Tuesday 30 May 2023

Just Odds and Sods

Well in answer to the title of my previous post... no, not really.

Saying that, late May for me has been really busy at work and both my Wife's and Son's birthday fall here so it's not like I have spent much time in the field lately.  Still, there are some things to report including two Patchwork Challenge ticks!

During my walk to work on Thursday 25th, it was really exciting to watch a Spotted Flycatcher fly low north over the housing estate by my place, pitch up in a garden tree for little more than a few seconds, then continue on northwards.  Portland may have had many hundreds do this during that week but this one was honestly an absolute thrill to see.  Raw migration in action and not where I would necessarily expect to see it.

And today came year tick number two, with a Barnacle Goose leading three Canada Geese in flight over the river valley.  I managed to take this photo with my phone before they flew north over the A3052 and away towards Musbury...

At least it is identifiable!


The goose wasn't my bird of the day though, with this lovely Grey Plover feeding on the Estuary about ten minutes later...

Right up there for me when it comes to cracking looking waders

However the Plover wasn't my wildlife sighting of the day!  Have had almost no time for Odonata yet this year (ultra frustrating during a Vagrant Emperor influx!) but half an hour today gave me my first patch Red-eyed Damselfly since about 2008!  Only had my phone for a camera so this is all you are getting...

On The Borrow Pit, Seaton Marshes

Small Red-eyed Damselflies, although not out yet this year, have spread right across the patch.  There were some Red-eyed Damselflies at Lower Bruckland Ponds around the time Small Red-eyed Damselflies were first discovered there, but within a couple of years they died out (whereas Small Red-eyeds exploded in numbers).  

The only other sightings I have to report from the last couple of weeks include a Sanderling on the beach last Thursday evening, and an unseasonal Osprey which I was fortunate to see three days on the trot hunting over the Estuary. It was an excellent fisher too, often catching on its first attempt - quite different from the autumn juvs we see!

Friday 19 May 2023

May Must Have More?

Following what can only be described as the best March/April on patch for years, certainly the last five but possibly of the last decade, May has been completely pants.  

Black Hole Marsh at dusk earlier this week

Some of the common (ish) summer migrants that you would hope to pick up in this month, like Garden Warbler, Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Cuckoo, Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, Hobby, maybe if you're lucky Turtle Dove, are all still gaps on my Patchwork Challenge 2023 year list!  And as for the sea... we had a whiff of southerlies earlier in the month but they didn't do much here - although I did miss a Bonxie one morning which was annoying to say the least!  

And where are the wading birds?

May is by a country mile my favourite month of the year for wader passage, when flocks of Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel can be seen on/off the beach or up the Estuary, as well as a good chance of local scarcities such as Knot, Turnstone, Grey Plover, etc..  Often all in fine summer plumage too!  However as yet it just hasn't happened, and I have tried! On the few wet days we have had, my lonesome and dripping wet figure could be seen walking Seaton Beach.   The lack of southerlies am sure is part of the reason, but hopefully they are all still on their wintering grounds or further south at least.  I remember in 2018 when I went to Portugal in early June much to my surprise there were massive numbers of small waders still feeding on the Tagus Estuary..

So since the 4th (which gave Pochard and Wood Sand) I have only had two more year ticks!  Shocking for May, although to be fair both of them were really nice...

On 10th, Mike H and Stuart O had a Short-eared Owl hunting near Black Hole Marsh an hour before dusk.  I nipped down there, couldn't see anything for about half an hour, but then whilst stood halfway up a gate scanning distant fields to the north, I looked around and the Short-eared Owl was hunting literally right infront (well behind!) me!  It saw me then hastily made its way down the hill and out of view.  I just about managed to hold my phone up and get some sort of video but it is so poor I won't even bother posting it on here.

Then today, having just seen a couple of lone Dunlin and Ringed Plover, two Greenshank and a single Bar-tailed Godwit over the last two weeks, finally we had a wader highlight. A visiting birder found an adult breeding plumaged Little Stint on Black Hole Marsh...

What a stunner!

Similar to what I wrote about the Wood Sands earlier this month, Little Stint has appeared to have become much scarcer here over the last few autumns, and spring birds are really really few and far between, so I was dead chuffed to see this!

Looking at the forecast, I haven't much hope for the rest of May.  However as is so often said it only takes one bird...  

Monday 8 May 2023

Wood Sands and Pochard

Just a quick one to bring everything up to date, and since my last post the only real action I have to report is from last Thursday.

With an apparent influx of Wood Sandpipers across the country mid-last week thanks to rain and easterly winds, I was hopeful we'd get one here at some point.  They are a tricky species to see here in spring though, if we get any they are usually brief, and actually they've not been much easier in autumn in recent years!  So when I heard of four feeding on Black Hole Marsh from late morning Thursday, this sorted my after work plans for that day. All four still present and looking splendid in their breeding plumage at 5:30pm...

Three Wood Sands phone-scoped

The fourth loner

About an hour later Tim messaged with news of two probable Pochard flying around the valley - thankfully exactly the part of the valley I can see over from my bedroom window!  And soon after I started scanning, two grey plain-winged ducks with contrasting breast bands and pale bellies came flying in and dropped out of view.  Over the course of the evening I saw them several more times in flight from the house - two female Pochard.  A dead tidy Patchwork Challenge tick, although they have returned to being annual over the last five years despite their continued decline in the south west.

Scores on the doors for Patchwork Challenge at the end of April for me were 146 species and 194 points.  Really need some good spring sea watching although it is looking less and less likely as we get nearer to mid May. Oh and Common Crane istill omitted... for now...