Friday, 13 February 2015

Devon Birding

With some time off work and some cold, dry weather we have been out and about in Devon enjoying some walks and lunches (and some birds too!).

Thursday 5th Feb and a dull grey and cold walk from Wembury beach to Wembury Point was extremely muddy along the coastpath and so we walked back to the car along the beach as it was a very low tide, avoiding the mud bath that was the footpath. 2 adult winter plumaged Mediterranean gulls were flying up and down the shoreline, dipping down to the water to snatch at food and looking ghostly white in the dull light, and an adut lesser black backed gull was roosting on the rocks amongst the more usual gulls. A common sandpiper was feding on the sandy piece of beach near the sewage pipe and amongst the rock and meadow pipits feeding on the seaweed mass on the beach were a smart water pipit and a female type black redstart. The water pipit was quite aggressive towards nearby rock pipits but seemed to tolerate nearby meadow pipits. A grey wagtail along the stream running across the main beach was a splash of lemon yellow colour in the gloom.

Male Stonechat, Wembury

Robin, Wembury

Saturday 7th Feb and we had a drive up to Dartmoor for a walk and to have a look at the snow. There was snow around especially on the high moor, it was sparse and patchy but the most snow I have seen in Devon for many years. The sun was shining in Plymouth but it had clouded over on arriving at Warren House Inn. Our plan had been to walk around Soussons so I could have a look for the wintering great grey shrike but on getting out of the car the wind felt like an evil dagger, it was bitterly cold, and so we gave up and went to the Inn instead for some lunch! We then decided to have a walk at nearby Bellever Forest where it was a little more sheltered from the wind. A male crossbill was singing from a tree top not far from the car park, the first time I have heard one singing in the field - I have seen it on Springwatch and heard it on the internet only - and it gave some nice views before flying off. Walking further in to the forest and I heard 2 more singing males, 1 seen in a tree top and a second bird heard only. A female then flew over calling and the 2 males took off after her before they all flew out of sight.

 Bellever Tor, Dartmoor

 Warren House, Dartmoor

 Male Crossbill, Bellever

 Male Crossbill

Male Crossbill

Monday 9th Feb and it was a gloriously sunny and still day and after a cold start soon became a pleasently warm day. We headed off for a walk at Stoke Point and it was stunningly beautiful along the coast path as we walked from Stoke Point to The Ship Inn at Noss Mayo and back. A grey seal was seen swimming in the crystal clear sea, spooking a shag on the surface and my first butterfly of the year, a peacock, flew past in the warm sunshine. I checked out all the stonechats feeding from the gorse covered cliff sides but couldn't find any Dartford warblers. I had given up on finding one but as we headed back to the car as the sun was starting to drop from the sky I found a lone female type stonechat on top of a gorse bush with a small bird skulking below in the bush. The stonechat was quite wary and flew down the slope away from me in stages and each time it flew off it was joined by the skulking bird, a very smart male Dartford warbler, brief flight views only but very nice to find.

Greenshank, Noss Mayo

Tuesday 10th Feb and we took a walk at Stover, only my second visit here. It was grey and cold again and the lake was half covered in thin ice. A male and 3 redhead goosanders were roosting on the clear water with a great crested grebe, 2 pairs of pochard, 2 pairs of mandarin ducks and 2 adult lesser black backed gulls. A snipe flew up from the waterside before disappearing from sight and a pair of mute swans were hidden in the reeds. From the aerial walkway birds were feeding on seeds and peanuts including a marsh tit, nuthatches and 3 bullfinches.

 Male Goosander, Stover

 Marsh Tit, Stover

 Male Bullfinch, Stover

 Juvenile Herring Gull on ice, Stover

Adult Lesser Black Backed Gull on ice, Stover

I had received a comment from local birder Graham Watson about my report on the DBWPS website for my trip to Wembury on the 5th regarding the water pipit I had seen. Graham has been seeing a tailess water pipit along the beach but the bird I saw had a tail as I had noted its white outer tail feathers when it flew around the seaweed mass. Intrigued I decided to have another look for it on Weds 11th Feb on yet another cold and grey day. The footpath was much less muddy and arriving at the seaweed mass on a high tide I soon found the water pipit amongst the rock and meadow pipits, complete with a tail. However on scanning through the birds I found a second water pipit with no tail so there are indeed 2 birds present, the first time I have seen more than 1 bird at Wembury. The black redstart was also seen, Graham had seen a bird with a leg ring which I hadn't noticed but this bird did indeed have a ring on its right leg, I must have missed it on my previous visit. The common sandpiper was also feeding on the seaweed mass and I found a long dead cetacean nearby, my first along the beach here for some time, probably a harbour porpoise but maybe a common dolphin -  whatever it was it was very smelly!

 Water Pipit (with tail feathers), Wembury

 Water Pipit with tail feathers ( white outer tail feather showing)

Tailess Water Pipit with Meadow Pipit

 Tailess Water Pipit with Rock Pipit

 Female type Black Redstart

 Dead Porpoise/Dolphin sp., Wembury Beach

Male Bullfinch, Wembury

And so a busy few days but with some very good sightings despite the generally cold and grey weather.

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