Saturday, 30 April 2016

Show-off-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl with the Lifeboat Station and Exmouth Seafront in the background.
A beautiful morning on Orcombe this morning. At 0530 I had a quick look off Maer Rocks where a single Roseate Tern was feeding with c20+ Sandwich Terns. It was a bit odd to be watching it in such cold conditions and I was glad I had my gloves on. There were 5 Whimbrel on the beach and 2 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Great Northern Divers offshore. Another look on the way home, just before 8am,  revealed the 2 Roseate Terns together.
Nick and I then covered Orcombe Point where the highlights were 1 Swift in off the sea, a flyover Siskin and the very obliging Short-eared Owl that seemed to be enjoying the early morning sunshine as much as we were! Also recorded were 5 Wheatears, 6 Blackcaps and several Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs on territory. No Willow Warblers today though.
Following a morning trip to Axminster for Joel's football match, I was able to pop back up to Orcombe again mid-afternoon. The Short-eared Owl and a female Redstart were the highlights.

We stood marvelling at this bird for some time. We could easily have walked past it but Nick spotted it  resting in the rough grass as we walked back along the coast path. At one point a dog ran straight past it but it sat tight.


Friday, 29 April 2016

Roseate Terns and SEO

Short-eared Owl - Orcombe Point
I was on Orcombe for 6am and back home for about 7am. It was really overcast this morning and it felt 'birdy'. I was on my way back, walking along the cliff-top footpath, when I bumped in to a Short-eared Owl hunting the un-grazed fields. A good record for Orcombe and a joy to watch as always. I could have watched it for ages but I had to get back for work. Otherwise the highlight was a high flock of 17 Whimbrel that circled high overhead before tumbling out of the sky and presumably landing on the beach below. A single Wheatear was by the Geoneedle and a solitary Willow Warbler was feeding in the Blackthorn scrub. 
Having been wet and windy overnight I couldn't resist a quick five minute look off Maer Rocks on the way home. The rocks themselves held just one Turnstone but offshore, diving around buoy number 1, were 2 Common Tern and my first 2 Roseate Tern of the spring. A Great Northern Diver flew past further out. It was really frustrating to have to leave as there had clearly been an arrival of birds.
I popped down to Maer Rocks late this afternoon, hoping for Terns, but the light was bad and I only managed c10+ Sandwich Terns. On Maer Rocks there were 5 Dunlin and 6 more Whimbrel flew 'in-off'.
My first Swift of the Spring went over the house this afternoon and last night I scoped the flock of 100+  Pale-bellied Brent Geese that Kev had from the Warren.


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Garden Warbler

Garden Warbler - last year's '5 birds in one day' was exceptional. Typically we're lucky to get one in spring and I'm never too surprised to get none. This morning's bird was a real show-off. Probably too cold to care that I was standing feet away pointing a camera at it!
It was bitterly cold at 6am this morning following a night of clear skies. Fortunately the wind had dropped, but that did nothing to prevent the loss of feeling in my fingers. I walked from Foxholes to Sandy Bay without seeing a bird, but by the time I'd turned around and started walking back the sun was stirring things into life. The line of flowering Blackthorn along the cliff-top path yielded a singing male Lesser Whitethroat, my first Garden Warbler of the year, 1 Willow Warbler and 3 Blackcap. Just as things were picking up I had to get back to get ready for work.
Yesterday, in far from ideal windy conditions, I recorded 7 Whimbrel, 1 Ringed Plover, 1 Common Tern, 2 Turnstone, 1 Redstart and 1 Blackcap. The Redstart was a female bird in exactly the same spot that Nick had one the day before - surely the same bird. It was incredibly difficult to get close to and nigh on impossible to photograph. A flash of fiery-red tail and gone.

Monday, 25 April 2016


Whinchat - mobile around the top fields this evening. My first this spring but Orcombe's second following a bird that Terry had on the 20th. Nothing else this evening but Nick had our 5th Redstart of the spring earlier (another female).
Being very much a 'Z-list' birding site each and every migrant is appreciated and warmly welcomed. It has been a good spring so far, by Orcombe standards, but as yet no Swift, Ring Ouzel, Sedge Warbler, Hobby or Garden Warbler. Wonder what's next......

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Spot Fly

Spotted Flycatcher - Maer Valley
This Spotted Flycatcher was found earlier in the day by Rupert. It was in the lovely little sheltered spot around where the footpath crosses the stream in Maer Valley - just outside the Orcombe patch. When I arrived Terry had already located it. It was feeding quietly at the back of a small stand of willows. It's a relatively early one but Spotted Flycatcher is an expected spring and autumn passage migrant on Orcombe. We've done quite well for them the last few years.
Earlier Nick and I had done a quick circuit of Orcombe but it was really quiet. I popped up there again late morning. It was a bit warmer and there were a few more common migrants around. Totals over the two trips included 4+ Whitethroat, 10 Whimbrel, 5+ Great Crested Grebe, 1 Common Tern, c15+ Sandwich Tern, 2 Meadow Pipit, 1 Blackcap, 2 Wheatear and 3+ Willow Warbler.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

More Migrants

Black Redstart - still looking quite settled in the Dung Field. This is a very vocal individual - easily located by its repetitive high-pitched 'seeep' call.
Migrants on Orcombe today included my first Lesser Whitethroat of the spring (mobile and singing in the Geoneedle area), Redstart (female-type around the entrance to the Bristol Schools Camp), Black Redstart, 4 Whitethroat, 4 Blackcap and 1 Willow Warbler. Offshore there were at least 6 Common Tern and 1 Little Tern. A quick scan off the seafront, looking across towards Warren Point, produced 22 Whimbrel, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit and 1 Great Crested Grebe.
I managed to get out at dawn in the rain yesterday morning to record my first Grasshopper Warbler of the spring - a reeling bird just up from the Geoneedle. Also recorded yesterday were the Black Redstart (still occupying the Dung Field), a female Redstart in the top fields, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Willow Warbler, 4 Common Tern, 1 Blackcap and 2 Wheatear.
In the evening, with rain still in the air, Derek and I enjoyed the spectacle of c30/40+ Swallow, c5/10+ House Martin and 1 or 2 Sand Martin hawking low over the cliff top around the Geoneedle. They were feeding on flies coming off the top of flowering Blackthorn and were at times just a few feet from us. A magical experience and one we sadly don't experience too often in Exmouth.

Redstart - typically nervous and flighty. It just wouldn't allow a close approach, hence the distant record shot. This is the fourth to be recorded on Orcombe this spring -1 male and 3 females cf 3 males throughout the whole of last spring.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Interesting Flycatcher

A cold-toned female-type 'ficedula' flycatcher on Orcombe this afternoon. It shows a large white patch at the base of the primaries. The patch doesn't quite reach the edge of the wing though so whether it sits within range of pied or collared or both I'm not sure. I would of course be grateful for any comments on the bird. Below are a few more photos of it. I'm clearly nowhere near as clued-up on these species as I should be!

Not sure how much the light is making the rump look paler on this shot.


Black Redstart - dung field. Terry found this bird lunch time. It's the latest one I've ever seen on Orcombe. He also had Yellow Wagtail, Redstart and Whinchat up there today.
 I did two trips up there today - a cold dawn trip before work and the later visit after work. Totals in a strong fresh easterly included 9+ Willow Warbler, 3+ Wheatear, 1 Whitethroat, 4 Blackcap, a flock of 42+ Linnet, the aforementioned Black Redstart and of course the Flycatcher.
Late news for Monday from the Imperial - c85+ Sandwich Tern, 52+ Whimbrel, 17+ Lesser Black-backed Gull and 2 Pale-bellied Brent Goose.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

White and Yellow Wags

Male White Wagtail
I managed a couple trips up to Orcombe today and thoroughly enjoyed birding in the warm sunshine for a change. The first trip was early on with Nick and I was able to nip out again later on in the morning. Totals included 3 Swallow, 2 Willow Warbler, 5 Blackcap, 1 Goldcrest, 5 Whitethroat, 2 Meadow Pipit, 1 Yellow Wagtail and 1 White Wagtail.
Various glances at the river, from the back garden, today have produced 2 Pale-bellied Brent Goose, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit,  3 Knot, 2 Redshank, 7 Dunlin, c60+ Sandwich Tern, 1 Common Tern, a flock of 37 Whimbrel north upriver and my first House Martin of the year.

This is my first White Wagtail of the spring. Following just one record in Exmouth for me last year, this was today's star bird.

This male Pied Wagtail stopped wagging long enough for me to grab a shot. It allows a nice comparison with the male White Wag above.

It has already gone down in my book as a good spring on Orcombe for Yellow Wagtails. Invariably at this time of year I get the odd 'flyover' but it's most unusual for them to stop and feed. Contrast that with the autumn when Orcombe can be buzzing with birds feeding among the cattle. This is my second so far - this time presumably a female. Note the olive-grey smudges on the breast and the grey cast to the nape.

Dung Heap Wheatear - one of three present this morning.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Red Kites

Today's third Red Kite tracking high east at 1445.

I only stuck an hour on Orcombe Point this morning. It was quickly evident that little had arrived overnight with only 2 Whitethroat and 2 Wheatear making the notebook. The early start was barely justified by 5 Whimbrel, 5 Turnstone and a Sanderling on Maer Rocks. Offshore just 8+ Sandwich Tern and 4 Great Crested Grebe.
Lu and I have done a bit of pottering around the garden today as the kids have been busy doing bits and pieces. I kept an eye on the sky and the river and managed to log 2 Pale-bellied Brent Goose, c30+ Whimbrel, 26 Dunlin and 1 Grey Wagtail. Best of all though was 3 Red Kites. The first went high east at 1150 and the next north, upriver just minutes later. It passed over Cockwood and Starcross before losing height over Powderham and continuing towards Exminster. The third went high east at 1445.

After yesterday I was hoping for a few more terns. This Sandwich was one of just 8+ off Maer Rocks early morning.

Four of the five Whimbrel on Maer Rocks this morning.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Some April Stunners


Redstart - that's two years on the trot that Nick has discovered Exmouth's 'first' Redstart. It's a gift!

The first good day for migrants in Exmouth. I've been off work, on the doctor's advice, the last two days following my first (and hopefully last) ever bout of vertigo. This means I've had the chance to look at the river from the back garden (doctor's advice was to try and stay upright and active). Every cloud.....
Today I got my first 4 Little Tern of the spring, c40+ Sandwich Tern, c10+ Common Tern, 2 Pale-bellied Brent Goose, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 38 Dunlin, 10+ Turnstone and a trickle of Swallows heading north upriver.
Yesterday I recorded 3 Pale-bellied Brent Goose, c60+ Sandwich Tern, a flock of 40 Black-headed Gull upriver, 1 First-summer Little Gull upriver, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Whimbrel, 3 Dunlin, 15 Turnstone and 5 Rook east.
Nick found a male Redstart on Orcombe this afternoon, so once Lu got back with the car I nipped up there and found the bird along with a nice little selection of other migrants concentrated around the dung field - 6+ Wheatear, 2 Whitethroat, 2 Meadow Pipit, 1 Yellow Wagtail and 2 Grey Wagtail. Great to see Derek and Terry up there too.

Yellow Wagtail - my first this year.

Grey  Wagtail - unusual to see on Orcombe at this time of year. One of a pair.

Raven over the back garden yesterday.

Siskin - one of a pair feeding in sallows on Woodbury Common earlier in the week - photographed whilst on a dog walk.

It has been a good week for sunsets. This was taken from Joel's bedroom window, looking across to Haldon Belvedere.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Kentish Plover

I did a sea-watch from about 0625 this morning. Conditions were pretty good but sitting in a bitterly cold south-easterly couldn't be described as a comfortable experience. The raised beach huts offered some shelter but after about an hour I'd had enough! A few birds were noted. I picked up a 'horizon-hugging' Great Skua heading south, and whilst watching it a much closer individual lumbered in to my scope view. These were the first I've seen this year. About 20 minutes later I picked up another skua. It was getting whisked into the bay by the wind, with high towering shears. Initially I assumed it was going to be an Arctic but its more Bonxie-like structure pointed to it being a Pomarine Skua. I struggled to get plumage features on it but its biscuit-brown underparts and lack of spoons pointed to it being an immature bird - undoubtedly the same bird seen by Lee at the Warren a short while later. Also noted, before I started to feel hypothermic, were 3 Diver sp, 4 Fulmar, 4 Manx Shearwater, 2+ Common Scoter, c10+ Sandwich Tern, several Kittiwake and 3 Auk sp.
Around lunch time, a text from Kev had me scooting down to the Docks to see the male Kentish Plover that Lee had found earlier on. I had tried to see it earlier but it was chaos down at Exmouth seafront. The wind was causing serious 'scope shake' and part of the Esplanade had been closed off, with massive waves crashing over the sea wall on an exceptionally high tide. Anyway, with some kind help from Kev, I was able to scope the Kentish Plover from the docks. Many thanks for all your help Kev and thanks too, of course, to Lee. Kentish Plover now sits neatly on my Exmouth list. The rules for me are simple - if my feet are firmly planted on Exmouth soil I can count it! Let's face it, Warren Point is a hell of a lot closer to Exmouth than Dawlish!

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Odds and Ends

Mute Swans heading towards the river.

Derek and I did Orcombe first thing this morning and I nipped up to the top fields briefly mid-afternoon. Apart from a few 'phylloscs' there was little to report but it was a beautiful morning. The highlight was a lone Lapwing - unusual on Orcombe, especially in spring. Otherwise totals included 2 Shelduck, 9+ Chiffchaff, 7+ Willow Warbler, 2 Turnstone, 1 Little Egret, 4 Mute Swan, 1 Meadow Pipit and 4 Canada Goose.

There are 3 Buzzards on Orcombe at the moment. They have been very conspicuous of late but I haven't sussed out if or where they might be breeding.

This morning's star bird - Lapwing.

Chiffchaff - one of three feeding with a single Willow Warbler by the dung heap this afternoon, between hail showers.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Another Iceland Gull

Wheatear - Orcombe Point - 1 of at least 5 seen yesterday.
Orcombe Point was practically birdless this morning so I ended up staring at the sea for a while. This proved to be a good move as at about 0715 I picked up an Iceland Gull offshore from Maer Rocks. It would have probably hung around had the tide been out but it headed sluggishly south, circling high off Dawlish seafront for a while, then drifting back out to sea before heading high in a line that put it on course for Berry Head. I kept watching it until it was a minute speck in the sky. It was an immature bird, probably a juvenile, and from what I could see, very like the last bird, only perhaps a bit more slim-line. Also off there - 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Common Scoter, 3 Great Crested Grebe and c15+ Sandwich Tern.
No Redstarts on Orcombe yesterday but an obvious arrival of migrants that included 8+ Willow Warbler, 12+ Chiffchaff, 1 Blackcap, 5+ Wheatear, 2 Swallow and 2 Goldcrest. Also seen - 4 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, c20+ Linnet, 2 Collared Dove and 2 Shelduck.

Monday, 4 April 2016



Short-eared Owls are really hard to catch up with in Exmouth so today's bird was thoroughly appreciated. It was gulls that drew my attention to it as it circled high over Warren Point at around 315pm. It soon moved off south with its posse of gulls in tow. I was stood watching terns off Shelly Beach at the time. The Sandwich Terns were all sat on the buoys in the estuary. I counted c50+ along with 1 Common Tern that showed reasonably well and produced none of the ID headaches that I experienced yesterday! Otherwise it was pretty quiet with just 7 Red-breasted Mergansers and 4 Dark-bellied Brent Geese making the notebook.
Short-eared Owl. The last SEO I saw in Exmouth was on November 6th 2011.

Male Tufted Duck - Bystock Pond - just within the Exmouth parish boundary. A tricky species to catch up with in Exmouth though I have recorded a few on the river over the years. They have bred on nearby Blackhill Quarry.