Wednesday, 4 November 2015

A Cracking November Day Plus Another Yellow-browed

The first part of this post's title does not refer to the weather, it's been pretty grotty for most of the day, but at least the wind has remained light/non-existent. Birding wise though I have had a thoroughly enjoyable day with some real nice highlights, and that's despite spending more than four hours of the day sat in front of this laptop! (Probably five by the time I've finished writing this post!).

Had to take the dog for a walk this morning, so soon after breakfast we headed up to Beer Head for a wander (thankfully Honey is used to frequent pauses during her walks!).  The bushes were in general very quiet, with just a Chiff and two Goldcrest noted. There were clearly a few thrushes about though with 15+ Blackbird, 15 Redwing, six Song Thrush and a Mistle Thrush noted.  Overhead passage was also quiet (probably due to the occasional drizzle) with just small numbers of Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Chaffinch, two Redpoll and singles of Siskin and Reed Bunting.

It was a very worthwhile walk though as there was one major (and overdue this autumn) highlight, a beautiful Short-eared Owl. It came up from the base of some bushes just a few feet in front of me, and treated me to an amazing close fly by. But within what seemed like a few seconds it was distant, beyond the cliff edge. Oddly though it then remained on view for forty minutes as it didn't seem to know what it was doing or where it was going, drifting off north, then back south, flying off to the east then back west. It finally seemed to be heading off as I was getting back in my car, I could see it distantly flying east across Seaton Bay.  

Just about identifiable.

A rather dramatic photo I think, or just crap...
Despite all the time I spend up Beer Head during the spring and autumn, this was amazingly my first Short-eared for the site! There has been a couple in the past but I have just never jammed in to one here, which is surprising because I've seen half a dozen at Axe Cliff, a few less in the river valley, one over the sea front and two in the Beer Cemetery Fields (just inland from Beer Head).

On the way home I pulled in at Seaton Hole where at least one of the Firecrest was still showing, there's been at least two here for a week now...

It was a male, not that you can tell that from this pic!

I was home by mid morning and got my head down.  Lunch time was soon upon me and I realised there wasn't much food in the house, so en route to the shops I stopped off at Axmouth Yacht Club. I've been here a few times in the last week but haven't seen any more Black Redstarts since the two last Tuesday, so was surprised to see three today including a stunning adult male.  None of them were very co-operative though and remained skittish...

Male Black Red

And again

One of the female-types

Back home, and after a bite to eat and another couple of hours of laptop work, it was time to take Honey out for her second walk of the day.  I drove along the Estuary on way, where small numbers of gulls included my first Med Gull (an adult) for almost a month...

Second from the right

The biggest surprise though was when I pulled over to have a scan over Colyford Marsh, and I picked up ring-tail Harrier being chased by a Crow over the reed bed. Flipping heck!!  I scrambled for the scope, and thankfully after a nervous couple of minutes of no sign, it reappeared and showed itself to be a gorgeous juvenile Hen Harrier.  Pity it wasn't the rarer species of Harrier, but Hen is rare enough here - only my third ever on patch.  I just managed to grab a couple of dreadfully poor record shots before it dropped down out of view behind a hedge, I'm not sure whether it carried on flying north or landed.

Can just about make out a white rump and I'd say a broad wing tip (if you squint!)

Yes an even worse photo!!

So all in all an excellent day.  I do like early November, it can be a great time of year on the south coast, although a bit of cold weather wouldn't go a miss.  

Yesterday I had even less time out, in fact much to Honey's dismay she only got one walk (tut tut bad me!). Late morning we had a wander up Axmouth village, although didn't walk as far as usual as it sounded like World War Two with the amount gun fire around the Spring Head area!  Anyway, turns out we didn't have to walk that far at all, as half way through the wander I thought I half heard a Yellow-browed call once from dense cover behind a couple of noisy Coal Tits. I got the mp3 out and played Yellow-browed call, and about twenty seconds later a small bird flew from behind me and landed in the tree right by the road, Yellow-browed Warbler.  It remained in this tree and in view for about a minute, but then melted away in to the trees behind and I didn't see it again during the next hour (Gav joined me but sadly dipped).   I thought I took a couple of pics of it but on downloading the photos all I took is photos of leaves!!

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