Monday 28 September 2020

Holiday-less Holiday!

I finished yet another long day shift on Wednesday 23rd September but no moth boxing in the back yard this time on getting home at 9pm as it was a clear and chilly night with overnight temperatures predicted to drop into single figures.

However I am now on annual leave from work and with no holiday to go on this year due to the continuing COVID-19 restrictions I will hopefully be able to get the moth box out in the back yard again soon - my garden list for 2020 currently stands at 96, can I make it to 100?

Friday 25th September was sunny but cool with a strong NW wind and so we headed out to Thurlestone for a walk to Hope Cove and back, only the 2nd time this year we have done this walk. Birding was heavy going in the wind as we wandered along the coast path but it was an invigorating walk and the scenery was stunning.

A Black-tailed Godwit was feeding on South Huish Marsh on the walk to Hope Cove but on the return trip there were 3 present. Also on the Marsh were an adult and juvenile/1st Winter Mediterranean Gull, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and an adult Great Black-backed Gull amongst the Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls, 12 Teal, 2 Little Egret and 2 white farmyard type geese amongst the Canada Geese. A female Sparrowhawk was hunting along the hedgerow, a Ringed Plover flew over calling, 4 Swallow flew east and a Sand Martin flew west

Mediterranean Gull

A Clouded Yellow was a nice find sheltering from the wind at Hope Cove and a Peacock, a Small Tortoiseshell and a few Large White were also seen along the walk. Ivy Bees were flitting about the Ivy flowers, I haven't seen them before (or I hadn't noticed them before) and this is now the second time I've seen them in the last few days.

Clouded Yellow

Clouded Yellow

Small Tortoiseshell 

Ivy Bee
Ivy Bee

Saturday 26th September was another sunny and cool day but much less windy although as the day progressed it became as windy as the previous day. And after much dillying and dallying and procrastinating over the past few weeks I decided to finally visit Hayle again to look for the reported Bairds Sandpiper that has been present for a while now. As expected I didn't see it ( my second Bairds Sandpiper dip at Hayle) but I had an good day out anyway.

I annoyingly left my camera at home which was a shame as on arriving at the Carnsew Pool a Great White Egret was feeding very close to the footpath, giving some great views. I watched it for some time as it flew all around the Pool to hunt for fish and at times it followed a small group of 5 diving Cormorants in the hope of grabbing any fish disturbed by them.

Great White Egret - taken with my phone

Dunlin and Turnstone were roosting and feeding around the Pool edges, the Dunlin all being juveniles moulting into winter plumage, but there was no sign of the Bairds Sandpiper amongst them. Curlew, Redshank, 8 Greenshank, Oystercatcher, a Knot and around 10 Bar-tailed Godwit were also seen around the estuary along with Wigeon, Teal, a juvenile Shelduck, 3 Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Little Egret and 3 Little Grebe. A Kingfisher was seen regularly, often hovering over the water for quite prolonged periods of time, and at least 2 Wheatear were feeding along the beach.

I broke my tripod too so now I have to source another one although I wasnt particularly keen on the one I have anyway and so not the most successful of days but an enjoyable one none the less.

Monday 28th September and the first proper day of my annual leave was grey and overcast with mizzley showers at times but I headed out to Wembury for a walk anyway.

On arriving at the main beach a feeding frenzy of Gulls offshore caught my eye and on scanning through them I picked up a few Gannet as well. I also noticed a few splashes beneath them and eventually picked up around 20 Common Dolphins, their fins briefly showing as they surfaced but with occasional leaps right out of the water. 

Amongst the bird melee were at least 23 Shearwater Sp. flying low over the water and plunging in before moving off west in a long line low over the water. A small dark Skua Sp. was also picked out amongst the throng of birds which also eventually moved off west but unfortunately all were too distant to fully ID without my telescope. 

There were still a few Waders hanging around Wembury Point on the incoming tide - 4 Grey Plover still, now 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Ringed Plover, 3 Turnstone, a Dunlin, 4 Curlew and the usual Oystercatchers. Also out on the rocks were 37 Mediterranean Gulls (14 1st Winters) before they all flew off east as the tide came in. Also seen were 2 Little Egrets, a Wheatear and 4 male and a female Mallard. 

58 Canada Geese were resting in the stubble field and Stonechat and Cirl Buntings were very showy along the coast path along with a pair of Blackcap. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard calling in the pine trees at The Point while a Chiffchaff sang nearby and a Grey Wagtail and a Kestrel flew overhead. There was also a noticeable increase in Meadow Pipit numbers in the fields too. 

Ivy Bees were again seen feeding on Ivy blossom along with 2 Common Wainscot moths. 

Ivy Bee
Ivy Bee

A nice walk despite the weather and a nice start to my break from work. 

(As a footnote, a sea-watching birder was present at nearby Stoke Point that morning and reported a pod of c.100 Common Dolphin offshore and a passage of c.100 Balearic Shearwaters west).

Thursday 24 September 2020

Yet Another Yellow-legged Gull at Wembury

Monday 21st September was another very busy long day shift at work and on getting home at around 9pm I put the moth box out in the back yard again. It was a still and warm night again although cooler than my previous nights trapping on Saturday and in the morning I disappointingly only had 8 moths of 7 species in the trap - Silver Y, Light Brown Apple Moth, Tachystola acroxantha, Square Spot Rustic, Lesser Yellow Underwing, Large Yellow Underwing and 2 Willow Beauty (1 of which was faded and which I thought at first was an Engrailed).

Willow Beauty

Willow Beauty (ID'd with help from @MothIDUK)

After sorting out the trap and having some breakfast I headed out to Wembury for a walk. It was cool and overcast which seemed to keep visitor numbers down and which meant there was less disturbance along the beach for the birds roosting there on the very high tide.

The usual Gulls were feeding on the rotting seaweed along the beach and roosting on the rocks but numbers were much reduced from my previous visits. Mostly Herring Gulls of assorted ages were feeding on the seaweed with a juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull and a few juvenile Great Black-backs while Black-headed Gulls noisily fed along the breaking surf line. Amongst them were 7 Mediterranean Gulls (1 juvenile) and all unringed. 

Mediterranean Gull

I did find another juvenile/1st Winter Yellow-legged Gull amongst them, giving itself away as it flew onto the rocks and showing its white rump with smartly contrasting dark tail band.

Yellow-legged Gull 

Yellow-legged Gull 

Yellow-legged Gull 

Yellow-legged Gull 

Yellow-legged Gull 

I have had quite a run of Yellow-legged Gull sightings at Wembury in the last 2 weeks, presumably due to the high number of Gulls feeding along the beach and attracting the Yellow-legs in. Or maybe there are more around this year or I am getting better at picking them out or maybe I'm spending more time looking for them. Whatever the case it has been nice to find 4 of them now with 3 photographed (badly) and clearly different birds.

Waders were also showing well on the high tide with 2 Knot roosting amongst the 54 Oystercatcher and 6 Curlew present at The Point, only my second Wembury sighting, while along the beach there were 15 Turnstone, 9 Ringed Plover, 2 Dunlin, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit (presumably the same birds seen on previous visits) and 4 Grey Plover.

Ringed Plover

Bar-tailed Godwit


Grey Plover

Grey Plover

While watching the Gulls and Waders a Kingfisher flew in to fish in the rock pools while a Wheatear flew along the beach and Gannets dived offshore. 5 Little Egrets were looking a little forlorn as they roosted together on the rocks and Pied Wagtails and Rock Pipits fed along the beach with a few Meadow Pipits. Overhead a Kestrel, a Sparrowhawk and a Peregrine were noted and along the coast path Stonechat, Chiffchaff, Cirl Bunting and Blackcap were seen.

The cool and sunless conditions meant only a single Red Admiral and 2 Large White were seen along with a surprise Wall, presumably a third generation individual. In the toilet block there were 2 Rusty Dot Pearl and 2 Eudonia angustea which I caught and released outside.

Eudonia angustea

Ivy Bee on Ivy - a new species for me

A very nice walk as always with a tasty Chunk pasty for lunch from the cafe on the beach topping off a nice trip out.

Tuesday 22 September 2020

More Moths and a River Plym Walk

I worked a long day on Saturday 19th September, busy and exhausting as it always seems to be these days, and on arriving home at around 9pm I nearly didn't put the moth box out in the back yard but I'm very glad I did.

On checking out the moth box the next morning after a warm and humid night I had a very nice haul of 47 moths of 17 species with the highlights being a Black Rustic, a Knot Grass, 3 Shuttle-shaped Dart, 5 Large Ranunculus, 2 L-Album Wainscot and a Bloxwoth Snout, my second one of the year.

Black Rustic

Knot Grass

Shuttle-shaped Dart

Large Ranunculus

L-Album Wainscot

Bloxworth Snout

I haven't been for a walk along the River Plym and around Saltram Park since June of this year despite my original intentions back at the beginning of the COVID-19 Lockdown in March of visiting Saltram and the River Plym at least weekly. With the COVID-19 lockdown rules easing over the summer I concentrated my wildlife efforts elsewhere in case of another lockdown occurring (which currently seems quite likely), but with an early morning high tide on Sunday 20th September I decided to head out for my usual walk. 

The tide was very high when I arrived at Blaxton Meadow at around 10:30 and the Meadow was totally covered in water. 5 Greenshank were roosting along the embankment wall and 14 Little Egret were roosting on the small islands along with 6 Curlew. Out along the River a Mute Swan, 21 Canada Geese and 2 Common Sandpiper were seen along the waters edge and a Kingfisher was seen flashing past. 

In the Park 11 Ring-necked Parakeets were flying around screeching, 2 Stock Doves flew overhead, a juvenile Sparrowhawk flew low and stealthily amongst the bushes and a Kestrel hovered over the grassy fields. 3 Whinchats were a nice find feeding close together and getting grief from 8 nearby Stonechat and a lone Wheatear was a nice find too. 


A Jay, a Buzzard, 2 Raven and Chiffchaff were also seen and butterflies were represented by Red Admiral, Small White, 2 Small Copper, a male Common Blue, Large White and a few Meadow Brown. 

Small Copper

3 Roe Deer were noted too with 1 individual very curious about me as it stopped to turn and look at me regularly as it walked away. 

Roe Deer

Roe Deer

A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was a surprise feeding on buddleia flowers before settling on a dead flowerhead to rest, they look quite odd when perched up and not buzzing around. 

Hummingbird Hawkmoth

A lovely walk on a warm and sunny day and very nice to be back. 

Thursday 17 September 2020

Backyard Vestal

I had the moth box out in the backyard on what was a mild but breezy night and on checking it out in the morning on September 17th there were 13 moths of 7 species -7 Lesser Yellow Underwing, a Garden Carpet, a Tachystola acroxantha, a Willow Beauty, a Small Square Spot and a very smart looking L-Album Wainscot but best of all was a Vestal resting on the house wall by the box, my second UK sighting of one.

L-Album Wainscot


There have been plenty of UK Vestal sightings this summer and including in Plymouth and with the recent warm weather and southerly winds coming up from Africa conditions were looking good for an influx but I never really expected to find one in the backyard - I am no longer a backyard Vestal virgin!




After some breakfast I headed out to Wembury for a walk on what was a glorious September day - a blue sky with no clouds but a strong Easterly breeze keeping it cool unless sheltered from the wind when it was surprisingly warm. 

On arrival there was a noticeable movement of Swallow heading east into the wind along the coast, a small but steady trickle of around 100 birds in total which dried up after around 2 hours and including 2 Sand Martin amongst them. 

Along the beach there were 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Ringed Plover, 5 Dunlin, 9 Turnstone, 3 Curlew and a Redshank with the Oystercatchers. Gulls were roosting on the rocks on the outgoing tide and there were the usual Herring, Black-headed and Great Black-backed Gulls with the usual Mediterranean Gulls which numbered around 30 birds and included at least 5 juveniles. 

A male Kestrel hunted over Wembury Point and a juvenile Sparrowhawk hunted in the gardens by the road leading down to the beach. Gannets were diving for fish offshore and 2 Little Egrets were fishing in the Rock pools. 

Stonechat, a Chiffchaff, a pair of Blackcap and a juvenile Whitethroat were also noted along the walk with a flyover Grey Wagtail and a few flyover Meadow Pipits also seen, the Grey Wagtail later being seen feeding along the beach with Pied Wagtails and Rock Pipits. 2 Wheatears were also feeding along the rocky shoreline with another 2 seen in the horse field. 

A Painted Lady and a Clouded Yellow evaded the camera and I also saw a male Common Blue and a few Small Copper, Small White, Speckled Wood and Peacock but very noticeable were the number of Red Admiral and Large White flitting about with the Red Admirals busily feeding up on Ivy blossom. 

Red Admiral

The Toilet Block actually held some moths for a change - a Snout, a Willow Beauty and a lovely Large Ranunculus which were all caught in pots and released outside - and I also found a Common Marbled Carpet on Ivy along the coast path. 

Large Ranunculus

Monday 14 September 2020

Moths, Wembury Visits and a Weird Trip to Perranporth

On checking out the back yard moth box on the morning of Wednesday 9th September I was very pleased to find a Large Ranunculus, another of my Top 10 back yard moths - a beautiful moth but a sign that Autumn is here and that there are not many moth boxing nights left to go this year.

Large Ranunculus

Large Ranunculus 

Other highlights in the trap included a Silver Y, an L-Album Wainscot, a Mullein Wave and a Pale Mottled Willow, my 94th moth species for the back yard this year.

Silver Y


Mullein Wave

Pale Mottled Willow

Lesser Yellow Underwing

Later that morning I headed out to Wembury for a walk along the coast path on what was a cloudy but warm day. It was nearly high tide and along the beach near Wembury Point there were quite a collection of Gulls feeding on the rotting seaweed masses and resting on the rocks - mostly Herring, Black-headed and Great Black-backed Gulls but including an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull along with a few juvenile birds, 42 assorted plumaged Mediterranean Gulls (9 Juveniles) and a ringed juvenile Great Black-backed Gull from a ringing scheme in Portland Harbour.

Mediterranean Gulls

GBBGull - ringed in Portland Harbour in June 2019

The Gull highlight though were 2 juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls, the first resting on the sewage pipe but which unfortunately flew off towards Plymouth as I walked closer towards and the second showing much better as it flew in onto the rocks before going to sleep.

Yellow-legged Gull with Herring Gull

Yellow-legged Gull 

Yellow-legged Gull 

Yellow-legged Gull 

There was no sign of the recently reported Curlew Sandpipers as expected but I did find 14 Turnstone, 6 Ringed Plover, only 6 Oystercatcher, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit and 3 Dunlin.

Cirl Bunting, Stonechat, a Wheatear, a male Sparrowhawk spooking 5 Meadow Pipit from the grassy sheep field and 28 Canada Geese roosting in the stubble field were also seen along with a few Red Admiral, a Common Lizard, a Flounced Rustic, a Rusty Dot Pearl and a Speckled Wood.


 Flounced Rustic

Rusty Dot Pearl

Speckled Wood

Thursday 10th September was a beautiful autumn day as we headed down to Perranporth for our usual pre-holiday day out although in this weird COVID time we have no holiday to go on this year. It was hot and sunny with very little breeze and we had a lovely day as usual but it was a bit weird - there were many, many more people than usual and we couldn't get a breakfast at The Watering Hole and had to eat at The Dolphin Cafe on the opposite side of the beach, sitting outside and eating out of a take away cardboard box with a wooden knife and fork. The shops all had restricted access, we had our usual cider in a plastic cup and not a glass and we didn't have an ice-cream but this is the new normal for life in general at the moment.

No sign of the recently reported Choughs as expected but I did see 2 Raven, a Fulmar, a Sandwich Tern, a House Martin, a Small Tortoiseshell, a Red Admiral, a Common Darter in the small park and the usual Trout in the stream.

Friday 11th September and with cloudy skies again I decided to revisit Wembury for the high tide roost. I took my telescope with me this time as I had noted a few Mediterranean Gulls with green, yellow and white plastic leg rings amongst the gull flock on my previous visit but they were too far away to read with just my binoculars. I only managed to find 1 ringed Mediterranean Gull on this visit, an adult bird with a white ring on its left leg with code 3LKT, a bird ringed in The Netherlands in June 2012.

Herring, Black-headed, Great Black-backed and a few juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls were roosting on the rocks or feeding on the seaweed masses and amongst them were 66 Mediterranean Gulls (11 juveniles).

Again the gull highlight was a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull feeding amongst the assorted gulls on the seaweed mass along the beach, a subtle looking individual with the usual nonchalance typical of this species and keeping itself away from any nearby gulls (or more likely the other nearby gulls keeping away from it).

Yellow-legged Gull 

Yellow-legged Gull 

Yellow-legged Gull 

Yellow-legged Gull 

Yellow-legged Gull 

Offshore a group of around 100 Gannets were diving for fish just past The Mewstone while a Fulmar flew west over the stubble field where 23 Canada Geese were roosting. Cirl Bunting, Stonechat, a juvenile Peregrine, a Buzzard, 5 Chiffchaff and a female Blackcap were also noted.

Carrion Crows - white winged fledgling still present around the main beach

Wader numbers had changed and there were 34 Oystercatcher, 18 Turnstone, 11 Ringed Plover, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit and a Dunlin present along the beach and on the rocks. A Kingfisher calling and fishing from the waterline rocks was a nice sighting and just 1 Little Egret was seen offshore flying west.

Bar-tailed Godwit

A Red Admiral, a Common Lizard, a Silver Y, a Devils Coach Horse, 2 Volucella zonaria, a Knot Grass caterpillar, a Satin Wave in the toilet block and a Grey Seal hauled out on the rocks of The Mewstone were the non-avian highlights.

 Satin Wave -2nd Generation

 Common Lizard

Volucella zonaria 
Knot Grass Caterpillar