Thursday, 17 March 2016

Spring in the Air and my first Devon Barn Owl

With high pressure over the UK giving sunny, cool and dry conditions with an Easterly breeze it is a good time to be taking a week off work. No real plans other than pottering about and getting out for walks is just what I need after a busy few months but having a stinking cold is kind of putting a crimp on things a bit.

Sunday 13th and we went for a walk at Wembury. It was sunny and cool and absolutely packed out, the busiest I have seen it so far this year. Walking along the coast to The Point and things quietened down but it was also quiet birdwise with the highlight being a female type black redstart feeding amongst the boulders on the beach below the clifftop footpath, constantly flitting about but showing its beautiful red tail in the strong sunlight. A few sloe flowers were out and there were quite a few bloody nosed beetles mating in the grass again. 2 common lizards were basking in the sun and the toilet block held my first moth of the year although its ID has me a bit puzzled - I thought it was a male dotted border but it has distinctive spots on its forewing which dotted border doesn't have - maybe a faded early moth? I also found a caterpillar on the footpath which I think is a cream spot tiger moth.

 Sloe Blossom

Faded Male Early Moth?

Cream Spot Tiger Caterpillar?

Monday 14th March and we drove up to Dozmary Pool on Bodmin Moor for a look around. David dropped me off at the Pool before heading off to a nearby farm to see if there were any goose eggs for sale - unfortunately there were none with the farmers wife saying that the girls hadn't been laying due to the lack of recent sunshine.

At the Pool the best birds were 2 pairs of goldeneye and 2 male tufted ducks but there was no sign of the regular overwintering male lesser scaup or wintering female smew.

We drove back to Siblyback Reservoir near Liskeard and walked around the waters edge, a pleasent easy walk of around 2 miles. I found a group of tufted duck close to the shore near the bird hide and amongst them was the male lesser scaup, last seen by me in 2013. The birds appeared nervous, probably due to nearby fishermen wading into the water to fly fish and by the time I had walked further along the footpath to get a better view of the birds in better light they had flown off. I refound the lesser scaup amongst the tufted ducks further along the walk but it was much more distant and difficult to view.

 Male Lesser Scaup with Female Tufted Duck

Male Lesser Scaup

There was no sign of the female smew but I did find 2 coot, 2 Canada geese, little grebes, teal and mallard and amongst the bathing herring and black headed gulls were a few lesser black backs.

Tuesday 15th March and it was off to Stoke Point for a walk and it was much better underfoot than our last wet and muddy walk back in February. There were lots of stonechats along the walk including quite a few singing males but I couldn't find any Dartford warblers. A singing chiffchaff and a singing cirl bunting were seen along with a small tortoiseshell, my first butterfly of the year. 2 snipe flew over and landed in a boggy area on the cliffside and a raven flew overhead in wide circles as it slowly gained height before drifting off. 8 red legged partridge were disturbed by the footpath, all flying off into the cliffside vegetation in pairs but even better was a very smart male wheatear feeding amongst the gorse, my first proper summer migrant bird of the year.

 Male Stonechat

Male Wheatear

3 peregrines flew along the coast together as the light began to fade, 2 large female birds feignting with each other and a noticeably smaller male bird - one of the females flew off and the remaining pair circled higher and higher before drifting off west.

Peregrine - zoomed and cropped shot

Even better was a barn owl flying along a hedgerow by the roadside near Collaton Cross outside Noss Mayo as we drove home at around 16:45 hrs, my first ever Devon sighting in the nearly 30 years I have lived here. It looked very pale in the sunlight and flew right over the car before heading off over the fields and out of sight, a complete surprise and a nice end to the day.

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