Friday 27 April 2012

Wheatears on Posts

I can't remember the last time I took a photo of a Wheatear on a post, and that'll never do. When I started this blog way back in September 2008 I promised (or threatened if you like) to put at least 100 Wheatear photos on it. I'm nowhere near that yet ( not that I've counted them). So to rectify this here are a couple of Wheatears, two of the three that were on the track at Seaton Marshes this morning and only the fourth , fifth and sixth I've seen on patch this year. Where have I been!? I added up my patch year list and it's a good thing I'm not in this year's competition because I've only got 113 so far! Dire.


This one is on a post so it does count.


Thursday 26 April 2012

A Bit of a Swell. Another Black-winged Stilt and Free Fertilizer.

The gales yesterday caused there to be a big swell on the evening tide and the large amount of rainfall during the day had made the river so full the water level in it never receded. This meant that the tide had nowhere to go and so the sea rose right up to, and in places over the sea wall. The destruction it had caused overnight was very evident on the beach at Axmouth this morning.

In  the top photo there is a door and right down on the tide-line a wheelie bin!
The second picture shows one of many mattresses/cushions with lots of other debris. 
There were buckets and spades, chairs, bits of windbreaks, rugs, kitchen utensils etc...
They had come from right down the other end of the beach at Seaton....

 The beach huts had been lifted and jumbled up. Some had been washed right away hence the debris at Axmouth.

These were once in a neat row..

 Looking from the other way shows the mayhem more clearly

Some of the huts on West Walk which are up on the promenade above the sea wall were totally demolished too. Smashing ( pardon the pun) start to the holiday season then!
See some photos of the accompanying foam last night, here on Steve's Blog.

Late morning me and Bun popped over to the Exe hoping to see the three Black-winged Stilts that arrived there yesterday. We saw the single one at Bowling Green Marsh, which was showing really well, if a little distant. Having said that though it was nearer than the one we saw at Radipole two weeks ago. We also went to Powderham Marsh where the other two had been seen earlier in the day but they weren't there any more. While there we were missing out on another small passage of Poms back on patch but to be honest I was still suffering from the after effects of yesterday's seawatching, so hadn't really relished the though of any more. I'm STILL feeling really tired now! It makes my eyes tired and plays havoc with the arthritis in my neck. I think a straight rather than angled scope would be a better bet for prolonged viewing. Shame I don't have one.When Steve found out where we were he couldn't believe we'd wanted to see another Black-winged Stilt because we'd only seen one two weeks ago!  Well, if we'd stayed in Seaton seawatching we'd have seen another Pom or two and we'd only seen some yesterday. So what's the difference? 

Anyway I was hoping to get a better photo of  a Black-winged Stilt and although the one we saw wasn't all that close I did better than at Radipole. At least this one came out in the open for us.

Heavily cropped photo showing how when standing on one leg, the rested leg is held right up along the tail, you can just see the 'knee' sticking out. 

A couple of snaps from the garden.

This young Herring Gull hangs around  the garden a lot I assume it's one of last years youngsters. I know that if the adult male sees it he always 'sees it off'. It usually only comes to food when the adults have gone off somewhere. It isn't quite as adept at balancing on the seed tray as the adult and spends a lot of time like this....

But eventually.... "Look, look, I've done it" or should that be...
"You ain't seen me, right"

This female Mallard has started visiting the garden every day in order to carry out her morning ablutions on this sewer cover. She uses the water for a nice 'wash and brush up' then finishes off with a nice big duck dollop. Then she flies off. Charming! Let's just call it free lawn fertilizer.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

The Sea Lives Up To Expectations...

Often when gales are forecast, Seaton seawatchers tend to get all worked up for nothing, getting up at the crack of dawn, rushing down to the seafront in eager anticipation of the sea bird spectacular to come. On most occasions, like this Monday for example, they are sorely disappointed. So when I arrived at Bun's house this morning and it was still  'to all intents and purposes' dark, I did wonder what on earth I was doing. When we arrived at the shelter in  Beer (the only seawatching shelter now that some **** has burned down the Seaton one) Phil was already there. He must have good night vision! He hadn't seen anything (probably because it was dark) and after about another half hour neither had we. Then Ian M arrived and almost immediately spotted a Skua. From then on it really 'kicked off'. What a morning!  In four and a half hours we had 33, yes, Thirty-three! Great Skuas. They were mostly heading west but a few were going east, so there's a chance some were doubling back (still a patch record number I believe) 5 Arctic Skuas,  one Skua Sp. and best of all 3 stonking Pomarine Skuas, the first I've seen on or off patch in two and a half years! So very, very welcome.

Plenty of other birds including lots of Whimbrel, Sandwich Terns, Kittiwakes, Brent Geese (pale-bellied), Manx Shearwaters, Common Scoter, two Velvet Scoter, sitting on the sea (which I didn't get onto) two Great Northern Divers, a Red-throated Diver and a Black-throated Diver.

All in all a superb morning. Brilliant birds, good company and great fun! :-)

As I type this I am aware that the Beer shelter is once more full of birders and that they are still seeing heaps of good stuff including more Arctic Skuas and a Little Tern (which is quite a patch rarity). I'm obviously rather gripped but couldn't realistically put in any more time today as I have to go to work this evening ( Steve does too but he has twenty years age advantage) and I'd be so tired there'd be a good chance of me cutting off part of my finger in the meat slicer. I exaggerate not. It has happened before!

 The Sea

The Seawatchers.

Almost a full compliment of Seaton's finest, minus Gavin who was braving the elements at the Axe Yacht Club and probably seeing a very different section of birds to us, which is usually the case from the much lower vantage point there.

Sunday 22 April 2012

First Orchid

In case the title didn't give it away, I saw my first Orchid of the season today. Usually Early Purple Orchid is easy enough to see just by driving along a lane on the way to the local tip but I've had no luck yet this year. I got out of the car and a a good look around but couldn't see any sign of them. I was half expecting as much because I seem to remember seeing the ditches being re-dug last Winter with the resultant spoil being heaped along the sides of the roads. I'll have another look for them in a week or so but they could well have been buried. Plan B was to go and look for some along the cliffs to the East of Axmouth as I'd seen old ones that had 'gone over' here before. I found quite a few but they need about another week to be at their best having only just started to come into flower. The weather was ... yes, you've guessed it, showery! I managed to avoid one downpour by sitting under some bushes where I was joined by a Chiffchaff with the same idea. A second downpour got me just 200m short of the car though .... rats!

Early Purple Orchid against a rather threatening looking sky ....

.... With Beer Head in the distance.

Saturday 21 April 2012

April Brings the Sweet Spring Showers...On and On for Hours and Hours.

Never have these couple of lines from the Flanders and Swann 'Song of the Weather'  a parody of the 1841 poem by Sara Coleridge, 'January Brings the Snow' been more apt than this April. Will this showery weather ever change? I see it's set to continue into May. Still, as promised in my previous post here's a few bits and pieces I've found in between the showers over the last few days. In my garden and along the beach to the east of Axmouth Harbour. Firstly though, the whole of the 'Song of the Weather' lyrics which sum up a typical British year weather-wise. I like July best.

 A Song of the Weather

January brings the snow,
Makes your feet and fingers glow.

February's ice and sleet
Freeze the toes tight off your feet.

Welcome March with wintry wind
Would thou wert not so unkind!

April brings the sweet spring showers,
On and on for hours and hours.

Farmers fear unkindly May
Frost by night and hail by day.

June just rains and never stops
Thirty days and spoils the crops.

In July the sun is hot.
Is it shining? No, it's not.

August, cold and dank and wet,
Brings more rain than any yet.

Bleak September's mist and mud
Is enough to chill the blood.

Then October adds a gale,
Wind and slush and rain and hail.

Dark November brings the fog
Should not do it to a dog.

Freezing wet December, then
Bloody January again!

In The Garden.

One of the nicer things about the showery weather is the frequency of pretty rainbows to look at, this one as viewed from my 'staring window'

This diminutive plant caught my eye. Not one I'd noticed before although it's quite common
apparently. It looks like a miniature forget-me-not but its actually called Common Corn Salad - Valerianella locusta. Once I'd spotted it in the garden I'm starting to see it all over the place.

The ubiquitous Speckled Wood.

Holly Blue

I wasn't sure if this was a bee, a wasp or even a sawfly until I saw the same insect featured on Rob's blog 'The Living Isle'   It is in fact a Cuckoo Bee Nomada gooderiiana which lays its eggs in the nest of Andrena mining bees.

Along the Beach at Axmouth Today.

The rain clouds were taking a bit longer to build up today, so late morning I took the opportunity to stroll along the beach to the east of Axmouth Harbour hoping to see a few butterflies. I saw three species thus:

Dingy Skipper

Small Copper and...

Green Hairstreak.
  This one soon to be sharing a Sallow flower with a Andrena flavipes, the bee of the furry yellow legs.

This one, which was rather keen to climb onto my finger when the sun went in has got the biggest 'tails' that I've ever seen on this species.

Some Beetles

These green Leaf Beetles are Gastrophysa viridula

I think this Rove Beetle is Necrodes littoralis

Green Tiger Beetle.

A jet black bee, as yet unidentified.

This wasp was huge, most probably a queen. It's a German Wasp Vespula germanica. which is a new species for me, not uncommon though I just haven't been taking enough notice of them.

This stunning caterpillar is the larva of the Scarlet Tiger Moth.

All too soon this happened again! I got very wet and went home...

Covered in Bees

If like me you are a fan of Eddie Izzard then you'd have probably read the title of this post in a particular way.

In my front garden there is a large hybrid Heather of some sort with a profusion of flowers thus:

...And when the sun is shining it is literally 'covered in bees'. Now normally I would just glance and think um, lots of bees on there, but I wouldn't really look. When I did really look I was surprised at the great variety of bees there are. Some are very difficult to identify, in fact most are very difficult to identify. Here are a few that I managed to capture on camera.

This one was very small only about 8mm long, I've no idea what it is though. Well apart from a Bee that is.

These are Ashy Mining Bees  Andrena cineraria apparently quite common but one I've never noticed before.

Honey Bee, with impressively full pollen baskets.

This was another new bee for me which I think is Andrena flavipes  named after its yellow hairy legs.

 Covered in pollen.

 Not a bee but a Drone Fly a Honey Bee mimicking Hover-fly.

I saw some more bees, butterflies and other interesting insects ( no birds of note though) on a walk along the shore near Axmouth Harbour earlier today, which I'll endeavour to get on here tonight or in the morning. Lastly, if you didn't get the Eddie Izzard reference (and want to ) then watch this: