Friday 26 April 2013

Whimbrel & Dunlin

The change overnight to cooler and clearer conditions didn't do much for the migrant situation, with only a Wheatear of note on the racecourse this morning. I bumped into Laurie and expressed my wish for a patch Red Kite - although not for several hours after I'd left, which is when one was seen over Hackney Marshes! There was some small consolation off Passage House this evening, with 3 Whimbrel and 3 Dunlin foraging out on the mud, plus 2 Common Sandpipers.

Monday 22 April 2013

Grey Plover

Off Passage House at high tide this afternoon were a summer-plumaged Dunlin and a winter-plumaged Grey Plover; the latter presumably the same bird Laurie saw on Saturday. Also a Great Crested Grebe.

Saturday 20 April 2013

WeBS Count - Lower Estuary

As Laurie said, we did our count today. I recorded just 89 Oystercatcher, 13 Turnstone, ten Shelduck, two Red-Breasted Merganser, a single Little Egret, a couple of Mute Swan and Mallard, and two Sandwich Tern.

WeBS Count - Passage House

We did our WeBS count today over the not so high, high tide. This meant that the birds were spread out over the estuary. At my end (Passage House), there wasn't that much to be seen, but I did get two new patch year ticks!

Numbers of wintering birds are really dropping off now, with only four Redshank, no Greenshank, 28 Oystercatcher, and only three Curlew (I expect there were more further down the estuary though).

There was a tiny little bit of wader passage, with two Whimbrel and a Grey Plover, the two year ticks. They were both way away (through heat haze) on the other side of the estuary so no photos I'm afraid. It's the first Grey Plover I've seen all winter. We could easily go a year without seeing one. Back at the end of January this year there was a big flock of 280+ Lapwing on the estuary, in which I was hoping to find Grey and Golden Plovers, but annoyingly there were none, so good to get one of the species out the way now at least.

Little Egret numbers are climbing now with 18 between Passage House and Coombe Cellars, and probably a few more down Dale's end. This one was showing off some nice fluffy breeding plumage.

First Reed Warbler

Around Hackney Marshes & the racecourse this morning: one Reed Warbler, 2 Sedge Warblers, 4 Blackcaps, 4 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler and a male Wheatear, with 10+ Swallows and 5+ House Martins overhead.

Four Sandwich Terns were fishing off Teignmouth seafront late afternoon.

Friday 19 April 2013

Quick Update

I saw my first Sedge Warbler yesterday at Hackney Marshes. Good to see (and hear) them back. Also there yesterday were two Whitethroat (1m,1f). It seems like Wheatear numbers have dropped off now with five seen yesterday, and none seen today.

I had an late evening visit to the marsh today on the off chance that I'd hear a Grasshopper Warbler. I don't know how late you have to wait to start hearing them sing, or whether I'll have better luck early in the morning? I did however see my first two patch House Matins of the year and a flock of c.60 Sand Martins flying over the marshes.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Black Kite??? And Many Wheatears!

I had a look along the racecourse, hoping for a Hoopoe to pop its head up (seem like good habitat for them) but saw lots of Wheatear instead - a good count of 17. One of the males had a very strong orangey pink chest, so possibly a Greenland, but who knows! (Edit: Looking at pictures of them on the internet, it seems like they have bolder superciliums then Northern Wheatears - and the one I saw really did have a very striking supercilium.)

When I got to Passage House, a man sitting in his car called me over and told me he had seen a Black Kite earlier while driving over the motorway bridge! He said that it flew low down, over the bridge and towards Newton Abbot/Kingsteignton. I'm not sure whether he did actually see one or whether he was having me on! I asked him if it was "definitely a Black Kite and not a Red Kite or a Marsh Harrier," and the answer was, "no, I'm sure it was a Black Kite." "And not a Buzzard?" "No!" He then went on to tell me that he sees Black Kites most years in England and that they're relatively common. He even said that he thought they were breeding. Now I'm pretty sure they do not breed in England, unless everyone keeps it a massive secret! Anyway, make of it what you will.

On my way back I thought I heard a Sedge Warbler, but it only sang for a short while and it was very distant, so I'm not sure whether it was one. There was also a Water Rail at Hackney Marshes.

NEWS JUST IN: Robin Shute counted 60 Wheatear on the racecourse late this afternoon. I expect there must be at least one Greenland in there. I only had bins on me so must have missed a lot. That or they all decided to arrive after I left!

Monday 15 April 2013

Sylvia in Song

A look at Passage House this morning didn't give much. Redshank numbers have dropped to eight, and Common Sandpipers have increased to three or four, giving good views along the river near Aller Brook. I think it's called Newton Channel. One even flew right under me while I was standing on the bridge. Hirundine numbers have increased - c20 Swallow and c10 Sand Martin, some around Passage House, but most were over the racecourse.

I saw two Willow Warblers at Hackney Marshes but didn't hear any sing. As always, the Cetti's were being very vocal, as well as four Blackcaps now all in full song. The highlight of the morning came when I was walking back along the racecourse and heard a hurried scratchy warble coming from the brambles in between the path and the railway. I raised my bins and saw my first Whitethroat of the year. They seem to be quite late this year. Not many have been reported so far.

News from Kev yesterday: There were nine Turnstone, a Sandwich Tern and a Wheatear on the Salty, and offshore there were eight Common Scoter and four Shoveler which are new for the year. Shoveler are pretty rare on the estuary so it's nice to get some offshore.

Friday 12 April 2013

Migrants trickling in

At least five Willow Warblers were at Hackney Marshes this evening, one of which was singing. Over the racecourse three Swallows were hawking for insects, and a further group of least a dozen hirundines was circling distantly over towards Rackerhayes; most appeared to be Sand Martins.

Thursday 11 April 2013

Broken Beak

A Red-breasted Merganser has been on the river at Aller Brook for a while now, but unfortunately the end of its lower mandible has been broken off.

This photo has been up on the notice board for a while now - not sure if its related?

On the estuary there were two Snipe, two Common Sandpiper, 14 Common Gull and c40 Curlew. Another birder reported that a Merlin had been seen at Netherton Point, but after a good look, there was no sign. I did hear a Green Woodpecker and see my first three Swallows of the year over the estuary though.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Dead gull provides birding highlight

An hour's walk around the Hackney Marshes/racecourse area first thing this morning was disappointing, with just a Wheatear, a Blackcap and nine Chiffchaffs recorded in terms of migrants. On my return home I noticed what appears to be a dead 2cy Herring Gull on my roof; no obvious signs of injury so I assume it must have been a sick bird. Removing it will provide a diversion at the weekend if the birding is slow.

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Nice little fall

I headed out to Bundle head at about 14:00. Probably should have gone a lot earlier, but as the conditions remained misty, I thought that migrants may have actually been building up throughout the day.

On the walk from the train station through Teignmouth, I saw two Willow Warblers - good start I thought! At Bundle Head, there were less birds than I expected however. The bulk of birds was made up by five Willow Warblers and seven Chiffchaff, however a change from the dull browns and greens of the commoner migrants was provided by a Firecrest and a male Redstart. I got superb views of the Firecrest which stayed in the same bush throughout my visit feeding on flies. I picked up the Redstart flitting between the bramble patches, and managed to obtain good views but it soon passed on inland.

Monday 8 April 2013

Late news: Saturday 6th

Saturday dawned sunny and cold but without the biting wind that has been such a feature as of late. There were half a dozen or so Chiffchaffs along the cycle path at Hackney Marshes but very few other passerine migrants; no Wheatears remained on the racecourse, and the wintering Firecrest finally appears to have moved on. Two Water Rails showed very well together in one ditch, and four Lesser Redpolls flew over. At Passage House a stomp around the edge of the reedbed at low tide produced a Jack Snipe that was very nearly trodden upon before flushing and alighting deeper within the reeds. Also a Rock Pipit was heard and seen in flight briefly.

I returned to Passage House shortly before high tide in the afternoon, where a Dunlin had joined a party of 14 Redshanks, and other waders included a Greenshank and 17 Curlew.

Sunday 7 April 2013

The Lagoons

I visited one of the three or four lagoons along the north side of the estuary today. The trouble with them is that they are quite hard to access. I went to the Jack's Patch one which you can access via the track that goes down to Flow Point. Here's how it looks.

Looks promising for something good! Something other than three Teal and a Little Egret which were there today.
Now for a bit of spot the difference:

What it was

What I wish it was!

I used to catch the train to school every day, and saw Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Teal, and often lots of Little Egrets using the lagoons. It's pretty hard to identify small waders like these while travelling at 80mph though!!

I checked Passage House late afternoon over high tide and saw 29 Redshank, 34 Curlew (not long before we start to get some Whimbrel, maybe a week or so if the weather is nice), 15+ Oystercatcher, two Common Sandpipers, four Little Grebe, 8 Little Egret. Not much in the gulls, six Lesser Black-backs and 13 Greater Black-backs. I'd be happy with a Med, we haven't had one all winter! My heart did skip a beat though when I saw the leucistic Herring Gull which was found just over a month ago. I thought it had gone! Also on the estuary were three Great Crested Grebes and 19 Mergansers, one of which was attempting to swallow a flounder (I think that's what it was - I'm not very good on fish). Always amusing to watch!

Leucistic Herring Gull

Walking home through the farmland north of Passage House, there were still a few Redwings around. There were a few Siskins in the trees near the new footbridge and a Cetti's Warbler was singing there earlier in the day.

Saturday 6 April 2013

Sunny Day and Annoyance

Got up early this morning and headed to Teignmouth for a bit of seawatching. I arrived at 7:30am and the first bird I saw through my scope was a high flying Red-throated Diver heading south, however this was the only Red-throat of the 1:30 hours watching. Also out at sea were five Common Scoter, four on the sea (one male close in) and one flew south. Three Fulmar also flew north, and there was a lone Sandwich Tern fishing.

I checked the Salty just before high tide mid afternoon from Polly Steps. There were 19 Turnstone and two Ringed Plover inbetween Polly Steps and Shaldon Bridge. On the Salty there were 141 Oystercatcher, four Sandwich Terns and one Little Egret.

Next I took another look out to sea and saw that there the Sandwich Tern count had increased to eight. A flock of six Great Crested Grebe flew north, and a nice surprise was a Harbour Porpoise fairly close in.

I missed my train home so had the kill another hour, so I had a look around Eastcliff/Mules Park hoping for a Willow Warbler. I didn't see one though. Only a few Chiffchaffs, a pair of Blackcaps, a pair of Nuthatches and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

As the sky was so clear and there wasn't that much wind, I thought that there was quite a chance of a large raptor going over. I was scanning the sky and just waiting for the gulls to go off. Sadly I didn't see any, but on checking Devon Birds when I got home, I found that 30 mins after I left a Red Kite went over Teignmouth! You can imagine I was very annoyed!!!