Tuesday 24 September 2013

The Wrong Coloured Starling

I decided to head off to Dawlish Warren on the 20th September after changing plans and visiting Topsham instead a few weeks ago and on arriving it was grey and still and mild. I headed off to the sea wall as it was high tide to be met with a flat calm sea and an instant sighting of a juvenile roseate tern and 2 adult Arctic tens feeding close to the shore with Sandwich terns. I have never seen a juvenile roseate tern before and it was quite distinctive, with a black bill, black cap with a hint of a white forehead and a brown and bold patterned back.

A flock of around 50 juvenile and adult shags were close to shore, some sat on the water with their wings held open, and scanning through them I found a smart winter plumaged red throated diver. Further out was a second diver in summer plumage but it flew off before I could get a good look at it. Later on I found both divers together much closer to shore and I was able to identify it as a smart summer plumaged red throated diver.

The Bight had a large roost of waders at high tide and it was nice to see more small waders than last year although numbers are still much reduced than previous years, the small waders seem to be favouring Topsham and Bowling Green Marsh further up the River Exe. Amongst the curlew, bar tailed godwit, oystercatcher, dunlin, sanderling and ringed plover I found 2 knot and a black tailed godwit. Also feeding amongst the weedy edge of The Bight were a wheatear and a yellow wagtail with linnets, skylarks and meadow pipits.

I spent some time wandering around the car park bushes looking for a reported juvenile rose coloured starling but I was out of luck, finding just adult and juvenile starlings instead. They were quite schizophrenic in their behaviour, being shy and retiring while feeding on blackberrys in the bushes before flying off to the food stalls at The Warren to try and grab scraps of chips and doughnuts from the tourists.

I also managed to see whitethroat, swallow, chiffchaff and blackcap and searching around I found some Autumn lady's tresses in flower. Small coppers were much in evidence, with a pair of mating common darter and an emperor dragonfly also seen.

 Autumn Lady's Tresses
 Robins pincushion - bedeguar gall on wild rose caused by the gall wasp Diplolepis rosae
 Mating Common Darter -  a very blue coloured female with yellow stripes on the legs
 Small Copper - caeruleopunctata form
Meadow Brown with usual form of Small Copper

Mothing in the back yard has been uneventful with the usual moths being seen but 6 large ranunculus was my highest garden catch and nice to see. A grey wagtail and a meadow pipit were heard overhead while I was going through the trap on a very misty morning.

Six Large Ranunculus in the Back Yard Moth Trap

Walks at Wembury have been pleasant but uneventful too. Highlights have been Sandwich tern, whitethroat, wheatear, chiffchaff, blackcap and swallow, with 4 bar-tailed godwit (on the 22nd) down to 3 (on the 24th), and my first turnstone of the Autumn on the 24th. Cirl buntings have been quite showy with 8 seen together on the 24th.

Male Cirl Bunting

Non avian highlights at Wembury have been clouded yellows, common lizards and grey bush crickets along with Chunk pasties from the Beach Cafe!

 Female Grey Bush Cricket
 Male Grey Bush Cricket
Chrysolina banksi

A visit to Saltram House and gardens on the 23rd was enjoyable and very worthwhile with a new moth and a new dragonfly for me. An orange sallow was found in the summerhouse which I caught and released outside. The caterpillars of this species of moth feed on lime trees and there is a beautiful avenue of mature lime trees in the gardens. A male Southern hawker was seen buzzing around the pond in the gardens but settled long enough on some vegetation for me to photo and ID it before it flew off.

 Orange Sallow
Male Southern Hawker

Saturday 14 September 2013

Wembury Walks

The good weather has broken but a walk along the coast path at Wembury on the 9th September was warm and humid despite the clouds.

Best bird was a whinchat feeding from the top the brambles near the footpath at Wembury Point before it disappeared when some blackberry pickers turned up. Other highlights were a single bar-tailed godwit feeding on a sandy piece of beach near the sewage pipe as the tide went out and a juvenile wheatear feeding on the short grass in the horse field.  Single clouded yellows flitted by along the walk but it was difficult to count accurate numbers as they were very mobile and fast flying, and a single painted lady was feeding on some buddlea flowers.



In contrast the walk along the coastpath on the 11th September was cooler, cloudier and breezier. A yellow wagtail was heard overhead and briefly seen before it disappeared from view, never to be seen again. 4 bar-tailed godwits were now feeding along the sandy piece of beach, and a 2nd winter Mediterranean gull was preening itself on the rocks. A chiffchaff was seen with a second bird heard singing (always very mournful sounding in the Autumn!). Swallows and house martins were hawking over the valley to the beach where it was sheltered from the wind but where they had to contend with the attentions of a sparrowhawk. And with a taste of Autumn yet to come, 3 meadow pipits flew over West.

 2nd Winter Mediterranean Gull
3 of the 4 Bar-tailed Godwits

With the cooler and wetter weather and work shifts I have not had the moth box out in the back yard much but I have caught my first large ranunculus of the year, one of my favourite moths, and my second (for the garden ) garden rose tortrix.

 Large Ranunculus
My second garden Garden Rose Tortrix

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Ospreys and Little Stints - Bowling Green Marsh, 8th September 2013

My original plan had been to visit Dawlish Warren but with some good birds being reported from Bowling Green Marsh I decided to visit there instead.

I arrived at the hide at 10:30 to find it absolutely packed out (it was Sunday and I couldn't have caught an any earlier train than I did) but after round 10 minutes people started to leave for the nearby viewing platform and I managed to get a seat. The Marsh had a large roosting flock of waders at the back, all waiting for the tide to recede, and amongst the many redshank, dunlin, black tailed godwit and curlew I managed to find a spotted redshank, 3 little stint, a few whimbrel, a juvenile ruff, a few curlew sandpiper, a knot, greenshanks and 5 lapwing. The views were brief and obscured as the birds jostled around in a large group, with the smaller birds easily lost from sight amongst the legs and bodies of the larger birds.

All the birds on the Marsh took to the air at one point and all eyes looked upwards for a potential avian predator and eventually the cause of the panic was found, a nice osprey, which had flown in to roost on the top of the small crane on the River Clyst. It settled down as did all the waders and remained there for a quite some time.


I headed off to the viewing platform when small groups of waders started to leave the Marsh, flying off towards the River Clyst and Exe. The platform was packed out too but I managed to get a spot and had some great views of the waders as they fed on the exposed mud, initially quite close to the platform before they moved further away as the tide went out. It was good fun picking out curlew sandpipers from the feeding dunlins and I had some great views of what is one of my favourite birds. It was difficult to get a count of curlew sandpipers as they were very mobile amongst the wader flock but others on the platform estimated around 13+ birds present. 2 little stints were also picked out amongst the feeding dunlins along with a few knot.

 Viewing Platform Menu!
Greenshank with coloured leg rings

The osprey was still sat on the top of the crane while a second bird was watched soaring over the river near Powderham being mobbed by 2 carrion crows. Later the same bird or possibly another bird was distantly seen soaring over Dawlish Warren where it was putting up all the roosting birds.

After meeting David and having some lunch in Topsham I headed back to the viewing platform, seeing a Sandwich tern roosting on a buoy in the river channel and a feeding whimbrel along the way. The viewing platform was birdless except for the osprey still present on the crane top. Dave from Daves Diary fame was there and he put me on to a nice male redstart which was feeding along a nearby hedgerow, giving brief views only as it flitted down to the ground before flying back in to cover.

Forest Bug

Back in the hide the osprey was still on show before flying off, only to return around 20 minutes later. A green sandpiper was feeding out in the open right in front of the hide with some teal and a pair of shoveler, the male in eclipse plumage. A little stint was feeding along the waters edge and gradually came right in front of the hide, giving excellent views and not much bigger than a pied wagtail feeding nearby. At the back of the Marsh a water rail appeared for brief periods from amongst the reeds and a fox sunning itself and migrant hawkers flying around finished off a great day out as we headed off home in the new car (very posh!).

 Green Sandpiper
Little Stint

With the sightings of osprey and little stint my year list now stands at 196, the most I have ever reached before, and 4 away from my target of 200.

Monday 9 September 2013

More Moths and More Migrant Birds

The recent good weather has meant I have been out and about as much as possible when not at work and I have managed to see quite a good selection of wildlife.

Mothing in the back yard has produced the usual moths for the time of year with large yellow underwings becoming the most common and abundant moth, the highest count so far being 37 on the 3rd September.

Large Yellow Underwing

A trip to Thurlestone on the 30th August produced my first sighting of a small rufous, found in the public toilet block near the golf course and released outside. That evening I headed off to Ford Park Cemetery in Plymouth for a moth trapping night run by the Devon Moth Group, conditions were pretty good with it being warm, humid and still, and the 2 traps were full of the usual moths including a new for me antler moth and a few shaded broad bar. A harlequin ladybird and a great green bush cricket were also seen and tawny owls were heard calling.

Small Rufous

 Antler Moth
Shaded Broad Bar

Harlequin Ladybird

Migration was in evidence at Thurlestone with 5 yellow wagtails around the feet of some horses, 2 sand martins over with swallows and house martins, a whitethroat and 2 wheatears being departing summer visitors and a snipe and 7 dunlin being returning winter visitors. A golden ringed dragonfly, a common darter and a mating pair of migrant hawker were also seen along with a silver washed fritillary.

Common Darter

Mating Migrant Hawker

A walk along the coast path at Stoke Point on the 2nd September in glorious weather was brightened up by the occasional brightly coloured clouded yellow flying by including an helice type female. Autumn squill was in flower in the usual place and a dead shrew in the middle of the footpath was a strange sight. 3 yellow wagtail flew over calling but the bird highlight was 2 juvenile Dartford warblers. A juvenile was seen well feeding amongst the gorse with a family group of stonechat and a second bird was later seen further along the path with another family group of stonechat - my first sighting of the year and nice to see that some birds had survived the cold winter and spring earlier in the year. A humming bird hawkmoth flying around The Ship Inn in Noss Mayo was a pleasant surprise too.

 Dead Shrew
Autumn Squill

A beautiful autumn day on a trip to Perranporth in Cornwall on the 3rd September was relatively quiet wildlife wise but I did finally see a barn owl although not how I wanted to - a dead bird was seen by the roadside near Trerulefoot Roundabout on the journey home, very sad.

 Male Stonechat, Perranporth
Trout, Perranporth