Monday 31 October 2011

And That Was October

...and it was probably one of the best Octobers I've ever had on patch! Very enjoyable indeed, with some quality birds and some memorable moments. The last two days had something to offer too...

As usual, my Sunday was spent at work. Unlike the previous Sunday though, I successfully connected with a large raptor! Obviously not as large, or as mega as the Eagle though!

At about 2pm my old man phoned me to say he had an Osprey fishing on the Estuary, but it was heading towards the sea. I soon picked it up from the back yard being pursued by the usual throng of Gulls. At first it looked like it was going to head out south east, but it turned around and flew west along the sea front. A couple of minutes later Bun had it go over Seaton Hole, and half an hour later it was seen flying over Budleigh cliffs!

After work, there was just enough light left to have a quick look along the Estuary and see three Med Gulls - two adults and a first-winter.

This morning, my day started with a Jack Snipe on Colyford Common, and a couple of hundred each of Wigeon and Teal were on Colyford Marsh. There were a few Redwing kicking about too...

A busy Colyford scrape!

It was then time for my monthly woodland bird survey near Colyton, and it was jammed-packed with birds!! It really is proving to be a bumper autumn for Goldcrests, they were everywhere in the wood - there almost seemed to be one in every pine! A mixed flock of c20 Lesser Redpoll and Siskin were nice to see, and two Crossbill and five Redwing flew over. No wing-barred Phyllosc though, I'm still looking and won't give up! Although this wind isn't helping one bit...

The rest of the birding time I had today I spent watching the Estuary, hoping the Weymouth/Portland Caspian Gull was going to drop in. It never did - in fact it is still there! I did see this interesting beast though, which at times hinted at being a 1w Caspo but barely ticked half the boxes. It point blank refused to fly, flap or preen though...

It was a very striking bird as you can see!

After a bit of cyber activity (thanks Gavo and Brett!), it seems a 1w Yellow-legged Gull would fit this bird best. Otherwise the Gulls produced just a second winter Med Gull.

Now let's see what's November brings...

Saturday 29 October 2011

Having A Hoot

Yeah I know Short-eared Owls don't go 'hoot' - but it's called 'poetic license' I'm told!

The weather was stunning yesterday morning, and I decided to spend the best part of it up around the Beer Cemetery fields. As I stepped out the car four Crossbills flew over east - it was going to be good!

The highlight(s) came whilst wandering through the 'Richard's Pipit field'. I picked up a Short-eared Owl towards Branscombe, it circled and always gained height, before cruising off high north. I took another few steps forward, the grass rustled and another Short-eared Owl appeared, about ten foot in front of me...

Which soon landed in a nearby hedgerow...

After about ten minutes, it took to the air again, and seemed to spend ages just flying around giving cracking views...

And here's a little video....

The last I saw of this bird was when it drifted off towards Beer Head.

By the end of my wander, at least 17 Crossbills had flown east; the four, a flock of 11 and at least two 'heard only'. Several small groups of Siskins and Skylarks also flew over, but in all directions!

The best of the grounded migrants (except the Owl) was two Lesser Redpolls again with the Meadow Pipit flock. Still no Red-throated or OBP, but there's time yet....

Despite checking several other sites yesterday, I couldn't turn anything else up, a colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gull (ringed on 28/6/10 in Calvados, France) and the Lower Bruckland Cetti's Warbler (which has moved to the lower pond now) being the best.

I didn't have chance for any birding today, although from the garden this morning a few Redwings, Siskins and a Redpoll flew over.

As well as all this birding I've been enjoying, and working obviously - I've had a net up in the garden for a couple of short spells over the last few days. A nice big but fat-less Blackbird must have originated from somewhere east of here, this Goldcrest was my second for the garden...

But this was the highlight...

Have I gone mad!? It's a Blue Tit - yes it is just a Blue Tit! But this Blue Tit was ringed before it flew into my net!

Ok, so it hasn't come that far - Fraser Rush ringed it as a pullus in a nest box in Holyford Woods on 18th June this year. I know that doesn't sound much, but fellow ringers will know re-catching a Tit ringed as a pullus isn't a regular thing! I wonder how its two siblings are faring!?

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Searching For The Stripes

I spent my morning searching for small stripey warblers and nothing else...

Between 09:00-11:00 I visited many phyllosc-friendly sites, but didn't even see a Chiffchaff! The only notable warbler I did chalk up was the Cetti's Warbler at Lower Bruckland Ponds again - which this morning was singing in the sunshine, lovely to hear again :-)

The higher pond at Lower Bruckland Ponds

The river mouth - looking rather dramatic today!

There are plenty of sycamores on the east side of Axmouth Harbour, where I've seen a few Firecrest in the past. Not seen a Yellow-browed or Pallas's here yet, but in time I'm hoping I will!

This afternoon a look along the Estuary showed just four Med Gull (three adults and second-winter), 32 Blackwits and five Barwits. It was nice to see good numbers of Black-backed Gulls though, which always raises the chances of a rare Gull or two!

Monday 24 October 2011

A New Blog Is Born

Well it is a rough old day out there....I love it!

Am very impressed with the Pom counts coming from south Devon - this morning though a sea watch showed very little was passing Seaton!

I've also had a couple of looks along the Estuary today. I couldn't see Ian Mcs Avocet, but did have a drake Pochard floating about north of Coronation Corner, and waders on show included five Barwits and three Dunlin.

Now time to rewind to Saturday, and I'll start with the moths in my trap. It was a very poor catch, with only 11 moths of 8 species. But one of them was my second ever Clancy's Rustic...

Pleasingly I knew what it was as soon as I turned over the egg box

I then spent the morning with the Axe Estuary Ringing Group - and this is where the new blog comes in! I have set up a brand spanking new blog for the group, there's a link to it to the right of this post, but here's a link too...

You'll find the details about what we caught on there, but I was very pleased when I flushed a Jack Snipe from the wet area at the north end of Colyford Common, there were at least seven Snipe in there too. I got excellent flight views of the Jack - they really are small aren't they!!?

Thursday 20 October 2011

A (Half) First For The Patch!

It would be a full tick if I lived and birded by the UK400 club rules. Unfortunately I am a law abiding BOU birder, so a half tick it is!

Anyway, I came across the aforementioned bird whilst scoping from the 'Farm Gate' in Axmouth at about 10am... a stonking adult Greenland White-fronted Goose!

I have seen and found several Eurasian White-fronted Geese from the very same place, and the first thing I noticed when I came across this bird was how dark it was - and for a WFG quite a hefty beast too. I knew it was going to be a Greenland even before I saw its bright orange hooter - which obviously clinched it! I sent the texts out, and I understand the bird is still with us so I hope everyone who wanted to see it has.

I am a bit of a grey goose fan - and this was the most stunning grey goose that I've ever seen in my life! I'm afraid the photos don't do it justice as it was distant (as ever from the Farm Gate)....

Leg trembling stunning (in my eyes anyway!!)

There was also a Spotted Redshank viewable from the Farm Gate, walking around and feeding in the small pools on Colyford Marsh.

Before this, I had already had a good morning! I'd spent an hour at Axe Cliff. I know I really should have stayed here longer and counted the vis mig - but it wasn't overly impressive - and with the conditions as good as they are I feel as though I need to cover as much ground as possible!

The highlight came just as I was ending a phonecall with James Mc. Just as he was saying "have a good day mate", I heard the 'magic autumn rattle'. I promptly hung up, and a Lapland Bunting flew west just above cliff-top height, 'rattling and chu-ing' to its hearts content! As flight views go, they were very good - and I could clearly see dark smudging on its breast, which I guess makes it a male?

Otherwise it was just the usual suspects going over, including a few Redpolls and Siskins. There was very little on the deck though. A nice treat offshore were 10+ Bottle-nosed Dolphins, it was tip top conditions for cetacean watching with a flat calm sea.

Looking over the valley and towards Beer, it was interesting to see how the 'Pipit field' looks. It really does stand out, being surrounded by mostly green fields, it looks massive too! I'm sure it's very enticing to many over flying passerines! I really do hope to kick up a OBP or RTP from here within the next week or two....

Worth noting we didn't see the Richard's Pipit here today during a quick stomp about late morning

Also had a look around Lower Bruckland Ponds this morning, with Gav. The highlight was without doubt our first record of Cetti's Warbler for 2011!!

For years our Cetti's population has been growing, with at least six singing males in the valley during spring/summer 2010. But the harsh winter since then has cleared them all out - whether they've died or have pushed off. Anyway, this bird was very vocal, calling repeatedly, and I reckon probably the first definite true migrant Cetti's I've ever seen!...

Crap photos - but I reckon you could count the tail feathers on the lower photo!

Well I think that's it for today for me - work is looming! I wonder what tomorrow has in store? Long may this 'purple patch on patch' continue...

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Thankyou Richard

It felt good this morning as soon as I stepped out of the front door - almost no wind and a stunning sun rise. Unfortunately I had a dentist appointment and a few errands to run this morning, so couldn't just stand in one spot and count vis mig... still, I did what I could with the time I had...

First off, I had a walk along the beach and around the yacht club - eagerly awaiting our first Black Redstart. There was nothing on the deck, but several Skylarks and a few Redpolls and Siskins went over, along with a flock of 40+ Jackdaws that were clearly on the move.

A view fit for a post card!

After my teeth were checked over, I was out again, this time to Beer Cemetery Fields. The view from up here wasn't bad either...

That's Axe Cliff Golf Course over there - have only been up there twice so far this autumn!!

Again, apart from over head passage - where ten Crossbills (a single and a flock of nine) and a few more Redpoll and Siskins went over - there were few grounded migrants about...

This was a total 'fluke shot'; I was trying to get the whole flock of nine in the photo but had zoomed up way too much and only got this one!

Then a cracking male Ring Ouzel appeared in front of me, but as soon as it appeared it disappeared! I saw it again later in the same place, but from a distance. I would have loved to have got a photo of it because it really was a real beauty - maybe it will hang around.

Anyway, then I came to my favourite field. The field that had the flock of Tree Pipits in earlier in the autumn, has had up to 250 Meadow Pipits in during the past few weeks, and looks oh so good for the patch's first Red-throated or OBP...

Oh yes!

Anyway, as expected as I walked through the field, up went loads of Meadow Pipits, with a couple of Lesser Redpolls in with them which weren't as expected!

I'd walked one length, and had almost completed my return leg, when all of a sudden (turn your sound up!)...

......a bloody Richard's Pipit!!!!!!

I know from experience these guys quite often just go when they get flushed...but I'm pleased to say this gangly goodie soon dropped back into the field, I alerted all the locals and kept an eye on where it went in. I'm glad it didn't bugger off as I wouldn't have got the above footage of its call!!

We saw it a few more times over the next hour or so, it perched up in trees a couple of times but was always quite distant, see...

A distant 'Dick'

And this picture, although probably even worse than the above pici, does show the colour of it compared with a Meadow Pipit to its right...

Dick and Meadow!

It also went it to a field on the other side of Mare Lane, which looks equally as yummy!!

Anyway, I left it at midday, but it was seen afterwards so I hope it will stick - maybe even for a few days?

Richard's Pipit isn't a first for the patch, Gav had a fly over on Beer Head several years ago. But it was a patch first for me - and a self found first too (no I don't keep a 'self found list', but I do know what I have and haven't found!). This, along with my Hen Harrier last week takes my patch list up to a respectable 241... I just need to pull back Ortolan and I'll be an even happier chappy! :-)

Monday 17 October 2011

The Eagle Has Not Landed

Well yesterday Devon finally came up trumps - thanks to Dawlish Warren yet again!

For me it all started with an understandably excited and shocked Lee Collins on the other end of the phone, who had just had a Short-toed Eagle fly over his head....heading our way! I was at work, as was going to be here until 4:30pm, so not exactly ideal for me! Anyway, make the best of a bad situation as they say...

The back yard always gets forgotten, it should be a tidy and clean working area, so I decided to spend my afternoon sorting it out, along with checking all the health and safety signage.... yes I did look up now and then and my bins somehow found their way out of my car and around my neck!!

Now a Short-toed Eagle would have been an exceptional addition to my work list, but unfortunately it wasn't to be. But whoever clocked it passing Lyme Regis at 15:20 - thanks for the knife in the stomach! I think it must have passed us at sea, maybe high up and possibly a fair way out too.

It was interesting though, paying extra attention to the sky. A Merlin whizzed through east mid afternoon, and I also saw 10+ Buzzards and three Sparrowhawks. A few Siskins, Redpolls and Mipits also flew over.

This morning, I made my long overdue first trip of the year to Beer Stables to do a spot of vis migging. The conditions were far from ideal, and there wasn't much on the move so I got bored pretty quickly and moved on. Still, here are my totals for 07:40 - 08:20;

4 Swallow
15 alba Wagtail
13 Meadow Pipit
10 Greenfinch
8 Chaffinch
72 Goldfinch
5 Redpoll
19 Siskin

I then went to the Beer Cemetery Fields. The highlight here was a truly stunning adult male Merlin. I first clocked it distantly perched up, but it soon took flight and starting winging its way towards me! It passed me low to the grass literally 20 feet away from me - magic! It carried on SW and disappeared off in the distance towards to Beer Head. A stunning blue-backed beauty I can tell you. Just a pity it was too quick for a photo!

There wasn't much else here, just a couple of Stonechats, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests, and 20+ Meadow Pipits.

I returned home, but was out again later at the farm gate. In all the Eagle madness yesterday I totally forgot about a Spotted Redshank that was reported on Colyford Marsh. Thankfully Ian Mc located it again this morning, and that is what I was twitching. It was distant - but still good to see this patch scarcity.

I must apologise for the lack of photos with this post - I promise my next post will be much more colourful...

Saturday 15 October 2011

Green Moths

A couple of Silver Ys and Rusty Dot Pearls were the only immigrants in my moth trap this morning. So I was very gripped when I heard a Dewick's Plusia had been caught in Colyton!

There were a couple of nice green moths in the trap though...

Always a pleasure to catch - Merville du Jour

Green-brindled Crescent - the green is almost 'frosted' on, a stunning moth!

I downloaded a few pics from my Nikon this afternoon, and found an okay one of one of yesterday's Great White Egrets...

So much better than a 'white Heron!'

Also last night I heard the first after dark Redwings going over. I have to say though, I think this is the first autumn I have seen them in the day before hearing them going over at night!

Friday 14 October 2011

A Patch Tick!

Yes - it's a rare two post day today, but if a patch tick isn't worth it then what is?!

If you read my first post of the day below, you will see I went out again to see what I could turn wasn't the rare I wanted, but that doesn't matter because it was a patch tick for me - I don't get these very often!

My plan was to watch from the farm gate (Axmouth) for about an hour from about 1pm. All was quiet, no sign of the Great Whites, and not the Glossy Ibis I was after. At 13:40 though, absolutely out of no where a ring-tail Harrier appeared low over Colyford Common being pursued by a couple of Crows.

A quick count up of its visible primaries confirmed my immediate thoughts - it was a Hen (drat!!). It rather rapidly gained height, before flying high south down the river being harassed by the persistent Crows. Just as it was about to go out of sight, it circled round and came back! Flying low north over the reeds of Axe Marsh, then Colyford Marsh, before I lost it whilst playing about with my phone trying to phone and text people!

Pallid would have been much nicer yes, but I have missed a couple of Hen Harriers on patch over the years so it was a bloody good feeling connecting with one finally!

Now I would love to be showing off a stunning pin sharp photo of this beast in all her glory (I'm pretty sure it was an ad female, it did look rather tatty), but I'm afraid the best I can offer is this...

You may be able to see it a little better if you enlarge the photo

The Great Whites Are Back

Just a quick one before I head out again, there's a good feel to today and I can only give in to temptation!

The two Great White Egrets (assuming they are the same birds?) were on the salt marsh opposite the Tower Hide this morning. After fifteen minutes of watching them, a canoe flushed them and the flew north. They circled down and landed out of view on Colyford Marsh where the Coly meets the Axe...

I wonder where they have been in the meantime?

Best of all this morning though, as I was watching the Egrets I heard chacking and seeeping from above, and looked up to see a flock of 20 Fieldfare and 40+ Redwing flying over high west... :-)

Thursday 13 October 2011

5.2 Grams Of Gold

I haven't done much ringing in the garden lately, for a few reasons. One of them being there's not been many birds around at all - compared with late summer when it was packed out!

I had a net up this morning though, and apart from one or two of the usual suspects, a Goldcrest was a bit of a surprise...

There was another one calling too - migrants?

Have spent a bit of time out birding over the past couple of days, but haven't seen a great deal!

Low cloud/fog has hampered serious vis migging attempts, but Siskins and Redpolls have been going over quite often - with 80+ of the former seen flying west yesterday.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Dolphin Action

Yesterday afternoon a couple of Dolphins were swimming amongst people just off Beer Beach. One was still present this morning, although a local fisherman reported a pod of 30 at one stage.

I went down there mid afternoon, and soon spotted one that I have nicknamed Nick as it has an obvious nick out of its dorsal fin. After a couple of brief views it followed a boat right in and kept appearing just off the beach. After a little while it went a bit further out, but here it leapt out of the water several times - with the crowd cheering and clapping each time! After this though it totally disappeared.

Unfortunately, whenever it appeared in the line of fire of my camera, it disappeared as quickly as it had appeared! It was just so quick. Anyway, here's the best that I managed...

Look out for Nick - quite distinctive!

And there was quite a crowd. When it was really close, families were running down from the town to get a look...

Dolphin watchers

Friday 7 October 2011

South Milton And A Swan

I'll start with today's excitement. And I had to leave a steaming mug of tea this morning to go and see an adult Whooper Swan found by Sue Smith in front of the tower hide...

Which one???

That one!

Cracking bird - cracking views too!

At about 10:10, the first tram came along, and flushed it...

It called several times in flight

It didn't go far though, as it dropped back down onto the Estuary off Coronation Corner...

Here it re-joined the same pair or Mute Swans

On the Estuary this morning, I also saw singles of Ruff and Knot and four Barwits.

Yesterday evening it felt very 'wintry' sat besides the Estuary. The wind was bitterly cold, there were Wigeon whistling and a decent number of Black-headed Gulls in the pre-roost gathering...

Looking north from Coronation Corner

Amongst the Black-heads were my first two Med Gulls on the 'winter', both unringed adults. Can you spot one of them in this pici...

...asleep right in the middle

Now time for the South Milton part of the post. After a couple of Crossbills flew over my garden yesterday morning, I went down to the Thurlestone area for a look around - I've never really been here before and thought a visit was well over due.

I must thank Vic and Nick for showing me around, and what a place it is! The habitat is out of this world it really is -and in such a great location as well! Anyway, here's a few pics from my day...

South Milton Ley

South Huish Marsh

This Stonechat was sat in almost exactly the same spot that one is pictured on the information board!

A Golden-ringed Dragonfly; easily the lastest one I've ever seen!

Well what a photo-filled post, as ever I hope you have enjoyed it. The moth trap is going out again tonight, so watch this space....