Sunday 30 April 2017

Black Tern

Just when you thought my photos couldn't get worse - an audacious attempt to photograph a Black Tern - that 'smudge' below left of the green buoy.
Sea-watch from the raised beach huts (Maer Rocks) - 0545 - 0745 - c20+ Sandwich Tern, 1 Eider (imm male west @ 0604), 9 Great Northern Diver, 2+ Common Gull, 7+ Common Tern, 1 Black Tern (east @ 0630 with 12 'commic' Tern), 2+ Arctic Tern, 9 Common Scoter, 2+ Little Tern, 8 Whimbrel, 1 Great Skua, 2 Black-headed Gull, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Fulmar, 1+ Guillemot and a handful of Kittiwakes and Gannets.
After a cuppa and some breakfast at home, and with the family all still asleep or stirring, I nipped back down for half an hour and recorded a further 14 Common Scoter, 1 Pale-bellied Brent Goose, 3 Dark-bellied Brent Goose and 3 Little Tern.
Finally, a quick check of Sandy Bay at around 3pm, following a pub lunch with the family in Topsham,  produced 13 Common Scoter, 2 Whimbrel, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit and 6 Little Tern feeding together. A count of the Straight Point Kittiwake colony revealed 86 birds and Mudbank late evening produced 77 Turnstone, 20 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Grey Plover, 1 Greenshank and 6 Great Crested Grebe.
Most of the small terns were evidently not visible to birders watching from the sea wall at Dawlish Warren. It's very unusual for this to happen but understandable given the fact that I had them coming along the beach from the direction of the river mouth, close past Maer Rocks and eastwards towards Orcombe Point. For a while there were 3 Common Tern, 1 Arctic Tern and 2 Little Tern lingering very close to the beach, affording views that I very rarely get in Exmouth. Pity the Black Tern didn't linger too.
Yesterday a brief early morning spell on Orcombe produced 2 Whimbrel, 4 Dunlin, 1 wader sp, 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Common Tern, 90+ Pale-bellied Brent Goose (in 3 flocks), 3 Wheatear and 2 Willow Warbler. A Sedge Warbler singing alongside the coast path was my first this year.
I checked Mudbank on the way home and wasn't too surprised to see the bulk of the Pale-bellied Brent Goose flock (80+ birds) settled. Also 1 Common Tern, 10+ Sandwich Tern, 42 Whimbrel, 23 Bar-tailed Godwit and 1 Common Sandpiper.
The light was great yesterday with Berry Head seemingly within touching distance.

Friday 28 April 2017

Too Quiet

Willow Warbler - Orcombe Point
Another very quiet week with little time spent looking. Late this afternoon - 6 Wheatear and 4 Willow Warbler on Orcombe Point. Off the seafront at 6am this morning - 4 Great Northern Diver and 3 Great Crested Grebe. Mudbank - just 1 Redshank, c30/40+ Whimbrel and a first-summer Mediterranean Gull.
Yesterday evening - 52+ Pale-bellied Brent Geese on the river late afternoon. Also c50+ Whimbrel and 1 Bar-tailed Godwit. On the 26th - 6 Dunlin, 70+ Whimbrel and 2 Bar-tailed Godwit.

Monday 24 April 2017

No Hoopoe

No sign of a Hoopoe reported at Lower Halsdon Farm (early morning only) but a look off Mudbank after work produced my first 2 Common Tern of the year, with 25+ Sandwich Tern, 90+ Whimbrel, 2 Dunlin, 1 Ringed Plover and a flock of c70/80+ Pale-bellied Brent Geese that were flushed downriver by a helicopter before I could count them properly.

Sunday 23 April 2017


Streamer - a beautiful moth with a combination of colours and markings to rival any butterfly.
Twenty-one moths of 13 species after a clear cold night last night - 1 Streamer, 1 Brimstone, 1 Angle Shades, 1 Oak-tree Pug, 1 Double-striped Pug, 1 Early Grey, 1 Lunar Marbled Brown, 1 Muslin Moth, 1 Flame Shoulder, 1 Small Quaker, 3 Common Quaker, 4 Shuttle-shaped Dart and 4 Hebrew Character.
Orcombe Point was again quiet with 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 5 Wheatear and a couple Willow Warblers the only evidence that anything at all was moving.
Off Mudbank the Whimbrel count has risen to 80+ but just 3 Greenshank remain. Also 1 Grey Plover, 2 Red-breasted Merganser and 5 Dunlin on a very quick afternoon visit.
This evening there were 115+ Black-headed Gull and 8+ Common Gull off Mudbank - a big increase in recent weeks.

Muslin Moth

Lunar Marbled Brown

Oak-tree Pug - big thank you to Lee and Nick for ID.

Angle Shades

Early Grey

Hebrew Character

Flame Shoulder

Shuttle-shaped Dart

Small Quaker
Common Quaker - this small individual was very similar in size to the above Small Quaker.

Saturday 22 April 2017

Whimbrels and White Wag

At least 70 Whimbrel off Mudbank this afternoon. Some showing really well from the viewing screen. Also 5 Greenshank and my first White Wagtail of the spring.
I did Orcombe before breakfast, noting 6 Whitethroat, 4 or 5 Wheatear, 2 Willow Warbler and my fifth Grasshopper Warbler of the spring - a reeling bird in the hedgerow bordering the second orchid field up. Also 15+ Dunlin, 1 Ringed Plover, 4 Whimbrel, 1 Turnstone, 5 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Guillemot and 2 Common Scoter.

Bee sp - Edit - Common Carder Bee - thanks Nick.

Friday 21 April 2017

Slim Pickings

Better than usual for waders off Mudbank this evening. Six Greenshank, 50+ Whimbrel, 2 Turnstone and a Black-tailed Godwit were all good indicators of some wader passage happening. Also off there - 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 6 Sandwich Tern and 5 Black-headed Gull.
I raced around Orcombe at first light before work this morning but could only muster 2 Wheatear, 2 Whitethroat, 3 Swallow and a Lesser Whitethroat. The latter a singing male and my first this year. Offshore just 3 Great Crested Grebe and a tardy Dark-bellied Brent Goose.
Yesterday afternoon 4 Bar-tailed Godwit were noted off Mudbank and on Wednesday evening a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling near the top of the lane down to the Bristol Schools camp.
Running a blog makes me very lazy. Apologies but I'd appreciate some help with the identification of a couple bees and a micro moth..........

Edit - Vestal Cuckoo Bee - thanks Nick.

Edit - Grey Gorse Piercer - Cydia ulicetana - Withycombe Raleigh Common - many thanks for the ID Nick.

Edit - Buff-tailed Bumblebee - thanks again Nick

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Groppers and Redstarts

Female Redstart - one of at least 4, probably 5 Redstarts on Orcombe today. The rest were males but none stayed still long enough for me to get a decent photo. This female was in the Bristol Schools camp. I had males on the dung heap, near the Iron shelter and around the top flat field. The latter almost certainly with a fifth bird.
I almost didn't go out this morning but, as usual, I was wide awake at 6am and it seemed a shame to waste an hour before getting ready for work, so I zipped up to Foxholes. As I opened the car door I was greeted with the reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler. It was singing from one of the gardens right next to where I park the car. A Willow Warbler burst in to song and I cursed the fact that I had so little time. Fortunately however, despite a meeting after work, I was able to pop back up late this afternoon and give the area a little more coverage. Totals included 3 reeling Grasshopper Warbler, 4+ Redstart, c50+ Willow Warbler, 3 Whitethroat, 8+ Blackcap, 3 Swallow and 10 Wheatear.
A very decent fall by Orcombe standards but I guess it's a bit disappointing not to get more variety, though Terry Smith scored a couple Sedge Warblers this morning - a species I've yet to see in Exmouth this year.
A late look at the river from the back garden produced a flock of c25+ Pale-bellied Brent Geese flying upriver.

Willow Warbler - the stars today - the coastal blackthorn was heaving with birds feeding up. c50+ is probably a conservative count with many more seen this evening than early this morning and every patch of scrub harbouring birds. Really good to see after last autumn's poor showing.
 Only a handful of Chiffchaff noted - most apparently on territory.

Green-winged Orchid - I think....

Monday 17 April 2017

Common Sand and Little Terns

Common Sandpiper - Maer Rocks - I don't usually expect to see Common Sandpiper in Exmouth until late summer so it was nice to get this spring bird.
Orcombe Point/Maer Rocks - 0605 - 3+ Blackcap, 4+ Chiffchaff, 9+ Willow Warbler, 3 Whitethroat, 1 Meadow Pipit, 8 Swallow, 7+ Wheatear, 3 Great Northern Diver, 1 Red-throated Diver, 12+ Sandwich Tern, 2+ Great Crested Grebe, c15+ Common Scoter, 1 Common Sandpiper and 1 Turnstone.
Mudbank - 42+ Whimbrel, 7+ Ringed Plover, c12+ Sanderling, 3 Grey Plover, 4 Knot, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 12+ Dunlin, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Wheatear, c6+ Sandwich Tern  and best of all 6 Little Tern.
I picked the Little Terns up as they headed upriver past Cockwood. There were 5 at first, later joined by a sixth individual. They then spent a good while fishing up and down the river between Cockwood and Starcross before powering upriver in a tight bunch. It was good to be able to forewarn Mark and Bob Bailey of their imminent arrival as they waited upriver at Turf. Apparently all six disappeared high over Topsham. It would be interesting to know exactly what they did after that!
Little Terns are pretty regular off Exmouth in the spring and summer but you can never tire of watching them. These birds have been around for a couple of days now.
Yesterday, Easter Sunday, Nick and I did Orcombe at dawn but it was terrible. Just 1 Whimbrel the only bird of note. I popped back up to Gore Lane mid-morning and was rewarded with my first Yellow Wagtail of the year, along with 2 Wheatear and 2 Willow Warbler.
The river produced just 1 Red-breasted Merganser and at least 37 Whimbrel late evening.

Friday 14 April 2017

Bits and Bobs

Whitethroat - singing male back on territory on Orcombe Point.

Yet another early morning whiz around Orcombe and an all too familiar lack of birds. I was there at 0615 and recorded 8+ Blackcap, 6+ Chiffchaff, 10+ Willow Warbler, 1 Whimbrel, 2 Wheatear, 2 Whitethroat, 1 Collared Dove, 1+ Meadow Pipit and 3 Sandwich Tern.
Off Mudbank today - 3 Red-breasted Merganser, 3 Sandwich Tern and 6 Great Crested Grebe
The Yellow-browed Warbler is still belting out its song from the front garden of number 35, so much so that one of the local Starlings has taken to mimicking it!
This afternoon, with the family all doing other stuff, I popped up to the heathland that sits just within the parish boundary and was pleased to finally see my first House Martins of the year - 6 birds in total. Also recorded were 6+ Redpoll, small numbers of Siskin,  1 Mistle Thrush, 1 Stonechat, 2+ Yellowhammer and my first  Exmouth Dartford Warbler of the year - a singing male.
Finally - a 20 minute scan off the seafront, late afternoon, produced 6 Sandwich Tern, 11 Whimbrel and c15+ Common Scoter.

Chiffchaff - a nice bright individual.

Holly Blue

Tufted Duck - one of four (2 pairs) on Bystock Pool. .

Eleven Whimbrel pass over Warren Point into the estuary late afternoon.

Thursday 13 April 2017


Brown-tail Moth caterpillar - masses of these on Orcombe at the moment.
Nick and I did Orcombe first thing this morning - 3 Willow Warbler, 7+ Wheatear, 2 Whitethroat and 2 Swallow indicated that birds were coming in but both variety and numbers of migrant species are still very disappointing. Back at home, a short spell watching the river from the garden, produced 3 Red-breasted Merganser, 4 Swallow, 6 Whimbrel, 2 Sandwich Tern and an Osprey that drifted across the river, from west to east, at 0950. The Yellow-browed Warbler is still there and still singing.
Yesterday morning, on Orcombe, I recorded 1 Meadow Pipit, 7+ Blackcap, 5+ Wheatear, 7 Willow Warbler and a Greylag Goose.
A Red Kite was circling high above the river at 0935.

A Greylag Goose east over Orcombe Point yesterday morning.

Damselfly species - Bystock - not sure which species this is.
Edit - female Large Red Damselfly - many thanks Dave.

Bee species from the garden - again - no idea what species this is.
Edit - male Ashy Mining Bee - many thanks Nick.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

A Bit More of the Same

Orcombe Point was back to its default setting of 'dead quiet' this morning. A couple Willow Warblers and small numbers of Linnets and Goldfinches were the only birds of note.
Again the back garden was more productive. My fifth Osprey of the spring appeared upriver over Powderham at 0955 before drifting slowly over towards Exminster Marshes. Terry had another bird 'in-off' over Sandy Bay shortly after 3pm this afternoon but we were at a football tournament in Exeter so I missed it, though I did have a Red Kite fly west across the river before circling over Powderham Park at 330pm.
Other stuff seen from the garden today include 4 Sparrowhawks (with 3 displaying together), 1 Peregrine, 8 Whimbrel and just one Swallow. The Yellow-browed Warbler has been in fine voice today. I listened to it singing continuously for ages this morning and it was still pretty vocal at 6pm this evening. It must be getting very itchy feet but I'll be honest, I'm going to really miss it when its gone. It's definitely looking smarter than it did a week or two ago too.

Monday 10 April 2017

Mini Fall

Wheatear - one of 24 recorded this morning, 15 of which were together on this hedge at the top of Gore Lane. Most moved on quickly.

It was quite good by Orcombe standards this morning, with cool and overcast conditions dropping a small number of migrants. I was on site for 0630 and recorded 24 Wheatear, 4 Blackcap, c10+ Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Whitethroat (a singing male near the Geoneedle), 2+ Swallow, 1+ Meadow Pipit and, best of all, a singing Reed Warbler. It was singing in blackthorn scrub and, unusually for Orcombe, showing from time to time. There were 8 Sandwich Terns offshore and a further check off the seafront this afternoon produced 11 Sandwich Tern and 3 Grey Plover.
Back at home the Yellow-browed Warbler was singing in the front garden of number 35 and, for the first time, it actually fed in a couple bushes in our front garden! A short stint from the back garden produced my fourth Osprey of the spring and 4 Whimbrel. The Osprey was picked up circling high over the river at 0935 before drifting back towards the Warren. I picked it up again shortly after 10am as it flew back upriver towards Exeter.

Reed Warbler - a tricky species to catch up with in Exmouth. For example I didn't manage to see a single one last year. The few that I have seen over the years are usually late spring individuals.

A few Green-winged Orchids are appearing close to the Geoneedle.

The Yellow-browed Warbler has been singing a lot this morning.
Ten Pale-bellied Brents spent the day on the lower part of the estuary yesterday.

Saturday 8 April 2017


Powdered Quaker
The continuing fine weather hasn't been great for migrants but there have been plenty of insects to look at in the garden. Moths trapped last night - 6 Early Grey, 6 Hebrew Character, c10 Common Quaker, 2 Mullein, 2 Nut-tree Tussock, 1 Shuttle-shaped Dart, 1 Double-striped Pug, 1 V-Pug, 2 Early Thorn, 1 Light Brown Apple Moth, 1 Powdered Quaker and 1 Streamer.
Butterflies have been zooming around the garden all afternoon with several Holly Blue and Speckled Wood noted, along with single Orange-tip, Peacock and Comma.
It has again been poor on the bird front but the Yellow-browed Warbler continues its protracted stay in the front garden of number 35.

Nut-tree Tussock

Mullein - a first for me although it's pretty common. I just tend not to get the trap out til later in the season when it's off the wing. It really is a striking species. It was always on the cards following the discovery of the caterpillar in our back garden last year.

Bee sp - would appreciate help to ID this little fella.
Edit - male Hairy-footed Flower Bee - many thanks Nick!

Holly Blue - plenty of these around today although I first noted them on the wing on Monday 3rd April. All were incredibly restless and difficult to photograph. I stood next to our Holly bush hoping to get them egg laying but they just wanted to bomb around. Perhaps it's still a little early?

Ladybird sp - any ideas?
Edit - Harlequin - thanks again Nick.