Saturday, 30 January 2010

A Very Tricky ID

This afternoon circa 4.00pm I saw these two at Coronation Corner. Being in rather a hurry I didn't have time to approach them for a clearer view so took a quick record shot from the car (always pays to  have a camera handy).

The one on the left is definitely Clive from Sidmouth but who's that on the right? I must admit to being somewhat baffled because everything points to it being Gav; the place, the time, the behaviour. In fact the general jizz screams out "Yes, definitely Gav!!" But something's wrong. Something in the head area, what could it be?
I'll have to put this sighting down as an aberrant Gavin Haig I think! ;-)

Coincidently about 45 minutes after I'd taken this photo Gav, texted me, telling of an aberrant Herring Gull at Coronation Corner which sounded very interesting.  It was too late for me to go and see it before work though :-(  Check out Gav's Blog he'll probably have photos later ( or indeed now).

Apologies if you came here hoping for a tricky bird ID to solve and just found this silliness. I haven't had any time for birding this past week. Perhaps I'll see something tomorrow though, I hope so! ;-)

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Five Get Ticked in Norfolk

As some of you may know Steve, Bun and myself have been in Norfolk for four days this week. Steve is in the process of writing a blow by blow account of our daily birding activities over on his blog,  so I wont do that here as well, which is good because I'm not sure I can remember exactly what I saw where and when. That's a bit lame I know but I was still feeling rather under the weather and either suffering with a headache or slightly dazed under the influence of large doses of pain killers most of the time. Still it really didn't spoil my enjoyment of the birding and good company and I had a really fabulous time! I got to see five 'lifers' on this trip, those being, Golden Pheasant ( third time lucky at Wolferton Triangle for me; fifth time for Bun!) Shorelark, Snow Goose, Twite and Mealy Redpoll. Certainly as good and better in some cases were the thousands of Pink-footed Geese,the Merlin, Scaup ( including my first ever views of a drake), Smew, Long-tailed Duck, Barn Owls, Marsh HarriersWoodcock (best ever views), Black Brant, Red-necked Grebe, Great Northern Diver (again best ever views) Glaucous GullBearded Tits and Rough-legged Buzzard. Finally and definitely the best birds of the trip for me were the Hen Harriers, with close views of a glorious male at Warham Greens and incredibly close views of a ring tail at Haddiscoe Marshes, she was hunting only about 30ft away having not noticed us standing amongst the trees at the edge of some woodland. Magnificent stuff! Another bonus here was my first ever look at Chinese Water Deer, they're SO cute with their big round fluffy 'teddy bear' ears. In the words of Verruca Salt " I want one, now!"

I didn't take that many photos due to the very gloomy weather conditions which were prevalent throughout the entire trip. Sometimes it  just didn't seem to get light in the morning, it was like constant dusk. I did my best though, well sometimes!

Yes, yes it's true. There ARE Golden Pheasants at Wolferton Triangle and here's the proof. I nearly fainted when I actually caught a glimpse of one. It turned out to be one of three males and a female, two of which bravely came out to feed on the grass verge where we tried to photograph them from inside the car with predictably poor results. A stunning close up perhaps? ... are you sure? Oh go on then..

Awesome ain't it?

There's a video too. Forgive my far from rock steady hold on the camera, I was excited, don't you know! ;-)

I didn't take many scenery shots coz they'd have all looked as dismal and grey as this one.
Behind the bank to the right is Snettisham beach or as it's also known, (well by me anyway) 'The Beach of a Thousand Corpses'  It really was littered with them, a seal pup being the most lamentable. It was good for live birds too though with huge flocks of waders out on The Wash, and on the beach these beauties.

 These were the main target bird this year, having missed out on seeing them last year and the year before too in Bun's case so a welcome lifer for us both. They hadn't been in the usual spot but Steve spied them 500 metres or so further to the north. We managed to get good views and a few photos before they  suddenly started to scamper away from us. Why? We'd been spotted scoping something by a bevy of  birders further along the beach and they were on their way over en masse, the ensuing earth tremor was the cause of the birds retreat.

And here they are, well some of them, a few had left ( probably yearlisters) before I took this photo. One 'gentleman' amongst them did a superb job of endearing himself to us, especially  to Steve!

I took a photo of this obviously wild Barnacle Goose with a compact camera, no zoom was used just incredible fieldcraft!!

This pair of Scaup were on Wells-Next-The-Sea boating lake. It was almost dark unfortunately. I took this awful photo though because it was my first ever view of a drake. Very nice  he was too.

One of the three female Smew at Tichwell. They were always quite distant and all my photo attempts were crap. I've put this one on though because it was amusing watching this individual trying to consume a Roach (I think) that was twice the size of its head!! 

Steve spent a LOT of time on the phone.
 It didn't stop him seeing stacks more stuff than me though. 

The stirringly picturesque Blackborough End Tip, where Bun is enjoying the spectacle of thousands upon thousands of gulls from which to string a Caspian.

Here are a few of them..
Can you spot any interesting ones?
Of course you can't, one because you can't see 'em clearly enough and two, because there weren't any!

Here's an interesting one, but this Med Gull was at West Runton,
 showing well on the 'famous' post in the car park.
Further along the coast at Sheringham was this gorgeous brute..

Phwoar!!!! What a stonking Glonk!

I was thrilled to see this Woodcock sitting out in the open next to a pool alongside Lady Anne's Drive at Holkham. Although it was nearly dark I managed to get an unexpected and pleasingly decent result using 1600 ISO. You can even see water droplets on its back.

Yesterday I also got some surprisingly good results photographing a Great Northern Diver on Whitlingham Great Broad in Norwich, despite the murky conditions, it was obligingly close to the shore though.

This Red-necked Grebe wasn't nearly so obliging and stayed on the far bank in the mist. Even so,  it was my best ever view of one and I managed a record shot. There's plenty of room in the photo though so Gav should approve at least! ;-)

Finally the 'piece de resistance' my atmospheric portrait of the Haddiscoe Marshes' Rough-legged Buzzard. You probably can't see it because thick fog had set in before I thought to get a photo. I'm putting it on here though especially for Bun because it was a lifer for him after FIVE previous dips. Now he can look at this exquisitely detailed portrait anytime he likes and it'll be just like being there! ;-)

Saturday, 16 January 2010


A Spoonbill graced us with its presence today. Phil found it early this morning on Colyford Marsh. Early this afternoon I went down to Colyford Common to see if I could get a photo. It had 'assumed the position', you know the one, that Spoonbill one, yes that's it! Asleep! I waited and waited and after about forty minutes it MOVED! Ten seconds of frantic acitity followed as it fluffed up and stretched out one leg and one wing. Then it went to sleep again. Fortunately I was quick enough to catch all the action. 

The Spoonbill Position.

Don't blink it's awake! 
Nice to see that other strange billed creature, the Shoveler in the background, back  on the marshes where it should be.

Frenetic Activity.

Whilst at Colyford Common I began to feel quite unwell and had to rush home for a lie down before work. I also had to (very regrettably) cry off a planned trip to see the Black Kite in Wales tomorrow with Bun and Joe. Unfortunately for them I was going to be driving. Sorry guys. I just couldn't face the almost eight hour round trip feeling as under the weather as I do. See! I'm not that hardened a twitcher. Hopefully it'll stay for the rest of the winter anyway... Hopefully :-(

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Welcome Guest

On Saturday there were several very sorry looking Redwings hanging about on the pavements around our house. One ventured into our garden, which isn't so much a garden as a few slabs and a bit of gravel. Its visits were very brief and it didn't seem interested in any of the bird food that I'd put out. It started to mainly hang about in our parking area behind the garden where there were a few unfrozen vegetated corners. It was still with us on Sunday, but looking quite unwell. On Monday I was very surprised not to find its little corpse first thing in the morning, it was increasingly inactive though. I had to find something it would eat! I tootled off to the pet store where I purchased a big bag of (extremely expensive) meal worms. On the way home I stopped at various places  to lob a few out of the car window wherever I could see starving Redwings congregating at the roadside. The meal worms were the dried variety so to make them as palatable as possible I soaked them in warm water for a while before putting a few large piles on the parking area and around the garden. I'm happy to say that the bird eagerly ate these, that is when it wasn't being chased off by an equally hungry Song Thrush. Even though the snow had all gone this morning the Redwing was still around and looking much, much improved too. I took a couple of photos of him/her, not very good because despite being tired and hungry it always remained quite alert and difficult to approach, so I had to take them through the window. I think he/she left this afternoon, and although it's only one small life saved out of  many thousands, it was well worth the tiny effort on my part. During the coldest of the weather my regular twenty or so House Sparrows vanished, even though I  kept the feeders full. I don't know where they went or why but they're back now. I suppose a lot more people than usual were putting food out and it was just better than mine!!

Recuperated Redwing

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Bittern Again!

A call form Phil this morning informing me that the Bittern was sitting out in a field near Colyford had me rushing over there hoping for a photo opportunity. By the time I got there it had flown up into a tree and was only partially visible. I'd been in such a rush I'd only gone and forgotten my scope. Doh! I had a quick look at it through Bun's scope before rushing back home for mine. Phil had taken an excellent photo of it while it was in the field (see it here) but the rest of us 'would be Bittern photographers' and a handful of birders just hoping for a good view, had to stick it out, waiting in the biting cold wind for the bird to reveal itself better. It eventually did so,  first by walking out onto the edge of the bushes where it had been hiding and then alighting on the ground next to a large heap of  felled branches. It sat here showing well for a couple of minutes whist being hassled by a Magpie, before moving into the wood pile to hide again. It was in the vicinity of an unfrozen brook, where I hope it had found something to eat.  I certainly never would have thought I'd get my first photo of a Bittern on patch! This afternoon I added yet another waterfowl to my patch yearlist when Phil spotted a drake Goosander on the river from the Farmgate.

'Seeing off' a Magpie.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Bittersweet Birding.

A really good days birding today but at a cost I reckon. Lots of great birds to look at but almost all of them displaced by the extreme weather and seemingly desperate for food. Hundreds of Redwings were conspicuous on any piece of frost free grass or soil, squabbling over the smallest morsel. Such a shame. The freezing conditions are also responsible for our patch mega, the Bittern. A dawn raid by four of us was a great success with a couple of superb flight views. A few birders from further afield arrived a while later just as a heavy snow shower hit. I was pleased to hear that they were lucky enough to get a flight view too. It would be nice to see the Bittern out in the open, perhaps it will stay a while because the weather doesn't look like improving soon, but I do wish it were here in happier circumstances.

The great Seaton Bittern twitch 2010. 
Here (right to left) Steve, Ian M, Brian, and Gav (Don't ask what he's doing coz I have no idea!)  enjoy the freezing wind and driving snow.

During our time at Black Hole Marsh we also saw several Woodcock and a Jack Snipe, which was a welcome patch yeartick for me having not seen one last year. As well as Bittern and Jack Snipe I managed another five patch yearticks today, Cetti's Warbler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Velvet Scoter and Eider. The latter two have been offshore at Seaton Hole for several weeks and I've only just looked at them, that's commitment for you!

After the morning's excitement I decided to take Rex for his walk over the cliffs to Beer, and Jubilee Gardens in the hope of seeing a Firecrest. I didn't. I did have a nice surprise though. Jubilee Gardens faces south and is sheltered from the northerly wind allowing the sun to warm the ground sufficiently for a partial thaw. On all the exposed areas of lush green grass there were  plenty of the expected Redwings, but also a Lapwing and this...

There it is, there! Just behind the dog-poo bin and to the right of the Meadow Pipit.
A Golden Plover!

It was quite approachable considering I had Rex with me and when we were too near it just casually flew around us and landed again a little further off. It appeared to be quite fit and well and I saw it catch and eat several big juicy worms. Definitely the best views of Golden Plover that I've enjoyed. I took a photo of each side of it, like so...


Back on the estuary Steve had re-found yesterday's drake Goldeneye. He was a bit less distant and wasn't diving much either, so he got well and truly digiscoped. Properly this time.


..And with an only slightly less dishy drake Shoveler,
one of several which have had to abandon Seaton Marshes.

So all in all a good days birding BUT I would have been happy not to have seen any of these birds today if it meant that they could feed and generally do what they do, where they usually do it. Here's hoping for some Atlantic weather and SOON!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Fieldfare Invasion.

Lots of blogs appear to feature Fieldfares today, and mine is not going to be any different. I was sitting drinking my morning cuupa when I noticed a large flock of Fieldfares flying west over the house, a few minutes later another one went over, then another, so I went to look out from the back of the house. What a spectacle I saw. Hundreds and hundreds of Fieldfares were streaming over the cliff top in waves, most were carrying on westward but hundreds at a time were landing in a field and some bushes next to the harbour. Tens of thousands must have passed through today! Amazing! I walked over the bridge to the other side of the harbour with my camera and scope to take a few snaps. It was too good an opportunity to miss as Fieldfares are usually quite difficult to approach.

Fieldfare: The Sexiest Thrush in Town.

This poor little mite was really feeling the cold.
I hope they all find plenty to eat; wherever they end up.

I managed to get out to Morganhayes Wood with Rex this afternoon. There wasn't much there, but on the way back I noticed some thrushes at the side of the road picking through the unfrozen leaf litter. As I drove past they flushed and I could see they were Redwings. I reversed into a layby and  waited for them to return. When they did, about thirty seconds later, I took a few snaps to go with my Fieldfare ones.

Why does a stray twig always have to get in the way?
This would have been my best ever Redwing shot by far :-(

A faceful of snow.

Redwing: The Cutest Thrush in Town

After a text from Steve later in the afternoon I found myself at Coronation Corner cooing over a distant but dishy drake Goldeneye. The first Goldeneye I've seen on patch away from the sea. It was a bit too distant to digiscope well, or indeed averagely and was diving once every five seconds to compound matters! Still, never say die.

Wow! Well...
You had to be there!

The day ended with the exciting news that a Bittern (a real patch MEGA) had gone to roost near to Black Hole Marsh. I wonder what the morning will bring?

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Snow, Crocs and Narcissism.

This morning the residents of Seaton awoke to a light covering of snow, a pretty rare occurrence in these parts as a rule. Later in the morning it began to snow some more and seeing as driving was inadvisable I had to put a few chores that I had planned on hold. Shame! Instead I went out to play! I decided to go and have a look around on Seaton Marshes. I only took my bins and the trusty old S3 along, but couldn't use them much of the time due to near blizzard conditions. I was particularly hoping to see a Water Rail up close because in freezing conditions they frequent the ditches near the Seaton Marshes car park, where the water seldom freezes totally (probably something to do with the sewage works?). Unfortunately they weren't there today but there were quite a few birds around, the ditches themselves were alive with Meadow Pipits and the frozen marshes inbetween were covered in Snipe, Fieldfares, Redwings, Lapwings a few Skylarks and a couple of Golden Plovers. Here are a few shonky photos I took.

Snow covered Seaton Marshes with Seaton in the background.
I counted 87 Snipe here with binoculars alone so there must have been many more than that.

Here's a couple of them, it's not nice to see birds struggling to fine food in the snow.
I hope it doesn't last too long this year.

A Miffed Mallard.

A Stoical Stonechat.

A very unusual thing happened during my walk. My feet remained WARM, yes, unbelievably for the first time ever I was out walking in snow, for two hours and my feet were as warm as toast! I suffer from circulation trouble and normally I have cold feet throughout the winter, even indoors. Why were my feet warm today? Crocs, that's why, fantastic, brilliant Crocs! Crocs shoes have been around for a few years now and I've always thought they were horrible and couldn't understand why they were so popular. I still think they look hideous but boy are they comfortable and practical. I got mine you may remember, when I had abused my poor feet into a state of blisters and bruised toenails whilst on the Scillies last October. I just bought the comfiest looking shoes I could see in the shop and have never looked back. The fur lined Crocs mammoth shoes were primarily designed as a slipper, but I've worn mine outside in rain, ice and now snow, they're impervious to it all. I've walked long distances in them too, a couple of miles up onto Dartmoor and back to not see a Black-throated Thrush springs to mind for some masochistic reason. They are the perfect example of 'don't knock it 'til you've tried it' and 'looks aren't everything'.

There they are, bless 'em!
What they lack in looks they make up for in every other way. I love 'em!
In fact I've just acquired a second pair.

This morning I was reading some comments on Gavin's blog and one by Andrew Cunningham got me thinking a bit. He had commented that people who write blogs are narcissistic."Am I narcissistic?" I thought. "Perhaps just a little bit?" No definitely not, DEFINITELY! Gav was a little more charitable saying that a lot of bloggers were not narcissistic, just average to hopeless!! I wondered where I'd fit on that scale (not being narcissistic), and decided that 'hopelessly average' would be about right. Why do I blog though? I would be a liar if I said that I'd  keep on blogging if NOBODY read it, coz I wouldn't. It is nice to know that people enjoy reading your blogging efforts even if it's just a handful of them. I know I have a small number of regular readers because I have Stat Counter (and I can count) A few of them ( the one's I really like ;-)) take the time to comment too, which does give me encouragement. I  mainly write though because I enjoy doing it (most of the time). I get precious little opportunity to write anything these days, or exercise my brain much, working in the Co-op deli an' all! ( note to self - look for new job). It just gives me something to do of an evening especially since giving up the old goggle box two years ago. That's my excuse anyway. It's also a convenient outlet for publishing the hundreds of photos I take, what else can I do with them? Rhetorical question, do NOT answer!

Oh almost forgot! (I didn't really) This afternoon I couldn't be bothered to make my way over to Seaton Hole to see a probable Black-necked Grebe that Ian M had found, because I was slobbing out in front of the fire after my earlier walk. Big mistake! It was only a SMEW! A very rare bird on patch. I got the car out and 'sped' over there. I was too late. Bums!
Finally, we are very lucky to live where we do at the moment, right next to the harbour. Here's a photo of the view from my bedroom window this morning.

Axmouth Harbour and Haven Cliff with a dusting of snow.
  A splendid view indeed, almost as nice as looking in the mirror!  ;-)