Saturday 30 March 2013

Not So Good Saturday Birding

Late start, settled weather and indecisiveness is always a bad combination, and I warn you now that this isn't a one of those blog posts (that other people get to write) that starts slow and builds up to a surprise decent bird. When I eventually did get out I quickly checked Passage House. I arrived two hours after high tide and there wasn't much around wader wise apart from four Greenshank, six Redshank and c.20 Curlew, and there was nothing of interest in the gulls. I then checked both Arch Brook and Flow Point and again there was nothing of note. 

I eventually ended up at Bundle Head. A female Stonechat was in the brambles which was new for the year. I've seen a pair here in the past and it's good to see them back. In an attempt to have something to post on the blog, I practiced using my new camera and got some ropey pictures of Wood Pigeon, Kestrel, Raven, Wren and the Stonechat that not even I'm prepared to post and my photo standards are low. I then had a look offshore from the clifftop and saw three Sandwhich Tern feeding close in. I noticed one of the birds was the same as the others and thought wait a that....a.....a......Sandwich Tern!!! And it was. On my way home I bought a cheap sausage roll and worried a bit about my pastry consumption levels.

I received news of a female Black Restart at Teignmouth Rugby Club that I'll go for tomorrow, and other information websites reported that the female Ring Ouzel did return to the racecourse, the Firecrest was still at Hackney Marshes and a Marsh Harrier was seen at both Coombe Cellars and Hackney yesterday.

Friday 29 March 2013

Good Friday Birding

NEWS JUST IN: Sandwich Tern on the Salty this PM (update 20:34)

The female Ring Ouzel was still on Newton Abbot Racecourse this morning and showing well (no picture though). Thanks Laurie. It was last seen flying off over the railway sometime around 10:45am as I was heading back. A bit unfortunate as some people had just arrived to see/photograph it from the track.

Coincidentally this was five minutes after a photographer who, on an otherwise completely empty racecourse, parked his car within 30m of it and was photographing it next to his car. Hopefully it returned, but if it did I doubt it will hang around for long tomorrow (if it doesn't leave tonight that is) as there's a meeting on. Also on the racecourse was a female Wheatear, 3+ Meadow Pipit, a singing Skylark, a Lapwing and a Lesser Redpoll (overhead).

Northern Wheataer
The Wood Duck was still there with a group of Mallard near the Aller Brook, and a single flighty Little Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper were at Passage House over high tide.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Another Ouzel

After all the rain we've had recently, the middle part of the racecourse has become slightly flooded. As I was checking to see if there was anything on it (which there wasn't), a bird flew right into my field of view and landed on the white barrier. It had a slightly pale chest band (female or 1st winter) and a silvery wing. Another patch Ring Ouzel! And in a different location. I suppose the racecourse offers a habitat much like that of moorland. After perching for a second or two, it flew into a nearby tree and then dropped down into thick vegetation not to be seen again. Also on the racecourse were 7+ Wheatears and 2 Sand Martins.

The drake Wood Duck was still on the river near the new foot bridge.On Hackney Marshes I heard a Cetti's Warbler call. There were also two Reed Buntings, and I saw a Chiffchaff in a tree! The Firecrest was in it's usual place, ranging along the path just south of the car park. Dale, you must get your camera on it before it moves off.

Will Salmon had a Little Ringed Plover at Passage House yesterday afternoon, but I failed to see it this morning. I suppose it might have moved off in the nice weather. I'll have another look later this afternoon and update this post if I see it.

Update: Didn't see a LRP but saw the Ring Ouzel again in the same place. This morning I said it could have been a 1st winter male, but this afternoon it gave much better views, and I could see that it clearly had a much stronger chest band than I first thought, so it is a female.

On the way back home, at the new footbridge I had incredible views of a female Sparrowhawk plucking a pigeon only 5 metres away. The best view of a Sparrowhawk I have ever had! I'm just so annoyed I forgot my camera!!

Anyway, I'm really pleased so many people were able to see the Ouzel :-)

Monday 25 March 2013

First Sand Martin

I saw my first, rather overdue Sand Martin today, feeding over the river from the new footbridge. It really seemed like it was struggling against the strong winds.

In the middle of the racecourse there were two male Wheatears, and in the reeds at Hackney Marshes there was one Water Rail which ran into thick cover before I could take a picture of it!

Still lots of Chiffchaffs feeding on the ground. I expect the reason for this is that in these cold, windy conditions, the insects that the Chiffchaffs feed on have retreated from the trees and bushes to the ground where it is warmer and more sheltered. In cold weather like this, birds this small lose about 10% of their body weight over night just keeping themselves warm, so they need to eat as much as they can during the day.

A visiting birder had also seen the (?) Little Gull along Teignmouth beach.

Sunday 24 March 2013

Little Gull

Laurie and I headed for Bundle Head early morning, but the bushes were mostly blown out due to the stiff north easterly. The only migrants about were c. 15 Chiffchaff, a couple of Fieldfare and a Grey Wagtail overhead.

Next we headed down to "The Watchtower" in Shaldon and were rewarded with an adult Little Gull which was first seen high offshore and then rather rapidly flew past us up the estuary beyond Shaldon Bridge. A single Sandwich Tern was also seen offshore heading south.

Finished up with several quick stops up the estuary, including Coombe Cellars and Passage House, to scan over the low tide, but no sign of the Little Gull or anything else of note. Another c. 15 Chffchaff were feeding around the saltmarsh and bushes at Passage.

Saturday 23 March 2013


Had a text from Laurie about the Ring Ouzel, so left the chickenpox infested child with the wife and headed down this evening but no joy. There was a suspect seen at distance flying from scrub into the hedge, but it decided to stay in said hedge for at least the next hour and a bit while I was there.

Other news: a group of six Swallow headed north (first of the year), along with up to 10 Chiffchaff (several of which feeding in the fields), three Wheatear (2m, 1f) and a Sparrowhawk spooked a flock of 45+ Meadow Pipit.

Two Spring Migrants - Two Patch Year Ticks

After seeing a report of a good fall at Exmouth this morning, I immediately wanted to go to Bundle Head to see if we'd got one as well. So when mum suggested going for a walk, I suggested going there.

The Ness - Bundle Head

Here is the area of headland between Bundle Head and The Ness on a very gloomy, misty day - perfect fall conditions. In the field shown in the picture, there were lots of Meadow Pipits, probably about 100. I expect they were all migrants. In the field just beyond the tree on the right, there were about 7 or 8 Wheatears, mostly all handsome looking males. I hadn't bothered to take my scope so couldn't get any good pictures, but I tried my best at digibining them. However, as you can see from the pictures below, I am not that good at it!

You may need to click on this and press CTRL + to zoom in. There are two Wheatears in this picture - can you find them both?

About 10 seconds after I took the picture of Bundle Head to The Ness, I checked the hedgerow on the right of the photo and found this.

The one on the right.

If you haven't worked out what it is from the photo yet, it's a Ring Ouzel! Another new bird for the patch as far as I know. You can just about see the white chest in the photo. In my binoculars, although distant, I could see the lovely silvery wings too. Fantastic bird!

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Patch Tick!

The sea was quite flat this morning, so I was hoping to pick up some birds sat on top of it. There weren’t many, just a couple of Great Crested Grebes, a couple of Shelduck, and a smattering of Shags and Cormorants. Over the 45 minutes spent watching, three Common Scoter (2m 1f) flew south, and a Red-throated Diver flew north. The diver flew quite close and I could see it raising its head and calling (I didn’t hear it though).

The wind had picked up a bit in the afternoon. I stopped off for another 45 minutes on my return journey from Dawlish Warren. There was still nothing much on the sea. At 2:05pm, I picked up a group of 3 Scoters flying south. They were fairly distant, but I could clearly see that one of them had white wing bars! VELVET! The bird was with two male Common Scoters and I could clearly see that the Velvet was brown compared with the black of the Commons. The Velvet also had a pretty pale belly indicating that it was a 1st winter and probably a female. When the group got level with the pier, they made a U-turn. This was led by the Velvet as the two others followed closely behind. However the U-turn meant that on the return pass, they were quite a bit further out to sea. I don’t think there have been any Velvet Scoters reported in Devon this winter (I may be wrong), so it was a pretty lucky sighting and a great new tick for the patch!

Thursday 14 March 2013

First Post - Feral wildfowl

Just found a lovely male Wood Duck on the river where the new bridge has just been built. It was probably attracted by the other feral/hybrid ducks and geese there. There is a group of geese on the Teign, 2 Swan Goose X Greylag type things, 2 white farm geese, a domestic Greylag and a weird Canada Goose that tags along with them. I expect the Wood Duck will stay awhile as the ducks there get fed regularly by the local people.

Isn’t he beautiful

On Hackney Marshes, the afternoon sunshine brought the Cetti's Warblers into song, a total of 3 individuals. On the path in-between the car park and the bridge, I finally found the Firecrest which has been there for about a month now. Chiffchaff numbers seem to have increased a bit with about 5 on site.

On the edge of the reed beds on the way up to Passage House there were 4 Water Rails and 6+ Snipe with a few Reed Buntings flying around and a Siskin in the reeds. One of the wintering Common Sandpipers was on one of the muddy banks. It seemed like there was only one bird wintering here up until the cold spell in January, when the cold temperatures must have pushed a couple more down from further up in the country.

I had a look for a possible early Little Ringed Plover at Passage House. Sadly there wasn't one there. Hopefully we might get one in the next couple of weeks.