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...

Thursday 15 August 2013

Go with the Flow

In between the showers this morning I had a look off Flow Point. A group of small waders comprising 14 Dunlin and 13 Ringed Plover was feeding along the edge of the water, and two Whimbrel alighted briefly nearby. As the tide rose Black-headed Gulls were beginning to gather on the Point, and in amongst them were ten Sandwich Terns with a further five perched on buoys in the estuary. Later in the day I took a walk along the northern side of the estuary opposite Passage House and counted 102 Curlew and a further five Whimbrel.

Friday 9 August 2013

More Plastic Wildfowl

I noticed a weird looking duck about a month ago at Newton Abbot quay, but just assumed it was a hybrid Mallard. However, the other day a Kev received a report of a Comb Duck from the quay, and after a closer look, it seems that's what it is.

This place seems to be a magnet for dodgy wildfowl. There is a wildfowl collection at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary nearby, so perhaps that's where they're coming from.

Big Bill
I met Robin at Passage House, however there wasn't much there, so we headed to Flow Point where we saw 198 Oystercatcher, Curlew, Whimbrel, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Redshank, seven Ringed Plover, 14 Dunlin and 10+ Sandwich Terns.

Monday 5 August 2013

Should've gone to Start

Conditions looked promising for a seawatch on Sunday morning, so I picked up Laurie at 7am and we headed to Teignmouth. We both watched from 07:20 until 11:40 when I had to leave to play cricket (which surprisingly went ahead given the weather – I even scored 25 runs!) whilst Laurie stayed for a couple of hours longer.  As the title hints at, we didn’t even begin to approach the quality and quantity seen off the various headlands further south. Most birds were well offshore, with almost all the shearwaters at least 2km out, and undoubtedly many more passed beyond our visible range. Nevertheless we came up with the following (all heading south):

3 Balearic Shearwaters, 108 Manx Shearwaters, 22 Fulmars, 5 Mediterranean Gulls (an adult and four juveniles, including four together), 31 Common Scoters and 3 skua sp (most probably two Great and an Arctic, but too distant to be 100% certain).
Juvenile & adult Mediterranean Gulls
I watched again this morning between 09:05 - 11:05 and got 4 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas close in, 1 Mediterranean Gull, 1 Common Gull and four "commic" terns south.
I think we would probably need a strong southeasterly gale combined with significant movement further down the English Channel to be in with a shot of one of the rarer shearwaters off Teignmouth. Though to be honest, I probably wouldn’t be able to confidently ID a Yelkouan Shearwater unless it flew over the pier waving a “I’m a Yelkouan” flag...

Friday 2 August 2013

Ringed Plover!

Last Tuesday, these two Sandwich Terns roosted at Passage House over high tide, brightening up a boring flock of gulls.

Other birds included a Ringed Plover, three Black-tailed Godwit, 100 Curlew, five Whimbrel and 46 Mute Swans (including a new darvic ringed bird).