Sunday 27 February 2022

A Rainy River Plym and Sunny Goshawks

With another 2 night shifts due to start on Tuesday 22nd February I decided to take a walk along the River Plym and around Saltram that morning before trying to get myself suitably psyched up for them. It was sunny when I left home to catch the bus to Marsh Mills but by the time I had walked from Longbridge to Blaxton Meadow unexpected rain arrived hampering viewing and curtailing my walk around Saltram.

The tide was high and Blaxton Meadow had plenty of birds roosting on it despite them being temporarily spooked by a low flying helicopter. The Knot was still present, hidden in plain sight amongst the Dunlin and Redshank, and there were also 5 Greenshank, 28 Curlew and 9 Oystercatcher present. 

Dunlin, Shelduck and Curlew, Blaxton Meadow

A female Teal and 32 Wigeon were also noted and amongst the copious Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls were 7 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 7 adult Common Gulls and 8 Great Black-backed Gulls (7 adults and 1 1st winter) but no Mediterranean Gulls were found.

Lesser Black-backed Gull with Herring Gull and Black-headed Gulls, Blaxton Meadow

A Common Sandpiper and a Grey Wagtail were seen along the river bank at Marsh Mills while out on the river itself 2 Little Grebes, a male Red-breasted Merganser and a male and 2 female Goosander were seen.

I decided to cut my losses and head home earlier than planned but by the time I had walked back to Longbridge the rain had stopped and so I decided to walk upriver towards the Riverside Caravan Park to look for Dippers. I was out of luck but I did see a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Coal Tit and around 30 noisey Siskins feeding in the trees. 

With my night shifts duly completed and a sunny day forecasted for Friday 25th February I headed out for a walk to look for Goshawk, a year to the day since I saw my first ever UK Goshawks. It was a beautiful day, sunny and mild with occasional cloudy spells and short rain showers but only a gentle wind although this didn't hamper my viewing.

I managed to get some good views of at least 3 Goshawks overhead, 2 females having a go at each other and a male being harrassed and harangued by a brave Carrion Crow. I also briefly saw a female flying along the woodland edge before darting in and out of the trees in hunting mode and disappearing from sight.

Goshawk up high in a Blue Sky

Goshawk - zoomed in

Also seen overhead were numerous soaring Buzzards and Ravens and 2 very small looking male Sparrowhawks plus 2 Stock Doves, a Great Black-backed Gull, a Cormorant, Jackdaws and Carrion Crows. 

A female Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Jay, skulky Redwings, many Pheasants and a few Red-legged Partridge were also seen and along with flowering Snowdrops I found my first flowering Primroses of the year.


Tuesday 22 February 2022

A Holiday Come Down

It was back to Plymouth on Saturday 12th February and with the following day free I planned a birding day out but the weather was dreadful with gales and rain and so I spent a quiet day at home instead. 

I did take a walk into town to buy some food supplies from Sainsbury's and on the walk home I watched a Peregrine dashing about overhead close to home and causing complete and utter panic amongst the Feral Pigeons and Herring Gulls.

Monday 14th February and the weather was much improved and so we took a quick walk around Plymouth Hoe. I was very pleased to find the 3 wintering Purple Sandpipers together for a change and feeding on the rocks with 2 Turnstones but no sooner had I found them than they were disturbed by some people nearby and promptly flew off and out of sight.

Thursday 17th February was another settled weather day and so I headed out to Wembury for a walk. The path was the usual mud fest but better than on my last visit and I had an enjoyable walk.

It was quiet bird wise with the highlights being an adult winter Mediterranean Gull amongst the roosting Gulls, a lone male Linnet along the beach and 3 Collared Doves displaying over the houses near the bus stop but the best birds were 2 Red-legged Partridge feeding in the stubble field.

Red-legged Partridge, Wembury

A sad sighting was of a Guillemot washed up dead along the beach, I checked it out and it was unringed and didn't appear to be oiled. 

Guillemot, Wembury

I kept a look out along the beach for the colour ringed Scandinavian Rock Pipit CAC seen in December last year but again there was no sign of it. I have however had some information back from the ringers in Finland, it was caught in a net and ringed on 27th July 2021 as an adult bird hatched that year in Uusikaupunki, Finland, and had travelled 1949kms in 130 days. 

CAC the Rock Pipit from Finland, seen on 4/12/21 at Wembury

And so it's now back to work after our trip away to Italy and things are no better than before I went, it continues to be a stressful and chaotic mess and one that I no longer have the patience or energy for, how this year is going to pan out is anyone's guess at the moment. 

Monday 14 February 2022

A COVID Trip to Italy

Friday 4th February and I was awake early after my night shifts and with sunshine and frost and no breeze I headed out to Plymouth Hoe to look for Purple Sandpipers on the dropping tide before the crowds arrived. It really was a beautiful morning and I managed to get some great views of a Purple Sandpiper feeding with 7 Turnstones before they all flew off and out of sight.

Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper - with a purple sheen to its feathers

The rest of the day was spent tidying up and cleaning the house and getting ready for a trip to Turin in Italy the following day. With COVID restrictions still in place the trip required a lot of organising and planning which somewhat took the lustre off going away but eventually we were on our way to Heathrow Airport with Julie and Matt for an overnight stay at The Thistle Hotel before flying out to Turin on Sunday 6th February.

Our original plans were for a trip to Munich and Prague in December 2020 but this was cancelled due to COVID and we were given a flight voucher as a refund by British Airways to be used by March 2022. With the expiry date of the voucher looming ever nearer and not wanting to loose out we booked the flights to Turin although we weren't really expecting to be able to travel due to the continuing COVID issues. However as the date of our flight drew ever nearer it appeared increasingly likely that we would be able to travel and so we had to sort out all the red tape beforehand in order to go - travel insurance, Passenger Locator Forms, pre-flight COVID tests at Heathrow Airport 24 hours before our flight, Global Health Insurance Cards, Super Green Passes from the NHS website and COVID tests on our return from Italy (which we booked and paid for and then didn't need to do). We also had to keep checking the rules and regulations daily before our flight in case we had missed something or the rules changed and we had to keep praying that getting back into the UK wouldn't suddenly require us to self isolate on our return home. 

While in Italy we had to wear an FFP2 face mask at all times including in the streets (although many people didn't including us at times as we wore much more comfortable surgical masks instead) and we also had to get our Super Green Pass scanned to prove we were triple vaccinated against COVID to be able to enter into hotels, cafes, restaurants, trains, buses, museums and shops. All in all it was a complete faff and not the most restful of holidays and while I actually did enjoy my time away I am certainly in no rush to travel abroad anyway else anytime soon. 

Turin was very nice, cold at night but mild during the daytime in the bright sunshine and we had no rain at all during our time there. From Turin we could see the snow capped Alps in the distance but on a day trip to the nearby ski resort at Sauze d'Oulx there was a  shocking lack of snow compared to our visit there 10 years ago. 

The Alps from the plane

Sauze d'Oulx

Sauze d'Oulx

We did the usual touristy things, visiting the Egyptian Museum and the ex-Fiat factory at Lingotto in Turin and taking a day trip to Milan to see The Last Supper fresco painted by Leonardo da Vinci (which was as expected a little underwhelming).

Egyptian Museum, Turin

Egyptian Museum, Turin

Lingotto Ramps, Turin

Milan Cathedral

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan

The Last Supper, Milan

The undoubted wildlife highlight was a Golden Eagle flying overhead at Sauze d'Oulx being mobbed by a Raven, high up and distant but dwarfing the Raven and with a very noticeable pale head in the strong sunshine.

A close runner up though for the wildlife highlight was seeing Coypu along the River Po in Central Turin, at least 4 were seen and they were surprisingly showy unlike those at Minsmere in Suffolk in the 1980's which were elusive and always seen at a distance.

Coypu, River Po, Turin





I also managed to see a nice selection of birds along the River Po in Turin too including Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Yellow-legged Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Hooded Crow, Italian Sparrow, Chiffchaff and White Wagtail.

Little Egret

Common Sandpiper

Hooded Crow

Hooded Crow

Italian Sparrow

Italian Sparrow

On the car journey to and from Heathrow I saw the usual Red Kites and Buzzards with the Red Kites showing very well at times. I also saw Redwing, Fieldfare, Golden Plover, Raven and Roe Deer and sadly a dead Barn Owl (Somerset) and a dead Otter (Wiltshire) by the side of the road along with the usual Pheasant and Badger casualties. 

All in all it was an enjoyable trip away, restorative and reflective in equal measure, but who knows when I'll head off on a trip abroad again.

Thursday 3 February 2022

More Spearmint, a Stoke Point Walk and a Trip to Wembury

With another Sunday off on 30th January we took another morning walk around Plymouth Hoe before the crowds arrived. The tide was low but I did find 5 Turnstone on the rocks at Tinside and Spearmint the Grey Seal was hauled out on the slipway again. 

Spearmint the Grey Seal

I was able to see her red flipper tag this time as she lay sleeping on her side on the cobbles and it was interesting to note the variety of fur colouring and patterning on her underside. She appeared to be shivering as she slept but looked healthy and alert when she occasionally woke up to have a scratch and to take a look at the world going on around her.

Spearmint Tail Tag and Claws


Monday 31st January and we attempted a walk at Stoke Point again, this time we were successful and the walk and scenery were as grand as ever. There was a strong and cold North-westerly wind which kept the temperature low despite the occasional sunny spells and it also kept the birds under cover but on the return walk the wind had eased somewhat and a few birds were noted.

A pair of Bullfinch were seen in Noss Mayo village while along the coast path a Buzzard, a female Kestrel and a pair of Peregrine were seen along with a flock of around 40 Linnet and a flock of around 20 Skylark plus a pair of Stonechat.

The best sighting was a Brown Hare which ran across the fields, the first time I have seen one here before.

Brown Hare, Stoke Point

Tuesday 1st February and I had a quick walk out at Wembury before yet another duo of delightful night shifts. It was grey and dull and cold but quite still and despite the low tide I found an adult winter and a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull out on the rocks along with 8 Mallard (5 male), 2 Little Egret, a Curlew and Oystercatchers. Offshore Gannets, Fulmars, Shag and Cormorants were seen with a Buzzard, 2 Raven and a male Kestrel noted overhead.

Just a pair of Cirl Buntings and a male Stonechat were seen along the footpath along with a male Bullfinch and 3 Long-tailed Tit and the only other bird of note was a Great Spotted Woodpecker which gave its location away in a nearby tree as it chipped away while I waited at the bus stop for the bus back to Plymouth.