Friday, 26 August 2016

Beer Head Bird Binge

Very different weather conditions up Beer Head this morning, not a cloud in the sky and hardly a breath of wind. 

Pre-dawn looking east to Seaton Bay and Axe Cliff

A few hours later looking west

After yesterday's debacle I didn't even consider bird ringing this morning, I just packed my bins, camera and a breakfast bar and went for a wander - well I clocked up 4 miles actually!  The birding was so exciting, there's nothing better than being surrounded my migrant passerines at a beautiful location such as Beer Head, and in such nice weather too! I'm also desperate for a patch Ortolan and now's as good a time as any to try my hardest for one. 

A beautiful scene, but can you spot the Whinchat?

I was up here for four hours from 06:10 and noted; 

1 Egret sp. (this was so annoying. Rear end views of a large and deep wing-beating Egret heading NE overhead just after 9am - well aware how tricky it is judging size on lone white birds though so could do nothing more with it)
2 Skylark
2 Tree Pipit (over)
50+ Yellow Wagtail (c25 with sheep with more overhead)
40+ Wheatear
2 Whinchat
3 Stonechat (juvs)
4 Redstart (2m 2f)
2 Garden Warbler (one in Dell, one Branscombe slopes)
3 Blackcap
1 Lesser Whitethroat (stunning fresh juv in Sheepwalk, gutted it never popped back out for a pap. Oh and sorry Ian P!)
12 Whitethroat 
15 Willow Warbler
8 Chiffchaff
6 Spotted Flycatcher 

So, far fewer Tree Pipits than yesterday, but more of everything else. I had the feeling some of these birds were remainders from yesterday, for example two of the Spot Flies were with a female Redstart and flicking between the Sheepwalk and the Hollow, just like yesterday.

And here's a few more pics...

One of the Whinchats and it's shadow!

Juv Stonechat

Same again, a juv Stonechat

The colours on autumn male Wheatears are amazing. So much more than those beige juvs!

Spot Fly

Another Spot Fly

An elusive male Redstart - all of the four were buggers to get a good look at

Yellow Wags by their second most favoured choice of livestock!

Yellow Wag posing a bit better

Ok I think that's enough bird pictures for now.  Having a P900 makes it hard not to point and shoot and everything you see, however far away!

What was extra rewarding about this morning was the trek out to the upper slopes of Branscombe...

Short grass and plenty of bare ground and scrub

Almost every time I come out here and have a good look around, despite how yummy the habitat looks, I rarely see much at all.  That was different though today, and the area shown in the  photo above was home to ten Wheatear, four Whitethroat, two Redstart, two Blackcap, one Garden Warbler and a Spot Fly. It was just after I took this photo when I picked up the flying Egret, can't lie it did put a slight downer on things - I never like things getting away from me.

After Beer Head I gave the Estuary a couple of sweeps looking for big white things (whatever their bill shape!), failed on this but saw a lovely juv Marsh Harrier.  I would have said this was the bird Tim Wright saw a couple of days ago, but I don't think it was because this is the first Marsh Harrier I've ever seen here actually arriving - all the previous ones I've stumbled upon in the valley have already been over the marsh hunting.  I first clocked it thanks to an alarming Herring Gull behind me high above the hill above Axmouth.  It seemed to be drifting high west, but then dropped like a stone...

Marsh Harrier losing height!

And began to hunt over the marsh, with Crows in attendance as ever...

You can just about make out the pale fringes to the coverts, making this a juvenile

It's amazing to see how this species has increased here, in line with an increase and spread in breeding range across the UK. Ten years ago they weren't even annual, but this is probably our fifth of sixth individual of this year alone...

So all in all, a cracking morning, one that really got my juices flowing. But I must say it does feel like I am missing something.... Oh yes, now where's that Ortolan...

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