Sunday 15 December 2013

Topsham Birds

As the year hurtles to an end and Christmas madness envelops the Nation a few hours birding at Topsham on (Friday) 13th December despite the grey skies, flat light and heavy rain showers was very restorative despite not adding any new birds to my year list.

On arriving at Topsham it was actually not raining and as the tide was low I headed off to the recreation ground for a look around. I checked through the gulls bathing in the river but despite searching could find nothing more exciting than an adult lesser black backed gull amongst the herring, common, black headed and great black backs. 3 male and a female red breasted merganser gave some great close up views along with teal but despite looking and listening I failed to find any of the recently reported bearded tits.

A passing local birder put me on to a water pipit feeding on a stoney island in the middle of the river, easily overlooked in the dull light and against the stones, and it showed well before flying off and out of sight. A female type black redstart was an unexpected find in some nearby trees, giving a flash of summer colour as it quivered its tail.

Heading towards Bowling Green Marsh I stopped at Topsham Quay where I had some nice views of an adult and juvenile spotted redshank feeding , both birds almost submerging in the water before running to the shore to eat what looked like small crabs that they had caught. Later I saw (presumably) the same 2 birds from the viewing platform as they roosted along the River Clyst.

Bowling Green Marsh was packed with birds but they were very nervous and flighty. A fly by sparrowhawk was seen but no peregrines. Black tailed godwits and wigeon gave close views along with pintail, teal, shoveler, tufted duck, pochard, lapwing and snipe, and brent geese flew over from Darts Farm to Exminster Marsh in noisey flocks. A surprise sight were a pair of red breasted merganser bathing and preening on the water before roosting amongst the assorted wildfowl, my first on the Marsh.

I had had an enjoyable few hours birding despite getting a bit wet with the rain before heading back to Exeter to meet David and Julie for lunch and enduring some Christmas shopping hell.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Rough Legged Buzzard in Suffolk

Off to Ipswich on the 29th November for a pre-Christmas visit to see the family and from the train I saw the usual birds - greenshank, brent geese and wigeon along the River Exe, stock doves and fieldfares and redwings in the fields, and brief and distant views of 6 red kites near Reading.

I didn't have much birding time but a trip to Snape Maltings on the 1st December and I managed brief and distant views of bearded tits flying over the reedbeds and avocets feeding along the River while a Cettis warbler was heard calling. After visiting the shops and having a cup ot tea in the cafe we headed off to nearby Orford for a walk. Arriving at Orford Quay I was very surprised to see a swallow flying around the buildings, presumably a juvenile bird with short tail streamers, and my first December swallow.

Heading off along the Riverside walk towards Aldeburgh and I had good sightings of more avocets feeding on the mudflats - when I lived in Suffolk it was uncommon for avocets to over winter in Suffolk but I guess global warming has encouraged them to stay in Suffolk and not head off to Devon! Also seen were 3 brent geese and black tailed godwits amongst the usual winter waders but on arriving at the part of the river overlooking the BBC building on Orfordness I caught sight of my target bird on a pylon, a rough legged buzzard, which has been present for a little while now in the area and a life tick for me. I only had my little travel Leica binoculars with me and it was distant but another birder arrived and I had a good view of it through his telescope when its dark belly and white tail with a dark band at the tip where easily seen, both at rest but especially when in flight. To add to the excitement a very nice short eared owl was flying over the nearby fields.

The following day we flew to Germany from London City Airport and flew over Orfordness, getting a marvellous clear view from the airplane. A few days stay in Cologne were as enjoyable as ever with its Dom and Christmas markets. Bird wise the best sightings were 2 short toed treecreepers feeding in trees right by the side of the road in the centre of Cologne, being located by their very different call sounds to regular treecreepers. Also seen were 2 dippers along the river at nearby Wuppertal, they had rufous tones to their belly feathers so were not quite dark bellied types.

Cologne Christmas Market from the top of The Dom
Cologne Dom from the Christmas Market

Heading to Amsterdam by train on the 5th December and I saw a very nice great white egret along with distant views of grey geese flocks, maybe greylag or maybe something more unusual. Amsterdam was very nice, often the second location of a 2 centre holiday suffers after the first location but on arriving in Amsterdam it just felt right and we had a really good time. We visited the red light district in the daytime and it felt very sad and seedy and stunk of cannabis, most unpleasant and a shame as the rest of Amsterdam was very nice with some great architecture. Bird wise the best sightings were ring necked parakeets coming in to roost in trees along the canal side at dusk, another great white egret on the train trip to Leiden along with more frustrating views of distant grey geese and 2 Egyptian geese.

 Canal side Great Crested Grebe
Canal side Coot
 Carved Elk Horn in the Rijksmusueum
 Japanese crane table decoration and food holder, Rijksmusuem
 Impressive swan painting, Rijksmusuem
 Assorted wildfowl, Rijksmusuem
Assorted dead wildfowl, Rijksmusuem

And best of all I managed to tick another item off my bucket list, the Temple of Taffeh at the museum in Leiden, another Egyptian temple rescued by UNESCO when Lake Nasser was formed in Egypt and given to Holland for their assistance. It just leaves one temple left to see, the Kalabsha Gate in Berlin, so I had better start saving my pennies now!

The Temple of Taffeh, Leiden