Tuesday 29 March 2011

Don't Know What I Was Worried About

Earlier this evening I was just putting some rubbish in the skip at work when I heard a whooshing sound.  It could only be one thing, the Tesco pipeline was in action pumping aggregate. I thought if I could here it this well from the Co-op what would it sound like at home? About an hour later I found out. It was horrendous, much worse than I'd thought possible. After standing outside 'liasing' with a person from the Environmental Pollution Department of the local council (this had to be done by 'polite shouting' out of necessity) my ears are actually hurting, in much the same way as they did after the couple of occasions I forgot my ear defenders whilst clay pigeon shooting . The 'officials' asked to come inside the house to measure the noise levels in my bedroom, it was too loud (through closed double glazing) so they wont be able to pump any more at night, well, so we're told. More soundproofing is apparently going to be applied but before then they will probably still let them go ahead during the day. Great! I'll need to wear ear defenders in my own garden.

Here's a video taken from in my bedroom. You'll need your volume turned up to get the right idea of the noise level.

On a lighter note look at this letter that Tesco sent us yesterday
 The whole letter just to prove I'm not making this up
Yes it's true, they will be opening a VIEWING PLATFORM!
So  that's good news for any anti-social local birders. Why? Because who ( apart from committed local patch workers) will be at Black Hole Marsh now, when they can visit the Tesco building site and watch sand and gravel being moved about. Sounds awesome! Roll up, roll up, bring the kids. Fun for all the family! I wondered if they have a sense of humour when I noticed the date the viewing platform will open?

Enough of that ****.  Let's look at some nice moths. We've had three new moths for the garden over the last few days and a few others worth a photo. Firstly, the Water Carpet which escaped in my kitchen yesterday has now been officially declared 'missing presumed dead'. Fortunately we caught another last night.
Water Carpet. This moth has a lovely metallic sheen.
 I think this new moth for the garden is an Early Tooth-striped. Not sure though.
This exciting looking beast is a Diurnea fagella

Three other moths that  I think warrant a photo.
 First generation Purple Thorn
 Brindled Beauty
Early Grey. This one's more like an early pink!

Monday 28 March 2011

Two Teal.... For The Price Of One

Just couldn't resist twitching the Blue-winged Teal in Wales on Sunday, after all it was only three hours away! There was also the chance of a bonus Green-winged Teal with one having been found in Gwent ( which is 'en route' ) on the Friday. We left early to avoid the traffic, which with the clocks going forward meant getting up ridiculously early. We drove straight to the Blue-winged Teal, which was at Sandy Water Park near Llanelli, arriving on site at just before nine. While I was busy buying a car parking ticket Bun strolled down to the waters edge and there it was, asleep.
View from the car. The duck was asleep just below that wooden fence.Ten yards from the car park just the way I like 'em! After it woke up it had a good preen and flew off before I could get any photos. It was way too close to digiscope.
It soon came back though.
It was difficult to get a good view of this 'mobile and elusive' bird..Well, it did keep getting obscured by Swans! This photo was taken with a compact camera with no zoom. Shows how near it comes. Even a five year old with their 'my first camera' ought to be able to get a decent photo of this duck. I had the old 'not so super' super-zoom with me.... So, no pressure then!!

We were the only birders ( or should I say twitchers?) there for a good while. This was the scene when we left. I love twitching birds that are lifers for me but which most twitchers have already seen. Much less stressful :-)
Oops! That's not it...
It was often being 'seen off'  by this and other Gadwall.
Phwoar! What a sexy little duck
A short video clip...yes, those little white specks are remnants of bread.

With the Blue-winged Teal in the bag it was time to try for the Green-winged Teal, this was near  Peterstone Wentlooge village at a place (interestingly) called Peterstone Gout. It couldn't have been more different to Sandy Water Park.

 Looking East. 
There were lots of waders and wildfowl out there but many were obscured from view in channels so we decided to walk round to the sea wall at the other side, just visible in the distance. As you can see the visibility here was pretty poor.
 From the sea wall looking west. Bleak isn't it? Bun spotted the Green-winged Teal in the channel on the right of the photo. We had good views of it here but it soon flew to join the other Teal out on the tide-line. I managed a couple of record shots before it flew out though.
The 'best' shot I got. It was getting further away from this moment on.
He was already 'paired up' so some nice hybrids on the way soon.
I can't believe I've never noticed the little crest/peak at the nape on Teal before. The Eurasian Teal had this too, part of breeding plumage I assume. I should look more closely in  future.

All in all a brilliant day, two lifers for us both and home in time for tea! Perfect!

Today we had a new moth for the garden in the trap, a Water Carpet. I would have a photo to show you if it hadn't escaped. It's in the kitchen somewhere, I'll try and lure it out with a torch in minute.... Photo to follow.. If I'm successful

On Thursday I was ringing at Colyford Common/ Stafford Marsh with the AERG. Although a flyover Red Kite at 'Gigrin Farm' range was a treat, for me it was surpassed by ringing my first ever Bullfinches, one of each too.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Lucky Seven

This morning saw me taking my seventh walk to Branscombe and back and this time I actually saw some nice migrants. On reaching Bransconbe I noticed a couple of Wheatears down on the grass by the car park. I was just rushing down to get a closer view when a dog walker flushed them. They came towards me and the couple turned out to be eighteen! They made their way quickly up two fields and were soon out of view and heading inland. Just goes to show it's all down to timing, if I'd arrived here ten minutes later I'd have seen nothing. It's always a real thrill to see your first Wheatear of the year. Well it is for me. I wondered if this meant that Wheatears were also coming in on Beer Head. I decided not to walk through the undercliff today but retraced my steps back up the slope to the Hooken cliff-tops. It wasn't the easy option as this is a harder climb than the path out of the undercliff. Look...
Once  you've made it up to here...
You're treated to this. There's over one hundred of them, and your still not at the top.
Wheatears at last!
I didn't see any more birds on Beer Head at first, apart that is for a few small flocks of Meadow Pipits going over. I was just approaching The Dell, checking for Adders in the adjacent field when I spotted what looked like a male Ring Ouzel, it was a long way off but unmistakable, it was definitely a Ring Ouzel. My first spring one on Beer Head. There were also at least eight more Wheatears here. I skirted around The Dell hoping not to flush it. I took a distant record shot but it soon flew out of sight. I sent out a text to the local birders but couldn't wait for them as I needed to get home. I was very relieved when I heard that they had relocated it in a small copse in the centre of The Dell. It's really nice to find something others want to twitch, I'm afraid I don't oblige very often.

My stunning record shot... must do better.

I put off doing a few chores (getting my priorities right) and headed back up to Beer Head with my scope hoping for a digiscoping opportunity. Gav was still there and he had recently enjoyed good views but the bird had gone to ground again. After waiting about  twenty minutes or so it popped out again and fed in the open for quite a while until flushed by a dog-walker.

 Scoffing worms

It had  distinctive white spots on either side of it's head
Very handsome indeed! 
My find of the year! .....So far :-)

Monday 21 March 2011

Oh Happy Day!

I did my Beer Head walk this morning in thick fog, so not very interesting. I did however see my first Sand Martin of the year when one appeared out of the gloom flying in off the sea passing within a couple of feet me which was the only reason I saw it at all. This afternoon I was just getting ready to leave the house to get a few supplies when my phone rang. It was Bun. There was only a Hoopoe in his brother-in-law's garden, spotted by his young nephew on arriving home from school. I've previously dipped three of these on patch (one horribly, as any former readers of the legendary 'Backwater Birding' might remember) so was over there pronto! The bird was very flighty, so those assembled ( myself, Steve, Gav, Sandra, Ian M and Bun) got some nice flight views at least. It did always return to the same garden though ( usually unseen - how do they do that?) where it appeared to be feeding from an ants' nest. I was thrilled to have seen one on patch at last. They're at least annual here but almost always in private gardens, usually of non-birders and often not reported until ages after the fact. This one chose wisely! ;-) I got a couple of record shots with the super-zoom.

Whoops. nice one of the plant.
That's better.

Sunday 20 March 2011

World Sparrow Day

I consider myself lucky to have a regular flock of 20- 30 House Sparrows in my garden. They get through around 2.5 kilos of seed a week! Several pairs are already nesting in the roof too.

Thursday 17 March 2011

So Far...So Good

On Monday I foolishly stated publicly that I would walk from Beer to Branscombe and back four times a week until I am lean and fit (or dead). Well it's now Thursday and amazingly I've done it three times. I've almost not done it though, for instance this morning just sitting on the sofa reading was looking rather appealing and then a text from Bun telling of Sand Martins at Black Hole Marsh tempted me to take the easy option and go there, at least I'd see a migrant or two! By eight o'clock I was yomping my way over to Branscombe again and not seeing any Wheatears. The only migrants I've seen in the last two days have been a few Chiffchaffs and a Stonechat. No further sightings of the Dipper or any Firecrests either. Still it's very early days and I have seen two non birdy firsts for the year, a Peacock yesterday and a female Adder this morning. I haven't made it up all the steps from the undercliff without stopping for a breather yet. I wonder how many repeats of the walk it will take until I can? I'll soon know I suppose.

Here's a couple of photos from today....I walked the beach at Branscombe today and I saw quite a bit of this kind of thing..
Still, after four years 'BMW Parts Galore'
 First 'lying out' Adder I've seen this year. A nice big female.
I used the zoom here.

This afternoon I had to take Rex for a walk ( I can't really take him on my Branscombe walk because he's too much of a hindrance ( in the nicest possible way) now he's so old). I took him to Holyford Woods for a change, these are an ancient woodland and quite rightly an East Devon District Council LNR. I saw my first Brimstones of the year here with at least half a dozen of them on the wing. I also saw a few interesting plants, amongst the obvious Primroses and Celendines there are lots of much more inconspicuous and boring looking plants. Well, that is until you look more closely. Here's a couple I noticed today. I didn't know what this first one was until I looked it up at home.

Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage.
Very pretty even with generally green flowers. Another plant with green flowers is this...
Seen here growing with Bramble, Ivy, Celandine and Dog's Mercury.
It's very inconspicuous, in fact so much so that its generic name Adoxa, is derived from the Greek meaning  'without glory'. It's a very unusual plant too and is the solitary species in the family- the Adoxacae. It has the most unusual flower-head, consisting of five flowers, one facing upwards with four petals and four facing outwards with five petals. They almost form a cube, giving the plant it's other well known name of 'town-hall clock'
They are only just coming into flower but this one was  almost fully  formed.

Another highlight was a fabulous fungi I don't recall having seen for donkey's years...
Scarlet Elf Cup
Walking down into the woods I noticed a Buzzard circling and calling, not that unusual, but when I looked at it through bins I could see it was carrying something, it circled higher and higher, probably part of a courtship display. I didn't get my camera out until it was rather too high for a decent photo, but I got these.
It's carrying what I think is a Vole. Not convinced?
How about now? 
Click to enlarge, you can see its little fuzzy body and short tail.
The moth trap's been out the last two nights and is catching quite a few moths, five more here, four new for this year and one that I think is a new one for us, I certainly don't remember catching one before but that doesn't mean much! ;-)
 New for garden? Red-green Carpet. (although it has no discernible red on it)
 Dotted Border
 Oak Beauty
Pine Beauty. Stunning Moth.