Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Roseate Tern

singing male whitethroat

Orcombe has been quiet for some time now but an hour after work, spent covering the top fields yesterday, produced my first garden warbler of the year (heard only), along with c6+ blackcap, c6+ willow warbler, 4+ chiffchaff, 2 wheatear and a flyover whimbrel. I'm sure a morning visit would have been much more fruitful. At least 6 whitethroat territories have been established on my usual route, but as yet a number of migrant species have yet to make an appearance on Orcombe. 
This evening I couldn't cover the top fields because the farmer was spreading manure, and work was taking place in the 'Bristol Schools' field. I only had half an hour before taking Joel to watch two school cup finals at the City ground, so I had a quick look out to sea in the hope of getting a roseate tern. The first scan revealed c20+ sandwich terns, mostly feeding off Orcombe Point, but it wasn't long before a small flock had concentrated on the rapidly disappearing sandbars and with them a lovely peach-tinted roseate tern. I lost it whilst sending some texts and then had to leave. Lets hope we get really good numbers again this year - last spring was fantastic. Also this afternoon, 1 great northern diver flew south.

male blackcap


male chaffinch

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Collared Pratincole

Wow! This bird is simply stunning. Running around on the golf course at Skern, Northam Burrows just yards from its assembled admirers. I've seen this species abroad before but views have always been distant and/or hampered by heat haze, so the opportunity to see one up close, in relatively flat light, was absolute magic. I was immediately struck by its diminutive size (not a whole lot bigger than accompanying wheatears), and the subtle beauty of its muted colours. It was running short distances, snatching at flies and, very occasionally, leaping up in to the air for insects. It regularly pumped its tail downwards and seemed absolutely tied to a small stretch of the golf course. A huge thank you to Mike Langman for the lift up, and it was great to catch up with Colin Bath too - a thoroughly pleasurable afternoon in great company.

Short flight views revealed rich chestnut under wing coverts and a crisp white trailing edge to the secondaries - easy to see in dull light conditions but both these features can be very tricky in harsh light - see the photo of the birds I photographed in Morocco last week - neither feature is obvious.

As well as the pratincole, the whole area seemed to be jumping with migrants. In fact it's little wonder I've seen so few migrants in Exmouth - they're all in north Devon! Whilst walking to and from the pratincole we picked up c10+ white wagtails, c15+ wheatear, 2 common sandpipers, 3 yellow wagtails, whitethroat, 2 stonechat and several swallows, whilst sedge warblers sang from the brambles. 

The wheatears we looked at appeared to be Greenland types.

The white wagtails were unbelievably smart-looking birds - love em!

I tried a field sketch but as usual it just sells the bird short - It makes you look hard at the bird though and that can only be a good thing.

Monday, 21 April 2014


I've seen so few wheatears this spring that I couldn't resist spending some time watching and photographing a small party of at least 6 birds (5 males), in the top fields this afternoon. It's interesting to note the variation in colour saturation on the underparts in this small sample of birds. As there appeared to be no noticeable size difference I'm not certain any of these are north-western birds (Iceland/Greenland) but at least one individual exhibited quite a strong orange flush to the breast and a much more brown-toned mantle. It looked significantly darker in flight and is therefore a contender for 'leucorhoa'.

Note the difference in underpart orange and mantle colour between the top two individuals and the bird below. 

possible 'Greenland' wheatear?

Other birds on Orcombe today included a female redstart, 3 whitethroat, at least 3 blackcap, 4+ chiffchaff, 1 whimbrel, c30+ swallow and my first 3 house martin of the year. So migration is still slow here in Exmouth but at least there were plenty of butterflies on the wing this afternoon, including several orange tip. I also found a dark-looking silver  Y - a moth that is seen much more frequently later on in the summer.
Off Mudbank there was 1 dark-bellied brent goose, 1 pale-bellied brent goose, 7 common gull and 10+ whimbrel.

 silver Y

orange tip

Sunday, 20 April 2014

A Few More Morocco Bits

little swift - words can not express how much I enjoyed watching this species at such close quarters.

 pallid swift

 purple heron

 stone curlew

green-striped white

african grass blue


 2s (3cy) western yellow-legged gull

3s (4cy) western yellow-legged gull

Friday, 18 April 2014


turtle dove

male moussier's redstart - near Tamri

stone curlews seemed to be present on every patch of waste ground in Agadir

migrant whitethroat, redstart, blackcap and nightingale were seen from our hotel balcony

We've just got back from a week's family package holiday to southern Morocco. We were based at a beach resort in Agadir so most birding was done in and around the hotel grounds before breakfast, but we did hire a car to go and see the famous northern bald ibis flock at Tamri, about 45 minutes north of Agadir. I also did a couple trips to the Oued Sous, about 20 minutes south of where we were based, but made no attempt to visit the famous desert or Atlas Mountain sites - it simply wouldn't have been fair on the family, plus I found the driving pretty tricky and at times damn scary! We also did a strictly non-birding cultural trip to the amazing Marrakech, but I didn't even take the bins - I did see a few birds there though!

laughing dove 

common bulbul - a very common and vociferous species, everywhere we went

booted eagle - Marrakech

 white stork - Marrakech

little swift - Marrakech - I saw quite a few little swifts but unsurprisingly, struggled like mad to photograph them. Several were seen in Marrakech but I also frequently saw them around the hotel in Agadir. Probably my bird of the trip. Pallid swift was also seen in numbers but I struggled to confirm any common swifts, such is the difficulty of separating the two species in bright sunshine.

male serin photographed from the hotel balcony

fan-tailed warbler - Agadir

first summer western yellow-legged gull. I photographed a lot of these around the hotel grounds. They used the swimming pools to bathe in the evenings!

black wheatear - Tamri - rubbish photo but a wonderful species

southern grey shrike of the race 'algeriensis'. I just couldn't get close to this bird.

northern bald ibis - Tamri - 1 of 16+ seen

magpie of the race 'mauritanica'

barbary partridge

male chaffinch of the north african race 'africana'

collared pratincole - 2 of 4 that flew high overhead at Oued Sous

thekla lark

male sardinian warbler - common and very approachable around the hotel grounds

spotless starling

spanish sparrows

 western olivaceous warbler - another species seen from the hotel balcony - note the brown toned upperparts and pale lores. The bill on this bird was enormous but it has been foreshortened by the angle the head is held. The photo below gives you a better idea.

if only that twig wasn't there!

african blue tit

above - amata fabriclus and below a crimson speckled

house bunting - Marrakech - feeding around our feet as we ate lunch in a restaurant - an amazing species that became more common the deeper we went into the Soukh. Birds were also seen in Agadir and I even found a singing male inside a large supermarket!

Other species seen included cattle egret, 'moroccan' cormorant, 'moroccan' white wagtail, red-rumped swallow, ruddy shelduck, black-eared wheatear, 'iberian' yellow wagtail, woodchat shrike, audouin's gull, greater flamingo, black-winged stilt, bee-eater, osprey, gull-billed tern, spoonbill, kentish plover, purple heron, squacco heron, western bonelli's warbler, western subalpine warbler and black kite.