Friday 30 March 2012

A Few Snippets Of Interest

Just a few bits and pieces of interest over the last few days, but nothing earth shattering, and no pictures I'm afraid.

A quick sweep of the Estuary on Wednesday 28th revealed four superbly plumaged Ruff north of Coronation Corner on the falling tide. Too far away for photos though unfortunately.

Yesterday, whilst busy on the laptop, Dad called me out as the gulls were getting a bit noisy. It was because of a Red Kite circling high over head - my fifth from the garden. For the past two weeks I've been predicting the annual Red Kite influx, hopefully this sighting means it is now finally underway! Also yesterday, I saw my first Clouded Yellow of the year - a pristine male flew past me near Colyton.

And today, I spent a few hours up the Beer Cemetery Fields this morning. It was all very quiet, except for my first four Willow Warblers of the year. Great to hear them again :-)

Tuesday 27 March 2012

I'm Still Alive!

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I have been out birding a fair bit over the past week, but just haven't seen anything worthy of a blog post!

The best for me came last night, with this Marsh Harrier over Colyford Marsh...

With a Buzzard to the left. My guess is it was a 2cy female.

Also a Sand Martin flew north over Black Hole Marsh, and two Cetti's Warblers called beside the track to the Tower Hide.

There has been the odd early migrant, we've had Little Ringed Plover, Swallow and Willow Warbler - it's just I've not seen any of them! I've only got Wheatear, Sand Martin, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Stone Curlew on my summer migrants list so far.

Mothing on Friday night last week was good, with 22 of 8 species trapped;

1 Double-striped Pug
2 Early Thorn
2 Oak Beauty
5 Small Quaker
4 Common Quaker
1 Clouded Drab
4 Hebrew Character
3 Early Grey

It was nice to see Oak Beauty again, one of my favourites out of the usual early Spring species...

Cracking moth!

And I'll finish this blog post with a photo of a calf, only because it's cute! Taken at Beer Head on Sunday evening...

I just can't help but think of yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes though!!!

Friday 16 March 2012

Proper Passage

Last night at work, there was an impressive passage of Redwings going over - lots of 'seeeeps' coming from the dark and misty skies above. I've always found that a good movement of Redwings at night is usually a good sign for the following day.

My first trip out today was to Lower Bruckland Ponds, still no Night Heron! There were a couple of singing Chiffchaffs though (plenty of these around at the moment - it seems to be a good spring already for this species), and nine Sand Martins feeding over the ponds...

Here's seven of them - though I took this when they went quite high up!

A walk around the fields above Beer Cemetery showed 50+ Meadow Pipits and a couple of fly over alba Wagtails.

I have also made two visits to Beer Head today, determined to see a Wheatear (everywhere else is getting them!). Visit one mid morning was very promising, with a few small flocks of Meadow Pipits over north, two Blackcaps in the bushes and a pair of Stonechats along the entrance track. The male was singing...

Nice - but not a Wheatear!

Then there was visit two to Beer Head. It only lasted about five minutes, and that's because soon after walking across the first cattle grid I glimpsed the much anticipated flash of white! There was my first Wheatear of 2012...

What a beaut :-)

It soon found the two Stonechats I had seen earlier and started hanging out with them...

Wheatear and Stonechat

I have my car back everyone! YEAH! Luckily, it didn't cost as much as I thought it would either (just into three figures). Each time something goes wrong now though, I think more and more about getting a new set of wheels. But, there are not many cars more economical than a 1.5 diesel Peugeot 106.

Thursday 15 March 2012

A Dipper In A Tree

I told you so!

A look at Tim White's blog last night (see HERE) inspired me to go and see Dipper. I had a little bit of time early this morning, and that's all the time I needed! I peered over the bridge by the White Hart Inn and there was one singing away. It was a ringed bird too, which is VERY interesting as I don't know anyone around here who rings Dippers!?

After a short while in the tree, it crossed over the river and perched up in a more usual Dipper way...

Smart birds aren't they

I then had to head off to Plymouth for a meeting. But after about an hour I realised today wasn't going to be a day that goes to plan...

Oh bugger!

Well I have made it home, thanks to the big yellow van. My car isn't so good, but I'm just glad I'm ok. It could have been very very nasty indeed.

To finish this post, here's a couple of photos I took the other day during an evening wander around Lower Bruckland Ponds...

Nice and tranquil - need some of this after my day!

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Spring Has Sprung

Had a quick tour of the river early afternoon, mostly looking for Night Herons. I didn't find any Night Herons, but I did see a few interesting bits and bobs...

On the Estuary were probably well over a thousand large Gulls, though I couldn't find anything different amongst them. Well, except for a Grey Plover, which is a bit of a local scarcity. It certainly got the local year listers moving!

A fuzy, out of focus and dull Grey Plover!

Best of all though was from the gateway along the A3052 that over looks Bridge Marsh. Over the Coly and the north end of Colyford Marsh were at least ten Sand Martins! YEAH! Spring is here :-)

Tuesday 13 March 2012

I Hate March

What a cheery post title I know!

I usually rant most years about how March promises so much, but often delivers very little. So I won't rant again this year I promise!!!

All I will say is I've done a far bit of birding over the last few days, and have seen virtually nothing of note at all, let alone any spring migrants. This bloody fog doesn't help either - it hasn't lifted all day!

I did at least finally catch up with a/the first-winter Iceland Gull today, distantly viewable from Coronation Corner early afternoon...

It does have a head, just not when I took this photo!

Saturday 10 March 2012

A (Not Quite So) Quick Catch Up

Well this post is a little overdue!

I haven't really had any birding time over the past few days at all. Although after band practice on Thursday I had a quick look along the Estuary. Down by the tram sheds, there I was scanning over the Gull flock with my bins.... first-winter Caspian Gull!

They really do stand out, I knew what it was even before I had looked at it through my telescope. Obviously though, telescope views were needed to confirm it. What a looker...

Certainly the best photos I've ever taken of a Caspo!

For me, the main 'punch in the face' feature is not JUST the white head. This feature alone regularly produces a few red herrings (no pun intended!). For example just before I found this bird I had seen two first-winter Herring Gulls with remarkably white heads. Also of course, second winter Herring Gulls can appear very white headed too - especially at this time of year. But it is the COMBINATION of the white head AND fine brown streaking which extends up the back and around the sides of the neck. You can see it well in all the above photos.

My favourite photo by far is the upper photo as it really shows the 'head held high' jizz of a Casp well.

These next few crappy shots show a nice distinct black tail band (which I actually think is on the thick side for a 'classic' Caspo - but I do know almost nothing about them!), few black spots in the white tail band, and nice white underwings...

See - I said they were crappy!

I came back again mid afternoon, and it was still there. The light was truly awful, but I got a couple more photos with my Lumix (all the above photos were taken digiscoped with my Nikon). Here's a photo showing the under and upperwing well. Check out that distinct greater covert bar on the upperwing, along with the three of four paler inner primaries...

What a poser!

And this pic shows very well the size of its hooter...


When I found this bird I thought this was a new one, as it was a small bird. When I say small, I mean the same size, or maybe a teeny bit larger, than the surrounding argenteus Herring Gulls. I'm used to seeing bug hulky Caspian Gulls. I also felt this bird wasn't very 'leggy' compared with our previous Caspos, with only ever-so-slightly and subtly longer tibia, and overall marginally narrower legs. It turns out though this is the same bird that was present on the Axe in late Feb.

OK, that's enough about Gulls! I have currently got a net up in the front garden, and just 'netted' yet another new male Bullfinch! They keep on coming!

And now, to moths....

A week ago last night, I had a moth trap out and caught just ONE moth. Last night though I captured 12, which was a vast improvement! They were:

1 Early Moth
1 March Moth
3 Double-striped Pug
2 Hebrew Character
2 Common Quaker
1 Small Quaker
2 Early Grey

So nothing outstanding, all the regular fare. Which means no moth photos for you yet I'm afraid!

Wednesday 7 March 2012

A White-winger....

....well it is white-winged!

I took this photo early this afternoon, just as this adult Med Gull took flight...

Taking off

Or did I...???

I took this photo moments before...

It's got a brown head!

Yes it is Black-headed Gull, with something not quite right! Many incorrectly call it albinism, or even more incorrectly, partial albinism. I think leucism is the correct term. Anyway, has anyone else seen this bird recently?

Yes, that was as exciting as it got on the Estuary at 13:30ish today!

Monday 5 March 2012

Waders On The Move

The Axe started its spring in style on Saturday - what a first migrant!

Saturday was a non-birding day for me, after cutting loads of fire wood in the garden, I settled down onto my laptop to sort through some 2011 bird records for the database. I had just completed this, and just before I was going to turn my laptop off, I thought I'd have a quick check of BirdGuides to see if any summer migrants had been seen.

I logged on, and the very top sighting was of a Stone Curlew. That in itself interested me, but then I rolled my eyes to the right... "Seaton Marshes - Devon". WHAT THE *$%&!

I jumped up (after a few more ****'s and ****'s) and phoned Bun, he didn't know anything about it - well that was until his pager bleeped whilst I was on the phone to him!!! He headed straight down to the marshes, and phoned me back about ten minutes later to say... "there is one here!".

The patch's third ever Stone Curlew (the second in recent times). The last bird (Devon's first real twitchable one for nearly twenty years [thanks Mark :-)]) was on 13th April 2007, and spent the day here. It started on Seaton Marshes, relocated to Sheeps Marsh (the field to the south) then spent the afternoon on the Estuary.

This bird was much more settled, and more in keeping with the average migrant Stone Curlew (sat in one spot and doing very little). Incredibly this bird was in almost exactly the same spot on Sheeps Marsh that the 2007 bird spend several hours on.

I didn't have much time, so didn't bring my scope and Nikon Coolpix to Seaton Marshes (the fact it was raining put me off from doing this too), so I only threw my Lumix over my shoulder. Here are a few pics...

The twitch

Can you see it?

Here it is, the distinctive brown blob of a tired and fed up Stone Curlew!

It did stand up briefly when some Crows annoyed it, and this revealed some colour-rings! The 2007 bird was colour-ringed too, but from what we saw of this bird's rings, it isn't the same individual. Here's a very ropey picture of it standing up...

You can make out a wing bar, a yellow bill and just about an eye maybe!?

What a fantastic way to kick off the spring though - who would have put money on this being our first migrant?! I am so pleased for Phil too - he was away for the 2007 bird - and I for one didn't think he was going to get another bite of the cherry. Well done :-)

Today, another species of wader showed that wader passage is well under way. Avocet is a rare bird here, they are just about annual. A flock of four is somewhat unprecedented though...

What a nice sight