Monday 8 April 2024

Willow Warblers, Wheatears and a Grey Seal

Friday 5th April was planned to be a day of chores but with news received of a Willow Warbler having been seen along The Plym my interest was piqued and so I decided to ditch the chores and head out for a look. 

I caught the bus out to Marsh Mills at around Midday, it was cool, grey and breezy but dry and with rain not forecast until later in the afternoon I hoped to be home again before it arrived.

Along the river from Marsh Mills to Blaxton Meadow I found a Common Sandpiper and a male Goosander while Chiffchaffs were heard yammering away in the trees. A Collared Dove feeding along along the shoreline was a surprise find, it flew up into the trees by the footpath and showed very well before eventually flying off. 

Collared Dove

The tide was heading in and on Blaxton Meadow the usual birds were coming in to roost - a Curlew, 10 Oystercatcher, 7 Greenshank, a Dunlin, a Snipe and 59 Redshank with Herring Gulls and 3 Black-headed, 2 Common, 5 Lesser Black-backed-backed and a Great Black-backed also present.

A look at the Duck Pond revealed a Coal Tit feeding on seed with Blue and Great Tits and 4 male Mandarin out on the water. A Swallow occassionally dashed about overhead and in the bushes I found 2 very smart looking Willow Warblers flitting about and showing very well.

Willow Warbler 

Willow Warbler 

Willow Warbler

Onwards towards the Wet Wood and another Willow Warbler was seen feeding in the trees by the dipping pond and also quietly singing to itself while at the Wet Wood at least another 3 Willow Warblers were found with quiet singing again heard.

A further Willow Warbler was found on Chelson Meadow but my attention was drawn to the sight of at least 8 Wheatear feeding on the grassy slopes out of the breeze. 

Wheatear

An interesting walk and at last some bird movement, hopefully the gates have now been opened, and I arrived safely back home before it began raining yet again.

With Storm Kathleen heading our way for Saturday 6th April I planned to have a quiet day at home but with mentions on Twitter/X of seawatching I decided on waking up in the morning to head out to Wembury for a look about. Unfortunately I didn't wake up early enough to catch the first bus of the day so didn't arrive at Wembury until 9:45am but never mind.

It was very windy but not as bad as forecasted, it remained dry with spells of sunshine and as expected there was very little going on offshore, the highlights being 2 adult Common Gulls, 2 Sandwich Tern and 4 Guillemots amongst the usual Gulls, Gannet, Fulmar, Shag and Cormorant.

More interesting was a Grey Seal hauled up on the beach, it looked like it had missed the tide turning and was stuck until the tide headed back in. It seemed OK though and I was very pleased that walkers along the beach and especially those with dogs were very sensible and kept their distance whilst I was there.

Grey Seal

Grey Seal

Grey Seal

Grey Seal

Grey Seal

Grey Seal

Grey Seal

I may not have seen any Manx Shearwaters offshore but I did find a dead one washed up on the beach. Even sadder was the washed up corpse of a Risso's Dolphin, its tail was missing so presumably a victim of bycatch but it was providing a meal for a pair of Ravens and a pair of  Great Black-backed Gulls.

Manx Shearwater

Manx Shearwater 

Risso's Dolphin

Risso's Dolphin

Risso's Dolphin 

Otherwise the usual birds were present on my walk with Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap and a Cettis Warbler all heard, 2 Little Egrets feeding along the beach, Oystercatchers feeding out on the rocks and a pair of Canada Geese out on The Mewstone the highlights.

Thursday 4 April 2024

April Showers/Rain

Monday 1st April/ Easter Monday was forecasted to be showery but there were blue skies and sunshine when I woke up in the morning and so I headed out to The Plym for a walk. I was feeling better although the Snot City Olympics were still taking place in my sinuses and my lungs felt like they were going to burst when I exerted myself too much but I needed to get out of the house. Needless to say the heavens opened as I stepped off the bus at Marsh Mills but it did eventually clear over and the sun reappeared and there was only one other heavy shower to contend with during my walk.

Blaxton Meadow

It was high tide when I arrived at Blaxton Meadow and from the shelter of the bird hide there were 2 Curlew, 2 Dunlin, 2 Turnstone, at least 14 Snipe, 8 Oystercatcher, 8 Greenshank and Redshanks on view along with a pair of Goosander, 4 Little Egrets and a Grey Heron. The usual Mallard, Shelduck and Canada Geese were present too and amongst the roosting Herring Gulls were 3 Great Black-backed (2 adults), 1 adult Lesser Black-backed, 13 Common (7 adults) and Black-headed Gulls.

Shelduck

A surprise sighting were 2 Collared Doves feeding out on the salt marsh along with 3 Stock Dove and 3 white Feral Doves.

It was quiet around the Park but Chiffchaffs were yammering away and a single Swallow was flying around over the Duck Pond, my first of the year. Also at the Duck Pond were 4 male and a female Mandarin and a Grey Wagtail along with the usual Moorhens. A Green Woodpecker yaffled and showed nicely up in a tree, at least 4 Ring-necked Parakeets were seen, a male Stonechat was on Chelson Meadow where Skylarks were singing away and 2 Buzzards soared together overhead.

Mandarin

Moorhen

A single Peacock was seen with a probable flyby Comma too quick to firmly ID. A Grey Squirrel and 6 Roe Deer were the other non-avian highlights.

Rain was forecasted for the afternoon of Tuesday 2nd April and so I decided to head out to Wembury on the 7am bus for a look about before the rain arrived. I was still snotty and out of puff on exertion but better than the previous day and being out in the fresh air is certainly helping me to shift this lingering cold. With yet more heavy rain having fallen over the past few days the footpaths were horrifically muddy and the ground just feels totally waterlogged underfoot. There were a few brief sunny spells but it was mostly cool, grey and breezy and I was fortunate that the rain didn't arrive until David drove up in the car to meet me at 12pm.

The tide was heading in and along the beach a Little Egret, 21 Oystercatcher and a Shelduck were present with another 3 Shelduck seen flying over heading east.

Shelduck

The usual Gannets were seen offshore along with a distant Sandwich Tern moving east while closer inshore 5 Common Gulls were feeding on the sea (2 adults, 3 1st summers) before they all flew east too. Fulmars were flying around The Mewstone and 2 Canada Geese were roosting on the rocks while a male Mallard flew across the Bay.

A surprise was a Redwing feeding out on the grass at The Point much to the annoyance of nearby Blackbirds which regularly chased it off into the nearby trees.

Redwing

Redwing

Redwing

With reports of Dartford Warblers at Wembury over the Easter weekend I had a search about for them although I wasn't hopeful in the grey, cool conditions. However I quickly found them but they were mobile, flitty and restless, they showed well at times and often perched up in the top of the same bush. I'm not sure if they are new in or have been present for a while although I haven't really been looking for them on my recent visits.

Dartford Warbler

Dartford Warbler

Otherwise the usual birds were seen with the usual Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap also heard singing. Only one Bloody Nosed Beetle was found but I was pleased to see the Sea Kale has survived the winter gales and is beginning to emerge from the sand.

Sea Kale

Pheasant

Buzzard

With the forecast for Wednesday 3rd April being dry until later in the day we switched our plans last minute and headed out to Burrator Reservoir for a morning walk. It was grey and cool with a bit of drizzle but at least it didn't rain.

Despite the weather there was plenty of bird song which made a nice change from my very quiet recent visits with Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Siskin, Mistle Thrush, Green Woodpecker, Goldcrest and Great Spotted Woodpecker all seen and heard along with the usuals.

Out on the Reservoir 3 Cormorant, 2 Great Crested Grebes, a pair of Goosander, Herring Gulls, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, 2 adult Great Black-backed Gulls, the white farmyard Greylag Goose and Mallards (all males) were present. The highlight though were 2 Sand Martins buzzing around over the water and chittering away, probably wondering why the hell they left Africa!

Goosander

Sunday 31 March 2024

Plym Bar-wit and Wembury Butterflies

Monday 25th March was a very grey and wet day but with news of a Bar-tailed Godwit sighted on The Plym I togged up in my wet weather gear and headed out to Marsh Mills on the bus for a look. I only saw a single Bar-tailed Godwit on The Plym last year back on May 10th so I was keen to catch up with this one today but hopefully more will make appearances as this year progresses..

The tide was heading in as I walked down to Blaxton Meadow and I figured that the Bar-tailed Godwit, if still present, would appear on the Meadow to roost with the other waders. I sheltered from the rain in the bird hide and began scanning across the Meadow but there was no sign of the Bar-tailed Godwit. Waders were beginning to fly in to roost though and eventually it appeared, looking very smart as it fed amongst the Redshanks.

Blaxton Meadow in the rain

Bar-tailed Godwit and Redshank

Also present were 14 Oystercatchers, 8 Greenshanks, 6 Dunlin, 2 Turnstones and 2 Curlew along with a male Mandarin, 2 Canada Geese, a Grey Heron and Shelducks. Gulls were arriving to roost too and amongst the Herring Gulls present were a few Great Black-backs, an adult Lesser Black-backed, 2 Black-headed and 5 Common.

A male Bullfinch was briefly seen near the viewing platform while out on the nearby river 5 male and 4 female Goosanders were present but with the rain not showing any signs of easing I headed back home to dry off.

Goosanders

Goosanders

Tuesday 26th March was a total contrast with blue skies and feeling warm in the sun as I headed over to Mount Batten to meet my friend Jan for some lunch and a catch up. While waiting for the ferry across to Mount Batten from The Barbican a surprise sighting was a Hummingbird Hawkmoth buzzing around. At Mount Batten there was lots of Sloe Blossom on show and amongst it all were 2 Chiffchaffs having a sing off with each other while my first Willow Warbler of the year was quietly singing to itself in the background.

On returning home I started to feel a bit rough with cold-like symptoms, a COVID test proved negative (I still have a few tests left over from when I worked at Derriford Hospital although they are a few weeks out of date now) but my symptoms worsened and I felt dreadful, the worst cold I've had in years. The weather turned dreadful too, we even had some snow settling on the car roofs outside the house on Wednesday 27th March so I wasn't missing much while being incapacitated.

The weather did improve and my cold symptoms did abate and with Saturday 30th March forecasted to probably be the best day of the Easter weekend I decided to head out to Wembury for a walk despite still not feeling that great and suffering with a headful of snot. On waking up in the morning it was indeed all blue skies and sunshine but as soon as I arrived off the bus at Wembury I was greeted with a heavy shower! It did soon pass and it remained dry and mostly sunny for the rest of my walk but after all the heavy rain we've had this week the footpaths were a complete mudfest again. Saturdays and Sundays are never the best days to visit Wembury and Easter Saturday and Sunday even more so but the muddy footpaths did at least keep all but the most intrepid visitors close to the main beach.

It was very quiet birdwise, the highlights being a male Sparrowhawk over clutching a small bird in its talons, a male Kestrel hovering over the hillside, a pair of Cirl Buntings feeding in the wheatfield, a singing male Blackcap heard with a female seen, numerous Chiffchaffs seen and heard, 20 Oystercatchers roosting along the beach on the high tide and a pair of Peregrines circling high overhead and moving west shortly followed by another female.

I found just one Adder sunning itself but no Common Lizards, there were plenty of Bloody Nosed Beetles about again but just one Black Oil Beetle. A Red Admiral, a Speckled Wood, a Comma and at least 3 Peacock were on the wing in the sunshine and I was pleased to find my first Dark-edged Bee-fly of the year.

Adder

Adder

Black Oil Beetle

Peacock

Sunday 24 March 2024

Signs of Spring at Wembury and The Plym

Monday 18th March was another beautiful spring-like day as I enjoyed a walkabout at Wembury, it was warm and calm and with frequent bouts of sunshine but despite this it was relatively people and dog free for a change.

It was very quiet on the bird front too as I expected but 4 Chiffchaffs were yammering away and presumably new in. I thought I heard the Cetti's Warbler calling in the valley to the beach too but I wasn't totally sure. The usual Oystercatchers and 4 Little Egrets were along the beach on the high tide but the Redshank and Turnstones seem to have departed. It was a 4 raptor species day with overhead sightings of a Buzzard, a Peregrine, a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk and offshore Gannets and Fulmars were seen.

Stonechat

Sloe Blossom

Yellow-legged Mining Bee

Cream-spot Tiger Moth

A Peacock butterfly feeding on dandelions was a year first, looking a bit tatty after it's winter hibernation, and along the footpath there were good numbers of Bloody Nosed Beetles with many seen mating. Even better were a male and 3 female Black Oil Beetles.

Peacock

Bloody Nosed Beetle

Black Oil Beetle

Black Oil Beetle

The highlights of the walk though were reptilian with 5 Adders seen basking in the sun along with 2 Common Lizards and a Grass Snake, all posed beautifully for the camera except the Grass Snake which quickly disappeared into cover on being spotted, a shame as it was my first ever live sighting of one.

Adder

Adder

Adder

Adder

Adder

Adder

Adder

Adder

Adder

Wednesday 20th March was mostly overcast but dry as I headed out for a Plym walk, starting at Laira Bridge and finishing at Marsh Mills on the incoming tide.Very little mud was on show even though I arrived just over an hour after low tide but a few Waders and Gulls were feeding and roosting on the small amount of mudflat available while out on the water a Great Crested Grebe and a pair of Goosanders were diving away.

I spent awhile sat on the bench in the Wet Wood and very luckily (and finally!) caught sight of a Water Rail feeding along the stream before it disappeared from view.

Water Rail - record shot

It was otherwise very quiet around the Park with 4 Chiffchaffs heard singing and a single non-singing bird seen. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming and a Green Woodpecker was heard yaffling but both remained hidden from sight. A lone male Siskin feeding in the Alders gave himself away by calling briefly and only 2 noisy Ring-necked Parakeets were heard.

Blaxton Meadow was virtually waterless but out roosting on the mud were 2 Greenshank, a Curlew, 3 Dunlin, Redshank, Shelduck, 4 adult and a 2nd calendar year Common Gull, 5 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls with the brightest yellow/orange legs I've ever seen and 3 Little Egrets. Out along the river near the gas pipe 8 Oystercatchers were roosting on the mud and a Little Grebe and 2 male and a female Mandarin were seen out on the water.

Greenshank

It was overcast and cool on a repeat visit to Wembury on Thursday 21st March although the sun did occassionally appear from behind the clouds as the morning wore on. Only 1 Common Lizard was seen and I didn't look for any Adders this time, I didn't find any Black Oil Beetles either but there were still plenty of mating Bloody Nosed Beetles to be seen. A surprise sighting was of a smart looking Painted Lady feeding on Dandelion flowers, it quickly dashed off before I could get a photo but 2 equally smart looking Peacock weren't quite as camera shy.

Common Lizard

Peacock

Peacock

Birding was much the same as on my previous visit with 4 Chiffchaffs heard singing away along with a confirmed Cetti's Warbler. A silent male Blackcap was also seen, presumably a newly arrived bird. A Curlew was feeding out on the rocks where a sleeping Shelduck and a preening adult Lesser Black-backed Gull were also present. A pair of Linnet were also seen at The Point, a Peregrine flew overhead and very confiding Stonechats continued to show very well along the footpath.

Stonechat

Stonechat

Stonechat

I had brought my telescope out with me for a change and with a flat calm sea I had an interesting time scanning about offshore with it. A feeding frenzy of Gannets gave away the position of around 10 Common Dolphins beneath them, distant views with the Dolphins being stealthy and elusive before they quickly moved off west with the Gannets gradually dispersing shortly afterwards. Around 20 Auks were also seen out on the water or flying west while just offshore a single Guillemot and a Razorbill were close enough to be ID-able. 2 presumed Red-throated Divers also flew in to join the feeding throng but were too distant to fully confirm ID. An adult Kittiwake was also feeding close inshore before heading out to sea and 2 female Common Scoters flew purposefully west.

RSPUP Membership should be compulsory for all dog owners! - from a gate at Wembury Point