Thursday 28 April 2011

White Stork and Hairy Fairy

After having missed the (would have been a lifer) Purple Heron last Saturday whilst at work I was a bit worried when yesterday, again while at work, I missed a call from Phil. Turned out that it was a White Stork this time, again in front of the Colyford Common hide. It wasn't another potential lifer but was a patch tick. Fortunately it stayed long enough for me to see it distantly from the 'Farm Gate' viewpoint at around 8.30pm. Better than nothing. This morning I got back down to Colyford Common just as soon as I could (which wasn't as soon as Phil and Steve who'd been and gone before I got my idle carcass down there!) I was hoping to get there before the sun rose from behind the hills to the east. I didn't. The morning sun makes viewing, and especially photography, quite tricky from the Colyford hide. Still the sun wasn't too fierce and no heat haze had developed yet allowing me to get better digiscoped shots than I'd expected. A few other (keen) birders from Devon and Somerset arrived during the half hour or so I was there. The bird was feeding along the edge of the main scrape until two Canada Geese flew in honking loudly and gesturing at it until it moved off into the grass. It was still present at 6.50am when I left but a couple of later scans from the Farm Gate drew a blank. Great bird to see on patch, better than a Purple Heron any day! ;-)

Other Birds on Colyford Common Scrape
Grey Heron
Common Sandpiper.
The Stork kept lunging at this Sandpiper, shooing it off, but it kept coming back for more...brave or stupid? Probably just too quick!
Canada Geese.
Sent it packing.

Now for a bit of other stuff I haven't had chance to get on here. Last Wednesday, well I think it was, I went over to Orcombe Point in the hope of seeing a male Sardinian Warbler. I dipped. It was a lovely sunny day though and I'd been meaning to visit to see the spectacular swathes of Green- winged Orchids which grow on the cliff top pastures here. They were indeed a real spectacle. Having said that I wasn't too sorry to leave because the sunny weather had also brought out swathes of scantily clad holiday makers, the scantily clad ones invariably being the overweight, middle-aged male ones! Euck! It was also most disheartening to see at least one of these oiks ( I mean respected fellow humans) picking an orchid! Polite words from another birder and myself were met with  much rudeness and the customary "Well there are loads of them, one wont matter" ...  ******* oiks!!
Swathes of Green-winged Orchids
One of the nicer sights at Orcombe Point!
I've been walking Rex on Axe Cliff for the last few days and though I haven't seen many birds of note I've seen a few interesting bits and bobs, including a new moth for me Adela reaumurella. It's from the family Adelidae or the Fairy Longhorns.
 The unofficial common name for these is the Green Fairy Longhorn but I reckon it should be the Hairy Fairy Longhorn, I mean, just look at the two on either side!
 The wings are iridescent and look green in some lights and coppery or black in others.
 Here the upper wings look green and the lower wings are a bronze colour. It's glaringly obvious why they are called longhorns....
Yesterday I saw my first Common Blue of the year, earliest I've ever seen this species. 
Look closely, it's got a passenger!
 This Pink Campion is a hybrid between Red Campion and ( believe it or not) White Campion.
  Whilst walking into the long grass to get this photo I disturbed half a dozen or so of these.
Common Lizard
Whilst taking a photo of Green Alkanet this landed on it. Looks pretty scary.
It eats nectar though. It's called Rhingia campestris one of the Hoverflies.
Pretty darn ugly though eh?...But....
...Not as ugly as this!! 
I think it's the larva of the Bloody-nosed Beetle? Whatever it is though, it's almost as easy on the eye as the Orcombe Point sun worshippers!

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Pasque Flower, Powerlifting and Patch Tick

Yesterday I headed over to Martin Down NNR in Hampshire (well only just) hoping to see the rare Pasque Flower. It is only found at a few locations in the UK albeit quite numerous at a couple of them. Not Martin Down though, which I think is its southernmost location. Here there are only a handful of plants, four I think. I only know the location of two of them having seen them in seed last year. I was hoping to see them in all their glory this year but unfortunately I was just a tad too late. I reckon they'd have been at there best last week while I was in Scotland. Still they weren't too awful...
 One plant had three flowers, looking a bit curled at the edges.
 Still very pretty and a lovely colour...
Past its prime. 
When in ful flower they have a bright yellow centre. Here though the seed head is already forming, the green and red filaments in the centre later fan out as the purple sepals fall off, to form a spiky globe. I'll remember to take a photo of it when I return in late May for the Orchids.
The other plant had two flowers and was a bit less withered.

Back on patch it was nice to see a few Early Purple Orchids in flower at the usual site. 
Today a quick visit to Alyesbeare Common on the way back from a trip to Exeter, was extremely quite with very few birds and not much in the way of insects either apart from a few Brimstones. Although the Wood Ants were showing well, as usual.
Here making light work of lifting what looks like half a large Centipede.

An overdue patch tick for me this afternoon when news reached me of a Great White Egret on the lagoon at Seaton Marshes. There have been a couple on patch over the years and I think I'd be right in saying that only the relative newcomers to the patch, like myself and Bun, hadn't seen one here. Well we have now and what a corker! I've never had good views of an adult in full breeding plumage before. I know it's still only a white bird but it has lovely salmon pink legs and brilliant pea green around the eye. It was entertaining too, feeding on small fish and what looked like a frog too. I couldn't stay as long as I'd have liked due to work being imminent. Best Great White Egret I've seen though. Most definitely!
You can see the colour of the face on this one (click to enlarge)
Love that bendy neck, it's like a piece of rope

Monday 18 April 2011


As you may know I've recently returned from a birding holiday in Scotland with Steve, Bun and Nick. It was mostly very enjoyable ( a bit too long long in woods fruitlessly waiting for Parrot Crossbill for my liking! ;-)) A great trip for Nick with twelve lifers, three for Bun I think and I had six (or seven depending on how scrupulous I am about what goes on my list). My six, were Black Grouse, Capercaille, Ptarmigan, Black Guillemot, Scottish Crossbill and White-billed Diver. Summer plumage ticks were Slavonian Grebe, Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver and Black-throated Diver. I also saw three new mammals, namely, Red Squirrel (yes, really) Mountain Hare and Pine Marten. They were all amazing but my favourites were definitely the Black Grouse, Black throated Divers and Red Squirrel. The White-billed Diver was very distant and the views were 'untickable' to be honest, which was disappointing. Other disappointments were dipping a King Eider and the 'Speyside Wildlife Mammal Watch' This is where three of us saw the Pine Marten but only extremely briefly. It's pretty darn expensive to attend and we were very annoyed because although we were given a sheet of paper with a list of rules, including, obviously, to be SILENT! One woman continually yakked away with no attempt to even hush the level of her voice a little. What compounded this was that the guide made no attempt to stop her, in fact he positively encouraged her! Really! He asked her if she could name all the species of mice in Britain...which she  then proceeded to shout out. Being British we bit our lips and somehow refrained from a punch up. The guide said it was the worst night for Pine Marten in months... I wonder why?! I'm writing to complain...  for what good it will do.  Still all in all we had a great time and the scenery was as amazing as the birds! :-)

I won't describe what we did each day in detail as Steve is doing a superb job of this on his blog. I did take quite a few photos (surprise, surprise) so I'll stick 'em on here with a few captions.There aren't as many nice ones as I'd have hoped for because on the first night of the holiday disaster struck, when I accidentally (obviously) deleted all that day's photos. I'll put it down to being tired, not being stupid! I could recover the photos at home but only if I didn't use that camera any more (Note to self. Buy a spare card, coz it'll probably happen again). I therefore had to rely on the old super-zoom and my back up digiscoping camera which I'm not very good with. I didn't get photos of everything but here's a selection of what I did get.

Black Grouse

 Red Grouse
 I think this Red Grouse is an older male than the one above....
judging by the size of that eyebrow!
Female Red Grouse

Hooded Crow
Great Northern Diver.
Slavonian Grebe
Black-throated Divers.
Stunning birds. Bird of the trip candidate for sure.
White-billed Diver. Obviously!! ;-)
 Gorgeous Eiders. My favourite ducks, the call is as good as the colour.
Great views of hundreds of these on the Ythan Estuary made up somewhat for dipping the King Eider, which was back there the day after us!


Highland Bulls
 Red Squirrel
She looks a tad on the pregnant side to me. Aaah!
Grey Seals

 Rock cunningly fashioned into shape of crashed car? ...or do I need help?
 Findhorn Valley
 Somewhere on the west coast. 
We saw a superb adult White-tailed Eagle over  these here mountains don't you know.
Loch Whatsit...
Loch Thingy
Rattray Head..
another place we dipped King Eider at, gorgeous beach though.
View from atop of Cairngorm

The Cairngorm Centre car park was worryingly full...

 We were crammed into the cars of the funicular railway like sardines.It was the last weekend of the snow sports season!! Steve makes like a tourist..which is of course what we were!
 Nick struggles to see past the hoards of skiers
 Steve spots the Ptarmigan from the edge of the intermediate snowboard run.
 Various Ptarmigan watching shots.
You can see how little snow was actually left on the ski runs. It was plenty good enough to accommodate around 200 skiers though!
 Steve photographing Loch Thingamajig
 They have every angle of Loch Oojamaflip covered. 
That Black-throated Diver's there somewhere.
 Gourmet lunch at the Nethy Bridge Spar shop..
Steve chose a cake in his favourite colour.
 First and best. Watching the Black Grouse lek on day one.

Towards the end of a long day, Bun tries to squeeze the last dregs out of his flask.
We saw two Golden Eagles over the hills in the background a couple of days later. Yes we did all fit in that car....though I don't know how!

Finally, I was taking a photo from the Loch Garten ( I remember that one) hide when I thought it would make a good demonstration subject for showing the capability of the Canon SX1 super-zoom. I took four photos thus.
 No zoom.
The Osprey nest is between the two sets of trees and barely visible.
Full optical zoom (20x)
 Digital zoom (40x)
Full digital zoom (80x). Pretty nifty really.