Monday 28 September 2020

Pink-footed Goose

The perfect antidote to my recent bloggers block - a patch lifer!

Following the incredible three patch ticks during the first half of 2020 (American Herring Gull, Blyth's Reed Warbler and Rose-coloured Starling) this evening as the light fell, my fourth patch lifer of 2020 happened...

This Pink-footed Goose, which in the rapidly fading light looked all the world to be an adult, was first found by Tim Wright from Colyford Common hide at around 6pm today.  Finally I was able to get out at 7pm and from the Bridge Marsh gateway was delighted to see it was still present...

We have huge numbers of Canada Geese around at the moment, so it was interesting to see it sticking with a small group of Teal.  There was also a Green Sandpiper on the same pool (look in front of the Goose in the above photo) plus my first Redwing of the autumn flew over which was a bonus. Not a bad mini-trip out in an otherwise work filled day!  

I thought it would be worth trying a video as I knew all my photos would be awful considering the near-darkness...

I seem to recall there's at least one historic Pink-foot record on the Axe, but this is the first since I've been birding here that's for sure.  It's a rare bird in the county too, although there has been a flurry of records over the past tens years with sightings as close as the Otter (three feeding in stubble in 2011) and several sightings on the the Exe with the most recent being early 2018.  At least one has also been living with a west/mid Devon Canada Goose flocks for yonks (I've seen it at Roadford and Fernworthy!) plus there have been some recent records from North Devon and Lundy too.

I have always thought it just doesn't make sense why they are the rarest grey goose in Devon though, when they are by far and away the most numerous species of wild grey goose in the UK (I don't include Greylag in that!).  They just don't seem to move in cold snaps like White-fronts and Tundra Beans do, presumably because these birds originate more from the near continent?  

My 262nd species of bird for the Axe patch :-)

Tuesday 8 September 2020

A Galling Gull

I wandered into the Tower Hide early evening on the 3rd and was greeted by the very pleasant sight of a mass gathering of large gulls resting on the shingle opposite.  And even more pleasantly, virtually the first gull I raised my bins at was this first-winter Yellow-legged...

I just couldn't take my eyes or camera off of it, and spent ages papping away and gawping at all those lovely replaced scapular feather. But then I remembered there were another 300+ gulls to look at..

I swung around to the left, started scanning and almost immediately spied an interestingly looking clean and pale fronted juv/1w large gull asleep in the flock.  I grabbed my scope but due to the angle of the bird this didn't help much at all, it was asleep with its head tucked in facing directly towards me. Still though, for whatever reason thoughts of Caspian Gull were already in my mind, it just looked leggy and strikingly clean breasted and pale.  I then noticed it was bearing a yellow-colour ring...

It was an easy read, XLTC. I read it again a couple of times to be sure and then took my eye off the scope to write the code down. What happened next wasn't in the script.

Every single one of the 300+ gulls took to the air, with roughly half of them flying off.  Despite further scanning the yellow-ringed gull was gone. And four days later I haven't seen it again. What's even worse is we never saw what actually flushed the gulls, making it an even more frustrating turn of events.  

To my absolute horror, looking up the ringing scheme later that evening showed it had been rung in Germany in a Caspian Gull colony!  My email to the ringing scheme coordinator included a plea for any pics or other sightings of it - but there had been none since it was ringed as a grey fluffy chick on 9th June 2020... 

It's important to note that although it was ringed as a Caspian Gull, in that part of the world hybrids are a real problem and a lot of the gull colonies are now a complete jumble of DNA .  This in my eyes makes it even more important that someone else sees and ideally photographs XTLC! I need to know what it is.

Please, someone, put me out of my misery...

Wednesday 2 September 2020

It's beginning to feel a lot like Autumn

There's a distinct chill in the air in the early mornings now, not that they are very early anymore!

I know us birders talk about autumn from about mid June when we see the first returning Common Sandpipers, but it is now starting to feel like autumn 'proper' in all aspects of the natural world.  Even the trees are starting to turn.

I spent this autumnal morning on Black Hole Marsh, and the place was once again jam packed with wading birds and Teal.  76 of the latter to be precise.

The bulk of the wading birds as usual were Black-tailed Godwits (70+), Dunlin (60), Redshank and Common Sandpipers (9).  With quality provided by two Knot (lower pic), two Curlew Sandpipers (top two pics) and two Little Stints (middle two pics).  All six of these being juveniles.

To complete the sightings from this morning, a couple of Yellow Wags flew over with a Willow Warbler in nearby scrub.  And to complete my sightings from today, I was thrilled to be in the right place at the right time to watch an Osprey fly low south east over Seaton and off out to sea.  My third within the past few weeks, and my third whilst at work!

Considering the numbers present in the UK at the moment, I think we will be seeing many more Curlew Sands over the next few weeks.  If I remember rightly 14 is my personal best on the Axe at once - be nice to beat that!