Thursday, 6 November 2014

Two trips to Wembury

With 2 night shifts looming I headed off to Wembury on the bus on Sunday 2nd November for a quick walk. It was the last day of the half term holiday and very breezey but sunny so I expected it to be busy but it wasn't too bad.

With the strong breeze viewing birds was difficult and the highlights were a feeding flock of gannets offshore, a pair of stonechats and a female kestrel along the coastpath and a feeding flock of black headed gulls hovering over the surf as it crashed onto the beach, picking at items of food disturbed by the waves. The best though was a merlin flying low over the water along the beach before swooping up over the cliff by the wheatfield before it was lost from sight. I couldn't refind it but there were small groups of meadow pipits flying around the wheatfield in complete panic so it must have still been in the area. It was very fast, looking small and dark in the sunshine, and is my third merlin of the year and third for Wembury.

After getting through my night shifts I headed off to Wembury again by bus on Wednesday 5th November and the weather was a total contrast - sunny, cold and calm, although the breeze did pick up later and it soon warmed up. The sunshine and warmth coaxed out a few butterflys and I had some nice views of red admirals and at least 3 clouded yellows including an helice type. A common darter was also seen flying along the stream in the valley to the beach.

 A tatty Red Admiral basking in the sun
 Clouded Yellow
Clouded Yellow

Arriving at Wembury at 09:30 and walking down to the main beach I heard skylarks calling overhead and on looking up saw 3 lapwings heading West along with a flock of 200+ woodpigeon and at least 1 stock dove, also heading West - there has been quite a movement of woodpigeons across Devon in the last few days and over the course of the morning I must have seen 1500+ birds moving West. The largest group was this first group I saw with subsequent groups totalling 30-100 birds but by 13:00hrs the movement stopped. I managed to find another stock dove amongst a flock of woodpigeon and also saw a flock of 8 stock doves flying over on their own. A single stock dove was also flying around the pines at Wembury Point before being disturbed by a low flying helicopter.

It was low tide but along the beach were a few oystercatcher, 3+curlew, a little egret, mallards and gulls. A chiffchaff was feeding in reeds at the cliff base near the sewage pipe with another 2 seen at the horse stables. A pair of kestrels showed well with the male bird noisely mobbing a buzzard perched in the pine trees by the horse fields. 2 pairs of cirl buntings were seen with 1 male heard singing briefly, and later 2 males were seen singing at Wembury Point. A male great spotted woodpecker was also noisely knocking on the pine trees at Wembury Point and a coal tit was heard calling but not seen.

 Robin - very noticeable along the walk at Wembury and quite tame at times
Robin, Wembury

With pomarine skuas being reported from Berry Head on the 5th November I thought about taking a trip there on the 6th but the weather was a complete contrast to the 5th with very wet and very windy weather forecast - probably good for sea watching but it is a bit late in the autumn and I was feeling knackered so I gave it a miss and went for a walk around Plymouth Hoe instead. Just 17 mute swans were around Sutton Harbour, usually the numbers are approaching 30, but 2 little grebes were busily diving for food amongst the boats. A few shags and gulls (black headed, great black backed and herring) were seen in the wind and mist and rain but the biggest surprise was a brown rat which ran across the path in front of me near Fishermans Nose.

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