Monday 30 August 2010

Marsh Harrier

With reports of Ospreys not far to the  north, east and west of us today , hopes were high this afternoon when Bun and I arrived at Black Hole Marsh/Colyford Common to wait for one to fly over our patch. I haven't seen an Osprey on Patch since September 2008 (the bird pictured at the foot of this blog)  There have been a few but I've managed to miss them all. In fact I haven't seen an Osprey at all, anywhere, since then! I still haven't :-( What we did see, however was a Marsh Harrier, coincidently the first I've seen on patch for almost two years! It hung around for about an hour, periodically hunting over the Axe Marsh and Colyford Marsh reed beds before finally tiring of the constant harassment from the local crows. It flew off high south, fortunately not before it was seen by most who came down to see it. The three gorgeous Curlew Sandpipers were still on Black Hole Marsh, and a Little Ringed Plover was new on Colyford Marsh..

A couple of naff snaps of the Marsh Harrier from the 'super' super-zoom. It didn't do too badly all things considered.

Also today's addition to the'Naught Birders' series...
Some 'naughty birders' are serial offenders, so it seems. ;-)

Sunday 29 August 2010

Curlew Sandpipers

Three Curlew Sandpipers were showing very well indeed on Black Hole Marsh this morning. Great to see these on patch again, after what I think was a Curlew Sand free year last year.
Curlew Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper and Dunlin ( a very small Dunlin at that)
Here he is again, certainly made me look twice!

A couple of shots of all three having a bit of a quarrel.

Also a bit of video of all three Curlew Sands feeding.

One final addition, this evening I popped down to BHM again to see if anything new had turned up. It hadn't. But I did get a nice addition to my 'naughty birders' series of photos! :-)

Saturday 28 August 2010

Another Good Day on Patch

I was a bit late arriving at Beer Head this morning ( the urge to stay in bed was just too great) thus missing most of the best birds on offer. I could probably have caught up with the Pied Flycatcher and possibly the Spotted Flycatchers, but instead decided to join Bun for a look around the Beer Cemetery Fields, there wasn't much variety but I was very pleased to see at least six possibly seven Spotted Flycatchers here. I really do like Spotted Flycatchers, a loteven though they're not very colourful and haven't got much of a song they have that 'je ne sais quoi' - character I suppose. I've never managed to get a decent photo of one before, well before today! A couple of them were very well behaved, like so.
This one was looking very dapper
 sporting a fine blackberry based hat.
This smart Yellowhammer distracted me for a while,
 another underrated bird I reckon.

While we were at the Cemetery Fields Steve called to say he'd found a Cattle Egret. It had landed in with some cows in a field between Seaton Marshes and Black Hole Marsh. We decided to go down there for a look, like you do. It wasn't easy to get close enough for a photo, but we had very nice views non the less.
Distant Cattle Egret..quite a good photo of the cow though.
Even worse photo of the Cattle Egret.
..Quite a good one of Phil though ( not trespassing, obviously) hiding behind the hedge ...
Wonder what he's taking a photo of...
...The Cattle Egret obviously..And couple of birders who are also NOT trespassing!
Any similarity to Bun and I is purely coincidental
( Thanks for the use of photo Phil).

Whilst leaving Beer Head I looked out to sea and noticed a sure sign that it's August Bank Holiday weekend, a mass of 'weekend fishermen' racing out of Axmouth Harbour towards Beer Head. What's the rush!? Fishermen are a strange lot aren't they?
"First one there gets THE fish!!"

A Wonderful Evening's Birding

I  thought I'd spend a nice quiet couple of hours down at Black Hole Marsh/Colyford Common this evening. Seeing as it was the first dry and sunny evening for a few days several other local birders had a similar idea. Black Hole Marsh was on top form after having been drained for the construction of the new hide and 'gangplank' arrangement. 'Star of the show' this evening was a Spotted Redshank ( less than annual on patch) which dropped in from the north. I was immensely pleased with myself for spotting and identifying it in flight, having only heard one calling once before. It landed on the far side of the marsh, so gave reasonable views but no real photo opportunities. When I say it was the 'star bird' I might not be being totally accurate, it was indeed the rarest bird on show this evening and a couple of locals even 'twitched' it, but the remaining Ruff (there were two earlier in the week) was getting a lot of the attention merely for being a 'showy tart' and we all like one of them! Other birds on the marsh were good numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plovers (30+ of each), Common Sandpipers 3, Green Sandpipers 5, Greenshank 1, Black-tailed Godwit 7 and a Wheatear. Bun and I popped over to check Colyford Common/Marsh and saw another Wheatear, 4 Greenshanks, 2 Green Sandpipers and the two elusive Wood Sandpipers that have been around for a while. A great bonus came when Bun spotted that the Barn Owl which resides on the opposite side of the valley from the Colyford hide was out of its nest box and perched in a tree. After a few minutes it flew off, but reappeared later at Black Hole Marsh, much to the assembled birders' delight. It hunted along the ditch and bank at the southern edge for a couple of minutes before being 'seen off' by the inevitable Crow attack. A superb end to a wonderful evenings birding! ( the Barn Owl that is, not the subsequent Crow attack).Here follows divers pictorial representations, or indeed, loadsa photos!
The'embyonic' new hide
This is a Spotted Redshank, HONESTLY!

The Spotted Redshank Twitch.
 Featuring Gavin Haig, who for a while (or so it seemed) was also heading for 'less than annual' status!
The elusive pair of Wood Sandpipers, showed annoyingly briefly.

Far too many Ruff photos.
Seeing as Gavin's shown you how well the Panasonic Lumix FZ38 takes photos of close Ruffs, I'll show you how disappointing the Canon SX1 is proving to be, this being the very best of an awful bunch, I've had the SX1 for about three months now and can categorically state that it isn't a patch on my old S3IS... far. Though there's still time to 'crack it' I suppose.

Digiscoped Shots
(It was too near most of the time!)

I knew there was no chance of getting a decent photo of the Barn Owl with the SX1 in the fading light so I set it to video, something it is good at (and I haven't tried the HD video yet) here's the resulting very short clip of the Barn Owl hunting and then being mobbed by a Crow. You can see my house in the background at 0.70.

Finally, I don't suppose anyone is the slightest bit interested to find out how my optically challenged guinea pig is getting on, but I'm gonna tell you anyway! After two weeks she was finally given the all clear by the vet this afternoon. He's saved her eye physically, but she will never have any sight in it. Seeing as her name is Sparkle, I've fashioned her a beautiful diamant√© eye-patch made from the finest cubic zirconia available on Ebay. ;-)


Wednesday 25 August 2010

Slow Broadband?

In Seaton usually the answer is yes, I explained the reason HERE last month. Well I now have some actual film footage from  inside the exchange. It's shocking what rank amateurs some of the hamsters they employ are...Can't even work the wheel properly.

Normal service will resume when I've actually seen some birds and I've taken my medication :-)

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Beer Head

This morning I went to have a look around on Beer Head for only the second time this August, which makes me look a teensy bit capricious ( ;-)) having been foolish enough to announce to anyone who'd listen that I'd be up on Beer Head every day this August to be sure not to miss another Ortolan Bunting. If I do miss another it will serve me jolly well right, wont it?!! Anyway, this morning there were enough migrants about to make me pleased that I'd made the effort. Loads of Willow Warblers ( I counted at least 20 and didn't get to the Under Hooken area), 2 Spotted Flycatchers ( a very belated patch tick for me this year), 5 Wheatears, a very confiding (for a change) male Redstart,  a couple of Whitethroats and Blackcaps and a large flock of Long-tailed Tits (not at all common on Beer Head in my experience). Ian M had 3 Yellow Wagtails amongst the cattle in 'The Dell' but by the time I got there they had moved on. Not long after leaving here I was on my way over to Colyford Common where Ian M had found a Ruff. When I arrived it was on the scrape with a few Common Sandpipers and a Redshank too distant for photos unfortunately. Two Greenshanks landed on the small scape all too briefly before flying off northward. I didn't have time to check Black Hole Marsh as well. Hope that wasn't a mistake! If I hadn't got to go to work in a couple of hours I'd be at Radipole Lake now, twitching an Aquatic Warbler, if you can imagine such a thing! Not an Aquatic Warbler but ME TWITCHING!! I mean, as if.

The Confiding Redstart
 Still striking even in his drabber autumn plumage.

Monday 16 August 2010

A Couple of Lifers and a Lot of Birds

On Sunday morning Bun and I popped down to South Devon for a couple of lifers, not birds unfortunately but lifers never the less, the first being another rare and fascinating plant. I'm sure Bun wasn't that keen but I kinda seduced him with the promise of a nice butterfly tick too! ;-) We saw the plant easily (it was showing well). What was it? Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) a rare plant of the mint family. I'll quote from John Fisher's book, A Colour Guide To Rare Wild Flowers because I couldn't have put it better myself.
"Once you have seen this mint, you will never again allow yourself to be put off by near imitations of it by other commoner species- particularly Corn Mint, which has non of Pennyroyal's pungent sovereign remedy smell"
Pennyroyal the smell of which is indeed pungent, 
it reminded me of Victory V lozenges. 
Whereas Corn Mint apparently smells of over ripe Gorgonzola.

The butterfly we were hoping to see was Brown Hairstreak, I'd seem one before at the same site last year but it would have been a lifer for Bun, yes, 'would have been' rather gives it away doesn't it? We dipped, well sort of, we did see what was almost definitley one in flight on several occasions but lost sight of it before it landed every time! Very annoying. There's still plenty of time to see another though as they are on the wing well into September. We did both get a butterfly tick in the end though in the form of a lovely Purple Hairstreak which 'showed well' on a leaf, swaying in the wind, about 20ft up an ash tree for ages. It was too distant for a decent photo so here's a crap one.
Why did I bother?
Staying on the butterfly theme for a while longer, here's a couple of nice Holly Blue shots I got up on Haven Cliff earlier in the week.
There have been plenty of birds about on patch for the last couple of days to keep us all occupied, with a nice selection of waders on Black Hole Marsh and migrants starting to show up on Beer Head and Axe Cliff. I haven't been able to get out as much as I'd have liked due to my poorly Guinea Pig, to which I have to administer two different types of eye drops at four hourly intervals. The eye got a lot worse at one stage and the vet was worried it may burst!! It's calmed down a little bit now, but may take weeks to heal. Anyway I digress. Back to the birds. I've been down to Black Hole Marsh a few times to see the Little Stints that arrived on Sunday and just to take some photos of some of the very accommodating waders, ( while I still can, once the 'shiny new' ( strangely sited) hide's built we will have no access at all to the water's edge).

Who needs a hide?
Little Stint and Dunlin (Sunday evening)
Both Little Stints, adult and juvenile ( this afternoon)
Juvenile Little Stint (this afternoon)
Adult Little Stint (this evening)

Also from this evening:

This morning I was missing all the action on Beer Head ( Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Tree Pipits, Garden Warblers etc..) because I was at the vet with the Guinea Pig, however I was able to get up there at around 10ish and was pleased to see that three lovely, Pied Flycatchers had lingered there. I really like Pied Flycatchers, they're just so ... horribly girly of me I know ....cute! I sat down by a hedgerow and waited for my opportunity to get a snap or two. They came really close a few times,  too close to digiscope them! I'd have been alright with the point and shoot but didn't have it. Here's a few I didgiscoped when they moved far enough away!! 
See! Cute!