Friday 18 October 2019

A Soggy Trip to France and Ring Ouzels

Our annual ferry trip to France was a go this year after last year's last minute cancellation courtesy of Storm Callum but the weather wasn't particularly great and it was a wet and soggy trip.

It was raining as we sailed from Plymouth to Roscoff at 22:00hrs on Friday 11th October and it did not stop raining until we sailed back from Roscoff to Plymouth at 09:30hrs on Sunday 13th October! As a result there was little of wildlife interest seen in France with the highlight being a grey wagtail flying over while wandering around Morlaix but at least the rain stopped for the return ferry crossing and I did get to see some good birds and cetaceans as we sailed across the English Channel.

I broke the crossing down into 3 watching shifts - 09:30 to 10:30, 10:45 to 11:45 and 12:00 to 13:45 - with refreshments and warming up sessions in between. The first shift was the most productive as usual and as we sailed past all the rocky islets just offshore from Roscoff a few gannets began to appear. These were soon joined by a small pod of common dolphins leaping towards the front of the boat to bow ride before I lost sight of them and shortly afterwards a sooty shearwater was picked up low over the water heading west. Later another sooty shearwater was picked up flying east and I also saw a great skua flying past the ferry along with 3 guillemots flying west and a meadow pipit flying north before it was time to take my first break.

Photo of a Photo of a Common Dolphin

The second shift was quieter with the usual gannets flying around, brief views of common dolphins being very secretive at the surface and showing brief flashes of their fins, 2 more single great skuas flying past the ferry, 3 meadow pipits together flying north and a grey wagtail flying north and briefly pitching down on the deck of the ferry.

Explorer of the Seas

The last shift was more interesting again as the Devon coastline began to appear. A large pod of common dolphins were seen leaping out of the water as they passed the back of the ferry and the pod included quite a few small calfs. 2 more great skuas were seen, 1 resting on the sea and 1 harrying Gannets near The Eddystone lighthouse. A juvenile kittiwake was also noted along with 2 adult birds, 2 guillemots were seen sat on the sea with a group of 9 seen later flying east and 2 Sandwich Terns flew past as we entered Plymouth Sound.

And so a pretty good ferry crossing for wildlife sightings and a great short trip away to France as always despite the wet weather.

Wednesday 16th October was a planned birdy day with Mavis but without any definite plans. We eventually plumped for a visit to the Avon Dam on Dartmoor as the footpath being tarmac would at least be dry following all the heavy rain we have had recently.

It was cloudy with occasional sunny spells and just a brief shower and we had a great walk. A pair of stonechat, 2 kestrels, a goldcrest with a flock of long-tailed tits and blue tits and a few bullfinch were all noted and quite a few red admirals were seen mostly heading west.

The highlight though were the ring ouzels which we were hoping to see following reports of birds being seen on Lundy and in Starehole Valley the previous day.

We stopped for coffee and biscuits at the first bridge as the path leaves the trees and continues across the open moor but after a few minutes a small flock of thrushes appeared in a nearby rowan tree and amongst the blackbird, song thrush, mistle thrush and a redwing were 10 ring ouzels.

 Ring Ouzel

Magpie and Ring Ouzel

Coffee was quickly abandoned but the ouzels were very skittish and flighty and quickly moved off but we were pleased to see them. However more ouzels were soon picked up flying around the hillside and perching in trees and it was difficult to ascertain the exact number present. Most were female and juvenile birds with just a few males present but they were great to see and hear.

Ring Ouzel

We carried on up the valley and eventually enjoyed our coffee break and on reaching the Avon Dam the water was flowing over it and it was looking very beautiful in the sunshine and blue skies.

 Avon Dam

Avon Dam

Walking back down the valley and we again found the ring ouzels in the same area as earlier. They were still skittish, mobile and distant but at one point we had 16 birds flying together overhead and with more birds present in the trees and bushes (another birder we met had counted at least 30 birds). They were becoming more flighty and skittish and eventually they all flew off over the hills never to be seen again but we were very pleased to have caught up with them on what had been a very enjoyable walk.

 Ring Ouzel

 Ring Ouzel

Ring Ouzel

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