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.