentioned that I wanted to see something 'big' this morning. I meant 'big' as in Red-billed Tropicbird 'big', this didn't happen, I had to just settle for a 'big bird'! It was a stonking Great Norther Diver, which appeared to look only slightly smaller than a Blue Whale as it flew west.

I also noted two
Red-throated Divers, one flew west and the other - a lovely summer plumage bird - landed just offshore. 48 Manxies flew past (though all VERY distant) and four Sandwich Terns and a Common Gull passed closer.

Also in yesterday's post I mentioned how this full moon period will produce some waders for sure. Well a look up the estuary after my short sea watch produced a nice bit of spring wader quality with a Greenshank feeding on the saltmarsh north of Coronation Corner, a stunner it was too..... and a year tick : )

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Manxies Are Go

I was up early for a seawatch this morning, though I wasn't too hopeful given that there was no wind at all and the visibility was crystal clear with beautiful blue skies!! But before I had even got to the Spot On Kiosk I was surprised, by this...

Some beach huts have already been put up - which means it must be summer!!!

This one isn't any old beach hut either! It's Mum and Dad's beach hut to be precise, which also doubles up as a very efficient seawatching hide (with tea and coffee making facilities!!!).

As the title suggests my seawatch (06:50 - 08:10) produced some Manxies, which I was kind of expecting, but I wasn't expecting 54 of them! The first flock (11) came through at 07:30, then they passed in flocks of 14, 10, 9 and 10. Another brief seawatch tonight showed plenty more Manxies on the move - some distant east, others close west - so I wonder whether they've been winging it through all day?

Other birds seen during this mornings seawatch included a VERY nice winter plumaged Black-throated Diver which flew west at 07:04 - it's closeness and the excellent light allowed me to have a real good look at it, easily my best ever flight view of this species; a species I am usually hesitant about claiming in flight. A female Red-breasted Merganser west at 08:06 was notable, and five Sandwich Terns, two Kittiwakes, two Mallards, five Common Scoters and a very VERY distant Skua sp. complete the list of sightings.

With the weather like this from dawn....

.... it wasn't a surprise that there were very few migrants about!

I did see one of note though, thanks to a text from Dad; a lovely male Whitethroat on Beer Head - really smart and rather an early one too! I have seen a few hirrundines today with a House Martin over Lower Bruckland Ponds and 15 Swallows and two Sand Martins over Bridge Marsh.

Am going to give the sea another look in the morning, tonight is set to be a rough one so I hope for big things. And as you can see from that cool moon gadget to the right of this text, it is full moon time - which means only one thing - plenty of waders!!

Sunday 5 April 2009

An Hour Out After Work

Haven't had much to talk about recently. My latest year tick was on 1st, when I jammed an Osprey from Co-op's back yard as it cruised up river just prior to 19:00.

Ian M has provided the 'gripper of the spring' (so far) as he saw a
Ring Ouzel on Beer Head on the morning of 3rd. I spent two hours up here on 4th but saw no Ring Ouzels and even managed to miss our first Redstart of the year; it was seen for a few minutes in The Sheepwalk before vanishing into thin air!

I was at work til 16:30 today and had to nip back here for twenty minutes a couple of hours later. I did manage an hour out and about tonight though, and it was fairly productive. Well I say 'fairly', I mean 'HUGELY'! At Lower Bruckland Ponds I stumbled upon this patch rarity...

Drake Tuftie - top class!!

And here he is in a different light showing his purple side....

OK, so some may question its rarity status, but no one can question its beauty!

A look from the farm gate revealed a distant Little Ringed Plover on Colyford Scrape. Then on Bridge Marsh I noted a Lapwing, two Green Sandpipers and a White Wagtail (there were 30+ Pied Wags split between these two sites). 16 Sand Martins were flying about overhead.

It looks like we may have some good seawatching conditions coming up soon, I can't wait!! Let the year ticks fall....