Monday 30 January 2023

A 5 Grebe Day Out

With another cold, sunny and still day on Tuesday 24th January we headed up to Burrator Reservoir for a walk. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was stunning but again there were very few birds around with a pair of Bullfinch, 5 Cormorant, the regular White Goose and a Goldcrest the best of the sightings and Siskin, a Green Woodpecker and a Great Spotted Woodpecker heard. 

Burrator Reservoir - still a good flow of water over the dam

Wednesday 25th January was a total contrast, cold again but overcast with occasional mizzle and I headed out to Torpoint to meet Mavis for a birdwatching morning off Marine Drive.

While waiting for Mavis to arrive I picked up 2 Great Northern Divers out on the water quite close to shore with the birds occasionally calling to each other, the first time I have heard this. The tide was high but beginning to ebb and the Divers eventually moved further out as the water dropped but they were present during the whole of our visit and a third bird was also seen. 

Great Northern Diver

Great Northern Diver 

Mavis duly arrived and we headed up to the lookout Tower and set up our scopes to begin our birding in earnest. The light was very dull and it was very cold but the morning just flew by as we watched the birds appear out on the exposed mudflats as the tide headed out. 

It was misty and murky but eventually we found distant Great Crested Grebes asleep out on the water and amongst them were a Black-necked Grebe, a Red-necked Grebe and 2 Slavonian Grebes. As the mist cleared and the tide dropped the Grebes came closer and gave some great views but the Slavonian Grebes just disappeared, never to be seen again. There were also 6 Little Grebes present and so providing me with my first ever 5 Grebe day and the views of both the Black-necked Grebe and Red-necked Grebe were fantastic with the bright red eye of the Black-necked Grebe especially stunning when viewed through a scope. 

A good selection of waders were seen and with the usual Dunlin, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Turnstone were 6 Ringed Plover, a Greenshank, around 30 Avocet, around 20 Grey Plover and 6 Black-tailed Godwit. 

Ringed Plover

There were 2 smart looking winter plumaged adult Mediterranean Gulls out on the mudflats amongst the Common, Herring, Black-headed and Great Black-backed Gulls present and Little Egrets and Grey Herons were also seen. 

Shelduck and Wigeon were noted along with 2 flighty male Red-breasted Merganser. Also seen was a flock of 19 Brent Geese consisting of 17 Dark-bellied birds and 2 Pale-bellied birds with one of the Pale-bellied birds bearing leg rings which seem to be part of an Irish ringing scheme of birds from Canada (details awaited). 

Pale- and Dark-bellied Brent Geese

Pale-bellied Brent Geese

Pale-bellied Brent Goose

Ringed Pale-bellied Brent Goose - white L on red on left leg, black C on white on right leg (Record Shot) 

The 2 Pale-bellied birds kept together and were frequently involved in aggressive interactions with the 17 Dark-bellied birds which was interesting to observe. 2 of the Dark-bellied birds eventually flew off upriver and later the remaining 15 Dark-bellied birds flew off downriver leaving the 2 Pale-bellied birds feeding out amongst the exposed sea weed on their own. 

We ended up staying at Torpoint for over 5 hours but eventually the cold began to get to us and it was time to head off home to warm up. It had been a great day out though with some cracking birds and so close to home too. 

With news of a male Black Redstart being found along the beach at Wembury we headed out there for a walk on Friday 27th January. It was another cold and overcast day but the footpath wasn't quite the mudfest it was on my last visit. 

The Black Redstart was eventually found feeding around the seaweed mass by the sewage pipe but it was flitty and mobile and regularly disappeared from view. A pair of Stonechat were present too and regularly chased it off which didn't help with trying to view it. A Chiffchaff was also seen here along with the usual Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail but I didn't find the Water Pipit this time. 

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

A Turnstone was also feeding on the seaweed mass and was much more confiding and also present along the beach were a Curlew, 2 Little Egret, Oystercatcher, Mallard, a 3rd winter Lesser Black-backed Gull and 8 Mediterranean Gull (4 adults, 2 1st winter and 2 2nd winter). One of the 1st winter Mediterranean Gulls was ringed on its left leg, a green ring with white characters but it was too distant to read without my scope. 



A Green Woodpecker was heard yaffling and a Song Thrush was heard singing and other highlights included 3 Long-tailed Tit, a Kestrel and another Chiffchaff near the main beach. 

A quick walk only but nice to see a male Black Redstart for a change instead of the female types I usually see. 

And so January is nearly done, the month seems to have gone on for ever but I've had some fantastic birding and my year list stands at a very healthy 123. And with work continuing to provide an increasing amount of anxiety and stress in my life I now can't wait for the spring to arrive to provide some much needed wildlife distractions. 

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