Monday, 29 August 2016

Tree Pipit Triumph

I'd describe myself as a pretty dedicated patch birder. Sure it helps to have such a great patch, but I do love patch birding in general. One of the things I most like about it is how relatively common, sometimes even nationally VERY common birds can become so much more.  I have read many times of birds like Coots, Mute Swans, and my god even Canada Geese making someones morning by appearing out of the blue on their patch. How brilliant is that! Patch birding can add a new dimension to birding which otherwise simply wouldn't be there.

One persons dross is another persons mega!

The main problem with the Axe patch is it is so bloody big! We calculated the boundary by drawing a circle with a radius of 5km from the lower road bridge over the River Axe (Harbour Road, Seaton). Yes we only have ourselves to blame for it being so big, but we wanted to include all our key sites like Beer Head, Axe Cliff, Bovey Down, Branscombe, etc.  Having a patch this big makes deciding where to go often very hard, but also it makes finding rares so much more challenging. There must be thousands of private gardens within our patch, who knows how many Wrynecks and Hoopoes annually hunker down in these? There's acres of woodlands, and even more open farmland with hedges and scrub.  I think this is the main reason why none of us have ever seen a Shrike here. One could drop in anywhere and if it doesn't happen to be at one of the places we check, then we just wouldn't know it was ever there...

It's because of this that I always make a point of checking areas away from the regularly birded haunts.  And there's one small patch of scrub and rough grassland in Seaton that I check many times over the course of spring and autumn - it just looks so good for a Shrike or a Wryneck. So far, no Shrikes or Wrynecks, but I have had a modest selection of commoner migrants up here over the years.  And last Thursday afternoon, I added a new species to this micro-patch, when two Tree Pipits flushed up from the grass in front of me...

They clearly didn't get on with each other! Notice the short hind claws

This one had quite a striking ear covert spot cf. Olive-backed Pipit.

Although I had seen 16 Tree Pipits earlier that day on Beer Head, these two meant so much more. I knew I was going to see Tree Pipits on Beer Head even before I stepped out of my car, but I really was not expecting these. Yes I know they are relatively common migrants, but it really feels like they have rewarded my efforts, and they have certainly fired me up to visit this site a bit more often now. Hopefully next week it will be the turn of a Shrike or a Wryneck...

Lastly, I just want to thank you for all the comments I've had (via twitter, email, the blog) about my last blog post. And it seems that not only am I inspiring people to get out birding, but also other bloggers to write.

Oh and by the way, so far Photo B is way in the lead, but I will wait until the vote closes before announcing the winner.

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