Thursday 25 July 2013

Shearwater Success

My perseverance with the sea earned me a year tick this morning.

I was planning to sea watch 6-7am, but just couldn't get up. So I had to settle for a later and shorter sea watch, 08:30 - 09:00.

And the end of my very first scan three Shearwaters flew in from the east, immediately recognisably as Balearic Shearwaters. Finally!!! They flew west across the bay, and as many species do, started heading more south west when they got to straight out.  

As this had happened within the first sweep, I immediately sent a text around as I thought I'd hit on a decent passage, I was wrong! No more Shearwaters passed, and the best of the rest were singles of adult Med and first-summer Common Gulls

Black Hole Marsh 08:00 - 08:25 showed yet again not much new. Green Sandpipers up to four, Dunlin down to four, with 12 Common Sand, 10 Blackwits, two Greenshank, two Teal and a Lapwing. Am pleased to report the Green Sands were quite vocal, so will hopefully get them on the house list soon :-).

Won't have much/any birding time now for the rest of the week and the weekend, so roll on August!  August means the start of the main autumn passerine migration - surely it's got to be better than last year...

Wednesday 24 July 2013

A Summary Of The Last Week

Well I think we can safely say there's been a shift in the weather. We've had some pretty intense thunder storms and showers during the nights this week, and along with the full moon I thought this would have made for some good wader passage. It certainly started well on Sunday, but has flat-lined since and there's not been anything obviously new in.  All the birding time I've had in the past week I've spent it at either at Black Hole Marsh or on Seaton Beach. I'll start with what the beach has given me, and I'll start with this morning...

For the first time for weeks and weeks, the sea wasn't flat calm. This was thanks to a southerly wind which felt really good, and I was hoping it would do something. It didn't. In half an hour I had (all west): 28 Common Scoter, three Sandwich Tern (incl. my first juv) and two Med Gulls (ad and juv).

Yesterday morning amongst the gulls on the beach (and there have been loads) were singles of juvenile Med and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (both my first of this age for the year). Offshore very little was moving, although a flock of nine Manxies came from nowhere and flew into the bay, before heading off east.

The previous morning (Monday) two adult Med Gulls were offshore, with two Little Egrets in off, 16 Common Scoter east and a few Gannets west.   

Black Hole Marsh has been graced by a stunning male Ruff since Sunday afternoon, no photos of it here but there's plenty around on the usual local photography blogs. There's also been four Little Ringed Plovers (two ads, two juvs - also present since Sunday), up to 13 Dunlin, three Greenshank, two Green Sandpipers and the usual Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwits and Common Sands.  Lots of Black-headed Gulls are still using Black Hole as a high tide roost site, regularly bringing in Med Gulls, of which I had four of (three second summers and an adult) on Monday.  In the past week allowing for duplication I can safely say I've seen at least 18 Med Gulls on patch, hopefully a sign of things to come for us.

I wrote the above paragraph yesterday, and this morning Black Hole Marsh was empty! No Dunlin, Ruff of Little Ringed Plovers.  I can only assume a bird of prey (or something else?) flushed everything just before my arrival.

I've got some house/garden birding news too.  Since my last post I've added two species to the house list, both heard only though.  On 17th (last Wednesday) just after 22:00 I heard a/the Little Ringed Plover call twice on Black Hole Marsh, and on 20th 2+ Crossbill flew over (east I think)!  On Monday evening from the bedroom I thought I'd check and count the Little Egret roost. By 21:20 I'd notched up 57 Little Egrets, but sadly no other species.  Worthwhile though as that's a decent count for us.

Lastly, well for the birdie bit of this blog post, obviously the ultimate juv Yellow-legged Gull ID guide is on Not Quite Scilly, but have a look at the following link. In particular the lower photo showing the open wing of a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull (the bird in flight), and I suspect by total fluke, a juvenile Herring Gull too (the bird on the water). Subtle but conclusive...

Right, time for some moth pics and updates now! There's four traps full of moths to talk about, so I'll try and condense it and make it as pretty as possible.

First of all I'll talk about my night of mothing at a new site near Colyford on the night of 13th/14th. It's basically a large garden, high up, on the edge of mixed farm land and not far at all from woodland.  The weather was perfect for mothing and in the morning I had 287 moths of 58 species.  This included a new species for me...

Cloaked Carpet

And there were plenty of other highlights...

Scallop Shell

Scarce Silver-lines

Drinker moth

Peach Blossom - not rare but always great to see

Just for interest, a White Ermine in front of a Buff Ermine

The other three nights of moth trapping have been at my usual site, Mum and Dad's garden.  The most recent attempt, last Sunday night, was cut short. Shortly after darkness fell we had the most horrendous rain storm, so the trap had to be turned off. At 2am though the rain had passed so the trap was turned back on. 

As it wasn't a full night I didn't count everything as I usually do, but I was surprised how much was in there. The highlight being a first for the garden!  This is exciting as I don't get many any more, and it was quite a nice one too...

Blue-bordered Carpet

It was also good to see some new species for the year, with at least six of these...

Rosy Footman

And one of these...

Ruby Tiger

The other nights I trapped were the 14th when I caught 176 moths of 41 species and the 16th when I caught 184 moths of 48 species.

Thie highlights were...

Scorched Carpet - I don't catch many of these

Female Ghost Moth, again I catch very few of these

My second Small Elephant Hawkmoth of the year

Beautiful Hook-tip - common but my first of the year

Scalloped Oak - again common but my first of the year

 Hopefully I'll have some notable birds to blog about in the near future, even a Wood Sandpiper would do!

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Gulls; An Easy Way To Waste A Day!

I've not been around for most of today, but when I got back on patch at 15:00, after a quick look over the sea for any one of the 18 Balearic Shearwaters that flew past Portland today, a look along the Estuary showed masses of big gulls. And I mean masses, way more than I've seen for months.  

Two Lesser Black-backs were notable, but I was almost a tad jubilant when I spied our first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of the year. The heat haze was crazy, and it was distant, but I had to take some photos...

A nice bulky one

It was a cracker to be honest, and I think the first juv YLG I've ID'd before ageing (usually I just look for a pale juv large Gull!). The head/bill profile stopped me in my tracks when its body was mostly obscured - nice white spot at base of bill hinted YLG too along with the eye mask, and a brief glimpse of its mantle helped which looked browner than a juv Herring's (I find this feature quite striking). Then it revealed itself, lovely pale front and yes, a crisp fresh juvenile.  I know you can't really tell its age from the above photo, but I think you can just in this one...

You can actually make out the jet black tertials

A lot of the gulls were out of view/impossible to view due to the haze. So there could well have been another few in amongst them.  I did have a distant prob older YLG too, but it was at the back of the flock and just occasionally showed its head/bill and an apparent darker mantle than the surrounding Herring Gulls

I had another look over the sea after this, still no Balearics!  I did though have five Med Gulls fly west, along with 18 Black-headed Gulls.  No sign however of the flock of 65+ Common Scoter that were settled offshore late yesterday evening.

This wasn't the only birding I've done today. I was up early and had a look over Black Hole Marsh before breakfast. Wader numbers pretty similar to recent days, and yesterday's juv Little Ringed Plover remained and was showing well...

Lovely bird - still need it LRP for the house list though so I hope it gets a bit more vocal!

I did have a moth trap on at Mum and Dads last night. I won't post details in this post (again!), but that does mean I have details of three traps full of moths for an imminent blog post. Bet you can't wait....

Monday 15 July 2013

Hot Weather Birding

Had a couple of hours out this morning birding, which was nice. Had to come home when the temperates got up though - I have always found my binocular strap incredibly uncomfortable when sweat comes into the equation!

A short sea watch from Seaton showed a few bits and pieces. I was hoping to see a Balearic Shearwater or two, although not many have been reported as yet this year this hot weather could easily entice a load up - in fact I'm surprised it hasn't already.  When I spotted a distant Shearwater heading west over the flat sea I thought my gamble had paid off, but surprisingly it was a Manxie.  Other notable birds included an adult Med Gull east, two Sandwich Terns fishing close in and two Common Scoters sat on the sea.

Mid morning I went to Black Hole Marsh, where wader numbers are ever increasing. Black-tailed Godwits are up to 12, with nine Dunlin. Also eight Common Sands, five Lapwing, two Greenshank, one Green Sandpiper and a Whimbrel. Lots of Black-headed Gulls again but not even a Med Gull in with them today.  

Nice to see plenty of insects around the marsh. Of all of them, this Comma was the most showy and just had to be papped...

Although I am always moaning about the heat, I'm pleased for the insects!

To complete my bird news for the day, had Crossbill again at Mum and Dad's. Didn't see it, just heard it a few times calling somewhere from the west. It sounded settled too.

I've had a moth trap out on each of the last two nights - but I'll save this for another post (probably tomorrow).  Nothing earth shattering but some nice species.

Friday 12 July 2013

An Exciting Morning

Had a really enjoyable morning, thanks to my varied interests in the natural world. I do like July, always have, autumn migration begins in the bird world, there's young birds all over the place (or should be - there wasn't last year!), and insects are out in force.

As this is a 'birding blog', I'll start with birds, and my second patch year tick of the month. Species number 178 to be precise - just 22 to go!

Whilst checking the contents of my moth trap this morning at Mum and Dad's (more on that later), a Crossbill flew west over chipping away. Last winter there were simply no Crossbills anywhere - so I was worried about getting this species on to my patch year list, thankfully though something of a mini-influx has taken place in the UK within the past few weeks. Interestingly, roughly half of my non-Morganhayes Woods patch Crossbills (i.e. vis mig birds) have been from Mum and Dad's. Couchill Woods is just over the hill, and the height makes it a good spot for vis mig in general. Most of them have been July/August too.   

I went down to Black Hole Marsh afterwards - to coincide with the high tide. Lots of Black-headed Gulls roosting, 380 to be precise(ish!). This included 18 juvs, along with one Med Gull. Sadly no Little or Bonaparte's yet, but I can feel it coming I really can.  Just for Laurie (and anyone else who wants to play) let's have a game of Spot the Med Gull...

There's three juv Black-heads in the photo too

Plenty of other juvenile birds about too, some locally born and others not so. Some of the locally hatched juvs included lots of Shelduck families, with most the ducklings looking like this...

But also a couple of new younger families like this...

The Oystercatcher chicks are no longer chicks. What a success story this is, one young raised in 2011, none in 2012 and THREE this year.  Here's one of the adults watching out so the rest of the family can rest...

Two juvenile Redshank (with ten adults) may have been locally grown, but the juv Little Ringed Plover certainly wasn't - my first of the autumn. Other waders here included three Dunlin (also my first of the autumn, all in smart summer plumage), three Lapwing, two Blackwits and at least six Common Sands.

Random I know, but here's a Goldfinch photo. I don't usually post photos of common birds, simly because I never take good pictures of them. With the exception of the grass head in front of its tail, I'm quite happy with this one...

They've got to be one of the flashiest of the resident common birds in the UK

Right, it's moth time now.

It was much cooler last night, with a bit of breeze at times too, so I wasn't surprised to have just 96 moths of 24 species in the trap. There were some excellent species amongst them though - some really nice variety.

Best of all was the garden's fifth Hawkmoth of the year, and only my second ever Small Elephant Hawkmoth...

I don't need to tell you which one it is. Clue is in the name :-)

A Dog's Tooth was a bit of a rarity for me to. They are a marshland/estuarine species really, and this is only the third one I've trapped in the garden...

Look at those sharp pointed 'teeth' at the end of the wing

Had another Crescent Dart in the trap too, my third of the year...

All three have been males

 And although not rare, new species for the year included these...

Light Arches (with a Dark Arches for comparison)

A Shark

To finish off the post, I always like to leave moths in a safe place when I've finished with them. But I even found this Buff-tip a mate...

Or so it thinks....

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Moth Mayhem

I said in my last post I was going to put the moth trap out on Monday night. I did indeed, and on Tuesday morning I had myself a whopping 266 moths of 56 species!  I wont list them all, just summarise..

Dark Arches were the most numerous, with 39 of these, followed by Heart and Dart (22).  The third most numerous species was Elephant Hawkmoth, with 19 in the trap! It was a good showing of Hawkmoth in fact, with four Poplar and three Eyed making a total of 26 Hawkmoths in the trap!

All three on this egg box

A better shot of an Eyed Hawkmoth

Some of the other highlights included:

True Lovers Knot

Green Silver-lines (had three of these)

Burnished Brass

Flame Carpet

Figure of Eighty

Lobster Moth

Common Emerald (with a Dot Moth to the left)

Plain Golden Y

The Plain Golden Y with a Silver Y

And these, although common species, were good to see for the first time this year...


Light Emerald

Coronet - doesn't that look like a skull!

Even the small macros can be smart, like this Small Yellow Wave...

It's tiny but beautiful

And how about this Small Seraphim...

....what do you mean you can't see it? Try this....

...still struggling!? Well this is as close as I could get the camera...

How about that for camouflage!

I'll have the trap out again maybe tomorrow night. If not Friday night for sure. I might try a new trapping location too which is exciting!  

Since my last post about Black Hole Marsh autumn really has kicked off on the Axe. Although I've not seen any of it there's been a couple of Little Ringed Plovers, a Ruff and an Osprey.  Hopefully there's a biggy around the corner and hopefully I see it!

Monday 8 July 2013

Back In Business

I couldn't sleep last night, the heat didn't help, but there was another reason... I was too busy listening to birds!

It's weird, during the day I don't hear any water birds from the house, but after dark I can hear so much from Black Hole Marsh. Last night I added Greenshank to the house list thanks to a very vocal bird interrupting the almost constant calls of Redshank. The odd Curlew and Oystercather called, and lots of Black-headed Gulls - this surprised me as I just presumed that during the summer they roost on the sea like they do in the winter. I even heard the wing beats of a Mute Swan (or two) fly past!

After hearing all this bird life at Black Hole Marsh, at 8am this morning I headed down there for a look, and I was impressed with what I saw.  Sadly the 230 Black-headed Gulls didn't include any goodies, although it did include nine juveniles though - weird looking things that they are!  There was a nice mix of waders on the marsh with Common Sandpiper being the most numerous (eight), along with a single Green Sandpiper. There were two each of Black-tailed Godwit and Lapwing, and a single Greenshank was in the corner by the Tower Hide.  Two Teal were my first of the 'autumn' - although I was cursing them for not being Garganey! I also saw my first juv Kingfisher of the year and a small number of Sand Martins overhead included some juvs. I'll be keeping my eye on this place from now, I really do fancy a nice Terek Sand!

I've been annoyed for much of today that I hadn't put my moth trap out last night, so I cheered myself up by looking at some other insects. Lower Bruckland Ponds is always the best place to go around here for some Odonata action!

It was really good to see lots and lots on the wing. Common Blue, Azure and Blue-tailed Damselflies were everywhere (no Red-eyed of either variety though), with Emperors patrolling most parts of the lakes. Saw my first Beautiful Demoiselle of the year too.  Photography was hard as nothing was staying still for long, although I did have chance to snap this Four-spotted Chaser...

Saw about five of these

And here's one of the many male Black-tailed Skimmers...

I was hoping for a nice Red-veined Darter, a species which have bred here, or better still another Lesser Emperor! No such luck though, not today anyway.

There were a few more ducks here than of late, in fact probably the most I've seen here all year. And amongst the moulting Mallards I was surprised to see two Shoveler...

Both males, I think an adult and a juv but I could be wrong

It was also pleased to confirm Little Grebes have bred here again. although I could only see one juv.

Right that's enough for now, I am over heating here in my office. Hopefully I'll have a moth trap out tonight, that's if I've not passed out from sun stroke by then! It really is hot!