Wednesday 26 December 2018

A Balmy Boxing Day Walk at Branscombe

Long time no post!  Sorry, it's been a busy few months with lots going on. But before I go any further let me wish you all a (belated) Merry Christmas.

Late this morning we went for a family walk in Branscombe. It was really mild out, with plenty of Robins, a Dunnock and a Goldfinch in full song - and then this Peacock butterfly came flying past...

Around the sewage works I couldn't find any Firecrest or Yellow-browed, but among the eight or so Chiffchaffs were two lovely examples of tristis Siberian Chiffchaff, the first ones I've seen this winter. I couldn't get any decent photos of either of them as they never came that close, but here's two record shots of one bird...

Like a ghost in the undergrowth!

Almost didn't post this one as it's so dreadful, but it does show upperpart colour well, more like a Garden Warbler than a Chiff!

Beer Head from Branscombe - shame a Great Spotted Cuckoo didn't fly into view!!  It felt warm enough for one.

And lastly, as I've not posted a shot of him on here for a while, here's our little man enjoying Christmas 2018...

He's turning into such a wonderful young man

Really hope I don't keep you guys waiting as long for the next blog post...

Sunday 11 November 2018

Arctic Tern Remains

Just a quick one to say the Arctic Tern was still around today, I watched it feeding off the seafront late this afternoon with Black-headed Gulls.  So 11th Nov becomes my latest date for a UK Arctic Tern!

I also noted my first Fieldfare of the autumn this morning, not far from my house - nice to hear that 'chack' again! Weeks later than I usually get my first though. 

Other news from the patch today include three Black Redstarts (one adult male) between West Walk and Seaton Hole.

Saturday 10 November 2018

Arctic Tern

Although we've had wet and windy weather for most of the last week, last night the south coast got a real battering so I was keen to spend time on the sea front this morning.  It was clear to see it had been a lively night...

Looking east from Spot On Kiosk

I wasn't expecting to see many birds passing, and I was right; just two Kittiwake and a Gannet flew by in the 45 minutes I was watching.  I was hoping more for a storm-blown Little Gull or such-like, and was encouraged by the 300+ Black-headed Gulls feeding at various points off the beach.  Sadly there was no Little Gull, but a cracking juv Arctic Tern more than made up for that!  It remained on view the whole time I was there, feeding close in between Fisherman's Gap and the mouth of the Axe.  It even came close enough to allow for some reasonable shots...

Black-headed Gull above the Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern showing off the white-trailing edge to its secondaries, this would be darker grey if it were a young Common Tern

Arctic Tern showing nice short all-dark bill and again those lovely pure white trailing edges to the secondaries

I took this when it was much further down the beach, but I wanted to show how juv Arctic Terns can look almost Sabine's-like at times - they have such contrasty wings quite unlike young Common Terns.

Later in the day, early afternoon, I was delighted to see the Arctic Tern again, but this time on the Estuary!  Only the third Arctic Tern I've ever seen on the Estuary - I've seen more Black Terns here!

Arctic Tern roosting with gulls

Arctic Tern resting on the water, lovely cute head and small bill obvious here

Arctic Tern flying down the Axe - perfect wing pattern on show here

Again, but this one is a video still. Best pic showing overall shape in flight

The wind was still quite strong early afternoon, and when it is so windy I find using 'flight-style' pretty useless when ID'ing terns, but here's a video anyway. Sorry it's so shaky...

I do apologise for the overload of photos of one tern, but we never do that well for any terns here really and Arctic Terns are scarce - you could easily go a year without seeing one.  So I just had to make the most of a lingering and fairly showy one, in my favourite plumage too!.  I'm pretty sure this is my latest ever Arctic Tern, but I have seen a later Common Tern here (which is unusual), with an adult on the Estuary on 13th Nov 2014 found by Tim Wright.  One day I will use these pics to do an ID post for juv Arctic vs Common - I just need to get some pics of a young Common Tern now! 

I had another look along the estuary later in the afternoon, when it was nice to get some good views of six Cattle Egret in the field just south west of Boshill Cross...

4 of the 6 Cattle Egrets

Looking where this Cattle Egret is stood I do wonder how often Cattle Egrets get pooped on!?

There weren't many gulls on the Estuary, but one of the most distant flocks contained a second-winter Yellow-legged Gull which was rather nice, not a common age here...

Third from right along the back, a nice long-winged bird

Yellow-legged Gull again with wings up showing tail pattern

Four species of gull here allowing good comparisons of mantle colours and size

Not a bad day really :-)

Tuesday 6 November 2018

Late Little Stint

I jumped into action the other day, when Phil made a surprise discovery of an apparent Little Stint on Black Hole Marsh. He didn't have his telescope or camera with him, so considering the late date (31st Oct) I just had to check it out.....

Phil's impressions were dead right, it was a Little Stint.  The only one we've had this year so it was well worth the effort, although aiming my camera at it probably wasn't as the light was dreadful...

Little Stint

A lone Lesser Redpoll flew over Black Hole during my short visit there, and as well as the stint, on Black Hole there was a male Shoveler and a Greenshank.

This evening I dashed out after work to try and catch up with a tern sp. that was seen on the Estuary mid afternoon.  It was virtually dark when I made it over there so wasn't surprised to miss it, although there was just enough light left to see a redhead Goosander fly down river at about 5pm.

Earlier today it was great to see numerous Redwings and Song Thrushes bombing around my housing estate at dawn, easily the best arrival of thrushes so far this autumn - but hardly surprising given the numbers calling overhead during the previous night. 

Good news on the Cetti's Warbler front.  The snow of last winter knocked out all our local Cetti's Warblers, well singing males at least, there may have been one or two females still hanging on.  In the past it's taken years to get numbers of this species back on the Axe after cold weather wipe-outs, but within the last two weeks alone I've noted two at Lower Bruckland Ponds and two around Black Hole Marsh, then yesterday morning the Axe Estuary Ringing Group ringed four around Stafford Marsh (see HERE). Excellent news indeed.

A Cetti's Warbler struggling in the snow and ice - taken on 2nd March this year

Sunday 28 October 2018

Red Sky at Night

The evening of the 23rd produced one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen.  To see people of all ages simply standing on the spot looking up was quite surreal, with others rushing to get better views.  It all started when I walked out of Co-op clutching dinner...

I relocated to the seafront where I watched this...

Become this...

Absolutely mind-blowing.  And to top it off, when the sky was lit-up only by this amazing red glow, a group of four Cattle Egrets flew in off the sea and headed north west.  A nice little surprise.

To bring you completely up to date with my local sightings, this morning a female Pintail flew up river with a flock of about 50 Wigeon, two Redwing came flying out of an Axmouth garden, four Dunlin flew up river and I could make out at least two Cattle Egret near Seaton Marshes.

Friday 19 October 2018

Mostly About Egrets...

I didn't make it out birding at all yesterday which was a massive shame. It was the first still day for a while which saw a significant pulse of bird migration along the south coast of the UK.  I couldn't even cash in on the five Great White Egrets that flew west from Abbotsbury Swannery, and were later seen at Dawlish Warren.  They left Abbotsbury at 09:10, continued west past West Bexington at 09:22, Charmouth at 09:47 and finally Dawlish Warren at 10:30. I reckon they would have gone by here pretty much bang on 10am - right when I was conducting an appraisal at work! 

Oh well, I may have missed five big yellow-billed egrets yesterday, but this evening during a ten minute check of the Estuary, I saw five small yellow-billed egrets!  I don't know how many Cattle Egrets were actually present, as egrets were bombing about all over the place in the half-light, roosting in two different places, but five was my highest definite count.  As I said in a tweet a few weeks ago, to me it now feels like Cattle Egrets are here to stay, unlike their last influx four or more years ago.  Apparently there are up to 95 wintering just in Somerset! 

Here's three of tonight's five (plus)...

It was a pretty decent ten minutes along the Estuary actually, with masses and masses of pre-roosting gulls on show.  I wish I'd had more time to look through them, as a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull stood out in one of the first gatherings I looked at.  Another highlight came in the form of a flock of four Goosanders that flew downriver at 18:10. 

So a rather pleasant end to an all-round pleasant day....

Sunday 14 October 2018

A Surprise Yellow-browed

Well that was a bit of luck!  

I was walking Harry between my house and his Grandparent's house late morning yesterday when a Yellow-browed Warbler started shouting at me.  Amazingly it was coming from the very same group of trees one inhabited last autumn, and represents my fourth in the street that I live in (Primrose Way) in four years!  I have to say I didn't think I'd get one this year as there have been far fewer in the UK this autumn than the past few years.  

Once I'd dropped the little one off, I returned with my bins and enjoyed some decent views of this little sprite. It was in a mixed flock of tits, which also included a couple of Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff.

I also spent some time yesterday looking through the Estuary gulls, it was a really windy day and early October often proves a great time of year to find scarce gulls.  There were a heck of lot of large gulls about (three large flocks) but despite trying I couldn't find anything of value within them.  It was nice to see five Med Gulls dotted around though, four first-winters and an adult, my highest count since late summer.  Also on the Estuary was this Bar-tailed Godwit...

And to end this rather short and sweet blog post, here's a couple of random photos taken from Seaton Beach during the past few weeks...

Monday 24 September 2018


So this post is about three months late...

Early in June I visited Portugal for my first time, the vibrant city of Lisbon to be precise. This was far from a birding trip, but during the three days I was there I managed to snatch a bit of time out. Most of this was just walking the parks and small strips of green within the city, which proved surprisingly productive..

The commonest species in Lisbon were; Serin, Black Redstart, Spotless Starling, White Wagtail, Ring-necked Parakeet, Pallid Swift, Blackbird, House Sparrows and Yellow-legged Gull

Male Serin. Although Serin was probably the commonest bird - they're not always easy to see!
Adult Spotless Starling - just as it says on the tin! 
Adult Yellow-legged Gull
Adult White Wagtail
Male Black Redstart
Male Black Redstart
Juvenile Black Redstart
Juvenile Black Redstart
Juvenile Black Redstart begging Daddy for food
And it worked!

Unfortunately I didn't have a camera to hand when I stumbled upon a Short-toed Treecreepers nest. And more parrot action was provided by a pair of Monk Parakeets that flew past us whilst we were stood on the roof of a high rise hotel.

Away from the city, the salt pans along the Tagus Estuary were bonkers. Absolutely crammed full of birds, I could have spent a week here alone. Totally amazing place...

Tagus salt pans from the air

There were so many waders here. Black-winged Stilts breeding on every pool, with a pair of Kentish Plovers on most. Interestingly, despite the date (early June), there were large flocks of non-breeding waders too; 450+ Dunlin, 5+ Curlew Sandpipers and almost 200 Avocet!  The local guides said how unusual these numbers were so late on in spring, especially the Avocet as they don't breed here.  The massive numbers of breeding Little Terns were a spectacle for the eyes and ears, and larger birds on the water included the usual Cattle Egrets, Spoonbills and up to 100 Greater Flamingos...

Sleepy Flamingos, almost all were first-summers with just a couple of adults on site
Some feeding Flamingos with Avocets behind

Fan-tailed Warblers were everywhere, along with one Sardinian Warbler, a Great Reed Warbler, several Crested Larks and Hoopoes.  Hunting over the marsh were a couple of Black Kites, a Marsh Harrier and at least one stunning Black-shouldered Kite...

Flight views were close, but the only perched view was distant.

The trip finished with me sharing this view of Lisbon...

....with hundreds of Common and Pallid Swifts, a chorus of singing Serins and this very showy Turtle Dove...

I miss seeing Turtle Doves in the UK
Such a beautiful bird

And don't get me started on the food... wow! Some of the simplest yet finest food I've ever eaten. Completely uncomplicated, they simply allow the quality of the ingredients do the talking. And it's easy to tell they only use the finest and freshest of ingredients. Sublime.

Better stop writing really as the memories are making me hungry...