Sunday 5 January 2014

White Billed Diver at Brixham, Devon

After my trip to Topsham and as 2013 drew to a close I did very little wildlife watching mainly due to the appalling weather but also due to work, Christmas stuff and a general lack of any wildlife sightings being reported - most probably a lack of reported sightings due to work, the appalling weather and Christmas stuff!

Highlights were:- a peregrine flying over Charles Cross church and spooking all the gulls and pigeons as I walked home from a Christmas shopping trip in Plymouth on the 19th; what I thought was a kingfisher calling on a very windy walk around Sutton Harbour on the 19th as I was watching 2 little grebes; a brief view of a kingfisher flying low over the water before disappearing from view amongst the yachts at Sutton Harbour on the 24th, my first sighting here; and a common sandpiper and a greenshank on a sunny but muddy walk along the River Plym on the 26th.

With some good counts of divers in Torbay recently a very lucky birder found a white billed diver at Brixham on Christmas Day and I managed to persuade David to drive me there on the 28th for a look. Within a few minutes of arriving at the Quayside I saw the bird along with quite a crowd of birders and it showed very well and very close in the sunshine and flat sea, a very beautiful bird indeed.

There were lots of turnstones around the harbour side, very tame as they scavenged scraps of food dropped by messy humans, and both myself and David chuckled as the mass of birders with their huge telescopes and huge camera lenses scurried around the harbour side too chasing the diver between dives despite it being only around 15 metres away! Some even had camouflaged coverings on the legs of their tripods (WTF!) and there was a palpable air of excitement and tension as they all desperately tried to get closer to the bird despite their huge optical equipment. I managed to get a few decent snaps on my little lumix point and press camera so why they had to chase after the bird I don't know.

 White Billed Diver - a Devon tick
White Billed Diver

Looking around the harbour and the Bay there were great northern divers everywhere with some giving great close up views and amongst them were at least 4 black throated divers including an adult and juvenile bird together, the juvenile being quite pale looking and very red throated diver looking on first impressions.

 Black Throated Diver
 Black Throated Divers
Black Throated Diver - a pale looking juvenile just about to dive

Razorbills, guillemots, purple sandpipers and shags were a supporting cast and a juvenile black guillemot gave some great views at the harbour mouth despite spending very little time at the waters surface.

 A very tame juvenile Shag
Black Guillemot - a Devon tick

The following day (29th) and we had a quick walk around Burrator reservoir where I saw 2 male and 4 female goosander, around 10 teal, 3 male and 2 female Mandarin ducks (my first sightings here) and 16 Canada geese, but I failed to see the recently reported elusive female ring necked duck.

And so 2013 came to an end with my UK year list standing at 213 (or 211 if I disallow the brief flight view of the wryneck at Ford Park Cemetery and what may not have been 100% hooded crows in Scotland), easily surpassing my 200 species target for the year and the first time I have achieved this. It has taken quite a lot of effort and hard work to achieve this but it has been fun too.

And so on to 2014 and I am hoping that it will be as good a year as 2013 has been - I am hoping to concentrate on seeing new British birds for my British list and those scarce or uncommon birds that I have only seen in the UK on a few occasions before. Fingers crossed!

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