Friday 30 December 2011

Blackcap Bonanza

After the female Blackcap pictured in my last blog post, although I've seen the odd one in the garden, I have caught no more - I presumed that's because they had all cottoned on to where the net is, because they've all been in it!

But this morning I noticed an unringed female feeding on some rotton apples, so early afternoon I put the 10 foot net up again. I checked in ten minutes later, and was amazed to see not one, not two, but THREE unringed Blackcaps in it! That's seven in less than a week!

These were all this year's birds (3's), a female and these two males...

I wonder how many I'm going to catch during the rest of this winter?

I have been out birding quite a bit over the last two days too, but have seen very little really. There's been lots of gulls on the Estuary, but nothing but Meds and the usual species amongst them.

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Twixmas Tales

I've put a second net up in the front garden, only a small 10 footer, but it's strategically placed! It has produced the goods too, as in the past four days I've caught four different Blackcaps - one each day! One was a male, the other three looked pretty much like this...

This was today's female

A quick sweep of the Estuary mid afternoon produced nothing better than five Med Gulls (4 adults, two colour ringed, and a 2nd winter), and four Barwits.

I had a moth tick today! Unfortunately not in the garden, but resting on a white wall in town...

The very aptly named December Moth

Monday 26 December 2011

Boxing Day Blues

The most depressing day of the year. Still feeling sick with all the chocolate from the previous day, and am stuffed to the brim with turkey and Christmas pud! And, worst of all, Christmas is over and it aint back for another 364 days! I hate it.

So I thought I'd make it a little better by doing some ringing and birding....

A couple of hours ringing in the garden only resulted in two birds trapped and ringed. They were quality birds though, one a male Blackcap and the other the 30th Bullfinch that I've trapped and ringed in the garden (all since June 2011). And here he is...

A young male

A had a look along the Estuary mid afternoon too. There was nothing in with the big gulls, but seven Meds were in with the Black-headed Gulls; 1 1st winter, 1 2nd-winter and 5 adults (1 red ringed, 3 unringed and 1 legs not seen).

I hope everyone had an excellent Christmas. Better make a start on the 'review of the year post' really...

Sunday 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Sorry for the lame Santa hat - I didn't have long to do it! Photo taken at Seaton Hole last week

I would just like to wish everyone who reads this blog a Happy Christmas! And an extra special wish for everyone who is involved or sends records in to the DBWPS, all Devon birders, and my friends from further afield.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Scoter Search Update

So I trekked out to Weston Cliffs this morning, looking forward to finding a Surf Scoter or two at the very least.

At the cliff top I started scanning, and continued scanning, back and forth......and I couldn't for the life of me see one Common Scoter - let alone a flock of 200!

Just as I was starting to think I had gone mad - I picked them up, but they were even further to the west. They were off the cliffs on the other side of Weston mouth, probably not all that far from Sidmouth really! It's no wonder I couldn't see them sitting on the sea from Branscombe!

From where I was, they were still way too far away to check properly, but a quick count up revealed almost 300 birds! So I know what I am doing tomorrow now - trekking out to the cliff top at the other side of Weston mouth!

I drove back home via the Estuary, where I could see Gav and Brian H scoping the gulls from Coronation Corner. I pulled in a little lower down the river, and after a false alarm (I thought I had a good candidate for a Yankee Herring Gull), the Caspian Gull appeared in a gull flock upstream after they had all been for a bit of a fly around.

It is such a striking bird - way more obvious than the juv/first-winter Yellow-legged Gulls we pick out from late summer onwards. I won't bombard you with Caspian Gull pics, just the one I think shows best just how striking it is...

BRUTE! A brute with a beer belly too!!!

Check back tomorrow to see if I finally get to grips with this bloody Scoter flock!!!

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Sea Searching

With the sea looking like this...

Nice and flat - although it was lumpier off Branscombe

..I gave it a good looking at.

Seaton, Seaton Hole, Beer and Branscombe returned: 2 Great Northern Diver, 5 Red-throated Diver, 14 Great Crested Grebes and 220+ Common Scoter (probably the biggest flock I've ever seen on patch). Also good numbers of Razorbills and fewer Guillemots.

The Scoters were to the west of Branscombe, off Weston, and could only be seen in flight. So, I know where I am going in the morning....

I also had a look off Beer Beach later on this afternoon, to see if the Caspian Gull was here. It wasn't, but this was....

One obvious beast

This striking bird I'm sure has to be a first-winter Yellow-legged. When I first clapped eyes on it with my bins I thought it was going to turn out to be the Caspian, it really did look that striking!

I have also had a few looks up the valley today, the latter alongside Brett and Fred from the east. There's still at least three Barwits on the river, and it's nice to finally see some male Shoveler this winter, with this pair on the Estuary and another male at Lower Bruckland Ponds...

I hate this mild weather!!!

Friday 16 December 2011

A Quickie

This really is going to be a boring, brief and photo-less post...sorry!

Yesterday I didn't really have any time for birding, but did squeeze in a quick trip to Beer to see two Slav Grebes found by Ian M. There seemed to be quite a lot of birds feeding out there - oh how I would love a nice flat sea!

Today I had a couple of hours out during the morning. The highlight was seeing the Wheatear again on Seaton Marshes, with two Stonechats. Wouldn't it be great if it stayed into 2012!

I didn't see anything of note up the valley, or at Lower Bruckland Ponds (certainly not the two drake Ring-necked Ducks I was hoping for!), and at Colyford WTW I saw just 6+ Chiffchaffs.

I think there's been another pulse of migrants within the past few days. Last night I heard several Redwings going over (for the first time in a week or two) and there seems to be more thrushes about during the day. Wildfowl and wader numbers on the Estuary seem to be increasing too at the moment.

Maybe there is still something left in 2011....

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Flooded Out

Lots of flood water in the valley this morning - which is always brilliant! There were ducks everywhere, but as always there was almost too much water to look over! It was even better this afternoon when most of the flood water had dispersed, and what seemed like every duck and goose in the valley was on the remaining water on Bridge Marsh...

Lots of birds in a small area - ideal! Pity the light wasn't better though

There were at least 400 Teal and 350 Wigeon here, along with plenty of Mallards and Canada Geese. I couldn't find anything different though, but the light was awful so that Green-winged Teal could have been hiding in there somewhere.

No sign of the Snow Bunting this afternoon - and that Spotted Sandpiper still hasn't found the harbour yet! I wonder where it has actually gone, it hasn't been reported from Lyme Regis for weeks now.

Just to complete this short blog post, there were four adult Med Gulls on the Estuary yesterday early afternoon, and on the 9th the Wheatear was still on Seaton Marshes and at least 15 Chiffchaffs (all with yellow/green on them somewhere) were at Colyford WTW.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Good For Gulls

I only had time today for a quick look along the Estuary, at about mid afternoon. There were very few small gulls, but a decent number of large gulls. So many that I just had to count them!

The 258 Great Black-backed Gulls included this Glaucous wannabe...

I've not seen this bird before

And the 35 Lesser Black-backed Gulls included two intermedius candidates.

Here's a couple of photos showing standard graellsii Lesser Black-backed Gulls...

Two lots of two, notice the difference between them and the Great Black-backed Gulls, and also the difference in colour between the birds' mantle and primaries

And here are the two intermedius (type!?) Lesser Black-backed Gulls... (as ever, you can click on the photos to enlarge them)

Pretty striking really

But there are 'in between' birds, like this one...

This one was ringed too!

These birds are still essentially grey though - not black like the two above. My gut feeling is these are male (and possibly older?) graellsii.

I have already tracked down where this bird was ringed - in the Bristol area. I'm looking forward to learning how old it is and maybe even its sex, will it prove to be an old male??

Wouldn't it be great to find a ringed
intermedius! Maybe one day...

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Fire-crested Wren

Yesterday I ended my post with the caption 'Woodlarks are fast becoming my favourite bird'. Well my all time favourite bird reinstated itself back on top today! A visit to Branscombe Sewage Works this morning rewarded me with superb views of this cracking Firecrest...

Not the Hume's I was after - but I don't mind because Firecrest are fab!

Also here were two Chiffchaff, plenty of Goldcrests and two Treecreepers amongst the usual selection of sewage work loving birds...

A Grey Wag

A look along the Estuary this afternoon showed we are up to six Barwits. Although to all readers of this blog this probably means nothing, to us these Barwits are very notable! Bar-tailed Godwits are not usual winter residents on the Axe, they can best be described as regular but not numerous spring and autumn passage visitors and very rare and irregular winter visitors. We have had between four and six here now for the past couple of months - very exciting for the Axe birder!

Also on the Estuary were three Med Gulls (2 ads and a second winter) and 68 Canada Geese, including this slightly odd plumaged bird that has been around for a few weeks...

I'm pretty sure I've seen this bird in previous winters too

On Seaton Marshes I noted two female Shoveler, and the Wheatear remains - meaning today becomes my new latest ever date for this species...

It certainly looks Greenlandy to me - but why isn't it a rare one!!!??

I finished by birding day at Seaton Hole today, where eight Great Crested Grebes were on the sea, and a female Black Redstart was on rocks to the east...

It wasn't an approachable one though!

I forgot to mention in yesterday's post, that whilst at Seaton Hole yesterday, two Brent Geese flew west.

So although we are stuck in a mild spell with apparently very little happening - I've still managed to have an enjoyable birding day on patch :-)

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Still All Quiet

A look over the sea from Seaton Hole showed not much; a Red-throated Diver, four Great Crested Grebes and 20+ Razorbills.

The Estuary revealed just four Med Gulls and four Barwits.

Great news about the Woodlarks; there were 18 present today, and possibly one or two more...

These are fast becoming one of my favourite birds!

Monday 5 December 2011

All Quiet

Well I say it's all quiet - but this morning I have seen at least nine Woodlark (location witheld) and the Snow Bunting which is still present on Seaton Beach. It was nice to see the Snow B in sunshine for a change...

I wonder where her mate went!?

Otherwise, the sea produced just two Great Crested Grebes, three Razorbills and a Guillemot. The Estuary showed four Barwits and two Med Gulls. And Colyford Marsh, nothing but Canada Geese!

I have just remembered though that I forgot to post how I got on with my latest woodland survey (carried out on 30th Nov) - in private woodland near Colyton. A single Crossbill, three Marsh Tit and several Lesser Redpoll were nice to see. But the main talking point was the Woodcock. The most I've ever had here is 11 (in the middle of last winter). Bearing in mind how mild it has been so far this winter (no frosts) and how early it is in the season, I was very surprised to see a total of ten! I had some excellent views too - one day I WILL get some pics!

Saturday 3 December 2011

A Day Late

Thought I'd post up a quick one, as I had a couple of hours out yesterday afternoon.

After I got my car back from its service, my first port of call was Seaton Marshes where a Wheatear had been reported. A December Wheatear just HAS to be something good, surely...

Although this photo is rubbish, I think it still shows the answer

...just a Northern Wheatear! I'm pretty sure Phil has seen a February Wheatear on the Axe, which means there's only one month of the year that Wheatear hasn't been recorded on patch. Pretty mad that really isn't it!!!

I then had a good look through the gull on the Estuary afterwards (at about 2pm). There were six Med Gulls again, and like the other day, it was four adults and two second-winters. One of the adults was wearing a white colour ring.

Last time I managed to photograph four out of six Meds. This time I got all six. Just....

Meds galore!

Tuesday 29 November 2011

The Last Two Days

I shall start with yesterday, and I spent most the afternoon along the Estuary - where better to be when it's wet and windy!

Just so I don't bore people yet, I'll start with the waders, and I saw the Spotted Redshank (which now seems to be hanging out in front of Seaton Hide), a Common Sandpiper (drat!), three (maybe four?) Barwits still and 35 Dunlin.

Amongst the gulls I chalked up six Med Gulls, and guess what lucky blog readers?... I managed to photograph four of them...

3 ads and a second winter

A fourth adult and another second-winter remained un photographed as they were way north of Coronation Corner.

'Gavs warbler' called a few times in quick succession from the same large garden (known as Pallas's Garden to me!) that he heard it in a couple of days ago. I spent the next half an hour looking and listening for it but to no avail. Bloody bird! It did sound good, but from what I heard I couldn't rule out an Eastern(ish)/dodgy Chiffy.

And now to today, and I went down to Colyford Marsh this morning for high tide...

It was quite a high one too!

There were still 7 Greylags on the marsh, with a zillion Canada nearby. The highlight though was a very vocal Grey Plover that flew in and landed briefly beside the scrape. Nice - but not the 'Grey P' I was after...

I only had my Lumix with me, and it was raining - hence the crappy pic!

And that's about it really! Although I should take this opportunity to sum up my garden ringing over the past week. It has been good really, whenever I've had the net open I've been getting a steady flow of birds. The highlight was this...

A VERY fat 1w male Blackcap

There were many pointers as to why this was a first winter bird (aged 3), though the brown flecks visible in and around the black crown was probably the most straight forward way of telling...

Interesting to see a slight hook-tipped bill, can't say I noticed that in the hand

And that's a wrap - as they say.

Monday 28 November 2011

What Links The Axe Estuary And Rutland Water?

The answer is....a White-rumped Sandpiper!

It was sometime last week, and I was aimlessly browsing the interweb, clicking from blog to blog, and I came across Username's blog;

And I just happened to see this post here;

Which has this photo in it...

White-rumped Sandpiper Rutland Water (c) 'Username'

....I recognise this bird!!!

I quickly fired up BirdGuides and checked some dates, and surprise surprise, the Rutland Water
White-rumped Sandpiper was last seen on Sunday 6th November - the day before I found one on the Axe.

I have since been emailing various bloggers and photographers, and I am now convinced it is indeed the very same bird. There are several features that seem to match exactly, including the patterning of moulted (grey) and umoulted (much darker) wing feathers (coverts and tertials) and scapulars. The head pattern, breast and flank streaking is also exactly the same.

Other features include a dark mark on the body where the wing joins, and a couple of odd streaks or marks on the lower flanks. These are all pointed out (along with some of the obvious similarities in the scaps/coverts) here...

Please click to enlarge

The left hand picture is a still taken from a video clip filmed by 'The Drunkbirder' of the bird at Rutland. The right hand photo is one of mine.

The main problem I had when comparing the two birds, is that the photos of the Rutland bird were pretty much all excellent! Whereas all the photos of our bird were 'record shots' at best. (No offence to any of our patch photographers - the light was truly awful).

If you want to see some excellent pics of the Rutland White-rumped Sand, look here... (go left and right to see more)

I would like to thank all who have helped me from 'up north', in particular Dave Hutton, Colin Towe and John Hague. As a thankyou there will always be a link to your blogs from mine - oooohhhh I bet you are overjoyed at that ;-)

Actually, The Drunkbirder has written his own post about it, which can be found HERE.

Right, time to go out birding....