Saturday 31 October 2015


Football with Joel this morning so little time out in the field. I was able to nip out the back of our house for the Serin at dawn this morning, and again late this afternoon. At one point the bird flew towards Nick and I and fed on weeds right in front of us, down to about 15ft. Unfortunately the goal-netting scuppered any chance of a photo. It can be surprisingly elusive in the sallows at other times though. I also managed to get it on the house list today - call only. It's going to require a lot of luck to see it from where we are because it seems to stay tucked away in its chosen little corner - not visible from the house.
Around midday my good mate Martin Wolinski popped in for a cuppa and brought with him a moth that I've never managed to trap before - a Brick - a big thank you Martin! I also managed a quick scoot around the Bristol Schools Camp mid-afternoon but only managed the probable 'Continental' Coal Tit and a handful of Goldcrests - a few of which were strikingly grey-headed and therefore presumably 'Continentals' also.
Finally a lightening quick stop in the Maer Long-stay Carpark produced 2 Firecrests - good birds for there.

Presumed 'Continental' Goldcrest - although the photo doesn't show it, this bird's grey head contrasted markedly with its bright golden-olive mantle.
Also seen on Warren View today - at least 2 Chiffchaff, 2+ Siskin, adult Mediterranean Gull and 4+ Redwing.

Friday 30 October 2015


I got soaked traipsing around Orcombe this morning and didn't see much, so it was back for breakfast early. I was then able to get back out later when Lu took the kids to her parents' house to put up surprise 50th wedding anniversary decorations.  It was a bit drier by then. The Dartford Warbler was being elusive in the hedge at the top of Gore Lane but there was little else. I decided to try Maer Valley, which is just outside the patch boundary, but could only find 1 Mistle Thrush, 2+ Redwing, 1 Fieldfare, 3+ Chiffchaff and a Firecrest, so I headed home. Lu and the kids were by now out with the dog so I thought I'd whack the wellies on and trudge around the football pitch at the back of our house. In the corner, behind where all the goals are stacked, loads of birds were flipping out of the bushes. There were stacks of Goldfinches and Greenfinches as well as other common stuff. I was trying to check each movement when suddenly I locked on to a finch with its back to me, way up in a sycamore. It was partially obscured by leaves but it was surely streaked! I tried to get a better angle but it shot off and out of sight. The only thing I could think it could be was Serin but it hadn't called and I didn't have enough on It to claim it as such. For the next half hour or so I walked the edges of the pitches, checking the Goldfinch flocks but things weren't looking good. I knew that if there was a Serin in with them that I'd pick it up on call. I headed back to where I'd originally seen it and some movement in a sallow caught my eye. I lifted my bins expecting a Chiffie but there was a Serin! For the next hour or so it was coming down to feed in weeds below the sallows and then zipping around a bit before dropping down again. I was chuffed that Derek and Dave managed to see it before it got dark.
If it stays, and anyone wants to see it, please bare in mind that the pitches are privately owned. Having said that, I don't think anyone would mind birders there as long as they were being sensible. To see it, you want to stand by the big red London Bus and scan the weeds and sallows at the back of the car parking area. It's Saturday tomorrow so expect it to be busy from 9am onwards!

I'm not sure about the age of this bird but yellow patches on the breast presumably make it a male - surely a juvenile one?

Juvenile Dartford Warbler.

Pied Wagtail - Warren View Football Pitch - one of c20+ present. Also 8 Meadow Pipit, 2+ Chiffchaff and the adult Mediterranean Gull.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Good Autumn Stuff


Orcombe Point - once the rain had cleared - c15/20+ Goldcrest, c40+ Meadow Pipit, c10+ Chaffinch, c10+ Blackbird, 3+ Song Thrush, 2 Mistle Thrush, 3 Chiffchaff, 3+ Coal Tit (including 1 prob Continental bird), 1 Collared Dove, 1 Stonechat, 1 Redwing, 1 Firecrest, 5 Common Scoter, 1 Teal, 11 Turnstone and a second -winter Mediterranean gull. The Pallas's Warbler showed beautifully just inside the gate to the Bristol Schools Camp and a Dartford Warbler moved along the Dung Field Hedge before flipping over the Lane and vanishing. Compare with October 2014 when Dartford Warbler was the month's stand-out bird. There were however notably fewer Goldcrests around today.
Mudbank produced the Black Brant, 5 Gadwall, 5 Teal, adult Mediterranean Gull and the usual large numbers of Wigeon, Pintail and Dark-bellied Brent Goose.
Just up the hill from Mudbank, along Halsdon Avenue, 2 Black Redstarts fed actively around rooftops and gardens.

Above and below - presumed immature male with striking white wing panel.

Black Redstart number 2 - immature female?

Wednesday 28 October 2015

'Continental' Goldcrest

Spent more time looking at Goldcrests today. Note how the grey head contrasts with the olive mantle on this presumed Continental bird - this was the most striking individual I could find, though I'm sure the bulk of the current influx originate form the Continent.

This is a more typical individual - possibly 'Continental' or possibly a local bird. Can you tell I've been reading Martin Garner's recent article?
Mistle Thrush - The Maer. These are difficult birds to catch up with in Exmouth. The only other bird of note today was a Black Redstart on the Foxholes Estate.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Pallas's Warbler

Pallas's Warbler
It's Lu's birthday today so I hadn't planned to go birding. To wake up to the sound of rain hitting the bedroom window was quite honestly painful, especially after yesterday's Goldcrest fall. Any other day during the half-term and I would have been up like a shot, but it's tradition to 'push the boat out' a bit in our household - opening presents in bed, cooking breakfast etc, usually followed by some shopping somewhere. So it was in Topsham, just before we were about to sit down for a bite of lunch, that the phone rang. My heart sank. I just knew it was going to be a good bird but I didn't actually think it would be on Orcombe Point of all places! It was my good mate Dave 'Hoppers' Hopkins. He'd found a Pallas's Warbler at the entrance to the Bristol Schools Camp. I couldn't disguise my discomfort and Lu was quite rightly pretty p*ssed off with the timing of it all. I was tapping my fingers on the table as we waited for our order and I then had to endure yet more torture as Maisie and Lu looked around some shops whilst I waited in the car with Joel. I had hoped I'd get less twitchy as I got older but I reckon I've got worse - at least when Orcombe birds are involved. Anyway, to cut a long story short, the bird showed really well, almost as soon as I got there - a real beauty. It kept coming back to a leafless tree just inside the entrance to the Bristol schools Camp. It was with at least 20 Goldcrests, at least 1 Firecrest and 1+ Coal Tit which, to my eye, was the perfect blue-grey of a Continental bird, but it wouldn't stay still for long enough to be sure.
On the way back I checked Foxholes briefly. There were still plenty of Goldcrests around but fewer birds than yesterday.
I picked out the Black Brant off Mudbank and a first-winter Mediterranean Gull was new in. The adult bird was again on Warren View Football Pitch at the back of our house.
I was very surprised to get any shots of this bird. I didn't even try for a while - I just enjoyed watching it. Later on, as it dropped down in the leafless tree, I 'pointed and pressed' and was pleased to get some images.

Pallas's Warbler and Goldcrest.

Many of the Goldcrests appeared quite pale and this one, like a lot of others, was very grey around the head, neck and upper mantle. Martin Garner is doing some work on Goldcrests at the moment, which suggests some of our birds are coming from a long way east. I look forward to hearing more of his findings.

Monday 26 October 2015

Crests Fall

The biggest influx of Goldcrests that I've ever seen on Orcombe this morning with an estimated 50/60+ birds (possibly too conservative) and many more probably keeping their heads down in blustery conditions. The influx included at least 3 Firecrests - 2 on Gore Lane and at least one on the 'Foxholes' hill. In fact the leafy road leading up to Foxholes was just heaving with crests but I couldn't dig out a yellow-browed despite putting some time in. Yellow-broweds seem to steer clear of Exmouth at all costs!
Also this morning - 4 Common Gull, 3 Common Scoter, 1 Turnstone, 3+ Brambling, 1 Curlew, 2+ Coal Tit, c25+ Starling, 1+ Redwing, 1 Treecreeper, 5+ Skylark, 1 Chiffchaff and 2+ Siskin.

Rubbish attempts at photographing Goldies.

The Firecrests just wouldn't play ball. Three in one day is exceptional for Orcombe which is why I've included some photos, despite their poor quality. I probably average one each Spring and 1 each Autumn if I'm lucky. I'm envious of the birders who bird the 'big name' headlands where Firecrests can be quite frequent. Each one on Orcombe is a rare treat so they're never taken for granted!

Sunday 25 October 2015

Usual Stuff

Sunrise from Orcombe Point this morning.
Nick and I covered Orcombe this morning - a beautiful morning and an absolute pleasure to be out. There was a little bit of activity overhead and there were a few bits and pieces in the bushes but nothing out of the ordinary. I nipped up there again this afternoon but couldn't add much. Totals included 6+ goldcrest, 1+ coal tit, 1+ chiffchaff, 7 turnstone, c10+ greenfinch, c10+ blackbird, 4+ siskin, 3 swallow, 10+  redpoll, c20/30+ linnet, c30/40+ skylark, c10/20+ pied wagtail, c20+ meadow pipit, c20+ chaffinch, c10+ goldfinch, 1 brambling, 2+ reed bunting, 6+ song thrush, 4+ jackdaw, 2 curlew, 18+ starling, 3+ stonechat, 1+ bullfinch, 1 kestrel and 1 grey wagtail.
After a shower and a bit of breakfast I walked the dog with the family up on the Commons. A single Crossbill was the highlight. I've been up there a couple times after work this week and have noted good numbers of Redpoll and Meadow Pipit with several Dartford Warblers, Goldcrests, Coal Tits and a few Reed Buntings and  Fieldfare too. Also 1 Woodcock.


Tuesday 20 October 2015

Coal Tit

Still hoping for a concrete 'ater'. I'm not 100% convinced by this one though it did show a nice crest - is that diagnostic of ater? It's possibly too orangey underneath and its bib is nothing special. There are some dark smudges on the breast sides. I again struggled to accurately assess the mantle/scapular tone as it zoomed through a hedgerow along Gore Lane though in the photos it does look more grey. Thoughts welcome as always.


Saturday 17 October 2015

Autumn Fare

Chiffchaff - at least 10 on Orcombe today.
Derek and I did Orcombe from first light, but it was just a relatively quick circuit. I popped up there again early afternoon but didn't add much to the totals. Highlights included the first Brambling of the autumn - a single bird low east over the Dung Field, calling loudly, shortly after dawn. Otherwise it was slow-going overhead with just a trickle of Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits travelling east. Other migrants included 3 Song Thrush, 1+ Grey Wagtail, c10+ Chiffchaff, 4+ Goldcrest, c10+ Chaffinch and 2+ Stonechat. On this afternoon's visit I had a Merlin go through. It sped out into Dawlish Bay, apparently hunting way out over the sea before continuing towards Berry Head.
A quick check off the Imperial produced the Black Brant and 6 Pale-bellied Brent Geese but I failed to pick up the Ridgway's Cackling Goose.
Yesterday evening, after work, I was chuffed to find my first Firecrest of the autumn - a non-calling individual feeding unobtrusively in a quiet corner of the Bristol Schools Camp. Also seen were 3 Stonechat, 2 Grey Wagtail, 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest and 2+ Coal Tit. There were at least 27 Turnstone on Maer Rocks.

Stonechats - Dung Field.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Ring Ouzel and Rare Bunting

Goldcrest - a silent individual and one of just 4 seen on a short visit on 13/10.
On Monday I recorded my first Redwings of the autumn when 5 flew over the house at first light. An evening visit to Orcombe produced my first Snipe of the autumn, 12 Swallow, 1 Kestrel and a single Stonechat.
On Tuesday evening the Stonechat tally had grown to four birds but it was otherwise quiet with just 4 Goldcrest and a single Grey Wagtail noted.
The Ridgway's Cackling Goose was present in the estuary on both dates.

One of four Stonechats present on 13/10. This male was one of two in the Dung Field.

A strange monochrome light on Tuesday evening - looking across to Berry Head.
This evening I again tried to blitz as much of Orcombe as possible in the fading light. I recorded 1 Ring Ouzel, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Reed Bunting, c40+ Meadow Pipit, just 1 Goldcrest and 3 Chiffchaff. I also had a bunting sp fly straight over my head calling 'tsic' repeatedly. It was definitely one of the rarer species, but worryingly didn't look especially small. Sadly the whole of the Orcombe area is being farmed for dairy cattle so I didn't have anywhere obvious to search for this bird. Had there been one or two stubble fields, like there always used to be, I may have been in with a chance.
This morning, at first light, the adult Mediterranean Gull was again present on Warren View Football Pitch.

This evening's Ring Ouzel - bringing new meaning to the term record shot!

I stayed til nearly dark looking for that f****n bunting!


Sunday 11 October 2015

Black Reds


Sallow - found beside a light in the Bristol Schools Camp.
I covered Orcombe with Nick from dawn this morning and then popped back up there this afternoon. I also had a wander around West Down Beacon and Budleigh Golf Course. I must have walked about 10 miles today but it was an absolute pleasure to be out. Orcombe totals included 18+ Goldcrest, 1 Grey Heron, 2 Black Redstart, 9 Siskin, 22+ Starling, c10+ Chiffchaff, 3+ Song Thrush, 1 Curlew, 1 Swallow, 9+ Skylark, 1 Stonechat and 1 Wheatear. Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails were a pretty constant presence overhead. On our way back to the cars we bumped into Nick's neighbour Carl who gripped us off with stunning photos of a Dartford Warbler, taken earlier in the morning along the coast path just up from the Geoneedle.
West Down Beacon/Budleigh Golf Course - 1 Redpoll, 8+ House Martin, 3+ Crossbill (probably up to 8), 1 Jay, 6+ Chiffchaff, 3+ Coal Tit, c20/30+ Goldcrest and 1 Nuthatch.
Finally, an adult Mediterranean Gull was catching insects above our house this afternoon, along with several Black-headed Gulls.

The second of 2 Black Redstarts on Orcombe today. This one was on the Foxholes estate.


Coal Tit - this one looked pretty grey on top but it's so difficult to judge colour tone unless you get them in perfect light.


Saturday 10 October 2015

Local Stuff

Orcombe felt very 'birdy' this morning but there was nothing out of the ordinary. Pied Wagtails predominated overhead with just 2 Swallow, 2 Grey wagtail and small numbers of Meadow Pipit and a few finches otherwise. On the deck I recorded 16+ Goldcrest, 8+ Chiffchaff, 1 Stonechat, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker and 1 Coal Tit.
A quick look off the Imperial produced c1000+ Dark-bellied Brent Goose and with them, 6 Pale-bellied Brent Goose, the adult Black Brant and, of course, the Ridgway's Cackling Goose. A single Black-tailed Godwit flew over and, off Mudbank this afternoon, I recorded 18 Redshank, 33+ Turnstone, 4 Great Crested Grebe and 3 Red-breasted Merganser - the first I've seen for a while.

Diagonally left to right - Dark-bellied Brent, Black Brant and Pale-bellied Brent.

Sometimes the Black Brant sticks out like a sore thumb and other times it's really tricky.

Ridgway's Cackling Goose

The Ridgway's Cackling Goose continues to attract a steady stream of twitchers. Perhaps they've twigged that 'minima' breeds a spitting distance away from Russia - a short hop across the Bering Sea. In fact the Taymyr Peninsula in Russia (where Dark-bellied Brents breed) is about the same distance away from minima's breeding grounds as their wintering grounds in Western Oregon. It's just in the opposite direction. Food for thought........

This pair of morons continued on through the wildfowl flock even after I'd pointed out to them that the area is a protected one.

Unsurprisingly they forced the flock to take flight and move further out in to the river. At which point the air turned blue! 

A Sparrowhawk leaves its mark on our garden this afternoon. This pic was taken through our kitchen window.