Tuesday 31 December 2013

A Glauc end to the year

The last day of 2013 provided some unexpected excitement with the discovery of a first-winter Glaucous Gull on the estuary (found by Matt Knott - nice one Matt). I got down to Lower Netherton at around midday and after a slightly fraught search picked up the bird midway out opposite the caravan park. It seemed fairly settled, occasionally preening and bathing with other gulls.

In a last-ditch (and ultimately doomed) attempt to add Marsh Tit to my patch year list, I headed to Decoy Park late afternoon, where I battled hordes of children and dogs to see not very much although the drake Scaup continues its winter residence there.

I won't attempt to do a summary of the year, not least because I'm not very good at that sort of thing, but there have certainly been some great birds seen around the Teign Estuary in 2013 - Bonaparte's Gull, Ring Ousel, Scaup, Little Stint, Black Redstart and Firecrest are a few that spring to mind - and with the increased coverage there can only be more goodies to come in 2014. Happy New Year!

Tuesday 24 December 2013

The Racecourse Floods

I looked out from my house today and was slightly surprised to see that the racecourse had changed colour!

It's blue!
So I had a walk down to take a closer look. The river running through town was insane! So powerful! Here it is from the bridge over Aller Brook.

The fullest I've ever seen it!
There were plenty of Meadow Pipits and Pied Wags on the racecourse along with 30 Lapwing, a few Redshank and Snipe, and a flock of Starling.

Almost looking like a proper marsh. If the water levels stay topped up, it may possibly get us a late year tick. Lets hope.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Extreme Digiscoping

Dale and I did the WeBS count today over the high tide. Pretty much all the waders were roosting at Flow Point so I had a pretty boring time at Passage House. Just two Common Sandpipers, two Kingfishers, seven Little Grebe, 21 Lapwing, three Greenshank and a Shag to keep me entertained. At Flow, Dale had nine Ringed Plover, 93 Redshank, 25 Shelduck, 15 Red-breasted Merganser, 334 Oystercatchers, 74 Curlew, and a further four Greenshank. There was a total of ten Little Egrets on the estuary.

Next, we went to Shaldon to have a look at the sea. From Ness Cove looking south, there was a flock of about 15 Great-crested Grebe and a few auks flying south. A look out north from The Ness Hotel revealed some better birds. A Great Northern Diver was feeding close in off the mouth of the estuary, a Red-throated Diver flew south, and another one was sat on the sea off towards Dawlish.

Dale dropped me back off at Passage House on the way back, so I had a quick look for Snipe along the edges of the reeds. There were none, but I did pick up a pipit sp. feeding along the edge of the saltmarsh. I saw a similar looking pipit in the same place about a month ago, but wasn't sure then either. Looking at the scale on google maps, it looks like the pipit was at least 300m away, so a long way! Now this is where the extreme digiscoping bit comes in. I've found that I can get quite a lot more detail on birds if I digiscope with my superzoom camera. My scope was on 50x and the camera on about 30x, so the combined magnification is going to be pretty high! Here are the results...

Not bad for a small bird at 300m I think!
You can see that the underparts appear quite light, there is a bit of a supercilium, the beak looks a bit yellowish, and the legs appear a bit pinky orange.

Possibly a Water Pipit, or a littoralis Rock Pipit? Although it looks a bit mipity in the photos, it definitely wasn't one. Are there any pipit experts out there?

Thursday 19 December 2013

Not a Cattle Egret

On Monday I went to Teigngrace, and after a bit of field scanning, found this small white blob...

I know it's not a cow, but it didn't stop me from thinking I was going to see a Cattle Egret when I looked through my scope! Sadly it had a black beak :( Definitely worth checking this area - it's had some before I believe.

Tuesday was my birthday (not a teenager anymore!), and I didn't feel like braving the rain on Wednesday, so today I made the most of the nicer weather and had a look around Decoy.

The Scaup was still there, the Tufted Duck count had increased to 40, and a Kingfisher was fishing from a branch.

After checking the lake, I had a walk around the woodland where there were c.200 Redwings, a couple of Sparrowhawks, a few Treecreepers, lots of Nuthatches calling, but best of all, three Marsh Tits - a year tick for me.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Blustery Day

I had a look at the upper estuary today on the rising tide. As I arrived, a flock of 23 Lapwing took to the air and flew around for a few minutes. I hope we get a really cold spell soon. Last year when we had one, there was an influx of about 300 Lapwings on the estuary. Same goes for Red-breasted Merganser. Last year they were up to 40 by mid November. I only saw c.19 today - nine off Coombe Cellars and about ten over towards Teignmouth.

The only birds of interest in the gulls were a Common Gull and a couple of LBBs. Other birds included seven Little Grebe, a Common Sandpiper, and a flock of 12 Greenshank. Oops, mustn't forget our winter 'flock' of Dunlin, made up of a single bird!

A quick look at the racecourse on my way back revealed 13 Lapwing, two Little Egret, a flock of about 60 Canada Geese, and 14 Mistle Thrushes feeding in the grass. There were probably more, but the blustery conditions made viewing very difficult. 

Now time to go and watch our patch's very own X-factor finalist on the TV!

Friday 13 December 2013

Back for Christmas

I arrived back home around midday, so after a bit of lunch, I set off to check Decoy. Again, not that much change - the Scaup remains present, along with the Gadwall, the Little Grebe (which caught a fish) and 31 Tufted Duck.

Can you spot the Scaup?

I little bit of a surprise was seeing a Water Rail feeding along the edge of the water on the far side of the lake. This, along with the bad light and the heavy rain meant that my attempts at photographing it weren't great! You can just about make it out though.

Can you see it?

Sunday 8 December 2013

Scaup remains; little else of note

I spent over half the day out on patch, hoping for something new but it appears there have been no significant changes over the past two weeks. Starting off at Decoy the drake Scaup and drake Gadwall remain with 34 Tufted Duck, though no sign of any Pochard. Also noted were a Little Grebe, a Great Crested Grebe, a Green Woodpecker and a Lesser Black-backed Gull. Onto Luxton's Steps area (fields & wetland south of Bishopsteignton) where a lone Teal was on the pond, a Water Rail squealed from the reeds and a Chiffchaff called in a patch of willows. Five Song Thrushes flew out from the hedgerows and at least 15 Meadow Pipits were keeping a low profile in one of the arable fields.

With the tide reaching its peak I had a look off Polly Steps where 11 Turnstone had chosen to roost on one of the boats by the bridge and 9 Red-breasted Merganser were chasing each other over towards Shaldon. Unfortunately there was no sign of the male Black Redstart from last month. I then drove the length of the estuary to view the Passage House area from below the sewage works as the tide began to drop. 98 Redshank was a good count, but other wader numbers were generally disappointing and included 13 Greenshank, 5 Dunlin, 32 Curlew, 10+ Snipe and 20 Lapwing. Among the gulls just 2 Common Gulls and 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls worthy of mention; finally 5 Little Grebe and 3 Grey Wagtail also found their way into my notebook.

Saturday 7 December 2013

All quiet on the eastern front

Fairly quiet of late at the east end of the estuary, the winter return of Shelduck, Red-breasted Merganser and a small flock of Ringed Plover to the Salty have been my most notable sightings, aside from a Great-spotted Woodpecker in Bitton Park (garden tick!).

This afternoon a look offshore from the Yacht Club showed a very flat sea and not a lot else, but perseverance was eventually rewarded with two Great Northern and a Red-throated Diver amongst the Cormorant and Shag.

Sunday 24 November 2013

Pochard arrival

The onset of colder weather over the past week has probably played a role in the sudden arrival of Pochard at Decoy Lake; there were at least 10 today, compared to none at all last weekend. Most waterfowl was keeping to the marginal vegetation due to sailing taking place, so although I couldn't see the drake Scaup it may still be present. I also had a brief look at the upper estuary from Passage House, where 15 Snipe, 12 Greenshank and a Dunlin were the pick of the waders.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Black Redstart

In overcast and calm conditions this morning I thought it might be a good opportunity to look for divers and grebes off Teignmouth, so I got down to the yacht club for 07:45 where the sea wasn't quite as millpond-like as hoped but there was still some interest. Flocks of Common Scoter were active, with one group of 12 which flew in from the north and settled on the sea followed by a group of 23 which circled and headed back towards Dawlish. Further out, 4 flew north and 5 flew south, totalling 44 for the morning; unfortunately no Velvet Scoters chose to accompany them. Also noted were c.20 Kittiwake, two Red-throated Diver, a Great Northern Diver and a Great Crested Grebe.

After about ninety minutes I left to have a look around the docks and Polly Steps. A fine male Black Redstart was on one of the rooftops on Alexandra Terrace opposite the port; one was seen regularly at the nearby rugby club last winter so like the Scaup this could be a returning bird. Also 11 Turnstone were on the slipway.

Saturday 16 November 2013

I love Wood Pigeons*

*Ok so perhaps this statement is a slight exaggeration, since they usually rank alongside large gulls and Carrion Crows on my list of not-so-favourite birds, but the movement of c.2,250 Wood Pigeons over the patch between 07:55 and 08:35 this morning was impressive enough to endear them to me a little more than usual. From my vantage point on Shaldon golf course I observed a dozen or so parties arriving from the direction of Haldon, moving south or SSW with the largest flock numbering around 500.

Just a small snapshot of the activity

Numbers of other common migrants were disappointing but 21 Chaffinch, 15 Goldfinch, 5 Meadow Pipit, 5 Jay, 3 Bullfinch, 3 Skylark and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were logged with 7 Goldcrest and 4 Song Thrush in the bushes between The Ness and Bundle Head.

The drake Scaup was still on Decoy Lake mid-morning along with 33 Tufted Duck and singles of Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe and Kingfisher.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Back for a Birding Weekend

I was back from university this weekend, so I tried to fit in as much birding as possible. On Saturday, I decided to take a look offshore from Teignmouth for an hour in the morning in the hope of seeing some Great Northern Divers, which have managed to completely evade me for the year so far! I soon found two together fairly far offshore and then another a little further north. There wasn't much else on the move, only one Red-throated Diver south, two Common Scoter on the sea, and the Bonaparte's Gull which had apparently just taken a trip to Dawlish Warren.

Today brought nice clear calm conditions perfect for Wood Pigeon migration. I had a quick look out from my house in Newton Abbot at about 9am, and in just 10 minutes, saw roughly 1500 Wood Pigeons fly south over Teignmouth in a continuous stream of large flocks.

At 10:30 I met up with Will and we headed out to the estuary. We first checked Luxton pond which held six Teal and a Little Grebe. Then we counted the birds at Flow Point. There was a Flounder fishing festival on today and the estuary was lined with lots and lots of fishermen, so the birds all had to roost on the railway wall. Counts were, 16 Redshank, 319 Oystercatchers, 56 Curlew, 4 Turnstone, 8 Ringed Plover, 6 Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Common Sandpipers.

Next we moved to Passage House where the tide was beginning to fall. Here there were 12 Greenshank, 9 Lapwing, 1 Kingfisher, 15 Mute Swan, 6 Shelduck, and a further 58 Redshank, 15 Oystercatcher, 56 Curlew, 3 Common Sandpipers and 6 Little Grebe. As the tide dropped, a total of 25 Snipe were enticed out to feed along the water's edge - always a lovely sight!

Our final visit of the day was to Decoy lake where Will's Scaup and Gadwall were chilling out with the Tufties in the fading light. A nice end to a busy weekends birding.

Friday 8 November 2013

Scaup on Decoy Lake

It's always slightly disheartening to wake up on a morning you've booked off for birding to find the weather forecast was wrong and it's chucking it down. This was the scenario that faced me this morning but I mustered enough enthusiasm to get down to Teignmouth for 08.30 for an hour's seawatching. The rain actually held off most of the time I was there, but precious little was moving offshore - only 7 Common Scoter and a dozen or so Gannets south. However there were two Great Northern Divers on the sea, albeit a fair distance out.

I moved on to Decoy Country Park mid-morning, which proved to be a good move as I found a drake Scaup mingling with the some of the 25 Tufted Ducks on the lake. It's possible that this is the same bird seen here earlier this year, in which case it's clearly fond of the surroundings. Also present were a drake Gadwall, a Great Crested Grebe and our old friend colour-ringed Mute Swan NY9; twenty Redwing and a Siskin flew overhead.

I checked Passage House on the way home and came up with 17 Redshank, 8 Lapwing, 2 Common Sandpiper, a Greenshank and a Common Gull.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Tawny Owl(s?)

For a change I had a look around the reedbed behind Coombe Cellars late yesterday afternoon and came up with 3+ Water Rail, 2+ Snipe, a Kingfisher and a male Sparrowhawk. After darkness had set in I followed the footpath across to Netherton, where female Tawny Owls were heard calling from two different locations in the woodland though not at the same time, so it is possible that the same individual was responsible.

Saturday 2 November 2013

Yellowhammer time

I only had time for a brief scan round some fields at Bishopsteignton this morning, where I earned a long overdue patch year tick with a male Yellowhammer associating with a group of 6-7 Cirl Bunting. Also noted were a Chiffchaff, two Raven and 15+ Meadow Pipit.

Male Yellowhammer
Female or 1st-winter Cirl Bunting

 Bath time

Saturday 26 October 2013

Autumn meets winter

This morning's fare provided the feeling that we are entering the transitional period between the two seasons. I started off with a brief seawatch from the yacht club at Teignmouth, where four Kittiwakes, 3 auk sp. and a Common Gull flew south in half an hour before the sun became too dazzling to continue. A look around the bowling green failed to produce the hoped-for Black Redstart, but returning to the seafront I relocated the Bonaparte's Gull again just north of the pier. It's now in full winter plumage, with a large dark spot just behind each eye.

After stopping for coffee during a heavy rain shower I visited the Luxton's Steps area just south of Bishopsteignton (of Short-toed Lark fame). There were plenty of small passerines about including around 50 Meadow Pipit, 21 Skylark, c.10 Redwing, a Grey Wagtail and a Redpoll heard overhead. Four Teal flew out from the marshy area adjacent to the railway, which also held a Reed Bunting and two squealing Water Rail. The best bird was a late Whinchat flitting about the tops of the vegetation.

On to Flow Point, where large numbers of Curlew and Oystercatcher were roosting up against the railway; I counted 105 and 390 respectively. Four Dunlin flew out across the water and two Common Sandpipers were on the Point briefly. It was good to see my first returning Red-breasted Merganser, and there were at least 14 Shag on the water, making a mockery of a comment I made in a previous posting about them being uncommon this side of the Shaldon Bridge. The only passerines of note here were 5 Linnet and a Rock Pipit.

Friday 18 October 2013

Migrants moving south

A pre-work stroll between The Ness and Bundle Head yesterday from 07:45-08:45 produced a southbound movement of 39 alba Wagtails, with those low enough proving to be Pied Wagtails. Also 18 Linnet, 12 Goldfinch and 16 Meadow Pipit heading in the same direction. No sign of the Firecrests (though I did see them again on Tuesday) but the trees and bushes did hold 10 Chiffchaff, 5 Goldcrest, a female Blackcap, 5 Song Thrush, 2 Chaffinch and a Bullfinch. One particular sycamore on the edge of The Ness car park has contained at least one or two Chiffs and/or crests each time I've checked it over the past couple of weeks, so this could be the place for a rare warbler. I also noted much of the bramble scrub in the fields at Bundle Head has been cleared, presumably as part of Cirl Bunting habitat management.

Monday 14 October 2013

Firecrests at The Ness

After hearing the Bonaparte's Gull had made a reappearance yesterday, I made Teignmouth my first port of call this morning. It seemed that the town was at the dividing line between an area of clear weather to the north...

...and a band of rain to the south...
I soon found the Bonaparte's Gull on one of the groynes to the north of the pier, where it was making feeding forays into the surf. After a while it seemingly got bored and flew off towards the railway.

Very little was happening offshore, although a Curlew appeared to fly in-off and a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were on the sandbar. Also a Grey Seal was juggling a fish in the mouth of the estuary which was a nice surprise.

I then moved onto The Ness, where I was unsuccessful in my quest to find a Yellow-browed Warbler but consolation came in the form of two Firecrests feeding together in the holm oaks. Between there and Bundle Head I also recorded 7 Goldcrest, 9 Chiffchaff, 3 Blackcap, 5 Song Thrush, 30 Swallow, c10 Meadow Pipit, 8 Skylark and 2 Siskin. I then moved onto Luxton's Steps pond where 4 Teal represented a welcome increase in waterfowl there and 15 Little Egrets were roosting in the trees. The surrounding bushes and fields held 30+ Meadow Pipit, 9 Skylark, 2 Blackcap, a Reed Bunting and a Grey Wagtail. My last stop of the day after lunch was Passage House which yielded 4 Greenshank, 6 Swallow, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Kingfisher.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Passage House WeBS

At Passage House today on the rising tide there were 38 Little Egret, 6 Grey Heron, 10 Greenshank, 27 Redshank (roosting on the railway wall near the boat wreck), 80 Curlew, 5 Dunlin, 1 Grey Plover, 1 Common Sandpiper, 3 Lapwing, 1+ Snipe, 46 Oystercatchers, 3 (maybe 4) Kingfishers, 6 Mute Swan, 2 Canada Geese, 11 Mallard, 13 Cormorant and 4 Little Grebe.

It's only really Curlews and Oystercatchers that a need a proper count doing now, so Dale, you could use my counts from today and just count the Oyks and Curlews any time over the next week if you can :-)

Also, the Bonaparte's Gull was reported back in Teignmouth today. I wonder where it went.

Two seconds before catching a fish!

Saturday 12 October 2013

Firsts of the Autumn

There was quite a bit of movement going on this morning with quite a few Meadow Pipits and my first Redwings of the year overhead. About a hundred altogether in three big flocks, one of which contained 2+ Fieldfare. They seem to be really early this year. I actually saw my first Fieldfares yesterday off patch. You don't usually see them before Redwings!

First, I checked Rackerhayes, which unlike Decoy which is up to 12 Tufties already, didn't have any diving ducks. It did however have four Teal and a Gadwall. A Kingfisher was fishing from a branch and a lone Swallow was stocking up on flies over the water ready for its long trip south. At the moment I don't think we've quite decided on patch boundaries, but in my opinion, Rackerhayes should be part of the patch. It's really easy to check and has great potential for rarities!

Next I headed to Passage House via Hackney Marshes where I had a flock of seven Wigeon fly high over and towards the estuary. Unbelievably a year tick for me! At Passage House there were a further two Kingfishers, three Lapwing and the first four Snipe of the Autumn. The only other waders of note were a Black-tailed Godwit, five Greenshank and two Dunlin.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Not much to shout about

A look around Hackney Marshes & the racecourse this morning produced the following: 1 Wheatear, 7 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest, 2 Swallow, 2 Grey Wagtail, 35 Pied Wagtail, 3 Water Rail, 23 Canada Goose, c.50 Goldfinch, 8 Linnet and a Kingfisher. Overhead were 3 Siskin and a Raven.

Sunday 6 October 2013

Weekend round-up

This morning I watched the Passage House area for an hour on the falling tide. Nothing outstanding but I did see my first two Lapwing of the autumn, plus a Grey Plover, 70 Curlew, 52 Little Egret, 7 Grey Heron, 3+ Sandwich Tern, four Little Grebe, a Kingfisher and a Rock Pipit.

Yesterday I acted on a last-minute impulse and took a day trip to the Isles of Scilly, my first visit to the archipelago. It proved worthwhile with one lifer - an Arctic Warbler - and a supporting cast that included a Bluethroat, a Yellow-browed Warbler and a Purple Heron that I jammed in flight whilst waiting for my plane back. It goes without saying that any of these would be welcomed on the Teign!

On Friday I took a mid-morning stroll between The Ness and Bundle Head. Migrant numbers were generally low, with just three Chiffchaff, two Goldcrest and a Blackcap. Overhead there was some movement, with c.15 Swallow heading south, 12 Skylark moving in the opposite direction, and at least 25 Meadow Pipit loafing about.

View across to Teignmouth from Shaldon golf course

Sunday 29 September 2013

Belated WeBS

During a belated WeBS count this week I worked the estuary in the following order: Flow Point - The Salty - Flow Point - Passage House from about midday until 2pm. The two visits to Flow Point was my attempt to locate the small waders which was to no avail. The highlight was a Grey Plover at Passage House which are relatively uncommon on the Teign. The reaction as I scanned was a mildly excited initial "Ooh a Plover!" followed by a resigned but contented "oh it's a Grey."

Other counts recorded included 338 Oystercatcher, 130 Curlew, 14 Greenshank, four Redshank, three Common Sandpiper, two Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, 48 Sandwich Tern, 42 Little Egret and four Little Grebe.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Knot again

In grey, damp, muggy conditions late morning, a brief look at Passage House just after high tide produced little other than two Sandwich Terns in with the Black-headed Gulls. I then went to Flow Point and 'scoped the waders on the far side, and picked up a Knot distantly amongst the Oystercatchers and Curlews; presumably the same bird seen on the Salty on the 15th. As the tide dropped I moved round the Point to try to get a closer view of the Knot, but the waders were already dispersing to feed and I was unable to relocate it. A Turnstone (below) proved much more obliging, and a juvenile Sandwich Tern was making a racket trying to persuade its parent to bring food. A further half dozen Sarnies were sat on buoys in the estuary alongside two Shags - uncommon this side of the Shaldon bridge.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Ringed Mute Swan

I've just had information back about a ringed Mute Swan that I found at Passage House on the 2nd August - lime green NU9. It's another RSPCA bird found as a cygnet too small to survive. After rehabilitation it was released at Exeter Quay on 13th January 2011, so has survived two and a half years post release.

The Bonaparte's Gull is still at Teignmouth and two Mediterranean Gulls were also reported there a couple of days ago.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Arctic Tern

The Bonaparte's Gull was still present today making lots of funny sounding calls. It did however seem to disappear from time to time, maybe to the south end of the beach.

I seawatched from 13:00 - 17.30 and was joined by Will at around 4pm.

Totals were:
5 Arctic Skua - 2 dark phases fairly close in.
1 Skua sp.
20 Balearic Shearwaters
2 Manx Shearwaters
2 Shearwater sp.
1 Fulmar
16 Common Terns
1 Arctic Tern - a juv. Got a nice comparison with a Common Tern. Patch tick for me :)
14 'Commic' Terns
10 Auks
7 Common Scoter
c70 Kittiwakes
3 LBBG - juvs
Probably 30 each of Gannet and Sandwich Tern

Monday 16 September 2013


After seeing the seawatching reports from yesterday, I was really annoyed I didn't go, so I decided to go early this morning in the hope of seeing some of the birds that seemed to have roosted offshore overnight. When my alarm went off I almost decided not to go. What a mistake that would have been!

When I arrived, the first birds I saw were a flock eight Balearic Shearwaters. I then heard a high pitched tern like call coming from a bird which alighted on a pipe. I got it in the scope and saw this:

A Bonaparte's Gull!!! My rarest find so far and the rarest bird I've seen on patch. Probably the same bird that was here last year which takes away from the excitement a bit. I dipped that bird three times so I'm glad to have got it this time! I put the news out to the locals and it was successfully twitched by Kev, Robin and Will (who made it there in lightning speed!). It ranged along the seafront north of the pier landing on the groynes. Here are some more pictures of it:

Nice pale under-wing!

Also offshore were c80+ Balearic Shearwaters. Birds were doubling back north but the main movement was to the south. I reckon that we missed quite a lot while looking at the gull so the total's probably more like 100+. At 8:35am a massive flock of 40 birds when past. A really impressive sight.

Not such an impressive sight in the photo though.
A Red-throated Diver also flew in from the south and landed far offshore, and a very distant small Skua sp. flew south. Quite relaxed flight - Long-tailed!?

On the way back with Robin we checked Flow Point to look for the Knot but only saw 36 Dunlin, seven Ringed Plover, the Barwit and a Wheatear.

Later I checked Passage House on the lead up to high tide and counted 99 Curlew, the Barwit, 64 Little Egret and two Little Grebe. On my walk back I saw the pale Buzzard which has been seen for ages in the area. It was sitting in the path right in front of me so I assumed it had caught a mouse or something. When I approached it flew off but when I rounded the corner I saw it in the water!!! That's right, a Buzzard in a river! It just about managed to swim to the bank and haul itself out of the water. It didn't fly off even when I got to within two metres of it! There has to be something wrong with it. Should I tell the RSPB or someone similar about it? 

Sunday 15 September 2013

Birding in comfort

All records from the sofa or bedroom - saves getting wet! Late morning on the Salty there were five Sandwich Tern and a Dunlin; my first there, so I expected that to be bird of the day. However following a high tide visit to the Warren things became decidedly unTeign...

First up was a Bar-tailed Godwit on the Salty, then three Ringed Plover and a flock of 24 Turnstone, not at all bad for the Teignmouth end of the river, all of these were however surpassed by a Knot - a genuine Teign rarity. Once the waders had flown upriver I turned my attention offshore, here a single Black Tern was lingering and then a couple of Balearic Shearwater flew south before doubling back north. Over the next 30 minutes it became obvious a feeding/roosting flock of Balearic were present - occasionally heading south into Labrador Bay with a minimum total of 28 counted. Both them and the Black Tern were still present around 7.15pm so presumably roosted nearby.


Black Terns and Balearics

I had a decent couple of hours' seawatching at Teignmouth this afternoon from 14:30 - 16:45, with the rain largely holding off and visibility remaining good. Totals were c.60 Balearic Shearwaters (almost certainly an overestimate since some birds were moving back and forth, but did include a group of 15 loafing on the sea together), 7 Manx Shearwaters, 8 distant unidentified shearwater sp., 4 Black Terns, 1 Arctic Tern, 12 commic terns, 6 Arctic Skuas, 1 Great Skua and 6 Common Scoters. Also a steady trickle of Sandwich Terns and Gannets and a handful of Kittiwakes. Apart from the circulating shearwaters, everything was heading south. The Arctic Tern (a juv) was nice and close to allow for positive identification, and the Black Terns and skuas also had the courtesy to pass relatively near to shore. From what I gather neither Dawlish Warren nor Portland could compete with these totals, so it's nice for a change that Teignmouth scored higher than other better-known watchpoints in the region.

Yesterday I only had time for a brief early morning look at Bundle Head. The bushes contained standard autumnal fare - 13 Chiffchaffs, 7 Blackcaps, 3 Whitethroats - but overhead there was an on-going arrival of Meadow Pipits in off the sea in small groups; I counted at least 70 moving inland in the hour or so I was there. Always good to see 'viz mig' in action.

Embarrassing year tick

I've checked Flow Point a couple of times over the last few days. On Friday I missed the high tide by an hour so the waders had moved out to the estuary wall and were mostly too distant to check through. There were however seven Greenshank.

Today, The birds were roosting on the point. There were 31 Dunlin and a few Ringed Plovers but nothing scarcer in with them. A Bar-tailed Godwit was a nice surprise though. Unbelievably I've gone the year without seeing one! There was also a Wheatear on the point.

Monday 9 September 2013

Two colour-ringed Curlews

I've just got back from The Azores on a university trip. Didn't have any time (or a scope) for birding so didn't see that much. I did see the Bullfinch (just about!) and plenty of Cory's Shears though.
I've just found that I missed out on a White-tailed Tropicbird which was there for the whole week about 10 mins walk from where we were staying!!

While I was away, I also missed out on a Black Tern briefly on The Salty seen by Kev on the 31st.

I checked Passage this morning but the only thing of note was a Clouded Yellow over the estuary.

Before I left, Will found a colour-ringed Curlew on the 26th and I found another a couple of days later.

Will found the one with the black ring
I had a brief worry that they were the same bird (the green looked very dark in the field) but looking at the photos when I got home, you can clearly see that they are different birds, but both from the same scheme.

The one with the black ring was ringed on 25/4/07 as a breeding female in north west Germany. She returned to the same breeding site in 2008. After this, she was observed to return to the same area but when all of the other Curlews started to breed, this bird disappeared! Our sighting is the first away from the breeding area.

The one with the green ring was ringed on 16/5/05 as a breeding Male in the same place (5km east of Saerbeck if you're interested), and he has been seen to return to this area every year since being ringed. Again, our sighting is the first away from the breeding area. Sadly he seemed to have an injured left leg so not sure if he'll return to breed next year. Would be interesting to know.

Lets hope this Yellowlegs has flown south. I'll be out looking tomorrow.

Sunday 8 September 2013

Warblers and waders

I was up at Bundle Head shortly after sunrise on Saturday and it was evident that numbers of Chiffchaff and Blackcap had increased significantly; the birds were very active and, in the Blackcaps' case, highly skulking, so the most accurate counts I could come up with were 30+ and 20+ respectively. There were also two Willow Warblers, two Whitethroats, four Grey Wagtails overhead and my first dozen Meadow Pipits of the autumn. A bit of quality was provided in the form of this Whinchat:

After a brief stop for coffee I headed to Flow Point and met Robin there. It looks like the Little Stint has moved on but the Dunlin (total count 30) and Ringed Plovers (18) gave exceptionally close views, approaching within about 15 feet of us as we scanned the estuary optimistically (and unsuccessfully) for an Osprey. There was a fair selection of other waders with 3 Redshanks and singles of Greenshank, Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper alongside the more numerous Oystercatchers and Curlew, with at least half a dozen Sandwich Terns in the estuary and a Wheatear in the saltmarsh.

Saturday 31 August 2013

Not much new

Things were quiet around the racecourse early this morning - probably due to the presence of 2 Buzzards and 2 Kestrels - however there were a few more warblers around Hackney Marshes including 8+ Chiffchaff, 5+ Blackcap and 2 Reed Warbler. Although the tide was low I had a look at Flow Point and there were 5 Teal out on the mudflats before flying off high towards Passage House. The juvenile Little Stint remains, seemingly in a more sociable mood, with 9 Dunlin; other waders included a Redshank and a Whimbrel.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Little Stint gets angry

Around the racecourse & Hackney Marshes this morning were 1 Whinchat, 1 Wheatear, 7+ Chiffchaff, 15+ Linnet, 30+ Pied Wagtail, 2 Grey Wagtail, 1 Yellow Wagtail and 2 Green Woodpecker. Overhead 1 Tree Pipit and 6 Ravens, and a mixed group of 200+ Swallows and House Martins. Keeping a close eye on proceedings were singles of Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard.

The juvenile Little Stint was still at Flow Point at midday, keeping around the periphery of the wader flock and ferociously chasing off any Dunlin that came too close! Perhaps it had a case of "small wader syndrome"...

A very brief look at Passage House shortly afterwards produced 1 Greenshank and 1 Common Gull.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Spotted Sandpiper look-alike and Whinchat

I decided to check the reed margins at Passage House today looking for something good waiting to be found. I was distracted however by three Common Sands which were feeding on the mud. Then a fourth flew in giving a sri sri sri call. I got it in the scope and saw that it had yellowish legs and a tail the same length as its wings making it look front heavy. It even appeared a little smaller than the Common Sands! This sent my heart racing for a short while before I saw that there were notches on the tertials and not much pinky orange on the beak. "Can juv Common Sand have a short tail and yellow legs?" "Can Spotted Sand show this much notching?" were the questions going through my head! Kev was able to tell me by text that, yes, they can have short tails and yellow legs, and that no, spotted doesn't show much notching. Definitely a different looking bird. It didn't even associate much with the other sandpipers (ie. stayed put when the others flew off)

On the walk back along the racecourse I heard a Yellow Wagtail overhead and saw a Whinchat (Year Tick!) feeding from a wooden fence. This photo's definitely a contender for worst on the blog, but I'll post it anyway.

It was digi-scoped with a super-zoom bridge camera. I'm quite pleased with it considering it was on the other side of the racecourse!

Monday 26 August 2013

Little Stint success!

Laurie and I spent a couple of hours at Bundle Head this morning for fairly little reward. I did hear a brief call of a Tree Pipit but unfortunately Laurie failed to pick up on it. Aside from this there were just half a dozen or so each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, one Whitethroat and 35 House Martins overheard. We then headed to Flow Point in the hour leading up to high tide and things immediately improved with a Common Sandpiper, two Wheatears and two Yellow Wagtails feeding between the saltmarsh and the estuary wall before flying off high towards Passage House (though I heard another about ten minutes afterwards):

A group of Dunlin and Ringed Plover were roosting on the Point, and in amongst them we came across a smart juvenile Little Stint - presumably the bird seen on the estuary yesterday. It spent most of the time asleep but spent a few moments foraging and preening itself and posing for a few photographs:

All photos by Laurie

So not a bad morning - three patch ticks and the Little Stint also being a Devon year tick for me. Migration is definately under way!

Sunday 25 August 2013

Missing out on Little Stint. Twice!

Just a fairly short post today.

Dale and I headed out around the estuary to do the WeBS count on the rising tide. We focused most of our attention on Flow Point as the high tide flooded the Passage House roost. There were 339 Oystercatchers, 89+ Curlew, 2 Whimbrel, c20 Ringed Plover, c30 Sandwich Terns, four Redshank and 2 Wheatears. Five Teal (all female types) were a nice surprise at Passage House, where there was also four Common Sandpipers and a Kingfisher. We managed to get a good Little Egret count of 66. 40 or 50 were roosting in the trees by Passage House. A very impressive sight!

Anyway, we didn't see any Dunlin on the count. I expect they were roosting on the estuary wall out of range of our scopes. Well that turned out to be pretty annoying because later Will saw on birdguides that a Little Stint had been seen around lunchtime (found by Tom Whiley) with the Dunlin! So we rush out and soon found the group of 20 Dunlin (with the Ringed Plover and a Turnstone) feeding in front of Flow Point but there was no Little Stint to be seen! Birding can be very cruel!

Saturday 24 August 2013

Passerine migrants

I paid my first visit to Bundle Head this morning, where last night's cloud had begun to break up and there were some fine views across Labrador Bay:

I focused on the sheltered area immediately south of the golf course, which I christened 'The Valley'. There weren't masses of birds but the hedges and scrub there provided some migrant interest, with 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Whitethroats, a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff. Overhead there was a steady (mostly northerly) passage of House Martins with a few Swallows and Sand Martins mixed in. Four Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk were making the most of the morning's first thermals, two Stonechats flitted between patches of bramble, and a juvenile Green Woodpecker was feeding on the golf course.

'The Valley' - looks good for a Wryneck I reckon...