Tuesday 30 April 2019

Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Yarner Wood

Friday April 26th was grey, cool and breezy with mizzle and rain spells but with David offering to drop me off at Yarner Wood for a few hours while he looked for gardening supplies at nearby Trago Mills and Mole Valley I wasn't going to say no.

After being dropped off at the entrance I walked along the access road to the now reopened car park and I could hear chiffchaff, willow warbler and blackcap singing despite the bad weather and on reaching the car park I could also hear a pied flycatcher singing too. I headed up the main path into the woods and after hearing a few more pied flycatchers singing I eventually managed to see 2 males feeding low down in the bushes close together with a bedraggled looking marsh tit nearby.

I carried on up towards the heathland and managed brief views of another male pied flycatcher and also a male redstart while from the new hide overlooking the reservoir the only bird seen was a male mallard. The heathland was quiet too with a singing willow warbler and a male yellowhammer perched in the top of a pine tree the only birds seen in the mizzle and breeze and so I headed back into the shelter of the trees.

I could hear the drumming of a woodpecker from the tangle of trees in the fenced off area with no access and eventually heard the call of a lesser-spotted woodpecker too but despite searching I couldn't find it. With time marching on and with little time left before I was due to be picked up for the drive home I eventually found the bird drumming at the top of a tall, dead tree and had some great views. It was mobile and flighty amongst the trees but regularly returned to the same dead tree to drum before it moved off deeper into the woods and was lost from sight, just as I had to head down to the car park for my rendezvous. A great bird to see, my first at Yarner Wood too, and a very pleasant surprise.

 Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Yarner Wood

 Lesser-spotted Woodpecker

 Lesser-spotted Woodpecker 

Lesser-spotted Woodpecker 

 Lesser-spotted  Woodpecker 

Lesser-spotted  Woodpecker 

Thursday 25 April 2019

Grenofen Bliss and Waders in the Rain at Wembury

Easter 2019 has been a hot and sunny affair, very unusual for Easter but more likely when Easter is late in the month of April as it has been this year.

Good Friday April 19th was spent in bed between 2 dreaded night shifts and so I missed a hoopoe found just across the River Tamar in Saltash and which was never seen again.

I had Easter Monday April 21st off and with the good weather continuing I headed off to Grenofen Woods on Dartmoor for a walk, figuring that this was probably the best place to go to avoid the crowds. I wasn't sure what to expect as this has been the earliest date I have visited the Woods in the Spring but I wasn't disappointed.

The first bus of the day saw me arriving at the Woods just before 10am and bird song was filling the air along with the sounds of children and dogs but once I had walked across the car park and up the hillside to the open rough grassland above the Woods there were very few people to be seen and I had a lovely wander around in peace.

Willow Warblers and Blackcaps were singing away and I quickly heard a Garden Warbler singing in the usual area which eventually gave some lovely views as it fed in the tree tops for brief spells before disappearing back into cover. Onwards and I heard a Redstart singing away but it proved to be very mobile and elusive in the tree tops and I only caught a few brief views and mostly in flight.

A male Yellowhammer, a male stonechat and 2 songflighting Tree Pipits showed well on the usual hillside but the highlight was a high and distant red kite which drifted off east and easily overlooked, I just happened to be looking in the right place at the right time.

Yellowhammer, Grenofen

 Tree Pipit, Grenofen

Red Kite, Grenofen

A Cuckoo was heard distantly on West Down with a green woodpecker also heard yaffling and other birds of note were 2 jay, 2 great spotted woodpeckers, a Raven flying over being mobbed by 2 carrion crows, a grey Wagtail along the river, 3 buzzards soaring over the trees together and 5 swallows chittering and chasing each other overhead.

Great-spotted Woodpecker, Grenofen

A holly blue, a green-veined white, speckled woods and peacocks were flitting about but the most noticeable butterflys were brimstones which seemed to be everywhere including many females busily laying eggs.

 Brimstone, Grenofen

Brimstone, Grenofen

The sunshine became increasingly hazy and by the time I caught the bus home it had clouded over but it had been a great walk as usual with some good birds and stunning views and without too many people around.

Wednesday April 24th and with another dreaded night shift looming I headed out to Wembury for a quick mornings walk but the weather had turned and it was cool and breezy and mizzly. I wasn't expecting much but things started nicely with a foxglove pug and a water carpet found in the toilet block and caught and released outside.

 Foxglove Pug, Wembury

Water Carpet, Wembury

Lackey Caterpillars, Wembury

The tide was high and along the beach at The Point there were 26 oystercatchers on the rocks with 7 mallards and 5 flighty and mobile shelducks but the best birds were a curlew, a winter plumaged and vocal grey plover, 3 bar-tailed godwits including a summer plumaged bird and 9 vocal whimbrels. The waders were all flighty due to the usual dog walkers along the beach but I managed to get some good views of them in the wet conditions.

 Bar-tailed Godwit, Wembury

 Bar-tailed Godwit, Wembury 

 Bar-tailed Godwit, Wembury

 Bar-tailed Godwit, Wembury

 Bar-tailed Godwits, Wembury

 Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit, Wembury

 Grey Plover, Wembury

 Whimbrel, Wembury

Sea Kale, Wembury

Whitethroats. chiffchaffs and blackcaps were singing away despite the rain along with 2 cirl buntings and I also saw stonechats, a song thrush, a flyover kestrel and a fulmar flying low over the coastal footpath before I gave up and caught the bus back to Plymouth (although it stopped raining not long after I arrived home!).

Thursday 18 April 2019

Moor and Coast (Or Burrator and Rame Head)

Despite the grey skies and continuing strong and bitter easterly wind I met up with Mavis on Monday 15th April for an afternoons walk around Burrator Reservoir on Dartmoor. Conditions for birding were challenging but we managed a few good sightings anyway, the highlight being around 30 Sand Martins flying low over the water hawking for insects with the odd Swallow and House Martin amongst them. I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for them in the very chilly conditions but they appeared to be robust enough to cope with the less than ideal weather.

Out on the water a pair of summer plumaged Great Crested Grebes were a nice find and also seen were 2 Canada Geese, the now lone white farmyard goose, Mallard, 2 Cormorant and 2 adult GBBGulls and 1 adult LBBGull with variously aged Herring Gulls.

The woods held Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits with Nuthatch calling and Siskins flying over. Despite the weather Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Willow Warbler were singing and a Grey Wagtail was found feeding along a stream near Cuckoo Rock.

We luckily arrived back at the car just as it started to rain and as we drove back to Yelverton a Mistle Thrush was seen feeding by the roadside, a nice end to an enjoyable but windy afternoon.

The next day was a total contrast with a gentle breeze and sunny skies and by the afternoon it was pleasantly warm. We had a quick walk around Plymouth Hoe and I finally saw my first Sandwich Tern of the year being hassled by a 1st Summer Herring Gull before it headed off out towards The Breakwater and was lost from sight.

Wednesday 17th April and with the improving weather I decided to catch the bus out to Rame Head for a walk. It was cold and grey and breezy as I stepped off the bus at Polhawn Fort at around 9:15am but the skies did eventually brighten and it became a pleasantly warm day again.

The first birds I saw after getting off the bus were 2 Sand Martins which flew in off the sea and headed straight inland and were quickly followed by another 2 birds. I then picked up 3 Swallows which also headed off straight inland and over the course of the morning there was a constant trickle of birds arriving, mostly Swallows but with a few Sand Martins and just 1 House Martin.

Walking along the cliff path and a Jay was a surprise skulking in the bushes down on the cliffs but more usual birds included a pair of Stonechats, singing Blackcaps, 2 singing Willow Warblers, a singing Chiffchaff and 2 singing Whitethroats. A fulmar flew along the cliffs along with a male Kestrel, 2 Buzzards and a pair of Peregrines while down on the rocks Shag and Cormorant were resting and 4 Oystercatcher were making an almighty racket.

Offshore a few Gannets were diving for fish and I picked up a distant Sandwich Tern slowly flying East into the breeze.

Fallow Deer were seen on the cliffs including a skittish group of 15 animals that were running back and forth along the paths before disappearing into the undergrowth and a Minotaur Beetle was a nice surprise as it trundled along the footpath.

 Fallow Deer, Rame

 Fallow Deer, Rame

 Minotaur Beetle, Rame

 Minotaur Beetle,  Rame

Minotaur Beetle,  Rame 

A few butterflies were seen flitting about with at least 3 Wall basking on the rocks below the Chapel along with 2 flyby Holly Blue, Peacocks and 2 Green Veined Whites.

 Wall, Rame

 Wall, Rame

 Wall, Rame

 Green-veined White, Rame

Green-veined White, Rame

I walked along the road to Rame Church and along the roadside hedge I found a beautifully bright looking male Yellowhammer, a female Blackcap, a male Cirl Bunting and a silent Chiffchaff while Skylarks were singing high overhead.

It was soon time to meet up with David and Mum-in-law back at Polhawn Fort and we headed off to the nearby Clifftop Cafe for lunch where we admired the stunning views in the warm sunshine as we ate our sandwiches, a nice end to a very enjoyable morning of wildlife.

Saturday 13 April 2019

Springtime Continues

Wednesday 10th April and a sunny but chilly morning saw us heading up to Dartmoor for a walk around Burrator Reservoir. It is Easter Holiday Hell time but it was surprisingly quiet and we had an enjoyable walk and by the time we returned to the car at the end of the walk it had become quite warm.

Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap were seen and heard but there were no hirundines seen although I thought I briefly heard the chittering of a Swallow overhead. No Marsh Tits were seen either but there were Blue, Great and Coal Tits in the trees with Wren, Robin, Nuthatch, Siskin and Dunnock.

At least 3 Mistle Thrush were singing too, a pair of Goosanders were sleeping on a small island at the top end of the reservoir, a Raven mobbed a pair of Carrion Crows over the treetops, a Green Woodpecker was heard yaffling, Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard chipping and I thought I heard a Redstart singing briefly but couldn't find it in the trees.

Also seen were 2 male Orange Tips flitting about and an Oil Beetle trundling along on the roadside verge.

Orange Tip, Burrator

Thursday 11th April and another cool and sunny morning saw us heading off to Slapton Ley for a walk, parking up near Slapton Bridge and walking to Torcross and back. Wildfowl numbers were much reduced out on the Ley but amongst the 30+ Tufted Ducks I finally caught up with the wintering adult male Scaup although the views were distant and heat hazy as it regularly dived near the opposite bank to the road. Also seen were a pair of gadwall, coots, mallards, mute swans, cormorant and great crested grebes but there was no sign of any of the recently reported Ring-necked Ducks.

Distant Scaup (left) with Tufted Duck (right)

After lunch at the Sea Breeze Cafe in Torcross we had a quick look at the Ley from the  nearby Stokeley Bay hide and I finally managed to get some distant views of the 2 male and 1 female Ring-necked Ducks busily diving for food. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were busily singing away along with Cetti's Warblers and I had a brief view of my first Swallow of the year as it flew over the roof tops at Torcross.

Walking back along the Ley to the Bridge and I managed to get some better but still distant views of the Ring-necked Ducks while Peacock Butterflys flitted about and basked in the sunshine. From the Bridge a Cetti's Warbler showed very well in the willows and as we walked up to the car a male Orange Tip flitted by.

Saturday 13th April and I decided to head out to Wembury for a walk. It was another sunny day but with a cold and brisk breeze and it made for some heavy going birding. Despite the wind I did find an Orange Tip hunkered down on a bluebell flower and the toilet block held an Early Grey and a Double-striped Pug.

Orange Tip, Wembury

Orange Tip

Orange Tip

Early Grey, Wembury

An adult Bloody-nosed Beetle and 2 larva, Ladybirds and Shield Bugs were also found lurking on the path side vegetation.

Shield Bugs, Wembury

Shield Bugs

Shield Bug

It was good to see 2 Whimbrel on the rocks at The Point with a Curlew, Oystercatchers and Mallards and offshore I picked up a Gannet heading slowly east into the wind. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were singing away and a Mistle Thrush feeding in the upper horse fields was a nice surprise. A very pale phase buzzard flying over being mobbed by a dark phase buzzard looked very osprey-like and a Kestrel hovered over the wheat field briefly before flying off.

Whimbrel, Wembury

Stonechats, Linnets, Goldfinch, 2 male Cirl Buntings, a Song Thrush and a female Pheasant were also seen before I decided to give up and head home, enjoying a Chunk pasty for lunch from the beach cafe before catching the bus back to Plymouth.

Cirl Bunting, Wembury

And so Spring is slowly marching on despite the recent chilly weather - and I can't wait for the Summer to arrive.

Sunday 7 April 2019


Tuesday 26th March and we finally managed to get out for a walk along the coast path at Stoke Point, surprisingly for the first time since July last year. It was a mild and sunny day and an enjoyable walk with stunning views as always.

Chiffchaffs were singing away and amongst the numerous peacock butterflys flitting about I also saw a small tortoiseshell and my first speckled wood of the year. There was no sign of any Dartford warblers on the recently swaled cliffsides but plenty of stonechats and a pair of cirl buntings were seen along with flyover raven, kestrel, buzzard and peregrine. Best birds though were 2 marsh tit seen in the woodlands near Noss Mayo as we walked into the village for lunch at The Ship Inn.

Small Tortoiseshell, Stoke Point

Friday 29th March and I caught the bus out to Wembury for a walk on another sunny but cooler day. No moths were found in the toilet block but I did find a light brown apple moth in the bushes by the bus stop and I managed to see 4 speckled wood, 9 peacock, a small tortoiseshell and a male orange tip flitting about.

 Speckled Wood, Wembury

 Peacock, Wembury

Light Brown Apple Moth, Wembury

The usual birds were seen and heard - chiffchaffs, blackcaps, stonechats, cirl buntings, pheasents, rock pipits, mallards, little egrets, oystercatchers, etc, - but the best bird was a male wheatear at The Point looking very smart in the sunshine.

 Wheatear, Wembury

Cirl Bunting, Wembury

Sloe Blossom, Wembury

While at work on Saturday 6th April I received a text from local birder Russ regarding a ring ousel having been found by the River Plym that afternoon and so the next morning I headed out for a look but without too much hope. As expected there was no sign of it but it was a pleasant walk all the same.

I  caught the bus to Marsh Mills and walked through Saltram Park to Chelson Meadow before returning to Marsh Mills to catch the bus home. The tide was high when I arrived at Blaxton Meadow and a dunlin was roosting with the redshanks and 6 little egrets while along the river I found a common sandpiper and 3 greenhanks.

It was good to see the new viewing area overlooking the river near the meadow giving better views of the estuary but not so good to see a dog charging across the meadow on the high tide disturbing the birds.

Viewing Platform, Blaxton Meadow

In Saltram Park a single stock dove was seen along with a pair of ring-necked parakeets checking out nesting holes in the trees, hopefully there won't be too much competition between the 2 species. Nuthatches were vocal and showy in the trees and 2 house martins flew over heading north. Chiffchaffs, blackcaps and skylarks were seen and heard along with an unseen yaffling green woodpecker and 7 roe deer were feeding out in the open on Chelson Meadow. It was also good to see my first willow warbler of the year busily feeding away in the trees as it gave quiet snatches of song.

 Roe Deer, Chelson Meadow

Primroses, Saltram

The tide had dropped on my return walk and out on the estuary I found a 1st summer common gull amongst the gulls, a single greenshank  and bizarrely a pair of stock doves feeding out on the mud along with a sleeping pair of mandarin ducks by the stream near the Plympton road bridge.

 Greenshank, River Plym

Mandarin Ducks, River Plym

 Little Egret, River Plym

Little Egret, River Plym

A very restorative walk despite the Sunday crowds and with some great wildlife sightings right on my doorstep,