Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Devon Birders meeting at BGM

Yesterday about 17 of us attended the first East Devon Birders meeting of the year. It didn't start too well....
Goosemoor.....couldn't even see the water let alone any birds!
Still, we had a quick try!
Quickly moved on to the hide at BGM. It was a it of a squash & I felt sorry for the people who were in there already. So much for some quiet birding! At first we couldn't see a thing, but gradually the sun burnt off the fog & birds gradually emerged through the murk.
Very cosy
From this...
...to this
At one point there was a sudden emptying of the hide when a Brambling was spotted on the feeders outside the hide. It took a while, but we all eventually saw the female bird, my first for the year. On to the viewpoint where a Goldeneye was spotted in the distance, although it did fly slightly closer for us.
Viewing the Clyst
On to the Goatwalk & through Topsham checking the Exe as we went
Then some of us went on to Dart's Farm where hundreds of Brent Geese were feeding in the fields, along with quite a few Canadas. Surprisingly there were also 2 Bar-headed Geese, one of which had a nasty limp. The feeders were empty at first, although an RSPB man did appear before we left & topped up the sunflower seeds. It didn't take long for the finches to move in & start munching.

2 Bar-headed Geese
The limping Bar-headed Goose

There was only David & Wally & myself left when the Kingfisher appeared.
The full list for the day:
BGM/estuary: Wigeon, Teal, Canada Goose, Little Egret, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Avocet, Crow, Magpie, Curlew, Redshank, Lapwing, Shelduck, Dunlin, Pintail, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Great Tit, Dunnock, Robin, Tufted Duck, Moorehen, Pochard, Shoveler, Heron, Brambling, Reed Bunting, Greenfinch, Wren, Song Thrush, Woodpigeon, Snipe, Grey Plover, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Goldeneye, Brent Goose, (Bar-headed Goose), Greenshank, Cormorant, Turnstone, Collared Dove, Starling, Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail
Dart's farm: Chiffchaff, Stock Dove, Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Mute Swan

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Black Redstart

On Tuesday I spent nearly 2 hours waiting for the Topsham Black Redstart to put in an appearance, which it didn't. This afternoon Simon & I went for a wander down to the beach at Sandy Bay. As we stepped onto the beach from the concrete slipway, a bird flew off from the rocks.....a Black Redstart! Matt Knott reported its presence a while back on his blog (http://gobirdingexmouth.blogspot.co.uk) but I'd failed to find it. As this bird's on my 'patch' it's even better than finding the Topsham Black Redstart!

One of those 'record' shots
A lovely afternoon for a walk, until it poured with rain!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


Today, I was intending to go to a meeting of the Mid Devon branch of the Devon Birders in Cookworthy Forest, which is somewhere North of Okehampton.  Looking forward to exploring somewhere new, and hopefully seeing Woodcock (the target species for the day), I intended to meet Annabelle at her house North of Exeter, from where we were to travel together. However, horrendous rush hour traffic & me getting lost meant that there was no way I could get to Annabelle's on time, and even less chance of me finding the meeting.

However, after I realised that I wasn't going to make it to the meeting,  I happened to pass by Stoke Wood, which I recognised as somewhere I'd once been birding with Mary whilst she was visiting.  I decided to cut my losses & have a wander.
The entrance to Stoke Woods
It started well with a Nuthatch, my first for the year. The ground was all a bit boggy, but at least it was quiet, with only one or 2 dog walkers during the 2 1/2 hrs I was there.

When I got down to the bottom of the woods, I scanned the River Exe & spotted 2 waders, which turned out to be Green Sandpipers. A nice surprise!

The Green Sandpipers were on the distant Exe
This is apparently the landscape that inspired Jane Austin's Sense & Sensibility
I gradually notched up the usual woodland species including some more firsts for the year, i.e. Great Spotted Woodpecker, Tree Creeper & Coal Tit. There were quite a few Goldcrests about & I'd just thought to myself how nice it would be to see a Firecrest, when blow me down, the next 'Goldcrest' I got in the bins was in fact a Firecrest! Lovely!

By the time I got back to the van it was after midday, so I headed off to Topsham Recreation Ground to have a look for the Black Redstart that's been there for a while. I met quite a few birders there who all told me that it's usually there and quite easy to see. Usually, but not this afternoon. However, I did have a brief view of the Water Pipit that's also been there on & off for a while & some lovely views of a Kingfisher & Grey Wagtail, so that made up for it.

This is apparently where the Black Redstart is normally seen.
The Exe looking downstream
So, although the day hadn't panned out as planned, I had quite a productive day. Simon meanwhile walked out the 9 miles or so from home along the estuary & met me!

Before today I have been out and about a couple of times adding birds to the Year List.
Exmouth front on 8th with Libby, had a relatively close Great Northern Diver...
....followed by a brief visit to the Otter for the Glossy Ibises (or is it Ibi?)
That's them....honest!
12th Jan, Shelly Beach where I saw a flock of Ringed Plover & 2 Sanderling
I also took part in the BTO 'Early Bird' survey, which is aimed at finding out how light pollution is effecting the feeding behaviour of garden birds first thing in the morning. I only needed to do it once, but as I forgot to note down cloud cover at the end of the survey on 9th, I did it again on 10th. It was quite interesting doing it twice as the first Robin of the day visited the feeders at exactly 07:47am on both days! The other birds also turned up in almost the same order, with just the Blackbird being different:

9th:   Blackbird, Robin, Sparrow, Dunnock, Blue Tit
10th: Robin, Sparrow, Dunnock, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Another year, another list

On Friday I thought it was about time I kicked off my 2014 Year List. I started keeping a list last year, but didn't get beyond February. Hopefully I'll have more staying power this year. I decided to try a spot of sea-watching as it's ages since I've been and the weather was looking good for it, i.e. bad. I collected Libby at first light & we went to Budleigh to use the shelters. Lots of auks and one diver flew by, but we weren't good enough to work out which ones as they were quite distant. Libby thought she may have seen a Long-tailed Duck fly by, but I missed it. Other than that, there were lots of Gannets quite close in, a few Brent Geese, and a Kittiwake. Not the best list, but it was spectacular watching the rough sea and the birds were a bonus! Much more practise required.

We then wandered down to the estuary & were shocked...
... just about everything was under water
The weather was showery, we got hailed on & soaked as we left
Unfortunately the cricket pitch & pavilion haven't fared too well... again
Alan normally organisers a 'Bird Count' for New Year's Day, the goal being to see as many birds as possible during the day. This year the count was postponed due to bad weather and rescheduled for yesterday. Five of us started the day at Bowling Green Marsh at 9am, starting in the hide where we had good views of the Long-tailed Duck that's been about for a while.  We paid a quick visit to the estuary viewing platform & Goat Walk where the water was amazingly still, but unfortunately virtually devoid of birds!
Another very high tide from the viewing platform
The Team: Alan, Libby, Chris & Annabelle
Misty and atmospheric on the Goat Walk
All very still....and birdless!
We stopped off in the hide again on the way back to the cars, which was just as well as Keith, the local patch expert pointed out a Spotted Redshank sleeping on the marsh, and Chris caught up on the Water Rail which he'd missed on the earlier visit.

We had a quick look at Goosemoor before we left, but that was very disappointing. The only birds we added there were Little Egret & Meadow Pipit.

Next stop, Dart's Farm. Unfortunately the feeders were empty, so no flocks of finches & Reed Buntings. Only added 5 species to the list and I missed the Collared Dove, which was a shame as we didn't see another all day! Libby headed off, leaving 4 of us for the next stop....
The field in front of the hide was flooded
The hide is uncomfortable to use....the heights are all wrong for normal sized people!
On Woodbury Common Alan had us yomping across the vegetation, although he insisted that it was actually a path. We had a probable Dartford Warbler, but none of us got a good enough look to be sure, and I heard a Raven, but other than that it was bird-free.
Woodbury Common
The last stop was the Otter at Budleigh, where we were joined by Mike. We started with some sea watching. We had a distant diver species which was occasionally visible above the waves, but which we couldn't identify. There were a couple of Great Crested Grebes, some Gannet, and 3 Guillemots sitting on the sea.

On Budleigh beach
We walked up the estuary to the White Bridge. The cricket pitch & scrapes were still flooded. We had a disappointing total of about 62 when we got to the bridge, and the light was beginning to go. We suddenly had a bit of a flurry of birds and within about half an hour we'd added Reed Bunting, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Cetti's Warbler, Mute Swan, Kestrel, Pheasant & Red-legged Partridge.
The water levels in the estuary had dropped 
The fields by the White Bridge were still flooded
The Otter at the White Bridge
I thought my final total was 69, but having checked my list I realised that I'd missed off Gannet & Moorhen, so my total for the day was 71. Not a particularly good number, but we'd had an enjoyable day looking.

The day list: 71 (73 for the Team)
BGM: Robin, Great Tit, Wren, Dunnock, Blue Tit, Pintail, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Long-tailed Duck, Black-headed Gull, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Redshank, Snipe, Avocet, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Pied Wagtail, Grey Heron, Lapwing, Curlew, Blackbird, Crow, Little Grebe, Buzzard, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Pochard, Magpie, Song Thrush, Water Rail, Goldfinch, Jay, Chaffinch, Shelduck, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Gull, Spotted Redshank, House Sparrow, Starling, Moorhen.
Goosemoor: Little Egret, Meadow Pipit
Dart's Farm: Kingfisher, Jackdaw, Herring Gull, Rook, Redwing, Greenfinch, (Collared Dove)
Woodbury Common: Raven
Budleigh Salterton: Gannet, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Pipit, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Shag, Oystercatcher, Guillemot, Turnstone, Pheasant, Reed Bunting, Mute Swan, Chiffchaff, Cetti's Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge (Common Scoter)