Wednesday 29 December 2010

Larking About In The Night

Did my last woodland bird survey of the year this morning, in private woodland near Colyton. This is one of the best sites for Woodcock on patch - so with large numbers about at the moment I was looking forward to a record count....I saw none! I'm guessing the snow last week displaced them, and they haven't found their way back yet!

On the whole the woods were rather quiet, but a super flock of 70 Siskins kept me entertained for a while. There were at least three Lesser Redpolls in with them too.

The nosie they made was awesome!

A look along the Estuary showed the three Pochard and the two female Tufted Ducks still, 66 Dunlin and a Grey Plover. Off Seaton Hole late afternoon I could see a flock of 41 Common Scoters in the gloom, all but a couple being female-types.

After i finished work at 10:15 tonight, whilst walking to my car I could hear a couple of Skylarks calling from the night sky above - bizarre! They just seemed to be circling around too - maybe confused by the fog!?

Tuesday 28 December 2010

A Good Day For Ducks

I spent the morning doing some Bird Atlas work on my tetrads near Dunkeswell. The weather wasn't great - but the birding was, with two Crossbills and 8+ Brambling being the highlights.

I was back home early afternoon and headed out birding fairly promptly.

A sweep of the valley showed there were a few ducks about, with three
Pochard (two drakes), three Tufted Duck (one drake) and 10+ Gadwall on the Estuary. I took my time and carefully counted (and checked!) the mass of Wigeon this afternoon, and surprised even myself with a final count of 1,800 birds! Most of these were opposite Stedcombe in two large clumps...

Clump one - the biggest bunch

Clump two

There were also smaller flocks on both Colyford and Seaton Marshes. Back to diving ducks, and a fourth Tufted Duck was at (the still surprisingly icy) Lower Bruckland Ponds...

They are so small compared with the monster Mallards!

I wish I was now writing about the success I enjoyed with my hour long Waxwing hunt around town....but I can't :-(

So, how was Christmas for everyone? I had a lovely few days - and it was nice that family, friends and love was the main focus of it. Just how Christmas should be. Mind you, I couldn't help but being over-joyed by this present...

Yes - that is the largest carton of Jaffa Cakes ever!!!

And I couldn't help but feeling stuffed after eating this....

There is turkey in there somewhere!

I shall finish with yet another Redwing photo, sorry...

I am just so pleased all the snow and ice has thawed so that these guys can get back to where they belong!

Friday 24 December 2010

All I Want For Christmas Is A Patch Waxwing...

...please Santa! I mean, I have been a good boy this year - for a change!

Christmas Eve is always a busy working day for me, but it is also always capped off nicely with a few rounds in the Pub :-)

Before work, I had time to get the camera out and aim it at the thrushes still struggling to find food in our garden. Some of the Redwings are really starting to look weak now, another day or so and I'm sure we will be picking up corpses.

Eat eat eat!

During this last week, I have been judging for the (unofficial) 'Seaton snow man competition'. Local birder Phil came close with this superb effort...

Note the Christmas lights wrapped around!

But the winner goes to whoever made this beaut...

Who ate all the mince pies??

Happy Christmas everyone, good health and happiness to all :-)

Wednesday 22 December 2010

It's Still All White

The snow coverage is still almost exactly the same, despite the fact it hasn't snowed once since the down pour on Monday...

Looking NW from the farm gate

The sea front

Worryingly, Redwings are starting to get a little tamer now as they forage on the ground for fallen berries...

Spot the Song Thrush...

The garden is still heaving with birds, and they are loving the £1 bags of simply value apples I bought the other day, especially our Blackcaps...

Mr and Mrs

Walking down to my house last night at about half 11, a Woodcock whizzed past us. It then landed in the middle of Durley Road, shuffled around a bit, ran to the road side (a Woodcock running is quite a funny sight actually!), then flew off east. Although I wasn't in my garden when I saw it, if I was, then I would have seen it.... does this mean I can count it on the garden list?

Lastly, a quick look along the Estuary mid afternoon today showed: c1,000 Wigeon, 10+ Gadwall, two Med Gulls (adults) and ex-patch birder Nick!!! Good to see you mate :-)

Monday 20 December 2010

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow....

On Friday morning I woke up to this....

Lots of snow falling

I then spent Saturday in Taunton, being amazed at how much snow there actually was! Little did I know what was around the corner...

This morning, within two hours (between 06:30-08:30) a colossal amount of snow fell. All the main roads have been impassable, at work we haven't have any deliveries all day, no post, proper snow!

I've lived here 19 years and I've not seen it like this before....

Proper deep snow!

Today wasn't going to be a birding day, but the action in and over the garden has kept me glued!

Had one garden tick today - a bit of a good one too! At 9am five Woodlark flew north west over the back garden. I was quite surprised by this as there didn't seem to be as many Skylarks on the move as there had been the previous couple of days. A few Snipe and stacks of thrushes were also noted going over.

In the actual garden, well it has been mayhem!!!

Have had five species of the thrush, the highlight being the Mistle Thrush that landed on the front lawn for all of three seconds before flying away - so no pics of him. There's plenty of Redwing pics though...

There were always 10-20 in the garden, but birds were continually flying off and being replaced by 'new' ones

At least six Song Thrushes also seen...

Song Thrush and Redwing

And a few Fieldfare...

These always stayed high in the berry trees though

Other non-thrush bird included up to four Blackcap...

Three of them looking like this one

Four Bullfinch....

Three of them looking like this

Two Pied Wags, a heap of Long-tailed Tits and a female-type Black Redstart.

Just outside the garden, there were bucket loads of thrushes....thousands of them! Most thawed bits of road/verge had a Meadow Pipit or two, and a few houses down a male Black Redstart sat up proud...

And then began feeding on the berry's of some ornamental palm tree like thing...

Check out the ice on his feet!

But, although the birding has been just incredible, I feel sooooo sorry for them all. I just hope this doesn't last long. In the mean time - please keep feeding your garden birds!

Thursday 16 December 2010

Our Colour-ringed Osprey

From mid September our Estuary was graced with a splendid juvenile Osprey (click HERE for my first post on it). We soon noticed it was colour-ringed (see HERE), though finding out where it had come from wasn't as easy! Scotland was soon eliminated and Sweden became the favourite, but they passed me on to their Norwegian neighbours. Anyway, yesterday I finally heard back from the Norwegian ringing authorities...

You'll have to click on it to enlarge it

So it was ringed less than two months before it appeared on the Axe Estuary, about 1,066 miles away - incredible! So although we thought we were 'home' for this Osprey, its actual home was here...

View Larger Map

It was worth the wait to find that one out! :-)

Tuesday 14 December 2010

The Yellow Wagtail - Trapped And Ringed

Our second ringing session at Colyford WTW since the probable Eastern Yellow Wagtail has been in residence proved a total success, because at 08:35 it flew in to one of our mist nets! RESULT!

Biometric data proves that this bird is indeed..... a Yellow Wagtail! So not much use at all! But what it left in my hand is probably going to prove of great use...

Yellow Wagtail poo!!

This - along with a couple of belly feathers it lost in the net - should secure the identification of this bird once and for all....eventually! Good old DNA :-)

I took loads of photos of various different parts of the bird - here's three of them...

All photos copyright Steve Waite

In the lower photo, note the strip of yellow-buff on lower breast/belly, and the smidgen of yellow-buff between its legs. All white under tail coverts though.

The other very useful thing it did was call - which to my ears sounded quite different to the usual spring and autumn flyover flavas. I managed to record seven calls, and the first comments back are very positive. Martin Garner is preparing some sonograms and these will appear on his blog, along with some comments from the man himself and the sound clip of this bird.... CLICK HERE

Wagtail aside, it was an excellent ringing session, with this stonking Water Pipit...

A beast!

And this stunning male Sparrowhawk...

Just look at that eye!

By 10am the Yellow Wagtail was back, feeding on its favoured filter bed. It was still there when we left at about 11:30am.

Monday 13 December 2010

A 'Proper' Celebrity Visits The Patch

It was the AERG's festive outing today - which always means loads of mince pies and stilton and crackers washed down with some lovely warm mulled wine (trust me - there's nothing better on a cold winters morning like today!). This year's knees up was even better though, with a bottle of port, sausage rolls, stollen cake, mini cheddars, cheese and pineapple on sticks, and much much more!

It's always good fun, and today there was an added bonus when Fraser joined us along with the two chaps he was showing around the marshes, one of them being....

....can you spot the TV star?

...Nick Baker!! He also enjoyed some mulled wine and a bit of stilton, before continuing on with his tour. Thanks for an enjoyable morning everyone - what a fine spread of food we had! And thanks for the photo Adrian :-)

We did do a bit of ringing (before we necked the booze I must add!), with a Treecreeper in the nets the best. Notable birds I saw that didn't end up in any of our mist nets included a Woodcock that flew out of cover just after dawn, two Siskins and a Brambling loitering in trees near to the bird feeders on Stafford Marsh, and a Green Sand flying around in search of unfrozen water.

I was home early afternoon, then headed out again mid afternoon for a quick look about. The Estuary didn't show much, but up the road I saw the Greylag Goose opposite Stedcombe for the first time. That was it though, I didn't see anything else worthy of mention - well - until I pulled up outside my house again, where this silhouetted shape greeted me....

Distinctive or what!?

Yes it was a Black Redstart - a fine male which I managed to snap again a little later...

Crap effort though I know!

It was joined by a female-type bird as well, though he kept chasing her away so I didn't manage any sort of pic of her. Durley Road is proving a good site for these now, which is weird because it never used too!

And that was my highly productive day....

Friday 10 December 2010

Counting Coots

Although it is noticeable milder this morning, it wasn't yesterday morning! In fact, for the first time since this cold weather descended upon us, yesterday morning there was actually ice on the river...

Not a common sight at all!

It is was good day for Coot yesterday; I'm pretty sure I smashed the previous highest day count for the patch. Four at Lower Bruckland Ponds and eight on the Estuary weren't anything special or unexpected, but the flock of 18 on the sea were...

Making a total of exactly 30 Coot!

There was a drake Pochard attached to this Coot flock (though it's nearly entirely hidden in the above photo), and a gorgeous pair of Goosanders flew west, including the first adult male I've seen during this cold snap. Two Eider and five Common Scoter were off Seaton Hole, with a further 14 Common Scoters off Branscombe.

To complete yesterday's sightings; 12
Gadwall were on the river (a flock of 11 and one with the Wigeon), the Yellow Wagtail was still at Colyford WTW and four Chiffchaffs were at Branscombe WTW.

This morning, a look over the sea was again eventful. Another two Goosanders flew west, and landed on the sea near the Chine Cafe (both female-types), a immature drake Eider flew in from the south, then east (with the two still off Seaton Hole with five Common Scoters) and best of all, an immature Velvet Scoter was settled on the sea with three female Common Scoters just to the east. I presume the same bird I found last week?

A quick look up the river valley showed nothing unusual, but at least 1,020 Wigeon were feeding on Colyford Marsh, here's some of them...

This was the densest part of the three flocks

Closer to home, in fact AT home, the garden has been full of birds during the cold weather. Song Thrushes are very scarce here, but we've had at least three hanging about lately...

...always quite skittish though, so this was a hard photo to get!

And most days at least two Blackcaps can be seen, though there were four (three females and a male) on Tuesday morning...

Eyeing up that apple core

And as I write this there's a flock of six Redwing feeding in our berry tree - just a pity there's no Waxwings in with them!!

Lastly, the colour-ringed Med Gull I saw a few days ago; White 3N93. Well I knew I'd seen this bird before, and I had - on the 3rd of Feb this year! (see HERE). Between that sighting and this sighting there's been no other reports of him/her.

There'll be no more birding for me over the next few days, so roll on next week..... Oh, but just before I do go, anyone know who saw the 5+ Bewick's Swans at Colyford Common on 8/12/10!??