Thursday 25 October 2012

Lesser Yellowlegs at Ernesettle Creek, Plymouth - 25th October 2012

News of a lesser yellowlegs at Ernesettle Creek in Plymouth broke on Saturday but unfortunately I was at work. It also showed well on Sunday but again I was at work and so on Monday after completing my chores and with a day off I headed out to the Creek to have a look for it. A few birders were already there searching for it but with no luck and after 2 hours I headed home without a sighting.

Ernesettle Creek is a site I have never visited before despite it being in Plymouth. It is good for spotted redshanks and spoonbills in the winter due to the occassional visits from the wintering birds on the Tamar/Tavy/Lynher complex. The footpath runs right alongside the Creek but is shielded by trees and shrubs making viewing difficult although in the winter with the leaves gone it would be much easier to view.

I did see lots of redshanks along the Creek and at least 4 greenshanks along with teal, mallard, little egrets and black-headed and herring gulls. A snipe flew downriver calling and a feeding flock of very active and mobile  blue, great, coal and long-tailed tits contained at least 1 goldcrest and a probable chiffchaff. A tawny owl and a great spotted woodpecker were also heard and jays were seen and heard. Speckled woods flitted about in the mild and humid weather.

It has been mild and humid overnight too and so I have had the moth box out in the back yard.  Numbers have been unsurprisingly low but I did have a very nice willow beauty along with white shouldered house moth, common marbled carpet, large yellow underwing and plume moth.

White Shouldered House Moth

A day off again on Thursday (25th) so I headed off to Wembury on the bus. As I left the house 12 Canada geese flew over and at Wembury I had a count of 46 Canada geese feeding in the stubble field, my highest count at Wembury.

Some of the 46 Canada Geese feeding in the stubble field with Rooks, Jackdaws and Herring Gulls

The horsefields were full of mobile meadow pipits and pied wagtails along with a rock pipit and 2 juvenile wheatears and a small flock of goldfinch. A second winter Mediterranean gull hawked back and forth across the stubble field, swooping down to grab worms, and on the rocks 3 adult lesser black backed gulls were roosting amongst the herring, black headed and great black backed gulls. Offshore 2 adult gannets flew East and amongst the mallards feeding along the beach was a male farmyard type which I haven't seen here before.

 Juvenile Wheatear

Best birds were 5 Brent geese found on the walk back, they were resting on the sea near the sewage pipe and are my second Wembury sighting. They didn't hang around for long due to disturbance from dog walkers and they eventually flew off East.

4 of the 5 Brent Geese

The toilet block had been vandalised again, have people really got nothing better to do, but it did contain 2 snout (1 faded, 1 smart), a Eudonia augustea (ID'd by Douglas from the Back Garden Moth Community forum!) and a small drinker moth caterpillar. I have seen drinker moth caterpillars in the spring when they are so much larger than the one I saw today and it threw me at first as to what it was.

 Eudonia angustea
Drinker Moth Caterpillar

I decided to skip having a pasty and headed back to Plymouth on the bus before heading out to Ernesettle Creek by bus to have another hunt for the lesser yellowlegs. It had only been reported on the sightings pages on Tuesday (not Monday or Wednesday) so I wasn't overly hopeful but within 20 minutes of searching I found it feeding with a group of redshanks and 7 greenshanks on the mudflats as the tide came in before it flew off downriver. I had some excellent views, much better than the views I had of the bird at Kingsmill Lake in March this year, and I was very pleased to have my telescope to view it with. It was much smaller and slimmer built than the redshanks it was feeding with and with white underparts and obviously very yellow legs! When it flew off it lacked white markings in its upperwings and its yellow feet protruded out beyond its white rumped tail and again it was noticeably smaller and slimmer built than the redshanks. I managed to get a few crap photos as record shots, unfortunately they don't show the yellow legs.

 Lesser Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs

And so it had been a very good couple of hours birding with a very nice view of the first lesser yellowlegs for Plymouth since 1954!

Sunday 21 October 2012

An Elephant at Wembury

A bright and sunny day but with a very strong Southerly wind meant a walk from Wembury Point to Bovisands and back was pretty much bird free. A flyby raven being mobbed by a pair of carrion crows, a few stonechats trying to stay upright on the brambles, a flyover grey wagtail and curlew and oystercatchers feeding on the rocks were the best of it. Offshore some distant gannets were seen and I did a bit of scanning, hoping to see a windblown skua or shearwater - I did get a brief and distant view of what looked like a small and dark shearwater banking up out of the wave troughs before disappearing back out of sight, it looked good for a sooty shearwater but was never to be seen again - oh, well.

A speckled wood was sunning itself out of the wind but the best insect sighting of the day was a very nice elephant hawkmoth caterpillar walking over the tarmac at Wembury Point, something I have hoped to see for some time now. It was surprisingly large and heavy and looked ready to pupate, it would not stay still for a second so it was difficult to get a good photo of it, and so I placed it in the nearby vegetation. It really looked like an elephants head and trunk hence its name.

Elephant Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Looking very elephant like

It amazes me that the caterpillar will become one of these! (One I caught in my Mums garden)
The following day we headed off to Bude to put the caravan to bed for the winter, the wind had dropped and it was still bright and sunny, and a few small tortoiseshells were on the wing. The chemical toilet waste block held a nice selection of moths including a black rustic, 2 feathered ranunculus, a setaceous Hebrew character, a common marbled carpet and a dead frosted orange.

Best moths were 2 Blairs shoulderknots, a new moth for me. First recorded on the Isle Of Wight in 1951 they have expanded their range across Southern England, no doubt due the increase in leylandii trees in gardens which are one of their foodplants.

 Blairs Shoulderknot showing pinky underside
Dead Frosted Orange
 Unknown chrysallis - Large White?
Unknown chrysallis - Small Tortoiseshell?

Just before we left the caravan site to head back to Plymouth I found 2 small moths on a dandelion flower which I think are nettle tap, another new (micro) moth species for me.

Nettle Tap

Sunday 14 October 2012

Wembury, 10th October 2012

Arriving by bus at Wembury I very nearly got back on it to return to Plymouth as the weather was foul - misty and cool with heavy showery outbursts - but I persevered and was very glad I did.

The weather did eventually improve, the mist cleared and the rain stopped and as I was heading back to the bus stop at the end of the walk it became quite warm and humid. As a result insect activity suddenly increased and I saw a large white, a comma and 3 red admirals fly by while bees appeared on the ivy flowers. At the bus stop while eating my pasty I could see lots of small flies quite high up and as if on cue a small flock of around 10 silent house martins and and 10 swallows appeared heading East and busily feeding. The swallows appeared to be juveniles with short tail streamers and some of the house martins had the duskier underparts of juvenile plumage too.

The toilet block held 2 snout (1 very faded) and a new for Wembury Tachystola acroxantha.

Tachystola acroxantha

The coastpath was a mud bath and by the end of the walk I was wet and muddy but it had been well worth getting so mucky. Best bird was a very smart and confiding yellow wagtail feeding in the horse field amongst the horses with pied wagtails and meadow pipits , a rock pipit (unusual) and a juvenile wheatear.

 Yellow Wagtail with Pied Wagtail and horse turd
Juvenile Wheatear

A feeding flock of long tailed and blue tits contained a male blackcap and 2 chiffchaffs, with 1 chiffchaff being very aggressive towards the blackcap. 2 Sandwich terns silently flew East along the shoreline before disappearing from view and only a single adult gannet was seen offshore in the mist.

At Wembury Point a little egret was roosting on the rocks amongst the oystercatchers and at least 4 curlew  - it was hard to see them hunkered down amongst the rocks in the rain. A ringed plover was disturbed by walkers along the beach and 3 adult lesser black backed gulls were roosting on the sea amongst a flock of herring gulls. 2 very smart Mediterranean gulls were roosting on the rocks amongst some black headed gulls before flying off West.

Adult Winter plumaged Mediterranean Gull with 2 Black Headed Gulls

In the stubble field 43 male and 26 female mallards were roosting with 2 males and 2 females seen feeding along the beach, my highest count of mallards at Wembury. Later small groups were seen flying over the sea towards Noss Mayo.

A jay was seen flying high West as I headed up the valley to the bus stop, my first Wembury sighting and part of the national influx the UK is experiencing at the moment due to the failure of the acorn crop in Scandanavia.

Surprise of the day especially considering the weather was an adder I nearly stood on at Wembury Point, it was sat right on the footpath despite the heavy rain before it slithered off in to the grass, my first adder sighting at Wembury.



A very confiding Dunnock

Tuesday 9 October 2012

A trip to France, 5th-7th October 2012, and Bon Jour to a Merveille du Jour

A weekend trip on Brittany Ferries to Roscoff in France was a cool, wet and windy affair this year but we had a good time despite the weather. Highlight was a tatty looking hummingbird hawkmoth feeding on flowers along the river side in Morlaix.

Watching the shoreline from the bed room at the hotel in Roscoff small flocks of up to 10 meadow pipits were seen flying in off the sea before heading off inland while curlew, oystercatcher, redshank and turnstone fed amongst the rocks with little egrets.

Catching the ferry home on Sunday morning and the weather had improved. As we left port at least 11 Sandwich tern were seen around the boat along with 2 adult winter plumaged Mediterranean gulls. A flock of around 20 common scoters were flying around offshore as the ferry sailed away from the French coast. Plenty of gannets were seen on the crossing including quite a few dark juveniles and a juvenile kittiwake was also seen. 11 great skuas were seen including 2 within sight of Plymouth along with 6 distant petrel sp. heading North towards Plymouth, flying fast and low across the waves with their distinctive fluttery flight before being lost from view. Meadow pipts and a white wagtail were seen flying around the boat as we crossed The Channel. Unfortunatley there were no cetacean sightings this year.

High humidity, total cloud cover, very little breeze and mild temperatures helped in providing a good haul of moths in the back yard overnight on the 8th/9th October, 19 moths of 13 species including a new moth for me and one I have been hoping to see for some time, a Merveille du Jour, a very beautiful moth looking like a marbled green on steroids. A Vines rustic, an L-album wainscot , 3 large ranunculus and 2 feathered ranunculus were the best of the rest. Hopefully it won't be the last time I have the moth box out in the back yard this year.

 Merveille du Jour
 Merveille du Jour
Feathered Ranunculus

Egypt, 24th September - 3rd October 2012

Egypt placed the successful bid for hosting Davids sumptous birthday holiday extravaganza this year and on the 24th September ten assorted friends and family headed off to Cairo for a sunshine and sightseeing holiday. I wasn't expecting much in the way of birdlife but was pleasently surprised at what I saw.

 The Sphinx and The Great Pyramid of Cheops
Mosque of Sultan Hassan and the Rifai Mosque

We started off by staying at The Marriot Hotel in the centre of Cairo, a very nice hotel by The Nile and with a very pleasent garden and swimming pool area.  Hooded crows, house sparrows and ring necked parakeets were very obvious while barn swallows of the Egyptian savignii race with very ruddy coloured underparts constantly flew around overhead.

Hooded Crow

Ring Necked Parkeet

Savignii race Barn Swallows

Common bulbuls, graceful prinias, hoopoes and palm doves provided more exotic fare along with a fly over black kite and a small flock of noisey bee-eaters. A white breasted kingfisher was briefly seen noisely flying in to a tree top never to be seen again.

Common Bulbul
Graceful Prinia

Palm Dove

At dusk I would head across the road from the hotel to the Nile corniche, joining locals fishing for what I think were Nile perch. Pied kingfishers were obvious and noisey and I had a brief view of a common kingfisher quietly perched on a rock by the water. Little egrets and squacco herons were seen along with 2 adult and a juvenile night heron and a green heron.

My Birding Spot on The Nile

Pied Kingfisher

Little Egret
 Squacco Heron
Green Heron

One morning from the room balcony I saw a flock of terns fishing along the river and later that day when I walked out to the corniche I found just 2 left, a juvenile common tern and a new bird for me, an adult summer plumaged gull-billed tern.

The second part of the holiday was spent at The Mena House Hotel at Giza, right at the foot of the Pyramids, and another very nice hotel with a large garden and swimming pool. New birds seen here included a juvenile masked shrike being mobbed by house sparrows, a white wagtail, cattle egrets and a much better but still brief view of a white breasted kingfisher flying between the trees. I also saw some more familiar rustica race barn swallows amongst the savignii race barn swallows flying around overhead.

Cattle Egret

A trip to Memphis provided excellent views of little green bee-eaters feeding from metal railings. They were of the Egyptian cleopatra race with a dark throat band, a small area of blue on the face and long central tail feathers.

 Little Green Bee-Eaters
Little Green Bee-Eater

Other wildlife seen included African monarch, African migrant, painted lady, common tiger blue and long tailed blue butterflies along with what I think is a species of skipper butterfly.

 African Monarch
African Migrant - Catopsilia florella
Painted Lady
 Common Tiger Blue
 Long Tailed Blue
Blue Sp.?
Skipper Sp.?

Some very jazzily patterned blue tailed lizards were seen sun bathing on the walls by the swimming pool at The Mena House.

"Jazzy" Lizard Sp.

While walking through the grass at The Mena House I disturbed hundreds of moths made up of 2 species but I have no idea what they are. I also saw what I think were Pyrausta aurata moths feeding on mint flowers.

Unknown Moth Sp.
Unknown Moth Sp.

Lots of dragonflys were seen but they were way too fast in the hot sunshine to ever get a really good look at them. Lots of large and fast flying bees and wasps were seen too.

 Crocothemis erythrea Dragonfly
Large Hornet Sp.
And so it was a great holiday with some great sight seeing and some great wildlife, a total of 26 species of birds were seen with a nice lifer too.