Friday, 31 October 2008

Friday 31st October 2008

Black Redstart 1 Spoonbill 0

News was of a juvenile Spoonbill during the morning at Dawlish Warren. Now, I have learnt that it is quite easy to 'scope some of the larger birds at the 'back' of the Warren (ie the estuary side), by driving to the Shelley beach area of Exmouth and looking out from the gaudy new apartment blocks. Indeed I used this ploy last year to see 3 Spoonbills which were lingering in the same area of the Warren. One simply sets up scope and tripod, and looks out over the mouth of the Exe estuary. Better still, I used this method to view the Caspian Tern (only the second record for Devon) a couple of years ago or so. Rather than drive all round the estuary (a journey of some 17 miles and 45 + minutes!), it's far quicker to bomb down to Exmouth and use the trusty telescope. The Caspian Tern only hung around for a couple of hours or so, before flying off never to be seen again! This bird was easily seen from Exmouth as it stood head and shoulders over the rest of the assembled terns. So there I was at lunchtime today, perched above Shelley Beach looking for the Spoonbill. Regrettably someone forgot to tell it that it should hang about until yours truly arrived! I was left looking at lots of bait-diggers, fishermen and dogwalkers swarming over the mudflats as if the tide was out for the last time ever. This has to be the biggest threat to wildlife now, as the population grows larger and more folk seem discontented with only owning one dog. They have to have 3 or more nowadays. Needless to say all these pooches need exercise and where better to take them than the mudflats at low tide. Of course all the feeding birdlife gets driven off. They feel they don't have to bother clearing up after their animals as the tide will do it for them. I just pity those poor bathers off Exmouth seafront when the tide is running out. I hope they swim with their mouths firmly closed! Anyway the point is Sammy Spoonbill had cleared off before I got there. Luckily all was not lost as I found a Black Redstart frequenting the sailing club area. I actually got to within 15 feet of this bird and had cracking views of it moving around the boats. One of these birds seems to occur here most winters, so it was good to see one back again this autumn. Masses of Brent Geese and Wigeon were performing well, as were the obligatory Little Egrets. A few Red-breasted Merganser were also diving for food there. So although there was a cold north-easterly blowing, the sun was shining and as long as you stood out of the wind, it was quite pleasant.

Wednesday 29th October 2008

Cold and windy

I had a quick stomp around Orcombe Point, Exmouth at lunchtime today. It was cold despite the westerly wind blowing, and small birds were keeping hidden to a large extent. I left the car at Foxholes Hill as usual and a Coal Tit flew into a small fir tree by the car. I wandered out slowly to the point, checking the bushes and hedgerows on the way. Three Curlew flew over heading towards the top fields. There were a great many crows feeding in the fields around the point, including quite a few Rooks, a bird which doesn't always make its presence felt in this area. A large commotion occurred when a Raven flew low through the assembled throngs! I had a quick scan over the sea, which to a large extent was pretty calm. There were 6 Common Scoters (3 of each sex) a little way out from the western end of Sandy Bay beach. I walked up to the top cliffs, but it was quite exposed up here, and I quickly decided to return back down to the point, with time running out as well. 4 more Curlew headed over towards the top fields. A Goldcrest and a few Long-tailed Tits were moving quickly through the bushes below the campfield, but nothing else of note was seen. I plodded back to the car and returned to the dubious delights of the office!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Monday October 27th 2008

A Trip to West Cornwall

We were down in Cornwall visiting our daughter at the University of Exeter's Cornwall Campus at Falmouth for a couple of days. I thought I'd take the opportunity to drive over to the Sennen area and try to see the presumed Azorean Yellow-legged Gull that has been frequenting the Sennen Cove area. The weather was sunny but a cold north-westerly was blowing, so hat and gloves were required. Still it was a bright morning and the Isles of Scilly were visible in the distance, bringing back memories of when I used to visit the islands regularly over 20 years ago.
I hadn't managed to get any news on the gull for a couple of days, so thought I would give the Sunny Corner Lane area a grilling, that being the last location of any reported sightings. I noticed that there were lots of gulls down on the Cowloe on arrival mid morning, a rocky islet down in the cove, about a mile distant. I thought I'd give the immediate area a good look over, before popping down the road to the cove to try my luck there. I managed to park in a newish tiny cul-de-sac along the lane, kitted up and started scanning. A handful of immature gulls were flying around low overhead. I scanned the first -a first-winter argenteus Herring Gull, however my eyes nearly popped out when I got my bins on the second bird - a dark individual a bit reminiscent of an American Herring Gull! It was the Azorean Gull! I watched it wheeling around on and off for a good 45 minutes, sometimes dropping down below the clifftop houses, and reappearing some few hundred yards further on. Raven and Buzzard gave superb views as well, but small passerines were keeping low in the cold wind! A phone-call to my wife to confirm that I'd luckily jammed in on the bird, then it was off to the car. I drove back to the main road, then turned towards Lands End. I quickly stopped again when I realised the bird was in a roadside field just to the south of Sunny Corner Lane!
I had further good views of the bird, then with time fast running out, I decided that I would try for the Yellow-browed Warbler at Porthcurno on the way back to Falmouth. I listened to Birdline on my mobile, and picked up on the news that it was to be found in scrub to the south of the toilet block! Hoping that the wind was blowing away from the block, I parked up the car and started scanning and trying to listen for the bird. I did a slow circuit of the bushy area, and after several false alarms with 'crests and Chiffchaffs, I eventually got brief views of the bird as it moved quickly through with a tit flock. Time had run out, and I was keen to meet up with my daughter again, so I zipped back to Falmouth as fast as the traffic would allow. This turned out to be like the trip over - pretty slow. It now seems like the roads in West Cornwall are as slow as everywhere else in Britain. You get in a line of moving vehicles and crawl along behind someone who delights in pottering along at about 20mph! Of course, being half-term week probably added to the misery. Heavy prolonged showers now broke out, so I was pleased to have got my birding done in the sunshine! Despite keeping my eyes peeled I saw nothing else of interest during the afternoon, spent pottering around Falmouth.
I was just pleased that I had located the Azorean Gull, a world lifer for me, and who knows, one day it may get officially split as a separate species before I die!!