Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Wildlife update 7th-13th September

Very Autumnal weather at the moment, a lot of deep lows rattling in off the Atlantic including remnants of hurricanes have made it cool, wet and very windy with some impressive counts of seabirds along the South Devon coast and some interesting North American birds.

The 7th September saw us heading off to Perranporth in Cornwall for our usual pre-holiday day out. This year it was grey, cold and windy but we headed off anyway in our shorts with fingers crossed. Offshore in the strong wind there was a steady passage of gannets, adults and juveniles, heading down towards Lands End and amongst them were 2 fulmars, 4 commic terns and a few Manx shearwaters.

Also seen was a female/juvenile sparrowhawk that dashed across the front of the car at the caravan site as we drove along the road, twisting and turning quickly between the bramble bushes on the hunt for some unfortunate bird for its lunch. Along the stream to the beach were quite a few decent sized trout while house martins hawked overhead despite the strong wind. A devils coach horse was seen in the dunes and a twenty plume moth was seen in the public loo.

Perranporth in a brief sunny spell

Trout in the stream leading to the beach

At least it didn't rain and the sun did come out briefly. We had to eat our cooked breakfast inside The Watering Hole cafe  instead of out on the sand which was a shame but we did have a nice time wandering around Perranporth and sampling the fudge and ice cream.

The weather was no better on the 8th so we headed off to Exeter to have a look around the shops but the weather improved by the afternoon and we had some time to spare so headed off to Topsham where I spent an hour in the hide at Bowling Green Marsh while David looked around the antiques market. The water level on the marsh was surprisingly low despite the recent spells of rain.

From the hide an osprey was a nice sight perched on the mast of the barge in the River Clyst while a second bird circled overhead before drifting off towards Dawlish. A greenshank and 2 green sandpipers were feeding at the back of the marsh amongst 20 roosting little egrets. 20 lapwings were counted around the marsh along with 3 juvenile shelduck, a female teal and 2 mute swan cygnets. The previous day had seen some maintenance work on the marsh so the roosting waders were not present despite the high tide but eventually they arrived, mainly curlew with a bar-tailed godwit, some black tailed godwit, redshank, dunlin and at least 2 whimbrel. 2 peregrines, a male and female bird with a very noticeable size difference, buzzed overhead spooking the birds.

On the way home we stopped at Marsh Mills on the River Plym where I failed to see a spotted sandpiper has been reported there, seeing a common sandpiper and a second bird that flew off before I could get a proper look at it, maybe another common, maybe a spotted. I did see 9 little egrets roosting on the Blaxton Meadow and a grey wagtail along the waters edge by the railway bridge.

The 9th September was foggy and cool but I headed off to Hayle in Cornwall to see what I could see as a buff breasted sandpiper had been reported the previous day along with the Bairds sandpiper. The train arrived at Hayle at 10am and it was surprisingly murky and cool. I headed off to the Carnsew Pool where I found 3 curlew sandpiper feeding with dunlin and turnstone at the top of the beach below the Tempest factory, they were feeding amongst the vegetation and gave excellent views. On the Pool was a little grebe and a winter plumaged Mediterranean gull roosting with some black headed gulls.

Ryans Field was murky but there was my target bird, the buff breasted sandpiper, busily feeding on a small island covered with short grass/vegetation in front of the hide. I watched it from the roadside and had a quick look through a friendly birders telescope. A  lovely bird, a new bird for me (the 2nd new bird for my life list this year) and surprisingly small. It had quite a dark cap and a dark area under its bill probably due to the wet conditions. It showed very well before flying off to the estuary never to be seen again but I was very pleased.
Buff breasted sandpiper on Ryans Field, Hayle - photo by Tony Mills from the Sennen Cove Birdwatching website

From the bridge overlooking the river 6 curlew sandpipers showed amazingly well, one bird having a beautiful intense peach wash on its breast. Wigeon and teal were seen feeding along the river and some adult Lesser black backed gulls were found roosting amongst the gull flock. I searched through the flocks of dunlin and ringed plovers feeding on the saltmarsh but they were very active and mobile and flighty and I failed to find the Bairds sandpiper amongst them, never mind, I was pleased with the buff breasted and curlew sandpipers and Bairds seems to be my bogey bird, having failed to see one at Marazion last year.
Curlew Sandpiper

Curlew Sandpiper

Coming home on the train was fun, it was packed and delayed due to a lightning strike on the signal box at Par but I eventually arrived back in Plymouth. That evening we met up with friends Julie and Matt for our birthday treat and had a turn on the Plymouth Eye, a big ferris wheel type thing on Plymouth Hoe, but the fog meant there was very little to see. We then headed off to The Barbican Kitchen, the Tanner brothers restaurant, and had a lovely meal and cocktails.

I worked on the Saturday and Sunday but on Sunday night we were both up most of the night with the trots so it meant no work for Monday and Tuesday night for me. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth we headed off to Wembury on the 13th for a walk but it was still very breezy and cool. Felt a bit rough still but managed a pasty for lunch with a coffee.

A lesser yellow underwing was found in the toilet block and a crysallis was found hanging in the window frame by the door but I have no idea what species it is. Common lizards were making the most of the sun and basking on the wooden fence posts, there was quite a variety of sizes and colours. A juvenile peregrine buzzed over with a small bird in its talons, it did a hobby impression as it brought its talons up to its beak to eat it as it flew over. Some adult lesser black backed gulls were found in the gull roost but the tide was out so I only saw a single curlew with the oystercatchers and a single little egret amongst the rocks. A chiffchaff was heard singing away, it always sounds so mournful in the Autumn unlike in the Spring. Swallows hawked overhead in the stiff breeze, 2 adult gannets headed West offshore, a white wagtail fed in the cow field amongst the pieds but there was no sign of any yellows again, and 2 male yellowhammers were seen in the small cirl bunting/ yellowhammer flock feeding in the wheat field. Also seen were a single long winged cone head and a nice dark bush cricket.

Unknown crysallis at the Wembury toilet block

I've had the moth box out a few times despite the poor weather and I did eventually manage to catch 2 large ranunculus, very pretty moths and very docile, being easy to handle and get a good view of. Also seen were an old lady that I released unharmed from a spiders web, a new for the garden common wainscot, a nice marbled beauty, a very smart L-album wainscot and an unseasonal white ermine.

Large Ranunculus

Common Wainscot

Marbled Beauty

L album Wainscot

An unseasonal white ermine

So it has been a very busy few days with some nice sightings despite the stomach upset and the October weather in September but at least the poor weather provided a new bird for me and it hasn't been too bad for mothing. Back to work tomorrow night though - such fun.

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