Wednesday 19 July 2023


Absolutely thrilled to cash in on a real rarity on the Axe patch in recent years, some skua passage!

This spring was a complete non-starter for any sort of sea watching, and recent years haven't produced the goods either. Just the odd skua here and there for me.

We've had plenty of windy and some very wet weather over the last week or so, often from the south, and each time I have looked the sea has been quiet.  Friday evening (15th) was the best it got for me, with 48 Manx Shearwater, 22 Gannet, 12 Med Gull (including my first juvenile of the season) and a Common Scoter west in 90 minutes.  Not exactly thrilling though.

Mobile camera pic of juv Med Gull

However on Saturday evening, and following an increase in wind speed, news came through on the local WhatsApp Group of three skuas past Budleigh and more importantly, two heading towards Seaton from Charmouth!  I was at Seaton beach for 19:10 and over the following 80 minutes was absolutely buzzed to see seven Arctic Skuas* fly west!  

  • One pale phased adult south west at 19:10, thanks to Ian Mc for getting me on this one as I was just getting out of the car at the time!
  • Dark-phased adult and immature west at 19:15, these came in quite close and chased a Herring Gull for food. These were the two from Charmouth - thanks Richard!
  • *A small and slender immature west at 19:22. Looked good for a Long-tailed at first but seemed to show too much white in wing when I zoomed right in. Very hard to be sure at the distance though and would have preferred much better views. Frustrating really but I think probably a small Arctic.  
  • A dark-phased adult and unaged bird west at 19:40, landed on sea during a heavy rain shower, then continued west at 20:05.
  • A immature distantly west at 20:14.
Other than these skuas, just three Manx Shearwaters, six Med Gulls and 25+ Gannet went by.  I think the skuas were probably some of the birds that had been off Dawlish Warren for the previous week or so, maybe they'd just been blown deeper into Lyme Bay with the strengthening wind. There was no other skua passage noted outside of our corner of Lyme Bay that evening as far as I am aware so it wasn't part of a widespread movement.  

Skua-induced smiles? No, more like big crashing waves and the promise of a late bed-time!

Away from the sea, four Crossbills were vocal on Bovey Down on Sunday morning during a dog walk.  Along with, very sadly, a dead not quite fledged juvenile Nightjar on the main track...  

Sorry it's a bit grim! No neck suggests predation?

Stunning pattern on the flight feathers!

Think there is at the most only two pairs here, so quite a significant loss to the local population sadly. The site is getting more and more grown up so not sure how many more years Nightjars will be there for, though thankfully there are other recently cleared sites locally they could relocate to. 

Thursday 13 July 2023

Yellow-legged Gull, Goosanders and Sand Martins

Am pleased to say the three Avocet chicks are doing well.  The parents are still proving absolute heros and now the chicks are considerably bulkier I'm hoping they've passed their most vunerable phase.  

They have been sharing the marsh with the first few returning waders, including Little Ringed Plovers and Green Sandpipers.  And just around the corner, after 11 years in situ the man-made Sand Martin 'bank' has suddenly proved attractive to a brand new (presumably failed breeders from elsewhere?) colony of Sand Martins...

An amazing sight - it is great to sit there and watch them coming and going

On the Estuary things have been quiet, just a few more Black-tailed Godwits and Curlews appearing, plus the odd Mediterranean Gull and yesterday my first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of the year...

A beast, and a nice contrasty one too

Portland Bill recorded a record 18+ juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls yesterday so we could be in for a bumper year, which will be nice! 

Also yesterday, thanks to a timely message and regular updates from Tim Clarke, I saw three juvenile Goosander fly north up the valley distantly from my office.  My second sighting of this species on patch this year.