Sunday, 30 November 2008

Desperate Measures

I successfully saw the flock of Golden Plovers in the field next to the A3052 today on the third time of trying. The problem is there are no convenient gateways to stop in and view the field in question. I had been advised to go along the farm track, which I have been doing but the birds haven’t been in the part of the field viewable from here. The only thing for it was to either not see them or walk along the narrow, twisty, very busy road which leads off the A3052 to Honiton. So this I did... I soon located them through a small gap in the hedge, but not satisfied with a mere glimpse, decided to set my scope up on top of the hedge and try for at least a decent view and at bestt a decent photo. Traffic was passing within a few feet and I began to feel a bit foolhardy. They were only Golden Plovers after all!! I counted 36 in total. Here are some snapshots I risked my life to get (ok bit of an exaggeration) one showing eight blobs and also a nice close up Actually I'm quite happy with it considering. And I did have great views .


After a nice hot cuppa and an afternoon nap, (how old am I?!!) Old enough for an afternoon nap obviously! I rushed up to Coronation Corner to twitch a Med Gull, yes that’s right a Med Gull which Gav kindly let me know about because he knew how desperate to see one I’ve been getting. I hadn’t had a Med Gull fix since early September!! We didn’t see anything else too interesting but Black-tailed Godwit numbers have risen again with around 60 on show.

Almost forgot, here's another picture from yesterday's ringing. It's the whole team, minus Steve (left for work) and Mike (taking photo). You can see how cold we all look and also how I'm trying to cheer everyone up with what was obviously a very funny joke!! Actually I was in the process of falling over.


Still got the Trojan, haven’t resorted to formatting yet, getting there slowly, very slowly….

Saturday, 29 November 2008

A Freezing Morning's Duck Stroking

Myself and 13 other like minded people were at a VERY COLD Seaton Marshes this morning before daybreak to catch and ring wildfowl. It really was absolutely freezing and by the time we had finished three and a half hours later I was colder than I can remember being for a long, long time! My feet were so cold they were really painful, I could hardly walk and driving home was interesting with no discernable feet!! It was worth it though. I absolutely love ducks, I used to keep and breed various breeds of utility duck some years ago, have always had a soft spot for them and enjoy getting an opportunity to handle some wild ones. We used the cannon netting method and caught 130 ducks (Shelduck, Wigeon and Mallard) and two Moorhens and thankfully no Corvids making removal from the nets nice and smooth.



Waiting to be processed

We caught 15 Wigeon, some of which were re-traps, having traveled to Russia and back. It's a shame that most of our recoveries of ringed birds come from local 'sportsmen'. I'd never seen Wigeon in the hand before, they are so small and delicate, real cuties! Oops sorry! Just slipping into Robin Stroker mode there for a second. Here's a photo of a pair, it's a bit blurry I'm afraid, as were a lot of my photographic attempts today, the result of shivering most likely. Lots of shivering was in evidence all morning!!!

And also one of Fraser fitting a ring to a lovely little drake.




The cold northerly wind was a real problem making working really difficult, Fraser and Mike set up a superbly crafted windbreak thus:



Its amazing just how many of us could get behind this once it was in place

We also caught stacks of Mallards including this female. She was wearing quite an old ring, possibly from 3 or 4 years ago. Originally caught here in the Axe Valley but this is her first time as a re-trap.


An old friend

Here's another picture featuring a female Mallard, or so it would seem. If you look closely the wing pattern, the black line along the top of the blue wingbar should be as defined as the lower one. Aapparently the white in the lower edge of this black band indicates she has 'farmyard duck' genes! Shock Horror!!



We also caught a good number of Shelduck with a good proportion being fresh birds too.

Fraser and Steve examine the plumage

Enough Shelduck for everyone, they really are lovely birds.


All in all an interesting and enjoyable morning despite the biting cold! By mid-afternoon I'd thawed out enough to take the dog on the beach and have a quick look at the sea. I could see 57 Shelduck and 10 Common Scoter. Distantly visible at Seaton Hole was a lone birder. I think it was a Gavin Haig, very elusive on patch at the moment. If it was he, I suspect he may have counted differently to me, let me guess.... More than I saw I think....

Here's a view from The Yacht Club of Seaton Hole, with the mystery figure just about visible, honestly, would I lie!? He's just beneath and to the left of the small gabled building right in the centre of the picture. Go on open it, I guarantee you'll be disappointed!! :)

May be going off line for a while soon. The Trojan is still with us despite attempts to eradicate it. It looks like a format might be the only answer. Bad news. :((

Thursday, 27 November 2008

A Water Ousel

I was hoping to get a blog entry on nice and early for a change this evening, but that didn’t happen because I arrived home from work to find we had somehow mysteriously (not accusing anyone, obviously!) acquired an adware problem on the computer and have spent ages trying to solve it…

Anyway, I haven’t found much time for birding over the last couple of days unfortunately, but I have been trying to sort out my books again. I’ve eventually managed to move the small pile blocking the front door and now I still have a small pile, but just situated in a different place, the corner of a redundant room like so:

I really need to get them into the attic but it's going to be such an effort to carry them all up two flights of stairs, I just keep putting it off. At least I’ve managed to get some of them back on the internet for sale. It’s a good job I hardly ever have to answer the front door because there’s now a new obstruction:

Lazy git's bicycle!?

Well it was going rusty in the shed!!

Right, enough drivel, onto birding. This morning I took Rex along to Branscombe. A beautiful picturesque village with a lovely beach. We were there to look at the sewage works though! (I say we, but I don't think Rex was that interested really) On Tuesday (I think it was) Ian M had seen a Dipper on the stream here, so that’s what I was hoping to see. A Firecrest, or better in the trees around the sewage works would have been welcome too.

Here’s a picture of the wondrous sewage works, there were plenty of birds today including three or possibly four Chiffchaffs, and squillions of Goldcrests.


I had a stab at photographing a Goldcrest, which is no easy task, but got a couple of recognisable shots in the end, all good practice for when I next see the Jubilee Gardens Firecrests, or indeed any hyperactive, teeny-weeny and preferably stripy warblers which may or may not appear on patch soon.


It took about twenty attempts to even get this!!

There was no sign of the Dipper on the upper reaches of the stream but after walking down to the beach I was surprised to see it right by the carpark, on the footbridge alongside the ford. I managed to get this picture from a fair distance away before a couple of walkers flushed it. I had never managed to see one at Branscombe before, all my previous sightings on patch being on the River Coly.

My first Branscombe Dipper

I was going to leave it at that, especially as it started to rain quite heavily and I’d lost Rex again! After several minutes of calling him he eventually appeared, looking all confused as usual, he could hear my voice but couldn’t see where I was. I called again, and this time he ran eagerly towards what he must have been convinced was me….. You've guessed it. It was someone else right?.... Wrong!!........ It was this!!!

"Oh mum, thank goodness I've found you".... what a wally!

Honestly! I ask you, do I really look like a National Trust signpost, even slightly!?? I reckon he’s finally lost it!

I got him back into the car and was just about to leave when the weather suddenly improved. I couldn’t resist having another look for the Dipper, after all when Ian had seen it it was singing and I haven’t heard one singing for years, singing would be a real bonus. I wasn’t going to be disappointed either because I soon located it again, between the carpark and the sewage works and it was indeed singing it’s little heart out. Lovely 'messy' kind of warble, I'd call it. I hadn’t ever noticed before but the Dipper or alternatively Water Ousel (which I like) is a brilliant ventriloquist! It was singing all the time I was watching but the bill appeared to be closed! Here’s a couple more pictures I managed to get from a tad closer.



And finally how about a bit of culture? A lovely poem by George Douglas Campbell, Duke of Argyll 1823-1900

The Song of The Water Ousel

And we scatter little cataracts 
That tumble through our wings,
When we shake the drops from off us
In a shower of silver rings.

And when we see the movings
Of little wings that strive,
We never need to teach them
Or how to swim or dive.

For the music of the river
Has taught them ere we know,
As came their glossy feathers,
As came their breasts of snow.

For the pleasant river loved them
Before they left the nest ;
It laves them in its ripples,
It bears them on its breast.

And from its banks of blaeberry
The tall, white stalks of grass
Bend down their plumes to watch us
And cheer us as we pass.


That was an ordeal, I haven't got rid of the malicious software yet and all the while I've been trying to post my blog entry it's been using up 96% of the CPU trying to open up pop-ups galore! It's therefore taken me ages! So apologies now for any obvious typos, just no time left to check at mo.

EDIT: It was a 'Trojan horse' Removed the blighter now..... I think.... I hope.....

Monday, 24 November 2008

A Turn Up From The Books

The only birding I've managed today was my usual walk to Jubilee Gardens with the dog, where I'm pleased to say I had great views of two Firecrests. They were far too active for photos as usual, I'll get one one day though!!

Not really worth a post that, is it? So to pad it out a bit I'll nick something instead. I've been busy, trying in vain to sort out my embarrassment of books again, the pile is now only half as big but I've resigned myself to the fact that I desperately need a couple more bookcases, hopefully they'll have some at the local auction next month. Let's hope I don't need to answer the front door before then!! Anyway whilst moving some of them today I found another bird related title I didn't realise I had. It's called The Secrets of the Eagle: And of Other Rare Birds by H.A Gilbert and Arthur Brook, published in 1925. It's obviously mainly an account of their encounters with Golden Eagles and their attempts to get close photos of them at the nest. It is really very good and shows just how tricky nature photography was eons ago!! I'm going to share a snippet with you as I've got nothing of my own to report. It's an extract of their account of a day photographing Black-throated Divers on a Scottish loch:

Gilbert and Brook with state of the art camera in front of one of their hides.


We decided to build the hide that afternoon, and leave it over the nest until the following morning, by which time the birds would have become accustomed to it. We sat down to have lunch while waiting for the keepers arrival, and as we wer sitting quietly in the heather we heard the cry of a merlin quite close to us. Presently we saw the little hawk itself, and knew by it’s behaviour that there was a nest close at hand.

Very soon the keeper arrived. At our request he had cut a lot of rushes, with which we meant to build the hide. We put the rushes and everything else needed for the hide into the boat, and the keeper rowed us over to the island. On approaching it a diver came close to the boat, repeatedly making a deep grunting noise. After landing we found to our great surprise that the young had just hatched, at a very early date for a diver. The old birds were very demonstrative, splashing the water close to us, uttering deep grunts. Young divers take to the water at once, within a few hours of hatching, and so the photograph had to taken then and there, or not at all. The young ones were put into my cap to keep them warm, while Brook and the keeper began to build the hide as fast as they could, and I for my part rowed back to get the camera, which had been left at the keepers house, three miles away over the heather. Those three miles can never have been covered quicker by anybody! I arrived back hot and breathless. The hide was ready, the young were replaced in the nest, and in a very few minutes I and the keeper were rowing away again, leaving Brook in wait.

He had not long to wait, the old birds returned almost at once, and the hen came forward. She did not like the look of the hide and hesitated momentarily, but the cock gave her an encouraging call and in response to his urging she came up to the nest without fear. Brook had a great piece of luck with his last plate. The hen had gone away, and as she returned he tried to get a photograph at the moment when she came on to the grass off the water. The bulb did not work and the shutter was not released. He examined the camera carefully, but found that everything was in order. When he looked through the peep-hole again he found to his astonishment that not one only , but that both the old birds had come to the nest. The cock gave some very small fish to the hen, and she in turn fed the young ones with them. Brook pressed the bulb again, and this time the shutter went off. He got a great prize, but had nearly missed it. If the shutter had gone off the first time this incident would never have been recorded. It was a piece of marvellous good fortune, and this is one of the finest nature pictures I have ever seen, so clear that one can practically see the pride and love the birds are lavishing on their young. A very small fish can be seen in the tip of the cock’s beak as he offers it to his mate. Both birds were absolutely unconscious of the fact that any human being is enjoying this picture of domesticity not four yards away from them. Brook finished quickly and we rowed the boat back to fetch him away.


Black-throated divers (Arthur Brook c. 1925)

Those were the days eh? I can't see many people today running three miles over moorland ( after rowing across a loch) to fetch their camera! They'd probably take the photo from three miles away instead!

After this lovely account of getting a great photo the mood is shattered somewhat by the following events after they left the divers:

Going on to where the merlin had been seen, the keeper soon found the nest in the heather, with four eggs. It was the most open merlin’s nest we had ever seen, and in consequence the bird did not sit as closely as usual. Poor bird! She was condemned to death and slaughtered off the nest as soon as we had gone. If an egg collector had taken those eggs he would have been called “ruthless and relentless” by many people. What epithets have they for those who perform such a cruel and useless butchery as this?

For us the fact that a keeper should consider it his duty to destroy these little hawks almost spoilt an otherwise perfect day. We left the merlin’s nest and climbing the hill lay on the heather in the sunshine. The air was very clear and we could see a great part of Northern Scotland from where we were perched. Far, far away over the sea were the great cliffs of Hoy in Orkney. They were clearly visible, the most stupendous precipices in our country. Here once nested the sea eagle, now extinct, utterly destroyed by men like our friend the keeper. Will the nation never learn its lesson from the disasters of the past?

Some things never change!

( Extract taken from The Secrets of the Eagle. H.A. Gilbert and A. Brook. London: Arrowsmith 1925)


Saturday, 22 November 2008

Berry Head

This morning Phil, Bun and me ventured off patch to Berry Head, we left very early to arrive there at dawn. We were hoping to see the Sardinian Warbler which has been showing on and off all week. Unfortunately it hadn't been seen since first thing Friday morning , so I wasn't too optimistic that we'd see it. When we arrived and set foot out of the car things looked even bleaker, the wind was strong, northerly and cold and the dim light of a grey dawn just didn't seem to want to brighten up.
Here's a picture of the visitor centre (with frustratingly closed toilet facility) a gate and a tree:


The tree covered in ivy to the left of the gate is, Phil was reliably informed, a favourite spot of the Sardinian Warbler. So all we would have to do is wait by this until it showed up, right?
There was a lot of scrub for it to hide in and the fierce, cold wind wouldn't be helping persuade it to be anywhere else but deep within this.

A small section of the scrub on Berry Head,

Bun is just visible in the distance in this shot, he had already seen the warbler last week and was therefore more relaxed and having a good look around for anything else of interest. Whilst Phil and I had our eyes fixed on a Dunnock or better in some scrub, he spotted a ring tail Hen Harrier, all too briefly though. I think all in all we spent around four and a half hours looking but I'm afraid to say we dipped. I was somewhat relieved to see that it wasn't seen after we had left so thankfully not gripped too!
As the morning wore on more and more birders arrived, including a few familiar faces. It was also nice to meet a couple of new Devon birders too.

Phil and Matt waiting patiently

To the left of this picture are mine and Phil's scopes, mine having been unceremoniously 'dumped' on the ground, because by now I somehow knew I wasn't going to need it. I wasn't actually too disappointed in not having seen the Sardinian Warbler because I got some lovely close views of my first ever Cirl Buntings. At first light a couple were in trees quite near to us but the light was poor, later though we had great views of some feeding on an area of seeded track and also on and around a bird table in a garden. I got a couple of passable pics of a female but the gorgeous male was always behind branches or on the chicken wire covered bird table playimg havoc with my focus! Not to worry though he was still stunning to look at!

Cirl Bunting a new bird for me :-)

Lovely Lifer!


I reckon by the time we were leaving there were 20 or so birders around, here's a view of some of them.


Doug, Clive, Bun and Phil + some other hopefuls...

With so many eyes watching every square inch of vegetation, chances of seeing the bird were higher, the downside was that any gallon of tea induced, closed toilet exasperated, urgent call of nature had to be taken with EXTREME stealth!!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

An Unusual Falcon

Today after 48 hours of intensive 'puppy therapy' I'd cheered up somewhat and was thus able to venture out in an optimistic mood. I had decided on Axe Cliff because earlier in the morning at about 9:oo am I had seen a couple of big flocks of Woodpigeons flying over town from my living room window, they looked something like this, in fact they looked exactly like this:

178-ish Woodpigeons taken from on my sofa in living room!

Once on Axe Cliff I saw several more large flocks and many smaller ones, they had more or less stopped by around 11:00 though. I estimated having seen about 2000 in total, there had probably been thousands more earlier. They weren't flying overhead but were hugging the edge of the undercliff and then swinging round into Seaton Bay and over town. Here's some just rounding the corner of Haven Cliff:


More thrilling Pigeons

Apart from these there were very few birds, just a couple of Skylarks and the odd Meadow Pipit. Still quite a few Red Admirals on the wing too.

"Yes, yes, very interesting, but what about the unusual falcon?" I hear you cry. Well I first spotted it coming around the headland from the Seaton direction, straight away I thought it looked too big for a Peregrine and the wings less rakish and pointed, they were much broader and blunt looking. The plumage was brown, with the head noticeably paler with little marking. By the time I had fumbled about in my bag for my camera, unattached the tele-converter, turned it on and zoomed in, I only managed one shot of it before it flew in front of the sun and then below the trees and out of sight. Never fear though it's a brilliant shot showing all the features I've mentioned! Yeah right! As if! Here it is though ( you can see the pale head, it's those few pixels to the top left of the blob) :

Speeding brown blob which isn't a Peregrine!

Before anyone cries wanton suppression, I was pretty sure it was either a Saker Falcon or a hybrid of some sort and I was absolutely certain it was an escapee because it was still adorned with a set of jesses!! Anyone lost a falcon?

Once back at home I was sitting on the sofa enjoying a nice cuppa when I spotted a Black Redstart waving at me from a rooftop over the road, without even leaving the comfort of my sofa I took a quick snap and yes, it's as awful as you'd expect:


"Cooee!! Yes you, the lazy git on the sofa!"

Monday, 17 November 2008

Another Kind of Twitching

On the 6th of September at exactly 16:34 I had a text from Gav which said “You’ve just missed a Long-tailed Skua.” It was hideous and immediately went on the record as 'the worst text ever'. Gav may be pleased to know that today it was well and truly supplanted from this position by one I received at 10:17 this fine morning from Steve. It said something like:

“I really recommend the Junco Karen, which I’ve seen already because I went really early, and although I took Bun with me, I didn't call you coz I assumed you would still be snoring your head off in bed you lazy git!! It was really, really stunning! You must see it! Perhaps some other sucker will take you? Or you could even get your finger out and take yourself!!”

Obviously these aren’t his exact words, but it’s exactly what came across to me! I was gutted :(

Seriously though, I admit I could have gone on my own but quite frankly the idea of twitching a bird in a place I’ve never been to before, alone, doesn’t really appeal to me however badly I’d like to see the bird in question; because to me most of the pleasure of seeing a brilliant bird is sharing the experience with others. Perhaps that makes me weird, I don’t know….


Needless to say the only twitching I’ve done today was when my tranquilizers wore off!!

I’ve had to spend the day looking at nice soothing pictures like this one:


Aahh!..... A cute puppy, Now I feel better!

Normal service may be resumed when I find my toys…..

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Some Very Small Inhabitants of Shute Woods

The only birding with intent I've managed today was an hours seawatching from the AYC first thing. It did mostly consist of watching just sea, but a couple of nice birds did eventually oblige. These were a Brent Goose and an unseasonal Balearic Shearwater. If I was to say that my attention was drawn to latter by the phrase "Hello, what's this... A Shearwater" Then you would probably be able to guess who was sewatching too?

I made an afternoon visit to Shute Woods which seemed to be completely birdless today, not to worry though because the reason for my visit was to collect some more ' Finest Shute Woods Moss' the stuff in which Water Bears are found. I've collected moss from many places over the last few weeks but upon inspection none has contained anything much of interest under the microscope. Shute Woods seem to be the only 'Water Bear Habbo' in the area! They were pretty abundant in today's sample and I didn't have to search long to find some. Here's another short video of one:

video

I also collected some water from a boggy pool, I haven't had time for a good look at it yet but it certainly contains lots of Desmids, including this beauty:


Micrasterias


There were lots of Rotifers in the moss sample too and I was really pleased to get a video of one feeding. It's a Bdelloidea and has an obvious twin crown of rotating cillia. In the video you can see these producing little currents and thus directing food particles to the creatures mouth. Cool! Well I think so.....

video

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

I haven't managed to get any birding time in today because I decided to try and make my house a bit less 'Bohemian' today by sorting out a few of my small piles of books, after all I moved in almost a year ago so it's about time I did something with them. I reckon I've got a couple of thousand in total an so it was no easy task! I managed to get a few bookcases filled but still had one small pile left over like so:

A couple of weeks reading matter.


I didn't want to answer the front door anyway! I must get rid of a few of these (after I've read them of course). Know anyone looking for a book? You may be seeing me at a car boot sale near you soon! (well, not soon... that'd be a lie, you won't catch me standing around selling books in a field the WINTER!!!)

I'm going to try and get some birding in tomorrow even though I have this little lot to find a home for, not to mention a certain 'houseplant' that may still need my attention!!!

I have a little bit of bird news from yesterday. I stopped briefly at The Farm Gate and was very pleased to see that a few discerning Black-headed Gulls and Lapwings had found the islands on Black Hole Marsh.




Thursday, 13 November 2008

Drenched Again!

This morning having looked at the weather forecast I decided to take Rex for his walk on Beer Head and go down into Under Hooken, rain not having been forecast until after lunchtime, light rain at that! I arrived there just after nine and the second I stepped from the car it started 'spitting'. I wasn't too deterred and carried on cheerfully, thinking of all those lovely warblers I'd soon be ticking. The rain just got worse and I eventually found myself down in the undercliff sheltering under a small tree.I stayed put for about forty minutes, because at least I could use my (non-waterproof) bins there. This was my view:

There were plenty of birds in the area despite the weather but nothing even remotely scarce. I didn't see a single warbler of any description and only heard a Chiffchaff. I only stayed put for so long because I was hoping for a break in the rain. It just got worse though. I moved on eventually when Rex's pitiful 'whinging an doin' started gettin on me wick ! Not that long ago he'd have been off exploring on his own but recently, since he's begun loosing his senses (in more ways than one!), he's more reluctant to leave my sight. He still thinks sheltering under trees is for wimps though!!

"Oh come on mum, you wimp!!"

On my way back just at the foot of the steps I heard the distinctive call of a Firecrest in the brambles. I stood there in the rain like a fool for about ten minutes waiting for it to show (which it didn't) , why I did this is anyone's guess! I'd only seen one yesterday! I hadn't had the foresight to wear my beautiful binbag suit either so needless to say I arrived home drenched.

I think I should take less heed of the forecast and look to the wisdom of our forebears and the weather lore passed down through generations. Such gems as:

'Sky red in the morning is a sailor's sure warning; Sky red at night is the sailor's delight.'

Bacause on getting out of bed this morning I saw this:

Very Red Indeed.

I should have listened to what Shakespeare said about it in 'Venus and Adonis' “Like a red morn that ever yet betokened, wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field, sorrow to the shepherds, woe unto the birds, gusts and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds.” Then I wouldn't have thought it would just be a little bit of drizzle, would I? I had been warned!!!


Truly Stunning

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Firecrest Quest

This morning I took Rex for one of my favourite winter walks from Seaton Hole to Jubilee Gardens in Beer. It's a good choice for several reasons:

1) The steep climb up to White Cliff is extremely good for the Gluteus maximus and the quadriceps, as well as being good cardiovascular exercise, thus allowing for my continued ample consumption of cakes :-)
2) This strenuous exercise also causes me to be lovely and warm by the time I reach the top, no matter how cold the weather.
3) The route throughout it's entirety has been thoughtfully tarmaced, thus allowing me, my designer dog and slingback shoes to remain mud free even in the wettest of weather.
4) Best of all there is a pretty good chance of seeing one or more Firecrests (definitely one of my favourites), which overwinter here each year.

There is however one major drawback. In any weather conditions apart from persistent rain it's busier than Seaton Town centre!!! I most often go when it's raining funnily enough.

Here's a picture of the path just entering Jubilee Gardens with Beer Beach in the background. The shrubs to either side of the path here are a favourite haunt for Firecrests as are the large Holm Oaks in the gardens themselves.


Today I was fortunate enough to get really good views of a Firecrest in one of the said Holm Oaks, it was feeding in the canopy but eventually came down to branches just feet above my head, there may have been a second and there were also several Goldcrests. I got out the s3, waved it in the right general direction in customary fashion and pressed, I got one shot and the viewfinder went black. Words appeared - "Change the batteries!!" Doh! I always carry a spare set in my bag but I had taken them out on Monday because the bag had got really wet and then forgotten to put them back! For the record, and your amusment here's the shot I got:

Stunning no?

Not to worry 'here's one I made earlier', last year in fact on Beer Head but it's a good excuse to get some more milage out of it.

This is what it should look like.

There was a lot of ivy in flower and this was being visited by many bees, look at this Honey Bee (well I think it's one) gorging itself, pollen sacs a-bulging.


Pollenfest

I could see a distant flock of Scoter on the sea but couldn't make out the Surf Scoter among them from so far away, it was there apparently, so I popped down to the yacht club to look at it. The sea was flatter than of late and the sun obligingly slid behind a cloud for a few minutes allowing me good views of the flock feeding on crabs. You've probably already seen Steve's stunning shots of the Surf Scoter, but that's not going to stop me showing you mine, they're a little on the naff side!


Surf Scoter to extreme left, really!

Quality close up!

While looking out to sea from the house this afternoon I could see that they were much closer. I rushed up to the yacht club with my scope thinking of getting yet another quality close up. I was just in the nick of time to see a motor boat speeding in towards the harbour and the flock of Scoter flying out to the horizon. Pants!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Alexander's Band

No birding for me today, just lots of lovely housework! While toiling away I inadvertently looked out of the window just in time to see a perfect textbook rainbow. It spanned the river but I could only get part of it in a photo.

A nice distraction from the housework, let's face it what wouldn't be!

It shows features galore! Primary bow, secondary bow, supernumeraries (if you look very closely) and best of all Alexander's dark band, the first time I've captured this feature on a photo. Cool! I wont be explaining how it's all formed because it's a bit complicated, well to me it is!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Rex Gets a Bit Wet

This morning I was supposed to be joining the AERG at Colyford Common. I hadn't had any notification that the ringing was off but it was throwing it down, so using my immense intellect I figured it was... I then texted Steve to make sure!! I'd had my regulation gallon of tea and was rarin' to go and wasn't going to let a teensy bit of rain stop me. In my wisdom I decided on a gentle amble along the banks of the River Axe towards Colyton. My departure was slightly delayed as I agonized over what to wear, I toyed with the sparkly pink catsuit, but in the end decided on the simply gorgeous slate grey binbagesque two piece which doesn't clash with my wellies so badly and is supposed to be weatherproof too.

The going underfoot was a bit on the damp and squidgy side, like so:

"Come on mum, it not too deep"

It was though, right up to my knees some of the time:

The elegant binbag suit comes into its own. I'm glad I didn't opt for the catsuit now!


The rain was at times torrential and the wind very strong indeed, birds were a bit thin on the ground but I did see some Redwings and Rex managed to flush ten Common Snipe. A Jack Snipe would have been a nice reward for my efforts, I'll console myself in believing it's way too early for them yet.... It is, isn't it..... way too early!

When I saw the eveidence of last Tuesday's floods on the fences, I began to think it was perhaps a bit foolish to be here when the river was very near to bursting its banks again! Look how high the river had been, the debris on the fence was over waist height on me:


Evidence of last week's floods.
Looking north towards Nunsford Dairy, Colyton

When Rex started trembling I figured he was wet enough, (he's allergic to shampoo, so a good drenching in rain's the only bath he gets, and boy was he ready for one!!) so it was time to go home. Here's a pic of Rex in the car, dripping on my Collins and spare hat and gloves! (stupid place to leave them I know)


What a big drip!

Actually what you can't see from this picture is that he was shivering most pathetically. Being a heartless beast I decided to take a bit of video footage of his wimpiness. Take a look at this, I reckon I could donate it to the Dog's Trust as a fundraising video, poor wretch!! ( I must point out it isn't actually out of being cold, he often does it after any long walk, it's a nervous excitment thing)




No dogs were harmed in the making of this video!

The rain had slowed somewhat by lunchtime I couldn't resist a quick look at the sea, I'd had my quota of getting wet so decided to watch from in the car. I parked on the yacht club carpark and in my wing mirror I could just make out a figure standing next to the 'Spot On' kiosk. I've no idea who it could be. Have you? I took this photo, can you see him? No probably not...

View in my wing mirror. I wonder who that lonely figure at the 'Spot On' is....

I didn't see anything passing, just two Common Scoters sat on the sea, after ten minutes I was just about to leave when Gav arrived, I decided to join him because I figured if anything was out there he'd see it for sure. I wasn't wrong, within minutes he was showing off, calling Gannets left right and centre, I felt woefully inadequate :( . About an hour later we had seen a few Kittiwakes too.

I had to pop over to Colyton later in the afternoon and stopped by Bridge Marsh for a look at the assembled throngs. All common stuff but pleasant to look at non the less. I tried a bit of digiscoping even though it was almost dark. The results were predictably awful, like so:


Teal and Wigeon trying to be colourful.

At 16:08 I was just settling down with a nice cuppa when Steve rang, we'd got a patch 'biggy' at last, "Surf Scoter, Seaton Hole" he enthused. I gave my customary little excited shriek in reply, grabbed my carkeys and was, remarkably for me, first on the scene. The bird was quite distant but easily recognisable in a flock of Common Scoter, the light was fading fast though and I found it more and more difficult to pick out as time wore on. There were NINE local birders on site at one stage, easily the most I've seen at a bird for ages. Here's a really awful photo I took in the near darkness with my phone. I am only publishing it because I'm quite pleased with the way I managed to conceal the face of that mystery bloke in the yellow coat, (you know the one who objects to having his picture on my blog) with a strategically placed plank!! Although I think his identity may be revealed on Gav's blog.


Right to left: Ian W, John, Phil, Ian M and some bloke.