Monday, 19 February 2018

Tundra Bean Goose, Braunton Marsh

Saturday 17th February and a sunny and surprisingly mild day saw me heading off to Braunton Marsh in North Devon to look for a tundra bean goose that has been seen there for a few days now. I needed to get out for the day to clear my head and think about all the things going on in life and the trip seemed like it would be a good distraction. I caught the train to Exeter and then the branch line train to Barnstaple, the last branch line in Devon and Cornwall that I have not travelled on before, and then the bus to Braunton.

The journey went smoothly and along the way I managed some good sightings - fulmars at Teignmouth, pintails on the River Exe and a fox near Totnes on the train to Exeter, and a dipper, goosanders and stock doves on the scenic train journey to Barnstaple.

Arriving off the bus at Braunton high street I walked out to the nearby marshes and the fields were very waterlogged with some of the roads flooded too and very busy with lots of cars and cyclists on the tiny country lanes. There were plenty of birds around in the fields and hedgerows - good numbers of linnets, chaffinches, stock doves, jackdaws and skylarks along with greenfinch, goldfinch, blue tit, great tit, starling, carrion crow and woodpigeon.

I eventually arrived at the Sandy Lane car park and quickly found the tundra bean goose feeding in the fields with 10 mute swans, unfortunately distant and with heat hazy views into the sunlight but good to see none the less, only my third tundra bean goose after 2 distant sightings of one at Slimbridge in 2008 and 2013.

It spent short periods feeding on the grass with the swans before settling down for longer periods on the ground to rest and preen when it was often obscured by grassy tussocks - its dark head and neck, dark bill with orange nail and orange legs were all seen well despite the less than ideal viewing conditions.

 Tundra Bean Goose with Mute Swans - my "zoomed in" effort

Tundra Bean Goose - courtesy of DBWPS Website

While watching the goose I managed a few other good sightings - 3 chiffchaffs were flitting about in the hedgerow feeding on insects with a goldcrest, long tailed tits and a brief view of a firecrest; a Cettis warbler and a water rail were heard calling in the reeds along a ditch; a male kestrel regularly hovered overhead despite the attentions of mobbing jackdaws; 2 pairs of stonechats fed from the tops of sedges, seeming to tolerate each others close proximity; 20+ teal were spooked from a ditch and flew off across the fields; and a weasel dashed across the path, looking quite small and lacking a black tip to the tail.



Heading back to Plymouth and the train journey was again productive - more goosanders and stock doves from Barnstaple to Exeter, red breasted mergansers, brent geese, bar tailed godwits, teal, wigeon and greenshank along the River Exe, 6 avocets and a kingfisher along the River Teign and goosanders near Totnes - a nice day out and very restorative.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Sad Times

Things have been a bit fraught lately and so we had a quick walk around Stover on Friday 9th February to get out and about for a break before heading to The Brookside Café at Bovey Tracey for lunch on a sunny but cold and windy day. I had forgotten to take my camera with me, especially annoying as there were around 20 goosanders out on the lake and some of them were quite tame and gave some great close up views - bugger!

Also seen were a pair of bullfinches, a female great spotted woodpecker and a nuthatch on the bird feeders along with the more usual blue, great and coal tits and chaffinches but there was no sign of any marsh tits. A raven and siskins were seen and heard flying over and on the lake with the goosanders were a male tufted duck and 2 male and a female pochard.

Plans for further bird watching trips went out of the window after our trip to Stover due to the deteriorating health of my dear father-on-law and he very sadly passed away at 5am on Thursday 15th February while I was at work on a night shift - a very low time with the death of our friend Julies mum Maggie the evening before also adding to the sadness.

Friday 16th February and a bright and sunny but cold day saw us heading out for a drive and some fresh air to try and chase some blues away and we ended up at Marine Drive in Torpoint for a walk and a look around. The tide was very low and viewing the estuary was difficult into the sun but I did find a Sandwich tern, 1 of 2 that have been wintering in the area and my first February sighting of one. Also seen were a great northern diver, a little grebe, 4 great crested grebes and a Slavonian grebe (although they spent very little time at the surface between dives), 2 bar tailed godwits and a flock of 100+ dunlin feeding on the mudflats with redshank and curlew, a flyby adult common gull, 30+ wigeon and 4 brent geese - a nice selection of sightings and a good distraction (for me anyway) from events at home.