Sunday 20 April 2014

Dippers and Dipping

Spring migrants continue to trickle rather than flow in despite the dry and sunny but cool weather but I have not had much free time to get out and about anyway.

April 12th and on a walk at Plymbridge Woods I finally saw my first dippers of the year along with 3 male and 1 female mandarin ducks, a male peregrine, a male kestrel, a male sparrowhawk, buzzards, songflighting siskins, a raven and a nuthatch. I had hoped to see brimstone butterfly but only managed a sighting of a lone speckled wood.

Dipper showing its nictitating membranes

April 16th and we headed off to Bude with the Outlaws to sort out the caravan for the summer. It was a bit of a disaster as we had forgotten the caravan key, the petrol strimmer to cut the grass with wouldn't work and the awning stitching was coming undone on the roof seams and so we packed up and headed back to Plymouth having achieved nothing.

A male green winged teal had been reported at nearby Maer Lake the previous day and so I had a quick look for it while the car was being packed up for the drive back to Plymouth. I did see 4 male and 9 female Eurasian teal along with a male mallard, 2 shelduck, 3 black tailed godwit (1 of which was in full summer plumage) and a summer plumaged dunlin but there was no sign of the green winged teal - a big old dip.

Just as I was about to leave I heard an unusual call and had a brief view of a small wader flying over the Lake before landing out of sight and so I scanned the shoreline and I eventually found the bird and it was what I had suspected it to be -  a very smart little ringed plover and a nice compensation for dipping the green winged teal.

April 19th and we headed off to Bude again and this time successfully sorted out the caravan. The green winged teal hadn't been reported since the April 15th but I checked out Maer Lake anyway and again didn't find it but the Eurasian teal were all still present along with 3 male mallard, 2 shelduck and now just 2 black tailed godwits. It was nice to see a few house martins with the swallows and sand martins and a curlew flew in briefly to bathe but there was no sign of the little ringed plover from a few days previously.

The toilet block at the caravan site had a few moths inside -  a brimstone moth, 2 Hebrew characters, a common quaker and an early grey, one of my favourite moths. And on driving home along the A38 near Saltash some early purple orchids were flowering on the grass verge.

 Unknown Micro Moth Sp.
 Early Grey
Common Quaker

April 20th and I headed off to Wembury for a walk, hoping to be home before the forecasted rain arrived but I was out of luck and ended up cold and wet but it was worth it as there were some nice migrants around to see. At least 6 male whitethroats were singing and songflighting despite the weather and a bedraggled looking female wheatear was feeding along the beach. A lone Sandwich tern was seen flying West along the shoreline and 11 summer plumaged dunlin were seen flying East. At Wembury Point 19 oystercatchers were roosting on the rocks with 4 whimbrel, a common sandpiper and 5 little egrets. Blackcaps and chiffchaffs were seen and heard and I thought I heard a brief snatch of a willow warbler singing too. A female cirl bunting, 3 song thrush, 2 swallows around the horse stables and a pair of stonechat were good to see too.

The toilet block held a Hebrew character but with the bad weather there were no butterflies on the wing although a few bloody nosed beetles were slowly shuffling along by the footpath and a few bumble bees were buzzing around.

 Hebrew Character
Lackey Moth Caterpillars

And as I waited at the bus stop for the bus ride home a flock of 9 whimbrel flew over helping to take my mind off my cold and wet feet.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Another Glaucous Gull

The good news of the week was that the railway line between Newton Abbot and Exeter was reopening on the 4th April and with an originally favourable weather forecast for Saturday 5th April a trip to Dawlish Warren was something to help get me through a particularly shitty week at work. However the 5th April dawned and it was cold and misty and with occasional rain but I headed off anyway.

Arriving at Dawlish Warren I first checked out the sea from the seawall but seeing nothing in the mist I headed off to the hide for the high tide roost. On the golf course a lone brent goose was resting while a party of 9 were feeding along the shoreline of The Bight with another bird seen feeding in front of the hide. Amongst the roosting oystercatchers and herring gulls and great black backed gulls were a very smart looking adult lesser black backed gull, a few common gulls, 4 knot, 7 grey plover, 7 ringed plover and 2 dunlin. Out in the estuary a pair of red breasted mergansers were bathing before drifting upriver and a common seal poked its snout out of the water a few times before disappearing below the water again. Sandwich terns, my first of the year, were busily flying up and down the river and over The Bight to the sea, very mobile and noisy and a little late this year as I normally see them in March. It was difficult to work out how many were present but I did see 7 together at one point.

I had a walk out to Warren Point, somewhere I rarely go when I visit the Warren, seeing a pair of stonechat, a meadow pipit, linnets and songflighting skylarks along the way. At the Point I had a look across to Exmouth Quay for the reported 2nd Winter glaucous gull but there was no sign of it until some walkers flushed a flock of roosting gulls by the waters edge at Warren Point and I caught sight of it flying across the river, very pale looking and a brute of a bird. It eventually landed on the roof of a house near the Quay where it had a preen, having been hassled by herring gulls as it flew across the river. A very nice bird to see and my 3rd bird of this winter.

Heading back to the railway station and a gannet in the mist was all I could find on a quick look at the sea along with a few gulls and Sandwich terns. Around the pond 5 Canada geese were seen and 2 little grebes were heard trilling. A great spotted woodpecker was feeding on the peanut feeder with greenfinch and blue and great tits, and 2 chiffchaffs were heard singing nearby. Unfortunately with the lack of sunshine the sand crocus blooms were closed but despite the weather and getting soaked I had had a pretty good day out.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Wembury Butterfly Day - 30th March 2014

And so to the last but one day of March and the past 3 months seemed to have just whizzed by. I always feel impatient at this time of year, I love Winter but by March I have had enough of it and long for Spring with all that it can promise and deliver. As the weather improves and the days lengthen Summer migrants begin to trickle in while Winter birds begin to dwindle and the transition just seems to take forever leading to my impatience. Anyway with decent weather forecast for today my original plan had been to visit Dawlish Warren but as it was a Sunday, Mothers Day, sunny and with the train line still closed between Newton Abbot and Exeter I decided to have a walk at Wembury instead.

It was warm and sunny with a stiff Easterly breeze but very pleasant and very busy when I left at 1pm to head back to Plymouth. Things have certainly improved on the bird front with some nice sightings today, with 2 female wheatears in the fields above the horse stables being the highlight and my first of the year. A singing blackcap and 4 singing chiffchaffs were heard along with a song thrush and a cirl bunting. A little egret and a lone male mallard were amongst the rocks as the tide went out along with oystercatcher, herring gulls and great black backed gulls. A pair of kestrels were calling around the cliffs where they nested last year and a raven gave a great close fly-by over the cliff path, looking resplendent in the bright sunshine. 2 stock doves flying high East were a surprise and my first Wembury sighting for a few years now.

Male Stonechat

Male Cirl Bunting

 Male Kestrel
Female Kestrel

A male and female oil beetle, bloody nosed beetles and 3 common lizards were seen along with peacock butterflies, small tortoiseshells and my first comma, holly blue, speckled wood and green veined white of the year. The toilet block also held a double striped pug, my first moth of the year, and what I think is a March moth which was unfortunately dead and dessicated in a spiders web.

 Holly Blue
 Peacock Butterfly
 Peacock Butterfly - beautiful!
Common Lizard

Heading home to escape the descending hordes and I decided to have a walk around Plymouth Hoe. It was very warm and sunny and very busy too but I did see 13 turnstones feeding on the seaweedy foreshore, some in summer plumage. Otherwise it was quiet with 2 Canada geese on Sutton Harbour with 17 mute swans being a first for me here and the only other highlight.

 Canada Goose, Sutton Harbour
Canada Geese
Blossom Tree at St Andrews Cross, Plymouth City Centre