Tuesday 22 November 2011

Burrator 20th November 2011

A beautiful day but unfortunately a Sunday so the news of a desert wheatear at Mansands in South Devon was a no go for me for various reasons. Mansands is a bit of a pain to get too, there is nothing there to entertain David although he was happy to take me there and I had visions of it being packed full of twitchers due to the weather and being Sunday and I just could not face all that hassle. Having been to see the green heron last year at Heligan in Cornwall and putting up with the crowds with their telescopes and cameras and tripods blocking the views for the poor souls who arrived after them while they japped away to each other about the fabulous time they had had in the Scilly Isles that year was too much for me to put up with today.

So we had a walk around Burrator reservoir instead and it was a very pleasant walk with not too many people around and we had a nice ice-cream again in the sunshine at the end of the walk while watching the star bird of the day, a great northern diver, from the dam. It had been reported a few days ago but I wasn't sure if it would still be around but there it was and it showed very well, spending long periods just swimming around with the occassional dive. It is the first time I have seen one here on the reservoir.

Other birds included a kingfisher (heard), crossbills (heard overhead but not seen), 3 little grebes, 4 male tufted duck, 4 male and 3 female teal, a juvenile cormorant, 2 white feral geese, mallards, an adult great black backed gull with an adult and 2nd winter herring gull and black headed gulls and 2 male and 3 redhead goosanders, the males looking resplendent in the strong sunshine.

Also heard was a great spotted woodpecker and jays with siskins and nuthatches seen and heard in the trees. A red admiral flew over in the warm sunshine.

The desert wheatear is still around so maybe I'll have a trip out to Mansands sometime..............

Saturday 19 November 2011

Wembury 19th November 2011

David was on a long day today so I caught the bus to Wembury for a walk as the weather was quite bright and sunny. It clouded up half way through my walk but it stayed dry so it wasn't too bad.

A moth flitted past while walking along the road to the beach, not sure what it was but I got a crap photo, I think it looks like a carpet species. In the toilet block a plume moth was on the ceiling by one of the lights but one of the bulbs in one of the lights has gone, I hope they change it before next Spring as it is the light nearest the door!
Unknown moth sp

Bird wise 2 goldcrests were seen in the bushes along the road to the beach and another was seen along the cliff top by HMS Cambridge. A male blackcap was seen feeding in the bushes too before it skulked away and out of sight. Overhead birds included 2 ravens, a rook, a female kestrel and a buzzard.

Best bird was seen at Wembury Point, a Brent goose that flew overhead from the direction of Plymouth and then promptly landed on the beach for a rest! First sighting of a Brent goose I have had at Wembury.

Also seen were a record 55 mallard, 28 of which were male, 2 little egrets, 5 curlew roosting on rocks at Wembury Point with the oystercatchers, a grey wagtail, a meadow pipit with the rock pipits along the beach, a pair of stonechats in the valley to the beach and a pair in HMS Cambridge, a flyby cirl bunting that landed in the wheatfield and disappeared from view and a song thrush in the valley to the beach. Single gannets were offshore.

The tide was very high and with a strong Southerly breeze the beach at Wembury Point was covered in masses of seaweed. I decided to hunt for blue rayed limpets as per the Wild Wings and Wanderings blog, checking out all the kelp washed up amongst the other seaweeds. I had no luck but I did find what I think are limpet bite-marks on the softer, younger kelp fronds. I got covered in kelp slime and got splashed by the waves and got 2 wet feet from falling into rock pools as I tried to escape the waves but it was quite fun despite the smell.
Blue rayed limpet nibble mark?

A row of 5 blue rayed limpet nibble marks?

I met another birder and had a chat and he said that you could find blue rayed limpet shells along the beach so I had a half-hearted look amongst the shells washed up in certain places amongst the rocks but with no luck. He also tipped me off about some goose barnacles growing on a washed up wooden pallet on the beach and I did see them but unfortunately they had all died from being out of the water.
Goose barnacles - very young and unfortunately very dead

I also found a dead guillemot along the tide line mixed up with all the seaweed, it wasn't oiled and had no leg rings.
Dead guillemot

Dead guillemot

There were also lots of cuttlefish bones washed up on the beach of various shapes and sizes.

Cuttlefish bones

At the bus stop while waiting for the bus home there were quite a few honeysuckle bushes in flower.

Honeysuckle flowers
At the bus stop 2 male and a female blackbird were perched in the hawthorn bushes which were laden with haws. The 2 males had dark bills but with yellow bases and their eye rings were much darker than usual for male blackbirds. I always assumed they were young males but as per Autumnwatch on the BBC I wonder if they are Scandanavian blackbirds which have dark bills (although they were not particularly shy as they sat in the bushes a few feet away.)

Getting home I decided to have a look for the glossy ibis again from West Hoe although Devils Point may have been a better viewing point. Unfortunately I had no luck this time although I did see a grey heron being harrassed by 2 great black backed gulls and the little egrets came in as the light faded to roost in the trees on Drakes Island. There were some birders at Devils Point, one of them I think was the leader of the Plymouth RSPB Group, I don't know if they had better luck.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Wildlife round-up 2nd - 10th November 2011

I posted a photo of the moth I found at Marsh Mills on the 1st November on the Backgarden Moth Forum website and the consensus seems to be it is a November moth ag. and not a Winter moth.

Anyway spurred on by the continuing mild nights and the moth blog sites I follow which are still filled with reports of moths coming to traps I decided to put the moth box out in the backyard again on the night of the 2nd November and the next morning I found a few small flies, a few small spiders and on turning over the last egg box in the trap..... an Angle Shades! I don't know if it is the same one I had in the garden back in October but I potted it up to take some photos where it started to lay eggs so I released it quickly back in the backyard. The caterpillars eat a variety of herbaceous plants so hopefully there is something in the garden that they will eat if any more eggs are laid.

Angle Shades

It was grey and mizzley on the 2nd November so we had a wander around The Barbican and The Hoe and saw a very large male grey seal in the water near The National Marine Aquarium. It had a large dark grey head and a paler grey body and it quickly dived beneath the water and out of sight. However when we walked over the footbridge across the lock for Sutton Harbour it was swimming underneath us into Sutton Harbour, the lockgate being open as it was high tide  - what a day to forget my camera as it was an excellent view! It dived again heading in to the harbour, no doubt to try and catch some of the large mullet that we often see in the water around the harbourside.

The 8th Novemeber saw us heading to Plymbridge Woods for a walk. The weather has been very mild but very wet lately so we picked Plymbridge as the paths are generally not too muddy in wet weather. It started to rain but we still wandered up to the viaduct from Marsh Mills with a big brolly to keep us dry. From the viaduct I had a good view of 2 marsh tits and a nuthatch feeding on the peanut and seed feeders with blue, great and coal tits while a grey squirrel fed on scraps on the ground with chaffinches. The only other bird of note was a goldcrest with a flock of long tailed tits feeding in the treetops.

The 10th November was bright and sunny despite the weather forecast being for heavy rain! I headed out to Wembury on the bus for a walk and it was very muddy from all the recent rain but I had a good walk. Best bird was a brief view of a firecrest feeding in the bushes with a long tailed tit flock near the  boatyard before they headed up the valley, the firecrest not being seen again. However I did then see a goldcrest which showed very well - typical!

Around 20 blackbirds were feeding in the hawthorn bushes on the hillside above the wheatfield, they were very flighty, chasing each other around the bushes and also chasing nearby woodpigeons but I couldn't make any of them into a ring ousel. With them were a couple of song thrush and a small flighty group of around 10 yellowhammers which included at least 3 bright males. Along the footpath by the wheatfield a small flock of around 7 cirl buntings were also very flighty and also included at least 3 males.

3 little egrets and a grey heron were feeding amongst the rocks at low tide and a high count of 43 mallards were seen (24 male and 19 female) but there were possibly more hidden amongst the rocks. Also seen were a male kestrel and a buzzard overhead, an adult gannet offshore, 3 curlews amongst the rocks and a female stonechat in the valley to the beach. Along the beach amongst the pied wagtails and rock pipits were a single grey wagtail and a few meadow pipits.

A flyby red admiral was a surprise and a fox moth caterpillar shuffled along the footpath - I've seen loads of fox moth caterpillars but never a moth!
Fox Moth Caterpillar

Quite a few different types of fungi were seen in the sheep field including a few parasol mushrooms in different stages of growth and of different sizes.

Half-nibbled mushroom sp.

Parasol Mushroom

Parasol Mushroom

Unknown mushroom sp.
The vegetation along the path has been cleared quite drastically at the narrow point were it tends to get very muddy, its a shame as it was full of blackthorn with beautiful blossom in the Spring and ivy with lots of flowers in the Autumn for the bees and butterflies to feed on  - it is easier to walk along this bit of path now and I guess it will regrow but it will take some time.

Cleared footpath at Wembury
I headed off to West Hoe in the evening to see if I could get a view of the glossy ibis that has been seen coming in to roost with the little egrets on Drakes Island at dusk for the last few nights. It has been seen on the Tamar/ Tavy estuary complex but has been more reliably seen coming in to roost. The light was pretty poor and I didn't hold out much hope but gradually the little egrets flew in to roost in groups of 2 to 4, perching in the trees on the island - I knew they have been breeding on the island but have never really thought of them as roosting on the island too. Eventually at 16:55hrs I saw what I thought was another cormorant flying low over the water towards the island but then it rose up over the small islet to the side of the main island and there it was - the glossy ibis. It was a brief, distant, poor light view but I could make out its slim build and long down curved bill and its distinctive flight interspersed with glides as it disappeared on the other side of the island and out of sight, never to be seen again. I was pleased to have seen it although it was not a good view, unlike the very tame one I saw last year at Aveton Gifford, maybe I'll try again for a better view another evening.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

River Plym and Saltram 1st November 2011

A new month, a day off and sunny skies so we drove out to Sainsburys at Marsh Mills so David could pick up a final few things to make this years Christmas Puddings before we headed off for a walk from Sainsburys to Saltram House and back.

I found a moth on the wall of the underpass under the A38 which I think is a either a Winter moth or a November Moth, either one being a new moth for me.
Winter or November Moth?

A kingfisher was a nice sight perched on a branch overhanging the river quiet close to the path, I managed a quick photo but it flew off before I could get a decent shot. I later saw the same bird or another further down river flying low over the water. Nearby a grey wagtail was feeding along the river bank.
Crap photo of a kingfisher before it flew off!

Along the river 3 little grebes were busy diving for food. 4 little egrets, an oystercatcher, curlews, mallards and gulls were seen along the river with 2 cormorants. On Blaxton Meadow as the tide was on its way out a small sandpiper fed along the banks of one of the islands but was too distant to fully identify. Later when walking back to the car with the tide now fully out the spotted sandpiper fed along the river bank giving excellent views.

Other birds seen were a male kestrel, 2 jay, a female bullfinch and 2 ravens mobbing a buzzard. A nuthatch was heard calling in the woods and a mistle thrush was seen perched in a tree opposite the cafe at Saltram House as we enjoyed a cup of tea.

We had a wander around the garden of Saltram House where a red admiral fed on some lemon blossom. I found a moth on the ceiling of The Orangery but it was too high up to get a good photo. With my binoculars it was very dark green with a carpet moth shape, probably a red green carpet. David used a nearby window pole to try and disturb it and bring it closer to ground level but it promptly flew off out of the open window and out of sight! Never mind.
Red Admiral feeding on lemon blossom

So it was a very pleasent walk in the warm sunshine and we managed to buy a Christmas present for a friend in the art gallery in the garden of Saltram House as well. A checkout glitch at Sainsburys (not down to us, I hasten to add!) also meant we got 2 bottles of white wine initially reduced to £6 a bottle for 49 pence each! So not a bad day all round!