Friday 27 September 2019

Balearic Bonanza and White Stork Update

This windy weather has brought some seabirds into Seaton Bay, and Ian Mc has done well to keep on top of them - sea watching every morning since the breeze began.

Yesterday morning he reported a fairly decent passage of Balearic Shearwaters prior to 9am, 64 west.  This encouraged me to try a mini-sea watch during my lunch break from Seaton Beach, and sure enough I soon saw a flock of six fly west.  I went back in the evening and was pleased to count 23 in just fifteen minutes from 18:45, giving us a day total of 93. Although that's with the sea not watched for most of the day, so I wouldn't be surprised if the actual day total was 150+.

This morning news came through from Ian Mc that there was an even heavier Balearic Shearwater passage going on, he and Mike counted a very impressive 155 west by 09:40. Today was also my birthday, and although I couldn't have made it out for this early watch, when Jess asked me what I wanted to do today my answer was simple.... sea watch!  I watched 10:15 - 12:15, adding another 26 Balearic Shearwaters to the tally, plus five Kittiwake, three Auk sp and a Sandwich Tern. Ian saw another seven Balearics during a mid afternoon watch, and I added a further three this evening during a one hour watch from 17:30, plus a first-winter Common Gull and another Kittiwake.  So adding all these together that's 191 Balearic Shearwaters west past Seaton today, by a million miles our highest ever day count! In fact as far as I can recall this is our first ever three figure, with my previous highest being 71 on 10/9/12. In recent years there's been no decent counts of Balearics here at all, this species seems to be venturing into our part of Lyme Bay far less frequently.  Thanks Ian and Mike for being so helpful with times and counts today, really useful as it's enabled us to work together to get as much coverage on the sea as possible.

Now for an update on the Lyme Regis/Seaton White Stork, and the Sidmouth one which amazingly wasn't the same as ours! The Lyme/Seaton bird (unringed with a tracker and snipped primary tips) was photographed flying over Prawle Point by Pat Mayer on the 19th (the day after it was here), whilst another White Stork bearing a small black ring was stood on the roof of Lidl's in Sidmouth!

Anyway on the morning of 20th I was surprised to get a message from Wild Zoological Park in Bobbington, near Wolverhampton.  Both White Storks were theirs - free-flying display birds that had been whisked away by a thermal the previous day (17th).  And here's a snap of them together...

(c) Wild Zoological

They have names of course, Victor and Violet, and the reason Violet was ring-less was because she came to the zoo with foot and leg problems. Victor is back home now, he flew down from Lidl's roof when he saw his 'keeper', but Violet is still on the loose.  If you see her please let me or the zoo know, she could still be in the South Hams area.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Big White Birds

Just a quick update, but one that does include plenty of pictures of big white birds!

On Sunday night Phil found a Great White Egret on Black Hole Marsh (although a tram driver reported to me an egret that looked larger than a heron earlier that day, but from experience I've found sometimes driver's bird ID can be a bit ropy!).  I was stuck home Sunday evening, but a glance out the bedroom window was all I needed because there it was sat on a tree alongside the Tower Hide!  It stayed there about twenty minutes 'til it got too dark to see.  Please excuse the quality of the phone-scoped pic...

My second GWE from the house

This morning Jess suggested an early morning walk in Lyme - which I didn't vote against seeing as Richard let me know the night before that an unringed White Stork roosted near the Cobb.  I thought we had missed it as it was last reported flying east over town, but soon after our arrival there it was flying over town coming back west...

And much to our disbelief, it landed on the RNLI Station which we were stood right next too!!

Amazing views! After about half an hour it took off and flew west a little way out to sea, but seemed to turn back east and drop back in towards Lyme...

As we drove off a little while later, I could see it again in flight and heading west, so as we came back into Seaton I suggested we briefly stopped off at the sea front in case it kept on flying west.  And amazingly this greeted me...

Incoming Stork!

And it did exactly the same as it had in Lyme, it landed right next to us!  On a roof I'm more used to seeing Black Redstarts on...

The big white bird on the roof!
A White Stork on patch!

Soon after I left it, Kev watched it fly west over Beer Head and it's been seen today on the Exe, and finally this evening on a pub roof in Sidmouth!

Sadly though, although the sheer joy of seeing this amazing bird still lives on, the feeling it's given me inside has completely withered....  Look closer at the open wing shot on the RNLI building and there's clearly been some sort of human intervention with the tips of these primary feathers...

And despite the lack of rings, it's wearing some sort of satellite tag.  If anything this makes it even more intriguing though, why tag it and not ring it!??

So come on, own up, who is tracking this Stork!? Please get in touch!

Saturday 14 September 2019

Honey Buzzard and Brown Hairstreak

Considering I haven't properly been out birding today, as the post title implies it's not been too shabby at all...

I was travelling from a to b this morning with Harry in the back of the car when I figured I had time for a five minute scan over the valley from the Axmouth farm gate (if the patience of the back seat passenger allowed it!). Almost immediately I picked up a super high flying raptor circling over Colyford Marsh and it just didn't look 'right'.  It was at that point much to my frustration I realised my telescope wasn't in the car, so all I could do was watch it in my bins some more before grabbing my trusty P900. The bird was always gaining height, and I managed to get one pic before it got so high the camera would no longer focus on it.  About thirty seconds later it began a determined-looking glide heading off purposely south west.

I'd seen enough with my bins to put out news of a 'possible Honey Buzzard' to my fellow patch birders, but it wasn't until about two hours ago that I downloaded the photo onto my laptop...

Same snap but heavily cropped!

And there it is - a dark juv Honey Buzzard!  Note the long and broad tail with 2 or 3 narrow but distinct black bars, the narrow base to wings with dark bulging secondaries, black carpal patch, solidly dark brown underparts and a nice yellow bill!  Although it's a fresh juv it seems to have a damaged or missing inner primary on its left wing.

I've been fairly lucky with patch Honey Buzzard's as this represents my third, although the last one was way back on 24th Sept 2008!  Amazingly I saw the 2008 bird from exactly the same spot as today's, and that was also a lone dark juv - although thankfully flying much lower in the sky!  2008 was a proper influx year with large numbers noted in September, although most of them staying well east of us. 

2019 really is proving the year of raptors on the Axe with long-saying Osprey and Marsh Harrier, the Goshawk last month and now this! Hopefully a nice Pallid Harrier is just around the corner to finish the year off in style...

To complete my bird news for today, I had a Wheatear land on the roof next to Mum and Dad's house.  When you see a wacky thing like this you know it's a good day for migration! Plenty of Meadow Pipits flying over whenever I was outside too.

And now for the Brown Hairstreak - a first for me and following the Long-tailed Blues another butterfly first on patch!  Exactly a week ago Pam Parsons photographed a Brown Hairstreak on Colyford Common (tweeted HERE) - been only one or two patch records of this species in the last five years.  So whilst I was down the wetlands with Harry and Jess this afternoon, I left them behind for ten minutes to check the general area Pam photographed it.  As it was a whole week ago and probably involved just one insect, I really wasn't expecting anything.

I was wrong to be so pessimistic...

The first view I got - a female Brown Hairstreak!
I can only really describe the orange as 'Gatekeeper-orange'
And what an underwing!

I watched her for about five minutes, egg laying on a blackthorn just to the left of the lower entrance gate to Colyford Common.  If anyone is interested in looking for her, she spent the whole time on the lower left hand side of this bush...

Surely the very same insect!?

I've heard many people saying how hard these are to get good views of - so I was well and truly spoilt today.  A larger butterfly than I was expecting, although if it were fluttering around the top of a tall ash tree am sure it would look far smaller!  Thanks Pam for tweeting the original picture out a week ago.

Today was a nice reminder of how lucky I am to live where I do. From my house I can walk to the Brown Hairstreak bush within ten minutes, and I probably could have scoped the Honey Buzzard from my back garden! 

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Birdwatching Tram - 08/09/19

Led another Birdwatch tram on Sunday morning, leaving Seaton Station at 9am.  I had one bird on my mind, and told the driver if I saw it we were to just "go for it!".  Just a few minutes in and this is exactly what happened because I could see the Osprey over the Estuary!

We had just brief flight views before it disappeared, but having not caught a fish I knew it hadn't gone too far.  A bit further up the Estuary and there it was, perched on a post where it stayed for about 15 minutes...

Osprey from the tram!

It then took to the air and fished on the Estuary.  We looked at other bit sand pieces but timed our focus back to the Osprey well, as we all saw it dive into the Estuary and come up with a huge fish!  It then flew right past us and up to its favoured spot in the woods...

Osprey with a massive mullet!

What a crowd pleaser!  As were the selection of wading birds, with singles of Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, three Ringed Plover and plenty of the usual species... 

Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover

There were heaps of Teal about, but frustratingly the singles of Kingfisher and Water Rail were so brief only a few of us saw them - everyone heard the Water Rail though as they were so vocal!  Cetti's Warbler (singing), Reed and Sedge Warblers and several Chiffchaffs were also very vocal during the trap, presumably due to the still and warm weather.

Several Wheatears were seen along the track, along with an extremely brief Whinchat.  Far more obliging were the flock of 6-8 Yellow Wagtails feeding around a close herd of cattle, and went nicely with the Pied and Grey Wagtails that were also recorded during the trip.

So all in all, another bloody good trip! 

Saturday 7 September 2019

Mipits are Go

Managed to spend the first few hours of today on Axe Cliff, which was nice.  As I've not been able to get out much during the mornings so far this autumn, Axe Cliff has been frustratingly under watched - well not watched at all as far as I'm aware.  But still, better late than never...

Looking west.  I took this photo from the spot I did most the 'vis migging' from today.

I timed my first visit of the autumn here with the first big push of Meadow Pipits, a sure sign that we have moved into (what I call) the mid-autumn period.  Flock after flock were flying low west over the field pictured above, with many staying tight to the cliff edge.  Most flocks were in the 10-20 region, but there were a couple of 30's and one of c45.  I counted up until 8am and noted the following; 

360 Meadow Pipit
7 Tree Pipit
5 pipit sp. (flew like Tree's but remained frustratingly silent)
3 alba Wagtail
2 Chaffinch

Off they go! Mipits moving west with Beer Head in the background

Despite the passage overhead it was disappointing to see all the fields so empty - often on big Mipit days many of them land and feed here, but not today. In fact there weren't many grounded migrants about at all, just one Wheatear, two Whitethroats and eight Chiffchaffs noted.

On the way home I was going to stop off at Axmouth to see if the lingering Osprey was fishing - but there was literally no space! Fingers crossed we see it on the Birdwatch Special Tram tomorrow morning.

A busy Coronation Corner!

Wednesday 4 September 2019

Many Moths!

Just a quick moth update - be nice to have this blog fully up-to-date!

Since my last mothing post I have run the trap at Mum and Dad's on five nights. And as to be expected with the nights cooling off and the year progressing, overall numbers are dropping but there's still heaps of variety and plenty of potential.  I'm ever hopeful of a garden Convolvulus Hawkmoth so don't expect any less trapping to take place over the next month - fingers crossed this is my year!

First up was the night of 22nd August which gave me 178 moths of 28 species. Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Vine's Rustic and Large Yellow Underwing were the top three species quantity-wise, with the pick of the catch quality-wise being two Orange Swift (don't see many of these here), Mocha and my first Canary-shouldered Thorn of the year...

Orange Swift

Canary-shouldered Thorn

My next trapping night was 25th August which gave me 184 moths of 28 species. Top three species in numbers same as the last catch (although in a different order, Vine's Rustic now top), with the highlights being singles of Dark Sword Grass, Mocha, L-album Wainscot, Chinese Character and three Silver Y....

Dark Sword-Grass

Chinese Character

I trapped the following night too because the weather looked so promising, this produced a much better 226 moths of 35 species.  Same top three species quantity-wise, with 75 Large Yellow Underwings making up a large percentage of the catch.  The highlight was, incredibly, my second Jersey Mocha in under a month (first HERE), along with singles of Maiden's Blush, Four-spotted Footman and Dark Sword Grass.

Jersey Mocha #2.  Although more battered around the edges than my first, what is there is brighter and fresher.

Maiden's Blush

Roll forward to 29th August (after a spell of poor weather) and 101 moths of 21 species trapped.  Setaceous Hebrew Character replaced Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing as the third most numerous species, with some nice snippets of quality from singles of Four-spotted Footman, Maiden's Blush, Silver Y, Small Mottled Willow and a lovely Portland Ribbon Wave...

Portland Ribbon Wave

Male Four-spotted Footman, not caught any females this year

Small Mottled Willow

And finally we come to my most recent catch, the night of 2nd September and the 176 moths of 22 species this gave me the following morning.  Same top three as the last catch and the highlights were singles of Silver Y, Dark Spectacle and Pale Mottled Willow...

An awful photo of a Pale Mottled Willow - sorry it's so rubbish, I was going to take more but it flew off!

Dark Spectacle - a classic example of one (and note three separate kidney marks, in Spectacle the two nearest the head are usually merged to make one big one)