Saturday 29 June 2013

Early returning Little Ringed Plover?

Let’s start off with yesterday. Permission to trap the Lesser Whitethroat has been gained now, and the plan was to trap it early in the morning. Unfortunately it was a bit windy for it and we ended up watching it for about two hours on the other side of the river through scopes before it flew over to our side where it sang for about 30 seconds before disappearing off. While we were there we did see a Kingfisher (first since January I think) and about ten Sand Martins.

Today I set off to check Passage House and saw that there was a group of people at the Lesser-throat “watch point.” The bird wasn’t showing, so after a while looking for it I left for the estuary. Still singles of Common Sandpiper and Redshank, a pair of Oystercatcher, and the Curlew flock is up to 33 now.

Highlight of the day was a Little Ringed Plover running around of the “spit” at Passage. Seems a little early for them to have returned. I haven’t seen any reports of LRP elsewhere in Devon since the spring passage. I decided to go around to the other side to try to get a photo but when I got there I couldn’t find it!

Sadly most of the long grass on the racecourse has been cut, which I expect may have destroyed the nests of any ground nesting birds nesting at the time. The Skylarks were still singing – don’t know if that’s a good or bad sign? There were lots of hirundines feeding over the racecourse though, with 25+ Sand Martins, 20+ House Matins and 20+ Swallows, and also 15+ Swift.

Sunday 23 June 2013

First Returning Waders

I did the WeBS count this morning over the falling tide. It was nice to see a Common Sandpiper back again, along Newton Channel. On the estuary, the only other waders were a single Redshank, 21 Curlew and two Oystercatcher. The Shelduck family with seven ducklings was still going strong. Also, two new Shelduck families have appeared with broods of two and four.

These parents were doing a good job of defending their young from gulls. Seeing as they only have two left, perhaps their efforts haven't been good enough!
Lime green NY9 was with 32 other Mute Swans. Little Egret numbers have picked up to 33. Once the tide dropped a bit, they form large feeding flocks along the water channels like this one.

I was hoping for a Med Gull in the Black-headed gulls, but there wasn’t much to look through with only 12 Black-heads. There are large numbers on the Exe wetlands – I have no idea why we don’t see large numbers on the estuary until later in the year. Perhaps the marshes offer a richer food supply which allows them to recover after breeding, and the migration back down south?

The Lesser Whitethroat (/Orphean Warbler ;)) is now being thought of as a possible Desert Lesser Whitethroat of the race margelanica rather than the local race of curruca. Whichever way, it is pretty much impossible to prove which sub-species it is with the brief and poor views obtained so far, and it's looking like the bird will need to be trapped, and DNA samples taken to positively ID it. It seems like the bird has expanded its territory now and is not being as loyal to the area where I originally found it. We heard it singing for a short period today on the other side of the river. Better trap it quick before it loses heart and moves off!

Sunday 16 June 2013


The plan mid-morning was to check Passage House on the rising tide, but after reading on the Dawlish Warren Twitter page that a couple of Storm Petrels had just flown south, I instead headed to the shelter beside the NCI station at Teignmouth for a bit of seawatching. Arriving at 10:00, my luck was in as I only had to wait 11 minutes before I picked up a Storm Petrel heading south, followed by two more together at 10:19. Not much else was happening other than a handful of Kittiwakes and a Whimbrel heading in the same direction before I had to leave at 10:45.

Friday 14 June 2013

Teignmouth vs. Dawlish Warren seawatching

I’ve just started working as a volunteer at The Warren and have spent a bit of time seawatching there over the last two weeks. It seems as though the birds pass by quite a bit further away than they do at Teignmouth. I’m sure this isn’t always the case, but today I was watching Manxies go by at the very limits of my scope.

I got a text from Lee at about midday saying that a Pom was offshore, so I ran up to get a view of the sea but failed to see it. Damn it – would have been a year tick!

I had brought my scope with me with the idea of stopping off at Teignmouth on my way home to do some seawatching, as the conditions looked pretty good. Before I left I told Phil how I would get my Pom there and for him to check the blog to find out if I did see one.

Well (I expect you know what’s coming next) I only had to wait 15 minutes into my hours seawatch to see a lovely pale phase, fully spooned Pomarine Skua fly south at 17:15 – fantastic, if a little distant to appreciate it fully. Still a year tick, and even better, a patch year tick!

There was also a steady stream of exactly (and I have to say exactly on a round figure because otherwise you would probably think I estimated it!) 80 Manxies flying south in average group sizes of eight. They were all close in enough to reliably check for Balearics, which not surprisingly, there were none. Also south were c30 Gannet, c10+ Kittiwake, three Fulmar and 11 Auks.

There was also another distant pale phase skua species which I think was probably another Pom. It was either  un-spooned or was too far away to see the tail, and I haven’t got enough experience with skuas yet to positively ID such distant birds. From the knowledge I do have, I would say it was probably another Pom as the flight style was more Great Skua than Arctic.

Another good thing about seawatching at Teignmouth is that you can find shelter from the wind, which is hard to come by at The Warren, so I had a nice vibrationless view.

Saturday 8 June 2013

Return to normality

So, life begins post- ‘Orphean incident’. I won’t go into detail about the events of the middle of last week – for those wishing to get involved there is a Birdforum thread –  and instead wish to focus on the here and now. A brief but pleasant walk around Hackney Marshes in warm sunshine this morning produced plenty of evidence of successful local breeding, with juvenile Long-tailed Tits, Great Tits, Blackcaps and Robins present amongst others. Also a Kestrel was hunting over the racecourse. Despite a feeling that the summer doldrums have set in, it’s only a month or so before we can expect Med Gulls and the beginning of the return wader passage… plus an unequivocal national rarity perhaps?!

Sunday 2 June 2013

Oops, made a mistake - but results in a year tick!

Right, this afternoon I checked Passage House, but I’ll get onto that bit later. I expect you’ll remember that strange bird song which everyone thought was a Blackcap, and that I 'confirmed' was indeed a Blackcap. Well, I expect you may be able to see where this one’s going!

Pretty much whenever I walk past the same spot, I hear it singing. Well this afternoon I saw it properly, and I was very surprised to see that it was a Lesser Whitethroat! I swear it looked like a Blackcap when I, ‘confirmed’ its identity. All I can say that it was a split second view and that they are both Sylvia ;) Or I might have looked at the wrong bird!

I didn’t have my camera with me at the time so I had to go back to the house to get it. It wasn’t really worth it because this is the best I could do.

You can just make out the white collar that extends half way up the neck and the black alula.
It’s an absolute devil of a bird to see. It sings from deep within bramble bushes! I’ll try again some other day. It was also doing some really weird song which was different from before. If anyone else wants to try and see it, put this into Google maps > 50.534121,-3.592348

On to the estuary:
Mute Swan lime green NY9 was still present with 20 others. There were two Dunlin with nice black tummies feeding amongst the gulls, a total of 28 Shelduck including 7 ducklings, and two Great Crested Grebes.

Saturday 1 June 2013

Ringed Mute Swan info.

I've just had an email about a ringed Mute Swan (lime green NY9) that Will read at Passage House on the 26th of April. It was ringed by the RSPCA after crash landing in someones garden in Tiverton on the 29th October 2010 weighing 7.9 kg. It was one of that years juveniles. It was then rehabilitated and released at Exeter Quay on the 1st December 2010 weighing 10.1 kg. It's only other ring recovery was at the same location a year later. Always interesting to find out about the history of ringed birds!

Other news: A male Hen Harrier was seen over Teignmouth on Thursday - First of the year, (saying this makes it sound like we'll get another one this year!). Would have loved to have seen it!

The Stonechats have fledged with the parents still feeding them. Only two of them though. There may have been more hiding behind the grass I suppose.