Wednesday 31 August 2016

Patch Envy

Six Pintail dropping down to the river off Mudbank.
Orcombe was virtually bird-less this morning. Just 12 Swallows, 1 Tree Pipit, 1 Alba Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail and 1 Yellow Wagtail recorded.
Mudbank was better. Thirty Wigeon, 6 Pintail, 22 Little Egret 2 Mediterranean Gulls and a Kingfisher on a quick look over the high tide.
Spent the rest of the morning down at Soar on a family dog-walk. A stunning place with superb pockets of habitat at every turn, bringing on painful bouts of patch envy. Why on Earth do I stick with Orcombe? A question I often ask myself but deep down I know the answer to that. I'm planning on doing a post on the importance (to me) of choosing somewhere a bit crappy. Hopefully I'll get round to it soon. One Hobby, c15+ Yellow Wagtails, 1 Wheatear and 1 Whinchat recorded without proper searching. A strong sense that Wrynecks and Ortolans were lurking nearby.

Hobby - Soar

Tuesday 30 August 2016

Grey Wagtails



Fifteen Grey Wagtails over a very misty Orcombe Point this morning. Also 8+ Wheatears, 6+ Yellow Wagtails, 8+ Tree Pipits, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Chiffchaff, 6 Phyllosc sp, 1 Alba Wagtail and 1 Whimbrel.
Again it felt quite good this morning but there was very little grounded. Yesterday's Lesser Whitethroat was still in the same spot and the Goldcrest was the first of the autumn.

Common Blue - lots of these on the wing at the moment. Painted Lady also seen today.

Yellow Belle - my first on Orcombe (and only my second ever). Nick had one back in the spring. This is a second generation individual.

Monday 29 August 2016

Teal Influx and Lesser Whitethroat

Juvenile Whinchat - Orcombe Point
The whistling of Wigeon whilst emptying the moth trap this morning persuaded me to check Mudbank before Orcombe Point. An influx of 56 Teal was notable among c200+ Mallard, 2 Pintail and 20 Wigeon, although I suspect there were more as part of the flock was just out of sight. Also present - at least half a dozen Mediterranean Gulls and 3 Whimbrel. Two north-bound Tree Pipits and 2 Grey Wagtails got me jumping in to the car and heading up to Orcombe Point for 7am.
It was quieter than expected up there but a two hour wander, followed by a brief mid-afternoon return visit, produced the following: 15+ Wheatears, 2 Whinchats, 5 Tree Pipits, 2 Grey Wagtails, 2 'Alba' Wagtails, 1 Redstart, 5+ Yellow wagtails, 1+ Willow Warbler, 3+ Whitethroats, 5+ Chiffchaffs and 1 Lesser Whitethroat.

Juvenile Whinchat with Dawlish Warren in the background.

The first Redstart of the autumn on Orcombe Point.

Wheatear - 15+ was probably an absolute minimum count. Some birds were seen going straight over quite high up and there were at least a dozen still knocking around this afternoon, which may have been different to those counted this morning.

Record shot of the Lesser Whitethroat. I never have any luck photographing this species. They are scarce migrants on Orcombe and invariably very elusive. This is probably the first photo of one featured on this blog.

Sunday 28 August 2016

Red Underwing

Red Underwing
The species list for last night included Orange swift, Blood-vein, Small Dusty Wave, Common Carpet, Purple Bar, Lime-speck Pug, Double-striped Pug, Yellow-barred Brindle, Brimstone Moth, Dusky Thorn, September Thorn, Willow Beauty, Light Emerald, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Flame Shoulder, Large Yellow Underwing, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Small Square-spot, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Square-spot Rustic, Clay, Feathered Ranunculus, Angle Shades, Flounced Rustic, Rosy Rustic, Vine's Rustic, Red Underwing, Straw Dot, Snout, Garden Pebble, Rusty Dot Pearl, Mother of Pearl, Elbow-striped Grass-veneer, Common Grass-veneer, Garden Rose Tortrix, Beautiful Plume and a few other unidentified micros.

Dark Sword Grass - trapped yesterday

Silver Y - a tiny one.

Rosy Rustic

Thursday 25 August 2016


Pied Flycatcher and Wheatear
It was good today by Orcombe standards. So good in fact that following an early morning visit (0645 - 0855) I went up again mid-afternoon. The majority of birds were recorded early on but combined totals for the day included 3+ 'Alba' Wagtails, c35+ Yellow Wagtails, 17+ Tree Pipits, 20+ Wheatears, 3 Chiffchaffs, 1+ Sedge Warbler, 6 Whitethroats, 5+ Grey Wagtails, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 9+ Willow Warblers, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1  Reed Bunting, 1 Snipe and 1 Whinchat.
Most of the wagtails and all of the Tree Pipits went straight over but a mobile and very skittish flock of 15 Yellow Wagtails was grounded, despite the absence of any cattle up there at the moment. Grey Wagtail, Green Sandpiper, Snipe and Reed Bunting were all autumn 'firsts' for Orcombe and, incredibly, today's Willow Warblers were the first I've recorded since the spring!
Off Mudbank there were 12 Mediterranean Gulls, 11 Common Gulls, 12 Wigeon, 4 Yellow Wagtails, 1 Knot and 1 Whimbrel.

Maiden's Blush - immigrant species trapped last night included 18 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Silver Y, 3 Rush Veneer and 1 Diamond-back Moth

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Pied Fly

Pied Flycatcher - found feeding along the lane to the Bristol Schools Camp. Never guaranteed on Orcombe but the second this year following one in April.
I should have done Orcombe this morning but after a late night mothing (see previous post) I wasn't quite up for it. I did however manage to get out early afternoon, and logged 1 Pied Flycatcher, 7+ Wheatear and a steady passage of Swallows north-westwards. I've had a couple Yellow Wagtails go over today, whilst out and about, and a Tree Pipit flew north over the garden this morning.
Yesterday Nick and I logged a mini flock of 5 Tree Pipits on Orcombe Point and a single Wheatear.
There were 4 Black Swans distantly off Mudbank too.
Several Vapourer Moths have been bombing through the garden today and other sightings have included Clouded Yellow, Silver Y and Rush Veneer.

Wheatear - one of at least 7 on Orcombe this afternoon.

Exminster Mothing

Beautiful China-mark
Derek, Nick, Martin and I ran a couple traps at Exminster Marshes last night. We were fortunate that conditions were spot on and we recorded a nice selection of species that included a few immigrants  - 2 Silver Y, 2+ Rusty-dot Pearl, 2+ Rush Veneer, 1 Vestal and 1 Vagrant Piercer (Cydia amplana). All four China-mark species were recorded as well as some other marshland species, notably Bulrush Veneer (Calamotropha paludella), Cream-bordered Green Pea and Small Rufous (c10+ individuals). Otherwise the evening's list included Peach Blossom, Blood-vein, Small Fan-footed Wave, Dwarf Cream Wave, Common Carpet, Green Carpet, Scallop Shell, Lime-speck Pug, V-Pug, Double-striped Pug, Treble-bar, Small Seraphim, Magpie, Brimstone Moth, Swallow-tailed Moth, Willow Beauty, Common Wave, Dingy Footman, Jersey Tiger, Flame Shoulder, Large Yellow Underwing, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Least Yellow Underwing, Small Square-spot, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Six-striped Rustic, Square-spot Rustic, Smoky Wainscot, Common Wainscot, Common/Lesser Common Rustic, Mottled Rustic, Straw Dot, Spectacle, Mother of Pearl, Pale-streak Grass-veneer, Common Marble (Celypha lacunana), Rush Marble (Bactra lancealana), Dark-triangle Button (Acleris laterana), Marsh Grey (Eudonia pallida), Light Brown Apple Moth and presumed Water-mint Conch (Phalonidia manniana).
A big thank you to Derek for organising and Nick for driving.

Brown China-mark

Small China-mark

Ringed China-mark

Bulrush Veneer - Calamotropha  paludella
Small Rufous - this species, Six-striped Rustic and Flame Shoulder turned up in reasonable numbers last night but the most common species was Brimstone Moth.

Gold Spot - at least five of this stunning species was trapped.

Water-mint Conch - Phalonidia manniana or the recently split Loosestrife Conch (Phalonidia udana) - presumably the former?

Depressaria sp

Pale-streak Grass-veneer - Agriphila selasella - it was good to catch a couple clear-cut examples of this species last night. At least I hope they're clear-cut!

Pale-streak Grass-veneer

Vagrant Piercer - Cydia amplana - the best of the immigrant species.


Monday 22 August 2016


A beautiful juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull on the beach this morning which initially had me thinking Yellow-legged Gull, such was the contrast in plumage tones. Note however the complete lack of moult in the scapulars. Once in flight the dark wings and amount of dark in the tail showed it was just a LEEB.


Sunday 21 August 2016

Marsh Harrier

Juvenile Shelduck - Turf
A family dog walk and lunch at Turf was very pleasant. The marshes were bone dry and largely devoid of birds but a cream-crowned Marsh Harrier was a very nice distraction. Perhaps the bird that was reported a while back?
Maer Rocks was quiet this morning with just two Common Sandpipers and a Peregrine making the notebook. The latter looking for all the world like a Merlin as it flew low across the sea on fast-flicking wingbeats. It was only when it showed some interest in a Gannet that its size became apparent. It was good to see Tim down there this morning but disappointing not to be able to locate any Yellow-legged Gulls.
A quick look off Orcombe Point late this afternoon revealed c10+ Manx Shearwaters milling around along with 9 incoming 'Commic' Terns and a lingering Arctic Skua.
The Imperial/Mudbank produced just c20+ 'Commic' Tern, 4 Mediterranean Gulls and a single Greenshank.

Saturday 20 August 2016


Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull - Cricket Pitch
Did a two hour sea-watch from the raised beach huts with Nick this morning. We expected a bit more to be honest and gripping news from Lee of  a Cory's south had us scratching our heads. It must have come through on a line that didn't involve it passing Orcombe. C'est la vie! Nick and I recorded 4 Balearic Shearwaters, 1 Great Skua, 21 Common Scoter, 7 Fulmar, c50+ Sandwich Tern and a trickle of Gannets and Kittiwakes which, given the conditions, didn't feel like a great return for our efforts. On the way back for breakfast I checked the cricket pitch with Dave Stone and was pleased to pick up another Yellow-legged Gull. It's amazing how they steadily trickle through at this time of year but it won't be for much longer now if previous years are anything to go by.
Following a morning at football in Exeter and a bite to eat, I popped back up to Orcombe Point for an hour (1315 - 1415) to look at the sea. A further 6 Balearic Shearwaters headed west and 5 + Manx Shearwaters were logged too, along with just 2 more Fulmars.

Friday 19 August 2016

Wood Sand - pm Edit

Adult LRP
I was down at the lifeboat station for about 6am but it was so wet that I soon had second thoughts. The visibility was dreadful so I thought I'd cut my losses sea-watching and go and sit in a nice dry hide. Unfortunately the nearest nice dry hide is at Bowling Green, but high tide was approaching so I thought I'd give it a go. I always feel deeply uncomfortable leaving my local patch - something I know many of you will relate to! Anyway it wasn't a bad move as the marsh was heaving with waders and wildfowl. Best bird was a Wood Sandpiper that dropped into the far corner as the rain hammered down. Also present - 2 Little Ringed Plovers (believe it or not, the first I've seen this year), 2 Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, 2 Knot, 7+ Whimbrel, 3+ Common Sandpiper, 3+ Lapwing, c2/300+ Redshank, c1/200+ Black-tailed Godwit, c50+ Dunlin, 2+ Bar-tailed Godwit, 3+ Wigeon, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Water Rail plus several Curlew, Teal and Mallard.
After some breakfast I dropped Lu off at work (the kids were both at sleep-overs) and headed down to the lifeboat station again. It was still tipping down with rain but I was able to photograph another juvenile Yellow-legged Gull that was sharing the beach with 2 Mediterranean Gulls and other gull species. Offshore there were 2 Little Terns and about half a dozen Sandwich Terns but the visibility was still poor, so no seabird passage was evident.
Lastly, a quick squiz off the Imperial revealed c30+ Common Terns and a Grey Plover. I'm sure there was other stuff out there but the kids needed picking up!
Off Mudbank from around 5'ish - nice to see the first returning Pintail, 6 Wigeon, 11 Mediterranean Gulls (9 adults, 1 2w and a juv), 1 Redshank, 3 Dunlin, 5 Whimbrel, 1 Grey Wagtail and a juvenile Common Tern.

Juv LRP - I know these shots are appalling but it's a novelty to be able to feature this species on the blog for the first time. I've only ever recorded 1 LRP in Exmouth and I don't expect to see another one anytime soon. No freshwater!

Juv Yellow-legged Gull standing to the right of a juvenile Herring Gull

A pale and quite delicately-marked bird, in stark contrast to the last big dark one! This bird shows limited scapular moult, openly-patterned greater coverts and an atypically large amount of pale patterning in the tertials. On top of that, the tail shows a deep tail band - the broadest of all the birds' I've seen this summer and therefore not that strikingly different to that of a Herring Gull. The upper-tail area is also relatively heavily spotted. In flight the pattern of light and dark in the inner primaries confirms this is YLG.

This smart juvenile Great Black-backed Gull was also on the beach.

Thursday 18 August 2016

Marsh Harrier

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull
Some good birds this morning but the gloomy, almost misty conditions meant that all my attempts at photography were doomed. I started checking the beach sometime before 6am and was pleased to find yesterday's brutish juv/fw Yellow-legged Gull still present. It didn't hang around long before flapping lazily out in to the bay. Three Whimbrel flew out to sea calling and a flock of 5 Common Sandpipers looked like they were heading for Orcombe Point.
On Orcombe Point itself I was pleased to find my first Whinchats of the autumn - 2 birds together by the Geoneedle before making their way up the hill towards the top fields. Otherwise 2 Whitethroats and 5+ Chiffchaffs were probably local birds rather than migrants, and 10+ Swallows moved overhead. Another stop by the lifeboat station shortly before 8am proved very worthwhile. I was attempting to photograph a juvenile Mediterranean Gull when I glanced up to see a Marsh Harrier beating steadily offshore, along the beach, towards Orcombe Point. My gut feeling is that it was probably a juvenile bird. It appeared to be all dark and the wings looked very tidy, but I would have loved better views. This is only my third Marsh Harrier ever in Exmouth so to say I was chuffed is an understatement! I returned to my car to find a text from Lee Collins who'd had it go over the Warren moments earlier. Many thanks Lee. Incidently the last Marsh Harrier I saw in Exmouth was one over Orcombe Point. Lee phoned me to inform me of its presence and I glanced up to see it directly over head! I'm sure I wouldn't have ever seen it had Lee not been kind enough to phone.
The estuary (from the Imperial and Mudbank combined) produced 5 Wigeon amongst 100+ Mallard, 37 Mute Swans, 33 Little Egrets, 3 Common Terns, c40+ Sandwich Terns, 1 Mediterranean Gull, 1 Greenshank and 5 Ringed Plovers.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Monster YLG!

Wheatear at dawn on Orcombe Point.

A tiny amount of migrant activity this morning. Just 1 Wheatear and about a dozen Swallows on Orcombe, and 3 Common Sandpipers and a Ringed Plover by the Lifeboat Station. Offshore a handful of Sandwich Terns and 1 or 2 juvenile Mediterranean Gulls. The weather was beautiful.
Around 6pm this evening in murky drizzly conditions, as I was driving along the seafront, I picked up this moulting juvenile Yellow-legged Gull flying low along the beach. I u-turned and quickly relocated it with Herring Gulls on the beach. My initial reaction was one of shock as it dwarfed the accompanying Herring Gulls. It was easily big enough for Great Black-backed Gull but I couldn't reconcile the plumage features for that species. The greater coverts, tertials and tail are all far better for Yellow-legged Gull. Additionally the pattern of the inner greater coverts is a better fit for Yellow-legged Gull. They're not always easy and the later in the season it gets the harder they become!

Note the extent of scapular moult and heavy neck streaking.

Dark-based greater coverts and narrow-fringed tertials not good for GBBG but spot on for YLG.

Pale inner webs and dark outer webs to inner primaries creates a faint 'window' effect.

Right-hand bird - simply massive alongside Herring Gulls and no danger of confusing it with LBBG!

Most scapular feathers have already been replaced with new first-winter feathers.

Of interest, below is a small dark juvenile Great Black-backed Gull that I photographed at the end of August 2014. Note the very pale and openly-patterned greater coverts, the distinctive tertial pattern (showing far more pale than YLG), the 'blob-ended' bill and all juvenile scapular/mantle area. Juveniles often appear much bigger and more pallid than this one.