Sunday 26 May 2013

Eye Candy

Sorry readers, you must be fed up with clicking on my blog and repeatedly seeing third rate sea watching photos!!  

I'm afraid it's not going to get any better for a while, there won't be another blog update for about a week. In the mean time though, something for the chaps. A stunning blond bombshell...

Bet all the local drakes want a bit of this one!!!

This isn't the only bird I've seen since my last post. We've had a stunning Curlew Sandpiper hanging around for a few days, and I saw it on its second day here. Only the third of fourth spring bird I've seen on the Axe, and a right cracker too.

Right, that's me signing off for a week. Keep an eye on twitter account in case my TV debut occurs before my next post.

Friday 17 May 2013

The End Is In Sight...

..which means hopefully I'll be able to go out birding again!  Although from reading other blogs/websites it looks like the summer doldrums have already hit! Saying that though, this post has taken about three hours to write because I've just spent an hour or so with Gav on Seaton Marshes waiting for a Black Kite - it never came. Hopefully we are still in with a chance though.

During the last week we've had some excellent sea watching conditions, and I've tried to squeeze in the odd short watch as and when. To be honest with you, considering how little time I've been looking at the sea I haven't done too bad.

Last Friday I was down the sea front for 05:25, and gave it until 7.  Best of all was the passage of Great Northern Divers, with 11 west, many in full summer plumage. Sadly no Black-throats for me - still!  It was good to finally see a small skua too, with a dark phased Arctic Skua chasing Kitts close in at about 05:40 before flying off east.  There was a bit of wader passage as well with five Sanderling, two Dunlin and a Ringed Plover west.  Then it was the weekend...

Saturday I was up early again, really early in fact to lead a Dawn Chorus Walk at Black Hole Marsh on behalf of the EDDC. I'm pleased to say the weather was kind to us, and 21 people joined me for the two hour wander which was finished off nicely by bacon butties and bird ringing!

The usual songsters sang well, and it's always good to hear Reed and Sedge singing together - just a pity the singing Lesser Whitethroat didn't come closer.  One of the best sounds were the Whimbrel though, with a few small groups over, followed by a very noisy flock of 17. A Bar-tailed Godwit was amongst them, and other sightings included a Hobby low north at about 06:30 and a Greenshank on the Estuary.

This week, a few glances at the sea on Monday showed little, but my alarm was set for 5am Tuesday morning with a forecast looking good.  I got up but the weather didn't seem that good so I settled down with my laptop. This proved a mistake, as texts began coming through from Gav informing me I'd missed three year ticks! I tried to ignore all these message, but at 08:20 gave in and headed to the beach...

The first thing I did was take a walk along the beach in case Gav's Turnstones were still about. No waders at all, but a glance out to sea showed a skua chasing gulls off the harbour mouth - I ran back to the car to get my telescope. As I was setting the scope up by the Spot On Kiosk I could see a skua flying west just off the beach with my naked eye, and I was overjoyed when a look through the scope showed it to be a cracking sub adult Pom! A stonker! It got better too, as following it was a fully-spooned pale-phased adult! So so soooo close as well - I was treated to epic views, probably my best EVER Pom Skua views. I can't tell you how overjoyed I was (although you can probably tell!) because I normally have rotten luck with this species on patch.  Gav and Ian M saw them too from other locations, which is always good. After I'd watched them for a bit, I realised they were probably close enough for a photo. Sadly I was slow of the mark and they were further out when I tried to get some snaps. All I managed was this pic of the sub adult...

This dark shape doesn't so it jutice, but I'd say this is identifiable as a Pom!

I had about 40 minutes for this sea watch, and as well as the Pom's I clocked up two Great Northern Divers, several Whimbrel, Gannets and Kittiwakes and a Bar-tailed Godwit.

This flock of Whimbrel landed on the beach

After a several hours at home, the rain and wind tempted me out again at about 11:30 for an hours sea watch. This was quieter but it was very worthwhile as I had excellent views of a close Storm Petrel feeding off the river mouth - result!  At least three Stormies were seen on Tuesday, which I found really surprising as we normally need persistent and VERY strong winds for these. They were all close too.

Only other birds I saw on this watch were a Bonxie west, and a few blogging Sandwich Terns... 

Fishing Sandwich Tern

Wednesday was a very surreal day for me. Before heading off to Lyme Regis I had a walk along Seaton Beach. A single Dunlin and three Ringed Plover made it just about worthwhile. Didn't see to be much over the sea except this Gannet which was unusually close... 

I know it doesn't look close, but you can see it flew in front of Beer Head

Then I headed off to Lyme. And why did I go here? Well keep your eyes on The One Show. Hopefully I make the final edit, and if I do I'll try and let everyone know when it will be on...

Thursday 9 May 2013

Rain Starts Play

At the moment, when I'm not at work, I'm stuck behind this bleeding laptop.  I've been here for about three weeks now and can conclude writing reports is not my thing!  I'll happily do field work until I'm blue in the face (or hands I should say!).

It's not just the local birding I am REALLY missing because of this, there's two birds out there I actually want to twitch. The long-staying Somerset Pied-billed Grebe has been there long enough now for it become 'twitchable' for me, then there's the stunning Exe Bonaparte's Gull! What a looker, and apparently its showing very well too.

I've been waiting for rain and wind for what feels like the whole spring, and last night it came. So I set my alarm for 5am and just HAD to get out there...

I started sea watching at 05:20, too early really! It wasn't all that good, and with the shadow of report writing looming over me I jacked it in by 06:30. No skua, no shearwaters. All I saw was...

1 Velvet Scoter (drake on the sea very close in)
3 Common Scoter (on the sea)
6 Gannet
10 Whimbrel
10 Dunlin
1 small wader sp.
12 auk sp.
1 Mediterranean Gull (first-summer feeding with terns)
9 Kittiwake
3 Sandwich Tern
1 Common Tern (a year tick - woooo!).

After a few hours back at home doing you know what, the conditions prompted me to take an hours break. I did a quick tour of the valley, and tried to check as many places as possible.  The first place I went was Black Hole Marsh, and the first bird I saw here was a cracking adult Wood Sandpiper.  Sadly it was too close for photo with reeds blocking the view, so I had to walk away from it to get any sort of shots...

I know dodgy photos - but you can just about tell what it is!!!

Shortly after I sent the texts out, a land rover came driving down from the Tower Hide and the it took off and flew south. About five mins later I could see it flying around over Seaton Marshes, and about ten minutes after that I could heard it overhead again.

Also on Black Hole Marsh, three Greenshank. On the Estuary, one Dunlin with a few Blackwits and Whimbrel. But that really was it.

Next stop was the beach, for another quick look over the sea and a check for waders. The sea was still dead, but on the beach I struck patch bronze with a cracking Sanderling. For stunning frame-filling images take a look at Karen's blog.  Have a look at those cracking pics, and now take a look at a proper photo of a Sanderling on Seaton Beach...

I call it art. Everyone else calls it crap.

In my defence I didn't want to go near it incase I flushed it - I knew others would want to see this bird. Waders on the beach in spring often fly off and away when flushed, obviously this bird wasn't so skittish!

The Estuary, Coly Marsh and Axmouth FC showed nothing of note, then the hour ended and I returned home.

Blog readers won't be surprised to hear I love local patch birding. Not just this local patch, but the whole concept of local patch birding. I really enjoy reading tweets and blog posts from local patch birders about their local patch antics. Being a bit of a simpleton, looking through this blog you will see my posts are pretty much just about me going birding and what I've seen. I do admire, and am jealous of those who can write proper paragraphs about interesting stuff that sparks debates, but pure birding blogs is what I'm in to. And one I love is 'Stringer' at Beadnell Birding.

At work last night I learnt of a Collared Flycatcher at Low Newton-By-The-Sea, and spent the whole evening wondering if 'Stringer' was the lucky one who turned this cracker  up.  Click on the link above and you will see.... what a gripper and many many many congratulations. Looking back through his blog (warning, swearing often is part of his posts so it's not for the faint hearted) you will see how he, with a few others, have got Newton on the map through habitat improvement and observer coverage.

Right, that's enough for now. I'll finish with a couple of pics from last weekend...

Spring Lambs

Dear Oh Dear

Thursday 2 May 2013

May Day Dip

Well I'm still slogging away on the laptop in the kitchen - with the door open though of course!!  No Storks or Kites as yet, but a couple of days ago (Tuesday) two Hobbies kept me company for a couple of hours, feeding over the house and down towards the marshes. They spent most of the time quite high, but on a few occasions came low enough to bother getting the camera out...

I really enjoyed day dreaming how great it would have been if they were Red-foots!

Wednesday morning - the 1st of May - I spent an hour out before breakfast hoping for Cuckoo. I went to Branscombe, Morganhayes, Lower Bruckland, Axmouth and Rousdon all before 7am! No Cuckoo's, but I did have a surprise in the form of a singing Tree Pipit in a cleared part of Morganhayes.  Just as I was thinking how good the area looked for Tree Pipits though, a Buzzard came gliding through and the Pipit flew off very high to the north!!! Maybe not then...

Wednesday evening, work soon became hell, as I learnt I was missing two Garganey that were showing exceptionally well on Black Hole Marsh. Grrrrrr. I've already missed one Garganey this year, so missing out on my second chance was painful.  I wouldn't have minded so much if they were another species, but I really do have a soft spot for spring Garganey - and we don't get enough of them here. 

This morning was suppose to be my morning for a lie in, but having been told the Garganey had apparently gone to roost I was down Black Hole Marsh for 05:10!  No Garganey. The Egyptian Goose was there trying its best to get my attention by honking for England - but I wasn't impressed.  After spending over an hour here, and being happy (or sad I should say!) that they weren't here, I checked Seaton Marshes and other parts of the valley.  Still no Garganey, but I did get a patch year tick in the form of a Greenshank just north of Coronation Corner, they always look so smart in the spring.  My last little highlight of the morning was a very yellow one, with a two Yellow Wagtails opposite Axmouth FC - one a cracking male.  Yet again, I was home by 7am.

After lunch today, I thought I best check Black Hole Marsh again in case they were back, if they were I couldn't see them.  Lots of Whimbrel though, with 22 chilling out near the Island Hide...

I saw them from the house the other day too, house tick :-)
So, as the fourth month of my year listing year is over, how's it going?  Well the dips haven't been nice, but it's not these that will cost me my 200 target (if I don't make it).  We simply need more birds!  The sea has been exceedingly quiet this year, during the winter for divers, ducks and grebes, and this spring for skuas, terns, waders, ducks, etc. May better be a good sea watching month otherwise I'm in trouble! And the long range forecast isn't looking good for me...