Sunday 26 September 2010

The Usual Suspects

I've been out on patch a couple of times today but haven't seen anything new,  just the usual suspects, which at the moment are worth seeing! Early this morning I saw the Wryneck from the hide at Seaton Marshes after only having distant views on Friday (same hide aversion as Gav, I'm not proud of my antisocial streak, I just have to live with it ;-)) I (satisfyingly) had the hide all to myself this morning and was able to set my scope up and digiscope it and everything! It wasn't going to be easy to get a good photo but I got these.
First it was in the shade...
But it wasn't any easier when it came out into the early morning sun.

I've seen the Osprey catch two helpings of Grey Mullet on the river today. I wasn't even looking for it. I just happened to be driving past at the right time. Twice! ;-) On the second occasion it temporarily alighted on one of the tram poles with its catch. 
About 10 seconds later...
This happened..Unsurprisingly!

Then this afternoon I received an invitation to join Gav looking for migrants on a cold and windy Beer Head. How could I refuse? Actually it wasn't all that cold and I felt like a right numpty in all my 'mountaineering gear'! After three and a half hours of  yomping around the fields ( neutralizing the artery clogging after-effects of an earlier jam and custard doughnut, or so I'd like to think!) we'd seen about four Chiffchaffs, a single Wheatear,  and a  few (twenty or so) Meadow Pipits. Gav also had a few additions to his Beer Head yearlist (including Mallard on the estuary, scoped from Beer Head! Pathetic or what?))
We also had a look for ( yes, you've guess it) the Corn Bunting. It was still in the same field with the Yellowhammer flock and proffering crippling views. Well they would have been if we weren't so far away.
Wow! Stunning shot of stunning brown blob.
This just wouldn't do. Minor naughtiness followed, allowing this...
Stunning. Brown. Moulting. Tailless.
 Two thirds of a Corn Bunting

Earlier in the week, Thursday I think, I popped over to The East Devon Commons to look for some fungi that I particularly wanted to see. I'd read about a good location in Matt Prince's Birdforum Thread. Once there, I soon found the fungi in question, the deadly poisonous and appropriately named Death Cap
Several of a group of seventeen Death Caps growing alongside the road.
They look quite innocuous, aside from their sickly green colouring I suppose.
Eating  just one would kill an adult though.

 I saw lots of fungi at this location but I'm rubbish at identifying most of them, here's a couple I  do know though. 
A Bay Bolete, stains blue when pressed- like so.

Fly Agaric.
The quintessential toadstool
White Helvella.
I spotted this  ugly specimen at Trinity Hill Woods yesterday, where I also had a very unexpected patch year tick, a Grasshopper Warbler no less! Quite a late one. When I almost trod on it, it jumped up into a tiny sapling just a few feet away and  gave great views. Well, until I reached for my camera anyway.

Monday 20 September 2010

Birds, Glorious Birds!

I haven't had the chance to get anything on here during the week, but then again not that much has happened, apart from the sensational Corn Bunting of course. A real patch mega! I didn't get to see it until Friday morning when Gav kindly 'held my hand' so to speak, because I'm a big sissy who's afraid of angry farmers with purple faces ( anyone old enough to remember the Joe and Petunia public service ads featuring such a character in the 1970's?  Great stuff, See it here.) having been shouted at in the same field last year. Not much to look at of course but great 'tick value'. No photo's of the Corn Bunting from me but here's one of a purple-faced farmer instead ( much less scary than the real thing though!)

Yesterday though, not being put off too much by last Monday's Buff-breasted Sandpiper dip, Bun and I decided to try for the one at Northam Burrows in North Devon. Almost as soon as we arrived we spotted a few familiar faces and heard that the Buff-breasted Sandpiper was still present. It was quite distant on the salt marsh and partially obscured by vegetation much of the time, but it was a very welcome lifer for us both. 
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Bun enjoying his latest lifer with some Somersetians in the background?
Well, some of these are from Somerset anyway.

Also on the salt marsh and much more obliging was this little beauty.
Lapland Bunting.

It came nice and close on several occasions while we were watching the Buff-breast, so there was really no need for this kind of thing...
...especially when people hadn't seen it yet. 
This guy was right beside me when I took the above photos of the bird, how much nearer did he need to be!!?

As if those two lovely birds weren't enough, the Grey Phalarope also put in an appearance; a very obliging individual too. Usually Phaaropes look so agile and graceful as they bob about in the waves. This individual looked quite incongruous waddling around on the mud, very unsteady on its feet. Like 'a phalarope out of water'. Its instability wasn't helped by the windy weather either and several times it was literally blown over!
After battling the wind and having a good old feed it decided to take a nap. Much to our amusement it chose to do this in a small puddle! 
 Brian digiscoping the Phalarope which was safely tucked up in its little puddle; the vast acreage of water ensuring  its safety from all but the most wily of predators!
"Safe as houses me!"

Here's a video - Phalarope vs.Wind. 

After a superb day in North Devon, the good birds still kept rolling in! I was just nearing my drive when I noticed the gulls 'going up' on the estuary. I drove up to Coronation Corner and there was the Osprey ( a bird first seen on Friday, but I hadn't caught up with it until now). It soon caught a small mullet and flew off to its favoured woodland, far from any public rights of way, which is a shame because it's great to watch one eating its catch. The sky was very grey and dull so photos weren't an option on this occasion. I couldn't resist taking this one though..
Majestic Osprey gliding over the 'Racal Rubble' ( remains of a factory which have been piled up here for over two years now!) Also in the shot is my house, so I could've just gone home and seen it through the window, not the same though and I don't 'need' it on my house list.

Later in the evening I popped down to Black Hole Marsh where the Osprey was again briefly on show. I was hoping to get a good view of one or both of the resident Barn Owls. Well I certainly did, with one of the birds flying straight at me on one occasion. It didn't see me until it was about 10ft away and then just deftly swerved around me. Wonderful! Then it perched up on a log pile and posed beautifully, I tried to get photos even though it was past 7 o'clock and thus getting dark. They're not too bad considering. I did have to use a horribly high ISO!

Today I've been out and about on patch a bit. I haven't seen anything new but there's still plenty to see. A flock of nine Bar-tailed Godwits on the estuary is an unusually high number for the patch.
Bar-tailed Godwit.
I've also seen the Osprey twice today, the first time this morning it caught quite a nice sized fish but this afternoon on two separate occasions it had to give up fishing due to constant harrying by the local Carrion Crows. Conditions were better for a photo this afternoon though.
Definitley a bird with the x-factor!
Lastly, while a small group of Osprey admirers were standing at Coronation Corner, this little chap was found hitching a lift on someone's clothing.
What a hairdo! The punk rocker of caterpillars.
Larvae of the Sycamore Moth

Monday 13 September 2010

Harried Harrier

Today I have mostly been dipping Buff-breasted Sandpipers at Davidstow Airfield :-( This morning however I did see the Marsh Harrier that was found by Steve. I watched from the Farm Gate, from where I could see it trying its utmost to hunt along the river and reed beds. It was constantly harried by crows though and was forced to go to ground before eventually giving up and flying off northward.
Here's a photo challenge.Can you see the Marsh Harrier trying to hide in the long grass? I'm afraid the Crows had it surrounded though. It is there just to the right of the post.

The same scene with a bit less zoom so you can't see the Harrier, but what's that in the background? Yes, a naughty birder, standing on the bank, digiscoping a Barn Owl. Tsk!
Can't tell who it is?
 How about now?
A new addition to the 'Rouges Gallery of Naughty Birders'

Sunday 12 September 2010

Isabelline Shrike and Wryneck

Predictably, yesterday morning Bun and I drove over to Gosport in Hampshire to see the Isabelline ( Daurian) Shrike. The weather was dull, dark and drizzly but the bird obliged on several occasions showing really well out in the open. Not as colourful as some Shrikes but superb to see non the less. Getting photos was always going to be a challenge, but I got a couple of okay shots in the end. I also remembered to take a few twitch photos too, for those of you who like them.
One of the less scenic twitches I've been on:
Looking toward Forton Lake from Grove Road, see the assembled birders in the distance.
Looking out over the picturesque Forton Lake.
 Just add water!
On the banks of the 'lake'. The Shrike was showing in yonder bushes.

Like so. I had a lot of trouble getting my Sony camera to focus in the dull conditions, this being the only half decent shot I managed. I gave the Fuji F30 a try. I thought it was doing much better at focusing, but then realised why. I'd left the ISO on 1600 after using it indoors. So forgive the graininess  of the photos I got.
Isabelline Shrike. A nice peachy coloured bird. 
Very cute. Though  I dare say I wouldn't think so if I were a wasp!

A bit of video, not really any better than the photos though.

The twitch shot.
 About a maximum of 50 birders while we were there I reckon.

Icing on the cake yesterday, was when I popped out onto the garden to check on my Guinea Pigs and noticed the Gulls going berserk. And yes, It was an Osprey! My first sighting of one for nearly two years, from my garden too. Excellent! It was pretty high by the time I'd gotten bins onto it ( I'd had to run indoors and upstairs to get them and back) I watched it become a speck as it drifted south and out to sea.

Late this morning a touch of deja vu. Bun phoned me to say James McCarthy had found a Wryneck. This time he wasn't even out birding but just leaving his house in the car. It was at the bottom of his drive, pretty tame and showing well we heard. Seeing as it was just the other side of Axminster ( about 6 miles away) we decided to go and see it. We didn't see it. It had vanished. Then this evening James called Bun again, It was back but a bit further down the road. This time we did see it, briefly at first in a bare tree before it vanished again for some considerable time before eventually showing extremely well on a grassy bank next to some garages. (Thanks James! :-) Looking forward to next Sunday's find) I got some nice photos after waiting a while for the sun ( which was behind the bird) to sink low enough. Also some video of it having a good old dig. 

Wryneck showing well by garage. 

First on the steep bank...
...Then out on top. What crackin' birds they are! 
While we were waiting for this to show we were missing a patch mega on Beer Head, a Corn Bunting no less!
I know which I'd rather see though.