Monday 31 August 2009

Just A Little

No birding today for me until about 6pm.

A quick tour of the river showed two Knot flying around with a small flock of Dunlin and two Blackwits.

After a look round Lower Bruckland Ponds I spent the rest of the evening 'working' the north end of Colyford Common, hunting for our long over-due Spotted Crake! I hadn't seen much, and at 19:45 left.

On the way back to the car I bumped into Nick Page and his las, we chatted for a while. I casually glanced at the Gull flocks heading down the river, and bugger me last nights white-winger came crusing over! I only saw it for about five seconds, Nick saw it for about one second! It looked pure white with a noticable pink base to the bill (about one thirds). For me, with this five second fairly distant view, I make it a first-summer Iceland Gull.

I nipped around to the estuary to see if I could relocate it, but there were millions of Gulls and the light was awful!

Sunday 30 August 2009

Bank Holiday Birding

A look on Birdguides early afternoon showed the Great White Egret remains at Chard Res, plus a Turnstone. WOW! If a Turnstone is at Chard Red it must mean there's been some wader movement. So I toodled off down the river...

A Blackwit and a Whimbrel were all the estuary had to offer; Black Hole Marsh was more productive though. The Dunlin and Ringed Plover numbers remains pretty samey, singles of Greenshank, Redshank, Blackwit and Lapwing were also on view - still nothing new! Then I saw this....

A Blackhole Marsh tick for me...a Knot

Another look here later on showed yesterdays Ruff had returned - a smart juv.

With the wind blowing, I thought a seawatch would be worthwhile...and it was! I did 14:20 - 16:50 from Spot On Kisok. I was hoping for a year tick - but wasn't expecting this one! At about 16:30 a Storm Petrel danced into my scope view, did a bit of fluttering, double-backed, then disappeared! That was one I thought I'd missed this year - excellent!

Other birds that went into the notebook (all west) were: 26 Common Scoters, 1 Balearic Shearwater (came through with a Manx), 5 Manx Shearwaters, 1 Great Skua (nice and close), 3 Arctic Skuas (close juv and two distant adults, 1 pale 1 dark) and 34 Commic Terns (including at least two lovely juv Arctics).

According to Birdguides the Wryneck remains on Beer Head, waiting for the Backwater Birders to return from their foreign travels I hope...

Saturday 29 August 2009

Wryneck - Beer Head!

A great mornings birding today, just a pity I have to go to work : (

I started at Axe Cliff, it was glorious....

Looking towards Beer Head

With it so pleasant, I didn't think there would be much grounded, and I was 'kinda' right. The Axe Cliff visit was well worth it though, as seven Tree Pipits flew west between 06:45 - 08:15, year tick! 14 Yellow Wags also passed west along with a few Swallows, House Martins and Meadow Pipits. The only grounded migrants I came across were one Wheatear, six Blackcaps, three Whitethroats, three Willow Warblers and two Chiffchaffs. Offshore, an impressive feeding flock built up as the morning went on, c80 Gannets and lots of Gulls.

After here, a visit to Blackhole Marsh revealed the same waders still gracing the place, but nothing new.

I then returned home, but soon after went charging back to my car again because my old man had phoned me... he had a Wryneck on Beer Head!!!

I ran straight out to where it was last seen (just below 'The Summit'), and immediately clapped eyes on it. We all watched it for about half an hour, but it was very flighty and jumpy - it never really looked settled. Because of this I'm afraid I'm not going to stun you all with some amazing photos, just some lousy record shots...

Beer Heads first Wryneck (as far as we know anyway!)...and no hint of any east in the wind at all!

I have always LOVED Wrynecks - aren't they just the best!? This was my third ever on patch, the previous two being on the tramline. Well done Dad! : )

Also saw several Wheatears and a couple of Willow Warblers here. We left when the Wryneck flew off west, but it had returned about half an hour later; Dave Helliar re-located it it the same spot Dad first found it.

I then came home, and celebrated in style...

The perfect end to a fantastic two year tick morning!!

Friday 28 August 2009

On Patch Musings And Off Patch Twitching

I have a soft spot for Crakes, I always have and always will. So, with the patch being fairly quiet, I just had to make the trip in to Somerset this afternoon to see the Spotted Crake that has been showing at Greylake RSPB. Dad joined me for this cross-county twitch.

I was surprised as to where the Spotted Crake was hanging out. Bearing in mind what the Somerset Levels is, miles and miles of reeds and marsh, this Spotted Crake has chosen to feed round the edge of this pond...

And it is just a pond!

Well did we see the Spotted Crake? Oh yes! We got superb views of it, for at least 50 minutes, only my second in the UK. It spent most of the time feeding, a lot like this....

Am well pleased with this vid - despite the reduction in quality due to upload

And here's a few pics...

The Spotted Crake feeding - stunning bird!

This wasn't all it did though; it spent some time preening, five minutes of which whilst perched on top of a clump of reeds....

A Spotted Crake or a Spotted Chicken?

Earlier in the day, and back on patch, I chalked up a couple of 'firsts for the autumn'. A Bar-tailed Godwit on the estuary and a smart adult White Wagtail on Blackhole Marsh. Other bits and bobs at Blackhole included a Lapwing, 9 Ringed Plover, 22 Dunlin, 2 Wood Sands, 1 Green Sand, 5 Common Sands, 9 Teal and a Yellow Wagtail. On the estuary, as well as the Barwit, there were singles of Blackwit, Whimbrel and Greenshank and another four Common Sands.

I had the moth trap out last night, but the wind ensured it was a small catch. The highlight of the 69 moths of 19 species caught was my second Old Lady. No new species for the garden though : (

A bit of late news in this post too, though it ain't much! The day after the Alpine Swift I went down to Colyford for an hour and half just after first light. There was no sign of the Swift, but eight Green Sands dropped in onto Colyford Marsh - the most I've seen for a while.

I see dipping the Swift has encouraged Gav to do some tactical 'lumping' of species to try and give him a boost. Fea's/Zino's, now that's a tick.... but large Shearwater sp., you wouldn't find that on my list - I only count identified birds!! Mind you, if I find myself lagging behind near the end of the year, I've got a few 'either/ors' I can reveal and claim...

I need a good night's sleep now... September is just round the corner, and there ain't no time for sleep in September!!

Monday 24 August 2009

Why You Shouldn't Draft A Post Before The End Of Play!

I wrote nearly all of this post before I went out for one last bit of birding. And the outcome of this birding changes the entire focus of this post!

I had a wander down the estuary with Gav and one more (sorry - didn't get the name!) tonight; four Greenshank, the Wood Sand and a few other bits and bobs were noted. Gav plus one turned back, but I carried on. I stumbled upon a nice group of eight Wheatear and a Whinchat, then headed back around Blackhole Marsh. I was walking back up the western shore of Blackhole, and paused roughly where our 'usual' scanning point is.

I was binning north over Colyford Marsh as it was getting dusky, when I picked up a distant Swift; 'oh - that's the first one I've seen for a little while' I thought.

I lined my scope up, but couldn't pick it up, so went back to my bins and soon re-located it. I finally got on to it through my scope and was immediately stunned by a white belly!!!! I steadied myself, and watched it for a little while longer. It was big.....BIG BIG! This was emphasised by the powerful slow wing-beats, which were few and far between the long glides. More checking of the white bit showed it was very clear-cut and view of its upper parts showed they were brown, quite 'soft brown' when it flew in front of a distant hill. Yep - that's a dodgy leucistic Common Swift eliminated... I had an ALPINE SWIFT!!!!

I guessed Gav would be nearest, though I hadn't seen him for twenty-odd minutes, so phoned him. He was still here, in front of Colyford Marsh hide. My phone records tell me I phoned him at 20:14 and remained on the phone til 20:20 when I lost sight of it as it very quickly became very distant. During that time I tried and tried and TRIED to get him on to it, but it wasn't to be. For the whole time I was watching it through my telescope, except for about ten seconds when I lost it as it flew in front of a distant wooded hill. I used my bins to relocate it before switching back to the scope.

I am SOOOOOOO gutted that no one else could get on to it, and am sorry for all the other local patchers who only got a text after I had lost sight of it. I was too intent on getting Gav on it. I REALLY REALLY REALLY hope it re-appears in the morning, it can't have gone far tonight.

Ok, that's over with. I can't be bothered to re-write my entire post, so here's what I had already written.... the post was going to be titled 'A Dip In The Wet And Wild, And Today...'.

So bloggers, what is this...

Answers on the back of a postcard!

This was the view at 23:30 last Friday night from the Axmouth straight, looking over the river towards Seaton Marshes Hide. And the point is???? Well, you see that ultra bright white light below all the distant street lights.... that's my moth trap!

As you will have read on other local blogs it was the EDDC's Wet and Wild Weekend, and I played my part by helping with the 'moths and breakfast' event on Seaton Marshes on Saturday morning. I REALLY did help too.... I must have consumed at least a dozen bacon baps : )

My trap (on the tramline) and another trap (in the Borrow Pit) produced quite a nice haul. My favourite was this beauty in my trap...

Gold Spot

And there were a few of these in the other trap...

Canary-shouldered Thorn

It was while I was going through these that I heard about the Ortolan Bunting on Beer Head. Now, I had a VERY nasty experience with the last on patch Ortolan...I missed it by moments! If that darn jogger had woken up just one minute later then I would have seen it! Anyway, because of this, I vow never to see a Ortolan Bunting on patch. I don't want too! But, well done everyone, and I'm glad most people got to see it. Let's hope we never get another one...

Sunday morning, again I helped with the Wet and Wild fun...I ate EVEN MORE bacon baps!

So, now to today (again!)...


I dropped Kym off at work at 11am, then went down to Blackhole Marsh. A good grilling of the muddy edges revealed the wader situation remains pretty much the same; 6 Ringed Plovers, 25 Dunlins, 3 Snipe, 1 Wood Sands, 2 Green Sands, 7 Common Sands and 1 Blackwit. To complete the wader sightings for today I shall also mention the 3 Whimbrel, Greenshank and Lapwing that I saw on the estuary later on in the day. A very nice highlight at Blackhole was a stunning male Redstart in the field to the south, loosely associating itself with two Stonechat.

It was because of this Redstart that I hot-footed it over to Beer, and went for a wander in the fields behind the cemetery; Bun joined me. I got a surprise year tick here, when a female/imm Merlin powered low overhead - my earliest autumn bird on patch. It was soon obvious that there had been some movement during the previous night, with the totals being: 15 Willow Warblers, 6 Blackcaps, 4 Whitethroats, 3 Spotted Flies, 2 Lesser Whitethroats and a Garden Warbler. Great stuff!

I then went for an early afternoon wander over Beer Head. Most of the bushes and fields were empty, apart from this one...

The 'Kale Field'

In this field were: several Yellow Wags, 10 Whitethroats, 6 Wheatear (with three more elsewhere), 6 Stonechats, 3 Whinchats plus the usual Finches, Sparrows and Yellowhammers. Luckily all of the Buntings were indeed Yellow, and not nasty eye-ringed ones!!!

To finish the bird sightings off for today, a second-winter Med Gull was below the farm gate mid afternoon and a lone Shoveler was a bit of an oddity at Lower Bruckland Ponds.


Last night I had both traps out. This resulted in a catch of 424 moths of c40 species. 90 were in the Skinner and 334 in the Robinson.

First for the garden were...

Sharp-angled Peacock

And about time! Common Wainscot - I had four of these

The rest of the catch was made up of: 216 Large Yellow Underwing, 43 Rustic sp., 25 Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, 18 Flame Shoulder, 16 Brimstone, 11 Small Square-spot, 10 Setaceous Hebrew Character, 9 Shuttle-shaped Dart, 9 Willow Beauty, 9 Lesser Yellow Underwing, 8 Double-striped Pug, 5 Jersey Tiger, 5 Silver Y, 4 Dingy Footman, 3 Yellow-barred Brindle, 3 Common/Lesser Rustic, 2 Black Arches, 2 Heart and Dart, 2 Bright-line Brown-eye, 2 Spectacle, 2 Cabbage Moth, and singles of: Angle Shades, Riband Wave, Dusky Thorn, Shaded Broad-bar, Garden Carpet, Red Twin-spot Carpet, Cypress Pug, Four-spotted Footman, Rosy Footman, Pale Prominent, Dark Arches, Lychnis and Dog's Tooth.

Here's some of the notable ones from that list...

My second Wood Carpet

My third Four-spotted Footman

A very faded Dog's Tooth

From that list you may also have noted as well as having Common/Lesser Rustic I've lumped Uncertain, Rustic and Vine's Rustic! I guess most of them are actually Vine's Rustics, but I can't get my head around them. Look...

Less than half of them!

And here's some of them up close, any thoughts...


Well what a day!!! Night all....

Thursday 20 August 2009

The Blackhole Variety Bucket

Had an hour free this morning so nipped down to Blackhole Marsh after high tide, at about 11am. It was brilliant! By sheer coincidence I spent the time watching over the Marsh with my sister-in-laws Grandad!! Hope to see him over here more often.

There were three Wood Sands, along with two Green and seven Common Sands. Six Greenshank feeding along the western shore represents a very good local count, they were joined by two Blackwits. The small wader flock at the back of the marsh compromised 19 Dunlin and seven Ringed Plover. Other bits and bobs included a lone Lapwing and a scattering of Teal; that Garganey can't be far away....

With the number of Greenshank in front of me I just had to get my camera out...

Hello Mr Greenshank!

Head on

Ohhh, what's he seen....

And this was the next photo... it was obviously a huge vacuum cleaner!!!

The two Blackwits; an adult and a juv

Tuesday 18 August 2009

That's One Big Old Lady!

Had the Robsinson in the back garden last night, it caught me 235 moths of 39 species.

Two new for the gardens, which where...

My favourite - an Old Lady

It was HUGE!

The rarest - a Ruddy Carpet, a south coast special

The rest of the catch was made up of: 58 Large Yellow Underwing, 40 Willow Beauty, 24 Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, 17 Flame Shoulder, 12 Uncertain, 8 Dingy Footman, 6 Rustic, 5 Riband Wave, 5 Shuttle-shaped Dart, 5 Double-striped Pug, 4 Silver Y, 4 Brimstone, 4 Garden Carpet, 4 Common/Lesser Rustic, 3 Straw Dot, 3 Flame Carpet, 3 Setaceous Hebrew Character, 3 Square-spot Rustic, 2 Yellow-barred Brindle, 2 Spectacle, 2 Bright-line Brown-eye, 2 Smoky Wainscot, 2 Jersey Tiger, and singles of: Lesser Swallow Prominent, Marbled Beauty, Buff Ermine, Knot Grass, Cabbage Moth, Heart and Dart Small Waved Umber, Small Fan-footed Wave, Single-dotted Wave, Nut-tree Tussock, Rosy Footman, Dark Arches and Sallow Kitten.

The last moth in that list was a much smarter individual than my first one...

Quality moth!

No trapping tonight, am way too tired. But am hopeful for my first 'out of garden' moth trapping attempt at the end of the week...

Monday 17 August 2009

More Insects Than Birds...

...well it has been for quite a while on this blog hasn't it? Today though, it's not just moths...

An early afternoon visit to Lower Bruckland Ponds revealed that Small Red-eyed Damselflies are out in force. The top pond has plenty of floating weeds and stuff, this proved the best place to see them - this was also where I attempted to digiscope a couple of them. The results leave a lot to be desired for, but still...

A local speciality

Well named aren't they!?

To save an 'insect overload' I shall slip in my bird news from today now...

A mid morning Beer Head meander produced just two Lesser Whitethroats and two Willow Warblers. Blackhole Marsh gave a Wood Sand, a Blackwit and c13 Dunlin, but nothing new. The low high tides at the moment I'm sure are partially responsible for this. A Yellow Wag flew down the river at 11am and there seems to be big numbers of Swallows/House Martins about - all over the place!

Now to moths! It was a mammoth catch last night - god knows how many I would have caught if I'd put both traps out! The Robinson in the back garden gave me 309 moths of 41 species. The firsts for the garden were...

Lesser Swallow Prominent; compare with my first Swallow Prominent HERE

A rather moth-eaten Sallow Kitten; compare with my Poplar Kitten from the other day HERE

Marbled Beauty

Currant Pug

Cloaked Minor

The other 304 moths were: 67 Large Yellow Underwing, 49 Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, 35 Willow Beauty, 20 Uncertain, 19 Flame Shoulder, 18 Shuttle-shaped Dart, 13 Common/Lesser Rustic, 8 Brimstone, 7 Double-striped Pug, 6 Dingy Footman, 5 Silver Y, 5 Riband Wave, 5 Rustic, 5 Straw Dot, 4 Yellow-barred Brindle, 4 Bright-line Brown-eye, 4 Setaceous Hebrew Character, 4 Jersey Tiger, 3 Lesser Yellow Underwing, 3 Square-spot Rustic, 2 Single-dotted Wave, 2 Red Twin-spot Carpet, 2 Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, 2 Iron Prominent, 2 Early Thorn, and singles of: Poplar Hawkmoth, Dunbar, Purple Bar, Garden Carpet, Flame Carpet, Small Fan-footed Wave, Knot Grass, Four-spotted Footman, Pebble Hook-tip and Nut-tree Tussock.

A couple more photos...

Just look at all those Willow Beauties!!! They love resting on the side of our flat

I had to take a photo of my second Four-spotted Footman - cracking moth!

Am off to the pictures now, via a farm gate vigil just in case a Marsh Harrier decides to drift up the valley...

Sunday 16 August 2009

Busy Busy Busy

Remember the bird surveys I conducted on the Somerset/Devon border last spring/summer? I (along with the forestry commission) gave myself the deadline of last Friday to complete the full report. Well, last Tuesday most of it was unwritten! I clamped down on myself; virtually no birding and no mothing. It was worthwhile as by Friday at 11am it was complete : )

The only birding I allowed myself after my Beer Head visit on Tuesday morning was a little estuary time on Friday. Highlights were singles of Greenshank, Wood Sand, Whimbrel, two Blackwits and six each of Ringed Plover and Dunlin.

A quick look about tonight revealed singles of
Wood Sand and Blackwit on Blackhole Marsh and 14 Teal. On the estuary were singles of Greenshank and Whimbrel. This morning, there was an unexpected addition to the garden list, with a Redstart calling in the front garden at about 6am. I glimpsed it briefly - looked like a juv - but it soon moved out of the garden to the north west

Last night was the first time for a while I had a moth trap out - the Robinson in the back garden.

I was working at 7am, so planned to get up at 5am to go through the catch. When I woke up though I had a killer headache, and when I got up, chucked up everywhere! After several more 'throw ups' (and the Redstart!!) I retired back to bed and phoned work. A few hours later I was awake again and felt much better, so I got up, covered over the moth trap and went to work. Many many hours later, at 17:30 in fact, I finally got to have a look through the moths.

There were 152 moths of 32 species. The five firsts for the garden were...

Dusky Thorn - cute....

A more useful view of it!

True Lovers Knot

Side on

Garden Carpet

Lime-speck Pug

Cypress Pug

There was another first for the trap, but we have had this species in the garden before. My old man hates them because they - well their larvae anyway - destroyed ALL the vegetables in our garden one year....

Angle Shades

Look at it - evil pest!

The rest of the catch was made up of: 38 Large Yellow Underwing, 34 Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, 14 Willow Beauty, 9 Flame Shoulder, 6 Shuttle-shaped Dart, 6 Common/Lesser Rustic, 5 Silver Y, 4 Jersey Tiger, 4 Uncertain, 3 Lesser Yellow Underwing, 3 Rustic, 3 Setaceous Hebrew Character, 2 Common Carpet, 2 Brimstone, 2 Dingy Footman, 2 Double-striped Pug, and singles of: Nut-tree Tussock, Iron Prominent, Double Square-spot, Sqaure-spot Rustic, Flame Carpet, Red Twin-spot Carpet, Riband Wave, Black Arches, Straw Dot, Spectacle and Rosy Footman.

I have a day off tomorrow. Hopefully I'll get to do some birding...