Friday 28 September 2012

No Birding Today

I won't have time to go out today - but have just about got time to tell all about yesterday, mostly because there isn't much to tell!!

I had a very enjoyable two hour wander around the Beer Cemetery Fields - I was hoping for just the teeniest slice of east coast action, but it wasn't to be. It did 'feel rare' though.  

Looking east
 My final totals were (grounded unless stated):

10 Skylark
6 Song Thrush
120 Meadow Pipit
2 Wheatear
1 Whinchat
26 Blackcap
2 Whitethroat
21 Chiffchaff
2 Goldcrest
6 Siskin (over)

And a couple more photos from recent days.  I took a photo of the Yellow-legged Gull with my Lumix too, and it shows the comparative mantle shades well with Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and Herring Gulls in the frame too...

The Yellow-legged is slap bang in the middle
 Also I forgot to post this moth picture.  Last Friday I had the moth trap out, but wasn't expecting much in it as the night was cold.  I was dead right - there wasn't much.  Pleasingly though, one of the two immigrants in the trap wasn't a Silver Y!  It was a Pearly Underwing, only about my third for the garden...

It looks a bit weird as I had to use flash
Don't want to say anything on here (in case I jinx it!), but hopefully I have some very exciting times up and coming. It has meant I've been snowed under for a few days - but it will be worth it...

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Don't Forget The Gulls!

Over the last few days I have noticed a high proportion of Black-backed Gulls on the river - this is always an obvious sign that there's some decent gull passage going on.  There wasn't anything of note amonsgt them yesterday, but a look along the Estuary late morning today revealed this amongst the 92 Lesser Black-backed Gulls...

Yellow-legged Gull
A cracking near-adult Yellow-legged Gull!  I say near-adult due to its relative dullish bill and legs, and streaking around the eye - I may be wrong though!

The middle photo shows a nice comparison of mantle colours, with Lesser Black-backed Gull at the back, Yellow-legged Gull in the middle and argenteus Herring Gull at the front.  This photos also shows the typical square-headed appearance of Yellow-legged Gull.  The lower photo (although slightly fuzzy) shows just how long-winged it looked in the field.

The count of Lesser Black-backed Gulls was notable in itself really, with all ages and many different mantle colours on show.  Although I counted 92, in reality today well over a hundred I'm sure would have visited the Estuary.  There were lots of Great Black-backs too, but I didn't count these (at a guess c160).

Wader wise, both the Bar-tailed Godwit and Greenshank were still on the river, with the two two's still opposite Axmouth FC (two Wood Sands and two Ruff).

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Much The Same, Just Different!

Well the Marsh Harrier wasn't around today, and I didn't see the Little Stint, Curlew Sand or Knot.  But pretty much everything else is still about, although there's a lot less water in the valley.

The best spot it still opposite Axmouth FC, where there has been two Ruff and two Wood Sandpipers for most of the day - it looks so good for a Pec here at the moment! 

Coronation Corner had a good selection too at 9am, with singles of Ringed Plover, Greenshank and Bar-tailed Godwit...


The weather hasn't been anything like what they forecasted today, we were meant to have rain for most of the day!  Looks like though (unless they've got it wrong again!) we should be getting some in the night - which may drop something new in. Here's hoping anyway!!

Monday 24 September 2012

Water = Waders!

Yes lots of water about the patch today - it really did tip down during the night.  As a result, and despite other things going on in my life at the moment, I was keen to get out and check it all.

My original idea was for a vigil from the Tower Hide at Black Hole Marsh, but this was almost immediately foiled. I knew I should have put my wellies in the boot...

The path to tower hide - and this was at low tide!

Black Hole Marsh was very quiet, I didn't see a single wader on it.  Although a Green Sand and two Dunlin did fly over it - both heading north. 

Next stop was the Axmouth FC scrape - of Long-billed Dowitcher fame!  A nice juv Curlew Sand was a surprise here, and looked very out of place, with a Ruff, 21 Wigeon and a Yellow Wagtail also present.  

I had then hoped for a look over Bridge Marsh, but the A3052 was closed due to a diesel spill and multiple accidents, so I headed for the Farm Gate.  From here, on the Estuary were 51 Black-tailed Godwits and a single Knot, and on Colyford scrape two Wood Sandpipers (first found yesterday) and a Greenshank.  My last action of the morning was a walk along Seaton Beach, which gave just a single Ringed Plover.

This afternoon, at about half two once I had heard the A3052 was now open, I headed back out.  A quick check at Black Hole Marsh showed a Little Stint (relocated by my old man an hour or two earlier), and then I headed for Bridge Marsh.  One of the Wood Sands was now here, and what I thought was going to prove to be the earlier Axmouth FC Ruff - was actually a second bird.

Axmouth FC scrape showed the Ruff still (this one is a big male), and also a Bar-tailed Godwit and drake Gadwall.  It was then back to the Farm Gate.  

Scoping across to the Colyford scrape I was a bit taken aback when this flew through my field of view...

Juv Marsh Harrier Colyford Marsh

It was great to watch this gorgeous juv Marsh Harrier hunting over the marsh, at first alone, but soon joined by Karen.  It disappeared into the reeds just before I left, although I have heard it's been seen again.

And now I'm back home!  So although I didn't turn up the rare wader I was hoping for, I have seen 16 species of wader on patch today (a high total for here!) - let's hope it is tomorrow that I find species number 17! And that it's a good one!

Wednesday 19 September 2012

The Clickers Are Out!

Went up to Axe Cliff this morning - and what a splendid few hours I had in glorious 'classic autumn' conditions...

Could easily see Hope's Nose (although you can't in this picture) and I think Start in the distance

Anyway I was up here at 7am this morning, and stayed until 09:20. At first there didn't seem to be much going on, both overhead and on the deck, but when I got to the cliff edge there certainly was some westward passage going on, with the following totals logged;

3 Skylark
54 Swallow
87 House Martin
1 Sand Martin
2 alba Wagtail
2 Yellow Wagtail
6 Grey Wagtail
635 Meadow Pipit
2 Tree Pipit
6 Chaffinch
4 Siskin

On the deck, the selection was limited. Rarely do you get good numbers 'bush birds' up here, so six Blackcap, two Whitethroat, five Chiffchaff and two Willow Warbler was about an average haul. The highlight without doubt was this gorgeous juv Whinchat...

That's Beer Head in the back ground of the lower pic

Whenever I come up here at this time of year, it always feel like an Ortolan is just around the corner. The other patch birders know this is one species I really want to see here. (For non patch birders, that's because virtually every other patch birder HAS seen one [or two!] here). Anyway, today yet again wasn't the day, but the number of these around was encouraging...


A quick look from the farm gate after Axe Cliff showed the three Greenshank still on (a now full!) Colyford scrape.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

What's The Date?

Well we have just passed the mid September mark - and to be honest I simply can't believe it. After the wet summer we've experienced I always thought this was going to be a poor autumn, but my God September (so far) has proved dreadful!

Yesterday I led an outing for the East Devon Branch of the DBWPS around Beer Head. The bushes were quiet with just eight Blackcaps, three Chiffchaffs, a Whitethroat and a Goldcrest - and overhead was really quiet with just a couple of small Meadow Pipit and hirundine flocks over west. The highlight was easily a smart Whinchat by the coastguard look out, with about ten Wheatear.

This morning I've had a good look about the Estuary - and have finally seen the Curlew Sandpiper on Black Hole Marsh first found by Phil on Sunday morning. It was with 15 Dunlin, two Common Sands but little else. Other parts of the valley showed 37 Blackwits, seven Ringed Plover, three Greenshank (Colyford Marsh) and three Wigeon.

For some reason I photographed this Grey Wagtail - and looking at Karen's blog it must be something in the air at the moment!

We will get Citrine one day I'm sure...

Afterwards, and considering the tidal state (high) I though I'd count the roosting waders on the beach. It was dead easy - there were none! Overhead a few more Meadow Pipits were on the move though.

I don't think this weather is helping the birding situation at the moment, a bit of rain wouldn't go amiss - I have had enough of this...

..though I think I am the only person in Seaton who thinks this!

Thursday 13 September 2012

New Moth For The Garden

Well I promised more regular blog posts, but that was presuming I'd be seeing some birds - it is mid September after all! Truth is I haven't really seen anything of note since my last post, a second winter Med Gull on the Estuary yesterday being the best. Wader numbers seem to be pretty consistent too at the moment with 30ish each of Ringos and Dunlin, and no biggie yet. We have got to get a Pec at least surely!

Thankfully though, a moth has saved the post (just!). A couple of nights ago, there wasn't much in my trap - just 51 moths of 10 species. Four of them were immigrants though, with three being Silver Y's. The fourth was this rather battered Delicate, thanks to Peter Vernon for confirming my ID...

Yes I would have preferred a Convolvulus Hawkmoth too - but a new species for the garden is a new species for the garden! :-)

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Keep On Top Of It

Well I am going to try and keep on top of my blog posts from now on - instead of giving you a once a week update! Many apologies for this latest trend.

I have had, and still have (and probably will always have!) a lot of County Recorder computer work to do, and it has prevented me from getting out and doing what I love doing anywhere near as much as I would like too. This morning, wandering around a beautiful and very autumnal Beer Head was so enjoyable - even though I didn't really see anything of note! And it made me realise that birding isn't just something I love and enjoy - it is something I MUST do. However busy I am. When I spend days upon days on my laptop (which I have been doing) I end up getting headaches, writing total garbage and going a bit doolally - so it's time to break it up a bit! Don't worry - your County Recorder is not going on strike - I'm just going to always give myself a few hours at the start of every day to do what just HAS to be done! :-)

Ok, so what about Beer Head. Well I said it looked beautiful this morning, and you have to admit I'm not wrong...

Looking back in to Seaton Bay

To be honest, I was expecting more grounded migrants than I saw, because there was a brisk W/NW wind blowing under the clear sky. Six Blackcaps, three Wheatear, three Willow Warblers, two Whitethroat, two Spot Flies, one Sedge Warbler, one Garden Warbler and one Chiffchaff were all I managed though.

Melodious Warbler really has to be on the cards up here - we've had two probables that have both got away. Whilst on the subject of Melodious Warblers, I really don't understand how an island off the NW coast of Wales (Bardsey) is currently home to their 114th Melodious! It really is worth clicking on the link by the way to see some stunning photos of hippolais warblers.

Anyway, back to Beer Head this morning, and overhead there was a bit more action. Lots of hirundines were moving west (mostly House Martins), along with several small groups of Meadow Pipits (the sight and sound of the start of the autumn vis mig!), seven Grey, three alba and two Yellow Wagtails.

Lastly, after I posted about my 71 Balearics yesterday, I had a couple of texts which added another 16 birds on, which gives us a day total of 87 Balearics. There were about seven daylight hours though when the sea wasn't being watched - so the true total must be well over 100. Thanks Ian and (Midlands) Mike for the texts.

Monday 10 September 2012

A Patch Tick And A Patch Record Count?

I nipped out most days last week, mostly to Black Hole and Colyford Marsh. I didn't manage the rare I was hoping for, but there was always plenty to see. On Tuesday amongst 40+ each of Ringed Plover and Dunlin were two Little Stints, with one still present up to today. Two Greenshank were around from Wednesday with my highest Snipe count of the autumn so far (13) and Thursday saw a new Ruff in and an increase in duck numbers with two Wigeon and 120+ Teal. But it was the weekend that it all kicked off...

Whilst Jess and I were enjoying a day out in Somerset, a couple of texts informed me of a pager report of a Spotted Crake from the tower hide. Phil soon confirmed it when shown photos, and then spent most of the afternoon searching for it. His patience was rewarded late afternoon when it reappeared for a brief period - this is when he took these photos of it. When Phil texted the news out, we were 20 minutes from home, and after a bit of persuasion I made Black Hole Marsh our first destination! We spent about 20 minutes in the hide, but there was no sign so we headed home. About half an hour later it was seen again. Drat!

The following morning, the first two alarms I had set didn't wake me up, but thankfully alarm number three did! I got to the tower hide at 06:40...

A tranquil scene

It wasn't a tranquil scene inside the hide though where three of us were waiting and hoping for a patch lifer! Thankfully (as I didn't have much time) there wasn't that much waiting, and anxiety soon became jubilation! The Spotted Crake appeared at about 06:45 in almost exactly the same place Phil last saw it last night. We watched it for the next fifteen or twenty minutes as it made its way up river along the bottom of the bank below the salt marsh opposite the hide.

I have made an extra special effort to look for this species on patch this autumn, but have to say, this was one place I hadn't been looking. It really was in an odd place, although I guess if the food is there then why not! As Spotted Crakes go, it wasn't the most spotted (as Phil's photos show) - but I loved its buff bum! Totally different from a Water Rail, a really obvious and distinctive feature.

Gav and Karen both mentioned on their blogs that the light was so poor that they didn't even bother taking a photo. Not me...

A stunning and pin sharp photo of my first Spotted Crake on the Axe. Prints can be purchased.

The rest of Sunday I was at work, and Monday (today) I had put aside for a day of laptop work. The temptation to go out got too strong though mid morning when Martin Cade at Portland tweeted they had just had their 100th Balearic Shearwater of the day past the Bill!

I was down the sea front at 10:10, and by 11:40 had seen an impressive 71 Balearic Shearwaters! Some came through as loners, but most were in small flocks with the biggest single flock being of 13 birds, all flew west. I had a further 13 Shearwater sp. fly west at mega distance - too distant to ID. Otherwise there was not much else passing, just six Common Scoter and two Manxies.

Although 71 Balearics isn't a patch record, I am hoping other patch birders were watching the sea at different times and are able to add to this tally. I just wish I had started sea watching at dawn though - we could well have had over 200 through today I reckon. That would easily be a patch record!

Oh I see there's a Pec at Bowling Green, I wonder if I have enough time to check out Black Hole Marsh before Jess finishes work...

Wednesday 5 September 2012


Wow - what a weekend!!!

I have got lots to say about it all, so to help out am going to use the 'picture tells a thousand words' technique...


I think these pictures tell the story of the day perfectly well, it was a day of traveling. We finally rolled up at our campsite by Soumagne (near Liege) just before 8pm, 10 hours after we left Seaton. We drove out of the Euro Tunnel to beautiful blue skies and sunshine - a relief after we knew Friday was a wet day at the F1. This was my first driving abroad too, and I have to say, I found it quite easy!


Our alarms were set for 6am. There was just enough time to take a couple of snaps...

Then we were off...

And arrived at the race track just before 8am...

Then it was time to select our spot - it soon began to get busy...

Before you see anything of F1 there are three races. GP3....


And Porsche Super Cup...

Then at 12:30 the first Formula 1 action began, with the drivers parade lead by the safety car...

Here's Jenson Button - it was a great race for him...

And here's Lewis Hamilton, not such a great day for him...

These two helicopters were a constant presence over head - the yellow one being the camera copter, and we were amazed how low it got sometimes...

Then there was more waiting...

Before it was time to apply the ear plugs...

Because in the words of the great Murray Walker, it was 'Go Go Go'...

The race - in fact the whole experience - was incredible, and cannot be shown through photos. These videos hopefully will help though...

And this shows how far ahead Button was for most of the race. He really did own the race track...

And then came the end of the race, and we had seen a Brit win - how fitting is that!

Before our trip, we had heard that getting away is often a nightmare, so we took our time and had a walk around the track...

As you can see - what a stunning track! We left an hour and half after the end of the race, but it was still grid lock. The queing did enable to me to see singles of Hoopoe, Black Redstart and Firecrest though!

There was another birdie highlight too a bit later. When we had finally got away from the area, driving back through Belgium we passed what was presumably a migrating flock of White Storks (about 20 birds) roosting upon lights over the motorway...

We got to our hotel in Calais just after 11pm and went straight to sleep! We stayed in the Cottage Hotel, and I can recomend it for its comfort, location, breakfast and price! It is literally a four minute drive away from the Euro Tunnel, and there was no problem with us arriving late/leaving early.


We were up at 6am, and soon out the hotel to catch our train. Sunday was another day of travel, a bit of a rushed one too as I was down to start work at 2pm! Luckily were just about made it, and arrived home at 1:15!

After reading/looking at all this, you may be surprised to hear I have never really been into F1 at all. It is Jess's love really - but after this unbelievable experience I may well be hooked too, and am certainly going again!