Monday 11 April 2022

Spring Skuas!

There were four reasons why I wasn't particularly excited by the sea watching potential of this morning:

1.  The wind was south easterly, we often fail spectacular in anything with east in it.

2.  The sun was out.  Poor visibility seems to be the primary reason seabirds accidentally venture this far into Lyme Bay.

3.  The wind didn't really strengthen until just before dawn. Often need a good half-the night of gales to blow birds in here.

4.  94% of times I am excited about birding potential because of weather conditions, I end up being hugely disappointed.

But this proves just how unpredictable birding can be, even when watching a patch you think you know pretty well!  It was actually a really enjoyable watch.  I could only give it 90 minutes, in hindsight wished I had started earlier and of course that I didn't have to leave for work at 08:30. Pleased to have had the company of Phil for most of it, always helps having another pair of eyes and someone to talk to during the quiet times.

Gannet - as close as they ever come here!

For me the highlight were the skuas. I have gone entire springs here without seeing a single skua, so to see five Arctic Skuas in one watch was a nice result indeed. Saying that, three were a bit underwhelming, as I only saw them when they briefly pursued a (presumed) Kittiwake up from the horizon somewhere between Seaton and France, and then disappeared when the four birds dropped back below the horizon. The other two however were far better value...

An intermediate sub-adult flew in from the west, and spent about twenty minutes in the bay including looping right into the Seaton Bay and then back out, which is when it then tagged onto a lone dark-phased adult that was steadily flying east and both went on their way.

My full counts (all east) were: 70+ Gannet, 11 Manx Shearwater, 5 Arctic Skua, 24 Common Gull, 14 Sandwich Tern, 9 comic Tern, 7 Common Scoter, 1 Wigeon, 2 Teal, 2 Whimbrel and 20+ auk sp. 

So although nowhere near the quality and quantity seen further east (the sea watching in Lyme Bay in easterlies dramatically improves the nearer to Chesil Cove you are) it was still great fun for us!  Well all except for this tern...

I thought it was a Common Tern, it just didn't look floaty and dainty enough for an Arctic to me. I watched it for a minute or so with a Sandwich Tern, sometimes close, but on my last view looking back west away from the sun, a pale grey upperwing and clean underwing suddenly worried me that I had thrown away an Arctic! And that's when it flew off...

Please let me know if anyone can do anything with the below pics. I really don't see anyway near enough Sternas to be confident either way...

Lower bird

Not this one, this is the close Sandwich Tern I saw

This one! Worryingly long-tailed looking in this pic, but is it bill a bit too long?

Tern aside, more of the above would make for a very enjoyable spring!  Check back to the blog soon for more news...

Saturday 9 April 2022

Green-winged Teal

A nice little spring treat popped up in front of Phil yesterday morning on Bridge Marsh, and gladly stayed put for the day.  The Axe's third Green-winged Teal...

You can't beat vertical white stripes on a Teal

Always distant and the light was just weird

This was literally the closest it came - the nearside of the scrape!

Handy comparison

Full display mode!

I have to hold my hands up and say after watching it for a while, I did actually stutter with the ID. Enough so that I shared my concerns with the only other observer on site at the time (Kev).

Like gulls, hybrids are always something to be weary of when dealing with wildfowl, and this bird often showed a distinctive pale horizontal line too! In fact it was to the extent that if I scanned over the scrape and saw this male Teal asleep (angled just a little more away) I don't think I would have given it another look.  Would you?

But that is the male Green-winged!

On balance I just can't see a hybrid having such a dazzling and broad set of vertical stripes.  Be keen to know others' thoughts, although do appreciate the quality of the pics do not help.  

To complete the picture, the previous patch records of Green-winged Teal are as follows:

Drake on Colyford March 29th January 2013 (one day only).
Drake on Bridge Marsh 19th December 2015 remaining in the valley until late March 2016.

Assuming this is a spring migrant heading back north with its Eurasian cousins, it would be great to know where it spent the winter. Presumably somewhere in southern Europe or maybe even further south?  

My next post will be a summer migrant update... unless something else unexpected appears in the meantime!  In one sentence though, the cold wind seems to be stalling spring just like last year.

Tuesday 5 April 2022

A Right Barney on Patch!

Bit of a backlog to get through having been so silent on here lately, but for me there's only one place to start...

First there was just the one Barnacle Goose in the valley, I found it feeding with the Canada Geese on Bridge Marsh on 16th March.  But on 20th there were three, increasing to four from 24th...

The usual view of them!

Although they were often distant, and who knows where they originated from, they were an absolute joy to have with us.  Watching them call to each other in the evening light, literally having a barney, is not something I can say I have ever witnessed before.  

To my surprise they stayed with us as a foursome until 30th March, when I had the absolute privilege of watching them soon after dawn on the closest part of the closest island to the Island hide on Black Hole Marsh...

Such a stunning species of wildfowl with an endearing quality about them.  And what made this encounter even more precious is that about half an hour later they were seen to fly off and have not been seen since, well not here anyway...

Later the same day four Barnacle Geese appeared on Lodmoor, Weymouth. Next stop Svalbard?