Thursday, 19 October 2017

That's More Like It!

Well Ophelia has come and gone, but in birding terms delivered nothing. She didn't bring any American land birds or waders, and didn't even drag up that many sea birds on her journey - bit or an ornithological flop really. But since then things have picked up...

The last week has seen an exceptional arrival of Firecrest across south Devon and Dorset, well some parts of south Devon and Dorset! Portland recorded an unprecedented 150+ on Sunday, with probably just as many around Prawle/Start/Soar. But other places (Dawlish Warren, Exmouth, here) recorded none on the very same day!  Pleasingly they have started trickling through here now, I had my first at Spring Head, Axmouth on Monday afternoon, with another on Tuesday up by Axe Cliff Golf Course car park. Dad had six at Beer Head also on Tuesday, and Bun another in Beer village. Such smart birds.

A quick look along the beach to see what Ophelia had left us revealed just six Ringed Plover, a Little Stint (presumably the lingering bird) and a whole load more Man o' War.

Looking east along Seaton Beach on Tuesday morning

Wednesday gave us a nice double, although sadly one of which I missed.  Our Reserves Officer James Chubb saw a Great White Egret on Colyford Common (which had previously been at Abbotsbury Swannery), but it soon took flight and headed off south west. So proving to be as brief a visitor as the other two recorded here this year. Drat.  What followed cheered me up though...

Yellow-browed Warblers have proved much scarcer this autumn than recent years, presumably solely because we've not had the easterly winds of the previous few autumns. So, stepping out my front door early afternoon, I was really surprised to hear one call from trees just up the road - my third from the garden! I didn't have great views of it, but Tim White clearly did an hour or so later as he managed THIS fab picture of it - always such smart birds and always great to see/hear.

The drizzle and completely still conditions of last night saw (well heard!) an excellent nocturnal passage of Redwing and Song Thrush overhead, which gave me high hopes for this morning.  But those hopes have not really been lived up too (as usual!), although it did feel really good out there. There was one lovely highlight though...

As I drove over the lower Axe bridge into Seaton, I was amazed to see a flock of six Avocet fly across in front of the car! A really mega-sized flock by Axe standards.  I watched them fly upriver, they then circled around a bit before seeming to drop down on Black Hole Marsh. So I went around for another gander...

And that brings me and this blog up to date! So good to feel proper autumn excitement - we are a go...

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Man o' War

With no urgent bird news to write about, all I've got to report is incredible numbers of Portuguese man o' war washed up on Seaton Beach. I wouldn't be surprised if a walk along the whole length of the beach revealed a three figure count today, with one or two every ten or so feet...

Stunning looking things! Pity to see such big numbers involved though.

In the bird world autumn has clearly moved on. Goldcrests seem to be everywhere now, and I saw my second Redpoll of the autumn this afternoon.  The Estuary has offered me nothing better in recent days than singles of Little Stint and Bar-tailed Godwit, a couple of Med Gulls and seven Ringed Plover.  I wonder if this so-called hurricane will blow anything more interesting in...

Monday, 9 October 2017

Cattle Egret

An early morning walk down to Seaton Marshes would have proved quiet were it not for the recent Cattle Egret. It was showing well from the hide with the cattle on the reserve itself, although the cattle didn't seem to like it very much and often charged it away!

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Axe Cliff Vis Migging and Harvest Moon

This blog post is a day late, but wow yesterday morning was so so enjoyable. Under beautiful blue skies and in the cool early morning autumn air it was exhilarating watching an impressive westward passage of passerines over Axe Cliff.

The view from my favourite vis migging watch point on patch

I usually count absolutely everything I see whilst vis migging, with a notebook in my pocket and clickers hanging off anything and everything they can. But yesterday morning due to the lack of wind, birds were flying past on countless different lines, which basically made counting impossible.  Although most the finches were passing just off the cliff edge, there were flocks of bird passing a quarter of a mile out to sea, and even more up to half an mile inland! There really were thousands of birds though, it was an epic watch with the most numerous species (in order) being; Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Chaffinch, alba Wagtail, Goldfinch, Skylark and Greenfinch. The species I counted included; 25 Siskin, 21 Reed Bunting, 6 Starling, 2 Grey Wagtail, 2 Dunnock and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker should really read ex Great Spotted Woodpecker, sad but it did give me one of my vis migging life highlights. I heard a swoosh, and out of no where an adult Peregrine powered into a Great Spotted Woodpecker (that I hadn't seen previously) right in front of my face! The noise of the Peregrine stoop was incredible, but then came the thud, followed by a squawk from the Woodpecker and then a explosion of black and white feathers that slowly floated to the ground.  Amazing. Sadly though both lost out. The Peregrine dropped its prey deep into the undergrowth and could not retrieve, and the Woodpecker would not have survived.

Although overhead was super busy, the fields at Axe Cliff were unusually quiet with a couple of Stonechat and a couple of briefly grounded Reed Buntings the best.


There was a bit more movement down the cliff edge though, with a trickle of Goldcrests and the odd Chiffchaff making their way west through the vegetation. Sadly no Yellow-browed Warblers.

A quick look over the valley afterwards produced a lovely juvenile Marsh Harrier over Colyford Marsh that circled up and rapidly flew off north.  Today, although  I haven't been out, a Cattle Egret and an adult Yellow-legged Gull have been seen from the Tower Hide, along with a report of a Bittern. Gripping.

In a rapid change of topic, I'm sure you all are aware by now that Thursday night of last week gave us a spectacular display of the Harvest Moon. I took a few photos at around 11pm, and as I missed the moon rise, took one of the 'moon set' at Axe Cliff in the morning. All photos with the ever impressive Nikon P900...


What I found even more impressive came the following night, with an almost full moon lighting up a sky full of clouds. Amazingly the following photo was taken from my back door at 10:30pm...

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Ruff Influx and Spoonbill

Today is the first day this week that I've managed any time out birding on patch. And that's with the whole week off work!  I managed two looks along the Estuary at mid tide (early morning and mid afternoon) and an early afternoon visit to Black Hole Marsh.  It was quite a fruitful day really with my totals being; 

42 Wigeon
50+ Teal
1 Spoonbill
7 Ringed Plover
2 Dunlin
1 Curlew Sandpiper
1 Little Stint
19 Ruff
1 Bar-tailed Godwit
2 Green Sandpiper
5 Common Sandpiper
1 Spotted Redshank
3 Greenshank

There's two stand outs on that list, Spoonbill and the exceptional Ruff count.  The Spoonbill was completely jammy as I saw it with my naked eye from the kitchen window flying south west away from Black Hole Marsh. Doubt soon crept in with such a brief and distant naked eye only view, but sure enough when I went down to Black Hole an hour later... "there was a Spoonbill here about an hour ago, didn't stay long though and flew off towards the Estuary". Presumably this was also the bird that dropped in briefly at Abbotsbury today.

As for the Ruff. Wow. Just wow. I had at least ten early morning on Black Hole Marsh, Dad had 14 mid morning and when I went down there early afternoon there was an incredible 19 on view. All were juveniles, and they were mostly hanging out in two flocks of seven with the rest loosely dotted around.  Not sure if this is a record count for the patch, I highly doubt it as 'back in the day' am sure Phil saw loads together at times, but my previous highest single count here is of 17. Can't remember the date off hand but it was in the winter during a very cold snap with lots of snow and ice around.

Six of the 19 Ruff on Black Hole Marsh this afternoon

The Spotted Redshank was the lingering juvenile on Colyford Scrape, and the Curlew Sandpiper (juv), Ringed Plovers and my highest count so far this autumn of Wigeon were all along the Estuary this morning.

In other news, it's that time of year when I need to edit my mini-bio to the right of this page, and increase my age by one. Though to be honest life is going by so quick it feels like I'm changing this at least three times a year!  At the age of 32, well, I can't even begin to explain just how happy and content I am with life, it would take pages and pages of text. But the source of it all is simple...

My world

Saturday, 23 September 2017

More Grey Phalarope

Although the Grey Phalarope remains on Black Hole Marsh, I've only managed another five minutes with it. That was on Thursday afternoon just as the sun came out...

What a great bird! It's no surprise that it is proving so popular with photographers as it is showing so so well.

Also reported today a new juv Little Stint, and I've seen lots of lovely pictures on Twitter of three juvenile Ruff feeding together on Colyford Common, two males and a female.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Grey Phalarope

Considering it has very much been a Grey Phalarope autumn on the south coast of the UK this year (with for example eight together at Abbotsbury Swannery last week!) one was always on the cards here, but it's taken longer than I expected.

I was absolutely delighted the first-winter Grey Phalarope Phil found on Black Hole Marsh last night stayed for me to enjoy early this morning. As you can see it showed exceptionally well in the dull and sometimes wet conditions right by the entrance to the Island Hide...

This was when it was at its furthest...

Showing well!

First-winter Grey Phalarope with Dunlin

If the weather brightens up a bit and the bird stays around, there's going to be some proper nice pics of it. What a stunner.

I was amazed to learn this was a patch life tick for Tim Wright, but thinking about it they have been really scarce here in recent years. These are my last three records of Grey Phalarope for the patch (click on the date to take you to the corresponding blog post);

9/11/10 - one in flight off the sea front before flying high upriver. Subsequent searching for it resulted in the discovery of our first and only patch Long-billed Dowitcher!
5/10/10 - one on Black Hole Marsh all afternoon and evening.
5/10/08 - one on Colyford Marsh scrape all day (third record of Grey Phal that year).

I'm pretty sure Ian Mc has seen one during a sea watch since my last 2010 individual, but it's certainly been a while since one in the valley!