Sunday 28 September 2014


'Helice' Clouded Yellow

This rather striking white 'helice' form of clouded yellow was found, along with a few ordinary clouded yellows, at the edge of the caravan park this afternoon. Bird-wise there was again plenty around on Orcombe, with c300+ meadow pipit (a very rough estimate), c100+ 'alba' wagtail (again a rough estimate as birds seemd to be flying around in all directions at first light this morning), c40+ robin, 6+ blackcap, 6+ goldcrest, 6+ grey wagtail, 2 grey heron, 3 wheatear, 1 yellow wagtail, c50+ hirundine sp (a mix of swallow and house martin), 1+ ringed plover (over with 3 larger wader sp), 2+ reed bunting, 11 canada goose, c30+ chiffchaff and 1 great spotted woodpecker. Six raven headed east together and a while later a flock of 15 headed west, so potentially 21 birds in total today.

Above and below - Chiffchaffs.

There seemed to be chiffies, robins and meadow pipits everywhere today. It's really hard to get an accurate count on days like today. Chiffchaffs were working along the hedgerows and meadow pipits were springing out of every field in numbers. It's quite possible that my counts of these three species are way below what they should be!

Saturday 27 September 2014


Great Northern Diver. One of two this morning, the first cutting a corner by flying directly over the Foxholes estate.

More birds than expected this morning with a good overhead passage, despite cloud cover. Derek and I did a quick early morning circuit and I nipped back up mid-afternoon. An estimated 200+ meadow pipit went through with c100+ 'alba' wagtail, 2 reed bunting, 1+ yellow wagtail, 1+ tree pipit, 7+ grey wagtail, 1+ siskin (my first of the autumn) and small numbers of hirundines, linnet, greenfinch and chaffinch. Also seen were 2 great northern diver, 7+ goldcrest, 20+ chiffchaff, 16+ skylark, 1 great spotted woodpecker, 2 blackcap and 2 coal tit
Last night 6 stonechat were in the top fields - a high count for Orcombe.

Goldcrest - 7 recorded today.


Wheatear - a big, quite richly coloured bird so possibly a 'Greenland' Wheatear. The bird below was photographed earlier in the week. Like many of the recent Wheatears, it too was fat and colourful.

Clouded Yellow

Sunday 21 September 2014

One of Those Mornings

Wheatear - Dung Field - good numbers around today.

The run of exceptional birding on Orcombe continues. I need to remind myself of days like today when the birding returns to normal and I'm flogging the bushes in the hope of finding a single chiffie! I birded with Nick and Derek from first light but bumped into several other friends over the course of the morning. The glorious sunshine added an extra golden glow to the birding, with birds appearing in pretty much every corner of the patch. Magical moments included watching a hobby belt high out over the sea, Africa-bound, as two dark-bellied brent geese powered westwards then north towards the Exe. The red-breasted flycatcher eventually performed (and apparently continued to do so all day) and a text from Paul Gosling was very welcome - he had found the wryneck further down towards the Geoneedle and we were soon watching it on the clifftop down to about 10ft!
Other species seen included at least 16 wheatear, 3+ grey wagtail, 5+ alba wagtail, 13+ yellow wagtail, c30+ chiffchaff, 1+ tree pipit, c25+ swallow, c40+ house martin, 1+ jay, 1 curlew, c20+ skylark (the first influx of the autumn), c100+ meadow pipit, 1+ goldcrest and 1 blackcap
As well as tonnes of berries on the bushes there were insects everywhere too, including masses of crane-flies, speckled woods, red admirals, 2 clouded yellow butterflies, a silver Y moth and an emperor dragonfly. 

At least one Jay was roaming around the area today.

Wryneck - this bird apparently showed well intermittently on the footpath throughout the morning at least, despite a procession of dog-walkers and ramblers.

A particularly colourful Magpie.

Emperor Dragonfly

Saturday 20 September 2014

R-b Fly

Red-breasted Flycatcher

Derek and I covered a good section of the patch this morning but I had to leave at nine for football and Derek had to pack it in too. This afternoon, with Lu and the kids all busy doing various things, I was able to get out again, eager to see what was left over from the early morning fall that Derek and I experienced. At around 1435 I was walking quietly along the hedgerow that borders the Bristol Schools Camp when a movement caught my eye. I raised my bins and found myself staring at a beautiful red-breasted flycatcher. This species was firmly on my radar, with larger than usual numbers having appeared on the east coast in the last few days, but it was still a bit of a shock. I took the photos shown below and then beat a hasty retreat so that it could feed in peace. This seemed to work as the bird stayed feeding along a short stretch of hedgerow, often getting in a couple of sycamores, until at least 1715, though I had to leave before then. I heard it call its wren-like rattle when I first picked it up and looked at it hard to make sure it wasn't the much rarer, faster calling taiga flycatcher, but with buffy underparts it never really caused any alarm. It was often very elusive, remaining motionless for long periods, mostly out of sight but I think a fair few people managed to see it. The presence of several chiffchaff in the same trees added to the difficulty in picking the bird up. Totals from today then, in order of appearance: c30/40+ chiffchaff (a sizeable influx for Orcombe and probably a conservative estimate), 1 lesser whitethroat (first record this year!), 4+ blackcap, 3+ grey wagtail, 3+ jay, 1 spotted flycatcher, 3 stonechat, 1 greenshank, 7+ yellow wagtail, 2+ alba wagtail, 1 goldcrest, c50/60+ meadow pipit, 1 great spotted woodpecker, 1 red-breasted flycatcher and 1 wheatear.

My first view of the R-b Fly, tucked away in the hedgerow.

The bird was most often seen in the two golden sycamores - left of the picture. The gate leads into the Bristol Schools Camp which is a private site. I have permission to walk around it when it's not being used and it has great potential because the habitat is fantastic and it's completely undisturbed.

High-flying Jay - always good to get in the autumn.

Early morning Spotted Flycatcher - later 'trumped' by its much rarer cousin. I still haven't had pied fly this autumn or, for that matter, redstart.

Yellow Wagtail

Friday 19 September 2014



I dipped this bird last night. A half hour window between work and football training wasn't enough to locate this long-awaited and much anticipated patch tick. Luckily I had a little more time tonight so I made a point of searching for it, and it duly hopped up in to view in the hedgerow aligning the footpath that links the footpath to Gore Lane. I wasn't prepared for how close it would allow me to approach and as I backed away from it it flew towards me, perching in the hedge beside me! I left it feeding peacefully in the hedgerow and searched for other stuff. Migrants this afternoon included 9 yellow wagtail, c10+ chiffchaff, 1 sedge warbler, 2 wheatear and c20+ meadow pipit.
One of the yellow wagtails was a lovely steely grey and white bird. All vocalisations from this little party of nine yellow wags were the typical forceful 'tseeip' of typical yellow wag.
Early yesterday morning, my first autumn crossbill flew over Belle Vue Road as I walked to work. 

Grey-variant Yellow Wagtail with yellow Yellow Wagtails.

A striking bird - potentially 'eastern' but perhaps too much yellow on under-tail coverts?

Small Copper

Speckled Wood


Red Admiral

Common Blue

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Yellow Wags

Eighteen Yellow Wagtails in an Ash tree.

At least 18 yellow wagtails on Orcombe Point late this afternoon. Quite possibly a few more. Also 4 wheatear, 1 stonechat, 6 chiffchaff and c30+ meadow pipit. Only a small area covered.

I wonder if this could be a blue-headed wagtail? It has a blue-grey cast to the crown and a nice white supercilium. Additional supportive features include a yellow throat, white sub-moustacial stripe and white fleck below the eye. It does have some olive patches on the crown too though. Compare it to the more typical olive-crowned birds below that sport yellow superciliums.

I'm really pleased with these shots. They are by far the best shots of yellow wag I've ever taken.

Sunday 14 September 2014

LBBG Comparison Shots

Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull - Mudbank.

I photographed this fairly typical juvenile 'graellsii' Lesser Black-back today, in exactly the same spot as the 'candidate Baltic' the other day. I thought it would be interesting to do a comparison  between the two. I'm not sure it's that helpful and both birds were photographed in different light conditions,but here they are anyway. There doesn't appear to be a noticeable difference in wing length, or for that matter structure, and the obvious plumage differences could be explained by differing amounts of wear and, of course, individual variation. One thing does strike me though, and that's the expression of the two. The kindly expression of the bird 'candidate Baltic' differs quite markedly to that of the more Herring Gull-like, meaner look of the graellsii. Some articles I've read mention the more Common Gull-like expression of fuscus, or the more Caspian Gull-like head but I don't think this feature alone can get you very far.  A nice white underwing would have been nice!

Candidate Baltic


Candidate Baltic

Easterlies but Few Birds


I was up on Orcombe at first light and conditions felt good. A fresh easterly wind greeted me as I got out the car at the top of Gore Lane so I was quite hopeful. Despite covering plenty of ground however I didn't see too much. Totals included 2+ tree pipit, 8+ raven, 1 whinchat, c10+ chiffchaff, c100+ meadow pipit, 8+ grey wagtail, 28+ swallow, 12+ house martin, 1+ alba wagtail, 1 kestrel, 2 whitethroat, 4+ wheatear, 1 reed bunting, 5 yellow wagtail, 1 blackcap, 24 canada goose, 1 great spotted woodpecker, 1 sedge warbler and 1 stonechat. The most unusual sighting was a great northern diver that powered over high west above me as I was walking around the dung field.
Mudbank produced 21 dark-bellied brent goose, 8 mediterranean gull, 78 pintail, 44+ little egret, 1 common sandpiper and 37 mute swan.

Grey skies and a watery early morning sun contributed to a 'birdy' feel today but it was fairly quiet.

Three of five Yellow Wagtails perched in an ash tree up in the 'top fields'.

24 Canada Geese heading east over the Bristol Schools camp.



French-ringed juvenile Great Black-backed Gull - Mudbank - orange darvic ring (black lettering) right tarsus 4:AXZ and metal ring left tarsus.