Wednesday 30 September 2009

New Moths and a Conehead

While Bun was staying on Portland last week I set up the moth trap at my house a few times and on each occasion caught absolutely zip. Total waste of time. Now the trap's back at Bun's we're getting a few moths each night, only a couple of dozen or so but we've had four new species. Nothing too exciting (or exiting at all even). Here they are in all there colourful, hairy, mothy glory! :-)

Lunar Underwing

Pink-barred Sallow

A couple of Blair's Shoulder Knot
A close up of one of them. A nice moth, nice but not as nice as...

...This. A Black Rustic.
A stunning moth close up, like black velvet.

Here's a photo I took yesterday, it's a bit, (well quite a lot) sad though. Rex was excitedly rummaging around in the undergrowth and when I went over to see what he was up to I spotted this Wood Mouse, , it couldn't move very quickly, fortunately Rex could smell it but not actually see it. Mind you if he'd killed it it wouldn't have been so bad because it was obviously dying anyway. These wee little mites only live for about eighteen months. IF they're not eaten by an owl, cat etc.

Poor Soul

What about the Conehead mentioned in the post's title? Well it wasn't a Short or Long-winged Conehead. Sorry Grasshopper fans. It was this:

" I look a Pillock"

He's been warned but he just woudn't stop biting at a lesion on his back, so drastic action was called for. He's not very impressed mainly because he keeps walking into things not realising his head's now three times the width!!

Sunday 27 September 2009

Plan B

I haven't been out and about much this week due to being host to a lovely little virus for most of it. The news from Axe Cliff isn't good, on Thursday the farmer was spaying the stubble fields with crushed lime and by this morning most of them had already been ploughed.

Today the plan had been to go and see the Long-billed Dowitcher at Chew Valley Lake, me having been inept enough to dip the long staying one at Bowling Green Marsh, it was there for all of FOUR months and I only tried for it once! Bun wasn't able to come with me though because he went off to twitch the Sandhill Crane on Friday evening and still hadn't gotten home by lunchtime today. Not to worry though, there's one on the Scillies which may, just, possibly still be there when we go in two weeks time! You may well be thinking "Why couldn't I just go for it on my own?" Well that's because I'm far too much of a wimp to venture forth to the wild uncharted shores of Chew Valley Lake alone. I'd be scared! ;-)

Therefore plan B had to be implemented.

TodayRadipole Lake was playing host to another example of its specialty 'allegedly un-tickable, exotic floating eye candy' First Hooded Merganser and now Ruddy Shelduck! Great! A lifer for me too in a 'not in a zoo' kind of way. I was there in a flash but unfortunately hadn't got enough change for the carpark and could only pay for a measly hour. Long enough to look at a few ducks you may think but they were showing from the North Hide, a good fifteen minute walk from the carpark, which would only give me 30 minutes to see them. When I got there they were hiding behind some reeds, eek! The minutes ticked away, anxious beads of perspiration appeared on my brow, amongst the vegetation tiny glimpses of bright ginger tormented me, until finally a brief tickable view through a small gap in the reeds as each one sailed briefly into and back out of view. It looked a bit like this.

When my time was up and I was just about to leave they sailed serenely out into full view and showed really well. From where I was standing they were showing on the far edge just to the right of Julian Thomas! Yes, again! They were really.


Cor! Look at them beauties. Tick, Tick, Tick!!
They're on my list. :-)

I spent much too long admiring them and getting a photo, leaving myself far less than the required fifteen minutes to get back to my car. Chances were that it'd be OK, but If I did get a £30 parking fine would it have been worth it? In all honesty, I think not. So I had to run! Well I only ran for a bit, mostly I just walked really, really quickly. All the people I passed were just out for a leisurely Sunday afternoon stroll in the glorious warm sunshine and looked quite amused to see this gasping, heavily laden( scope, bag, two cameras, bins, snickers bar) 'woman' storming past. Even though I am a woman I can't get away with saying that I was 'gently glowing' because by the time I reached my car, one minute late, I was in fact gently glowing like a horse! No ticket though. Just a big fat tick! :-)

Tuesday 22 September 2009

A Day on Portland

Yesterday morning I drove over to Portland for first light, to spend the day there. Bun's stopping at the Observatory for the week and had promised to show me around because I've only ever visited Portland once before and have no idea where all the birding hotspots are. The weather was going to be fine and dry after a clear night so I wasn't expecting to see any 'real goodies' bird wise but there were bound to be a few common migrants at least. I was particularly hoping to see four things. The PBO bookshop, which is very good indeed apparently, the Radipole Lake Ruddy Ducks and Bearded Tits, which I've always managed to avoid seeing on the few occasions I've been there (I've never seem a wild Ruddy Duck) and also Short-eared Owls, which usually show well of an evening at Portland Bill.

I stopped at the top of Abbotsbury Hill to take this snap of the sunrise over The Fleet and Portland. Always a breathtaking view from here barring fog!

Once at the Portland Bird Observatory I dipped my first target of the day, the Bookshop, well I saw it. My plan was to go in and look at the books though!

The contents of the shop are only' showing well' on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.

During the morning we spent hours wandering around and about but migrants were pretty thin on the ground. The Tawny Pipit had apparently been seen briefly in flight again by someone but nothing else notable was reported. I got to see plenty of good sites though, sites where Bun had seen superb birds in the past, needless to say I was gripped, gripped and gripped again. Great fun! Seriously though, it was good to see all the sites I read about on the Portland website each day. The most productive site yesterday was Barleycrates Lane, where the horse paddocks contained plenty of Wheatears, Linnets, Meadow Pipits, Wagtails, a few Stonechats and three gorgeous Whinchats, which were showing really well, allowing a few photos.

This one was quite 'rufous' in appearance..

..This one wasn't.
Align Left
At about lunchtime we set off for Weymouth and Radipole Lake. There were major roadworks at Wyke Regis, which meant we were stuck in a long line of traffic for half and hour or so. This was okay though because as we queued past Ferry Bridge we wound down the window and checked out the birds on offer there. Saved us stopping and paying to park at least! There were plenty of Ringed Plovers, a few Dunlin and 5 lovely adult Mediterranean Gulls. Once at Radipole I shot off in eager anticipation of seeing my first ever non captive Ruddy Duck, Bun popped into the RSPB visitor centre and asked if they were about, he was told " No, they're not here anymore, they've gone" an innocuous enough remark it would seem but considering the species involved the connotations were a tad more sinister. "They've gone" most probably means they have become victims of the DFRA lead and RSPB backed 'ethnic cleansing' campaign in which all Ruddy Ducks must die! (they're are extremely unlikely to have left of their own accord, they've been there for years apparently and aren't known for their ranging tendencies ) Perhaps I'll catch up with one of these charming little ducks elsewhere soon, before it's too late!

We went for a look round the reserve and popped into the North Hide, from where the view looked like this.
Very nice but birdless, in the half hour or so we were in here I saw one Swallow and a Wood Pigeon, Bun reckons he saw two Swallows, but then he's a big show off! On Saturday afternoon this self same view would have been graced by 'our' six Glossy Ibis, which stopped off briefly here after leaving Axmouth.

I dipped Bearded Tits here too for the umpteenth time! We did see a few nice birds though, all at the visitor centre end of the reserve. Including some nice views of Snipe feeding out in the open, a Curlew Sanpiper and the 'infamous' Hooded Merganser, another alien from 'across the pond' . He was looking stunning again now he's back in his breeding plumage. Let's hope for his sake though that he decides to keep his genes to himself!

"Oi! You up there, giz some bread!"

He's got a lot going for him.
Superbly photogenic and supremely tickable! ;-)

We were back at the Obs by five-ish and spent a while on the patio, with some of the other folks staying there.

The 'famous' Obs patio.
I didn't get to 'tick' Martin Cade though, fourth dip of the day.

Look! Bun's made me a very welcome cuppa.
After taking this crafty snap and posting it on my blog I'm afraid it may well be the last!

After our cuppa we went for another wander round until dusk, first to the Obs Quarry to look at the 'most ticked' Little Owl in the country. I didn't need to tick him though so took a photo or two instead. I've tried to get photos of Little Owl on patch but it's always too dark when I see one. This one obligingly comes out while it's still daylight though.

There he is looking like a little rock

And here giving me his best one-eyed evil stare.

Also in the Obs Quarry we got great views of a Lesser Whitethroat eating blackberries in the evening sun, but he wouldn't keep still long enough for a photo. My final dip of the day was Short-eared Owl. We stayed out in the fields above the observatory until it was dark but with no luck. One had been seen on both of the two previous nights too. Oh well, I'll go back one evening later in the year when they have a few overwintering birds to see.

It looks lovely and warm in this evening shot of Portland Bill but a keen westerly wind was blowing and it had gotten pretty chilly as well as being owl-less. The lighthouse in the centre is at The Bill, the one to the left of the shot is the Observatory.

The best sight of the day was yet to come. The sun had dropped out of sight over a ridge and has we made our way downhill it came back into view low over the sea, sinking slowly below the western horizon. I suddenly thought of something, The Green Flash, conditions looked ideal and it's something I've always wanted to see and hadn't managed yet, this could be the time I thought. Bun hadn't heard of the phenomenon, so I told hm what we were looking for and we waited until the very last vestiges of the sun were visible. We then looked through our bins as the sun vanished and yes, there it was! A brilliant green flash just for the briefest of moments. Fantastic! It's really quite rare to get the right conditions to witness it in the UK, we were very lucky! Perhaps not as lucky as some people on a Scilly pelagic though who at the very same time were looking at a Black-browed Albatross !

On Sunday I walked Rex at a spot along the Coly, where I see Hornets at this time every year. I took a couple of photos of one, they really are fabulous insects one of my real favourites.

Aaaww look! She's wiping her eye with her ickle foot.

I also took a couple of snaps of Bumblebees enjoying the delights of yet another 'alien' Himalayan Balsam, one which is also probably earmarked for eradication if possible. Allegedly because it's so rampant that it destroys the biodiversity of an area. In the case of the riparian environment however, I'm in agreement with the theory that it only does so fantastically well here due to the immense eutrophication of the environment by farming. Eutrophication which in itself destroys the biodiversity of native species, species which can't cope with nutrient overload, thus allowing these escaped exotics (which can) to gain a foothold. Treat the cause not the symptoms comes to mind. Anyway, enough whinging from me. At least the bees like it.

Saturday 19 September 2009

Glossy Ibis Do The Right Thing

I was still in bed when I got a call from Phil this morning telling me there were 6 Glossy Ibis on Black Hole Marsh. Once I realised I wasn't actually dreaming, I was up and out of the house in record time. I just threw on some clothes over my thermal jim jams. Yes, you read that right, thermal! Well it is September! I really didn't want to miss these, a much longed for lifer. After all I'd almost gone to Wales, and even Chew Valley Lake to twitch Glossy Ibis, now they'd done the decent thing and dropped by on patch instead. They were distant at first in the murky half light of the early morning, but so what? They were still a superb sight! After several minutes they flew off from Black Hole Marsh onto some flooded fields below the Farm Gate, where they showed beautifully for a couple of hours. They looked particularly pleasant when the first rays of the morning sun hit them, they actually looked vaguely glossy too. I only took a meagre 301 photos, (mainly due to having the camera on continuous shooting, so I end up with loads of virtually identical shots) 296 of them are 'on the cutting room floor' and five are on here thus:

All six together,with onlooking Crow and Curlew.
The crows were giving them a bit of a hard time on occasion.

Thoroughly enjoyed them, much more than if I'd seen them off-patch I reckon. They really looked at home on Axmouth Marsh. I think they left us this afternoon though. Lots of birders came to see them during the morning whilst I was watching, I took a couple of snaps of some.

A somewhat overexposed Steve busy digiscoping,
with (parts of) three birders from Somerset in the background

Some more local birders, ( well mainly, Doug from the Otter is just leaving in in background)
Others are John, Nick, Bun and Gav, who looks quite uncomfortable. Someone needs to tell him that his tripod has extending legs!!

I eventually managed to tear myself away from the Ibis, to take Rex for a walk. I chose Axe Cliff and was pleased to see this when I got up there.

All the wheat has been harvested at last! There are now acres and acres of lovely stubble. Perhaps we'll see some good birds on it soon.

Highlight of my visit was flushing a Gropper from some long grass. The second I've flushed up here this Autumn. Also something rather unprecedented happened up here too. I felt warm!! Very warm in fact. The reason being I'd been too lazy to remove my thermals from underneath my jeans before I went. I had removed them before I got back!! No one was looking except this pair.

When I saw a large somewhat overweight Basset Hound running ( after a fashion) towards me I thought it would make a great photographic subject, just look at that tongue and those ears. Brilliant!

I've mentioned before that Rex is steadily loosing his sight well here's some more proof. Poor chap.

"Look Rex, look. On the path just feet away! A Pheasant! See it?"
"Duuuh what?"

A rather naff snap of a Kestrel doing a spot of dangling.
Always amazes me.

Early afternoon I spent a while on the beach up at the Yacht Club. It was just like a day in mid-summer ( well like a day in mid-summer should be). The Stuart Line cruise boat from Exmouth was moored up just off the beach and a large and eager queue of punters were just itching to get back on it. Seaton's not all that bad, is it?

This last photo illustrates one of the uses of the Canon S3 super zoom. While I was on the beach I spotted a flock of birds, high up, coming in off. I hadn't got my bins and couldn't tell what they were. So I just pointed the camera at 'em, zoomed in, pressed the shutter, reviewed the image and hey presto! 23 Curlews. Could have been something better though! ;-)

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Pectoral Sandpiper on Black Hole Marsh and Lesser Horseshoe Bat

Late morning I heard news of a Pectoral Sandpiper on Black Hole Marsh, which Steve had found. I was late getting the news due to phone reception problems. I popped down there after lunch and soon saw it in amongst a flock of Dunlin and Ringed Plovers. Doug and Ray from the Otter were already there when I arrived and Dave and Brian from even further west arrived a little later. They had been on there way to the Tufted Puffin (!!!) in Kent but had abandoned the idea after negative news came through. We enjoyed good but distant views, the wind was very strong, the heat haze quite severe and hence the digiscoping near impossible. Predictably Brian, Dave and myself spent a good while trying to get a shot or two anyhow. I got a few recognisable ones, if a bit distant. Perhaps it will come closer to the cameras at some stage, perhaps later in the evening, we'll soon find out I suppose ;-) Anyway here's my effort at a few photos of my third Pec Sand on patch.

Black Hole Marsh looking fantastic.
The Pec Sand was way over in the far left hand corner, but did come a bit closer eventually.


Shaking a Tail Feather

Hooray! Standing Still.

Taking a Bow

Trying to get a photo:
Brian's smiling coz he's spotted me taking this crafty snap.
I don't think Dave's spotted me though, I wonder why?

I found out what my mystery caterpillar was, rather disappointingly just another Fox Moth! It's just an earlier instar, looks much better than the final instar in my opinion. Oh, and thanks to Harri from Finland for the quick response on Birdforum ( not that he'd be reading this).

While I was halfway through writing this I heard from Bun that the bat, which roosts periodically in his bathroom, on the shower-head, was 'showing well' really early for it too. I've missed seeing it countless times so rushed round there. I was in luck this time and got a couple of photos and a bit of video too. It's a Lesser Horseshoe Bat, a species who's stronghold is in the Southwest, but is rare nationally so I feel very privileged to have seen it:-)