Monday 23 August 2021

Wading Birds, Wildfowl and Raptors

Before I start talking about the 'autumn' am going to have to tie up spring first...

It was actually a pretty poor spring for wading birds in the valley, not helped by the fact water levels on Black Hole Marsh remained high throughout.  There was a bit more action off the sea front and on the beach though.  Mostly Dunlin and Sanderling flying by (26 of the latter on 24th May my highest count), but a wet and windy walk along the beach on 13th revealed two Turnstone seeking shelter. Being my only record of this species on patch so far this year they were well worth getting wet for!  

Two Turnstone - one in summer plumage and the other out of focus!

I am never sure if the wading birds we see in late June are late spring migrants, early autumn returners or just non-breeding layabouts!  A single Whimbrel and Ringed Plover on the Estuary on 21st June I suspect were the latter, as they both stayed a week or so.  

When it gets to July I am more inclined to suggest the wading birds we see are on autumn passage, whether they've had a failed breeding season or have been really successful and managed to get young off early.  Four Black-tailed Godwits and a Dunlin on 7th got the month going, but as expected towards the end of the month variety improved considerably.

A Sanderling took off from Seaton Beach then flew south west with a Dunlin for company on 23rd July, which is a very early autumn record for this species on patch.  And with Black Hole Marsh water levels now looking very inviting, up to four Little Ringed Plover, two Greenshank, numerous Black-tailed Godwits and Common Sandpipers and a lovely male Ruff were present during the second half of the month.  The Ruff was present 17th - 19th July, and on appearance I would not bet against it being the very same Ruff that graced Black Hole Marsh in 2020 from 12th July for three or four days...

A cracking male Ruff

Male Ruff on 13th June 2020 - in almost exactly the same spot!

My first Wood Sandpiper of the year, highly unusually, was on the Estuary in front of Seaton Marshes hide, and remained here for at least two days from 25th July.  A lovely spangly juvenile which unfortunately from the tram didn't offer any better views than the below suggests.  I actually think this is the first Wood Sand I have ever seen settled on the Estuary south of Coronation Corner (have seen a couple upriver from Tower Hide).

Wood Sandpiper on the Axe

Since we have moved into August, Black Hole Marsh really has delivered on variety, numbers and views!  Colyford Scrape has been really good too, this is where you will usually find the Lapwing and the Whimbrel/Curlew flock. Wood Sands peaked at four earlier in the month, with one still hanging around, Dunlin numbers rose to just shy of 80 within the past couple of days, and the Black-tailed Godwit count has shot up with the recent arrival of multiple juveniles...

A wonderful juv Blackwit

Love the rich peach colour to the neck

I have missed a couple of brief Ruff and a Bar-tailed Godwit, but we are still waiting for the arrival of Curlew Sands, Little Stint, and hopefully one or two rares!

Wildfowl won't take long to cover, as recently it's just a few of the first returning Teal to mention.  However back in June on a rainy 21st I was surprised to see four Gadwall and two Shoveler on the Estuary from Tower Hide.

Two Shoveler on the right with four Gadwall

The Shoveler stuck around for a couple of days and came onto Black Hole Marsh...

Both drakes

Rewind even more, and out of all the things I was expecting/hoping for on 16th May a goose influx wasn't one of them!  We'd had up to seven or eight Greylags lingering, but on this morning the scrape on Bridge Marsh was almost full to the brim with 15 Greylags and a Barnacle Goose!  I later learnt seven Greylag and a Barnie flew south through Sutton Bingham Reservoir the day before, so add that to our lingering group and you have a match. Or a coincidence.

So many geese!

Not a bad example of a Barnacle Goose either! 

A week earlier I managed to just get to Black Hole Marsh in time to see a lone Egyptian Goose fly off north.  Thanks to Phil for the timely call, who informed me it had taken flight soon after I arrived on site...

A truly awful photo! This is an Egyptian Goose dot though

Right, I think I am all water-birded out now.  So let's just wrap this post up with some raptor news...

It's been a very poor year by recent standards for Red Kites here, personally I have only seen one which was circling high over town on 27th May - a date when several were seen passing over Colyton.  It was a poor spring for Ospreys too, but thankfully the autumn period is looking much better as I've already seen two!  The first spent one night with us 17th-18th August (I saw it on the second day), then on 22nd I watched one fly north over work being chased by a very angry and persistent Herring Gull. It then spent twenty minutes in the valley before flying off south west never to be seen again. Well not here anyway, I didn't mean it to sound that final!  

Osprey over the Axe on 18th

A Marsh Harrier, which has now sadly left us, spent several weeks in the valley from mid July, it was a cracking juvenile too.  It was often seen hunting around Black Hole and Colyford Common, but also regularly showed pretty well perched up. With the Somerset and Dorset breeding population increasing, let's hope this is an annual late summer sight in the Axe Valley.  

What a looker!

Right, am really feeling like I'm catching back up with things now thanks to my recent purge in blog activity.  Two blog posts to go until I am bang up to date I reckon, but sorry all you feather-lovers it's going to be insects next... 

Night all.

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