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 :-)

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