Saturday, 5 August 2017

Sea Watching

It was another grey, misty and wet day on Wednesday 2nd August and so all my plans for my day off to myself went out of the window. I was feeling groggy after 2 night shifts but I was up and out early to catch the bus to Rame Head again because unlike my visit last saturday it was very windy.

As I got off the bus at 8:30 it was raining and blowing a hooley and by the time I arrived at Rame Head I was quite wet but with a feeling of excitement as I looked out at the rough sea. I settled into position in the ruined chapel and on my first scan of the sea I picked out a few gannet, 2 fulmar and a Manx shearwater heading west. I tried using my Nikon ED50 telescope and travel tripod but as expected it was not up to the job in the strong winds despite my being somewhat sheltered in the chapel so I had to rely on my binoculars only. There were plenty of gannets moving west during my 3 hour watch with the odd fulmar and a trickle of Manx shearwaters but other than herring gulls, great black backed gulls and shags nothing else was seen. The wind did ease and the rain became heavier over the morning and visibility became very poor which didn't help but that is sea watching for you. As I was leaving to catch the bus back to Plymouth a raven flew over cronking and 4 dunlin flew high over heading west - an enjoyable morning though despite getting cold and wet and buffeted by winds and not seeing an awful lot.

Thursday 3rd August and Anglian Windows were booked to sort out the problems with our new windows but unfortunatrly the workmen did not have all the necessary bits and bobs so we headed off to Hope Cove for a walk instead. It was cloudy and cool with a surprisingly brisk wind as we parked up in Thurlestone Village to begin our walk where a Jersey tiger moth of the lutescens form with yellow underwings instead of red was fluttering around in the hedgerow.

I checked out the toilet block by the golf club and found a nice selection of moths inside including Mullein wave, magpie moth, Brussels lace, dingy footman and Carcina quercana.

 Mullein wave

Carcina quercana

Walking on to South Huish Marsh and I was pleased to find a yellow wagtail feeding around the feet of some horses along with pied wagtails but the water levels on the marsh were quite high following all the rain of the previous day so there was no sign of any waders including the curlew sandpiper found yesterday.

Onwards to Hope Cove and the café was jam packed full so we had a cup of tea from the lime kiln café and sat on the benches overlooking the beach. I had a quick scan offshore and picked up a few gannets along with some small shearwater sp. moving west distantly offshore and 2 closer in moving east. I also picked up a large shearwater sp. moving west, distant again and brief views before it disappeared behind the headland of the Cove, but pale and distinctive looking as it twisted up from the waves before giving a few slow flaps of its wings and twisting back down to the water.

We eventually managed to get a table in the café and had a very pleasant lunch before walking back to South Huish Marsh where a juvenile Mediterranean gull was picked out amongst the black headed gulls along with a 2nd summer Mediterranean gull with a bright red bill, the remnants of a black hood and some black markings in the primaries which it was moulting heavily when it flew off. I found 3 dunlin skulking in the vegetation at the waters edge but best of all was a stonking juvenile yellow legged gull amongst the herring gulls - I have finally found myself one here in the UK! It stuck out like a sore thumb, a large bird with very crisp plumage and giving the nearby adult herring gulls a bit of welly if they came too near.

Yellow Legged Gull

 Yellow Legged Gull

 Yellow Legged Gull

Yellow Legged Gull

Yellow Legged Gull

Back at the car there were 3+ spotted flycatchers flitting about in the trees at The Vicarage (a family party?), and at least 10 swifts were flying overhead as we drove out of the village.

Spotted Flycatcher

Saturday 5th August and it was an early start to catch the train and bus to Brixham for a pelagic trip, something I have wanted to do for ages. It was arranged by the Plymouth branch of the DBWPS and we headed out of Brixham harbour on The Optimist on a bright and sunny morning but unfortunately with very little wind. A grey seal was hauled out on the pontoons in the harbour and as we passed Berry Head a guillemot was a nice find along with a small flock of kittiwake resting on the sea consisting of juvenile and adult summer and winter plumaged birds. Heading out to sea and more guillemots and kittiwakes were seen along with 2 razorbill, 8 common scoter flying past, gannets and a few distant Manx shearwaters. A group of 5 shearwaters were also picked up, appearing paler on the upperparts and with a more languid flight, possibly Balearic shearwaters but too distant to confirm.

Grey Seal

At the 8 mile mark chumming began despite the total lack of birds but almost instantly they began to appear - herring gulls at first, joined by great and lesser black backed gulls, fulmars and a few curious gannets and Manx shearwaters. A storm petrel was picked up which I just caught a glimpse of as it flew away from the boat but eventually we managed some good views of at least 3 birds flying over the slick produced from the chumming. A great skua flew in too but remained distant before flying off but I missed the brief sightings of some dolphins passing by. Unfortunately all too soon it was time to head back to the harbour but I was very pleased with the sightings we had had.

Fulmar

Heading back to Brixham and we picked up a pod of 6+ common dolphins which came in to the boat giving some nice views before quickly disappearing from sight and before I knew it we were back on land but it had been a very enjoyable 3 hours out at sea.

 Common Dolphin

 Common Dolphin

 Common Dolphin

Common Dolphin

On our return I had planned to walk out to Berry Head for a look around but Brixham on a August Saturday was not fun and with the white winged black tern found yesterday at Bowling Green Marsh in Topsham having done a bunk I decided to visit nearby Preston Down for a look for brown hairstreaks instead, somewhere I haven't visited before.

A male sparrowhawk was the only bird of note as it flew into some trees and there was no sign of any brown hairstreaks but I did see comma, painted lady, meadow brown, gatekeeper, common blue, peacock, red admiral. large white, small copper and small white. An emperor dragonfly was a nice find and the views of Torbay and Brixham were stunning but it was time to head back to Paignton to catch the train back to Plymouth - a brilliant day out.

 Sparrowhawk

 Brixham and Berry Head from Preston Down

Emperor Dragonfly

(And Birdy the herring gull returned to the flat roof next door in the early morning as I was getting ready for work on Friday 4th, mewling away and pecking at the fallen plums from the tree before flying off - glad to see he is still doing well).




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