Thursday 28 February 2013

A Couple Of Quizzes

You can tell from the post title that it is still pretty crap out there at the moment!  A few hours out today showed the same as the past few times that I've been out on patch. c250 Golden Plover opposite Stedcombe and the two Bar-tailed Godwits...

Bar-tailed Godwits

 A Black-tailed Godwit then nicely came between the two of them...

A nice comparison shot

Now for the quizzes. The first is thanks to Chris Gladman who sent me an out-of-the-blue copy of my Merlin photo.  The quiz is, spot the difference...

Well can you?

I really can't believe what Chris has achieved!  It does make me wonder though, if I submitted the 'new version' as my photo, is that cheating!?? I often do tweak light levels and crop my photos, so is it any different from these 'tweaks'?

And quiz number two comes from me seeing the Torpoint Green-winged Teal again yesterday. Can you spot it...

I would certainly recommend enlarging the photo for this!

Answers on the back of a postcard please, with the £5 entry fee ;-)

Monday 25 February 2013

Merlin Distracts From Dire Patch Birding

I rarely take a photo I am actually proud off, I just don't have the patience or kit really. I suppose the Seaton Semi-P was my last.  

Friday last week, after spending an hour or so at the home of Devon's best Data Manager and Assistant County Recorder (with Brambling, Siskin, Blackcap, Bullfinch and Jay on view in the garden!), I made my way back home over Dartmoor.

Not far from Princetown, I was surprised to see a Merlin perched right beside the road.  It took me a while to find a place to turn round, so on my return I was expecting it to be gone. Amazingly it wasn't, and I managed to ease my camera out on the rucksack...

How annoying is that blade of grass though over the birds left wing!

In the past every time I have ever slowed down near a road side perching raptor, it flies off, so was beginning to think it was injured or maybe stunned after hitting a car.  But on opening my car door, it flew off and away over the hill!  Thinking about it it was very windy, so I reckon it was using the bank to shelter from the wind.

I love the photo so much I thought I'd experiment with cropping. I am pretty rubbish at cropping as you can see, but wanted to try all the different options. And do you know what - I think the original is best, which is very rare for me!

The same Merlin photo five times over!!!

Patch birding really has been disappointing. Gull numbers are on the up, but have found nothing amongst them. Great to see more Common Gulls though, Ring-billed feels like a real possibility.

Today I spent a couple of hours out and the best I managed was a drake Gadwall and the two Bar-tailed Godwits on the Estuary and 220+ Golden Plovers in the Bridge Marsh/Boshill area. Here's part of the biggest flock...

Back to my usual quality of photos :-)

Won't be around for a couple of days, with my next opportunity for patch birding probably being Thursday. Can the last day of February produce a patch year tick??

Monday 18 February 2013

South East Winds = Wildfowl

Spring, autumn or winter, if there's some south east in the wind then there's probably going to be some wildfowl movement.  This isn't just the case for the Axe, it was the same when I was at Dungeness and Spurn Bird Obs.  Obviously at Spurn and Dunge it is on a totally different scale, but I was happy with what I saw this morning - although a year tick would have made it even better!

Best bird was found by Ian M, this female Goldeneye on the Estuary which I saw early afternoon...

Pity it wasn't a Goosander!

Sea watching earlier showed two Pintail and a Common Scoter fly east, but little else.

Pintail is always a good bird here, and Goldeneye even better - it just so happens I've seen both already this year.  And to put into perspective just how bad Feb has been for sea watching, I'm pretty sure the Common Scoter this morning was my first one of the month! 

It really felt like spring today, very mild and some glorious sunshine.  Yesterday Jess and I spent the day on Dartmoor, the wind was pretty chilling, but again, it felt pretty spring like. In fact it looked very spring like with plenty of this near Warren House Inn...

Frog spawn!

I've got a very busy couple of weeks ahead of me, with little time for any patch birding. If I'm around I'll twitch a patch year tick though obviously!

Friday 15 February 2013

Poo Casts Shadow Over Axe Valley

Yes this blog post (albeit a very short one) is all about...

This epic pile of manure created an incredible cloud of steam this morning. You can see it rising in the above photo, but this was the scene from the 'Farm Gate' at Axmouth...

So to put this in 'Sun headline format'; Colyford lost in cloud of poo. You read it here first people.

Oh by the way - I've seen nothing of note since my last blog post. Though you may have guessed that by the contents of this post :-)

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Waxwing Hunting Comes Good - But Still No Waxwings!

Despite the last few days being cooler, and giving me a great opportunity to look over flat seas, it feels pretty stagnate out there at the moment. There just doesn't seem to be any movement going on!

I've checked the sea from Branscombe to Axmouth harbour within the last two days, and have come up with nothing better than two Red-throated Divers and seven Great Crested Grebes.  Yes that really is it.  Could someone tell me where all the sea duck are? They're certainly not here.

Something else I've done as much as I've been able to, is patch Waxwing hunting. Not just within the past few days, but within the past few months.  Waxwing would be a very valuable patch year tick - but it would also be a patch life tick for me, so I'm VERY keen to get one on the list whilst they're still about! Why can't I have the luck of this chap.

Surprisingly I have seen almost nothing of note in the hours I've been walking/driving about local housing estates. But that changed today, when amongst a flock of c30 Chaffinches that flew out of gardens in Colyton, a single Brambling sat on a tree smiling at me...

You took some finding!
Since Jan 1st I've looked through several large flocks of Chaffinches on arable land hoping for one of these, without success.  But it's always been in the back of my mind that there could well be some hunkered down somewhere in gardens - I was right! Very pleased to get this one on the year list, my 117 bird of 2013.

Oh yeah - and I hope you like the new look blog.  I thought it needed a face lift.

Saturday 9 February 2013

A Bit Of Ruff

Last night Jess and I went on an Owl hunt. Sadly we didn't see any, but we did hear a very vocal Little Owl near Musbury. That will do for me - patch year tick!

Today I was hoping a quick sweep of the river valley would produce the two Ruff that Tim found last night on Black Hole Marsh, and I'm pleased to say it did. They're both cracking males and were opposite Axmouth FC along with a few Lapwing, Dunlin and a Green Sandpiper.  There's obviously been some wader movement recently; our wintering Bar-tailed Godwit flock has doubled to two, five Golden Plover were on Bridge Marsh and there were again over a hundred Dunlin present. 

So my year list is on 116, with the total patch list for 2013 standing at 121. Don't forget you can keep track of my year list attempt by clicking on the '2013 patch year list' tab at the top of this blog.

I really thought I had blown it for a patch Waxwing this winter (yet again!) as numbers in the country have really dwindled since Christmas, but within the last week they have really been teasing us. At the start of the week there was a flock of 25 just five miles north of us, and today up to ten spent a couple of hours in a street just four and a half miles west of the patch.  So although it is highly annoying they haven't been on patch - they've certainly given me renewed hope that the Waxwing gap on my patch list may soon be filled...

Friday 8 February 2013

All Quiet

I haven't had much time out since Monday, and when I have been out I haven't seen much.

Yesterday I did give the Tower Hide a couple of hours, hoping for a decent gull. Sadly this didn't materialise, but it was nice to see 'MG6.T' for its fifth year on the Axe...

Click HERE to see its details
Two drake Gadwall and a Common Sandpiper were viewable from the hide aswell.

Also yesterday, it was nice to see at least three Siskins on the alders where the Seaton Marshes Lesser Redpolls made it on to my year list...

Male Siskin
Female Siskin

Today, the flat seas saw me heading down to the sea front early on.

Perfect conditions!
Great Crested Grebes in the line of the sun

Sadly, and like the other times I've looked over a flat sea this year, it was incredibly quiet. Three Red-throated Divers, five Great Crested Grebes and a Guillemot were all I could see. Dire.

Along the river, 113 Dunlin was my highest count of the winter, and two Golden Plover were with Lapwing on Bridge Marsh.

Hopefully I'll get some more year ticks soon...

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Two Hours, Two Ticks

Had plenty of things to do today, so only spent a couple of hours out birding.  And in those two hours I notched up two patch year ticks. Yipeeeee!!

One hours parking fee went in the machine at Branscombe mouth this morning, and after fifty minutes of looking at oodles of Goldcrests, tits and three Chiffchaffs (including a very grey but silent bird) at the sewage works I was feeling well and truly defeated.  But then I picked up my target bird, a lovely Firecrest.  I watched it for as long as I could (about five minutes) before I had to leg it back to the car.  

It appeared shortly after a few Long-tailed Tits appeared, so I wonder whether it was with these and not all the other crests that were always present.  It wasn't in the trees immediately around the sewage works either, it was on the edge of the thin strip of woodland to the west of the sewage works. 

Later in the morning, I went down to Colyford Common and am pleased to announce I have finally seen a Stonechat...

About bloody time!

Also here were four Rock Pipits, a Jack Snipe, 12+ Common Snipe and c25 Teal.  I am so surprised our Green-winged didn't stay longer - it really makes me wonder just how much wildfowl movement goes on in mid winter!?

Today's year ticks put me on 114 for the year. I really hope to add some more gulls to the list this month (at least two please!), and some nice flat seas would be helpful so I can add a grebe sp. or two...

Monday 4 February 2013

A Weekend Away

Jess and I both had the weekend off, so we decided to head up to mid Wales for a few days. With the exception of a Firecrest (which I hope is still around), I didn't miss any valuable year ticks whilst holidaying. Phew!

We stayed in Builth Wells, at a beautiful farm house B and B.  This is looking inside to our room...

At dusk

And this is looking out from our room...

Also at dusk. What a view!

Twice I could see Red Kites circling whilst lying in bed, and we just couldn't get over how stunning the view was.

Being in mid Wales, there was somewhere I just had to take Jess - lover of Buzzards and big birds of prey...

Gigrin Farm

We must have seen at least 350 Red Kites here. Always a spectacle. Another place I just had to take Jess was up the Elen Valley (no that isn't a euphemism!)...

Looking sublime in the sunshine!

We were home mid afternoon, and tomorrow I look forward to some patch birding.  And hopefully some patch year ticks!!