Tuesday 30 March 2010

Feeling Sheepish

As I got back to my car after enjoying a leisurely wander around Lower Bruckland Ponds yesterday, a look up the lane showed something wasn't quite right...

Oh dear!!!

This lot came charging past the car and headed off towards Higher Bruckland, I drove up the road and around the corner in search of a farmer, only to see ANOTHER group of about 15 sheep in the road!! To cut a long story short, I found no farmer, but me and another two passers-by got both lots together and back in to the field we figured they had come from! Oh what fun!!!!

After seeing just two Swallows yesterday, it was clear this morning there had been a mega arrival of hirundines. At Bridge Marsh, 110+ Swallows, 50+ Sand Martins and at least three House Martins were feeding low over the Coly. Then at Lower Bruckland Ponds shortly after, another 30 Swallows and ten Sand Martins.

Swallows really have come early this year, other springs it's always been a case of searching through mega Sand Martin flocks to get a March Swallow...but far from that this year!!! Anyway, enough talking about them...


Sand Martins

All these were taken in 'intelligent auto' mode, the dull conditions and rain played havoc with the ISO and shutter speed! But then again, if it wasn't for the weather, the birds probably wouldn't have been there at all!!!

Saturday 27 March 2010

Alpine Adventures

Today we have been graced with an Alpine Swift - which is bloody fantastic! It took a while to pin down, but since late morning has been showing from Lower Bruckland Ponds, feeding in exactly the same place as the three spring birds in 2006. It was first found by Clive when it was in exactly the same place as the bird last autumn. They do really seem to like this bit of sky!

After an uneventful wander around Axe Cliff, I returned home and was supping tea shortly after 9am. Dad's mobile rang - which is rather unusual in itself! After he answered it I heard the words "Clive", "Swift" and "Boshill Cross".... my tea was abandoned as I made a hasty retreat to the car, followed by a very hasty drive to Bridge Marsh gateway!

After a couple minutes of looking with no luck, whilst scanning north I glimpsed a Swift feeding low over the fields towards Musbury. I lined the scope up and there was a Alpine Swift! I sent a few texts and made a couple of phone calls then got back into my car and headed for Musbury. As I was driving I could see it low over the road ahead, so soon ditched the car and enjoyed superb views as it slowly meandered north. Cue a few more phone calls.

I suddenly thought I'd better get a few record shots in case it quickly did a bunk, so I did....

Said they were 'record shots!'

Shortly after, and just prior to Phil's arrival, it gave me the slip as it appeared to turn back south east. We and a few others spent the next hour or so sky scanning but with no luck.

After I'd come back home, and mid way through planting potatoes, I hear it's back. It was from this point that it became a little more settled, being best viewed from Lower Bruckland Ponds. I saw it from here a couple more times during the day, but it was nearly always distant...

An Alpine Speck!

I'm looking forward to see photos from others, I'm told it came very close at times.

Otherwise today has been a pretty poor day for birding, though have seen and heard my first three Willow Warblers of the year. That's pretty much it though aside a light sprinkle of hirundines.

I shall finish this post, like yesterday's, with a Bunting photo...

Tomorrow, Little Bunting.... (I wish!)

Friday 26 March 2010

The Forgotten Corner

Out and about this morning, I stumbled upon a very nice bit of habbo. It's certainly somewhere I haven't been checking, but will be now...

Lots of ditches, pools, puddles, bits of juncus, muddy edges, etc...

This is the most south westerly field of the marshes south of Seaton Marsh. I have always thought this area would be too close to the hustle and bustle of Seaton Town life, but all the passing cyclists, dog walkers, joggers, etc didn't make the flock of 60 Wigeon and few Teal even flinch! There was also a flock of 15 Pied Wagtails here with one lovely male White Wag.

I will be keeping a close eye on this area, stay tuned....

I didn't actually see much this morning, at all! Ian Mc and Alan (from Dorset) did well though today with our first Osprey and Willow Warbler of the year.

The Estuary showed the same wader selection as the previous couple of weeks, and the drake Gadwall was still by the tram sheds - showing a little better than usual...

Our resident grey beauty!!

Although it was showing closer today, it still wasn't quite as confiding as the Mallards...

Don't care what anyone says, but what a stunning bird! Just look at that head!!!

And I shall finish this post with a photo of a bird which is VERY important to me....if it wasn't for this bird this blog wouldn't exist...

Many many MANY years ago in Surrey, Dad was looking out the window and noticed a different bird in with the local Sparrows. Wandering around the local marshes (Runnymede, near Egham) he saw quite a few of these striking birds, and soon worked out what they were. This bird was the reason my Dad got in to birding all those years ago - whilst dodging charging Woolly Mammoths and pouncing Saber-toothed Tigers!! ;-)

And if he hadn't got in to birding, then neither would I....

Thank you Reed Bunting. And thank you Dad xxx

Wednesday 24 March 2010

On Chiffchaffs...

After work late this afternoon a quick whiz around Seaton and Black Hole Marshes revealed very little - except Chiffchaffs! There has obviously been a bit of a fall of these today; there were at least ten in the Borrow Pit, three more besides the sewage works on Seaton Marshes and several calling and singing from the gorse hedge which runs along the southern edge of Black Hole Marsh.

Whilst on the subject of Chiffchaffs, I will now talk about the only bird we caught (whilst I was there anyway) at Colyford Common yesterday, a Chiffchaff. This Chiffchaff in fact...

We caught it in the net by the bird feeders!?

It was great fun ageing this bird, a look at its tail showed a nice fresh central tail feather amongst the grotty old ones...

This alone could indicate this bird is aged 5 as often the central tail feathers are moulted during the patial post juvenile moult in Chiffchaffs.

5 is ringing jargon for a bird which is definitely in its second calendar year (so a bird born last year).

BUT if any bird was to loose an odd tail feather for one reason or another, a new feather would be grown in its place. If the bird was a young-un, the new tail feather grown would look adult-like, so we need to see more....

The finger is pointing to the inner most greater coverts

I'll blow them up a bit...

Notice the nice green edged inner GCs, compared with the rest which look much greyer edged and duller

This confirms this Chiffchaff can be aged as a 5 as the two inner most GC's have been moulted and replaced by new adult GC's, whereas the remaining GC's are juvenile feathers. If this bird had completed a full adult moult then it would have replaced ALL the GC's during the birds moult last summer/autumn and they'd all look the same.

Now time for the only non-Chiffchaff part of this post.... Whilst ringing at Colyford my first Swallow of the year flew over heading south. Yes it was going in the wrong direction, but I don't blame it as it was damp, foggy and windy!! It's certainly the way I would have been travelling if I were a Swallow!

Monday 22 March 2010

Pants Day... Top Evening!

I'll start off with the birdies....

This morning was VERY not enjoyable! The wind and damp conditions just made me want to return home and drink tea....but I didn't, I kept at it, mostly due to a phone call from Nigel Pinhorn early on saying he'd just had an Alpine Swift over Exminster Marshes....maybe we had one too!?

Well if we did/do, I didn't/haven't seen it!

I grilled the Estuary a good'un this morning, showing the
Barwit and Knot still, with the very lovely looking Blackwit flock...

Can you see the Knot?

If not, you should be able to in this pic...

Sod the Knot though...what a stunning Blackwit!! Yum yum!!!!

But that was it for the morning worthy of mention!

So, after some food and that well deserved cuppa, I was out again early afternoon along the Estuary despite it totally pi**ing down! It immediately started off better though, with the wintering drake
Gadwall on show by the tram sheds...

Great ducks are these!

A short while later from Coronation Corner I scored with my first migrant of the day, a Sandwich Tern. Then after forty minutes of Otter fun (see further down this post...), another hour or so of crap birding, and a trip home, the weather took a turn for the better. I shovelled my dinner down in record time and went out to enjoy the best part of today.

My third look at Seaton Marshes for the day showed my second migrant of the day, my first White Wagtail of the year. If you can see it in this picture I'll be very impressed as it was a long way away.... fact I may offer a prize to the first person who can tell me where it is....??

I spent most of 17:30 - 18:20 watching over the upper river valley, looking from both the farm gate and Stedcombe House drive way. The break in the weather kick started some late overhead movement...

During my watch, at least eight Sand Martins moved up the valley in dribs and drabs, a flock of ten Golden Plovers flew over high NW at 17:40, and best of all, at 18:15, a Spoonbill flew high west over Seaton. Thanks to a phone call from Bun for getting me on this one, I last saw it disappearing over the ridge near Tower Services.

I had the Spoonbill phone call just as I clapped eyes on this amongst the Mute Swans opposite Stedcombe....

Whooper! Nice to see you again....I assume!?!

If it is our wintering bird, then I haven't seen him/her since 16th Feb. And I have been looking at swans since then, including the flock he/she was in today, and have even had a couple of trips up to Kilmington/Whitford.... hmmmmm......

I finished the day in style, watching a Little Owl calling in Musbury at one of their usual!

Something I have been failing to mention in every post during the last week is the mega movement of Redwings at the moment. Every night whenever I'm outside 'seeeeps' are filling the night sky. And whilst on the subject of winter thrushes, I saw a large flock of Fieldfares a couple of days ago near Boshill Cross.

Now to the non-birds of today. Moths won't take long, as in my MV this morning were just two Common Quakers and a Hebrew Character....thrilling!

What will take up more space is the Otter action from today! Mid afternoon one was feeding in the Estuary. It even stayed here long enough for me to go home, collect Mum, and drive her back to the river to see it!

We are sooooo lucky!

It was easy to see where the Otter was at all times even when it was under water, as this was the view above...

The Gulls really didn't like it!

And if it wasn't enough watching this one munching on eels for about forty minutes, later on, two were feeding in the ditch running down to the hide on Seaton Marshes. Excellent stuff!

Sunday 21 March 2010

A Bit At Each End

Worked most of today, from 7am til half 4. It is so much easier starting early though now that it gets light at a decent hour! It also means I can look out into the front garden before work with coffee in one hand, camera in the other, and hot butter dripping off my chin (thanks to the crumpets!).

This morning it was nice to see a female Blackcap still with us, and a couple of Goldfinches brightened things up nicely!

One of the delightful duo

Fast forward about nine hours, and towards the end of my shift news broke of a drake Garganey on Blackhole Marsh - though it had quickly done a bunk. 2009 was a Garganey free year for us, so I was keen to get a look at this one. When I finished work it still hadn't been relocated, so I headed to Seaton Marshes.

I had only been here ten minutes when it was re-found on Colyford Marsh. I finished my check of Seaton Marshes, then as I only had a little time left, went to the farm gate at Axmouth to look over the marsh. From here, after a little wait and some directions over the phone from Bun (the finder), I had distant AND brief views of it waddling over a lump or two of grass....still 'PHWOAR' though - a right corker!

Nice to see a local twitch again, first proper one of the year I think. Thought I'd take the opportunity to grab a sneaky pic showing the hustle and bustle on the Colyford Common viewing platform...

Nice hair cut Gav! :-)

I have a day off that's GOOD! It's going to rain all day....NOT GOOD!

Friday 19 March 2010

Sand Martins!

A look about late morning revealed my first Sand Martins of the year, with at least eight over Colyford/Bridge Marsh..... MIGRANTS - BRILLIANT!!!

The estuary showed eight Dunlin and the Barwit. The water levels on Blackhole Marsh have risen now, but it's still looking good!!! And now it's time for work....

Thursday 18 March 2010

Missing Migrants!

Sandwich Terns, Wheatears and Sand Martins have all been seen on patch today...but not by me! And that's not down to lack of trying....arrrggghhh!!!

Had a bit of a shocker tonight when I fired up the laptop. Just read how Robert Jutsum tripped over a white phased Gyr Falcon today on his patch at Saunton Sands, North Devon. Click HERE to see details of it....what a top find! It's one that's high on my 'want to find list' for sure.

Had the moth trap out again last night, and caught five moths again! They were: Early Thorn, Early Grey, two Common Quakers and this new one...

Oak Beauty - nice!

The Early Thorn was the first 'first generation' specimen I've ever caught - noticeably bigger than the insects I was catching last autumn.

I shall finish this short post with the promised picture of my handy work in the kitchen yesterday! Feast your eyes (not mouth - that was my job!) on this....

It tasted as good as it looks :-)

Wednesday 17 March 2010

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly...

Went ringing this morning in a Kilmington garden, 'til about midday.

This was the good...

Everyone loves Coal Tits! Especially me :-)

The bad...

This poor Dunnock had a nasty cyst/growth on it's upper eyelid

And the ugly...


Whilst ringing, it was nice to hear Siskins song-flighting, with several other woodland birds singing well.

The only birds I've seen today that I can describe as being passage migrants were a few Meadow Pipits over Seaton Marshes early afternoon and a Chiffchaff singing and calling on the Borrow Pit; I haven't seen one here all winter. Bun scored with our first Swallow this afternoon in Beer.

I had the moth trap out at home during the previous night, only the third time I've used it this year! Thankfully, unlike the other two times, it wasn't a blank catch! In it were five moths of three species. Like last year, I will always post photos of any 'new for the garden' species, and as I didn't start trapping 'til late summer last year, there's going to be a lot of moth photos on this blog during the next few months!!!

Anyway, todays five were...

Hebrew Character

Early Grey. And...

These three Common Quakers

Am looking forward to a full year mothing, if last year's few months were anything to go by, I'm going to have a good year!!!

Lastly, I made a bloody nice cheesecake today! Photo to appear on this blog soon.... Chocolate and Raspberry.... yummy :-)

Monday 15 March 2010

We Have The Weather, Just Not The Birds!

What a stunning day! I am really liking the weather at the mo, it felt so good to be out and about this morning...

Looking south from Branscombe

Looking east from Beer Head back towards Seaton

It is just a pity the spring-like weather isn't reflected in the birding! Looking at the birds on patch today, the only things hinting spring were these....

...Blackwits going red


....male Chaffinches singing their hearts out!

In fact, the sea off Branscombe was a bit of a winter scene. At least ten Red-throated Divers were loafing about along with a single Black-throated Diver, presumably the bird Ian Mc saw here a couple of days ago. Three Common Scoters flew east and a couple of Guillemots were on the sea. Off Seaton Hole, the young drake Eider remains - first time I've seen him for a while.

The Estuary showed both the Barwit and Knot still.

Am hoping the southerly winds forecasted are going to get things moving... just where are the Sand Martins???

Saturday 13 March 2010

Lesser Spotted Dippers

After hearing Karen and Bun dipped Lesser Spotted Woodpecker again last weekend, I promised to take them to some. So we all went to Stepps Bridge this morning, a site I've seen them at several times in the past with 'relative' ease......but today we failed!

Lots of trees.... lots of empty trees!!

It wasn't an all out failure mind, as Bun did see a female Lesser Spot for about four seconds, but Karen remains Lesser Spot-less! I think they are trying again somewhere else tomorrow, GOOD LUCK!!!

My highlight of the trip was a gorgeous Firecrest which showed very well for a few minutes - still one of my favourite birds! There were lots of Marsh Tits about along with the usual woodland fare. On the river this female Goosander showed well...

Much better than the Muscovy Duck!

Nearby, we scored with my first macro moth of the year, a stiking one too...

Orange Underwing - smart little thing!

We were back home by 13:00, and I spent most the rest of the day birding on patch; Beer Head, Seaton Marshes, Bridge Marsh and the Estuary showed no migrants at all....still!! The only noteworthy birds being an adult Med Gull and a Common Sandpiper.

To end this short post, pulling up outside my house last night after work (at about half ten), I was surprised to see a Pheasant wandering about in the road...


Thursday 11 March 2010

Wader Action.....Just!

A quick look at the estuary this morning showed these two getting a little 'fruity'...unless they are both males, in which case they were getting 'aggressive'...

Be nice if they bred locally!

Also on the river, this was a surprise. I guess he/she has felt the urge to leave its wintering site and meander back north...

Our second Barwit of the year

The pair of Tufted Ducks remain at Lower Bruckland Ponds. But that's it from me today, time for work!