Thursday 31 March 2016

Orcombe Mix

Pale-bellied Brent Goose - Maer Rocks.
An eclectic mix of birds on or just off Orcombe this morning in beautiful spring sunshine - 16 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 1 Pale-bellied Brent Goose, 1 drake Gadwall (new for Orcombe patch list), 5 Sandwich Tern, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Turnstone, 9+ Chiffchaff, 1 Firecrest, 12+ Meadow Pipit, 5 Wheatear, 1 Fieldfare (first I've seen in Exmouth this year), 1 Siskin and small numbers of Linnet, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Greenfinch over. The fieldfare dropped out of the sky, landed in trees bordering the Bristol Schools Camp and then headed off high north. The Gadwall was on the sea just off the beach at Maer Rocks. I was hoping for a photo but it took off and headed towards the river mouth before I could even get the camera out of the boot.
Mudbank produced just 92 Turnstone and 1 Ringed Plover.
I've been a bit tied up the last couple of days - busy helping get the garden sorted and looking after the kids whilst Lu has been up in London. I did however manage to see a Greylag Goose heading downriver yesterday and on Tuesday I recorded a tight flock, of 25 Sandwich Tern over the river from the back garden. No Osprey as yet but surely any day now?

Chiffchaff - a small fall of these this morning, some in song but not this one.

Monday 28 March 2016

First Swallow

This Chiffchaff has been singing on its Orcombe territory for over a week now.
I was hoping to pick up a few bits and bobs off the back of storm Katie this morning but, apart from large numbers of Herring Gull and a steady trickle of Kittiwakes, there wasn't much about. An hour long watch from the beach huts from dawn produced 1 Common Scoter, 2+ Sandwich Tern, 1+ Great Northern Diver, 1 second-summer Mediterranean Gull, a pair of Pintail (south), 1 Great Crested Grebe and my first Swallow of the spring. It battled its way low and purposefully landwards as a chilled westerly wind tried to nudge it off course. Later in the day there were at least 8 Sandwich Terns off the seafront.
Yesterday I managed a half-hour, mid-afternoon look at the sea and recorded c20+ Manx Shearwater, 3 Sandwich Tern and 4 Common Scoter.
The day before, in horrible wet conditions, I managed a presumed 'new' Firecrest, a single Wheatear and a lone Chiffchaff, all on Orcombe Point.

Large numbers of Herring Gulls were passing Orcombe Point this morning. The wind was forcing them to hug the cliff edge so I used the opportunity to try some flight shots. One day I'll get a better camera!

Note the odd tail pattern on this individual.

The numbered marker buoys off Orcombe are incredibly useful for getting others on to passing seabirds. Storm Katie is presumably responsible for ripping 'No. 1' from its anchoring last night. It was tucked in just below the point.

Friday 25 March 2016

Latest Stuff

Firecrest in cliff-top scrub - Orcombe Point 23/3/16

Orcombe was very quiet today. An early morning visit and a brief afternoon visit produced just 1 Wheatear, 1 Blackcap, 2 Stonechat (up to 14 have recorded on Orcombe so far this spring), 4 Long-tailed Tits and a couple Chiffchaffs. A look at the river was more productive with a single flock of 40 Red-breasted Mergansers representing the largest flock I've seen this year. Also off there my first Sandwich Tern of 2016, 5 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Wigeon, 1 Goldeneye, 80+ Turnstone, 30+ Brent Geese and a smart adult summer-plumaged Mediterranean Gull.
Early Yesterday morning I watched a party of 7 Sand Martins head low west across the river and 9 Brent Geese flew high east over Orcombe, clearly heading for pastures new.
The day before yesterday I found another Firecrest on Orcombe whilst doing a rapid pre-work circuit. It has already been a record-breaking spring for this species on Orcombe though it's very difficult to work out how many I've seen. Possibly as many as seven but more likely just 2 or 3!

Tuesday 22 March 2016


Two Greylag Geese powered noisily over Orcombe Point shortly after dawn this morning. This is only the second time I've recorded this species on Orcombe. They came in from the east and headed towards the Exe. I didn't record much else this morning but a cold grey dawn is rarely productive at this time of year.

Shelducks heading east off Orcombe Point this morning. This species is fairly frequently observed commuting between the Exe and sites to the east.

Monday 21 March 2016


Late but by no means the latest I've had over the years. As I walked out of work I was struck by the milder feel to the air and it wasn't a huge surprise to get home and find a message on my mobile from Derek. He'd had 2 Wheatear by the Geoneedle this morning. Wheatears invariably end up in the 'top fields' on Orcombe so I parked a the top of Gore Lane and almost immediately picked this bird up sat in the 'Quail' field. A quick scoot around the immediate area, including the Bristol Schools camp, revealed 1 Firecrest, 3 Goldcrest, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Stonechat, 5+ Chiffchaff and 23 Linnet.
Earlier, at 0645 this morning, the Bonaparte's Gull was distantly off Mudbank and 9 Redwing were in the nearby sheep fields. Yesterday evening there were 3 Gadwall on the river off Mudbank. Gadwall are an infrequent visitor to this end of the Exe but I did have four together back in January.

Yesterday was the first time that I've seen the Ridgway's Cackling Goose since it left Exmouth last October. We were in Exeter anyway so it seemed a shame not to pay it a visit. It's frequenting perfect habitat, with plenty of other wildfowl, on Matford Marshes but if it doesn't leave fairly soon even I'll  throw in the towel and dismiss the bloody thing as an escape!

Saturday 19 March 2016

Iceland Gull - pm edit


A lovely first-winter Iceland Gull was picked up off Maer Rocks shortly after dawn this morning. It drifted around offshore for a bit, followed an incoming trawler for a couple minutes and then plonked down on Pole Sands. This is the first Iceland Gull I've seen in Exmouth since the individual, pictured on the banner at the top of my blog, back in December 2012. Mustn't forget of course there was the Kumlien's Gull back in Februaury 2014. Also - 69 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 1 Common Scoter, 10+ Great Crested Grebe, 9 Turnstone, 1 Purple Sandpiper and a Sparrowhawk. Derek and I had a good look on the point and came up with 1 Firecrest, 3 Goldcrest, 4 Chiffchaff, 2 Stonechat, 14+ Meadow Pipit and up to 4 Bullfinch.
Late this afternoon, from around 5'ish onwards, the adult Bonaparte's Gull was off the Imperial along with 2+ Goldeneye, a Ringed Plover, good numbers of Dunlin and a Bar-tailed Godwit. A bit of a surprise in the garden was a pair of Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff.

No hint of any darker pigmentation in the outer primaries so no reason to suspect this is anything other than 'glaucoides'. Scope views of it on the deck revealed a dark pink-based bill and dark eye.

Bullfinches are very active and vocal on Orcombe at the moment. I've heard at least one male in full song this past week and Derek and I seemed to bump into them all over the place today. Getting a photo of them proved ridiculously difficult as usual.

No nice sunrise this morning. This shot was taken very early yesterday morning.

Monday 14 March 2016

Dartford Warbler

This Dartford Warbler was feeding in Gorse on Orcombe Point late this afternoon. It could feasibly be last November's bird that has overwintered in the area, or it might be a migrant. We've had Dartford Warbler on Orcombe in March before. The warm brown-toned mantle indicates that it's an immature bird but whether it's male or female I'm not sure. The only other birds of note on this afternoon's brief visit were 2 Meadow Pipit and a single Chiffchaff.
Yesterday Orcombe produced 8+ Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 1 Stonechat, 1 Firecrest, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Siskin, 9 Linnet, 8 Greenfinch, 9 Goldfinch, 4 Jackdaw and 1 Curlew.

Saturday 12 March 2016

Good Stuff

Orcombe was surprisingly good today. I did a dawn visit and a quick mid-afternoon whiz around. Migrants were represented by 1 or 2 Firecrests, at least 3 Chiffchaffs, 4 Stonechats, 5+ Meadow Pipits, 6+ Pied Wagtails and 1 Goldcrest (possibly just a local bird). Additionally 5+ Goldfinch, 3+ Greenfinch, 2 Bullfinch, 1 Green Woodpecker, 3 Raven and 5 Dark-bellied Brent Geese were recorded. Best bird however was a very vocal but restless Siberian Chiffchaff - only my second on Orcombe and presumably the same as that reported on 'Birdguides' a few days ago.

Firecrest - this morning's bird was in scrub along the coast path. This one was in the Bristol Schools' Camp this afternoon but they could feasibly be the same individual.

Dunnocks are very active everywhere at the moment.

Friday 11 March 2016

More Jackdaw photos


Not sure what to make of this Jackdaw. I'm always on the look-out or white-collared birds so I know this bird is not the 'norm' but I feel uneasy about claiming it as anything other than our own 'spermologus' race, because I know very little about them. From what I've read on the internet, the taxonomy of these birds isn't clear-cut and as far as I know there aren't any confirmed records of either 'Nordic' Jackdaw (ssp monedula) or 'Russian' Jackdaw (ssp soemmerringii) in Britain. I've posted these photos to show how the appearance of the collar varies with the positioning of the bird. You can see that it's more obvious at some angles than others but it's always quite apparent. I didn't note any other features that differ from spermologus but the underparts were perhaps too dark for monedula?

Note how visible the collar is from behind.

Finally a couple shots of a typical 'spermologus' taken a few days ago at Mudbank:

Tuesday 8 March 2016


Two Ringed Plovers upriver from Mudbank this afternoon were the first I've seen in Exmouth this year. Otherwise c50+ Wigeon was a notable increase in recent numbers and 2 Goldeneye remain on the river. This Jackdaw drew attention with its prominent whitish neck collar - a feature more often associated with populations from further east.

Song Thrush - Sandy Bay - late yesterday afternoon.

Sunday 6 March 2016


A single Woodlark on Orcombe Point late yesterday afternoon. I've only ever had a couple on Orcombe over the years. On this truly appalling shot you can just about make out the short stubby bill and, more importantly, the short tail that characterises this species in flight. Note also how the tail appears to be slightly depressed. A bit like I was when I failed to get a reasonable shot.

Saturday 5 March 2016

Caspian......I think possibly not (Edit)

Edit - too many anomalies for 'cachinnans'  - the more I look at these photos the more I think it's just a Lesser-black-backed Gull. The dark upper-wing and underwing certainly point strongly towards Lesser Black-back.

Inner primaries look slightly paler than outers but that underwing looks yuk. I didn't have the opportunity for a good flight view as the bird lifted rapidly and disappeared downriver into horrible light. Leeb?