Monday 29 December 2008

Laid Up ... Again!

Yes, I've been laid up all weekend with another bug. Oh well, it's nice to feel wanted, even if it is only as a breeding ground for nasty viruses! Today I  had to venture out for two reasons, firstly I had to take some urgent documents to the accountants and secondly Rex's been going stir crazy stuck within the confines of our small garden (yes, that's right no one else will take him for his walk, teenagers-don't you just love 'em). I took him to Morganhayes (least strenuous for me) and was pleased to hear several Crossbills  chupping away though I didn't manage to see them. This was the first time I've had any sign of them for quite a while now. I don't think I'll be seeing any Siskins here this winter though because the birch trees appear to have no catkins at all.

After this I dragged myself into Seaton and to the accountants to find that they're closed until the 5th of January, so much for urgent! It's all right for some I suppose.

Returning home alongside the estuary I stopped and joined Gav at Coronation Corner, to be honest I was feeling pretty unwell  but everytime I decided to leave, Gav said  something like "Hello, what's this ... another Med Gull" and I just had to see them all, didn't I? I managed to stay long enough to enjoy 4 Med Gulls in total, two adults, a second winter and a first winter. One adult was begging to be digiscoped, like they do, so we naturally obliged.

Med Gull having it's nap ruined by a marauding Mallard

A bit of shut-eye at last

Friday 26 December 2008

Twitching Again

With a lovely sunny, albeit pretty nippy day ahead I really fancied seeing a nice new bird. Yes, Snowy Owl would have been really welcome but not today sadly. I haven't been able to completely shake off the virus that I've been suffering from and have been feeling a bit groggy again of late. Therefore a six hour round trip didn't appeal in the slightest, even with such a great bird in the middle of it. Perhaps I don't want to see it that badly after all! I needed something nearer, so popped over to Radipole Lake in Weymouth to look at the infamous 'vagrant' Hooded Merganser. Whatever its 'status' it certainly looks good in the thousands of photos of it adorning Birdguides. The journey to Radipole via the coast road takes a little under an hour and is one of the most scenic I know, here's a couple of views from the road:

Looking back wesst towards Devon.
The headland in the mid-distance is Golden Cap at Seatown.

The breathtaking view from the top of Abbotsbury Hill, showing St. Catherine's Chapel in the centre foreground, with The Fleet, Chesil Beach and Portland in the distance.

When I arrived at Radipole the Hooded Merganser was nowhere to be seen, I couldn't see it among the feeding frenzy of ducks being thrown a couple of loaves near to the visitor centre, so I looked by the Gurkha Restaurant. It wasn't here either but I did spot a familiar face, one of the Radipole Lake ringing team, who joins us for the cannon netting on Seaton Marshes. He kindly told me where the Merganser hangs out when not eating bread, and sure enough there it was!

The Hooded Merganser's usual 'hang out'. Bridge over the River Bread!

Ah-ah! There it is speeding past me!

Even though there are enough photos of this bird on the internet to 'stretch to the moon and back' I still wanted to take one. This meant legging it about a quarter of a mile down the main road trying to get in front of it to gain a good vantage point. I eventually succeeded but didn't have very long as it motored past at full throttle. Here are the results:

Whoops! That's a Tufted Duck. Still, exciting stuff for a 'Backwater Birder' :-)

A nice little 'bread-powered' ducky-wucky.

A little bit of news from on patch is that the Black Redstart is still on Trevelyan Road, I saw it on our roof this morning and next door's this afternoon. Also another garden tick this morning with my first ever Blackcap, I didn't think I'd ever get one of these in the garden, I'll have to put some apples out.

Thursday 25 December 2008

Ruff and Tumble.......

I had a very unexpected garden visitor this morning in the shape of a tristis type Chiffchaff, which I spotted whilst on the way to the car. I took Rex for a walk along the River Coly before the post Christmas dinner rush began.It was still pretty busy though!(the pre-Christmas dinner rush no doubt). The floods a week last Saturday had taken their toll on the quality Environment Agency bank stabilization. I only took some photos a couple of weeks ago, if you remember them.Today it was much worse:

There were hundreds of Redwings and Fieldfares in the trees and a nice highlight was a feeding flock of around 40 Siskins in the riverside alders, the first I've seen here this winter.

On the way to Colyton I bumped into Gav at Colyton WWTW and he mentioned that he'd seen a Black Redstart at the AYC earlier in the morning, I hadn't seen it yet but when I got home I soon found it on next door's front garden. It was visible on their roof on and off all day.

Yet another Black Redstart

Here's a typical view of a Black Redstart from my kitchen window.

I stopped by at Bridge Marsh and saw the Brent Goose and also the Ruff which Gav had found this morning. There were also (well I counted) 52 Black-tailed Godwits here.

Bad points of the day were, breaking a tooth (dentists not open 'til New Year either I suspect) and falling down the stairs!! I'm OK, just a little bruised. I was carrying the cat at the time, he's non too pleased either!!

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Rex Gets a Treat

I took Rex for his walk at Colyton WWTW (sewage farm) today, there were lots of Chiffchaffs in the trees, at least fifteen, I couldn't see the Siberian one today though. I met local birder (Hawfinch) John whilst there, after chatting for a while he left to walk along the River Axe towards Colyton and try to flush some Snipe or Jack Snipe even. I couldn't go with him coz I'd got inappropriate footwear on, ah well, I'm not fussed about Jack Snipe anyway, am I? ;-)

Due to today's date I decided to humiliate Rex with the annual airing of his festive scarf, he loves it! He was 'glowing with pride' as he hid in the footwell of the car. He just couldn't wait to get out an show it off. Oh, how the other dogs laughed! I think it looks very dashing:

"Thanks a lot mum, you're all heart!"

On the way home I just had to stop at the estuary and look through the assembled gulls. Yesterday I had seen two Mediterranean Gulls, an adult and a second winter, today I could only see one adult. It was however, a bit closer than normal, thus allowing for a few digiscoped shots, again I just had to! They're so photogenic. :-)

With BHG for comparison.....

.... and one of it alone, and why not?

If I hadn't been working today I would have been sorely tempted to drive to Cornwall to see the Snowy Owl... may still be if it stays... hope it does!

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Monday 22 December 2008

Cannon Netting

An early start for me this morning, out on Seaton Marshes for 7:00 AM where the Axe Estuary Ringing Group and our friends from Slimbridge were cannon netting for the final time this year. The catch was reasonably small today with most of the waterfowl seemingly not interested in the bait this morning. The nets were fired just prior to dawn again hoping to avoid catching too many Crows. Total birds caught numbered 46 with 19 of them being re-traps. They consisted of 24 Shelduck, 10 Mallard, 5 Wigeon, 1 Teal, 5 Carrion Crow, and a Moorhen.

I had a real treat getting to ring my first Crows. They're a teensy bit vicious and drew blood on a couple of occasions!! As soon as I got the first one out of the bag it tried to take a piece out of my finger and also had a go at clawing through my trousers. I was so perturbed by this I took a photo! Naturally due to the slight discomfort it turned out a little on the out of focus side, like so:

The 'black bird of death' attacks my innocent defenseless leg, good job I was wearing my trusty 'claw-proof thermals' today!

Pete assured me that a good way to stop them ripping chunks out of your fingers is to pop their head under your jumper while you put the ring on them. I undid my coat and stuck the birds head beneath my fleece, only to hear him say "Well, I'd usually put the head between my coat and jumper". I wasn't worried, I was wearing my peck-proof thermal vest too!

I also got to ring a Moorhen and best of all a drake Teal, a real little cracker!

Here's some photos of the mornings activity:

Some of the team at work

The friendly crow caught in a rare moment without my finger in his beak.

Doug and drake Wigeon

An educational one: Two female Wigeon, the one on the right showing white feather edges on the coverts is an adult the other one a youngster.

Female Wigeon

A handsome drake.

The morning's 'star bird' being aged as an adult....

....and being admired by Fraser in the obligatory ' bird being admired by Fraser shot'.

....and finally in glorious technicolor close-up.

Mike's photo of the 'happy team'. There were 21 of us today!

After the ringing I had to go to Lyme Regis on an errand and couldn't resist having a little peek at the Purple Sandpipers. I could see eight on the rock armour behind The Cobb and here are two of them:

This afternoon I had a quick look at the Pale-bellied Brent Goose which has been on Bridge Marsh since yesterday. I took a few snaps but they were really naff, so I'm not publishing them.There's a first time for everything! ;-)

Finally I spent a while with Gav at Coronation Corner looking through the thousands of Gulls along the river, three Mediterranean Gulls were all we could pick out (for we read Gav). I was ever so slightly tempted to rush home and scope them from the bedroom window and thereby get one on my house list. I decided it can wait though coz it's almost inevitable I'll see one soon. Talking of house list I've been living in my present house for exactly a year and a day and my house list stands at 91.

Sunday 21 December 2008

Off Colour and Off Patch

Sorry about lack of blog updates for the last week but I've been suffering from a nasty virus and only recovered yesterday afternoon, just in time to go to work!

Today I've been off patch, well off patch, in fact I've been 'up north' to Staffordshire and Burton-on Trent my hometown. Before leaving I did something a few of you might have done; I suppose it's probably a regular thing with hardened twitchers, but I've never done it before! I really wanted to see Waxwings and so planned our route via a couple of convenient venues namely, Minsworth or Sutton Coldfield, both in the West Midlands, and both of which could easily be made to be on route. We decided to try Sutton first. We knew where this site was because it was one street down from where a friend of ours lives. To save valuable time we loaded the location onto the sat nav to get us there by the quickest possible route. Unfortunately it sent us up the M6 toll road for just ONE JUNCTION!! £ 3.50 the poorer, we arrived at our destination but after forking out that much money to drive a few hundred yards I just knew I wasn't going to see any!!
On reaching the correct road I spotted a couple of birders ( very obvious in suburbia), and asked if they'd seen any Waxwings, they hadn't, but weren't sure if they were in the right place. I pointed them in the direction of the berry trees in question and they kindly informed me that they had already dipped at Minsworth, so there wasn't much point trying there too. We parked up and waited. Obviously I wanted to wait for as long as it was going to take, BUT going twitching on route to somewhere else with three non-birders, two of whom are TEENAGERS was a ridiculous idea from the start!! After about 25 minutes waiting, 'circumstances' (that's all I'm saying) forced us to leave at 9:30.

On reaching my parent's house some strange masochistic urge had me firing up my mum's computer and logging onto Birdguides. I knew what I was going to see ....... Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield Road, 10 Waxwings 9:40!! - Arrgghh!! If the two nice chaps I met there somehow find this then I would like to say "I'm very pleased you saw them" Really I would!

Here a photo of the scene at 9:20:

20 Minutes later these trees were dripping with Waxwings :(

During a busy day's relative visiting I somehow found time to visit Willington Gravel Pits a fairly new nature reserve belonging to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust just on the edge of Burton. I was recommended to visit here by Richard Powell, a fellow Burtonian, who I found via his blog 'Local Birding For Local People' Thanks Richard! :-)

The lightly vandalised information board.

I was hoping to see some Goldeneye here but there weren't any today, in fact there wasn't an awful lot at all probably due to this:
A volunteer working party: several of whom like the one visible in this picture (only just mind!) were wearing day-glow fleeces. Somehow I knew I wasn't going to see too much.

Actually moaning aside, it was really nice and I saw plenty of birds that would probably cause a local twitch on our patch, like so:

General View: Let's zoom in on some of the blobs and see if we can make them into bigger blobs.

Tufted blobs and a Male Goosander

There were loads of these sorts

Two of these...

Also loads of Pochard, but nothing out of the ordinary locally .

It was a lovely reserve and I'll no doubt be visiting again, I also left today having seen a lifer, not a terribly exciting one it has to be said. Here it is in all it's blurry pixcilated, glory:

A Willow Tit

Finally, just one of hundreds of scenic Burton-on-Trent highlights which I could show you:

Breathtaking! Literally sometimes... It's where all the Marmite comes from.

I had a few formatting issues with this post so apologies if anyone was reading it ( as if! At after midnight!) when part of it had vanished.

Sunday 14 December 2008

A Few Bits and Bobs Today

As soon as it was light, which wasn't until almost 8 o'clock this morning (I'll be glad when we get past the winter solstice) I popped up to the Yacht Club. First I had a quick look over the sea and it was rubbish with 13 Common Scoter and about the same number of Wigeon and that's it. Then I decided to have a look for the Black Redstart which Gav had found yesterday afternoon. This didn't prove much of a challenge as quite a few birds were making the most of all the debris washed up by yesterday's flood, including said Blackred. I got my scope out and took some photos like so:

You can tell it was a bit chilly this morning.

It was very cold and I didn't hang around too long, on my way home though I had a brief glimpse of what I thought must be another Black Redstart near the slipway. I had just left the other one right down at the eastern end of the harbour, but obviously it could have been the same one. Later in the afternoon I returned to the harbour and took a few snaps of some of the birds which were still hanging around feeding on the debris, including the second Black Redstart, this time I got a better look and it was definately a different bird because it was a male, a young male I think. Although it had quite subdued colours it had the beginnings of a dark face and an obvious white panel on black wings. Unlike the morning's female it was very flighty and the only piccy I could mamge was this very distant, very noisy, drive by effort with the s3.

The Second Blackred, A Young Male

I also took some snaps of other birds including these:

Common Sandpiper, there were two of these in the harbour today.

In the top right corner of this photo you can probably just make out a nice diesel slick, (courtesy of yesterday's sunken boats) which this bird was feeding perilously close to.

This is the first one of these I've seen in the harbour, (yes, I probably haven't been looking hard enough). It is also an obvious gap on my house list - perhaps I should have rushed home and scoped it from the bedroom window.

Late morning I walked the dog in the Mare Lane area of Beer, where Bun has seen a Merlin recently. I didn't see this but there were lots of birds around, including Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Yellowhammers, Chaffinches, a Brambling and a pair of Stonechats. I won't bore you with another Stonechat photo, but this one should get your pulse racing:

Control yourselves! Actually I thought I ought to give Dunnock a bit of 'airtime' as we caught 17 of these at last weeks ringing and I didn't photograph one. This one's obviously trying so hard to look his best too!

While wasting my time photographing Dunnocks I got a text from Phil saying there was a tristis type Chiffchaff at Colyton sewage works. Fortunately I was already 'under orders' to go to Colyton and fetch Martha's wages from the pub. So after dropping off the dog and picking up my wellies I popped over for a look. I trudged through the muddy field, waded through the flooded gateway, stumbled over the slippery stile and not a Chiffchaff to be seen!! Well, there was a very cold wind, so they must have been sheltering somewhere. I was just getting back in my car when I spotted them, they were actually inside the works compound in some bramble patches and also feeding on flies on the walls of one of the large filtration beds. They were frustratingly distant and I could only look at them through some chainlink fencing. I did spot one which looked very different though, it was very pale, (it really stood out) with no disernable yellow or green in the plumage and a hint of a pale wingbar. It's difficult to be sure at the distance though. I tried my best to digiscope it through the wire fence. Here are the results, two of the pale one and one regular one for a comparison:

Pale Chiffy

..... and again

'Normal' Chiffy

And finally, back to the harbour for an update on yesterday's boats:

This was one of the two boats which were completely submerged. It was finally recovered today.

I wondered how a boat as substantial as this one succumbed to the floodwater, when other lesser craft didn't. Today that all became clear. When the boat surfaced I could see its name emblazoned along the side, and the front, oh and the back. What is that name? Sea Seeker?, Viking Warrior? Ocean Reaper? No it's.... Wait for it... Missy Moo-Too. Yes really! Missy Moo-Too!! Obviously a 'self-inflicted sinking' due to extreme embarrassment. :-)