Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Beer Head & Black Hole Marsh

Yesterday I went along to the Devon Birds meeting at Beer Head. There were about 17 of us, and we were led on the walk by Steve Waite, local patch birder & Devon Bird Recorder. Steve also writes a blog about birding on the Axe, which I read regularly (http://stevesbirdingblog.blogspot.co.uk) so it was nice to actually meet him.

The forecast was for heavy rain showers and for once they actually seem to have got it right! However, between showers we saw quite a nice variety of birds including quite a large flock of lovely Yellow Wagtails, Wheatears, Whinchats, and a Redstart - which I missed, unfortunately. I suspect that Steve would have found more birds without us, as we make quite a lot of noise...we're quite a sociable bunch & tend to natter as we wander!

One minute we were watching a juvenile Green Woodpecker...
....the next we were taking cover from the rain
There goes the culprit
What a fantastic place for a walk; birds are a bonus!
More rain approaches, head for the trees!
Watching Whinchats & Wheatears
The meeting finished at lunchtime, but 6 of us went on to Black Hole Marsh. We added 24 species to the day list including Green & Common Sandpipers, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit & Kingfisher. We spent quite a while watching a small & distant wader on the river which we thought at first was a Curlew Sandpiper. However, after much head scratching & consulting of the Collins we decided it was probably just a lonely Dunlin. It's a shame Steve wasn't still with us as undoubtedly he would have  been able to ID it in a flash!

Low water levels at the Marsh
Colin had a visitor in the hide....I think it may be a Speckled Bush Cricket but I'm happy to be corrected!
When we'd first entered the hide, a couple of people had just been treated to fantastic views of a juvenile cuckoo sitting on nearby fence poles. Apparently it had been feeding in the grass & flying up when disturbed by passing trams. After about an hour we'd practically given up hope of seeing it when a bird flew in from across the river & landed on a post. Bingo! I still haven't got the hang of digiscoping but I managed a record shot!

The cuckoo finally put in an appearance
It was worth the wait!
Another very enjoyable day out with the Devon Birders.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Just popped out for a bike ride.....

There's been a lack of posts as myself & Simon went of on a bike ride at the end of May. 14 weeks and 4000 miles later, we're back! We had a fantastic time, but it's really great to be home.

We cycled from home in Exmouth to Dover along the South coast following National Cycle Route 2, then crossed from Dover to Dunkirk on the ferry. From there we followed the coast North through Belgium & Netherlands on route LF1, picking up the North Sea Cycle Route in Rotterdam. We continued along the coast through the rest of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark to Grenaa on the East coast, where we caught the ferry to Varberg in Sweden. Then it was North to Norway and around the coast as far as Bergen, where we flew to Aberdeen. A few ferries later & we'd cycled the Shetlands, Orkney & were heading South from John O Groats.

I kept my binoculars in my bar bag all the way and occasionally whipped them out when I saw or heard something interesting, although most of the time the bird had gone before I managed to get them out. I used them now and again at lunch breaks & rest days, but usually I was too knackered! I did manage to find 5 lifers on my travels......no, make that 6 (I'd misidentified some crows in Rotterdam)

Here are a few photos from the trip.

Setting off....we didn't know what we were letting ourselves in for!
The South coast, amazing scenery & weather
My first Poplar Hawkmoth, in a sink at a campsite in Lydd
The Belgian coast, ugly concrete tower blocks rule
Dutch dunes probably held lots of birds, but when I had the chance to look it was too windy.
I thought these crows in Rotterdam were Hooded Crows, but they're actually Indian House Crows... Lifer number 1! 
Dykes, dykes & more dykes, usually accompanied by gates & sheep's pooh....this one in NL
A few miles into Germany, my 2nd Lifer....a Bluethroat during lunch
The Elbe to Hamburg was a highlight, although watching ships rather than birds
My 3rd Lifer.....Arctic Terns in Germany  (I've never positively ID'd one before)
Danish scenery was distinctly different....
...but still largely flat
Proof....I did get the bins out now & again
The busy coast at Skagen, the N tip of Denmark
Sweden, and our first rocks since leaving England!
More rocks, lots of Eider in the bays....
.....and a few making an unusual car park barrier
Made it to our target country.....
....with a stunning view from the bridge
Picturesque fjords
Clear water & jellyfish
A few ferries....breathe in!
Unfortunately no Elks crossed our path
A lovely beach lunch spot
An enormous caterpillar which I have yet to ID

Long climbs were rewarded with majestic scenery....

...and the occasional tunnel
We saw a few mink in Norway...this one does have a body!

We spent 93 nights in our tent, 2 in a YH in Orkney & 2 in Paul's flat in Glasgow
Bergen in the rain. Flying to Aberdeen from there was a real pain, but no ferries run to the UK from Norway
Whale & dolphin watching spot in Aberdeen.....but all we saw was a seal

Shetland, not as dramatic as Norway....
...but just as scenic
Puffins at Sumburgh Head, my 4th Lifer!....
.....they were a a highlight of the trip
My 5th Lifer....Black Guillemot in Lerwick Harbour (the black dot!)
Orkney, flatter .......
...but just as scenic as Shetland
Heading South in Scotland towards the Highlands....
.....more beautiful countryside
I managed to get the bins out in time to ID a small group of Red Grouse....Lifer number 6!
Luckily we did see one, but it was way too fast for a photo!
After giving up his bed for us for 2 nights (hero!), Paul escorted us out of Glasgow
And back to England & the H4H (Hoof for Home!)
England definitely holds it's own where scenery is concerned
The Yorkshire Dales...the hardest part of the whole trip
....but at least we were rewarded with lovely views
Down from Holme Moss Summit, a climb on the Tour de France next year 
...and across the Peak District, getting flatter

Almost home....Exmouth front
The route