Monday 12 October 2020

Ouzels, Skuas and Choughs

Thursday 8th October was grey and wet on awakening but the forecast was for the rain to clear mid morning and so we headed off to the Avon Dam for a walk as the path is tarmac and mud free and Ring Ouzels had been reported there the previous day. 

On arriving the rain had indeed stopped and as we walked up the valley towards the Dam we met many happy birders walking back down to the car park who had seen up to 12 Ring Ouzels. 

As we arrived at the area where the Ouzels had been seen I eventually found an adult male sat in a tree but distant and obscured by branches. A second male was sitting in a neighbouring tree and eventually came right out into the open before dropping down onto the ground. A female was then found in another tree just as 10 Mistle Thrush exploded out of it and flew off north with the Ouzel joining them. Not the best views but nice to see them all the same. 

Walking back to the car and another male was seen feeding in a rowan tree close to the footpath before flying off and then a juvenile bird was seen with Blackbirds feeding in a rowan tree by the footpath before it too disappeared into cover. 

Ring Ouzel, Avon Dam

Ring Ouzel

Other birds of note were a Green Woodpecker, a Raven, 2 Goldcrest, a Redwing, a Kestrel and 2 Buzzard before we retired to nearby Ashburton for tea and cake. 

Friday 9th October was grey and breezy and with my new tripod having arrived in the post I was keen to go and try it out and so I headed off to Wembury for a walk. 

The tide was high and roosting out on the rocks with the Oystercatchers were 2 Little Egret, 7 Curlew and a single Bar-tailed Godwit with 2 1st winter Mediterranean Gulls. 

Curlew, Wembury

Bar-tailed Godwit

Along the footpath Stonechat, Cirl Buntings and a female Blackcap were seen along with a Redwing and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying over the valley to the beach. 


Cirl Bunting


Gannets were flying around and diving offshore along with Kittiwakes and 4 Common Scoter were seen flying west. A distant small and dark Skua Sp. was briefly seen chasing a Kittiwake before it disappeared amongst the waves and I also had a brief view of a pale phase adult Arctic Skua closer in before it too was lost from sight. I then picked up 2 birds flying fast and low over the water towards the shore and at first I thought they were some kind of wader but as they flew nearer they began to chase after a group of 4 feeding Kittiwake and revealed themselves to be 2 adult pale phase Arctic Skua. After harrasing the Kittiwakes and getting a regurgitated meal from them they flew quickly back out to sea and were lost to sight but great to see, thankfully I had my telescope with me otherwise I probably wouldn't have picked them up at all.

2 Common Lizard, a Knot Grass caterpillar, a Dark Bush Cricket, a Speckled Wood and a brief view of a Grass Snake disappearing into the bracken were also seen. 

Common Lizard

Common Lizard

Knot Grass Caterpillar

Dark Bush Cricket

Saturday 10th October and I finally made the trip down to Porthgwarra in Cornwall, somewhere I have wanted to visit for some time now. I wanted to do a bit of a reccey of the area in the hope of maybe getting down there next year for some seawatching and I also hoped to see some Chough which are present along the coast here and also a Turtle Dove being seen around a farm nearby

I started off at Ardensaweth Farm where the Turtle Dove had been reported but there was no sign of it amongst the 20+ Collared Dove feeding around the buildings and so I carried on to the Coastguard Lookout on the coast. 

Arriving on the clifftops at Porthgwarra and I immediately found 2 Chough busily feeding on the short turf with Jackdaws and despite being neurotic and flighty they allowed very close approach and very good views. One bird was unringed and occassionally begged for food from the other ringed bird, presumably a young bird with an adult?

Chough, Porthgwarra


Another 2 ringed birds flew in to join them and then another 2 birds appeared, one landed and was unringed but I couldn't see the legs of the other bird as it flew overhead. All of the Choughs then took to the air together and flew off noisily along the coast and out of sight  - lovely birds in a wonderful setting, I only wish I wasn't suffering from a banging headache at the time which put a bit of a crimp on my enjoyment of them.



I had planned to walk along the coast to Porthcurno but decided to retrace my steps and head back to Ardensaweth Farm to look again for the Turtle Dove and on arriving at the farm buildings I immediately found it feeding on top of a haystack before it flew onto the barn roof to rest and preen with the Collared Dove. After a while it flew down to the ground to feed amongst the Collared Doves before it wandered off out of sight- a lovely bird and one I haven't seen well for many years now. I hope it successfully migrates and returns next year as unfortunately Turtle Dove seems to be rapidly becoming the European equivalent of the North American Passenger Pigeon and we all know how that ended.

Turtle Dove with Collared Dove, Ardensaweth Farm

Turtle Dove

Turtle Dove

And so our holiday-less holiday ends, the weather was disappointing (it could have been worse but it also could have been better) but we had a good time and I saw some good birds. Back to work and reality now, I will miss all the sleep I have been able to get but my liver could do with a rest after all the booze I've consumed!

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