Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The odd one out

I went over to Dawlish Warren yesterday. There were lots of terns about, but try as I might I couldn't turn any of them into anything more exotic than the Sandwich or Common variety.

Tern posts
There were also lots of Oystercatchers, although one of them was definitely having an identity crisis!

A leucistic Oystercatcher (an abnormal plumage condition caused by a genetic mutation)
Other birds included  Whimbrel, Turnstone, Dunlin & one distant lonely Grey Plover looking good in Summer plumage. I almost stood on a Snipe whilst walking passed the little reedy pond in the dunes, I'm not sure which of us was more shocked.

There was quite a bit of activity in the woods although I struggled to identify some of the birds as they were flitting about in the foliage, but I did manage to snap a photo of a Garden Warbler

Garden Warbler
I saw lots of butterflies, most numerous being Meadow Browns. I came across a Small Copper, I've seen them a few times before but had forgotten just how small they are. I also saw a Silver-studded Blue, which is a new one for me.

Meadow Brown

Small Copper
Silver-studded Blue
Quite a few areas of the reserve were cordoned off with blue string, held up by thin wooden posts. These were providing handy perches for the Dragonflies out enjoying the sunshine.

Common Darter

Monday, 13 August 2012

What is it...a pale Buzzard

On Saturday afternoon we went for a nice walk along the cliffs to Budleigh Salterton & back to Littleham via the cycle track. Near the Littleham end of the track there was a rather large bird sitting in a tree top about 150 metres away. As we were out for a walk rather than out birding, I only had my old bins with me & my little 'point & shoot' Panasonic Lumix camera. No scope, decent camera or bins. Typical! It had a very white head & underside & I took a few photos with the Lumix at 5x zoom in the hope that it may show enough...Simon did dash home for the Canon with telephoto, but of course the bird left before he got back.

The bird taken with the 5x zoom
The rest of the photos are massively cropped.

I also recorded it on my iphone. It's very faint as it's such a long way off, but does call twice at about 10 & 28 seconds. I would have edited it down if I could! I tried to insert it but after a couple of hours trying to figure out how to do it, this is the best I could manage!

I'd love a positive ID......


Update: Help received! It was a pale Common Buzzard!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A nice round number

Two new birds yesterday have taken my Year List to 200 species. I started off with a brief visit to Orcombe Point in the hope of finding a Manx Shearwater. I've never seen one, which is a bit of a disgrace when people are seeing hundreds if not thousands flying along the coast. I didn't get there until 9am, so it was a bit late, but I saw 4 birds flying west soon after arriving. They were very distant, and although they were definitely shearwaters of some sort judging by their low 'flap & glide' flight, they looked all dark. I don't know whether they were too far out to be able to pick out the white underside, or if they were one of the rarer shearwaters. Still, a short while later 9 more birds flew by, this time a bit closer & I could clearly see the white underside & the white 'notch' behind the wings on some of them.

Other birds included Gannets, a couple of Guillemots, lots of Sandwich Terns & Common Scoter & a few Oystercatchers that flew past.

That put me on 199. I couldn't leave it there, so in the evening we headed up to Mutters Moor just outside Sidmouth in the hope of finding a Nightjar. I wasn't expecting to hear any 'churring' as I thought it was a bit late in the season for that, but I was hoping to see them flying. We arrived at about 8.30pm & walked to the open area of moor behind the car park. There were lots of crows about & they were making a real racket. As it was getting dark, Simon said he thought he'd heard 'churring', and sure enough shortly after I thought I heard it myself. It was difficult to hear above the crows, but as they quietened down when it got darker the 'churring' became much clearer. A bird also flew backwards & forwards low over the heather, and although I didn't get a good look as it was a bit dark, it was the right size and shape and I can't think what else it could have been.

Simon tried a bit of hanky wafting, something I vaguely remembered Bill Oddie doing to mimic a male Nightjar. It didn't attract any more birds but at least it gave me a good laugh!

That took my Year List to the 200 (plus 2 sub-species)

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Dawlish Warren

There was a DBWPS meeting at Dawlish Warren this morning. Just as we set off from the car park the heavens opened so we headed straight for the hide.

At least some brighter weather was on it's way
A coupe of birders with a novel technique!
Of course, as we arrived at the hide the rain stopped! We all sat dripping in the hide, trying to look through foggy optics. The tide was as high as I've ever seen it. There were lots of Oystercatchers on the island in front of the hide, along with a few adult & juvenile Greater Black-backed & Herring Gulls. We wondered if one of the slightly odd juvenile gulls may in fact be something more interesting, but after consulting the Birdguides App, Collins Guide & a printout of a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, we gave up & watched a steam train instead!
A couple of steam trains went by
There were quite a few Sandwich Terns, a couple of Razorbills & a few waders including Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone & Dunlin. As the tide went out exposing the mud, a couple of Sanderlings & lots of Ringed Plover arrived, & I mean lots. I don't remember the last time I saw so many together.

We did a quick sea-watch but only saw a few Gannets, Sandwich & Common Terns. The sky was getting darker so we didn't hang about. On the way back to the car park we had a good view of a Garden Warbler & a family of Reed Warblers.

A quick stop en route to the car park, racing the rain
There were a couple of interesting plants as well, identified for us by David, a mine of information. One of them was Eyebright, a really small plant which I've never noticed before, but which actually has a really pretty flower. The other was the vastly bigger Evening Primrose, which I've seen before but never looked up.


Evening Primrose

Quote of the day was from David after he answered a call of nature in the bushes near the golf course:

"I heard someone shout 'Four' & didn't know whether to duck or put it away"

Despite being a bit damp around the edges, it had still been a very pleasant morning.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Seaton Sandpipers

I'd seen photos of the Wood Sandpiper at Black Hole Marsh in Seaton, & as it looked so nice & I've never seen one in the UK, I drove over to the Axe yesterday to see if it was still there. I bumped into one of the ladies from the DBWPS in the car park, so we set off together in search of the wader. It didn't take long. At the start of the walkway up to the Island Hide we looked through the screen & there it was! Great! There was also a Common Sandpiper & a Green Sandpiper, although that was too far off for a photo.
Wood Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper
Whilst watching the sandpipers from the Island Hide, a horrible screaming suddenly started from just outside the hide on the ramp. It turned out to be a battle to the death between a young rabbit & a stoat. It was pretty horrible, but I guess that's nature. The worst thing was that the stoat then ran off & left the rabbit's body behind, although I don't know if it went back for it later.
Stoat v bunny
The Island Hide, the rabbit & stoat had run a long way up the ramp
There were quite a few gulls on the Axe & as there have been a few juvenile Yellow Legged Gulls about, I did have a look. However, I know that probably the only way I'll recognise one is if it taps me on the shoulder & introduces itself, so I didn't spend too much time there.

I paid a quick visit to Seaton Marsh as well, a bit further downstream, although there wasn't too much activity there apart from loads of Redshanks on the estuary mud & the trams.

No wonder they look bored, not a pair of bins in sight!
Year List now on 198 + 2 sub-species

Friday, 3 August 2012

Time Trial Tick

Having enjoyed watching Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome & Lizzie Armistead win their medals in their Olympic cycling road races on tele, we made a last minute decision to head to London to watch the time trials on Wednesday. And the fact that it was in Ring-necked Parakeet territory was an added bonus. We got up at 5am & headed East. We'd decided it would be too busy at Hampton Court, so picked Seven Hills Road in Weybridge, a really long straight stretch of road. We got to within a mile and a half of the course before we hit a road closure, so parked up in a little side street in Byfleet. As we got out of the van, I heard a screech & looked up to see a bright green bird fly over & land in a tree at the end of the road. At least that was the parakeet in the bag!

The street with the parakeet!
The racing was fantastic. There were loads of people at the junction just up the road, but the crowd was quite thinly spread along Seven Hills Road. Even so, we didn't need the bins to tell when the Brits were approaching as the extra loud cheers gave the game away. We didn't get any photos of the Brits as we were too busy cheering them on as well.

Our day was made even better due to the fact that we watched in comfort. The family from the mansion that we'd happened to stand beside provided us with deck chairs, tea & the use of their loo! How nice was that? And, we also saw history being made - Go Wiggo!!

Simon beside our luxury seating. 

Year List now on 197 + 2 sub-species