Monday 28 May 2012

Bon Voyage

This is a bit of catch up post before I go off for a couple of nights to Norfolk, with Jess. I have been up here many times birding in the winter, but have always wanted to see it in the spring/summer months. Fingers crossed that the weather stays like it has been and that I don't miss any goodies on patch!

I've got a few things to mention here, so shall do it day by day...


After getting wind of a probable Curlew Sandpiper on Black Hole Marsh, I went straight down there. Where there was indeed a Curlew Sandpiper, a nice summer plumaged bird too...

A Stilt Sand wannabe!

We all got a bit gripped off that evening though, when I had a text and then a phone call from a Seaton resident who had seen a Hoopoe in Honey Ditches Drive.....twice! Typically there was no sign of it when any of the birders tried their luck!


It was a non birding day for me, but I timed my arrival home perfectly as Bun had just texted to say a Red Kite had flown east over Beer. I looked up and there it was, circling low over Seaton, before gaining height and appearing to fly back west.


Saw three Red Kites this day. At 10am, two flew low north over the Donkey Sanctuary, and at 15:00 a third flew high and fast west over Lower Bruckland Ponds. The highlight of this day though was getting stunning views of a stonking male Yellow Wagtail singing for about half an hour! I won't be posting details of where it was, just in case it finds a mate! I hope it does :-) I also finally got my first Hobby of 2012, with one north over Black Hole Marsh early afternoon.


Jessie's birthday! I woke up and went through the contents of my moth trap...

1 Garden Carpet
1 Silver-ground Carpet
1 Green Carpet
1 Red Twin-spot Carpet
3 Brimstone
1 Peppered Moth
1 Pebble Prominent
2 Muslin Moth
1 Heart and Dart
1 Shuttle-shaped Dart
2 Bright-line Brown-eye
1 Pale-shouldered Brocade
1 Hebrew Character
4 Treble-lines
3 Vine's Rustic

Then we headed up north and spent the day on Exmoor, around the Watersmeet area (still Devon). What a stunning place!

The walk offered some beautiful sights...

Not bad hey!

But with four miles of walking, I was very pleased to see this...

Watersmeet House, owned by the National Trust

Because it meant...

Cream tea!!! I do look rather pleased don't I!

A Red Kite flew over us at the start of the walk, and during the walk I counted 5 Wood Warbler, 2 Pied Flies and 1 Redstart in the woods. And on the river there were 5 Grey Wags and 3 Dippers, including this right poser...

It stayed on this rock for at least 15 mins!

We ended the day with a lovely pub lunch in Dulverton. Happy Birthday Jessie :-)


Another non-birding day, except for a quick check of Black Hole Marsh early afternoon that produced a lone Greenshank. Not the Black-winged Stilt I was hoping for!

And that brings me up to date. Well, almost! I put the moth trap out last night, and it gave me over 50 moths this morning. I'd better get packing now really, so shall post about this catch on my return home later in the week...

Friday 25 May 2012

A Joke

I haven't got time for a full blog post right now - mind you, when do I!??

I have had a fantastic morning just off patch, the tweets to the side of this post will tell what I saw. But I wanted to write this blog post to put this link up.

Please can EVERYONE take two minutes to sign it. It is this most ludicrous idea from DEFRA - £375k to 'control' Buzzard populations to protect Pheasants....what a joke!

Monday 21 May 2012

On The Mend


Most the aches and pains have gone now, it's just the cough that's relentless - and that has lead to an incredibly sore throat. Oh well. At least I managed to get out a bit today.

I had a lovely wander about Lower Bruckland Pond mid afternoon, lots of newly emerged Damselflies were nice to see (only saw two species though; Large Red and Common Blue), and Butterflies included singles of Dingy and Grizzled Skipper. The latter my first here. No birds worthy of mention though.

Later on, after a text from Phil, I headed over to Axmouth where he had seen an Osprey perched up. I got there about an hour after the event, and the Osprey had moved from its original position. After a short drive though, we ended up getting superb views of it...

A late one! Taken with the trusty Lumix

Thursday 17 May 2012

Off Topic

I've been feeling a little better today, so have spent a bit more time sat up on my laptop.

As the title suggests, nothing about birds in this post at all. During my random 'surfing' of the interweb, I had a look at the Unicef website. Every couple of years there's soccer aid - some famous faces and a few ex-pros (called the 'legends') play a football match for the charity.

I must say, I had quite a chuckle when I looked at the list of 'legends' for the two teams...


Martin Keown
Teddy Sheringham
Des Walker
Kevin Phillips


Edwin van der Sar
Jaap Stam
Roy Keane
Hernan Crespo
Clarance Seedorf
Ruud van Nistelrooy prizes for guessing who might win this one!!

Tuesday 15 May 2012

The Dreaded Lurgy

My body has been invaded by a virus - and I feel like shite. I should be sleeping, but thought I'd quickly post up a couple of pics that I haven't yet.

First of all, a Wheatear that I watched fly in off the sea yesterday, and land on Seaton Beach...

I love these photos simply because it has sea and beach in it - migration in action

And secondly, the highlight of a ringing session at the Donkey Sanctuary, Weston, last Friday morning...

Nuthatch - great birds to handle

Sunday 13 May 2012

Thankyou Bun!

Half way through my shift at work today, a text came through from Bun, he had found an invisible but noisy Turtle Dove in Beer, it was about half past 12. This is a species I have somehow avoided since moving here in 1991! Yes - I have never seen one on patch, Bun has seen about nine!

So, thinking there was no chance at all it would stay put for over four hours I had already written this one off. But Bun very kindly returned to Beer just before I was due to finish work - and he heard it again. Yipeee! Still no one had actually seen it though!

So, just after 16:30, I hot footed it over to Beer, but moments before I arrived, a couple of Crows flew in to the area the Turtle Dove had been purring from, and out flew three Wood Pigeons and the bird I wanted! Bun thought I had blown it yet again...

Thankfully though, it flew only a short distance, and landed in a large ash tree - and then I turned up :-)

An over exposed patch tick!

It remained here for about ten minutes, when two Wood Pigeons flew in and flushed it. It flew off strongly east.

This is the second patch tick Bun has found me this year - I certainly owe you a beer or two mate :-)

Thursday 10 May 2012

Oh Fog It!

It looked very good for sea watching today - well that was until I got down to the sea front at 06:15...

A murky sea

Although in the photo it does look like there's plenty of sea to look at, in reality there wasn't! This probably isn't so much of an issue for all you headland sea watchers, but here in a bay we need to see as far as possible. Luckily at about 06:45 it cleared for just over half an hour, but it came in again, so I finished watching at 07:45. This is what ended up in my notebook...

3 Common Scoter
4 Great Northern Diver (all ended up on the sea, the closest one was a stonking pristine summer plumaged bird - the best example of one I've ever seen here without a doubt)
24 Gannet
39 Manxies
2 Grey Plover
1 Knot
41 Dunlin
25 Whimbrel
2 Bonxies (sat on sea for twenty minutes before flying off west - a great sight as always)
5 Kittiwake
34 Auk sp. (all looked like Razorbill)

After a good few hours at home, the continued foggy conditions encouraged me back down to the beach. But not to sea watch, for a beach walk...

See - still very foggy!

This proved very worthwhile as on the beach there was a flock of 7 Ringed Plover, 8 Dunlin and these 8 gorgeous Sanderling...

What a treat!

Whilst watching the above birds, another flock of waders flew straight through west along the beach and away into the murk. This flock included another 15 Sanderling (so a total of 23) and 10 Dunlin. 20 Whimbrel also flew west (18 and a 2).

After this, a look at Black Hole Marsh still showed no Red-rumped Swallow. But for the second day there were 14 Gadwall (so odd to have such large numbers here in May!?), also 2 Shoveler and these 2 Tufted Ducks...

Always swimming away I'm afraid! Soon after they flew off west

The only waders here were 8 Dunlin. A little later a quick look along the Estuary added 44 Whimbrel, 4 Blackwits and 2 Barwits, with another 14 Dunlin and 2 Ringed Plover past the sea front mid afternoon.

So nothing outstanding today at all - but some lovely highlights. A male Kentish Plover would have topped it off so nicely though....

Friday 4 May 2012

Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining...

Or to flip it... Every silver lining has a great big black cloud in it!

Yesterday was an excellent day for wader passage, I thoroughly enjoyed it. In the morning I had 14 Ringed Plovers, in the evening there were 14 Ringed Plovers - but at some point during the day a 15th plover dropped in and was photograghed by Ian McLean just before it flew off north...

ULTRA GRIPPING!! All photos (c) Ian McLean

We have had Kentish Plover before, Clive watched a male by the tram sheds many many years ago - but the record was never submitted so this is 'officially' the first record for the patch. I'm pleased we've had one - but gutted at the same time for missing it. Why couldn't it have dropped in before I had a look along the Estuary - why did it fly off before I had a second look along the Estuary! To make it worse, I was going to go to the tower hide at 12:30, but a funeral was taking place in the cemetery and the entrance blocked - so I turned around and came back. Whether the KP was there at that time though who knows...

Oh well, here's some Gadwall...

Three of the Gadwall on Black Hole Marsh yesterday afternoon

Today, after I woke up (rather late!), and had heard there was no sign of the KP, I went up to Beer Head.

It was another great morning up here. I was joined by Ian half way round, and he stayed longer as I was keen to get down to the Estuary in case the KP reappeared on the falling tide. My totals were:

3 Wheatear
3 Yellow Wagtail (over)
3 Redstart (2 male, 1 female - 1 of the males was singing! Ian had another 2 females)
3+ Garden Warbler
6 Blackcap
30 Whitethroat
8 Willow Warbler
3 Chiffchaff
1 Siskin (over)
1 Redpoll sp. (seen on deck but only distantly/partially, unfortunately looked too brown to be anything other than Lesser despite being rather deep sounding).

Also plenty of Swifts, Swallows and House Martins flying in and NE.

The Redpoll - very very distantly!

And here's a video of the song of the male Redstart - I have never heard one singing on Beer Head before, so a first for me...

After this the Estuary and a look over Black Hole Marsh and from the Tower Hide showed:

4 Grey Plover
6 Ringed Plover
70+ Dunlin
7 Whimbrel
8 Barwit
1 Blackwit
2 Reed Warbler (my first of 2012)
3 Sedge Warbler
3 Whitethroat
0 Kentish Plover :-(


Finally, thanks to all the Twitter comments, and for people clicking to follow me. I promise this won't just be a 'whim', I'm going to keep it up because I'm actually enjoying it.

Thursday 3 May 2012

Magic May

Well except for sea watching, April was pretty forgettable. But I am very pleased to say May has already proved a much better month!

On 1st May (Tuesday) the south coast experienced an amazing fall of migrants. Beer Head gave nowhere near the number of birds as other sites, but I still had an excellent couple of hours up there.

Seaton Bay from Beer Head

It was a bit of an odd one. Some parts of Beer Head were dead - literally nothing to see or hear at all. But every now and then I came across pockets of activity. Whilst walking along one hedge a male Redstart caught my eye, it flew along the hedge a little and perched up beside a Whinchat. I wandered closer, a couple of Whitethroats flew out and then a Lesser Whitethroat started singing!

The full totals of this enjoyable spring fall look like this:

15 Pale-bellied Brent Goose (flew west)
3 Whimbrel (flew west)
5 Dunlin (flew west)
12 Yellow Wagtail (some amongst cattle, others north over)
1 Tree Pipit (flew north west)
16 Wheatear (all together)
1 Whinchat (female)
3 Redstart (2 male)
2 Grasshopper Warbler (both reeling)
15 Blackcap
20 Whitethroat
1 Lesser Whitethroat (one singing along hedge from farm, showing on and off)
35 Willow Warbler
6 Chiffchaff
2 Spotted Flycatcher

As well as the above, there was a strong passage of Swifts, Swallows and House Martins flying north east. None of the 'decent' migrants stayed put long enough to allow photos, except for this Spotted Flycatcher...

A well behaved Spot Fly

After Beer Head, a wander around the Beer Cemetery Fields showed another Lesser Whitethroat (a silent male), six Whitethroat and this female Redstart...

Crap photo - sorry!

A little later in the day, a sweep of the Estuary revealed 20+ Whimbrel, 10 Barwits and 9 Dunlin.

Yesterday (2nd), I set the morning aside for a spot of bird ringing in a private wood near Colyton. First I'll mention the birds I saw and didn't catch. Two Crossbills spent about an hour in the wood feeding in conifers, and a couple of Lesser Redpoll and Siskin flew over. Sounds like autumn doesn't it!!!

I had four nets up, and had great rewards for my efforts. A nice load of warblers included 7 Chiffchaff, 5 Blackcap and this Willow Warbler...

They really are long winged, the longest winged Chiff measured in at 65mm, this Willy measured 73mm

I was quite surprised (maybe I shouldn't have been?) that one of the Blackcaps was a 3J. '3J' means it is a recently fledged juvenile! A quick calculation indicates its mother must have laid her eggs within the first eight days of April!

3J Blackcap

The highlight for me though was trapping and ringing a Jay. I often hear Jays whilst walking around this wood, but I didn't think one was going to end up in one of my mist nets! A simply stunning bird...

I wasn't going to hold it the way I'm holding the Warblers above because I'm sure it would have loved to eat my fingers!

And now to today. And this morning the weather looked good for a beach walk - so that's exactly what I did! It was worthwhile too, and Seaton Beach offered 9 Dunlin, 7 Wheatear and a Grey Plover...

It just wouldn't face me!

After this, a look along the Estuary and up the valley, and a second visit later this afternoon (incl. Black Hole Marsh) gave totals of:

6 Gadwall
2 Shoveler
4 Grey Plover (2 stonking summer plumage males)
14 Ringed Plover
22 Dunlin (so a total 31)
52 Whimbrel
7 Bar-tailed Godwit
5 Black-tailed Godwit
1 Greenshank
2 Common Sandpiper
1 Yellow Wagtail (flew over Coronation Corner)
3 Sedge Warbler

If there's a bit more rain today, I fancy a Turnstone. It certainly feels like a Turnstone-day for us! One the year listers no doubt would like.

Also, whilst driving, a Tawny Owl flew low across the road near Boshill Cross. A bit of a surprise!

And that's that. A great few days :-)

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Axe Birding On Twitter

I haven't got time for a blog post, but have just about got time to announce an exciting new addition to this blog...

I have loved reading the tweets on the Portland Bird Obs home page, I really find them very useful as they often let me know whether to bother going out or not! So I thought I'd try and do the same here.

Obviously I am well aware that about a million more people are interested in what is happening on Portland, than on our tiny Estuary (and the surronding area) in east Devon, but I thought I'd give it a go anyway!

I will use my phone to 'tweet', so can update it any time during the day. And all my tweets will show up (well the most recent four) to the side of where you are reading this post! I will be able to 'tweet' photos too, so if there's a link - please click on it.

I only set the account up yesterday, so have just two followers at present! Hopefully that will improve!

Will do a full blog post detailing this mornings birding, tomorrow. Watch this space... And don't forget to watch those 'tweets' in the mean time!