Thursday, 27 November 2008

Thursday 27th November 2008

Bowling Green Marsh

Just occasionally I like to vary my lunchtime from day to day. It was dry but cloudy, after a spell of light rain this morning, and fairly mild. I decided on the spur of the moment to visit Bowling Green Marsh, Topsham, despite it being low tide. I arrived, parked up the top of Bowling Green Lane and ambled quietly down the road, taking note of some Long-tailed Tits feeding with a couple of Goldcrests, near the railway arch. They soon moved on, so I scanned over the wooden gates to the main pool. Most of the birds seemed to be on the south side of the pool, so I carried on to the hide. Wigeon numbers were fairly normal for the time of year, as were Teal and Shoveler. Amongst these were 5 Pintail and on the pool, two pairs of Pochard. A couple of Greylag Geese were with the tiny Canada flock. A Buzzard was noted in the distance. 3 Common Snipe were located amongst the grassy tussocks bordering the small pool nearest the hide. A couple of Jays carried acorns over the marsh.
After getting 'bum cramp', it was time to move on along the lane. Lots of small birds were present in the hedgerows. Several Redwing and Blackbirds showed themselves. More Long-tailed Tits called noisily accompanied by Great and Blue Tits, another Goldcrest and many Goldfinches. A Grey Heron was tucked in a corner. I ambled slowly down the track to the viewing platform to look over the River Clyst. The tide was right out, but Avocet, Redshank, Dunlin and Grey Plover were well spread out across the mudflats. A single Knot was seen. Little Egrets were dotted about the estuary. A couple of Red-breasted Mergansers were diving in the channel. 62 Dark-bellied Brent Geese were feeding in the field, adjacent to the viewing platform, along with a few Wigeon and Teal.
I then made my way back, studying the bushes closely along the track, as they were full of birds, including many Goldfinches, attracted to the alder trees, Greenfinches, more Long-tailed Tits, Redwings and a couple of Goldcrests, and, a Firecrest which flew into my field of view for a few moments. It soon dropped back down into cover, and try as I might, I couldn't see it again.
Making my way back along the lane I encountered a male Stonechat and another acorn-carrying Jay flew over. Then I returned to work. Another very pleasant lunchtime's birding!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Wednesday 26th November 2008

Stick to the estuary?

At lunchtime today I decided a long-overdue look around Bystock Reserve was in order. Last February the place was dripping with birds, including large numbers of Siskins and Redpolls, and sizeable tit flocks with associated species like Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and even a couple of Firecrests. Oh dear! Today the place was like a morgue. I struggled to see a few Redwings and a couple of Goldcrests. The only finches I saw were one Chaffinch and two Goldfinches. Had the usual Buzzard sightings and I heard invisible Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. However that was it. Very disappointing. Maybe we will get some more birds when the winter has progressed a bit.
I was so jaded at the lack of avian delights, I soon took myself off to Mudbank Lane, where I knew I was going to see some birds! Sure enough, amongst the hoards of feathered friends I found a Spotted Redshank and a couple of Pale-bellied Brent Geese. A Greenshank was in the same creek as the 'spotshank'. Grey Plover were present in good numbers and quite a few Knot were visible. Phew! That's better. I then nipped back up to work, and found myself trying to keep up with a Peregrine which was flying over the main road heading in the same direction!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Tuesday 25th November 2008

Surf Scoter and Football

I had to pick up my wife from her dancing at the Pavilion on the seafront in Exmouth at lunchtime. I had time for a quick scan over the sea for 10 minutes or so. The cold north-easterly was not noticeable stood behind a seafront shelter, and the sun even warmed things up a tad! I soon obtained distant views of the female Surf Scoter again off Dawlish Warren. I also found a flock of 10 Common Scoter a lot nearer to Exmouth, but very close in to the Warren beach.
This evening it was off to my other great love (after my family and birding!) - Exeter City FC. We only managed a draw but deserved all 3 points against Rotherham, whose goalie pulled off a string of superb saves to deny us a win. It was a cold night, but I was well wrapped up and to be honest I have felt a lot colder sat in the Old Grandstand than what I was tonight! Still 7th position after getting promoted (at Wembley!) last season is not to be sneezed at!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Monday 24th November 2008

A quick look round the mouth of the Exe

I spent lunchtime in Exmouth today. Firstly I went to Mudbank Lane. It was quite cold with a north-easterly wind blowing, but thankfully dry. The tide was some way out, but was starting to come in a bit. There were the usual thousands of birds out on the estuary, with numerous Wigeon, Pintail, gulls and Dark-bellied Brent Geese. After scanning through the hordes for quite some time, I found 5 Pale-bellied Brent Geese amongst the wildfowl, out on the tideline. There were lots of Oystercatcher, Curlew, Dunlin and Redshank, interspersed with a few Grey Plover and Turnstone, and 2 each of Greenshank and Knot. In the fields behind the lane, a Grey Heron and 5 Little Egret stood in the lee of a hedge, sheltering from the cold wind. A good flock of House Sparrows were noisy from deep in the laneside hedgerow. We are lucky in that we still seem to have plenty of these little birds in our area. I know that they are fast disappearing from our cities and towns!
Next stop was the seafront, which was cold and exposed and mainly birdless! I noted a single Gannet out in the bay, but nothing much else. I always find that with the wind blowing off the land here, most of the birds are nowhere to be seen.
Just time for a quick trudge round the old docks area then (I still can't get used to calling it the marina - it sounds too posh and also reminds me of those awful cars that were churned out by British Leyland back in the 70's!). There were plenty of Dark-bellied Brent Geese off Shelley Beach and a few Red-breasted Merganser in the channel. A Rock Pipit was keeping low out of the cold wind and I suspect the wind was the reason I saw no sign of any Black Redstarts! I then headed back to work.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Saturday 22nd November 2008

Back to Wiltshire

I had to travel back to my roots in Wiltshire today, occasioned by my elderly parents. As you can see from my profile, I was born in Wiltshire, and I actually lived there for 28 years. However, I have a very small Wiltshire birding list - caused mainly by living in the extreme west of the county, most of my original birding trips being to such birding hotspots as Chew Valley Lake and the Somerset coast. I also had many birding contacts in the Bath and Bristol area, and in my early twitching days, used to travel with crews of birders from these haunts. I only had to walk less than a mile from my home and I would be in Somerset! Therefore I don't have many rarities on my Wiltshire list. Red-footed Falcon is about the rarest, and to that you can add Black-winged Stilt, Hoopoe, Dotterel, Bittern, Osprey and Great Grey Shrike, so as you can see it's not very impressive!

Come on Terry, stop whittering on, get to the point. As I mentioned, I was back in Wiltshire and luckily there was a Wiltshire tick waiting for me. I called in at Westbury Ponds, well actually Frogmore Pond to be precise, and there sat in the middle of the pond was an adult Great Northern Diver still moulting out of summer plumage. I would imagine that it was a sick bird. It was pretty inactive and didn't dive once the whole time I was there. In fact speaking to a local birder, I was told he had only seen it dive once in over three hours' viewing over the past few days! Still, it showed very well and it was a good bird to add to my county list. Strangely enough, while I was there I added another bird to my Wiltshire list. This was the Yellow-legged Gull which was seen paddling around with a few other gulls. So, a lucky double strike!

A bit later on in the day I had a quick stomp around my old childhood patch before dusk totally descended. This produced Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and Grey Wagtail, but nothing else of note.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Thursday 20th November 2008

Distant Surfer

No I don't mean there was someone on a surfboard right out in the bay! I had incredibly distant views of the female Surf Scoter again this afternoon from the seafront at Exmouth. It has such a distinctive head shape you can pick it out at considerable distance. It appeared to be with 4 Common Scoters. Of course, the sea was flat calm, otherwise it might have been a tad more difficult. I also had a couple of high-flying Gannets right out in the bay, but there was nothing else of note.

This morning I had a quick look over the Exe estuary from Mudbank Lane. Again, there was nothing unusual, but large numbers of wildfowl were close in to the railway line. Several hundred of each of Dark-bellied Brent Geese and Wigeon were continually calling, the former 'barking' and the latter 'whistling'! Scattered amongst these were about 100 Pintail - these ducks are so smart, they always seem to be in immaculate plumage! A Green Woodpecker was calling from some trees a little further along the lane towards Lower Halsdon Farm. This is now owned by the National Trust. After the last owner died a few years back he decided to leave it to the trust, rather than let some disgusting developer get hold of it and build hundreds of houses all across the estuary-side fields. In my book, the guy should be awarded a posthumous knighthood!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Wednesday 19th November 2008


Still suffering from a bad back, and taking my chiropracter's advice, I visited Sidmouth today and did some walking around the town and seafront area, also managing to hobble round Connaught Gardens. These small council-owned gardens sit right on the top of the cliff, at the western end of Sidmouth's main beach. They are well-tended and in spring and summer are a blaze of colour, thanks to wonderful planting of beautiful flowering plants. The gardens are also well-known to local birders for producing views of Purple Sandpipers and Black Redstarts! I called in this morning but the tide was right up and there were none of the former species on view. I also drew a blank with regard to the latter. These tend to frequent the thatched roofs of the large houses immediately east of the gardens. What was apparent though was a huge gathering of Herring Gulls across the bay, presumably enticed in to a very large fish shoal. These remained out there all day. The gardens are in a bit of a precarious position, being sited at the top of the red sandstone cliffs. To the east and west of the town a lot of cliff erosion is taking place and regular falls of tons of cliff occur. Spectacularly, to the west of Connaught Gardens is a house right on top of the cliff heading up towards Peak Hill. It has already lost some of its garden down the cliff, and one wonders just how long the place will still be standing! I would imagine that it cost the owners many thousands of pounds a few years ago. I would also imagine that it is practically worthless now, as the eroding cliff gets ever closer............
I walked round the town with my lovely wife, and we took lunch in one of our favourite cafes - wonderful! Mid afternoon, and I was back along the western end of the beach to check Chit Rocks, which thanks to the receding tide were now starting to become visible. A few Oystercatchers and Turnstones were feeding on them, and thanks to diligent searching, a Purple Sandpiper was found fairly close in to the path. These little beggars are a so-and-so to find. They are small, dumpy, the colour of seaweed-covered rocks and stick like limpets to said rocks, always seeming to know just where to stand to avoid being swept away by the next crashing wave! There are usually around 6 of them on these rocks, but I could only find the single one today.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Tuesday 18th November 2008

The Workplace

It's amazing what you can see at work, and also travelling to and from the place of toil. I always start early (usually before 7am), so as it's quiet I can catch up with mundane paperwork and also keep a beady eye open for any birdlife outside the office. I've already posted about the late House Martins I always seem to see in November. But back to this morning which dawned nice and bright and early. A small flock of distant Canada Geese flew over the adjacent farmland. A flock of 14 Fieldfare could be heard calling in flight as they ventured over the nearby playing fields. A few Curlew flew inland from the adjoining Exe estuary. Then, just before the incoming rush of workers, a couple of Long-tailed Tits busied themsleves in a small tree just below my top floor window.
Although suffering from a bad back (sitting for long periods is the worst thing you can do), I decided to walk the 4 miles home this afternoon. More Fieldfares and a few Redwings were seen first, as well as Blackbirds, Song and Mistle Thrushes. I walked up Stony Lane to Conigar Cross. I had just passed over the junction, when a bird flushed from the laneside ditch right in front of me. Expecting it to be a Pheasant, about one second later I saw that it was much much smaller, and then in the next nanosecond I realised it was a Woodcock! Dumpy build, with dead-leaves camouflage-colour, a long snipe-like bill held slightly downwards, and totally silent, it was only my second one this year! A bit further on a Great Spotted Woodpecker attracted my attention by calling and flying over the lane, while I was focusing on an overhead Goldfinch. Then, just round the corner, a Green Woodpecker was heard calling at the same time as I spotted a Buzzard, also calling from the top of a very tall telegraph pole. This bird was a right exhibitionist. It launched itself off the pole and proceeded to fly up and down over the lane, calling constantly. By now the light was beginning to fade. I had to navigate myself safely down the side of a busy road for 400 yards. No birds could be given attention while doing so. I eventually passed on to a safe pavement and pottered quietly back home to be greeted by my son, who gave me all the latest football news ahead of tonight's FA Cup replays!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Saturday 15th November 2008

The Same Bird?

I had the chance to have a wander along the seafront at Exmouth and around the Orcombe Point area this afternoon. It was a very mild day with a slight north-westerly breeze. I scanned over the beach and noted the usual masses of gulls, and large number of Shags out across the bay. I was aware that a female Surf Scoter had been seen the previous day from Dawlish Warren. Mindful of this, I was carefully 'scoping the sea area to the east of the Warren beach when I found the bird in question, some 200 yards or so off the beach. This was quite a chunky dark seaduck and it was alone on this particular patch of saltwater. There were no other scoter in sight. This was my second sighting of this species this year. Indeed it could be the same bird, albeit ten and a half months later! A female Surf Scoter was in practically the same position back in January when I saw it. Surely it's the same bird returning? Hopefully it will hang around into next year, and I can go and year-tick it again! This species is becoming annual in its occurrences around the mouth of the Exe estuary - especially in the October to March period. I remember seeing my first 'Surfer' many many years ago. Strangely enough this bird, an adult drake, was also off Dawlish Warren. I had travelled down from my then Wiltshire home to see it. It was quite a rarity in those days! I recall that it was a freezing cold day in late January. It was only really possible to see the bird from the top of Langstone Rock, giving birders the necessary height to scan over the rafts of distant scoter. Of course it was real brass monkey weather up there with the wind tearing in from the sea. The bird didn't really show well until we had all been perched up there for several hours, by which time we had turned blue with the cold. I remember staggering back down to the car in order to try and warm up, having lost the feeling in my arms, legs and other unmentionable extremities!

Anyway, back to the present, and after eyeing the scoter for a while, I carried on up to Orcombe Point, where a large Peregrine flew low over me twice slowly, the second time being so low I could have almost touched it with my tripod! Only one Gannet was visible out at sea. There were several large ships moored out on the horizon. The light was now getting a little dimmer and passerines seemed to have gone to roost early, save for a Goldcrest, still foraging for insects in an old apple tree. Of course, when I had literally reached the farthest point from the car, I had a call from my good lady telling me to get back into town to pick her and my daughter (who has come up from uni' in Cornwall for a few days) up from a bout of intense retail therapy. Still, I had taken my own spell of therapy, enjoying both the Surf Scoter and the Peregrine views.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Wednesday 12th November 2008

To tick or not to tick?

The continued presence of the drake Hooded Merganser at Radipole Lake had been tormenting me for some time. I hadn't seen this species before anywhere. It was a world lifer. Could the Radipole bird be a genuine wild bird? I wouldn't like to say either way! It has certainly turned up in a westerly location, always a good sign for a genuine American vagrant. When it turned up in the late spring, it was a grotty little grey and brown duck! Now it has moulted in to stunning near-adulthood and certainly is a superb bird. Well, I was unable to resist any longer, and decided to get up even earlier than usual, and drive along the coast to see it. I was up at 4.45am, and duly arrived at Radipole visitor centre at 7am. There wasn't too much traffic on the way over, but the coast road was closed between Swyre and Abbotsbury. I decided to go the main road way to the Dorchester by-pass and take the Weymouth road from there. Massive queues of traffic heading out of Weymouth, all the way to Dorchester (ie. coming in the opposite direction), gave me a mental reminder that I should not return this way later!

Anyway, I parked the car by the (closed) visitor centre, and started scanning the water nearby. There was no sign of the bird, so I wandered slowly down to the Gurkha restaurant and scanned the area down to Westham bridge. It wasn't there either! OK, so it was only 7.15 and I had a couple of hours to find the bird. At 7.20 I was back up by the visitor centre, and lo and behold there was the drake Hooded Merganser steaming out from under the branches out on to open water. It performed beautifully and even bobbed it's head a few times in mock-display. Apparently in the wilds of North America this species has hybridised regularly with Goldeneye, so a bit of head-shaking towards a couple of female Tufted Ducks was perfectly acceptable! They just drove it off anyway. No American posers allowed in posh Dorset then! It drifted back under some low branches the other side of the footbridge in common with its native habits across the pond. I reckon this is where the bird was when I first arrived, well-hidden in some dark corner under the trees. The outrageous crest on the rear of the bird's head had to be seen to be believed. It looked some enormous powder puff. And yet the bill was thin, long and delicate. The eyes were outstanding, looking like a couple of colourful beads, deep yellow irises with black pupils. The reddy-brown (orangey) body was finely vermiculated with brown.

I decided to have a stroll round the reserve while I was there. Apart from two people with dogs on leads, and a young female red-faced jogger, I saw no-one. Bliss! There were several duck species present, but there did not seem to be half the number of birds there that I used to see, when I visited the place regularly from my Wiltshire home some 25-30 years ago! Mind you, there wasn't a horrendous noisy main road running down the western flank of the reserve in those days. Regrettably all you could hear the whole time I was there was thunderous traffic. How sad that this awful state of affairs should spoil my happy memories of how things used to be! I seem to remember being towards the western side of the lake back in February 1980, when I was watching a Pied-billed Grebe. It was so quiet back then. I see some new houses have been built alongside the road too, another thorny issue...........

Cetti's Warblers were as usual, everywhere, and a couple provided stunning views. A Chiffchaff was more fleeting though. I returned to the bridge by the visitor centre to find that the "hoodie" had drifted some way up the channel and had returned to hiding amongst the vegetation and low branches. Indeed, it was even having a quick forty winks, whilst I watched it. A little while later, it decided to do a bit of diving a bit nearer the bridge again, so I had great views of it once again. Having to be at Budleigh Salterton back in Devon by 11.30, I left the bird to it, again having drifted back under the branches. This just gave me enough time to pop over to Ferrybridge for a scan over the eastern end of the Fleet, and take a much-needed cuppa from my flask.
Here there was a massive flock of Brent Geese of all different types. About 1500 geese in all, mainly being adult and several juvenile birds of the Dark-bellied form. However, I counted at least 15 Pale-bellied in amongst them and, star of the goose-fest, a single Black Brant! I hadn't seen one in Dorset before, but my last one, in December last year, had been on the Kingsbridge Estuary in my home county of Devon. A cracking bird and so different from the Dark-bellied form! Also there stood in a little group, were at least 12 Mediterranean Gulls, 6 of which were adults, the rest being made up of juvenile/first winter and second-winter birds. Some goon with a dog came up on my left flank, marched over and read a sign which said to the effect "Please do not exercise your dog here due to feeding birds", then proceded to wade through the mud with his pooch and let it run amok! All the birds took flight and flew around in a blind panic. I immediately left in disgust, otherwise I would have been in trouble with the local constabulary for assault! I took the coast road as far as Portesham then cut up to the A35 through Little and Long Bredy's, and made my way back to East Devon.
This afternoon I had a look over the seafront at Exmouth, but save from 20 Common Scoters and a few Gannets, there was little to fire the enthusiasm. Still, I was happy with my trip this morning, and glad to have caught up with a possible lifer!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Tuesday 11th November 2008

A Lunchtime Stroll

A day of heavy showers, so I had to pick my time for a lunchtime stroll from work on the side of the Exe estuary. I dashed out straight after a heavy shower and found myself down at Exton station in next to no time! I was indulging in 'dude birding' as it was binoculars only as I was without my 'scope. Hence I saw nothing very exciting, but there were plenty of birds on the estuary, though about eighty per cent of them were a long way out. There were lots of Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Grey Plover and Dunlin fairly close in, but the Avocets were just 'white blobs with dark bits' over towards Exminster Marshes. A few Black-tailed Godwits were present too. A Buzzard was soaring in the cold wind over the other side of the estuary, whilst a Little Egret flew in and landed on 'my' side of the Exe. It immediately hunched up and pointed its bill into the wind! Not too many wildfowl were present though. A few Red-breasted Mergansers were in the channel, and a small clump of Mallard had batoned down the hatches in the wind. A couple of Brent Geese flew up the other side of the river. All of a sudden there was another sharp heavy shower. I dived into the shelter on the station platform, whilst the wind and rain whistled around me. Strange thing though today was the total lack of trains - perhaps they were out on strike or something. The nature of the single track line means that trains go south to Exmouth, then 'reverse' back up to Topsham, where the next train waits on the double track. This normally means there is a train thundering by every few minutes, but not today!
So it was a fairly quiet shelter on the platform today. Once the shower had passed, I had one more good scan over the estuary, then set out back to work. However, this was not before I had spotted a party of six Knot feeding with the Bar-tailed Godwit flock - small, dumpy, hunched up, neckless, chunky, call them what you will, they are always a pleasure to see! A Grey Heron was stood out on the tideline, also hunched up against the weather. A Kestrel was hovering alongside the railway track as I left the estuary-side. I luckily got back to work before the next shower came up.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Friday 7th November 2008

A Quiet Corner of Somerset

This afternoon I had to drive up to Wiltshire in order to pick up my elderly parents and bring them down to East Devon tomorrow to stay for a holiday. I had a little time before it got dark, so I stopped at Bruton to see if I could find the Hawfinches that were seen the previous two days. I parked up and walked along Mill Lane to Lower Backway. I scanned the prescribed trees, wandered round the immediate area for a while and didn't see any Hawfinches!What did amaze me though, was the sheer number of small birds that were to be seen. I suppose they were attracted to the cover provided by the trees and bushes alongside the tiny River Brue. I soon realised there were lots of tits in the vicinity. Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tits were present, with the latter two species providing the closest views. The Long-tails were obliging enough to hang around a couple of bushes just ten feet from where I was stood, whilst the Coal Tits actually inspected a plant-covered wall for insects only six feet away! A couple of Goldcrests were busy feeding across the road as well. The ash trees which acted as suitable perches for Hawfinches yesterday did the same for some Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Greenfinches today. A Buzzard passed low overhead at one point, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker called briefly. Blackbirds were busy chasing each other around the ivy-covered trunks and a couple of Pied Wagtails put in an appearance. Collared Doves vied with the Wood Pigeons in making their presence felt, whilst Jackdaws were noisy on surrounding rooftops. Star of the show though was a female Blackcap which materialised out of the greenery just before I left the quiet backwater that is Bruton.
I carried on my journey towards Wiltshire and with a few minutes remaining of half-light, I quickly scanned Orchardleigh Lake, an old stomping ground of mine from some forty years ago! A couple of Great Crested Grebes were the highlights here, but apart from the usual Pochard and Tufted Ducks, which I could just about make out in the dimming vestiges of light, there seemed to be nothing else of note here. I carried on to the Wiltshire village and found my parents in good health and ready for their break in Devon!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Thursday 6th November 2008

Local Specialities

Living in East Devon, we are blessed with having a few species nesting locally which are uncommon or just plain rare elsewhere in the country. Dartford Warbler springs to mind. They are literally common on the commons, and can be found in good numbers on the East Devon heathlands. They even nest within the Exmouth Civil Parish Boundary, so I get to see them like most folk in other parts of the country see Yellowhammers or Treecreepers. But perhaps the most localised of all is a bird whose main breeding stronghold is in our fair county. Yes, I'm talking about the Cirl Bunting. The males in breeding plumage are absolutely stunning, and even at this time of year set the pulse racing. Now most local birders hereabouts would have year-ticked Cirl Bunting back in the first two weeks of January. Not me however, I tend to be a bit slow when it comes round to yearlisting. So, when I realised I hadn't seen any this year yet, I thought I had better make a special trip and make sure I saw some. I usually catch up with the birds on the west side of the Exe estuary, or in the South Hams when I am twitching a county rarity in those parts. Not this year though! I haven't had occasion to travel down to the south of the county and, well, I just hadn't made the effort to see them locally.
Therefore I popped round to the village of Exminster at lunchtime and meandered up and down the edges of some fields which are well-known to locals as being a good bet for connecting with the species. Eventually I came across a small finch flock numbering some 35 birds. Goldfinch and Chaffinch made up most of the numbers, but a couple of Reed Buntings were present and sure enough, there were the Cirl Buntings! There 6 birds in all, consisting of 3 of each sex. They flew into a hedge which had all it's leaves turned to an autumnal yellow in colour. Once I got the telescope on them, they were easy to see. I enjoyed these for about 30 minutes whilst a pair of Stonechats did their level best to impress me by perching closely on convenient stalks of weed. Mission accomplished. I must not leave it so long next year to make my acquaintance with these lovely birds!
I popped briefly into Bowling Green Marsh hide on the return journey just to see if there were any different birds to yesterday. Wigeon numbers were up on yesterday and there was a pair of Gadwall on the back edge of the main pool, while 3 Pochard were new in as well. The Little Grebe was still present. I bumped into Ron Lewis from Bath who had caught the train down for a day's birding, definitely a well-known birder from my distant past, and one I hadn't seen for over 20 years! He was quick to inform me he'd seen a Firecrest earlier along by the viewing platform, so that will be something to look for over the next few days.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Wednesday 5th November 2008

Off with a bang!

OK, a nice early start to today's diary has me keying in this at 7.30hrs. Yesterday I managed to find a couple of minutes to look skywards at work, and this produced at least one House Martin still hawking insects above the buildings. I suspect there were more, but I just didn't have the time to look! A quick look over the seafront at Exmouth during a much-reduced lunchtime period gave me tantalising distant views of a very small duck, which was all-dark. Trouble was, it was just too far out to identify, even with my trusty telescope. But, it was very small, especially in size comparison with the nearby Shags. One that got away.............

Back to today, and I was driving to work at 6.40 when one of the numerous local Buzzards nearly flew into my windscreen in the growing light. Mid morning, staring out of the office window (wishing I was out there), and a House Martin is wheeling around down towards the edge of the Exe estuary, so they still haven't gone south yet.

Lunchtime today was taken rather late, but I zipped up the road to Bowling Green Marsh at Topsham. Parking the car at the top of the lane, I ambled quietly down and watched a large tit flock moving through the trees. A couple of Goldcrests were with this flock, but I couldn't find anything more interesting. Still, I had super views of Long-tailed Tits, some being only a few feet away. Arriving at the hide along the lane, I had time to sit there for twenty minutes or so and peruse the birds in front of me. The Canada Goose flock was not excessive thank goodness, so a few more wildfowl could feed undisturbed. The flock contained three semi-feral Greylag Geese. A Little Grebe was diving out on the main pool, and a nice flock of 67 Lapwing were dozing poolside! One Common Snipe was showing right out in the open. I wonder how many more were out there hidden behind vegetation clumps! I strolled along to the viewing platform that looks out over the River Clyst. From here I saw a large number of Avocets feeding on the mud exposed by the receding tide (about 150+), a solitary Grey Plover right under the platform, a Greenshank which flew downriver with lots of Redshank and a group of Red-breasted Merganser diving in the channel. All too soon it was time to get back to the car, so I retraced my steps along the lane, seeing a male Stonechat in the "log layby" and wondered just how many Blackbirds there were in the area. An overnight fall must have occurred - they were everywhere! I checked them all in case anything rarer was lurking, but to no avail. Up to 4 Jays were flying backwards and forwards over the area as well.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Monday 3rd November 2008

Late House Martins

I was walking out from my office near the east side of the Exe estuary today, when I noticed a House Martin wheeling around feeding on late insects. I came to a halt and watched the rooftops for a few minutes, and realised there were four of them! I must admit that although we have endured cold north-easterly winds for the past few days, I wasn't at all surprised. I have had them in this locality in November for the last few years, the latest being about 24th November! There are a lot of large buildings on my complex, and I would imagine that these give off a fair amount of heat, thus attracting what insect life is left around. (Some of my colleagues would argue that the amount of bull---t emanating from these buildings would probably draw in the entire insect population of the northern hemisphere!). Still, they were a pleasure to see, and I reckon they could hang around for a little while longer.
Although working for the whole day, I was lucky to hear a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers back in Exmouth this afternoon too. We seem to have a healthy population of Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers in our area, and I have very occasionally seen their smaller cousin, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, within a couple of hundred yards of my house. Other notable species seen from my house or garden include White Stork, Red Kite, Little Egret, Waxwings, Black Redstart, Hobby and Peregrine, so it pays to keep looking out, even though I live in Exmouth's suburbia. I now keep a list of bird species seen within Exmouth Parish Boundary, and this year I have added Stone Curlew, Cattle Egret, Short-eared Owl and Lapland Bunting to that list amongst others, so one can only imagine what else will turn up!