Friday, 21 October 2016

Quiet Week. Normal for October.


Wheatear - getting a bit late for these now.

My first Redwings of the autumn, of flock of at least 17 birds, flew north overhead as I walked to work on Monday morning. A flock of about 100 Linnets was on Orcombe Point the same evening. The following evening, 5 Stonechats were the only birds of note on Orcombe and yesterday a single Snipe, c60+ Meadow pipits and a Stock Dove were the only inclusions in my notebook. This evening the highlights were 2 Lapwings in the top fields, and a Wheatear.

Meadow Pipit - there are a few of these knocking around the top fields at the moment with at least 60 present on the 20th.

One of a flock of about half a dozen birds touring the Bristol Schools area at the moment.

At least one Kingfisher is seen regularly off Mudbank. It likes the partially submerged shopping trolley. The light has been too bad this week to see much else.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Today's Stuff

Mediterranean Gull - lifeboat station - these have been a bit thin on the ground lately.
I watched the sea from first light, perched up beneath the raised beach huts. It was a bit disappointing to be honest - 1 distant skua sp, 1 Great Northern Diver, c50+ Common Scoter and a steady trickle of Gannets. Two separate Grey Plovers flew low across the waves towards the river mouth and another wader sp, possibly Grey Plover, was plucked out of the sky as it towered upwards, in panic,  by a male Peregrine that swiftly passed it on to a female - quite a spectacle! A single Mediterranean Gull was on the beach with a flock of Black-headed Gulls.
Late in the morning Lee called with news of a 'Baltic'-type gull on Bull Hill. I headed straight to the docks to scope it but it was asleep with its back to me and remained in exactly the same position for the entire time I was there. It certainly stood out, being a nice charcoal black on the upperparts. I went back again late afternoon and it was still there. Views were marginally better and at least it was awake and 'side on'. It certainly looked long-winged and if anything blacker in marginally better light. Size was difficult to judge as its legs and belly were obscured by an undulation in the sand, but Lee had better views from the Warren earlier, and was able to see that it was noticeably smaller than accompanying graellsii birds. I believe the BBRC still won't accept birds that aren't ringed. If anyone is going to get a ringed individual I'm sure it'll be Lee!
In the absence of any photo, below is a Baltic Gull that I photographed in Stockholm back in 2012. They are beautiful birds.

Baltic Gull - Stockholm August 2012

Looking towards Orcombe Point from the lifeboat station this morning.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

YBW and High Teal Count

Yellow-browed Warbler - the best of my paltry efforts to capture an image.
Paul Gosling and I were stood pitch-side early this morning, up at the archery club, when a Yellow-browed Warbler started calling. It was in a sunlit corner of the small  mixed copse that borders the archery club carpark, and we soon located it despite the imminent 'kick-off' of our sons' football match. It was a particularly vocal individual so it was easy pin down, but it kept in the tops of the trees so it wasn't easy to see or photograph. The archery club is on the edge of Exmouth, up high along the top edge of Withycombe Raleigh Common, so a fair way inland. There must be hundreds in little patches of suitable woodland around the country.
I headed out after the rain this afternoon to look at the wildfowl off Mudbank. Again, huge numbers were present but it was Teal that stole the show with a high count of 375+ easily the most I've ever seen in Exmouth. Also recorded, despite poor light conditions, were 11 Red-breasted Mergansers, a single Pale-bellied Brent Goose amongst several hundred Dark-bellied Brents, 9 Bar-tailed Godwits, 7 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Grey Plover, 1 Knot, 1 Greenshank and 7+ Redshank. I couldn't face attempting to count the Wigeon and Pintail that were strung out in dense flocks across a large part of the estuary.
Finally - decent counts of 60 Pied Wagtails and 40+ Common Scoters were made on the cricket pitch and off the seafront respectively.

Blackcap - Mudbank. Small numbers present along with small numbers of Chiffchaffs in the scrub belt between Mudbank and the train station.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Tawny Pipit

Tawny Pipit - strikingly similar to Yellow Wag front-on.

I walked home from school with Joel, dropped Maisie down at the gym and then headed up to Orcombe to do my quick circuit. I parked at the top of Gore Lane and walked into the big grass field with the dung in it (not the former 'dung field'). I walk this field pretty much every day during the autumn (with permission from the farmer) but it was clear straight away that there were more birds in there than usual this evening. A Linnet flock flew up and several Meadow Pipits took to the air. Over the noise of the many varied calls I could hear a 'chup' but I initially put it down to an odd calling Linnet. I looped around the top of the field and would normally have moved into the field on the opposite side of the road, but the odd call was niggling me. As I headed back through the field I again picked up the call, only this time it seemed more distinctive. I locked on to the bird just as it dropped in to the grass and was met with a pale 'blob'. I thought 'this is going to be Short-toed Lark' but realised the call was wrong. Crazy thoughts of Lesser Short-toed Lark entered my head but I knew this was fanciful. At this point I made the decision to go back to the car for the scope, as I didn't want to flush it. As soon as I found it in the scope I could see it was a Tawny Pipit, a new Devon bird for me and, as it turns out, Brian.
I stuck the news out and waited in the gateway for other birders to arrive. It showed well and, due to its paleness, was easy to keep track of. I did the initial check of the lores to rule out Blyth's Pipit but to be honest it was always going to be a Tawny, purely on the paleness and plainness of the plumage. Occasionally it would get spooked and get up and fly around - always uttering the loud and distinctive 'chup' but it soon settled and would call from the ground. It produced another sound that it is very difficult to describe - a weak, lark-like, faltering 'seeip' perhaps - quite odd and maybe part of a song?
I had to leave to go to the dentist just before 5pm but great to see Terry, Brian, Spencer and Chris before I left.
Also this evening - 3 Stonechats, 1 Wheatear, 3+ Chiffchaffs and the Yellow-browed Warbler in the usual spot.

Very plain underparts indicate this is an adult bird.

Crap photo but note the much darker and smaller Meadow Pipit in the background.

For a 'large' pipit this bird generally appeared quite small. This was partly due to the fact that it was always partly obscured by grass but also because it wasn't feeding alongside Meadow Pipits for most of the time.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Autumnal Rustic


Autumnal Rustic - Martin Wolinski casually mentioned he'd trapped this species overnight as we spoke on the phone this afternoon. I've never seen one before so I was delighted when he said he was on his way in to Exmouth and that he'd bring the moth along. It's a beautiful moth and one that I wish I could trap here in Exmouth. I'm not sure how likely that is as its habitat preference is woodland and moorland. Still, you never know.........
Nick and I did Orcombe from first light this morning. Hopes were high for some overhead movement, with nice clear skies and a light north-easterly, but in the event it was very quiet. I went back up in the afternoon to meet up with Martin but very little was added. The totals for today include the Yellow-browed Warbler, c20/30+ Robins, 2 Grey Wagtails, c15+ Chiffchaffs, 3 Goldcrests, 2 House Martins, 19 Swallows, 3+ Song Thrushes, c15/20+ Blackbirds, 9+ Starlings, c20+ Pied Wagtails, several Meadow Pipits, Linnets and Goldfinches, 4+ Wheatears, 6+ Chaffinches, 3+ Blackcaps, 1 Stonechat, c20+ Skylarks, 11 Common Scoters, 1 Sandwich Tern and the 2 Eider.
The Yellow-browed was still in its preferred copse, just in on the left where the footpath to the Geoneedle starts. It was however very elusive, calling only occasionally and staying well hidden.
Good to see Martin and Andy Bond today and a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Nick! 

Many thanks Martin - a truly lovely moth.
The Eiders were close inshore when I looked this afternoon - just off the point. I was up on the cliff-top though so the photo is awful. Nevertheless it's the first time I've photographed this species in Exmouth. They're attracting quite a bit of interest as Eiders have been very scarce in Devon over the last couple of years. I think the last time I saw Eider in Exmouth was the drake that was present off the seafront in June 2014. I failed to find the drake Velvet Scoter that Dave had this afternoon (cheers for the call Dave) and Martin and Dave Hopkins had last week.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

White-speck, YBW, Eiders and Garganey

White-speck - an immigrant species and a long-awaited first for me. It's a 'Wainscot' which is my favourite group of moths so I was especially happy to find it in the trap, under the cover of darkness, at 6am this morning. The only other immigrant species were a couple Silver Y, 4 Rusty-dot Pearl, 1 Diamond-back and a single Olive-tree Pearl (Palpita vitrealis).
It's been an uncharacteristically productive day today. Before taking Joel to football in Feniton I hammered around the Orcombe patch (0700 - 0900). The highlight was a Yellow-browed Warbler that I picked up on call in scrub at the bottom of the Bristol Schools camp (it would have been audible and visible from the public footpath out to the Geoneedle). It showed briefly a couple times before vanishing. Also recorded - 3+ Goldcrest, 10+ Chiffchaff, 3+ Song Thrush, c20+ 'alba' Wagtails, 1 Kestrel, 5+ Stonechats, 1+ Siskin, 8+ Skylarks, 3 Starlings, 2 Wheatears, 4+ Blackcaps and 1 Grey Wagtail.
Joel's team comfortably beat Feniton and once home it was a quick lunch before dropping him at a  friend's party - an afternoon of 'Foot Golf' followed by a Mickey D's. Parties were never that good when I was a kid.
This afternoon I had a quick look off Mudbank. The wildfowl numbers off there are really impressive, which makes it a bit of a mission to sift through them all. I would estimate c2000+ Wigeon with c100+ Pintail mixed in, along with the odd Teal. Brent Geese must number 1000+ but there was no way I was going to try and count them. I did however manage to find a Garganey which is always a difficult bird to catch up with in Exmouth (no freshwater). I once had a spring pair fly in and land on the sea off the seafront, and I've had a couple autumn juveniles off Mudbank, but that's about it.
Also off Mudbank - 21+ Redshank, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Whimbrel, 120+ Turnstones and 20+ Little Egrets.
Later on this afternoon I had another quick look at Orcombe. The Yellow-browed Warbler was seen again in scrub on the left where the footpath to the Geoneedle starts. There were 4 Turnstones on Maer Rocks and 16 Common Scoters offshore. Two female-type Eiders off the point were the first I've seen in ages. Let's hope they stay to winter!

Really good numbers of wildfowl off Mudbank at the moment. This is just a fraction of the flock.

Female-type Garganey. A very difficult species to catch up with in Exmouth.

Stonechat - at least 5 recorded today despite all hedgerows having been 'flailed' to death. Depressing stuff. The flail is indiscriminate. A large number of trees on Orcombe have literally been smashed to pieces. There should be laws against it. The photo below shows how the lower limbs of the trees are destroyed. Are there any agricultural gains to be made by this? There are certainly no environmental advantages. I would imagine this type of 'butchery' encourages disease.

Most bloggers would never dream of posting such a dreadful shot of a YBW but most bloggers have decent cameras! Believe it or not this is only the fourth YBW I've seen in Exmouth and only the second on Orcombe Point. I guess that tells you how good a headland it really is. Hard work.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Must be Loads Out There!

Convolvulus Hawk-moth - Bristol Schools camp. Birds still thin on the ground - 3/4+ Blackcap, c10+ Song Thrush, 4/5+ Chiffchaff, 2 Wheatears, 3+ Goldcrest, 2 Turnstone and 5 Common Scoter on a quick evening whiz round.