Monday 28 November 2016

Scaup Still

 Greenfinch - one of c10+ feeding on blackberries at Mudbank yesterday.
The Scaup still present this evening. It likes the stretch of water just north of Mudbank and south of West Lodge. I didn't really count stuff in the limited time I had after work this evening, but yesterday I recorded 20+ Red-breasted Mergansers, the female-type Scaup, 2+ Goldeneyes, 1 Peregrine, 33+ Grey Plovers, 1 Knot, 2 Ringed Plovers, c120+ Turnstones, c2/300+ Dunlin, c40+ Redshank and a Chiffchaff.
First thing yesterday morning I had 2 Great Northern Divers off Maer Rocks and 2 distant small ducks that looked like Long-tailed Ducks. Too distant to be 100% sure though.

One of at least 33 Grey Plovers off Mudbank yesterday afternoon. A good count for Mudbank. They're usually miles out in the estuary so it was lovely to see them up close.

Saturday 26 November 2016

Two Scaups, Pochard and Firecrest

Fortunately Shovelers are identifiable in near darkness! This pair was off Mudbank on the evening of the 24th, following a single off there the day before.
Thanks to a call from Lee I saw both Scaup and Pochard in Exmouth today. The Pochard, a drake, was amongst c50+ Common Scoters off the seafront this morning, and the Scaup, a female-type was viewed from Shelly Beach as it dived off Cockwood alongside a Slavonian Grebe. Also a Goldeneye off there.
The last Scaup I saw in Exmouth was off Maer Rocks on 8/2/2014 and the last Pochard was off Orcombe on 24/4/2011. Rare birds!
Shortly after 1pm this afternoon I located a second female-type Scaup upriver towards West Lodge. It was still present late afternoon. Definitely a second bird as Lee was still watching his while I was watching mine. Also off Mudbank this afternoon - 2 Goldeneyes, 40+ Teal, 4 Gadwall, 80+ Mallard, 6+ Red-breasted Mergansers, c50+ Pintail, c100+ Wigeon, c100+ Brent Geese, 75+ Dunlin, c30+ Redshank, 5 Ringed Plovers, 2 Grey Plovers, c50+ Turnstones and 4+ Great Crested Grebes.
A Firecrest was seen briefly down at Mudbank this afternoon, close to the viewing screen. I can't recall ever seeing one in that area of scrub before.
Earlier in the week there was a Shoveler off Mudbank, late in the afternoon on the 23rd. The following evening there was a pair off there. Infrequent visitors to this corner of the estuary.
Goldfinches - Warren View playing fields

Sunday 20 November 2016


Rock Pipit - Exmouth Beach - one of two seen on a 'post storm' dog-walk this morning.
Mudbank today - best bird a Golden Plover - only my second in Exmouth this year. Also off there - 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 10+ Great Crested Grebes, 8+ Red-breasted Mergansers, 1 Peregrine, 4 Sanderling, 14 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Great Northern Diver amongst the usual stuff.
I was pleased to catch up with the Long-tailed Duck this afternoon. It was initially amongst c50+ Common Scoters off the seafront but for no apparent reason it took off and flew way out into the bay, on its own, before pitching down. I could only see 2 Purple Sandpipers on Maer Rocks but I suspect there were others lurking nearby.

Saturday 19 November 2016


A very distant Spoonbill roosting on Bull Hill this afternoon.
I spent the best part of the morning in Exeter with the family, but this afternoon I managed to get out. The highlight, albeit a very distant one, was a Spoonbill roosting on Bull Hill. I scoped it from Shelly Beach. A Greenshank off there was the only other bird of note.
A quick look off Maer Rocks produced at least 2 Purple Sandpipers, 5 Brent Geese and 9+ Turnstones. At least 80 Common Scoters were very distantly over towards the Warren and out in the bay a distant Arctic Skua was menacing gulls. I failed to find the Warren's Long-tailed Duck but a distant flying duck off Orcombe Point could well have been that species.
Mudbank produced the usual mix of wildfowl with the exception of a single drake Tufted Duck which are barely annual off there.
Pintails are showing really well off Mudbank at the moment.

Thursday 17 November 2016

Maer Rocks

I managed to squeeze in a quick look at Maer Rocks before dark this afternoon. The Purple Sandpiper count has risen to seven. At least 6 Turnstones were feeding with them, as was a lone Brent Goose and 1 or possibly 2 Little Egrets.
It's been a quiet week bird-wise but busy work-wise, with virtually no time out in the field. I did however manage a good count of 212 Pintail off Mudbank yesterday evening, and on Sunday there was another Firecrest in the Maer Long-stay carpark.

Three of seven Purple Sandpipers on Maer Rocks this evening. I've never recorded more than twelve on Maer Rocks but I'm hopeful that this small and relatively new wintering population will continue to grow in size.

Saturday 12 November 2016

Great Grey Shrike

This is possibly the worst photograph of a Great Grey Shrike ever taken. Below is the uncropped photo that will give you an idea of how well hidden this bird was.
I realised a long-held ambition to find my own Great Grey Shrike this afternoon. I headed to a spot, late afternoon, that I've spent many hours sitting at. It affords a panoramic view below Woodbury Fort. I was hoping for a Harrier or Shrike but, as always, it's a bit of a shock when your plan actually pays off! I'd been scanning for about 15 minutes when, at about 4pm, I started looking through a noisy flock of Meadow Pipits just east of my position. To my surprise I picked out a larger bird amongst them, quite high up. My initial reaction on clocking the long tail was 'Richard's Pipit' but it soon became clear it was in actual fact a Great Grey Shrike, sporting 'bandit mask' and flashing white primary bases. The Meadow Pipits were all chasing it. It swooped down in front of me and dropped in to a small birch tree. I quickly got the scope on it but to my frustration it was largely hidden on the far side of the tree. A couple minutes later and I watched it drop out of the tree and fly low away from me, and that was the last I saw of it. It had vanished in a fashion that is, unfortunately, typical of shrikes.
Two Redpolls went over but otherwise I didn't see much else up there.
Earlier this morning we were up at the archery club to watch Joel play football. Whilst they were warming up Lu and I walked the dog around the adjoining Withycombe Raleigh Common. A Firecrest was a little unexpected, as were at least 3 Chiffchaffs. Additionally we saw 3 Bullfinches, heard Dartford Warbler and witnessed several large flocks of Redwing going over. They continued to fly over once the match had started and must have totalled several hundred birds by the final whistle.
I did Maer Rocks at dawn and recorded 1+ Purple Sandpiper, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Brent Goose and 1 Great Crested Grebe. Orcombe Point produced just 1 Redwing and 17+ Meadow Pipits.
A quick look off the Imperial resulted in my first 3 Goldeneye of the winter and 10 Bar-tailed Godwits.
Just before I went up to Woodbury I had a look off Mudbank for the Black Brant but I couldn't find it. There's still a load of wildfowl off there and the waders included c20+ Redshank, 2+ Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Grey Plovers, Greenshank, c100+ Turnstone and c10+ Dunlin. Good to see Rupert as always.
The shrike is in the small birch - middle right'ish.

Mallards - Mudbank

Drake Pintail - Mudbank

Micro sp - Orcombe. Keen to put a name to this one.

Monday 7 November 2016


Great Spotted Woodpecker - Bristol Schools field. A Green Woodpecker is also seen from time to time in the same area.
Not much to report from this weekend. A brief visit to Orcombe Point early on Saturday produced just 3 Chiffchaffs and a grounded Redwing of note. About 300 Woodpigeons were counted but there were considerably more on Sunday morning when Nick and I estimated at least 3000 moving west early on. More notable for Orcombe was a significant finch passage that included c130+ Chaffinches, 4 Redpolls and 3+ Siskins. Also noted were 3 Goldcrests, 1 Curlew, c20+ Meadow Pipits and 5+ Skylarks.
With very little time to spare before dark this evening I raced around the Bristol Schools field and was surprised to flush a Snipe from a small dry weedy patch. Very little else present though.

Woodpigeons - last autumn, having first photographed and then painstakingly counted 20,000 woodpigeons, I vowed to just watch and enjoy them this year. The urge to quantify these movements however is strong.

Friday 4 November 2016

Purple Sands

Too dark for photos of the first three returning Purple Sandpipers late this afternoon, so I took a photo of Maer Rocks instead. Maer Rocks is now a well established wintering site for Purple Sandpipers with up to a dozen present mid-winter. They are often subject to disturbance here and when the tide is in they move to inaccessible roost sites on Straight Point. It's always good to see them back. Additionally there were at least 3 Turnstones on the rocks and a sizeable flock of Common Scoter was present, over towards Langstone Rock, totalling at least 80 birds.
The only other news is of a Firecrest in scrub in the Bristol Schools field on Tuesday the 2nd and Nick witnessed the first Woodpigeon movement on Orcombe on the 3rd and found Orcombe's 4th Yellow-browed Warbler.

Beautiful skies tonight but the light's not great for birding. Two duck hunters that flushed hundreds of Wigeon as they trudged out to satisfy their blood lust didn't help matters either.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

YBW and Mistle Thrushes

Mistle Thrush - Maer long-stay carpark.
Very little time after work this evening with low cloud rolling in, bringing darkness sooner than expected. I did a quick lap of the Bristol Schools field and picked up a Yellow-browed Warbler in scrub in the bottom left hand corner. If it hadn't called I would never have seen it. This is still only my third record for Orcombe Point. In the same field were at least 3 Song Thrushes and a single Chiffchaff.
The Maer long-stay carpark produced 3 Goldcrests and 2 Mistle Thrushes which are always hard to come by in Exmouth, and Paul Gosling had a male Black Redstart on Exeter Road School first thing this morning, before it disappeared off into the Colonies.