Sunday, 24 February 2013

Exminster Marsh

On Friday I went along to the DBWPS meeting at Exminster Marsh. I was glad I'd put on lots of layers as it was freezing, with a really biting wind. We were a big group, I didn't count but there must have been about 18 of us. We met at the RSPB car park and started off by checking the fields from the railway bridge.  A couple of Goldcrests in the bushes directly below us gave excellent views of their crests, and two of us saw a Water Rail making a dash into the reeds. We then had a slow wander down Station Road towards the canal, the best on offer were 5 Pintail, the first I've seen this year, 30 Golden Plover and a Dunlin with a limp!

The Devon Birders forming a rolling road block!
A bit of sun would have been nice!
The  usual selection of ducks were on the ponds but it was all pretty quiet. We stopped at Turf Lock for our sandwiches and checked out the estuary. There were quite a few Avocet,  some Grey Plover, and 5 Red-breasted Merganser in the channel.
Checking the estuary
We walked back along the cycle track & were treated to a hurtling Peregrine. A Water Rail dashed across a gateway but was only seen by the same two of us that had seen the one earlier in the day. The Peregrine then put on a good show for us as we walked back up Station Road when it chased a Snipe right over our heads.

Five of us decided to go on to Exminster village in search of the Rose-coloured Starling that's been there for a couple of months. We parked up in the village car park & walked to Milbury Lane. We only had to wait for about 15 minutes before it showed itself. We didn't get to see it for long before it disappeared again, but at least we'd seen it. We tried going into the churchyard & allotments behind Milbury Lane, but didn't find it again. At least I saw my first Blackcap of the year.

Waiting for the Rose-coloured Starling in Exminster
Myself & Jonathan then went on to Dart's Farm to see if our luck would hold. It did! As we approached the hide we saw a Brambling on the bird feeder, and the American Wigeon was at the front edge of a flock of Wigeon in front of the hide. There was also a Peregrine on the ground eating a Lapwing, until it was chased off by a couple of crows. A great end to another fun days birding!

View from the Dart's Farm hide. The American Wigeon is out there...honest Gov!
I haven't been out birding on my patch much recently, although I did have a very pleasant wander up the estuary from Mudbank Lane to Lympstone during the week, adding 6 more birds to my Patch List (Goldeneye, Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin,  Common Gull & Water Rail). My birding isn't exactly taking a back seat at the moment, but it's certainly sharing the front seat with cycling. We're in training for a cycle trip this Summer, and judging by my current performance, we need to fit in all the training we can!

The Exe Estuary, a great place to walk or cycle

Monday, 18 February 2013

Pied-billed Grebe

On Saturday we'd planned a trip to Shepton Mallet so that Simon could go to the Classic bike show at the Bath & West Showground.  I hadn't decided what I'd do whilst he was in there until I checked Birdguides just before we left home. A Pied-billed Grebe had appeared at Ham Wall RSPB 30 mins away from the show, so that was my day sorted as it's a bird I've only ever seen in the USA. I dropped Simon off & headed to the reserve, making my way straight to the 2nd viewing platform. There were quite a few people there but the Grebe had disappeared behind the reeds just before I arrived. It was a lovely morning & I was in no hurry, so I was quite happy to wait. It was only about 15 minutes before the Pied-billed Grebe appeared & gave us excellent views, coming in close to the viewing platform. I'd forgotten my camera so couldn't even try for a record shot, but at least I had my phone with me.

My first Twitch of 2013....I feel better for a 'fix'!
There was also a Great White Egret visible from the 1st viewing platform. Last year we made a special trip on 17th Feb for the Great White Egret, not knowing that I'd be seeing loads during the year.

I've been out on my patch quite a bit recently, although I haven't seen a lot. Trips to the Otter Estuary,  Exmouth front, Orcombe Point & Sandy Bay have increased my Patch List to a still measly 59.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

I've started...

I've finally managed to get myself into gear & been out & about with the scope. I spent an hour at Exmouth front on Friday morning, although I didn't see anything of note. Before I left I had a wander around the bushes on The Maer (a small common behind Exmouth sea front), there's always lots of activity there and I'm hoping that if I check it often enough I may actually find something good!

The Maer
Yesterday I went down to the Exmouth docks development. I was hoping to find the Black Redstart that was mentioned on Birdguides a while ago. There were 9 Red-breasted Mergansers on the estuary, so at least I added to my Patch List. I felt I bit suspicious milling the flats with my bins! On my second lap, I was walking along the path beside the estuary when a heard snatches of the PA from the Stuart Line bird cruise which had just set off, to the effect that it's worth checking the docks for Black Redstart. At that exact moment a lovely adult male Black Redstart landed on the wall just ahead of me! I only had my little Lumix camera with me, but I was about to take a record shot when another birder appeared around the corner & frightened it off. It didn't go far, flitting between the roofs of Windward & Leeward Court, but it was now too high for even a record shot. It's exactly the same place that I found my Black Redstart last year, so maybe it's the same individual.

Leeward & Windward Ct. The Black Redstart has expensive taste!
The Stuart Line bird cruise 
Late in the afternoon I walked up to Sandy Bay but there were just 3 Great Crested Grebes for me to focus my bins on.  I don't remember seeing any reports from there - whether this is because it doesn't get checked much or nothing interesting stops, I don't know.  I'll hopefully find out this year!

My Patch List is now on 47, having added Pied Wagtail, Great-black Backed Gull, Starling, Red-breasted Merganser & Black Redstart. That shows how little I've been out!!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Budleigh & beyond

Yesterday was the DBWPS meeting at the Otter Estuary. We were showered on just after we arrived but after that it wasn't bad, just a bit windy.

When we were there in November, there was a large tree wedged in the White Bridge which has now been removed, although the bridge hasn't been repaired yet. The footpath to the coast that was partially washed away in the floods has been repaired, although the path is closed North of the bridge for works.

White Bridge in need of repair
There were reasonable numbers of Wigeon & Teal in the scrapes, along with quite a few Curlew, about 50 Snipe, a couple of Lapwings & Redshanks & a Knot.

Down at the front the only birds to be seen were 2 Brent Geese on the sea & a couple of Oystercatchers & a Turnstone on the rocks. It was difficult to look through the scopes as we were battered from behind by a strong wind. Jonathan's scope got blown over in the wind & broke in half! Luckily it turned out not to be as catastrophic as it at first appeared. The scope has a 'stay-on' cover &  presumably, over time, the front half had become unscrewed & falling over was just the last straw. When it was screwed back together, it worked perfectly!

Walking back along the rear of the reserve

A Chiffchaff was very obliging in the same spot as last year.
We followed the path North of South Farm Road for a little way, but it was very boggy & we didn't find anything. Time for lunch, then a few of us headed off to Ladram Bay sewage works. Us birders go to all the nicest places! It was really windy standing on the cliff edge, so I hung on tight to my scope. There were 19 Red-throated Divers in the bay, which I thought was Ladram Bay, but when I looked it up later it's actually Chiselbury Bay. I've never seen that many divers together before. There was also one Great Crested Grebe & a Guillemot on the water & a few Fulmars flying close to the cliff.

Looking East towards Ladram Bay

A windy sea watch

We checked out the bushes around the sewage works, but the only thing that moved was a Dunnock.
Another good day out & we didn't even freeze! I had 40 species on my list, 19 of which are going on my Patch List as I've finally managed to define my Patch for the year. I've drawn a 5km radius around home which takes in the bottom of the Otter Estuary, so the morning session was putting birds on the List, which is still truly pathetic at 42! I must admit that I haven't actually put in any effort yet, but that's about to change!
My Patch