Wednesday 31 December 2014

Penduline Tits at Darts Farm

I was lucky yesterday to see the Penduline Tits on only my third attempt. I say that because several others have tried for them many more times than that including Dave Land who also saw them yesterday but on his sixth attempt! They really are very hit and miss, not seeming to have any pattern to their movements around the Exe Estuary area. We were just about to give up yesterday after waiting for over three hours when they suddenly appeared out of nowhere at 12.30. Three of them fed in the reedmace next to the hide for around twenty minutes before heading off high towards Bowling Green Marsh, they returned at 1.15 and stayed for another twenty minutes before heading off again in the same direction. The low sun made photography a bit of a challenge but I got a selection of nice shots none the less. A lovely way to close the birding year. The Brent Geese were putting on a nice show which was an added bonus as was the presence of the Black Brant amongst them.


They did come a bit nearer...

For a lot of the time they had the sun behind them, but I really like the way the back-lit photos came out..

The Black Brant standing out nicely in amongst the Dark-bellied Brent Geese

Dark-bellied Brent Geese

 I'm not going to be doing an end of year review this year, firstly because I've done so little blogging it would be pretty quick just to look back at all my posts and secondly I really don't want to relive some of the low points. Although the stand out highlight would have to be THIS

All that remains is to thank my readers and wish you all a Very Happy New Year! :-)

Saturday 27 December 2014

Christmas Day Buntings

On Christmas Day morning I managed to pop out for a couple of hours birding. I thought it would be very quiet but quite a lot of folks had the same idea and were out taking a pre-lunch walk. I decided to have a look for the East Devon Cirl Buntings. I had seen some a week or so ago but very briefly as the coast path was very busy and they were soon flushed by dog walkers. Fortunately, on this occasion I'd timed it perfectly and had some great views of six birds including a very smart male. There were lots of other birds around in the stubble fields too, including some very large flocks of Skylarks, a few Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings and the ubiquitous Stonechat of course, they really are everywhere this year! I'll be spending a lot of time exploring the coast path on my new patch in the coming year, it looks superb!

Male Cirl Bunting

Male and Female


A nice back-lit shot of a female.
I like the bokeh on this.

The male is really very smart, even in winter plumage.

Meadow Pipit


Female Stonechat

Male Stonechat

The weather looks lovely for getting out birding in the next few days but unfortunately I'm off up t'north for a couple of days, even more unfortunately I see that the Penduline Tits were back at Dart's Farm this morning. Oh well, hopefully they'll stay for the rest of the winter and I'll catch up with them eventually. Never say never.

Friday 19 December 2014

Great Grey Shrike Again

After reading that the Great Grey Shrike was seen again yesterday afternoon I once again went over to Aylesbeare Common hoping to get a better view.  I got there pretty early (about 9am) and almost immediately spotted it. It was pretty distant again but before I could get any nearer it vanished, like they do! Luckily it soon reappeared on a well know landmark, unluckily I was looking straight into the rising sun, but it was a good opportunity for a nice atmospheric shot.

Anyone who knows Aylesbeare Common well, will know exactly where this is.

The burning question was, would I be able to circumnavigate the pine stump to get a view in better light, before it did another disappearing act? The answer, much to my surprise was yes!

That's more like it!
It then moved into a small bush a little bit nearer to me but all too briefly and I only got one more shot...

Then it... Can you guess? 
Yes.  It vanished!

Before I left several other birders had arrived but I haven't heard if any of them caught up with it.
I feel very lucky to have seen it twice now.

Monday 15 December 2014

Great Grey Shrike, Purple Sandpiper and Red Cage Fungus

I'm still not getting enough time to update my blog as often as I'd like, but here's a selection of stuff from the last few weeks. Perseverance eventually paid of yesterday morning when after reading that the Great Grey Shrike had been seen at Aylesbeare Common on Saturday afternoon, I went over there and almost immediately spotted it sunning itself in the first rays of sun of the day. It was some distance away but I took a couple of record shots knowing what Shrikes can be like! Disappearing acts being a specialty of theirs. It then did a disappearing act! It wasn't seen again all day despite several people looking. I say perseverance paid off because I've been over to Colaton Raleigh Common on three or four occasions looking for it without success. I'm visiting Aylesbeare Common quite regularly now so hopefully I'll jam into it again.

Twas pretty distant.

Great Grey Shrike

You can always count on a Stonechat to pose nicely at least!

I thought that maybe I was 'on a roll' so after leaving Aylesbeare I went down to Jacob's Ladder for high tide and sure enough there were two Purple Sandpipers in amongst the Turnstones on the rock armour. Must have been the fourth time I've looked for these too. Unfortunately by this time it was getting very dull indeed and I had to use such a slow shutter speed most of my photos didn't come out so well. A couple were surprisingly good though, as I was able to use the railings to steady my camera.


Purple Sandpiper

Two weeks ago I actually 'twitched' a fungus, not for the first time though because I remember that I 'twitched' Death Cap, four years ago. You can read about that here if you've nothing better to do. (Yes, I know you have!) The fungus I twitched this time was the rare Red Cage Fungus - Clathrus ruber. Surprisingly it was actually in the town of Exmouth right alongside a busy street. It had been photographed the day before when the two specimens were at their best and looking amazing. See them on Matt's blog here. Matt kindly let me know their exact whereabouts and I was there first thing the next day. As I'd feared I was already too late to see them in all their glory as one of them had already collapsed in the centre they were still pretty spectacular just the same. Much bigger than I'd imagined (about the size of a large grapefruit) and looking like something from an alien movie! 

Red Cage - Clathrus ruber.
Red Cage is actually a bit of a boring common name for this bizarre fungus. I much prefer some of the 'descriptive' names it's been given in other parts of Europe, such as Red Lantern, Devil's Grid,  Witch's Heart or Witch's Vomit. 

Close up showing the bizarre spongy texture and the green slime (or gleba) on the inside of the lattice, which as in other members of the Stinkhorn family exudes a vile smell similar to rotting flesh to attract flies to the spore mass which then carry it off on their feet.