Tuesday 31 October 2017

Two Drake Pochard

Two drake Pochard off Mudbank this evening. Also 1 Mediterranean Gull. Does 3 Pochard in 3 days signal a slight upturn in fortunes for this species? Highly unusual in Exmouth.

Sunday 29 October 2017

Pochard and Barnacle Goose

Field sketch of today's Barnacle Goose (colour added at home).
Today's star bird was a beautiful Barnacle Goose that I picked out amongst the Dark-bellied Brent Goose at around 0930 this morning. With it being the end of October, and with the wind having switched around to the north, it's probably as good a Barnacle Goose as I'm going to see in Exmouth. It was still present mid-afternoon, when Terry caught up with it, and it's sitting comfortably on the house list too. Also off Mudbank today - 9+ Pale-bellied Brent Goose, 1 Dunlin, 2 Redshank, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Grey Plover, 130+ Shelduck, 2 Siskin, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Rock Pipit and a high count of c170+ Pintail.
Nick and I covered Orcombe Point from dawn (and I had a quick look off Maer Rocks early afternoon). Things had quietened down considerably after yesterday but we still managed 1 Turnstone, 1 Mediterranean Gull, 1 Firecrest, 2 Brambling, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, just 4+ Meadow Pipit, 1 Coal Tit, 14+ Chaffinch, 1 Linnet, 2 Chiffchaff, 3+ Siskin, 9+ Song Thrush, c10+ Blackbird, c80+ Woodpigeon, 1+ Redwing, 36 Common Scoter, 9 Eider and a drake Pochard.
Drake Pochard (left hand bird) with Common Scoter flock. Pochard is less than annual in Exmouth and sadly becoming rarer. You'll almost certainly have to click on this photo to stand a chance of seeing it!
To continue with the 'awful photo' theme, above is today's Barnacle Goose (middle bird) - again you'll need to click to enlarge

Saturday 28 October 2017

GWE and c35k Woodpigeon

Great White Egret field notes - made immediately after watching it fly upriver.
I finally got Great White Egret from the house today. I was watching from the back garden and even with the bins, suspected what it was going to be -  a white 'dot', high up and flying purposefully north in a straight line with slow, lumbering wingbeats. It took me some frantic seconds to get it in the scope where I was able to take in more detail. The last one I had in Exmouth was a French-ringed bird in July 2014. Also noted - the Black Brant with 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 5 Song Thrush and the White-cheeked Pintail from Mudbank.
Earlier on I'd done Orcombe Point from dawn. I probably missed some good stuff because I was wrapped up with a huge movement of Woodpigeon - all going west or north-west and totalling c35,000 birds, though I'd be the first to admit that there could be some margin of error involved with that number!
Also overhead this morning - 5+ Redwing, c15+ Pied Wagtail, only c20+ Meadow Pipit, c20+ Skylark, 8+ Redpoll, c15+ Chaffinch, c15+ Siskin, 1 Yellowhammer, 5+ Reed Bunting, 7 Starling, c50+ Jackdaw and c20+ Linnet. Also 1 Kestrel, 1 Coal Tit, 1+ Bullfinch, 1 Chiffchaff and 9+ Song Thrush.
Late this afternoon I had a wander around the Bystock reserve and had at least 3 Firecrest in Holly trees at the north end.

It was incredibly difficult to count the waves of Woodpigeon moving over Orcombe this morning. Normally I have Nick to help me but not this morning. I estimated the biggest flocks to consist of 4000+ birds but I could be quite some way out. The biggest flocks formed enormous 'ribbons' of birds that stretched across the skyline. Great to witness this after missing out last year. The main movement lasted until about 9am when it noticeably quietened. I left at 10am.

Just a fraction of a vast 'ribbon' of birds moving west across the bay.

Friday 27 October 2017

Short-eared Owl, 7 Egyptians and a YLG

Short-eared Owl - Orcombe.
Lu's Birthday - the most stressful day in the year (don't worry she never reads this blog). She opted for shopping with Maisie and her sister, leaving Joel and I to fend for ourselves 'til 3pm. We cycled to Topsham, grabbed some lunch and then chilled around the house. I managed to get some chores and some gardening done and set the scope up in the back garden, which proved to be a good idea! Stuff's been moving all day. Several large Woodpigeon flocks moved south (which is interesting because when I'm on Orcombe they're always going W/NW), and I recorded small numbers of Redwing, Song Thrush, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Goldfinch, a single Stock Dove, lots of 'Corvids', Kestrel, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a probable Hawfinch throughout the course of the day.
On the incoming tide, scoping the river produced a surprise flock of 7 Egyptian Geese (which are new for the house list), 40+ Pintail, c1500+ Wigeon, 8 Pale-bellied Brent Goose, the Black Brant, c20+ Black-tailed Godwit and a rather late Sandwich Tern. I nipped down to Mudbank to photograph the Egyptian Geese and whilst down there counted 80+ Turnstone, 3 Dunlin, 19 Redshank 1 Greenshank and a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull.
At 3pm I had a narrow window of time before the family piled round, so I covered the two largest fields at the top of Gore Lane and was rewarded with bird of the day - a beautiful Short-eared Owl. It circled for ages, drawing the attention of some Magpies, and eventually pitched down at the base of the hedge. Could have stayed and watched it for ages but needed to get back.
These Egyptian Geese were first seen flying in as I watched from the back garden. I had to nip down to Mudbank to get this terrible shot.

First-winter Yellow-legged Gull - not the most obvious one but the greater coverts (dark bases to outers) and tertials (plain edges) drew attention. I had to wait and see it fly to clinch it but failed to get a photo of the upperwing.

Note the tail pattern.

Thursday 26 October 2017

Late Whinchat and Hawfinches

A late juvenile Whinchat on Orcombe today - note the missing central tail feathers.

Another very enjoyable day's birding locally. I did Orcombe from 0740 - 0950 and then again briefly early afternoon. Totals included 1 Coal Tit, 8+ Goldcrest, 1+ Bullfinch, 3 Redwing, c25+ Chaffinch, c80+ Meadow Pipit, c50+ Goldfinch, c40+ Pied Wagtail, c700+ Woodpigeon, 2 Brambling, 2 Lapwing, 1 Snipe, 5+ Song Thrush, 45+ Skylark, 1 Whinchat, 2+ Siskin, 1 Stonechat, 1+ Stock Dove, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Mistle Thrush and the Ring-necked Parakeet that was bombing around over Gore Lane.
A lightening quick look off Mudbank produced the Black Brant and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose with c1000+ Dark-bellied Brent Goose.
This afternoon I decided to try Woodbury Fort for Hawfinch, but to be honest I didn't really expect to be successful, despite the large numbers around nationally. I scanned through the decent numbers of Chaffinch that were moving around the tops of the Beech trees, and after just a few minutes picked up a single Hawfinch. I tracked it into some trees on the far side of the fort and was pleased to find at least two others with it. Amazing birds. I estimate c10+ Brambling up there too so well worth a look.

Lapwings are quite scarce in Exmouth so these two over Orcombe this morning were most welcome.

Brambling. At least 10 birds present in Woodbury Fort late this afternoon.

Hawfinch - one of at least 3 birds present, feeding on Beech masts within the Fort boundaries.

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Cirl Buntings

Male Cirl Bunting. With winter wheat (I think) growing in two of the three top fields, and grass in the third, it's highly unlikely this pair will hang around, although the male did engage in a bit of singing for a short while. Originally the farmer had said that he'd plant a crop for the birds this autumn but that plan appears to have fallen through.
Two Cirl Buntings in the top fields were the highlights - my fourth and fifth in Exmouth this year, following 2 short-stayers in the spring and an August singleton. It was nice birding in calm, still conditions this morning but most overhead stuff was a bit too high up. From 0740 - 0950 I logged c50+ Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, 25+ Chaffinch, 5 Reed Bunting, c40+ Goldfinch, 12+ Greenfinch, 15+ Siskin, c20+ Linnet, 110+ Jackdaw, c200+ Woodpigeon, c15+ Skylark, 2 Brambling, 1 Grey Wagtail, 2+ Redpoll, 1 Mistle Thrush, 7 Starling and 1+ Bullfinch. A small arrival of thrushes, in bushes around the point, included at least 10 Song Thrush and a similar number of Blackbird. Otherwise just 3 Stonechat, 5 Goldcrest, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Coal Tit, a flock of 19 Long-tailed Tit and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker made it into the notebook.
A Firecrest was in the Maer long-stay carpark late afternoon.
Male and female Cirl Bunting - really hard to pick out on the deck.
Initial views of this first-winter female Stonechat got me going a bit. It had quite a distinct super, a nice bright white throat and really bright wing panels formed by bright edges to the secondaries and tertials. It was also a touch paler-looking than most autumn Stonechats that I see. Mindful that Stejneger's Stonechat can be a bit more similar to torquatus/rubicola I endeavoured to see the rump which turned out to be darker and more streaked than I was hoping for! Side-on it looked less impressive.
Not the plain rump/uppertail coverts that I was hoping for but note the really bright wing panels.

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Cattle Egret

Adult Mediterranean Gull - Mudbank
I did Orcombe again early on but it was just too windy to be much good. I persevered though and recorded 8 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Mediterranean Gull, 9 Common Scoter, c50+ Meadow Pipit, 4 Goldcrest, 70+ Goldfinch, 10+ Pied Wagtail, c50+ Linnet, c400+ Woodpigeon, 1 Stonechat and 3+ Chaffinch.
I was back for breakfast and back out this afternoon to do Mudbank on the falling tide. Totals included c1500+ Wigeon, c8/900+ Dark-bellied Brent Goose, c20+ Pintail, c60+ Turnstone, 7 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Mediterranean Gull, 1 Kingfisher and 3+ Pale-bellied Brent Goose. I kept tabs on the Black Brant because I knew the Baileys were coming up for it and, whilst I was waiting for them, picked out a Cattle Egret amongst a flock of c20+ Little Egrets feeding out on the river. I was chuffed with this as it's the first one I've had in Exmouth since 2008.

Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull - Mudbank - a beautiful bird with distinctive white bill markings - first noted on the 17th - no sign of scapular moult yet but not sure how strong an indicator this is for 'intermedius'. Very smart bird whatever the race,


Haven't had a decent look at the underwings yet but they appear quite pale on this view. Notably the median underwing coverts look like they could be white. Will try and get more photos if it stays.

The Black Brant showed relatively well c500 yards north of Mudbank this afternoon. Great to see Bob and Mark as always - an impeccably timed twitch as they turned up minutes after I'd found a Cattle Egret.

Two of at least three Pale-bellied Brent Geese in with the Brent flock this afternoon.

The Cattle Egret was always way out on the mud, and the light levels this afternoon were not great. Even in this awful photo you can see its compact shape and short black legs. Its bill was a nice deep orange colour. My last Cattle Egrets in Exmouth were in January 2008 (2 birds) when there was a large influx into the country. The birds fed in livestock fields north of Mudbank, in the Courtlands area. I hope this bird hangs around but it will surely revert to feeding in fields, probably not in Exmouth.

Monday 23 October 2017

Orcombe Migrants and Brant Pic

We always get one or two Great Spotted Woodpeckers hanging around at this time of year but they don't breed on Orcombe.

Far from ideal conditions this morning but a few new bits and bobs in, making it a bit better than expected. From 0745 - 1000 I recorded 1 adult Mediterranean Gull, 4 Common Scoter, 2 Diver sp (almost certainly GNDs), 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Firecrest, 1 Yellowhammer, c60+ Meadow Pipit, c200+ Woodpigeon, 2 Stonechat, 4+ Goldcrest, 5+ Chaffinch, 3 Pied Wagtail, 2 Chiffchaff, c70+ Jackdaw, 20+ Linnet, 4+ Song Thrush, 3 Skylark and a Reed Bunting.
Off Mudbank there was 17 Turnstone, 3 Redshank, 1 Sandwich Tern, c65+ Black-tailed Godwit and the Black Brant in with a large and uncounted Dark-bellied Brent Goose flock.

Great Crested Grebes are a regular fixture off Mudbank throughout most of the year but they rarely come within range of the camera.

Black Brant - Mudbank - slightly better views today but far from perfect. This bird was first seen on the Exe in autumn 2013 and has returned every winter since. Last year I saw it in October (a year ago today in fact) but before long it vanished. As far as I'm aware it wasn't seen anywhere else on the Exe last winter but I could be wrong. I'm finding it relatively easy to pick out this year because the Brents are invariably strung out off Mudbank rather than feeding 'en masse' off the leisure centre.

Sunday 22 October 2017

Woodpigeons, Merlin, Brambling


No joy with the Spencer's 'Sprosser' this morning but a very enjoyable morning on Orcombe all the same. Whilst stood waiting there was plenty moving overhead into a brisk north-westerly. Between 0730 and 10am I recorded 8 Starling, 15+ Pied Wagtail, c50+ Meadow Pipit, c100+ Chaffinch, 1 Brambling, c70+ Goldfinch, several Linnet, 3 Reed Bunting, c35+ Siskin, 1 Swallow, 2 Redpoll, 1 Merlin and 1+ Stock Dove. Many mixed flocks of finches passed fast overhead, giving me no time to suss out what was what, so loads went unrecorded. Woodpigeon were moving in very small flocks from first light but shortly after 9am numbers started building dramatically, and by 10am, when I had to leave, I'd recorded an estimated 1500+ all swinging north over Orcombe and passing at considerable height over the Warren.
Other birds logged this morning included 4+ Chiffchaff, 8+ Goldcrest, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker and 1 Stonechat.
Late this afternoon, just before dark - the adult Black Brant again off Mudbank and 2 Peregrine sitting on the mudflats.

A large flock of c200+ Warren-bound

Sketches of yesterday's and today's Merlins - yesterday's - low over the sea and today's high overhead into a north-westerly, both giving completely different impressions.

Saturday 21 October 2017


Wigeon and Brents swimming into a strong westerly wind - Mudbank.
I did a sea-watch from the beach huts this morning and failed to see a Long-tailed Skua and 2 Leach's Petrel that were seen off the Warren. They always get more stuff than me. I'm certain it's to do with the angle at which stuff moves into the bay. Nothing passes really close to Orcombe, not even the numerous Gannets that moved south this morning. I did manage 3 Great Northern Diver and a Merlin, which I was quite chuffed about, but the three skuas I had were all too distant. Probably 2 Bonxies and a Long-tailed Skua that struggled like mad to make any headway in to the wind, and looked most kittiwake-like in flight action. I had it whilst Lee was texting me about his so it wasn't his bird. The Merlin was a lovely female/juv-type that powered past, parallel to the beach before sweeping out across the bay. The first I've had in ages.
The adult Black Brant was off the Imperial late morning but otherwise it's been a day of frustration......
I've Just found out I've missed Thrush Nightingale on Orcombe! Spencer Dicks had it on Thursday, and it was also seen by Peter Turnbull. I'm having absolutely no luck with the 'rares' this year.  In under 5 months I've missed Black-browed Albatross, Wilson's Petrel, a probable Red-throated Pipit, a Great White Egret, Richard's Pipit and now Thrush Nightingale! I really need to start following Spencer around!

Friday 20 October 2017

Black Brant and Golden Plovers

Black Brant  - middle bird - probably best click on the photo to enlarge.
The Black Brant was again off Mudbank this evening, with a sizeable Dark-bellied Brent Goose flock and at least a dozen Pale-bellied Brent Goose. Also 1 Greenshank, several Dunlin, 7 Red-breasted Merganser, 12+ Bar-tailed Godwit, c20+ Black-tailed Godwit and, best of all, 2 Golden Plover roosting with several Curlew.

Thursday 19 October 2017

Immigrant Moth Numbers

Brick - a first for me.
Really good numbers and variety in the trap last night. Immigrant species were 1 Scarce Bordered Straw, 6 Vestal, 12 Rusty-dot Pearl, 1 Silver Y and 1 Rush Veneer. Also recorded were 1 Willow Beauty, 1 'Epiritta' sp, 6 Feathered Ranunculus, 5 Blair's Shoulder-knot, 14 Red-line Quaker, 1 Double-striped Pug, 1 Lesser Yellow Underwing, 3 Light Brown Apple, 2 Southern Bell, 5 Large Yellow Underwing, 2 Garden Carpet, 4 Ruddy Streak, 2 Narrow-winged Grey, 1 Coastal Pearl, 1 Large Wainscot, 4 Common Marbled Carpet, 4 Lunar Underwing, 1 Setaceous Hebrew Character, 1 Yellow-line Quaker, 1 Feathered Thorn, 1 Brick and 1 Angle Shades.
Bird-wise - finished work at 7pm so none today though I did hear my first Redwing of the autumn whilst emptying the trap. Yesterday I nipped out late afternoon. Mudbank produced 2 Greenshank, 55+ Turnstone, 1 Kingfisher, 1 'Sinensis' Cormorant and a Firecrest by the viewing screen.

Yellow-line Quaker
Red-line Quaker

Large Wainscot - my first Exmouth LW and only my second ever.

Vestal - one of six.

Scarce Bordered Straw

Epiritta sp - November, Pale November or Autumnal Moth - should probably make more effort with these.

Feathered Thorn

Feathered Ranunculus

Blair's Shoulder-knot

Red-green Carpet

Vestals - all the same colour - no pinks!
'Continental' Cormorant - Mudbank