Friday, 19 December 2014

Great Grey Shrike Again

After reading that the Great Grey Shrike was seen again yesterday afternoon I once again went over to Aylesbeare Common hoping to get a better view.  I got there pretty early (about 9am) and almost immediately spotted it. It was pretty distant again but before I could get any nearer it vanished, like they do! Luckily it soon reappeared on a well know landmark, unluckily I was looking straight into the rising sun, but it was a good opportunity for a nice atmospheric shot.

Anyone who knows Aylesbeare Common well, will know exactly where this is.

The burning question was, would I be able to circumnavigate the pine stump to get a view in better light, before it did another disappearing act? The answer, much to my surprise was yes!

That's more like it!
It then moved into a small bush a little bit nearer to me but all too briefly and I only got one more shot...

Then it... Can you guess? 
Yes.  It vanished!

Before I left several other birders had arrived but I haven't heard if any of them caught up with it.
I feel very lucky to have seen it twice now.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Great Grey Shrike, Purple Sandpiper and Red Cage Fungus

I'm still not getting enough time to update my blog as often as I'd like, but here's a selection of stuff from the last few weeks. Perseverance eventually paid of yesterday morning when after reading that the Great Grey Shrike had been seen at Aylesbeare Common on Saturday afternoon, I went over there and almost immediately spotted it sunning itself in the first rays of sun of the day. It was some distance away but I took a couple of record shots knowing what Shrikes can be like! Disappearing acts being a specialty of theirs. It then did a disappearing act! It wasn't seen again all day despite several people looking. I say perseverance paid off because I've been over to Colaton Raleigh Common on three or four occasions looking for it without success. I'm visiting Aylesbeare Common quite regularly now so hopefully I'll jam into it again.

Twas pretty distant.

Great Grey Shrike

You can always count on a Stonechat to pose nicely at least!

I thought that maybe I was 'on a roll' so after leaving Aylesbeare I went down to Jacob's Ladder for high tide and sure enough there were two Purple Sandpipers in amongst the Turnstones on the rock armour. Must have been the fourth time I've looked for these too. Unfortunately by this time it was getting very dull indeed and I had to use such a slow shutter speed most of my photos didn't come out so well. A couple were surprisingly good though, as I was able to use the railings to steady my camera.


Purple Sandpiper

Two weeks ago I actually 'twitched' a fungus, not for the first time though because I remember that I 'twitched' Death Cap, four years ago. You can read about that here if you've nothing better to do. (Yes, I know you have!) The fungus I twitched this time was the rare Red Cage Fungus - Clathrus ruber. Surprisingly it was actually in the town of Exmouth right alongside a busy street. It had been photographed the day before when the two specimens were at their best and looking amazing. See them on Matt's blog here. Matt kindly let me know their exact whereabouts and I was there first thing the next day. As I'd feared I was already too late to see them in all their glory as one of them had already collapsed in the centre they were still pretty spectacular just the same. Much bigger than I'd imagined (about the size of a large grapefruit) and looking like something from an alien movie! 

Red Cage - Clathrus ruber.
Red Cage is actually a bit of a boring common name for this bizarre fungus. I much prefer some of the 'descriptive' names it's been given in other parts of Europe, such as Red Lantern, Devil's Grid,  Witch's Heart or Witch's Vomit. 

Close up showing the bizarre spongy texture and the green slime (or gleba) on the inside of the lattice, which as in other members of the Stinkhorn family exudes a vile smell similar to rotting flesh to attract flies to the spore mass which then carry it off on their feet.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Sidmouth Seafront and Aylesbeare Common

We've been in Sidmouth for four weeks now and I've only been out birding three times, a couple of visits to the seafront three weeks ago and today I popped over to Alylesbeare Common for a couple of hours. It's always been one of my favourite spots and now I'm only a ten minute drive away I'll be visiting much more regularly.

I've seen Purple Sandpipers on the Seafront in the past but on my two trips there since living here I haven't spotted any, probably just can't see them through the hoards of Turnstones. They are everywhere! Petty tame too, you could trip over one if you weren't careful. Funny to think that last year when I was doing the patch yearlist I spent hours trying to get a shot of one on Black Hole Marsh.

Beer Head and Under Hooken

Jacob's Ladder. 
This will probably be my new sea-watching spot.



Feeding on Barnacles

Aylesbeare Common was pretty quiet today but unusually warm for the last day of November, so much so that I even saw a Red Admiral on the wing. As I wandered around I managed to bump into three different Dartford Warblers, a couple close enough for photos too! Great to see these doing well again after their decimation in the hard winter of 2010/11.

Dartford Warbler