Monday 24 September 2012

Belated Patch Year Tick and Perving On Surfers?

It's been a wet and windy couple of days on the local patch which means that quite a few waders have turned up. Yesterday I went down to  Colyford Common where there was a delightful selection of them on the scrape, it was just like the 'old days' i.e. Pre-Black Hole Marsh. There were two lovely Wood Sandpipers, a Ruff, a Little Stint, a Greenshank a few Dunlin and lots of Snipe and they were all miles too far a way to get any photos particularly as it was tipping it down too. Today Steve's seen stacks more waders, sixteen species to be exact, they've been spread around the valley mainly in the flooded fields but I haven't really had time to catch up with any of them. I did get out mid-afternoon just at the right time as it happened because no sooner was I out than I received a text from Steve who'd found a Juvenile Marsh Harrier hunting over Colyford and Axe Marshes. I joined him at the Farm Gate and we watched it for a few minutes before it landed out of view. It was my first Marsh Harrier this year although there's been at least one other on patch if I recall correctly. It was a bit distant for good photos but I managed couple of not so good ones. It appeared to be much nearer to Colyford Common hide than our vantage point so I went down there. I then saw it flying over the Farm Gate, so after a while I returned there only to see it flying really close to Black Hole Marsh and the Tower Hide. I relocated there.... It relocated to several miles east of Axe Cliff via the Farm Gate!! Oh well, you can't win 'em all!

Marsh Harrier over Axe Marsh from the Farm Gate

Distantly from the Tower Hide being mobbed by crows over the Farm Gate Field and eventually driven off east.

This Chiffchaff was fly-catching on the tramlines outside the Tower Hide.

I wonder if it acquired the 'leg iron' here.
 I don't know if the ringing group have been active recently.

So back to Sunday, and after I'd been looking at the waders on Colyford scrape I decided to go and have a look at the beach as the conditions seemed ideal for something like a Little Gull. There were some nice big waves but there were virtually no birds to be seen, there were several surfers though. Seaton isn't exactly known as a top surfing venue but in favourable conditions some nice big breakers develop just outside the harbour entrance. I decided to try and get some photos of the action and I'm quite pleased with the results considering it was gloomy, raining and I was taking them from at least 300m away in the car. I reckon I could have got much better results if I'd gone down to the water's edge but I was prevented from doing so because it was raining and I didn't want to get my camera wet. What other reason could there be? It definitely wasn't because if I'd stood down on the beach in plain view I'd look like a sad middle aged woman perving on the surfers! I mean, as if ...!!

Not quite on a par with a Little Gull though.

Actually what impresses me most isn't their surfing ability, it's their super-human ability to walk barefoot on the beach and across the yacht club car park. I can't even stand on the beach without shoes on! Perhaps it's just me though.

Saturday 22 September 2012

More of The Same from Axe Cliff and Seaton Marshes

I'm trying to get up to Axe Cliff every day a the moment as there's some superb habitat which is bound to turn up something good eventually. I just hope that at least a few fields are left for the winter. There were hundreds of birds this morning but around 99% of them were these...

and these...

 Mostly House Martins but a few Swallows and at least one Sand Martin too. You'd think with them being as numerous as this it would be fairly straightforward to get a photo of one, well I took about fifty shots and this is the only remotely successful one.


There were only four Wheatears on the golf course and just a singles of Willow Warbler and Whitethroat in the bushes.

Later in the morning I moved on to Seaton Marshes hoping to find a Whinchat (or better). It's often lovely and quiet at Seaton Marshes nowadays as most people prefer to visit the 'state of the art' facilities at Black Hole Marsh/Stafford Marsh. There was indeed a Whinchat present but it stayed distant most of the time.While I was waiting for it to approach close enough to get a photo I amused myself photographing a couple of very obliging Wheatears.

I just love Whinchats!

Friday 21 September 2012

Hover Heaven

Outside our living room window we have a large clump of Canadian Golden Rod and to say that it is attractive to hover-flies is a bit of an understatement, it's irresistible to them! It's been literally covered with them for several weeks, hundreds of them. It doesn't attract many bees or butterflies and those that do alight on it don't linger for long, whereas the hover-flies just stay on it all day and I've even seen some just stop feeding at dusk and remain in situ all night. I took a few photos a few weeks back and haven't found time to put them on here until now. I'd like to have been able to name most of them but with around 250 different species in the British Isles that's not going to happen! I'll attempt a few though. If anyone knows what any of them are I'd be most grateful for any help.

Canadian Golden Rod

This was a teeny one less than a centimetre in length. I would think the swollen back leg may be some help in the identification but I don't have a hover-fly key. Thanks to a phone call from Nigel P. I can now tell you this is in fact a Thick-legged hover-fly (say what you see) Syritta pipiens.

This one was very unusual with blue markings and weird 'marbled' blue and black eyes.
This is Eristalinus sepulchralis again thanks to Nigel P.

This one's a good buff-tailed bumblebee mimic, Eristalis intricarius.

 I know (well I think I do) that this is Heliophilus sp. It appears to have a completely yellow face which I believe makes it Helophilus trivittatus.

The vast majority were these, Drone Flies Eristalis tena. Excellent mimics of the Honey Bee.

Not a Hover-fly. I think it may be Graphomyia sp. I know it's pretty ugly! which can't be said of this... surely...

Harvestmen used to be the only 'creepy-crawley' that gave me the heebie-jeebies, until
I faced my fears to get these beautiful portraits! Actually I reckon they are much more pleasant in close up. Look at those cute little eyes!

This Hover-fly came into the kitchen, It's a superb wasp mimic from a bit of a distance, even buzzing the same. I've no idea what it's called though. Now I do! It's actually a Dead Head Hoverfly (markings on thorax) Myathropa florea. Again thanks Nigel :-)

Thursday 20 September 2012

All Quiet on Axe Cliff

I thought I'd try Axe Cliff again this morning after Steve saw a lovely Whinchat up there yesterday. I had no such luck, apart from a steady trickle of House Martins, Swallows and Meadow Pipits over, I saw very little. Still, I managed to get a couple of photos of the latter when a few landed on the fence line for a while although they were a bit flighty and I couldn't get very close. I was also lucky enough to capture some of the action as a passing Buzzard got mobbed by a couple of Carrion Crows.

Not from Axe Cliff but from the banks of the River Coly comes this photo which I took a couple of days ago. I spotted this Long-tailed Tit thrashing the life out of some poor unfortunate caterpillar on a branch of an alder tree. The bizarrely shaped green and brown caterpillar is most probably an Alder Kitten larva, or should that be was! I don't know how the bird managed to swallow it.

Update: I've been informed that the caterpillar is in fact that of the Iron Prominent Moth. I'll have to go and brush up on my ID skills where distant squashed caterpillars are concerned! ;-) Thanks Peter and Co.

Monday 17 September 2012

Grey Wagtail

Walked for what felt like miles along the River Coly today but saw very little. It was nice to get a few shots of a Grey Wagtail though, I've always found them really difficult to photograph but with the new camera ... they still are!! I think it's the lack of contrast in the plumage and their preference for shady spots too I suppose. Still these are still the best shots I've ever got by miles.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Oh So Quiet

It's gone very quiet on patch this week with wader numbers really dropping off on Black Hole Marsh and very little to be seen on Beer Head or Axe Cliff. Still, minor excitement today when Phil found a Curlew Sandpiper at Black Hole Marsh late morning. I was just leaving the house to go up Axe Cliff when I got the text so went down to see it first. It was a lovely juvenile but always stayed way to distant for decent photos. I had a stab at digiscoping it though, which turned out a bit on the naff side but could have been much worse I suppose.

It may have come nearer if I'd waited around a bit longer but I had to leave as the hide began to rapidly fill up with pushchairs and toddlers and resemble a preschool playgroup! So off to Axe Cliff it was then, to see... Well, when I say the stand out highlight was identifying a new plant you'll get the idea. The  plant was this.

Blue Fleabane.
 Again probably one of those I've seen many times and just haven't noticed.