Saturday 26 February 2011

Recent sightings 23rd - 26th February

A bus trip out to Wembury on the 23rd seemed like a good idea despite the gloomy weather but when I arrived the weather was foul, that horrible mizzle that Plymouth is depressingly famous for where everything just gets soaking wet despite there being no actual rain. Visibility was appalling too, it was so foggy I couldn't even see the Mewstone. My thoughts were to have a quick look around and catch the next bus back to Plymouth in an hours time especially when I saw the state of the footpaths, complete mudbath!!!. However the mizzle stopped and the fog lifted and once I had set off on the mud path I decided to carry on.

2 Canada geese were feeding in the stubble field, the first of the year here. 8 male and 6 female mallard were feeding along the beach, 1 of the females being of the domesticated variety with very pale brown plumage. The finch/bunting flock was still present in the weedy field in the old HMS Cambridge grounds, they continue to be very flighty and nervous, flying up into the hedgerow frequently where at least 7 bright yellow male yellowhammers were counted along with at least 2 male and a female cirl bunting. A chiffchaff flitting about in the shrubs along the beach was a nice find, it had very dark legs and twitched its tail downwards regularly as it moved through the branches.

The water pipit in winter plumage was eventually found feeding with rock and meadow pipits on the seaweed mass on the beach, giving good views. Also seen was a water pipit developing summer plumage. The pinky wash on its breast and bluey wash on its head were quite distinctive but its breast had some streaking along the sides.

I met up with my friend Amanda from work for lunch on the 24th, we had a nice lunch at Loungers in the William Yard and then a walk at Devils Point. No Mediterranean gulls were seen but a winter plumaged great crested grebe showed well close in to shore and we watched a large grey seal diving regularly in the calm water before we lost track of it as it headed up the River Tamar. Amanda had never seen a wild seal before. Her husbands naval ship headed in to the dockyard as we were at the Point, I could see him waving on the back of the boat through my binoculars as Amanda spoke to him on her mobile phone. Also seen was a male blackcap which looked very chunky as it showed well in the top of a tree.

The 26th saw me heading to Torpoint to search for the recently reported adult ring billed gull that had been seen there but I was out of luck, I missed it last year as well when I went searching for it. I did see 2 second winter Mediterranean gulls which showed very well flying over the water picking up food along with a few common gulls which despite my best efforts I could not make into a ring billed gull! Also showing well were 12 brent geese of the pale bellied variety, again the first pale-bellied types I have seen (or at least identified!)

Brent geese of the pale bellied variety

Also seen were some violets in flower amongst some daffodils, spring is coming!

 Violet at Torpoint

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Jennycliff 22nd February

Today David had to go to work at 4:30 so we popped over to Mount Batten on the water taxi from The Barbican in Plymouth for some lunch at The Borringdon Arms pub in Turnchapel. Had a nice pint of Plymouth Pride Ale, a local brew from the South Hams Brewery, and a nice lunch of soup and apple crumble.

A walk after lunch along the coastpath to the cafe at Jennycliff was very pleasent in the mild although overcast weather, it felt very Spring like, made more so when a peacock butterfly flew low over the grass before disappearing from sight. Birds of note were 5 great crested grebes asleep on the sea in Jennycliff Bay, a goldcrest with some long tailed tits in bushes by the footpath and 6 fulmar prospecting the cliffs, 1 of which was very grey plumaged, lacking the distinctive white head and underparts of the other 5. It didn't appear to be dirty or oiled so I assume it was a grey morph or "blue phase" fulmar, the first I have seen.

Saturday 19 February 2011

River Tamar Boat Trip 19th February

Today I met up with Mavis at Saltash for the rescheduled boat trip along the River Tamar originally planned for the 5th February but cancelled due to the bad weather. Today the weather was perfect, sunny and warm although out of the sun it was a bit chilly despite there being very little breeze.

Walking down to the Quay from the High Street a female blackcap and a redwing were a nice find in the small park underneath the Tamar bridge while greenfinches, wrens and dunnocks were busily singing away. Spring is coming!

The Tamar Bridges from the boat
Best birds were 2 spoonbills feeding on the Devon side of the Tamar near the entrance to the River Tavy. Good  views were had as they busily fed together showing their spoon shaped bills regularly as they chucked their heads back to gobble up whatever poor creature they had trapped in their bills! One had a collection of coloured plastic rings on its legs and both were juveniles with pinky bills and some black markings noted on their wing feathering.

The tide was very low so we were unable to travel any further upriver than Cargreen so we did not get to the stretch of estuary where we usually see spotted redshanks. Never mind.

Other birds of note were 2 greenshanks, a male red breasted merganser, black and bar tailed godwit, a grey plover, avocets and a male kestrel. Waders were a little thin on the ground but we didn't get to the best stretch of the Tamar for waders .

A lovely day, a good trip but a little disappointing compared to previous Tamar trips and the recent Exe trip.

Monday 14 February 2011

Wembury 12th February

A walk along the coast path this afternoon was a mud bath yet again resulting in some very muddy shoes on my return home!

The water pipit showed well again on the seaweed and rocks by the sewage pipe at Wembury Point. The guide book states that they are found on marshy areas but I have seen them regularly feeding along the beach at Wembury over the years.

A small flock of birds in the stubble field in the old HMS Cambridge site were very flighty, flying up into the nearby hedgerow and then back in to the stubble, amongst them were at least 3 bright yellow male yellowhammers and 1 male cirl bunting along with females and chaffinches.

The beach was busy again with families enjoying the sunshine and mild weather and it was nice to sit and watch the view while eating one of the fantastic pasties from the cafe with a cup of coffee.

Back to work on Monday unfortunately and nights as well, what joy.

Friday 11 February 2011

Slapton 11th Feb

A drive out to Slapton for a walk along the Ley in the gloom and mist was just enough for me today as I have a bit of a cold and was feeling quite crappy. Not much around, with fewer than usual numbers of ducks on the Ley but I did find 5 redhead goosanders, my first at Slapton, and a nice male goldeneye.

The Seabreeze cafe was closed for refurbishment so had to make do with a sandwich and a bottle of squash from the shop while I fed the ducks at Torcross with duck food also purchased from the shop. It was quite fun feeding them as they walked all over my shoes and were joined by a few coot.

No Cettis warblers heard today although it was very gloomy, I hope some have survived the cold snap we had in December.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Recent sightings 3rd to 9th February 2011

The 3rd February saw the beginning of 10 days off from work with a view of a sparrowhawk from the bus on my way home , this being the first one I've seen since the start of the cold weather in December.

The 4th saw me at Wembury looking for a water pipit and I was in luck and saw a well marked bird feeding amongst the seaweed near the sewage pipe at Wembury Point. It was with both rock and meadow pipit allowing good comparison views and I enjoyed good prolonged views as it chased off both rock and meadow pipits and was chased off by pied wagtails.

While searching for the water pipit I was distracted by a feeding party of long tailed tits and on closer inspection was delighted to find a firecrest with them, a beautiful bird that showed well and quite close but which didn't stay still long enough before it disappeared into the thick clump of sloe bushes never to be seen again.

The weather was foul, damp and very windy but at least the footpath wasn't a complete mudbath like it was a few weeks ago. A large flock of black headed gulls hovered over the breaking waves picking off food from the surface. Despite searching I couldn't pick out anything unusual amongst them but I did find a smart adult lesser black backed gull roosting on the rocks amongst the herring and great black backed gulls.

The 5th February was to have been my annual boat trip on the River Tamar but it was cancelled due to the bad weather, being rescheduled for the 19th. I was supposed to be going on the trip with my mate Mavis so we decided to still have a trip out and went to Millbrook to meet up with the Plymouth RSPB group for a walk. A kingfisher showed really well along with a greenshank, 3 black tailed godwits, an Egyptian goose and 1 little egret along with the usual birds but it was quite fun to see some members of the group make a redshank into a spotted redshank!

A stop at Wacker Quay on the way home didn't turn up any spoonbills but 10 avocets were seen as the weather took a turn for the worse and we headed home.

The 7th February was spent walking around the path at Stoke Point, to me one of the most beautiful places in the world. No Dartford warblers were seen, presumably casualties of the recent cold spell, but I don't always see them on the walk anyway so hopefully they have survived. A lovely great northern diver was found in the mouth of the Yealm estuary, my first of the year, they seem scarce this winter and elusive too. One has been seen around Plymouth Sound this winter but I have failed to find it, maybe this bird was the Plymouth Sound bird but with the recent gales it could be a new individual.

The 8th February saw me fighting back tears in the strong wind as I watched the male lesser scaup at Dozmary Pool on Bodmin moor. It showed well between dives although it was some distance away and spent little time on the surface. However the view was better than last year when it was much more distant diving on nearby Colliford Lake. Presumbly it is the same bird as last year. 11 golden plovers were seen flying over and there were good numbers of fieldfares feeding in fields and flying over.

Bowling Green Marsh on the 9th February allowed good views of the usual birds including 2 peregrines overhead, 1 carrying some unfortunate bird for its lunch in its talons. The male pintail on the Marsh were very close to the road allowing excellent views, they are such beautiful birds. No sign of the elusive female smew again but all in all not a bad few days birding.