Sunday 31 August 2014

Spot Flys

Spotted Flycatcher

Common stuff but pleasant birding in beautiful weather today. Orcombe Point - 0625 - 0900'ish - 4 grey heron, 4+ chiffchaff, 4+ grey wagtail, 6+ alba wagtail, 2 razorbill, 10+ meadow pipit, 20+ yellow wagtail, c40+ swallow, 2+ spotted flycatcher, 3+ tree pipit, 2+ phyllosc sp, 2+ great spotted woodpecker, 7+ whitethroat, 4+ willow warbler, 3+ wheatear, 1+ sand martin, 11 jackdaw, 1 sedge warbler, 2 blackcap and 3+ house martin.

The spot fly seemed to attract attention. First a willow warbler........

.....then a whitethroat.

This sedge warbler was in the dung field.

There were loads of Speckled Wood butterflies around today. Also good numbers of Red Admiral, a Clouded Yellow and a Common Blue.


Herring Gulls heading to roost on the river last night with a lovely sky.

Saturday 30 August 2014

Tree Pipits

A Tree Pipit playing hide and seek in the 'Dung Field' sallows.

I spent less time looking at the sea this morning and decided to concentrate on looking for migrants in the fields before breakfast. Tree pipits and yellow wagtails have been really reliable on the last few visits so it was no real surprise to see both species this morning. I saw at least 4 tree pipits and there was a flock of 10 yellow wagtail in with the cows. Other birds recorded were 3+ wheatear, 2+ grey wagtail, 1+ swift, 2 whitethroat, 2+ sand martin, 1 great spotted woodpecker, 1+ chiffchaff, 21 common scoter, 45+ common tern, 1 juv arctic tern and 1 grey heron. I also had an odd medium-sized wader flying east that gave a call that I didn't recognize and that I can't find on Xeno Canto.
Mudbank this afternoon on a low tide produced 36 wigeon, 5 pintail and, surprise surprise, a first-winter yellow-legged gull.

These two tree pipits were feeding in long grass around the slurry pit before I accidentally flushed them up into trees surrounding the water treatment plant. These birds were pretty much identifiable on behavior alone - flying up silently from long grass into cover and then perching up, luckily in full view. 

Three of the ten yellow wags.

A small and slightly trickier 'michaelis' - I felt much less confident with this bird but I think it's ok. The new first-winter scapular feathers were all gingery with clear anchor marks and the tertials were a little more patterned than I would have liked - comments, as always, welcome.

Friday 29 August 2014

Ducks Up and Curlew Sand

First-winter Yellow-legged Gull - Mudbank.

Less focus on terns today with c100+ common tern in the estuary, off the Imperial this morning. A good few sandwich tern and 1+ little tern were also seen. There was a significant increase in duck numbers though with 340+ mallard, 30 wigeon (7 have been knocking around for a while now) and 5 pintail off Mudbank. Other species seen off Mudbank/Imperial today included 1+ kingfisher, 1 yellow wagtail, 3+ mediterranean gull, 1 first-winter yellow-legged gull, 9 great crested grebe, 1 black-tailed godwit, 1 bar-tailed godwit, 7 whimbrel, 93+ great black-backed gull, 2 turnstone, 2+ dunlin and best of all 1 juvenile curlew sandpiper. Curlew Sands are pretty infrequent in Exmouth, even when good numbers are present at the Warren and/or Bowling Green. Although I couldn't possibly moan about the birding at Mudbank it does suffer from a lack of waders relative to the aforementioned sites. As with the majority of waders at Mudbank, it touched down only briefly and then shot off across the estuary to a more favorable feeding venue.
A very quick Orcombe visit in less than ideal conditions produced just 3+ yellow wagtail, 1 grey wagtail, 1 chiffchaff, 2 phyllosc sp, 1 whitethroat, 1 sedge warbler (probably yesterday's bird), 1+ swift, c30+ hirundine sp and 1 blackcap.

It's not every day you see a Yellow-legged Gull on a traffic cone.

All above photos - first-winter Yellow-legged Gull. Another real classic bird with plenty of new scapulars. I would dearly love to have got better shots of this bird - it really was a beauty but my camera gear just isn't up to the task and, in my defence, the light was lousy. Below is a small dark Great Black-backed Gull, photographed a few days ago on Exmouth Quay.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Juvenile Little Gull

At dawn I had a look off Maer Rocks, but again it was quiet with just 19 common tern and 1 juv arctic tern west. With limited time I decided to have a look at the estuary from the Imperial Rugby ground. This proved to be quite interesting with good numbers of terns and a wider variety of waders than usual. The highlight though was a small, dark and rather beautiful juvenile little gull. This is a plumage I can't actually recall seeing too often before though I suppose it doesn't differ too greatly from a first-winter plumage. It was distant so the sketches are more an impression than anything else. The bird was still present mid-morning off Mudbank. Other birds seen included 190+ common tern, several sandwich tern, 2 ringed plover, 2 redshank, 4 turnstone, 1 bar-tailed godwit, 1 kingfisher, 1 grey wagtail, 4 little tern, 1 greenshank, 1 snipe, 1 black-tailed godwit, 2 wigeon, 4+ mediterranean gull and 4 great crested grebe. A little stint conveniently tagged on to 3 fly-by dunlin and showed enough of a rusty tinge to its otherwise dark plumage to convince me it was nothing rarer.
This afternoon I spent just over an hour scouring the dung field and surrounds and found 1 grasshopper warbler, 1 sedge warbler, 2+ whitethroat, 1 meadow pipit, 2+ wheatear and 20 yellow wagtails.

Part of a 55-strong flock of little egrets along the cycle track from Mudbank. Today they were joined by a grey heron. It feels like there should be a cattle egret in with them.

Juvenile yellow wagtails - just 3 of the 20 birds present. I couldn't get close, as you can see, but at least these birds showed on the track for a change. They're normally hidden in long grass around the cows' feet.

Wednesday 27 August 2014


Adult Common Tern - Exmouth Quay.

Funny day today. I did the usual Maer Rocks stint first thing and was very underwhelmed by the numbers of birds on a promising-looking south-easterly. I recorded just c40+ common tern, 1 common scoter, 1 manx shearwater, 1 yellow-legged gull, 1 dunlin and the second-winter little gull. I headed for home a little puzzled but had a quick look off Exmouth Quay where 110+ common tern and 2 knot indicated that I may be missing something. Phonecalls/texts from Mike, Mark, Dave Stone, Dave Hopkins and Lee confirmed that I was indeed missing stuff (namely terns) but family life beckoned and I was tied up for the morning. This afternoon, a further sojourn off the seafront revealed good numbers of common and sandwich tern but surprisingly little else.
Today's totals: Orcombe Point/Maer Rocks - c15+ common scoter, 3+ manx shearwater, c10+ fulmar, 3 teal, 3 little tern, 1+ juv arctic tern, 1 black tern, 1 turnstone, 1 mediterranean gull, 1 juv yellow-legged gull, 1 little gull, 2 arctic skua, 1 dunlin, 6+ wheatear, 3 yellow wagtail, 2 swift, 1 tree pipit and 1 whitethroat.

Juvenile Common Tern - Exmouth Quay.

Adult winter Sandwich Tern - Exmouth Quay.

Common Tern.


At last a 'proper' Yellow-legged Gull - big and bullish! Chalk and Cheese next to Herring Gulls!

Second-winter Little Gull.

A beautiful little Tree Pipit sheltering from the wind in the corner of one of the top fields.

Monday 25 August 2014

Seawatch Stuff and More Bad Photos

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull - Mudbank.

I did an hour or so sea-watching, in persistent rain, with Nick this morning. It was uneventful apart from a wonderful small pod of bottle-nosed dolphin in the bay. All that was recorded was 19 common scoter, 1 turnstone and small numbers of terns. I later decided to sea-watch, again from the raised beach huts, as the rain cleared, and this proved to be much more successful. Totals included 11 common scoter, 1 little tern, 1 juv black tern (@1420 - my first of the autumn), 1+ great skua, 2+ arctic skua, 4+ manx shearwater, 1 balearic shearwater, 3 shearwater sp, 1+ juv arctic tern, 1 mediterranean gull, 1 adult-type little gull (possibly the regular 2w bird?) and 2 swift. Also large numbers of sandwich tern and 'commic' tern with small numbers of fulmar, gannet and kittiwake.
I wish I'd made a concerted effort to count the terns but it was really difficult to work out if birds were constantly moving through or just moving around the bay. My gut feeling is that large numbers were streaming in but I just can't be sure. It was also difficult to be sure of skua numbers as I frequently had 1 great skua in view, but it could feasibly have been the same bird loitering. Same with the arctics.
A quick look off Mudbank produced another juv yellow-legged gull, 8+ mediterranean gull and 1 kittiwake, that looked in poor condition.
Yesterday morning on Orcombe there was 5 tree pipit, 36+ hirundine sp, 5 yellow wagtail, 3 meadow pipit, 1 curlew, 1 little egret, 1 swift, 1 alba wagtail, 2+ willow warbler and 1 chiffchaff
In the estuary, off Mudbank/Imperial there was 1 little tern, 5 wigeon, 6 whimbrel, 1 greenshank, 17+ ringed plover, 4+ dunlin, 11+ mediterranean gull, 1 bar-tailed godwit, 1 turnstone and c40+ common tern.

Another small yellow-legged gull and certainly not what I'd call a classic. A relatively weak-billed individual, diminutive in stature and rather gentle in demeanor. Additionally I couldn't see any sign of moult, although the bird was a bit distant and the light was poor. You'd expect to see a number of new first-winter mantle and scapular feathers by now. It does however posses the requisite tail and wing pattern and the dark-based greater coverts looked fine.

Note the dark eye patch, dark-based greater coverts, dark secondaries and paler inner webs to inner primaries.

One of yesterday's yellow wagtails - obligingly perched for a change. The birds on Orcombe are almost invariably hidden in long grass or just dots in the sky.