Tuesday 31 May 2016

Portland Ribbon Wave

Portland Ribbon Wave

A big thank you to Nick for popping in with this moth this morning - a rare species I've long hoped to see and one that appears to be spreading from its Portland stronghold, although it could be an immigrant from the continent. It's very difficult to know when it comes to moths. Have a look at Nick's fabulous blog - www.wordofmothblog.wordpress.com which brilliantly charts his journey into the world of moths and the complexities of identifying new species as they are encountered for the very first time. I'm sure it will encourage more people to take up this fascinating and all-consuming hobby.
On the bird front, an Osprey watched hunting the lower part of the estuary at 0830 this morning, from the back garden, was the highlight and represents only the second one I've seen this spring (cf 5 spring birds last year). One can only wonder where it's going this late on in the season but late May/June records are not unprecedented on the Exe.
Off Maer Rocks this morning - 15 Sandwich Terns, 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Whimbrel, 1 Curlew, 6 Sanderling and 2+ Great Crested Grebes.

Swallow - Exmouth Docks

Little Egret over the back garden.

Monday 30 May 2016

Pale Shag

I scoped this first-summer Shag from the back garden this morning. It was unbelievably pale and naturally thoughts turned to the Mediterranean race 'desmarestii', even though I know that our British birds can be exceptionally pale too. It was striking enough for me to try and get a photo, which meant driving down to Shelly Beach and jogging for about half a mile out onto the mudflats, only to find no sign of it when I stopped to scan its chosen sand bar. I'll make an effort this week to relocate it but, given the distance I was looking from, I couldn't rule out a leucistic bird, however unlikely that may be. I wasn't too disappointed however because it was just magical being out on the estuary on such a glorious morning. The only other birds of note down there were a fly-over Bar-tailed Godwit and 2 Black-headed Gulls heading upriver.
Yesterday the only noteworthy sighting was a flock of 13 Common Scoters first thing off Maer Rocks though 17 Canada Geese, 3+ Sandwich Terns, 3+ Great Crested Grebes, 11 Sanderling and 1 Dunlin also made the notebook.
I've spent quite a few hours up on the East Devon Commons these last few days. Some of which has been walking the dog with the family and some of it just pootling around enjoying the peace and quiet. Highlights have included Dartford Warbler, Spotted Flycatchers, Hobby and Turtle Dove along with a load of other wildlife like Roe Deer, Grass Snake, Green Hairstreak, Small Heath and Beautiful Demoiselle.
The moth trap was run last night for the first time this year with 25+ species recorded.

Green Hairstreak

Grass Snake - Woodbury Common

Terrapins - 2 of 5 on Bystock Pond. Also 5 Tufted Ducks there this morning.

Eyed Hawk-moth

Yellow-barred Brindle

Common Pug

Small Phoenix

Grey/Dark Dagger

Treble Lines

Grey Pug


Saturday 28 May 2016

Honey Buzzard

Since the obliteration of the dung field I've kind of lost the will to cover Orcombe, but I forced myself to have a wander around early this morning, despite the thick fog. Needless to say it was utterly birdless. I got home, had some breakfast, and pottered around the house and garden whilst the family stirred into life. A lightning quick look off Mudbank, as the tide crept in, produced the first Greenshank in ages, along with 3 Dunlin and one Black-headed Gull.
With the sun burning through the fog and noise pumping across the river from Powderham Castle, I decided to do a little sky-watching. Within minutes, at 1110, I picked up a raptor drifting east across the river, a little way north of Mudbank. It immediately looked interesting (there are Common Buzzards almost permanently in view in the surrounding area) with flat-held wings, a tiny head and long tail. Once it had crossed the river it did a few lazy circles which allowed me to clock the distinctive 'bulging secondaries' wing-shape and barred tail. The wings were held flat or depressed at all times lending the bird the classic Honey Buzzard profile. It gained height and slowly continued east and out of sight. This is the first Honey Buzzard I've seen since 2013 when I had a bird go west over the garden on 31/5 and another east over on 2/6, both of which I managed to photograph, unlike today's bird.
This afternoon, with Lu and the kids at the Exmouth festival, I walked the dog around Woodbury Common, but it was pretty quiet, and the week just gone has been equally uneventful. On Wednesday, off Maer Rocks, there was 1 'commic' tern (probably Arctic), 1 Great Northern Diver and 6 Sanderling.
The day before, early on, I had 7+ 'commic' tern off Maer Rocks, a short while later seen heading upriver with 13 Sandwich Tern. At least 1 was an Arctic Tern but I strongly suspect the others were too.

Heath Spotted Orchid - there are several in bloom on Woodbury Common at the moment.

Skylark - Woodbury Common.

The tern situation of late can only be described as abysmal. I've not had more than a couple Sandwich Terns recently so it was a pleasant surprise to pick up 7+ 'small' terns off the seafront on Tuesday. I concentrated on one bird, which proved to be Arctic Tern, but I'm pretty sure the birds it was with were also the same species. They all headed rapidly north upriver and were not present later in the day.

This Honey Buzzrad was photographed flying west over our garden on 31/5/2013. I was extremely lucky to get this shot - a point and 'panic-press' situation!

This HB (on the soar) went east just a couple days later. Note the tiny head, bulging secondaries and barred tail .

Monday 23 May 2016



I've seen plenty of Nightjars over the years but this afternoon was the first time I've actually found one roosting. I'm always looking at suitable-looking fallen trees and bits of log and finally this afternoon there it was - a beautiful sight just feet from the path up on the East Devon Commons. The dog sat and waited patiently whilst I snapped away, struggling with the focus as the breeze swayed blades of grass gently in front of it. This photo has been cropped but it probably wasn't more than 15ft away and it never even blinked. As well as the Nightjar this afternoon - 1 Hobby, 1 Kestrel, 2 Tree Pipits, several Stonechats and 3+ Siskins.
A two minute look off Maer Rocks, at about 6am this morning, produced 3 high-flying Great Northern Divers heading north inland .

Sunday 22 May 2016


Two or three Spotted Flycatchers around the carpark at Woodbury Castle today. Otherwise pretty quiet up there with a single Tree Pipit and a few Stonechats seen whilst walking the dog. This male Stonechat was unusually brave and inquisitive, presumably because it had newly fledged young nearby.


Friday 20 May 2016

This Week

That speck in the sky is a non-breeding plumaged Great Northern Diver heading inland early yesterday morning.

A Short-eared Owl with a sense of humour flew low over the Imperial at 1615 this afternoon before circling high, pretty much directly over our house, for five minutes and then drifting off east. The trouble is I was at the Imperial when it went over, not in the house, thus failing to add it to my precious house list. Also off the Imperial this afternoon - 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, c20+ Sanderling and 2+ Dunlin. Off  Maer Rocks there were 8 Great Crested Grebes, c20+ Sandwich Terns and a Great Northern Diver flew south.
Yesterday an early morning Orcombe Point visit resulted in 1 Great Northern Diver and 4 Great Crested Grebes. Off the Imperial there were c50+ Sanderling, c10+ Dunlin, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and c10+ Sandwich Terns.
On Wednesday, off the Imperial, I recorded 15+ Sandwich Terns, 17 Bar-tailed Godwits, c50+ Dunlin, c20+ Sanderling, 6 Whimbrel, 3 Black-headed Gulls and a Brent Goose (presumably the pale-bellied bird that has been lingering off the Warren).
On Tuesday 48+ Sandwich Terns off the Imperial was a notable increase but it's fair to say it hasn't been the best of Mays so far!

Monday 16 May 2016

Crap Twitcher

Field sketches from April 2005 - Lammergeiers, Wallcreeper and Black Wheatear.

I've always been rubbish at twitching. No wonder my Devon list hasn't increased much in the last few years. A quick glance at 'Birdguides' whilst at work put me in a bit of a quandary. Lammergeier in Devon! Preposterous! Twitch or no twitch? I almost felt I had a duty to go!  I briefly contemplated it but rapidly came to the conclusion that it would require a whole lot of effort and I'd probably spend the evening chasing after it in vain. Couple that with the likelihood that it's from a re-introduction scheme and I just couldn't face it. I hate chasing birds and despite what you may think I hate missing our sit-down family meal in the evening. On top of that, twitching other peoples' birds is far less appealing than finding my own. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see a Lammergeier cruising along a Devon ridge but I'm fortunate enough to have seen proper wild ones in the Pyrenees and the memory of that trip is still fresh in my mind.
Back in 2005 my brother and I took the car and a tiny tent down to Spain. We did the whole trip on a shoe-string budget (it wouldn't take too many twitches to match the cost) and saw some fantastic birds in breathtakingly beautiful surroundings.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't keep lists but there are times where the irrationality of chasing a species that you've already seen, just because its in a place where you haven't seen one before, seems nuts.
Having said all that, if this bird is pinned down somewhere closer, where I stand a good chance of seeing it, it may be too hard to resist!

The beautiful Hecho Valley - worth a visit even if there were no birds there, but we watched 4 Lammergeiers here, including a bird that dropped below us to pick up a stick-like object that was quite possibly a bone.

Lammergeier (left) with Griffon Vulture. This photo was taken at the monastery at San Juan De Pena in the Spanish Pyrenees. My brother an I sat out in front of the monastery on a beautiful sunny morning, just sky-watching. We had to wait a while to finally clap eyes on the Lammergeier but boy was it worth it! I was using my Dad's old Olympus camera. I was far more interested in sketching the birds back then. Something I should be doing more of now.
Now for some local birds seen today......... 


Sunday 15 May 2016

Bits and Bobs from Today

Dunlin - three of six on Maer Rocks first thing this morning.
Sanderling - Maer Rocks

Beech Trees - Woodbury Fort

Skylark - Woodbury Common

Male Stonechat - Woodbury Common

Roe Deer - Woodbury Common

Holly Blue - several around the garden today.

Dartford Warbler

Saturday 14 May 2016

First Tree Pipit

Tree Pipit - Orcombe Point - dreadful shot of a great little bird.

It has taken me until today to finally get a Tree Pipit on Orcombe this spring. A brief bird early this morning. Also 15+ Dunlin, 5 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Common Terns, 23+ Sandwich Terns and 4 Sanderling. A smart Grey Plover was on a sand bar further along the seafront, along with 3 Black-headed Gulls.
I also managed to get Hobby on the Exmouth year list today with 2 birds over the house - the first high west at 1330 and another north-east'ish  just 10 minutes later.
I spent the last 2 hours of daylight walking the dog on the East Devon Commons, and was rewarded with at least 1 Short-eared Owl, 1 Lesser Redpoll, c5+ Siskins, 2 Hobbies, 2 Kestrels, 1 Dartford Warbler, 1 Green Woodpecker, 2 Tawny Owls and 1 Nightjar. The latter started its 'churring' at 9.15pm.

Magpie and Green-winged Orchids.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Depressing Stuff

It's not every day you get to see the favourite part of your patch completely destroyed. This afternoon this was the sight that greeted me - the dung field being utterly ripped to shreds. The area of scrub that has been dug up did have breeding Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Robins, Wrens, Dunnocks and Blackbirds. Not anymore. Little chunks of habitat like this provide little oases in a grass field desert. The timing of this destruction seems utterly crazy and it's thoroughly depressing.
As far as this week's birding goes there is very little to report, as the rest of the country is apparently groaning under the weight of rarities and scarce migrants. This evening's dog walk on the Commons produced Hobby and Spotted Flycatcher and off Mudbank there were 16 Bar-tailed Godwits this evening, with 2 Ringed Plovers and c15+ Dunlin.
Yesterday on Orcombe Point I recorded 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Swift, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Mediterranean Gull and 14 Sandwich Terns. Off Mudbank there were 35+ Dunlin, 10 Ringed Plovers and 1 Turnstone.
The 10th produced 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Collared Dove, 1 Sanderling, 1 Dunlin and 1 Grey Heron. Two Bar-tailed Godwits and a Knot were scoped on the river from the back garden.
The 9th was a better day. Orcombe Point - 1 Mediterranean Gull, 3 Great Crested Grebes, c20+ Sandwich Terns, 1 Common Scoter, 1 Green Woodpecker and 4 Sanderling. Mudbank - 30+ Whimbrel, c30+ Sanderling, c35+ Dunlin, c30+ Turnstone, 1 Ringed Plover, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 18 Black-headed Gulls and 1 Great Crested Grebe.
An evening visit to the Exmouth Nightjar site resulted in fantastic views of 2/3+ birds and a late-evening singing Dartford Warbler. On Bystock Pools there was a pair of Tufted Ducks.
First-summer Mediterranean Gull

Sunday 8 May 2016

Cup Final!

Another dawn on Orcombe Point with much the same in the way of birds - in order of appearance - 2 Dunlin, 5 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Black-headed Gull, 1 Roseate Tern, 4 Manx Shearwaters, 12 Common Scoter and 20+ Sandwich Terns. I had a quick look from opposite Warren Point in time to watch 4, then a further 6, Pale-bellied Brent Geese arriving. There were just 3 Whimbrel and about a dozen Sanderling on the point itself.
I watched the river from the back garden for a short while this morning and logged 13 Bar-tailed Godwits heading upriver, and 6 Pale-bellied Brent Geese - presumably the birds seen earlier off the seafront.
Following an afternoon at St James' Park, watching Joel play a cup final, I whizzed around the top fields and was somewhat surprised to find the Short-eared Owl. I haven't seen it for three days so had assumed it had gone. It has clearly changed its habits.

Arriving Pale-bellied Brent Geese over the Warren Point dunes.

These mating Rosemary Beetles were found by our neighbour Neil. A year ago we searched the Rosemary in his garden for them without success so he was understandably chuffed to find these today - a simply stunning species! Many thanks Neil.

It has been a good day for butterflies with temperatures well above average for the time of year. This Wall on Orcombe Point was the first I've seen this spring. Also on the wing were good numbers of Orange-tip, Peacock, Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral.

It's still here - roosting on the edge of the field above the Bristol Schools Camp.

No bird, no matter how rare, will ever stop me watching Joel (number 8) play football, and Brixington Blues under 11s became East Devon and Exeter District Cup Champions today. Well done Blues!