Friday 30 September 2011

Semi-P Up Close And Personal

I've been so used to checking the flock of small waders on the beach in the mornings this week - and not seeing the Semipalmated Sandpiper - that I didn't even both carrying my telescope and cameras this morning....

So when I did spy it roosting on the pebbles I had to leg it back to the car to get what I needed to do this. I warn you, there are a heck of a lot of photos!!!!

All these are taking with my trusty old Nikon Coolpix 4500 through my Kowa telecope....

And these are all taken with my hand held Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 (and most using full 18x optical zoom)....

I told you so! Loads and loads and loads of photos! God knows what the pictures would look like if I had a 'proper camera!'

There are a couple of things I think are worth mentioning from the excellent views I had of this American beauty this morning:

1/ its leg colour - viewable on most of my pictures
2/ the 'anchor marks' on some of the scaps - there aren't many and they aren't obvious!

It's a great bird - and I felt so privileged to be so close to it!!

Lastly, a bit of late news for yesterday, I got down to the Estuary just in time to see an Osprey fly south over Axmouth Bridge, and south east past Axe Cliff. Apparently later it came back though - it would be nice to think it was still here.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Hot Hot Hot!

The shorts have come back out, it feels like mid summer out there!

And this unseasonal weather has done the tricks in the ornithological world too, as Phil found two Great White Egrets on Black Hole Marsh late last night. At 9am this morning, under a layer of mist, I could see they were still with us, feeding on the flooded salt marsh north of Coronation Corner...

A record count for the Axe!!

When I was watching them, I thought they 'felt' like juvs - don't ask why or how, they just did! But looking at my photos, the lores appear to be green, which would surely be the remnants of summer plumage? This of course would actually make them adults.

I left them to have a wander along the beach, but apparently at about 09:45 they took off and flew north up the valley....

My beach wander showed 23 Dunlin and 12 Ringed Plover - but not the Semi-P that I was hoping for...

Has it gone - or does it just not like roosting on pebble beaches!??

It was nice to see a Painted Lady fluttering in off the sea, and rest on the first pebbles it came too...

Well done - you've made it, just a pity you will probably die within the next week anyway!!!

Rewinding back a bit, Black Hole Marsh yesterday morning was rather quiet, although this impressive flock of hirundines were feeding over the marsh...

More than enough for a Tree Swallow or Purple Martin!!!

The day before that, this Whinchat was at Beer Cem...

Sat on top of the tallest tree in the area!

And sometime last week, this Tufted Duck was on the Borrow Pit, Seaton Marshes...

Formerly a patch scarcity!

Tuesday 27 September 2011

New Bird For The Patch

After a morning of non-birdie business off patch on Saturday, I came home to a text informing me of an 'odd Stint at BHM'. Phil had discovered it after reports of a Little Stint here earlier in the day.

I went straight down there, and was greeted with distant views of a very colour-less stint from the Island Hide, which ticked all boxes for Semipalmated Sandpiper - but with pencil and not pen. I had to leave it, but on my return late afternoon was pleased to see it much closer from the Tower Hide, and in much better light - definitely a Semi-P - a patch first!

For some reason I totally forgot to photograph it - I think because there were camera's all around me and I was too busy actually looking at it!

This afternoon I could see it poking about on the Estuary with the Dunlin flock, and despite the distance I rattled a few shots off...

Although you can't see it in these photos at all, the 'palmations' were easy to see thanks to the light and the colour of the mud

Semipalmated Sand can now go on the Axe list right besides Western Sand - which we really could do with another one of...

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Patch Birding Can Be Cruel

There are rare waders everywhere and the Isle of Scilly have got a whole host of stunning American goodies. Even just down the coast, at Exmouth, yesterday's rain and winds 'wrecked' three Sabine's Gull and a Grey Phalarope (see Cream Tea Birding). Seaton Bay's best offering this morning was...

A Guillemot!!!

There were also five Sandwich Terns offshore, and on the beach were three Wheatear, 25 Dunlin and a Curlew Sand....

Spot the Curlew Sand!

There seemed to be a few Wheatear about today, with ten on Colyford Marsh, where there were another seven Dunlin. Black Hole Marsh was weirdly quiet, with three Greenshank and a Ruff over. Over the last couple of days I've heard/seen the first few Siskins of the season going over - it will soon be time to get the clickers out again!

I can't tell you how nice it is to be out birding again - even though it was rather disappointing!

Monday 19 September 2011

There's A Weasel In The Front Room!

There really was....

After work yesterday, I went round to a friends, hoping to catch the second half of United v. Chelsea. I walked through the door to see a sofa upside down, something was up! My mate thought he glimpsed something bounding in through the door of the front room and under the sofa. I joined the search - and was shocked to see a Weasel in the corner of the room! It made a dash, and we lost it.

The girls in the house screamed and were long gone upstairs, so we took everything out of the front room, and relocated the Weasel in a corner of the room amongst some bags. We moved the bags, but he just disappeared!! We had blocked all exits except the one to the open front door - he didn't go out here, but he had gone!

After another twenty minutes of searching, we put everything back and had given up- but we couldn't stop wondering where he had gone. And then...

There he is - under the electric fire!

Amazing views!

I couldn't get a full body shot as he was always too quick! These were the best I got...

What a mammal!

I had to leave once he had been cornered, and I believe after I left he was successfully trapped and released. How bizarre! I missed the football though - good result mind! :-)

So, to continue the 'weird' themed post - as I went to my car to go to work early Sunday morning, a
Mallard looked very out of place stood in Durley Road!...

It was raining - they do say that's good weather for ducks!?

And finally, you may wonder why the Tesco building site is not making the birding headlines, despite the large number of Gulls that had been roosting on here. Well that is because they ('they' I presume being Tesco) have deployed a high tech bird scaring device...

Yes - that can only be described as a 'Black Kite!'

I do apologise for the quietness of this blog lately, I am knee deep in 2010 Devon Bird Report stuff at the moment. I have done no ringing, and the only 'time off' I've given myself, I've used trying to find an American wader or two. So far, as you may have guessed, I've failed...

Thursday 8 September 2011


Dunlin and Little Stint taken on Tuesday - isn't the size difference so obvious!

Black Hole Marsh was cracking on Tuesday afternoon, with a 'new' Curlew Sand present amongst 19 Dunlin, 12 Ringed Plover, 4 Greenshank, 3 Ruff and a Knot...

Juv Curlew Sand moulting to 1st winter plumage

An hour after I came away from Black Hole Marsh on Tuesday, I was scoping Colyford Scrape from the Farm Gate as a juvenile Little Gull had been found. It wasn't doing much when I saw it, but nice to see this beautifully marked miniature Gull never-the-less.

A photo of a Little Stints bum isn't the only reason I called this post 'Bums'... it is because, as per usual, we missed out on most the sea watching action that other parts of Devon enjoyed on Tuesday. I spent three hours sea watching from Seaton seafront during that morning and noted; 4 Balearic Shearwater, 35+ Manx Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Terns and 4+ commic Terns. Yes - that was it! I even missed the Sooty Shearwater that came through during the time I wasn't looking at the sea!

The following morning (Wednesday), an hours sea watch showed it was even quieter, although at least one Storm Petrel could be seen feeding distantly. A single Balearic Shearwater flew west and a single commic Tern loitered behind a boat.

And now to today, and I've been looking rather intently for an American wader as they are popping up everywhere!! No luck as yet, in fact Black Hole Marsh had very much a 'samey' feel to it. Saying that though, whilst watching the 15 Ringed Plover, 21 Dunlin and single Curlew Sandpiper - another flock of 20+ small waders came whizzing south past the Island Hide low over the Marsh - but they didn't stop and just kept flying...bloody annoying really! On the Estuary there were five Bar-tailed and 13 Black-tailed Godwits, one of the latter being an Axe Estuary colour-ringed bird (Red, Orange, Lime).

I won't have much time out and about over the next three days, if I do get any time though I will try and make the most of it....

Monday 5 September 2011

I Wish I'd Had More Time

I only had time for a couple of quick glances at the sea this morning; 10:10 - 10:30, and at about 11:20 for ten minutes.

In the first watch I was rewarded with five Balearic Shearwaters west - three came through together at 'close range for Seaton', shortly followed by two distant singles. A single Common Scoter and few Gannets were the only other birds I saw passing (aside Gulls).

The second watch showed a few waders; a Turnstone flew west in the company of five Knot, and ten Ringed Plover and a Dunlin were on the beach.

Looking at the forecast I am very excited about the week ahead. Rain really does make the difference for us, and it looks like we are going to get a lot of it! Watch this space...

Saturday 3 September 2011

Waders And Wigeon

Bun texted me this morning to say a message had come on his pager about a Curlew Sand on Black Hole Marsh. This would be our first of the year so I went down there pretty sharpish.

There was indeed a Curlew Sandpiper present, a juvenile viewable distantly from the Island Hide. There were lots of other waders about too, with the following noted; seven Ringed Plover, one Little Stint (yesterdays bird), 15 Dunlin, two Knot, three Ruff, nine Greenshank, nine Blackwits and three Barwits...

Can you get a more noticeable size difference between sexes of the same species?? The male is just HUGE!

Nice to see a few ducks about too, with my first four Wigeon (pretty much bang on cue) and 15 Teal...

Distant and silhouetted Wigeon!

Friday 2 September 2011

Expect The Unexpected; But Expect The Expected Too!

Every September morning each year I wake up hoping today will be the day I finally find a Wryneck! During my stint at Spurn I never found one of these critters - I have always just missed out. They are one of my favourite birds, and have seen four on patch since returning from Spurn - but have still managed not to find one! The bird at Seaton Marshes last year was especially annoying!

Every autumn when there's a few Wrynecks about I check a selection of Wryneck-friendly looking spots, this includes Allhallows school at Rousdon. There's a certain area here that just look so perfect for this ant-loving Woodpecker. And yesterday, I tried yet again, and was absolutely stunned when a Wryneck flew up from the bank in front of me and sat in full view in an overhanging bush! After about twenty seconds or so it did the Wryneck thing - melting away into the bush and not reappearing! I think it probably dropped back down into the garden just on the other side of the wall, hopefully it is still about.

Rather annoyingly I didn't get a photo of it, so you will have to make do with a couple of site photos...

'The' bank

The bird flew up from besides that blue pipe, and in to the bush above. There was no way of seeing into the garden on the other side of the wall

Earlier in the day yesterday, a wander along the beach (whilst waiting for my car which was in the garage - it seems to be in there a lot lately!) produced my second patch Sanderling of the year and six Ringed Plovers.

And now to this morning, and I went up to the Beer Cemetery fields. It was fairly quiet, with a Garden Warbler, a few Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs in the bushes, with a couple of Yellow Wags and singles of Tree Pipit and Grey Wag over. I didn't catch much, but the young male Blackcap I netted offered a good example of a fault bar...

Can you see it not far from the end of the tail feather ends? This occurs when the bird is in the nest growing its tail feathers, and there's a blip in the feeding - this brief lack of food is shown by a pale and almost translucent line on the growing tail

After Beer Cem, knowing the tide was high I gave Black Hole Marsh a visit. Lots of birds still here, with a new in juv Little Stint and three Ruff being the best it had to offer.

One of the Ruffs, well Reeves - two were these and one a male

There were also three Ringed Plover, 16 Dunlin, three Greenshank, three Common Sands, nine Blackwits and a Whimbrel on show. It's about time we had some Curlew Sands though really - or something better!