Monday, 19 June 2017

Lesser Emperor

Wow what a stunning few days we've had. Not so great for a three and a half week old baby, but great for dragonflies which is why I had a wander around Lower Bruckland Ponds this afternoon.

This proved a great move with a stunning surprise in the form of a male Lesser Emperor at 3pm over the top pond.  This is the third Lesser Emp I've found here (previous being 16th July 2006 and 10th August 2012) and turns out this afternoon several have appeared in the UK.  Sadly no pics as it didn't settle, and I last saw it being chased by an Emperor towards the next pond down. Fingers crossed it hangs around, all my previous have been multi-observed and I'd like to keep that record up!

Other notable Odonata on show this afternoon included my first Small Red-eyed Damselflies of the year, with at least five males on the smallest two ponds, am pretty sure these are fairly early too. Also still at least nine Scarce Chaser on the wing, seven lone males and an ovipositing pair. The more usual fare included 15+ Emperor, 20+ Black-tailed Skimmer, five Four-spotted Chaser, three Beautiful Demoiselle, two Banded Demoiselle, one Broad-bodied Chaser and the usual damselfly species.  And now for some pretty pictures...

Here's two different Small Red-eyed Damselflies...



Three different male Scarce Chasers...



A Four-spotted Chaser...



A Beautiful Demoiselle...



And VERY unusually for this blog - a flower! A rather long-stemmed Common Spotted (I think!?) Orchid...



And I just had to photograph this Coot chick on its completely exposed nest. Most Coot nests here are nicely tucked away...



I have also got a bit of birding news to catch up with.  I've already enjoyed three early morning wanders around the Axe Wetlands with Harry...



Each time I've heard singles of singing male Common and Lesser Whitethroats from the field to the south of the entrance track to Black Hole Marsh.  Interestingly the Axe Estuary Ringing Group recently trapped a breeding female Lesser White on Stafford Marsh as well, which is great news.  There certainly seems to be plenty of young passerines about this year too which is encouraging - it looks to have been a good breeding season for many species.

Sometime last week I has a Hobby from the back garden, not before time as they have been regular around here this summer. Red Kites are also clearly still around in some number, I had one over Colyton on Wednesday of last week and received emails informing me of low flying birds over Musbury (two) and Colyford on different days within the past week.

Apologies for the lack of posts lately guys, a mostly awake sometimes crying baby hasn't helped the cause. Although actually tonight he really did help...

 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Stormie

Good sea watching weather in June often doesn't produce much, with most species of sea bird safely on their breeding grounds a long long way away.  It's always worth a look though, especially if you need Storm Petrel for your Patchwork Challenge year list!

Although it's the strong winds and heavy rain that bring Storm Petrels close to shore, I always have better luck finding them off here once the weather has calmed down. Big waves and dark seas are not helpful when trying to pick out a Sparrow-sized mostly black bird that's probably a mile or so out! But when the waves ease and a bit of sun comes out that's when I usually have success, and today was no different...

Yesterday it rained and rained, and a really strong south westerly wind whipped up. These conditions were due to continue overnight until about 4am, when the rain was to ease and wind switch to a north westerly direction - perfect. So at about 05:20 I was setting my scope up in front of a nicely pale coloured and not too rough sea, and about fifteen minutes later my prize came. It wasn't the closest Storm Petrel I've ever seen here, but it remained in almost constant view for at least five minutes as it slowly battled its way west.  I always get such a thrill seeing this tiny sea bird over the huge expanse of the ocean, and I was surprised to remind myself on my return home that the last Stormie I saw here was back in May 2013.

Other than this it was a predictably quiet sea watch with 05:20-06:20 showing just; 

15+ Gannet
7 Kittiwake
7 Swift

I've not seen much about lately, hence the recent lack of blog posts. A flock of c46 Black-tailed Godwits on the Estuary on 2nd June were a real surprise as there have only been single figures present through most of May. I wonder if they were a late spring flock or a group of non-breeding birds?  

I do have some highly gripping news though of an Axe mega seen yesterday, a male Red-backed Shrike briefly on Colyford Common at midday. Despite a very quick and much appreciated text from Sue Murphy, we all managed to miss it. Hopefully it's not gone far though.

I'm sorry this has been a photo-less post, but I think I deserve some credit having written this entire blog post with a baby fast asleep on my left arm!!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Hello Harry

Although you may well have already known this via social media, Jess and I were delighted to welcome Harry Arthur Waite into the world during the early hours of Friday morning...



He weighed a healthy 8 pounds 14 and so far appears to be just like his Dad, he can't stop eating...

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Exceptional Red Kite Passage

Mid afternoon today I headed down to the Axe alongside the A3052 to look for my first White-legged Damselflies of the year, but in the end I spent way more time looking up than down!

Literally as soon as I parked up I had two single Red Kites in quick succession quite a distance to the north over Musbury, one moved off north west and the other straight west towards Colyford. Then about ten minutes later I had a lovely group of three fly low south west over my head, with another three about four minutes later on exactly the same flight path.  That's eight Red Kites within twenty minutes. Amazing!



Just before the last three went over my phone died, so I whizzed back home to give it a charge (just in case one of the Dutch Griffon Vultures decided to drift over my head) . I headed back out at 16:50 and spent about forty minutes stood on the stile opposite Colyford WTW. On my first 360 scan after arriving here there were seven Red Kites in view! Five west of Cownhayne Lane and two east of Cownhayne Lane. They all moved off west/south west, and I know these were all different from my earlier eight as Mr White had seen about seven over Lower Bruckland Ponds in between. All then went quiet for half an hour, but at 17:20 I picked up three more Red Kites circling over Colyton before moving off west, these must have arrived more from the north unlike all the previous birds that had flown in from Musbury Castle. 


 
So that's a staggering total of (at least) 18 Red Kite west over the patch 15:25 - 17:25, Mr White may well have seen a couple more from the Ponds that I missed whilst at home charging my phone.  Although movements of Red Kites like this have been seen several times in Devon before, I have never been lucky enough to luck in on one, so to luck in on a Kite passage on patch was such a thrill!  You can be sure more will be heading west over the next few days as the weather seems to be staying the same, and am sure within a few days triple figures will be over Cornwall.  

Am pleased to say I did see White-legged Damselflies as well, about twenty but all immature insects...



And my first few Banded Demoiselle of 2017...



 This hot weather really is doing the trick!


Monday, 22 May 2017

Insects

With a lack of bird (and baby) news to blog about, I may as well catch up with some insect sightings from the past few days.

Today's warmth encouraged my first two Scarce Chasers of the year to emerge at Lower Bruckland Ponds this afternoon...



The above two photos are of the same insect. Personally I think Scarce Chaser is one of the few Odonata species that look best when they are immature - they are just so orange!  Didn't see any other larger insects at Lower Brucklands, just heaps of damselflies. 

A few visits to Axe Cliff lately have shown a couple of Silver Y and Painted Ladies, one Clouded Yellow and several Wall Browns...



Hopefully I will see a few more birds before spring is out. Unless it is already out...


Thursday, 18 May 2017

Iceland Gull

I think gull flocks get over looked when it gets to May, everyone seems too preoccupied with spring migrants and over shooting rarities.  But if you go back through the county records mid May often brings a little pulse of white-winged gull records to the south west. There was a Glaucous Gull at Slapton at the beginning of the month and I was really hoping for one of these, but I'm certainly not complaining at seeing my fourth Iceland Gull of the year at 9am this morning...



Ian Mc found this bird at about 08:30. I didn't rush out for it but on the way to walking the dog I thought I'd drop by Coronation Corner in case it was still about. I'm glad I did.

Yesterday was a very wet day. I only had a few spare hours in the morning, and I spent most of them walking up and down Seaton Beach with wading birds in mind. The only waders I saw though were a flock of 30+ mostly Ringed Plovers that flew in off and quickly vanished in the gloom. When I later looked along the Estuary gladly they were there, 26 Ringed Plover and ten Dunlin.  The biggest group of Ringed Plover that I've seen here so far this year, just a pity there wasn't a Turnstone or two tagging along...

Monday, 15 May 2017

Sanderling and a Sooty Slips Through

Despite the clear skies and completely calm conditions at dusk yesterday, this morning I woke up to heavy rain and a pretty hefty southerly wind. It had to be worth a sea watch! 

The conditions were really tough, it was really hard to find shelter from the wind and spells of heavy rain often hampered visibility. But I stuck it out and 06:20 - 07:40 from Spot On Kiosk produced (all west);

6 Common Scoter
2 Great Northern Diver (1 sp 1 wp)
3 Manx Shearwater
1 Shearwater sp. (annoyingly I know it was a Sooty, just didn't get enough on it)
31 Sanderling
7 Kittiwake

It was the Sanderling that were most impressive. Flocks of three and 22 flew in off and then flew low west along the beach, and a flock of six did the same but landed in between (photos below). When the flock of 22 went by the six flew up and joined them, making a single flock of 28 birds. This is easily the biggest single flock of Sanderling I've ever seen here.  There were a further three Sanderling shortly after on the Estuary, along with two Ringed Plover, a Dunlin and eight Whimbrel.  I think I'm right in saying that the peak spring Sanderling passage is usually a bit later than the main Dunlin migration, and today's observations would certainly fit that...



I love seeing waders downed on the beach during spring rain - so so thrilling! Resting on the beach in front of you one minute, then off on their way to their breeding grounds the next...