Monday 15 April 2013

A Very Sad Puffin at Wembury

It was cold, grey, misty and breezy on a walk around Burrator Reservoir yesterday and 100+ swallows with a 100+ sand martins were flying low over the water in a desperate hunt for insects. The only other signs of Spring were a briefly singing chiffchaff and some wild daffodils flowering by the roadside. Resident birds were however busily singing away with song thrush, nuthatch, goldcrest, coal tit and a mistle thrush heard while siskins were songflighting overhead. A cormorant and a grey heron flew over and a pair of marsh tits were feeding in trees near the car park.

With a dry night and a minimum temperature of 10c forecast I decided to get the moth trap out for the first time this year and this morning I had 2 moths, a plume moth sp. and a very nice Early grey. I also saw a large moth in a crack in the wall by the dining room window, I think it may have been an Oak Beauty but it disappeared into the crack and out of sight before I could catch it, I'm hoping it wasn't being dragged in to the crack by a spider.

Early Grey

I headed off to Wembury on the bus later in the morning, it was grey and breezy but quite warm, the wheatfield along the coast path was actually steaming at one point when the sun apperaed for a brief period. Unfortunately there were no moths in the toilet block but I am not sure if the lighting is working at present as the cafe is closed. I did however see 2 oil beetles with 1 busily digging a hole in the wet soil ready to lay eggs.

 Oil Beetle
Burrowing Oil Beetle

2 ladies from the Devon Wildlife Trust were surveying the beach looking for washed up seabirds from the current pollution incident affecting The English Channel and unfortunately there were at least 24 dead guillemots along the shoreline. Some had been half eaten and one of the ladies suspected they had been eaten by foxes scavenging along the beach. The pollutant is thought to be an obscure chemical used as a fuel additive which coats the birds feathers and destroys the waterproofing so the birds look bedraggled but not oiled. The birds being picked up were sticky, leaving a residue on the gloves of the ladies picking up the dead birds.

Some of the Dead Guillemots along Wembury Beach

At Wembury Point a live guillemot was seen desperately trying to preen the substance off its feathers before heading back out to sea where it eventually drowned from cold and waterlogging as it tried to keep afloat in the heavy waves. Very sad.

"Oiled" Guillemot at Wembury Point looking bedraggled

Even sadder was my first Wembury sighting of a puffin, unfortunately dead along the shoreline amongst the guillemots.

Dead Puffin on Wembury Beach

On a lighter note at least 6 chiffchaffs were singing, 2 male blackcaps were skulking silently in the vegetation (new arrivals?) and 2 willow warblers were bathing in the stream in the valley to the beach. Single swallows were seen flying overhead with 2 together at Wembury Point and a male stonechat and a male cirl bunting were seen singing.

Along the beach the clump of sea cabbage was growing and at Wembury Point some violet sps. were flowering along the clifftop path.

 Sea Cabbage
Violet sp. at Wembury Point

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