Tuesday 28 February 2017

Another Yellow-legged Gull

Last Wednesday was a day of large gull passage, and Sunday just gone was a day of small gull passage.  A walk along Seaton Beach that morning revealed almost constant flocks of Common and Black-headed Gulls flying west, with two adult Med Gulls in one of these flocks.  Later that day Ian Mc and Twilight Tim had superb numbers of small gulls on the Estuary, including impressive counts of 18+ Meds and 350+ Commons, but only modest numbers of large gulls.  

Yesterday seemed to show fewer small gulls, but more big ones again.  Among them was this third-winter Yellow-legged Gull, which sadly remained distant but always looked nicely chunky and well built (unlike last weeks small second-winter). I really do apologise for these photos, not only was it distant but the light was dreadful too...

It only showed pale yellow legs, but due to its age this isn't a problem. Great to see this bird after last weeks second-winter, as these two ages are the least frequently seen ages of Yellow-legged Gull on the Axe.   

The south westerly wind yesterday kept me at the Spot On Kiosk for a good hour earlier in the day.  Gannets and Kittiwakes were constantly trickling through, along with a few auks, but the only other bits and pieces included two lone Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver.  Today there were still at least four Cattle Egret at Colcombe Farm, Colyton. All the egrets were well spread out so the fifth could still be present.

Lastly, James Mc gave me some teasing news yesterday, with three Egyptian Geese in fields just north of Axminster.  I really hope they wander a little further south...

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Excellent Gull Passage

What an exciting few days. February is a great month for gull passage and the last few days have not disappointed. Today I had quite a bit of free time and could barely tear myself away from the Estuary.  It was nice to spend time gulling with Gav too, just like the old days!  What was telling was that he wasn't even working in the area today...

Iceland Gull was the rarest of the days birds, found by Ian Mc at about 08:55 down by the tram sheds. It was a first-winter/juv, so not last weeks bird and probably my third different Iceland Gull in as many weeks!  I would have been able to post a nice photo of it here but for the bait digger who decided to flush the lot just after my arrival, so this is my only pic of it...

The middle bird. Yes I know it looks to have dark in the wing tips but that's just shadows

Next best bird was this second-winter Yellow-legged Gull.  I first saw it mid morning but sat with a bunch of Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the rain it looked short legged and rather unimpressive in overall structure, so I put it down as a probable hybrid-type. But Gav picked it up again later and we both watched it for much longer and in better light, and he soon managed to change my mind. Yes it was not long legged at all, and didn't have a strong bill, but everything else was absolutely perfect for second-winter Yellow-legged Gull. It was such a smart and clean bird, really pristine looking, hybrids always seem to look 'messy'. So a small female Yellow-legged Gull it is, but do drop me a line if you (Tim/Mike/Matt?) don't agree...

For me though today was all about the Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  There were 75 along the Estuary mid afternoon, but with birds coming and going all day, and no fewer than 40 birds on the river at any one time, who knows how many really passed through? As always with Lesser Black-backed Gulls at this time of year they came in a variety of mantle shades...

One of them was colour-ringed though, and it looks like 'V6VU' was ringed in Denmark. I will let you all know when I hear back about its ringing details, as this would be a confirmed intermedius if it originates from here. I do wonder whether all these spring passage Lesser Black-backs are intermedius though - even the slightly less black mantled birds!?

I only saw two adult Med Gulls today, but at least one of them was different from the five of yesterday. The five yesterday included a green-ringed second-winter, which was another new bird for me.  The last few weeks have seen a steady turn over of Med Gulls, I've seen at least 20 different individuals on the Axe this month, only two second-winters and one first-winter though.

Also yesterday the Lesser Black-backed count got to 44, and there were 135 Common Gulls which is more proof of gull passage.

Right let's leave the gulls for now, and I'll try and tidy up all my other patch birding sightings for the last few days. I'll start with the sea, and that's where I started today (as usual!). In 45 minutes I had eight Red-throated Divers and three Common Scoters west, along with a lovely pod of Bottlenose Dolphins.  There were at least six animals, including three calves that were jumping around all over the place, but they always remained distant and quickly headed off west.

Yesterday the sea gave twelve Red-throated Divers, but little else.  And on Monday I gave it an hour despite how quiet it was, and was rewarded with a fine drake Pintail close west with a Wigeon. Also two Red-throated Divers and a Razorbill.  I just WISH I stayed on an extra ten minutes or so though, as Ian Mc from another spot had a Velvet Scoter fly west shortly after I packed away my telescope. So gripping!!  I've given the sea so much time and effort this year hoping for something like this, and each watch one or two Scoters go by, but for me so far none of them have had white secondaries.  I suppose something like this was always going to happen though, I can't watch the sea all the time!

The Brent Goose is still knocking around with the Canada Goose flock in the valley, but another bad miss was a Goosander seen by others flying down and then upriver at dusk on Monday. Bums.

Dark-bellied Brent Goose

On the western boundary of our patch there's still Golden Plovers about, had 16 last Wednesday and 47 on Sunday morning. Also saw 50+ Snipe today in a field near Hangman's Stone (the Beer turn off on the A3052) which was a bit of a surprise.  

It's been nice to finally see some more Siskin about, I had 15 alongside the River Coly just north of Chantry Bridge last Saturday, and another couple over Lower Bruckland Ponds (yeah on my PWC patch finally!).

And last but by no means least, Chiffchaffs. Both Colyford and Branscombe sewage works are still home to plenty of Chiffchaffs, with many of them singing in recent days too which is nice.  The ringed tristis is still at Colyford WTW and there were at least two grey birds at Branscombe too.

Even wetter and windier tomorrow, can't wait to see what the Estuary has to offer us...

Thursday 16 February 2017

Jam with my Dinner

I couldn't have scripted it better myself!

Early afternoon today I noticed a few tweets from Portland about a Red Kite flying around the island. This was enough to make me open our small kitchen window as I cooked my pre-work dinner, in case the local Herring Gulls had something to tell me about. And I kid you not, no more than five minutes later the distinctive 'there's a raptor about' alarm call from the local Herring Gulls got me outside, and a few minutes after that there was a first-year Red Kite soaring above the field to the north of my house! 

It quickly got itself together and headed off south east with a Crow for company...

As you can see from the upper photo it's quite a distinctive individual. The bird is missing a primary from its right wing and the left tail folk is severely damaged. Do let me know if you think you see it, and I will be keeping a close eye on any Red Kite photos taken in the south west within the next week or so.  Wouldn't it be great if we were able to track its movements.

There was another treat today too, when a look through the gulls on the Estuary at 13:40 produced this stunning second-winter Iceland Gull...

What a beaut! And what a productive afternoon. More of this please...

Monday 13 February 2017

Spring Wader Passage?

Just a couple of snippets of interest from the past few days to tell in today's blog post

Friday morning last week saw a slight surprise in the form of a Ringed Plover on Seaton beach. This was probably our first true sign of spring passage as there's not been a Ringed Plover on patch since October 2016. With the temperatures turning mild later this week I wonder if any other signs of spring will emerge?

On Thursday of last week it was nice to see two good-looking tristis Chiffchaffs at Colyford WTW.  The first bird was ringed (presumably the bird ringed here by Mike Tyler on 28th Dec 2016) and came straight in to a recording of tristis song. The second bird was along the lane just north of the WTW, and looked even smarter than the ringed bird with proper 'Daz white' underparts, but it never called. Sadly neither posed well enough for photos, but if they stick around some more hopefully I'll get some shots.

It's been great to see far more Med Gulls about recently. In the first winter period they were so scarce here, but in the last few weeks I've been seeing ones and twos far more frequently. Adults in all stages of head moult and a couple of second-winters too, probably over ten different birds in the last two weeks, including sadly one with a damaged wing by the tram sheds.

The only bits of interest from today include the wintering Grey Plover still on the Estuary, a drake Gadwall for its second day hanging out below the Tower Hide, and the Brent Goose that has been around since Saturday on Colyford Marsh.

I hate posting photo-less posts, so have a token Kestrel from mid January.  There seems to be a few more of these about than the last few years, with at least five wintering on patch...

Wednesday 8 February 2017

Cattle Egrets

Haven't been around here much on this lovely and still day, so my patch news for today includes nothing better than a lone male Common Scoter feeding close inshore at Seaton Hole late this morning. Pity it wasn't an Eider!

Yesterday afternoon it was nice to see the five Cattle Egrets still with us. One was feeding with two Little Egrets and the cattle alongside Cowhayne Lane, Colyford...

With four huddled together at Colcombe Farm, Colyton about five minutes later...

All the Egrets here took flight after half an hour or so, and one landed in a field close to where I was parked on Lion's Hill Close. Just a pity my camera decided to focus on the grass in front of the bird and not the bird, I wish I had flicked over to manual focus...

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Iceland Gull

Well this is uncanny!

Last week I blogged about how the large numbers of wildfowl in the valley annoyingly contained only the usual Axe species, then the next morning I went out and there were three Pintail. Last night I blogged about how I was really expecting a scarce gull yesterday afternoon considering the gulls numbers and weather conditions but failed, and at 08:30 off Seaton Hole this morning...

A flipping Iceland Gull! Apologies for the photo, I stupidly left my trusty Nikon P900 in my car so had to resort to my mobile phone camera. The light was truly awful as well, I first spotted it as it drifted out of the line of sunlight, albeit not all that far out, and it didn't move far from that spot...

Well until it took flight about two minutes later. It flew really close in west with three other gulls towards Beer Beach, but I couldn't see it there half an hour later.

Thanks to the light, and the fact it took me ages to line my phone camera up with my scope and the bird to get these few record shots (why is that SO hard!??), I didn't really obtain the best view of it, but I saw nothing to suggest it was anything other than a juvenile/first-winter bird...

Hopefully it hangs around for others to see, and I wouldn't mind a better look myself. But still, I'm well chuffed with it, and what a cracking PWC2017 year tick!

Monday 6 February 2017

No Good Gulls

I spent a lot of time checking the three large gatherings of gulls in the valley this afternoon, despite the wind and sometimes very heavy rain.  With each scope scan I felt a nice white-winger or crisp first-winter Caspian Gull was next up, it looked so perfect... but just wasn't to be.  In a way this was similar to last Friday, the large numbers of Black-headed and Common Gulls feeding close in over rough seas looked a perfect place for a Little Gull to be. James Mc had two off Lyme Regis but Seaton clearly didn't take their fancy.

I had to do my monthly woodland bird survey this morning, in private woodland near Colyton. This sadly is well outside from my Patchwork Challenge patch, I say sadly because I saw so much!

The three Woodcock were expected - in fact this is well below the usual wintering numbers here, but the Crossbill, Lesser Redpoll and even the eight Siskin were something of a surprise. It's been such a poor winter for most of the finch species down in the valley that I wasn't expecting any of these.  Superb.

Being in Colyton I thought I'd have a look at the four Cattle Egrets at Colcombe... and there were five!  I did think I had five last week come out of roost so maybe not a new arrival, just one that's relocated to Colcombe?  

If you want to see these Cattle Egrets you have to chose where to view them from dependent on where the cattle, and birds are. Sometimes they show well from Station Road/Rosemary Lane, but more often than not Yardbury Hill Road/Lions Close Hill is a good option. They are more distant from here but you can look over the whole field.  Please remember though that the road that leads to Colcombe Farm (Colcombe Road) is a private road and however tempting you shouldn't be viewing from here.

Thursday 2 February 2017

A Trio of Tails

So yesterday I mentioned how the excellent numbers of wildfowl on the flood water in the valley didn't contain anything other than usual Axe species. But this morning...

Three truly beautiful drake Pintail on Bridge Marsh. Happy days.

Wednesday 1 February 2017

Usual UK Winter Weather!

Boy has it been grim out there this week, with pretty hefty winds, lots of rain and all round dampness.  But there has been plenty of birds about which more than makes up for it.

Not before time our now seemingly semi-resident Cattle Egret has pulled in some friends. Twilight Tim had four yesterday afternoon in the usual spot at Colyton, and this morning I saw at least four leave the egret roost at Axmouth and head north between 07:20 and 07:30. I actually think there were five as it looked like a group of four left together, followed by a single bird about two minutes later. Also noted c30 Little Egrets and a brucy bonus in the form of a Woodcock over east just after 7am. Really don't see many of these in the valley, I guess it was returning to the cover of the wooded hills after a night of feeding on the marsh. Didn't have to risk your life for me after all Bun!

The flood water in the valley over the last few days has been heaving with wildfowl, particularly Bridge Marsh and the field opposite Axmouth FC (the field that's usually just a field, but has had Cattle Egret, Bewick's Swans, Garganey, Little Gull, Curlew Sandpiper, several Little Ringed Plovers, Long-billed Dowitcher, Lapland Bunting and Water Pipit!). Sadly the wildfowl on show have only been the common Axe species, but it's been nice to see and be able to properly look through over 500 Wigeon, 100 Teal and a few Shoveler

Gull numbers however have been very poor, despite the gull-friendly weather.  The only increase has been in Mediterranean Gulls, with three winter plumaged adults down river at dusk yesterday, an adult east over the sea this morning, and a slightly hooded adult opposite Axmouth FC this afternoon...

Sea watching has also been quiet - which I guess is to be expected in late Jan/early Feb. As well as the Med Gull this morning, three Red-throated Divers and a Common Scoter flew west. Yesterday I finally managed to see a Guillemot after a month of just Razorbills, with one in winter plumage settled off Seaton Hole, along with another lone Common Scoter past west.

No sign of the Trinity Hill Little Bunting during a 45 mins look this morning, but it finally popped out at about 13:00 for others.