Thursday 31 December 2015

2015 review

One final visit to Decoy Country Park this morning turned up a showy Marsh Tit, bringing the final year list up to 150 (one more than in 2014). Personally it's been a memorable year; three 'self-found' patch ticks stand out - July's Gull-billed Tern, August's Spotted Sandpiper and October's Yellow-browed-Warbler - whilst other rarities included the three Cattle Egrets at Teigngrace, a flyover Black Stork and several visits by the returning Bonaparte's Gull. The supporting cast of scarcities included Osprey, Little Stint, Ruff, Water Pipit, Scaup and Black-throated Diver. Notable absentees from the year list include Avocet, Goldeneye (again), Pochard and Spotted Flycatcher.

The year began with the male Scaup still on Decoy Lake and at least seven Great Northern Divers off Teignmouth on the 4th. A decent count of 65 Teal was made at Flow Point on the 11th; this was followed by a Purple Sandpiper seen just outside the patch boundary on the 12th when a Black Redstart appeared in Teignmouth. A second Black Redstart and three Blackcaps were seen in Teignmouth on the 24th, but the highlight of the month was a Black-throated Diver offshore there the following day.

At least three, possibly as many as five Black Redstarts were present in Teignmouth at the start of the month along with a Firecrest, whilst the Scaup remained on Decoy Lake. The rest of February was quiet although the Teignmouth Firecrest was joined by a second bird mid-month.

Three Black-tailed Godwits wintered on the estuary, increasing to four on the 15th. Four Sandwich Terns on the Salty on the 29th marked the start of spring.

The first Swallows and Sand Martins appeared in the first couple of days of the month, with more Sandwich Terns and the first Manx Shearwaters off Teignmouth on the 6th. Reed Warblers were back in the Hackney Marshes reedbeds by the 15th, with Whimbrel and Willow Warbler first recorded on the 16th and 18th respectively. Fine conditions on the 19th resulted in at least three Red Kites appearing in patch airspace along with the first Swift, and Sedge Warbler made it onto the year list on the 24th.

I attempted a 'big day' on the patch on the 2rd, and despite persistent rain managed to record 75 species including two Little Ringed Plovers and the year's first Wheatear, Whitethroat, House Martin and Bar-tailed Godwit. A first-summer Mediterranean Gull was at Passage House on the 7th, another Red Kite flew over Teignmouth on the 16th and a Dark-bellied Brent Goose on the estuary the following day was unseasonal. Spring migrants trickled through into the last week of the month when a Wheatear, a Black-tailed Godwit and the same Brent Goose were still around.

Seawatching on the 2nd revealed a Great Northern Diver and 17 Manx Shearwaters off Teignmouth. Out of the blue came a Black Stork that flew over Newton Abbot on the 5th, seen only by one observer. A first-summer Mediterranean Gull was present along with the first few returning waders on the 13th. The second half of June was typically quiet, only a small party of Crossbills heard over Kingsteignton being noteworthy.

A Gull-billed Tern at Passage House from 12th-17th gave outstanding views for much of its stay and was bird of the year (in my wholly unbiased opinion). Gull numbers began to build from early in the month with five Mediterranean Gulls on the 12th and single juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls on the 15th and 18th. Waders also began to increase with peak counts of eight Whimbrel and 14 Common Sandpipers, with a lone Sanderling appearing on the Salty on the 20th.

A busy month began with decent counts of 75 Sandwich Terns and a dozen Whimbrel in the estuary on the 1st, and a juvenile Ruff at Passage House on the 4th. The hedgerows at Bundle Head were busy with warblers mid-month including a Garden Warbler on the 15th, when 12 Ringed Plovers roosted at Flow Point. The 17th brought a stunning adult Spotted Sandpiper to Flow Point; unfortunately by the time access arrangements had been agreed it had departed and wasn't seen again. A flyover Green Sandpiper and the first Wheatear and Whinchat of the autumn were recorded the same day. Seawatching on the 19th produced five Balearic Shearwaters, 17 Common Terns and four Mediterranean Gulls past Teignmouth; a juvenile Arctic Tern flew south a few days later on the 22nd. An Osprey flew north along Teignmouth seafront on the 23rd when the returning Bonaparte's Gull made its first appearance of the year, and the following day a Knot was on the Salty. Some quality seawatching on the 26th with an adult Arctic Tern, a Black Tern, 10 Balearic Shearwaters and Great, Arctic and Pomarine Skuas all recorded. Three Yellow Wagtails flew south over Netherton on the 30th, and the month ended with five Knot flying north past Teignmouth, a Green Sandpiper on the racecourse, another Garden Warbler at Bundle Head and a juvenile Little Stint at Flow Point.

A juvenile Little Ringed Plover was on the spit off Passage House on the 6th, with it or another present in the same place on the 12th. The latter date also produced two second-winter Mediterranean Gulls amongst the Black-headed Gulls and two Wheatears on the racecourse. Notable wader counts from the WeBS on the 15th included 15 Greenshanks, 18 Turnstones, eight Common Sandpipers and a Bar-tailed Godwit. A juvenile Arctic Tern at Flow Point on the 20th gave great views, and breeding success was confirmed for Great Crested Grebe with three juveniles seen with parents at Decoy Lake on the 22nd.

Two Pintails and the returning male Scaup were on Decoy Lake on the 3rd, with a Shoveler there the following day. An elusive Yellow-browed Warbler was in The Ness on the 11th along with at least three Firecrests. The Bonaparte's Gull made a brief appearance at Passage House on the 23rd, and two Cattle Egrets were on the floods at Teigngrace from the 29th onwards.

A third Cattle Egret had arrived at Teigngrace on the 1st, with two staying until at least the 14th. The rest of the month was quiet although up to three Black Redstarts were seen in Newton Abbot mid-month and at least eight Great Northern Divers were off Teignmouth on the 29th.

The 2nd was a good day with two redhead Goosanders at Passage House and two Black Redstarts and a Firecrest in Newton Abbot. Six Common Sandpipers was a good winter count on the 6th when a male Gadwall was seen at Decoy Lake. One, possibly two Water Pipits were at Flow Point on the 19th. Finally on the 29th the male Scaup reappeared at Decoy Lake after over a month's absence and a Green Sandpiper was on the Teigngrace floods.

Lastly, my thoughtful wife bought me a smartphone scope adapter for Christmas, meaning the photos I post in 2016 should be of (slightly) better quality; below are a couple I took at Decoy today. Happy New Year!

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Scaup returns and Green Sandpiper

I braved the hordes at Decoy Country Park this afternoon and was rewarded with the male Scaup making its first appearance since October. Other waterfowl included 17 Tufted Ducks, a male Gadwall and a male Teal.

The Teigngrace floods were virtually birdless but this Green Sandpiper provided the quality that made up for the lack of quantity.

Saturday 19 December 2015

Water Pipit

Yet another dull, wet, windy, very mild day. A Water Pipit at Flow Point was the highlight; there was possibly a second bird hiding in the saltmarsh. The absence of cold weather is probably at least partly responsible for generally low numbers of wildfowl and waders; there appear to be just two Red-breasted Mergansers on the estuary (compared with 38 in late December last year) and I've yet to record more than 50 Redshanks or any Greenshanks so far this 'winter'. The only noteworthy counts from the WeBS were 200 Great Black-backed Gulls, 15 Lapwings, 7 Common Sandpipers, 34 Shelducks and 10 Little Grebes.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Around the patch

Yesterday afternoon I counted 13 Tufted Ducks on Decoy Lake, a welcome increase from a month ago but still only around half of the number this time last year. Accompanying them was a male Gadwall. At Teigngrace 14 Little Egrets were in the field by the solar panels along with a large flock of Chaffinches but the Cattle Egrets appear to have left the area.

Today I had a look at Flow Point over the neap high tide and recorded five Common Sandpipers (a sixth was at Passage House later on), 25+ Shags, two Red-breasted Mergansers, two Great Crested Grebes, a Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail.

First-winter Shags, Flow Point 
A third Great-crested Grebe and another Red-breasted Merganser were in the estuary at Teignmouth with six Great Northern Diver offshore (Kev).

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Goosanders and Firecrest

On receiving a text from Kev this morning telling me about two Goosanders at Passage House, I stuck my scope out the window, and after a few minutes picked them both up in flight, circling around a couple of times before appearing to fly down river.

My second house tick of the day came in the form of a Firecrest, flitting about in a sycamore tree and giving great sustained views. Other birds included a Chiffchaff, a flyover Siskin and a Black Redstart.