Friday, 26 April 2013

Thurlbear, Swell Wood & Greylake

It seems ages since I went on the last DBWPS meeting, and that's probably because it was nearly a week ago. Last Monday, in fact, but I haven't had time to download my photos before now. I'm actually typing this sitting on board our canal boat Muriel in the evening sunshine, lovely!

Back to the birds....

Six of us met up at Thurlbear, making it the smallest gathering I've been to. We had an excellent day's birding, and even the weather stayed fine for us.

We could easily have started the day with a disaster had David not noticed that I'd inadvertently attached him to my tripod. I couldn't do it again if I tried...
Good thing David noticed before walking off
We were soon listening to the song of Nightingales, and even had a brief glimpse of one. We think there were probably at least 3 of them, although it's difficult to be sure.
I think Jonathan was praying for a Nightingale to show itself!

An interesting habitat. We found 27 species including the Nightingales
We then moved on to Swell Wood RSPB for lunch in the car park. We spent a while in the hide watching the heronry, which was pretty busy & noisy, not surprisingly as according to the notice there are 77 nests in use, with a few Little Egrets in amongst the Herons. Afterwards we walked down the lane to the Levels, stopping to scan as we went.
We soon spotted two Common Cranes on the Levels below.
A large bird on a post caused a bit of debate, as it was doing a pretty good impression of a Marsh Harrier. Jonathan however was adamant that it was a Buzzard & when it eventually flew he was proved to be right. It also took a while to figure out a distant bird, which turned out to be a lovely male Whinchat. At first I missed a Whitethroat - was a bit disappointing as I hadn't seen one yet this year - but luckily it was nice enough to give us all a good look on our way back.
I wonder why they call it the Somerset Levels?
We headed off towards Greylake, stopping a few times to scan the surrounding countryside. We were glad we did as we found 36 Common Cranes. I know they're all part of a release project but they're still pretty amazing to see. There was also another Buzzard doing impersonations, this one was so white it looked more like an Osprey.
There were about 30 Cranes one way & 6 Cranes & 2 Hares the other
Jonathan, Ian & Jeff then headed for home whilst David, Libby & myself carried on towards Greylake. We did stop one more time on the way and were treated to the fantastic sight of about 28 Cranes flying in to join a few that were already on the ground. When we finally made it to Greylake it was getting quite late. There wasn't much from the hide just some Mallards, a gadwall, 5 or 6 Redshanks & a pair of mating Buzzards! However, we did finish on a high during our walk back to the car park with a singing Cettis Warbler & a fleeting glimpse of a Sedge Warbler.
Greylake from the hide

It really had been a great day, with quite a few firsts for the year...Nightingale, Whinchat, Whitethroat, SedgeWarbler & the Common Cranes.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Ideford revisited

Having recced Ideford Common with Annabelle & Libby last week, we returned yesterday for the DBPS meeting, only this time without the blue sky. The feeders in the car park were busy again, with lots of Siskins & Coal Tits, and a couple of Bramblings amongst the visitors. A few people also saw a Redpoll in the bushes underneath the feeders, but unfortunately I didn't see it.

Annabelle led us off for our walk around the common in the rain, although luckily it didn't last too long. We spent a while trying to track down a pipit which we thought may be a Tree Pipit, and identify a bird that looked like a female Stonechat but had an 'odd face' (As David put it). It turned out to be a Meadow Pipit & a Stonechat carrying nesting material.

Pipit hunting
However, shortly after we did in fact find a Tree Pipit, which very obligingly sat in a tree right in front of us & gave us great views in the scope. There were also several Swallows, and a few Yellowhammers which I kept missing.
David, Joan & Wally probably looking at a Yellowhammer!
We went down to the field where we'd seen Yellowhammers & a flock of Meadow Pipits last visit, but not this time, although there were 2 deer.

The view was still lovely even without the Yellowhammers
I finally saw a Yellowhamer when a gorgeous male sat in the top of a tree giving us great views in the scope, well it did until a Chinook helicopter flew very low right over the top of us. We also had a Chiffchaff chiffing & chaffing below us in the trees.

There were 2 Bramblings near the track as we made it back to the car park for lunch. We ate whilst watching the feeders, but despite lots of activity, the Redpoll didn't reappear. Great Spotted Woodpecker & Dunnock were added to the list, making a total of 26 for me for the day, although I did miss a few.

This was the first time that the DBWPS has visited the site on a field trip. We saw lots of good birds & it's certainly got the potential to turn up something rare. David, the society's field trip organiser, was so impressed that it's likely to remain in the schedule next well done to Annabelle who suggested this as a venue & led the visit.
Lunch with feathered entertainment
Little Miss Muffet strikes again.....although this time the tuffet was a bit damp!

After lunch most of us went on to Exminster Marsh, where we actually had some blue sky as well as a Marsh Harrier, House & Sand Martins, White Wagtails & a beautiful male Redstart. A Bar-headed Goose was also lurking in the distance with some Canada Geese, which I think has been about for a while. Even though it's a 'plastic' bird, it's the first time I've ever seen one, so was quite nice to see.

Watching the Bar-headed Goose

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Ring Ouzel

There's been a Ring Ouzel at Bystock for a few days, which is actually on my 'patch', so yesterday I decided it was about time I made the effort to go & look for it. It turned out to be quite a social visit as when I arrived fellow Devon Birders Jonathan & Carol were there already, and Carol's husband Dave joined us a bit later having gone home for his camera. The Ring Ouzel was in the meadow just opposite the car park, ferreting about in the grass. The only other Ring Ouzel I've seen in the UK was last April, when I had a fleeting glimpse of one flying between bushes at Portland. This was so much better! I decided to get the Canon from the van & try for a photo as the bird was quite close, at which point someone sounded their horn in the lane & the Ouzel flew down to the bottom of the meadow. Although we had great views, it never came quite as close again, so I only managed the usual distant record shots. I couldn't even try for a digiscoped shot as I'd forgotten my Lumix. At least I can prove I saw it.

Also present were 2 Mistle Thrushes, Song Thrush, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear & Stonechat.

Size comparison with Mistle Thrush

Friday, 5 April 2013

Ideford Common

Annabelle's leading a DBWPS meeting at Ideford Common on 12th April, so myself & Libby met her there on Wednesday for a recce. I'd been lulled into a false sense of Spring before I left home, having looked out of the window to see blue sky & sunshine. It was in fact pretty cold & windy, and I wished I'd put on more clothes.

We met in the car park at Ideford Common and I could have stayed there all day...there are loads of feeders there and the place was alive! Siskins & Coal Tits were probably the most numerous with a fair smattering of the other common tits & finches.

We had a lovely walk around the common enjoying the views & the sunshine, especially whenever we found a bit of shelter from the wind. We found a fair selection of birds including a stunning male Yellowhammer, Stonechats, Meadow Pipits & flocks of Linnets.

We ended up back in the car park watching the feeders where a female Brambling and a Marsh Tit took the list to 25 species. It would have been worth the walk even if we hadn't seen any birds at all.

Watching the feeders
Libby doing her impression of Little Miss Muffet!
We then headed to Dawlish Warren in the vague hope that we may find the Hoopoe that had been there for a few days. I've only ever been as far as the hide before, so it was nice to walk out to Warren Point. The Hoopoe hadn't been seen during the day & we didn't find it either. However we did find a mystery pipit on the way to the point which flew off before I had time to get the scope on it. I later checked the Dawlish Warren website to see that a summer plumaged Scandinavian Rock Pipit had been seen, which fits with what we saw, a new one for me.
On Warren Point looking across to Exmouth
I haven't done much patch birding since my last post, mainly due to the fact that Simon & I went off on a 10 day cruise with P&O. I spent most of our time at sea wrapped up on the promenade deck with the scope sea watching. And that's exactly what I watched as there were hardly any birds about, just a few Gannets, Great Skuas & a Fulmar! We also saw a distant pod of dolphins, probably Common Dolphin. I didn't have much luck during our shore visits either, although as this wasn't actually a birding trip it didn't really matter. We visited Cadiz & Caruna (Spain), Casablanca, Lisbon & Gibralter. Even without much at the other ports, I was hopeful that Gibralter would turn up trumps when we climbed the rock. However the weather was completely wrong for raptor migration across the Straight, and the best I found in the bushes during our climb were a few Sardinian Warblers. Still, we had a fantastic time & will definitely go cruising again. Next time we'll try & go a bit later in the year for better weather & more birds!

I have managed a wander around Orcombe Point which got me my first Wheatears of the year, lots of Chiffchaffs & 2 Peregrines sitting in a field. I must try & get out more...