Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Family commitment

I haven't managed to update this blog for a little while due to a serious family commitment. Life has been manic since my return from Croatia on May 18! Just a little taster of my holiday - I managed to see 5 lifers whilst staying near Dubrovnik. These were Rock Partridge (more on these later), Sombre Tit, Alpine Chough, Pygmy Cormorant and Rock Nuthatch. The holiday was made even more interesting by taking trips into Bosnia & Herzegovina and into Montenegro! I hope to write a more fuller report on this trip soon and update my local birding reports which include a very obliging Ross's Gull and a not-so-obliging Whiskered Tern.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Psychic or what?

Early this afternoon, I visited Orcombe Point, the top birding spot within Exmouth parish. I go there a lot. It's brilliant for birds. OK, so this spring has been pretty crappy so far, by Orcombe standards. Just a handful of Wheatears, one Little Tern and one lone Common Redstart recorded by yours truly. But you have to keep grilling the place to get rewards. I ambled along towards the geoneedle ( it's a big pointy thing that locals like to pee up against). I bumped into Dave Hopkins who had seen very little. We chatted as birders do, about the birds we'd seen lately, or rather, what we'd not seen lately! I mentioned the paucity of good birds here, and cursed the fact that I'd yet to see Arctic Skua (indeed any bleddy skua this spring), Swift or House Martin in Exmouth this year. No sooner than I'd had a good cuss to Dave, when I picked out a bird moving with vigour off the point. It had a go at a Sandwich Tern revaling itself to be, yes you've guessed, an Arctic Skua! Shortly afterwards a Swift flew in/off providing me with my first in Exmouth this year. Dave jokingly remarked that perhaps I should have mentioned Roller or Bee-eater! On arrival home later this afternoon I picked out my first Exmouth House Martins of 2014 from my kitchen window, the latest arrival date I've ever recorded for this species around home. 8 birds though certainly gave me hope that the usual numbers have managed to get back!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Roseate Tern

I had a text from Matt just as I was leaving work today to say he had a Roseate Tern off the seafront, so I drove straight down there and after about 20 minutes' wait, I was lucky enough to pick the bird out as it did a a couple of feeding circuits, then seemed to head off east. By this time the rain was trying to come on a bit, so I headed for home!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Couldn't resist any longer!

After work, I just couldn't resist it any longer. I succumbed! I had to do it! Yes, I decided that with the weather set fair, and the continued presence of the bird, I just wanted to see it, and time allowed me to do just that. I finally gave in and drove up to Northam Burrows to see the Collared Pratincole! I arrived at 1730hrs, walked straight out to Greens 9/10 on the golf course and there it was. No hanging around for hours in inclement weather waiting for the bird to turn up for yours truly! It was such a beautiful bird, I watched it for over 2 hours - it was still present when I left, having only seen it fly a short distance. A dog ran past it - it didn't fly. A couple walked close past it - it didn't fly! That was when I realised that by inching forward slowly and with due regard to the other 4 birders present, we could approach the bird down to about 12 yards. Soon, I was getting 'scope-filling views and if you look at the Devon bird news webpage, you can see the type of photos that could be obtained! personally, I think the bird was so full of food, it was loathe to move very far, it certainly had loads of flies and grubs to feed on. Other birds included masses of Wheatears of both northern forms, singing Sedge Warblers and my first 'White' Wagtail of the year in with some Pied.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Dartmoor yesterday

Yesterday I had to go to Dartmoor, so I combined the trip with a few hours' birding. The weather was fine and sunny to start with, but up on the very tops it was a bit cloudier at times, the wind got up and it was bleddy freezing! First stop was a profitable look-in at Yarner Wood. Here on the heathland I observed my first Tree Pipits of the year, one bird being watched down to 10 feet sat in a tree! Two Lesser Redpoll were also watched up on the heath. Next, on to the carpark pond, where three Mandarin were also added to the 2014 list. About 10 Siskin were coming to the feeders outside the hide, adding a splash of colour, and giving their very distinctive call, together with Nuthatch, Marsh, Coal, Blue and Gret Tits. Up the path past the visitor centre and I'm looking out for stuff all the way, when my attention was drawn to a 'Phyllosc' feeding and flitting about in the tree tops. This turned out to be my first Wood Warbler of the year, but it remained silent. Apparently this was the first returning bird seen back at Yarner this year! Shortly afterwards I heard a male Pied Flycatcher singing, and I was soon looking at this very smart bird. Another 4 birds were seen on my walk around. Next was a calling Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which remained elusive. A Tawny Owl hooting deep in the woods was another Year tick. A Green Woodpecker was calling somewhere over in the valley. Time to move on. I stopped at Headland Warren Farm, which was starting to get over-run with bleddy grockles. There were dozens of people about, most seemed to be shouting at one another as loud as possible, whilst others were riding mountain bikes over everything. I understand that folk need exercise, and far from it for me to try and stop anyone trying to get fit, but something will have to be done soon to limit where these bikers ride, as they are slowly helping to erode away the topsoil and rocks of our impressive tors, not to mention the disturbance to wildlife and destruction of moorland plants. It does seem that they think they are entitled to take their bikes on every inch of ground available. Rant over! Wheatears were abundant, and believe it or not, were my first of the year, the latest I have ever seen this species! I then popped down to Challacombe Farm, but there seemed to be very little about, but there were an awful lot of people about, the area resembling Exeter High Street on a busy shooping day! At some stage of the day and in a quiet location, I managed to add Goshawk to my 2014 list 'somewhere on Dartmoor'. Later in the afternoon I caught up with the Snow Bunting at Dawlish Warren.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Busy time!

I have been ultra-busy with work, family and gardening commitments, so haven't had time to post on here. So, just a quick update of highlights over the past 3 weeks or so: Osprey from my back doorstep distantly over the Exe, Mar 28. Spoonbill at Bowling Green Marsh, Topsham, Apr 7. Common Tern (3) from Mudbank Lane, Exmouth, Apr 8 Red Kite from my back doorstep, Apr 13. Other Year ticks have been: Willow Warbler, Swallow, Grey Partridge (in Wiltshire), Little Ringed Plover, House Martin, Lesser Whitethroat & Reed Warbler. Today I went round to Exminster Marshes where the usual Barnacle Goose was still present between the lane and the lagoon. A female Garganey was my first of the year, but was difficult to see in a channel near the canal carpark. The Lesser Whitethroat was still performing well along the railway path. I even managed to see my first Common Swift of the year slowly heading north into the wind about 200 feet up over the lagoon! This afternoon I strolled along from Mudbank Lane to West Lodge in Exmouth, and back, the highlight being my first Whimbrel of 2014. Best bird (and another Year tick) this afternoon though was a female Common Redstart up at Orcombe Point, showing down to 30 feet along the track to the camp field!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Another quick update

Due to being very busy lately, the old fingers have not been able to tap on the keyboard quite so much recently, so a very quick update of a mainly very quiet birding period! Finally caught up with some proper spring migrants. A visit to Bowling Green Marsh Monday lunchtime provided me with c.200 Sand Martins. Then Tuesday I managed to catch up with my second Glaucous Gull in Exmouth this year and finally set eyes on the stonking second-winter bird down on the Pierhead. I even managed to take some pics of it with my mobile phone the next day, such were the close views the bird afforded! Wednesday also provided me with my first Sandwich Terns of the year, 3 being seen distantly perched on the seaward side of a buoy (presumably trying to hide from yours truly, and not taking flight once in over the hour I had them in view!). Today was cold and windy and migrants were restricted to 3 Chiffchaffs.