Thursday, 29 May 2014

Ross's Gull

Not a bird I thought I'd see on Bowling Green! This bird has been around a few days now, masquerading as a first-summer little gull. Last night it was mooted as a ross's gull but it was too late for me to go and have a look. Thankfully the bird was sorted out this morning, and with it being half-term week I was able to get there fairly promptly. Watching the bird you could easily see why it caused confusion, with a big splodge of dark in the crown and the ability to appear very little gull like with a shift of its posture. Any doubts were dispelled in flight however as it showed a beautiful black-tipped diamond-shaped tail and a nice triangle of white cutting into the primaries. At other times it was classically dove-like and oozing ross's gull 'feel'. I'm desperately hoping it moves to the south end of the river to give me a chance of getting it on the house list but we'll have to wait and see. It seemed pretty happy picking around a muddy pool on Bowling Green this morning. I've now been lucky enough to see four Devon ross's gulls but this is my first immature bird.

Off the lifeboat station early this morning was c20+ common scoter, 6 'comic' tern (all prob commons), 30+ sandwich tern, 1 roseate tern, 2 shelduck, 4 canada goose, 4 sanderling, 1 fulmar, c20+ wader sp and 7 dunlin. I scanned Warren Point further along the seafront and had 1 turnstone, c150+ sanderling, 6+ ringed plover and c5+ dunlin. The first-summer little gull was again off Mudbank early morning and the osprey was seen to catch a fish, viewed from Joel's bedroom window, at about 1220.


Yesterday - Mudbank - fs little gull, 11+ whimbrel and 4+ sandwich tern. Orcombe Point - 9+ 'commic' tern, 1 roseate tern, 9+ common scoter, 16+ sandwich tern, 3 swift, 1 great crested grebe, 3 swallow, 1 stock dove, 1+ guillemot and, best of all, my first (and probably only) whinchat of the spring!
A day-flying female nightjar was seen whilst walking the dog on Woodbury Common in the afternoon and the mixed singing willow warbler or hybrid is still on territory.

female nightjar

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Black Tern


I got to the raised beach huts at 0520 and scanned the sea but it was really quiet. I strolled aimlessly around the point too and that was really quiet so I popped back home, via a quick look at the little gull off the coach park, and had some breakfast whilst the family all slept. At about 0740, with Lu and the kids still not up, I decided to give the sea another try and almost as soon as I started scanning, picked up a beautiful black tern feeding distantly off Orcombe, with 8 'commic' terns. I took my eye off it whilst doing a quick sketch but couldn't re-find it, so I scanned back towards the Warren only to clap eyes on two gorgeous roseate terns with another 6 'commic' terns that were probably all 'commons'. One of the two joined sandwich terns for a while, sat on buoy number 7. It appeared not to be ringed but I wouldn't swear to it. I picked the black tern up again shortly afterwards, back distantly off Orcombe Point again. Also on Orcombe this morning (or off it), 1 common tern, 17+ sandwich tern, 14+ common scoter, 3 sanderling, 3 dunlin, 4+ stock dove 1 bullfinch and 2+ swift.
The only other birds of note today were a c180+ strong starling flock (including many juvs) on Warren View football pitch and a spotted flycatcher at Woodbury Castle late this afternoon.

I did very little birding yesterday, but thanks to another text from Lee I managed to see the Osprey hunting over the lower reaches of the river, from the house, and a lone mistle thrush was a surprise sight on Orcombe as we walked the dog. A single grey plover was off Mudbank, along with 27+ sandwich tern.

This chiffchaff flew in and landed really close to me whilst I was on the coast path a couple days ago. It seemed unusually showy and tolerant of me but I think it had young close by. It has certainly been on territory there for a few weeks and I suspect it was watching me closely until I moved on. There are at least four chiffie territories on my normal circuit but no willow warblers.

On the 25/5 I watched from the raised beach huts from 0520 - 0630. I had to leave before all the skuas that the Warren logged passed, but I recorded 13+ fulmar, 9 great northern diver, 8+ sandwich tern, 3 whimbrel, 3 bar-tailed godwit, 12+ common scoter and 4 goose sp east that were possibly greylags.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Second Post - Osprey and Storm Petrel

Shortly after my last post I glanced out of Joel's bedroom window to see the osprey hunting off Mudbank. It took a dive but missed and sat belly deep in the river for a few seconds before lifting off. I decided to nip down to the river to try for a photo but when I got there it had vanished. Heavy rain set in but it returned a while later, flying towards the Warren but always way too distant for a photo. I had a text from Lee Collins who was watching it from the Warren, mentioning that he'd received a text to say a pomarine skua had been seen heading north out of Torbay. I headed down to the raised beach huts and quickly picked up a storm petrel dancing around buoy number 3 - always a joy to see. It soon headed south but was followed by a second bird a short while later. Lee managed to get both from the Warren. Thanks, as always, for the texts Lee. Back home for the Champions League final with Joel, my son, who is currently dressed in last year's bottle green Champion's League Real Madrid kit - one very excited 8 year old!

YLG and Wiff Waff

 first-summer yellow-legged gull

Yet another quiet week bird-wise but very busy work-wise. I haven't done a lot of birding but have managed a few short trips out. This morning just 4 bar-tailed godwit, 2 sanderling and 12 common scoter from the raised beach huts and 2 dark-bellied brent goose, 2 whimbrel and a dunlin off Mudbank. Yesterday morning I did Orcombe at 0530 and had a distant fisrt-summer yellow-legged gull flying east, 30+ sandwich tern, 11+ 'commic' tern, 1 common tern, 1 great northern diver, 1 sanderling and a singing reed warbler. On 22/5 there was an unseasonal pair of shoveler off Mudbank.

 One of 2 juvenile long-tailed tits in the garden this morning.

Lots of heath spotted orchids are in flower on Woodbury Common at the moment. There is also a mixed singing willow warbler or willow warbler x chiffchaff hybrid on territory at the bottom of the main wide track below Woodbury Castle. On the brief and poor views I've had it looks like a willow warbler and sometimes gives perfect willow warbler song, but it also utters a pretty perfect chiffchaff refrain at times and often gives a mixture of the two!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Painted Lady

Just time for one circuit of one 'top field' this evening. The highlight was 2 immigrant painted lady butterflies - the first I've seen this year. Bird wise there were 4+ stock dove and a couple swift over. Offshore there were 40+ sandwich tern
Yesterday I did a 20 minute sea watch from the raised beach huts, from 0600 - 0620. Best bird was a single roseate tern with 2 common tern and 3 manx shearwater,  feeding with a number of kittiwake and gannet. Late Sunday evening, after my last post, I saw the first-summer little gull roosting with a large concentration of black-headed gulls off Mudbank.

Sunday, 18 May 2014


Three turnstone on the beach were the clear highlight of a quick check of the Orcombe area. I'm assuming this trio consists of two females and a male (top right). Regardless of age or gender they are really beautiful waders - regular on Maer Rocks in the winter but not so common in May as they head north. A first summer mediterranean gull was loafing offshore but I didn't look for long. Instead I decided to have a look at Woodbury Common but it was shrouded in thick mist. It was very pleasant just strolling around under the magnificent spring beech trees though, listening to singing stock doves.

first-summer mediterranean gull

sunrise behind the geoneedle

Woodbury Castle beech wood

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Sky Watching

I kept  looking up as I checked Orcombe at first light and I've spent some some time staring skywards from the garden today but I've seen very little. This great northern diver did a loop over Orcombe Point early on, changing its northerly course to an easterly one. Note the open bill again. Migrant wise it was dire this morning but several whitethroat are on territory and 3 swift went through. At least 5 stock dove are feeding in the top fields and there were 10 present on 15/5. This whole week has been quiet, the highlights being 4+ wheatear and a reed warbler on 14/5.

singing male whitethroat

Looking east, not long after sunrise, towards Otter Head with Sandy Bay caravan park in the foreground

Stock doves have suddenly appeared again. There were small numbers present last summer but I haven't seen any on Orcombe for months.

No kites from the house today. I've had several over the last five years during these influxes so I was fairly confident I'd get them today but it wasn't to be. Peregrines are frequently seen hunting the lower estuary from the house and they often circle right overhead.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Great Northern Divers

A good passage of great northern divers this morning. I watched from the beach huts from 0545 to 0715 and counted 32, all heading west. Some were a long way out and some gave reasonably good views as they powered in towards Dawlish Bay. Great northern divers are always a feature at this time of year and it's not unusual for them to cut right across Orcombe Point on an apparent northerly bearing. I can remember, a few years ago, having one go high overhead upriver as I stood on the Clyst viewing platform in Topsham. Also a probable 2s yellow-legged gull, 5 common scoter, 1 common gull, 1+ fulmar, 12+ dunlin, 1+ sanderling, 2 whimbrel, 5 house martin and 12 swallow.
The next couple of hours was spent covering Orcombe with Nick. It was too blown out but we got a singing garden warbler and a couple wheatear for our efforts.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

First Spot Flys

It has been a truly awful spring for migrants on Orcombe, so two spotted flycatcher in the hedge bordering the Bristol Schools field were much appreciated. They never came close, hence the dreadful record shot. Also this morning, 1 'Greenland' wheatear and a singing sedge warbler. Sea watching produced a single roseate tern, c20+ sandwich tern, 10 dunlin, 1+ sanderling, 6 great northern diver, including 2 close-in summer plumaged birds, holding their beaks open. Also 1 fulmar, 1 whimbrel and 1 swallow.
A quick look off the Imperial ground produced 8 bar-tailed godwit, c50+ dunlin, c20+ whimbrel, 2 pale-bellied brent goose and 3+ ringed plover.

Friday, 9 May 2014


A pre-work sea watch from the raised beach huts from 0545 - 0645 produced 1 shelduck, 1 black-headed gull, 8 great northern diver (all south with one landing offshore), 1 pale phase pomarine skua (lingering 0550 - 0630 when it headed west, following the coastline), 7 manx shearwater, 4 roseate tern feeding with 1 little tern, c50/100+ gannet, c10/20+ kittiwake, 2 sanderling, 2 swift and 2 swallow
I had another quick look after work and at 1600 - 1620 I had 1 roseate tern feeding around and landing on red buoy 3, 6 whimbrel, 2 common gull, 20+ sandwich tern and 20+ swallow 'in off'. There were 2 pale-bellied brent goose off Mudbank too. The pale-bellied-brents have been knocking around since the 6/5 at least.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Quiet Times

Not much in the way of birds but the large numbers of green-winged orchids in flower on Orcombe means it's very pleasant being out and about. Exmouth beach and Dawlish Warren are visible in the background in the above photo. Birds seen this morning include 25+ sandwich tern, 1 dark-bellied brent goose, 2 great crested grebe, 4 shelduck, 4 blackcap, 5 chiffchaff, 11 whitethroat, c30+ common scoter, 4 wheatear, 8 whimbrel, 1 swallow, 1 mistle thrush and, unusually, 1 redpoll sp north. 
A quick look off the Imperial ground produced c40+ black-headed gull, 1 fs mediterranean gull, 1 wheatear and 1 bar-tailed godwit. Yesterday there were 7 pale-bellied brent goose and 5 bar-tailed godwit. I was relieved to finally get my first spring swift (2) over the house today and yesterday evening my first 'Exmouth spring' sedge warbler singing on Orcombe Point.

green-winged orchid - this flower carpets two fields on Orcombe Point and seems to spread a bit each year.

wheatear - a large ghostly pale male

holly blue revealing the beautiful upperwing (not often visible) - good numbers present in and around the garden today

Berry Head

the Exe - looking across towards Powderham