Thursday 2 December 2010

Cold Weather Birding

Apologies for the lack of blog posts - when I've been on this laptop within the last few days I've had much more important things to think about! I have been updating the Devon Birding Blog when I could though.

So, I hope you are ready to read one monster blog post covering the last FOUR days! It is worth reading as I have seen lots of nice stuff. The best day was today, and that's right at the end. So you may as well read the rest of the rubbish between that and this....


Spent the first couple of hours of light at Colyford Common - it was freezing! Three Ruff flew low north west over at 8am, and amongst the frost were one Water and 11 Rock Pipits and a Green Sandpiper.

A look along the A3052 revealed 13 Golden Plovers (one by the pig fields, 12 beside Boshill Cross). All day small flock of Lapwing were flying south down the valley and presumably out to sea.

A good look along the Estuary and over Colyford and Seaton Marshes produced wildfowl totals of: 12 Brent Geese (the same flock as a couple of weeks ago), c450 Wigeon, 380 Teal (a good count for us), 11 Shoveler and six Gadwall...

Four drakes - Gadwall aren't common here

Shoveler on ice from Seaton Hide

Two adult Med Gulls were on the Estuary and a look at Lower Bruckland Ponds showed no unusual ducks, but a Cetti's Warbler was my first ever there.


This was a day of limited birding for me. First thing I had to carry out my monthly bird survey in private woodland near Colyton. I was surprised to see quite a bit of snow still on the ground (bearing in mind we hadn't had any at all in Seaton!)...

There were even some light snow showers

I flushed four Woodcock during my walk round, which was nice! Even nicer though was a lovely flock of ten Lesser Redpolls.

Small flocks of these just oooooze with character - I love 'em!

I returned home, and stayed here for a good while. Early afternoon though a text from Dad tempted me out down to the Estuary to see three Goosanders...

The same three Gav saw on the sea the previous day maybe?

Whilst here, out of nowhere, this appeared....

...a sleeping adult Spoonbill! For much better pics of it click HERE

Later, a further check of the Estuary produced five lovely Ruff just north of Coronation Corner, four Med Gulls and a 'weirdo' Gull. At first I thought my 'weirdo' Gull was a LBBGxHerring, but it may just be a weird yellow-legged Herring Gull. I took this photo at 16:15; it was almost dark, with an exposure time of 1/4!...

Its legs were yellow - just not bright yellow like an adult YLG. Also note slightly darker mantle shade, slighter size and intense head streaking

Tuesday didn't end well! The alarm at work wouldn't set, so I didn't get out of there until 23:30!


Up for work at 7am, then after a short three hour shift a sweep of the Estuary showed a Knot and the Spoonbill still. I then returned home to bury myself in my laptop once more! I really should have had a kip - 'cuz I was knackered and was due back at work at 17:00. Yes - a lovely split shift!

I got fed up with my laptop, so mid afternoon had another look about. Couldn't find anything different - well that was until I had a look at the small flock of Swans opposite Stedcombe House at 16:00. There sat an adult Bewick's Swan...


At first I presumed it was the same bird we had last winter - that often frequented the same spot. But its bill pattern gave the game away - quite different from last winter's bird. Here's a closer pic of today's bird, with a head shot of last winter's bird cut and pasted in...

See, quite different; and it's even obvious on photos as crap as these!!

Today - what a day!!

I woke up to this...

White out!!!

Our road was an ice rink - so I knew I couldn't go out in my car. As I was tucking into my Cheerios, out the front room windows I noticed a small flock of Lapwings fly west. So I kitted myself up and headed the front garden!

Bloody hell it was BRILLIANT! When I started I really didn't think I was going to witness a cold weather movement on the scale that I did!! I watched and counted 08:40 - 12:00.

Most of the birds were flying west, except thrushes and Starlings which were mostly flying north east. So if I haven't put a direction after a species assume this is the way it was going.

I can see the sea from my place, and I could see ducks flying over it. But I only counted ducks which were obviously flying over land - this gave me two garden ticks!! Ok, so this is what I saw....

22 Shelduck
140 Wigeon (50 north)
21 Teal (6 north)
4 Shoveler (in with a flock of Shelduck - garden tick!)
6 Tufted Duck (a mega garden tick, 3 of each sex; they flew west but soon came back east)
1,453 Lapwing (the largest single flock was of 70 birds - a well impressive passage)
1 Golden Plover
1 Curlew
30 Common Snipe (a few of these flew north, have only ever seen a couple of these from the garden before today!)
1 Redshank (flew north - second record for the garden)
5 Buzzard (all singles - and all were properly 'on the move')
2 Kestrel
90 Wood Pigeon
1 Mistle Thrush
63 Fieldfare
259 Redwing
86 Starling
1,154 Skylark (biggest flock was of 230 birds - saw even more later in the day as well!)
14 Meadow Pipit
40 Linnet

There were probably loads more finches involved in this movement, but separating 'vis mig' birds to birds moving from garden to garden from where I watched is almost impossible.

Well what a morning! I really wasn't expecting that!! Here's a couple of pics...

Lapwing flocks


After lunch, I gambled and got in my car! Thankfully I made it in one piece to the sea front, and spent 13:35 - 14:35 looking out to sea.

First of all, Skylarks were still moving. During this watch, and during the rest of the day I counted another 930 over west - with several flocks well out sea. For me then, that makes a day total of 2,084 Skylarks west - epic!!!!

Now to the sea, and it was clear wildfowl were also well on the move. On the sea there was a large flock of Wigeon, Teal with a few Gadwall. Now and then though, some would leave this flock and fly upriver, but also several flocks came in from the south and the east and joined them.

Wildfowl quality came in the form of three Eider on the sea (1 immature drake) and a nice flock of 16 Pochard and three Tufted Duck which flew in from the south, then west, then east, then west, then east, then finally away west...

Any fresh water diving duck is a rarity here!

Further interest over the same came from seven Red-throated Divers (4 on the sea and 3 west) and 12 Great Crested Grebes (easily my highest count so far this winter).

It was very hard to tear myself away from this action - but I did and took a look along the Estuary. A female Tufted Duck and 40 Dunlin being the only note worthy birds.

Had a nice surprise at the Farm Gate though. Funnily enough I was scoping up the field were Gav had just found a few Woodlark, when I suddenly realised I could hear Woodlarks! Two flew low north (and slightly west) over Norcombe's field - result! I wonder if these two and Gav's are from the wintering population that normally resides in the stubble fields above Axmouth.

A quick stop up the road showed the Bewick's Swan was still present with our flock of 12 Brent Geese.

Seaton Marshes was pretty much my last port of call - and the lagoon was smothered in ducks! Nothing out of the ordinary though. There wasn't much on the Borrow Pit either, but a single Grey Plover flew over heading north east. Ian Mc had seen one earlier on the Estuary, but as this had come from the direction of the town I presume it was another.

So what an excellent day indeed! Phew! Now time to ruin it and go to work. I do have one last picture for you though, taken during my visit to Seaton Marshes...

He was searching non stop for food!

Well I hope you enjoyed reading this mammoth post! I wonder what tomorrow will bring....