Wednesday 11 November 2015

More Dipping

Sunday 8th November and I had a quick look around Ford Park Cemetery again in between chores on what was a grey and dank and windy afternoon and again there was no sign of a yellow browed warbler. I did see 2 goldcrests, a jay and around 25 redwings before heading off home after an hours wandering around.

Monday 9th and a grey and dank and windy day again but I headed off to Exmouth on the train to have a look for the reported serin. I left Plymouth after 9am to have a lie in and to get a cheaper train ticket (£10 return instead of £20 prior to 9am). While walking from the railway station in Exmouth to the football ground where the bird has been showing I bumped in to a birder called Dave who I see sometimes at Bowling Green Marsh and he pointed me in the right direction. A few birders were already assembled by the double decker bus by the football pitch where the serin was being regularly seen but there had been no sign of the bird - and after an hour and a half I had had enough and gave up. While waiting around I did see 8 redwings fly over and 2 peregrines soaring high overhead along with chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch and pied wagtails which helped to pass the time.

I walked back towards Exmouth along Mudbank Lane and had some nice views of brent geese and pintail feeding on the mudflats and eel grass beds along with wigeon, mallard, shelduck, oystercatchers, curlews and gulls including 2 adult common gulls and an adult lesser black backed gull.

 Pintail, Brent Geese and Black Headed Gulls
Brent Geese (Dark Bellied)

At the Imperial recreation ground a raven gave some very close views as it eyed me up, presumably waiting to see if I had any food it could scavenge from me.


Heading home and from the train between Exeter and Dawlish I saw a green sandpiper in a drainage channel near Countess Wear, black tailed godwits and greenshanks feeding on the mudflats and red breasted mergansers and 2 Slavonian grebes on the River Exe near Cockwood.

Hopefully my dipping streak will cease very soon!

Sunday 8 November 2015

Double Dipping - Wrong Warbler, Wrong Whimbrel

My plan to look for the reported yellow browed warbler in Ford Park Cemetery after meeting a friend for coffee at on Mutley Plain on November 5th wasn't looking like a good idea as it was dank and misty and windy on leaving Costas and by the time I arrived at the cemetery it was chucking it down. I had a quick wander around amongst the tombstones anyway but as expected I didn't find the warbler - I did find a chiffchaff along with a goldcrest and a coal tit amongst the blue tits skulking in the well leaved vegetation but I got absolutely soaked through for my troubles.

November 7th was wet and windy but forecasted to clear in Cornwall by 10am snd so I headed off to Penzance on the train. Sure enough the rain had stopped by the time I arrived in Penzance and eventually the sun appeared but a strong offshore wind remained all day. I caught the bus to Longrock and walked to Marazion, seeing a grey heron and moorhen on Longrock Pool and 9 little egrets, 2 grey heron, teal, mallard, 2 buzzard and a stonechat at Marazion Marsh along the way.

My usual lack of direction meant I got lost trying to find a way down to the beach at Little London, eventually clambering down a cliff, but I slipped and skidded down the cliff face ending up muddy, wet, bruised and bloody handed on the sandy beach. I tried to wash the mud off my hands in the sea but a large wave caught me out and I ended up with soaked feet - needless to say I was not in a good mood by this time but it was my own stupid fault and I wasn't badly hurt.

I scanned around for the Hudsonian whimbrel which has been present along the beach for a few days now but could only find curlew, oystercatcher and turnstone roosting on the rocks at high tide as the waves crashed in on the beach. A smaller bird caught my eye amongst the curlews and it briefly showed its head from under its wing - despite being in silhouette against the sun it was clearly a whimbrel species but a pair of birders appeared close to the flock and off they flew with the whimbrel species clearly showing a white rump - not a Hudsonian but a Eurasian whimbrel although I've never seen a November whimbrel before.

A large white butterfly, a male kestrel, a buzzard and a little egret were also seen along with shag, herring gull, great black backed gull and black headed gull but the bird of the day was a great northern diver offshore on the walk back along the coast path to Penzance to catch the train back to Plymouth.

So a double dip and getting wet and muddy and injured in the process - such is birdwatching!

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Cattle Egrets in Devon

A beautiful sunny day on November 1st and so we headed off up the A38 to Teigngrace near Newton Abbot to look for the 2 cattle egrets reported in the area with some little egrets. However as we neared Rattery we drove in to low cloud and mist and murk which hung around for our walk but at least it didn't rain.

Arriving at the flooded field by the road near Teigngrace as per Birdguides/Devon BWPS instructions and there was a flock of 16 egrets feeding in the waterlogged grass. Scanning through them I quickly found the 2 cattle egrets with their yellow bills and chunky build standing out as they fed alongside the little egrets. However on rechecking through the egrets I found another cattle egret amongst them - so actually 3 cattle egrets present with 13 little egrets in total.

 Distant Cattle Egret in the Murk

 Cattle Egret

 Little Egret and Cattle Egret

Two Cattle Egret with Sheep

We drove onwards to nearby Stover for a walk where a grey heron, 2 female pochard, 5 male and a female tufted duck, a very noisey adult lesser black backed gull and a female sparrowhawk swooping in at the bird feeders were the highlights.

 Lesser Black Backed Gull

Lesser Black Backed Gull

Lunch at The Brookside Cafe at Bovey Tracey was delicious (the toffee and almond pavlova was to die for) and then a drive home saw us enjoying lovely sunshine again as we left the cloud and murk behind near Rattery - typical!

Sunday 1 November 2015

South Devon Coast Day and a Trip to Dawlish Warren

A sunny but breezey day on October 28th and despite it being half term holiday hell we headed off to Prawle Point for a walk.

I have only been to Prawle Point once before, many years ago, and was struck at how isolated and unexplored it felt. The drive down to the car park at the Point followed an increasingly overgrown and narrowing pot-holed lane but we finally got there and I was rewarded with a firecrest feeding in the trees as soon as I got out of the car.The isolated location meant it wasn't too busy with people but a large walking group appeared on the footpath as we were leaving.

A male kestrel and a male stonechat along with a red admiral butterfly were seen on the walk to the Coastguards lookout and scanning the sea from the lookout there were a few gannets circling around. Closer inspection revealed at least 3 harbour porpoise beneath them and despite the choppy sea they showed very well as they surfaced at the top of a swell and then surfed just under the water as the swell rolled, the bright sunlight helping to highlight them very well under the water.

We had lunch at The Pigs Nose pub in Prawle village before heading off to Beesands. It was much busier here than at Prawle Point but we found a car parking space and walked off along the beach towards Slapton Ley, seeing a swallow around the houses and a large peregrine overhead. A quick look at the hedgerow near the hide at Beesands Ley revealed just 1 goldcrest but at least 4 chiffchaff feeding in with grest, blue and long tailed tits along with another red admiral.

At Slapton Ley a surprise were 2 male red crested pochard in front of the hide at Torcross, my first sighting here. They were found earlier in the autumn when they were in eclipse plumage but haven't been reported for a while. I have always thought of them as dabbling ducks despite their pochard name and so was surprised to see them both diving underwater for brief periods.

Record shot of the 2 male Red Crested Pochard

There were lots of variously plumaged and aged gulls bathing on the Ley and amongst the herring, black headed, lesser black backed and greater black backed gulls were a 1st winter Mediterranean gull and a first winter common gull. I also saw what I think was a 1st winter yellow legged gull but it was too distant in the fading light for me to be sure - why do I torture myself?

Saturday October 31st and another sunny but breezey day and I headed off to Dawlish Warren on the train, a bargain at £7.30 for a return. It was quiet on arrival at 9 o'clock but got busier with half term holiday makers as the day went on although it was nice and peaceful on the nature reserve itself.

A quick look off the seawall for a reported black redstart drew a blank and there was little offshore apart from gulls, shags and cormorants. I headed off to the hide as it was a very high tide and settled down to watch the wader roost. A surprise was the reported purple sandpiper, a first here for me, with the dunlin, knot, ringed plover, turnstone, curlew, oystercatcher, sanderling and grey plover but the birds were all very flighty and eventually the purple sandpiper was lost from sight. It was strange to see some of the waders roosting on the posts in front of the hide and even weirder to see a dunlin resting on the back of a knot on a post! In the estuary were a male and 2 female red breasted merganser and in The Bight were wigeon, 2 female teal, shelduck and (dark bellied) brent geese along with a very black brant looking pale bellied brent goose.

Turnstone on the Seawall

 Roosting Grey Plover, Dunlin and Knot from the hide

 Pale Bellied Brent Goose (left) with Dark Bellied Brent Geese and a Shelduck

 Pale Bellied (left) and Dark Bellied Brent Geese

Left to Right - Shelduck, 2 Dark Bellied Brent geese and a Pale Bellied Brent Goose

I headed off to Warren Point for a look around and had some nice views of a female Dartford warbler feeding in the gorse, a first for me here, but I dipped on the 2 short eared owls reported earlier.

A walk around the meadow and woods on the way back to the train station to look for the reported firecrest and yellow browed warbler also drew a blank and I didn't find the Pallas's warbler seen yesterday either. I did find a male great spotted woodpecker, 2 male and a female bullfinch, a singing chiffchaff and at least 5 goldcrests. A red admiral, a small tortoiseshell and a few common darter were also seen on the wing in the warm sunshine.

Common Darter

With the mild weather I decided to have the (repaired) moth box out in the back yard for probably the last time this year. I wasn't expecting much but this morning I had a large yellow underwing, a light brown apple moth, a rusty dot pearl and a Tachystola acroxantha, a nice end to my mothing year.