Sunday 5 October 2008

Wet and Windy Weather.... Bearing Gifts!

The weekend started on a bit of a low note as like Steve I was working on Friday evening and missed out on the wader ringing session down at Colyford Common. It was particularly gripping to learn that a Jack Snipe was caught. Jack Snipe is a glaringly obvious gap on my patch yearlist which I try hard to ignore, a nice easy in the hand tick would have been most welcome and would have saved me from endless yomping around in bogs come December! Then on Saturday morning I was loafing around at home, instead of getting to the yacht club nice and early and was handsomely rewarded for this lackadaisical attitude with a gripping phone call from Ian M. He said " I've had an Arctic Skua and a Grey Phalarope past in last twenty minutes". Five minutes later I was there. Seawatching was disappointingly slow but a nice highlight was a female Velvet Scoter in a flock of Common Scoter. Grey Phalarope was another patch yeartick missed! :-(

By mid- afternoon I was beginning to get the urge for more seawatching, my neshness was preventing me from braving the elements unnecessarily though. I decided to give the sea a quick looking over from the bedroom window first. Am I glad I did! I started watching at 3:00 PM and by 3:15 I'd seen a Sooty Shearwater, 2 Balearic Shearwaters, 4 Arctic Skuas, and a pale phase adult Pom!! I could hardly believe it, I'd got to get to the yacht club, what if I saw a possible Sabine's or Grey Phalarope? I'd never be able to stay with it for long enough to be sure! Although I have a view of the sea from the house it's restricted due to the small size of the window and also more annoyingly by the way the window opens. Like so:

Annoying, far from ideal, but warm!

I have about three scope FOV widths at the left of the obstruction and about four to the right, so if I'm lucky enough to pick up a bird in the space on the left I have to wait for it to reappear on the other side!! I can't watch with the window closed because the double glazing panel has blown and gets full of condensation.

When I got to the yacht club Ian M had just arrived, we saw lots more Balearic Shearwaters. I had to leave at 4: 30 and had seen a total of 19 by then. Ian stayed longer so there may have been more. The major highlight was another Sooty Shearwater, it was pretty close in ( for Seaton) and the superb light made it look awesome!!

The strong southwesterly blew all night and so I was out at the yacht club again quite early this morning, Ian was again already there. Gavin, who's in the Scilly Isles at the moment was noticably absent from his usual spot and today it was occupied by a small red container, thus:

Ian M, but no Gav....

Coincidentally the small red bucket replacing Gav bore a familiar name!! Thus:


What about the seawatching? It was very good again. There weren't as many Shearwaters but that was more than made up for by the glut of Skuas, I was really, REALLY hoping for a Long-tailed Skua but they were all (well all the identifiable ones) Arctics. I saw a total of 8 Arctic Skuas and a couple of unidentifieds. Also seen were 4 Balearic Shearwaters, 16 Common Scoter, an Arctic Tern, a Common Tern, 11 Kittiwakes and the first patch Great Northern Diver of the autumn. Steve had been watching from his usual spot at the 'Spot On' kiosk and phoned me with news of a Red-necked Grebe sitting on the sea. I'd got to see this , not only a valuable patch year-tick but much more significantly a lifer! Ian and I moved down to the kiosk and Steve very patiantly persevered with directions (as best you can on a featureless seascape) until we both connected. It was quite distant and in the glare of the sun for a time, but eventually did the decent thing and drifted in closer so that we got some good views before it flew off west, about 30 seconds after Phil had arrived to see it!! Jammy! Bun wasn't so fortunate..

Twitch at The Legendary 'Spot On' Kiosk

Bun (second from left) is unpacking his scope, but just too late! Phil (third left) is looking quite pleased after his large helping of jam!!Why does Steve like the 'Spot On' kiosk so much? There is a clue in this picture, see that innocuous looking white door on the side of the kiosk, well behind there all sorts of nasty artery clogging, supposedly edible concoctions are conjured up ( allegedly!), and most of them probably eagerly devoured by Steve!! Or, he could actually like all the "What you looking at" type comments from passers by, though I doubt it; we certainly attracted our fair share of those this morning!

After enjoying the Red-necked Grebe we all went our separate ways. Ian M went to Colyford Common to see if anything had been brought in by the stormy weather, I went home for a cuppa first! Fortunately I had just finished it when I got a text: "Grey Phalarope Colyford Common" Time for another twitch! When I got there along with Ian Waite, and later Phil and Bun the bird was still showing really nicely on the scrape, unfortunately it favoured the fashionable East Bank (the snob!) and remained far too distant to digiscope anywhere near verging on half-decent!

Over-sharpened. naff but nice!


Here's a little video too:

During a quick look at the river this afternoon I saw this Blackwit with colour rings, no need to send the details off though as it matches the rings fitted to the Axe Estuary Ringing Group's first Blackwit, caught and ringed on Friday evening (while I was in the Co-op twiddling jars around :-( ).
Very Jazzy!

Just in case I haven't bored you enough yet, here's some more pictures from my new found passion for Micro-digiscoping:

What a little sweetie!

This one (above) is a nymph stage of the crustacean Cyclops

Rotifer of genus Synchaeta


Euplotes is an interesting ciliate with a transparent body.Ciliates are unicellular protists that can be recognised by their hairlike 'cilia'. They use them for locomotion and for feeding.

Oligochaete worm

Oligochaete worms have bristles which are used to grip when creeping between water plants or when on the bottom of a pond. Like many pond organisms they are very transparent. Their internal organs are clearly visible. Their stomach always give a nice glimpse of their prey.

This one's my favourite:

A 'gorgeous' little Gastrotrich!!

Gastrotrichs are small (most commonly 0.1 - 0.5mm) transparent creatures. The name means, get this!! "hairy stomach" and refers to the carpet of cilia which covers the creature's underside, enabling it to glide smoothly over plant and other surfaces. The gastrotrich's back can be covered with scales, or more commonly, an array of curved spines of varying length as seen on this specimen.

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