Friday, 3 January 2014
2014 - so far!
January 1st produced probably the worst weather I can remember for this particular date. It was a wash-out from start to finish. I always start the year's birding in a very relaxed manner, usually going for a walk along the seafront with my wife, noting a few birds as I go and stopping for a cup of coffee in one of the seafront cafes. All very gentile and cosy! Well, we got to the cafe as usual, but parked as near as possible and I did a seawatch from one of the seafront shelters. Despite the birds being blown away to Kingdom-come, I was pleased to pick up a very close Bonxie (Great Skua to be politically-correct) flying slowly along the tideline and over the beach, occasionally being harrassed by the local Herring Gulls. It drifted eastwards and out of sight. I gave up trying to do any birding by lunchtime. I ended up with a paltry 25 species, my worst ever January 1st total. January 2nd was a much nicer day, with sunshine and occasional showers. I couldn't resist going back down to Brixham today for another look at the bird-fest! I arrived late morning and promptly caught up with very close views of the White-billed Diver right below the car park. The supporting cast consisted of 30+ Great Northern and 5+ Black-throated Divers, lots of Gannets, a very obliging Red-necked Grebe, 2 Purple Sandpipers, a close-in Kittiwake, a Black-necked Grebe, 5 Common Scoter and a cracking Black Guillemot! I also managed to miss an Iceland Gull, but hey, let's not be too greedy. I moved on, called in at Decoy Lake, Newton Abbot and quickly located the drake Scaup in falling drizzle and, in the fading light, visited the Passage House Inn at Kingsteignton, where a Common Sandpiper performed right in front of the car park. Today was spent dodging heavy showers, thunderstorms and very strong winds. I popped down to Mudbank Lane in Exmouth where I added Goldeneye and Red-breasted Mergansers to my year list, before driving up to Foxholes Hill. On my way, I was staggered to see idiots removing the police barriers which had sealed of the seafront to traffic, just so they could take their dogs to crap on the beach! No doubt, had these same idiots been washed away by the huge waves and the tidal surge, they would be the first numpties to expect the poor emergency services personnel to come and save them - I'm sorry but I just can't understand elements of the British population nowadays! Right, on to more pleasing things and I was soon watching a Great Northern Diver and 2 Eider fly past Orcombe and Foxholes Hill. A pair of Bullfinches were my first of the year. Another heavy shower had me scurrying fast back to the car! This afternoon I decided to visit Bowling Green Marsh, Topsham in order to see the long-staying Long-tailed Duck there. This I soon added to my 2014 year list, being very prominent on the flooded main pool. A handful of other colourful waterfowl species consisted of Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, a lone drake Pintail, 3 Pochard, drake Tufted Duck, Canada and Greylag Geese and 2 escaped Bar-headed Geese! A lone Avocet was swimming on the main pool and a Common Snipe was seen. I wandered along the newly-opened Exe Trail to the new bridge over the River Clyst, but only added Buzzard to my year list. But all in all, a pleasant day's birding.