Friday 30 March 2018

Iceland Gull and Willow Warbler

Iceland Gull (presumed juv) - Bull Hill - photographed from the Quay.
A wet and miserable day today but thanks to a text from Kev this morning, I was able to finally see an Iceland Gull in Exmouth - my first for a couple years, though I've missed a fair few that have been seen from the Warren. Initially neither Kev nor I were sure which 'white-winger' we were looking at. It looked bigger than its neighbouring Herring Gulls but long-winged enough to suggest Iceland. Its head was tucked away and we were both looking at it from miles off. Kev had the additional difficulty of watching it 'back-on'. When it shifted position it was clearly an Iceland - short-billed, long-winged and about the same size or slightly slighter than the Herrings. It's interesting how its 'whiteness' can give a false impression of size! Having said that, when you see a 'Glauc' on Bull Hill it usually pretty obviously Glaucous Gull from the outset.
Earlier I'd done a quick whiz round Orcombe where the highlight was my first Willow Warbler of the spring - a singing bird in the hedgerow just below the paddock. In the same stretch of hedgerow was a Firecrest, which I suspect is probably the bird that has been around for some time. The only other birds of note were 3 Chiffchaffs and 2 Eider way off the point.

This is the only shot I've managed of the Firecrest. It stays well hidden but is quite vocal.

Sunday 25 March 2018

Today's Stuff

 At least 45 Shelduck still off Mudbank this morning.
Orcombe Point was quiet again but an overflying Yellowhammer was an unusual record. This morning's Firecrest was presumably the same as yesterday's. Otherwise 3 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest and a Siskin were the most notable sightings.
Maer Rocks produced 30 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 6 Sandwich Terns, 8+ Purple Sandpipers, 5 Turnstones and an adult Mediterranean Gull.
Mudbank was fairly productive today with 46 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 4 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, c10+ Pintail, c30/40+ Wigeon, 1 Eider, 1 Long-tailed Duck, 4+ Goldeneye, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, c120 Curlew, 45 Shelduck, 5 Redshank and a Grey Plover.

Masses of flies attracting 5 Rock Pipits to the dung heap.

Saturday 24 March 2018

Kestrel and Firecrest(s)

Kestrel - Orcombe Point - a very confiding bird. A young male I think.
At least one Firecrest on Orcombe Point first thing this morning. Otherwise migrants were again very thin on the ground with just 2 Chiffchaff, c25+ Meadow Pipit and 1 Goldcrest. The Kestrel showed brilliantly.
Off Mudbank - 6 Goldeneye, 12 Red-breasted Merganser and an adult Mediterranean Gull.
This afternoon the Eider and a Sandwich Tern were off Shelly Beach, and yesterday the Eider was off there along with the Long-tailed Duck. A pair of Shoveler were off the Grove late afternoon.

Eider off Shelly Beach this afternoon.

Thursday 22 March 2018

Maer Rocks Bonys and the Glauc

Glaucous Gull off Shelly Beach. Presumably the first-winter that's been seen for a while off the Warren.
I had a quick scoot round before work this morning and was a bit surprised to find the adult Bonaparte's Gull flying round off Maer Rocks (0625). It drifted out in to the bay and eventually ended up way out off Orcombe Point. Also on Maer Rocks today - 7+ Purple Sandpiper, 35 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 2 Canada Geese and 7 Turnstone.
This morning the Long-tailed Duck was off the Grove and this evening it had been replaced by the immature drake Eider.
A Sandwich Tern was off Shelly Beach early on and 8 Sanderling were off Mudbank.
Late this afternoon the Glaucous Gull was on Bull Hill, viewed from the Quay.
Not a bad selection of wintery birds today but where are all the migrants?
One of 7+ Purple Sandpipers still on Maer Rocks this afternoon.

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Corn Bunting Still.

The Corn Bunting still present this afternoon. On the Maer there was a pair of Stonechats and off the Grove - 3 Great Northern Diver and the immature drake Eider.
Glad to see a few people caught up with the bunting today. It can be elusive, spending long periods hidden behind large clods of dung and often masquerading as a pipit! Note both Rock and Meadow Pipits are feeding on the dung, and yesterday a Skylark was too.
Good to see Rupert this afternoon too. We enjoyed views of it sat in the hedgerow for about 10-15 minutes. Please be aware that Maer Lane is partially under water so you need to approach Gore Lane from Littleham or Sandy Bay.

Eider sat on the very tip of Warren Point

Monday 19 March 2018

Corn Bunting

This Golden Plover tumbled out of the sky and landed on the beach just feet in front of me. It was the only one I saw this morning, but I found a couple more on Orcombe Point this afternoon. The only other species noted on the narrow strip of sand that wasn't snow-covered, were a single Fieldfare, 3 Pied Wagtail, 2 Stonechat and a Meadow Pipit.
Quite unbelievably it was another 'snow day' today so, with the college closed, I set about covering some ground in Exmouth. I did a three hour walk from 6 'til 9am, covering the estuary, the beach and Orcombe Point in a big loop.
The scenery was beautiful but I was surprised at just how few birds were around. Fieldfares and Redwings passed overhead in reasonable numbers, mostly heading north -west, but otherwise I only logged 10 Chiffchaff, 2 Stonechat, a couple Skylark and a single Golden Plover. Thirty-six Common Gull were off Mudbank and Orcombe produced singles of Kestrel, Peregrine and Sparrowhawk. I got back for breakfast, relieved not to have seen many struggling birds but somewhat perplexed at just how little was around.
Once home the sun came out and a rapid thawing of snow began. This meant that this afternoon I was able to get the car out, so I nipped back up to Orcombe. A very obliging Golden Plover was feeding around the Geoneedle, and another was in the field above the orchid field. I reached the dung heap and found 3 or 4 Meadow Pipit and a couple Rock Pipit on it, but the wind was blasting directly into my face so it was very uncomfortable viewing. I locked on to what I assumed was a Meadow Pipit, back on to me on one of the mounds, when it was joined by a Rock Pipit. It was clear that the apparent 'mipit' was bigger than the Rock Pipit, so I looked at it harder. The wind was making my eyes water so I tried to adjust my position in the gateway, but as I did so the bird took off and flew past me. It was obviously way too bulky for a Meadow Pipit and I realised I was probably looking at a Corn Bunting.
It flew across the lane and appeared to come down on the other side of the hedge, so I edged in to the field, and was relieved to find it perched up on the sunny side of the hedgerow. Relief!
Soon it flew back across the lane and shortly afterwards I relocated it back on the dung, where it remained until I left. This is my third one on Orcombe Point, which almost qualifies it as a 'prime site', such is its rarity in the county. The previous records were November 17th 2007 and November 14th 2010 (Maisie's birthday). Both previous records were in the top fields, as was today's bird, but that was back in the day when the farmer left stubble over winter.
I was chuffed that Spencer, Andy Bond and Dave Stone were able to connect. The warmth of the dung no doubt helping to keep the bird 'insitu' for a while. 


The Geoneedle this afternoon - after a lot of snow thaw.

The snow was still deep in places this afternoon, despite the thaw. I was knee-deep in it at times this morning, necessitating the emptying of wellies at one point. 

Corn Bunting - remarkably Meadow Pipit-like at times - or is it just me?

I'm really pleased with this shot. I photographed my first one on Orcombe, back in November 2007, but it was a blurry 'blob' and barely recognisable. My second evaded all my photography attempts and departed a bit prematurely too.

This Golden Plover was feeding around the Geoneedle.

This one was in the field above the orchid field.

Exmouth seafront.

Exmouth beach - mostly covered in snow.

Orcombe point from Exmouth beach.

Sunday 18 March 2018

Snow...Lots of it!

Little Egret in the snow - Mudbank.

The heavy snow didn't start until mid-morning so I was able to do Orcombe at first light. Nothing too out of the ordinary, and just a light covering of snow on the ground - 8 Goldcrest, 6 Chiffchaff, 1 Reed Bunting and 15+ Meadow Pipit were logged. A flock of 60+ Golden Plover, restlessly bombing around over the top fields were a sign of the heavy snow heading our way, as were 4+ Snipe. The two immature drake Eider were still off Maer Rocks.
Once the snow arrived we all went out with the dog and noted a few bits and pieces. The oddest sighting was a beautiful male Wheatear at Mudbank. It took off over Warren View as I struggled to get the camera out of its bag, with gloved hands. A male Stonechat and a Siskin were the only other minor oddities.
Numbers of Fieldfare, Redwing, Meadow Pipit, Golden Plover and a single Snipe were more expected, though the majority of birds were flyovers. I haven't noticed birds ditching down on the estuary so far today. Hopefully this latest bout of cold weather will be over quickly enough to avoid the number of casualties that we saw a couple weeks ago. No Lapwing today either, and the snow's still coming down as I write this at 1655.
Orcombe this morning - looking back towards the Warren. This was before the heavy snow arrived.
Sixty plus Golden Plover - Orcombe Point - an early indicator of today's heavy snowfall.

The cycle path at Lower Halsdon Farm, late morning, in near 'white-out' conditions.

Redwing - Mudbank

Stonechat feeding in the brook, at Mudbank.

Saturday 17 March 2018

Chiffies, Scaup, Snow and PBBrent

Starcross from Mudbank
A mini-influx of Chiffchaffs in the clifftop scrub on Orcombe first thing this morning. I counted at least 10 birds but I'm sure there were more. Also making the notebook this morning were 4+ Goldcrest, 1 Snipe, 1 Golden Plover, 4+ Meadow Pipit, 1 Kestrel and a Great Northern Diver.
Nearby, Maer Rocks produced 2 immature drake Eider, 1 Dunlin, 3 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Common Scoter, c30+ Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 1 Pale-bellied Brent Goose and at least 3 Purple Sandpiper.
Four Great Northern Divers and a third Eider were off the Grove.
Snow's been falling pretty much all day but it hasn't settled much in Exmouth. Lu and I walked the dog and I went for a stroll in it later this afternoon, but there was no evidence of any cold weather movement. Let's hope it stays that way. I picked up a female-type Scaup from Mudbank but I'm guessing it's the same bird that was reported on the river a while back. I wandered up to West Lodge for a better view but it was heading upriver so it remained distant. Further sightings included 60+ Redshank off West Lodge and 3+ Goldeneye, c15+ Red-breasted Merganser and a first-winter Mediterranean Gull off Mudbank.

Pale-bellied Brent Goose - Maer Rocks

Dark-bellied Brent Goose - Maer Rocks - fuelling up for the long journey back east.

Friday 16 March 2018

Yellow Horned and Bonus Spoonbill

Yellow Horned - a brand new moth for me. Many thanks to Martin once again. He trapped this early-emerging spring beauty last night, at Saint Hill near Kentisbeare. It takes its name from its orangey antennae and is one of the 'Lutestring' family. It's not a particularly uncommon moth but until today I've never crossed paths with one.
Out for mum's birthday tonight so I had to do a quick post-work dash to Exminster Marshes, to meet Martin and a Yellow Horned! Chuffed to see my first new moth species of 2018, and pleased to pick up the Spoonbill too, that Martin had relocated on the floods. The end of the lane looked impassable so the bird was scoped from the Lion's Rest.
Little other news, but yesterday Mudbank was quite good with six Pale-bellied Brent Geese high north, upriver, shortly after dawn. Additionally there were 7 Goldeneye off there, 12+ Great Crested Grebe, 1 Long-tailed Duck and a second-winter Mediterranean Gull.

The distant white 'blob' is a Spoonbill - presumably the same bird that has been at Ferrybridge, Seaton, and Budleigh.
The Goldeneye are always mid-river for me in Exmouth, so this is about the limit of what I can get with the camera. Seven birds yesterday included two drakes, which predictably displayed to the females every so often. The Long-tailed Duck was off Mudbank yesterday too, looking a bit left out.

Tuesday 13 March 2018


This juvenile Russian White-fronted Goose turned up on Exminster Marshes today so I popped over to see it after work. With blue skies and the sun shining it felt as if the air should have been filled with Sand Martins, and the pools swimming with Garganey, but that most certainly wasn't the case. Any day now presumably.....
Really good to see Dave Boult and AJ, and also Bob and Mark (many thanks for the text). Getting out of Exmouth more is great for reacquainting with people as well as birds. 

Sunday 11 March 2018


Migrants on Orcombe today included Wheatear, Firecrest, Stonechat, 6+ Snipe and 3+ Meadow Pipit. Also recorded - 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Little Egret, 1 Peregrine, 1 Kestrel, 1 Sparrowhawk and c100+ Jackdaw.
Mudbank had its migrants too - 1 Sandwich Tern, 3 Mediterranean Gull, 3 Golden Plover, 1 or 2 Meadow Pipits and 3 Pale-bellied Brent Goose. Also recorded - 400+ Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 18 Bar-tailed Godwit, 60+ Turnstone, 14 Sanderling and a female Goldeneye.
Meadow Pipit on the dung heap.
Two of three Mediterranean Gulls off Mudbank
Sandwich Tern - Mudbank