Saturday 26 February 2022

Feb Colour

Three male Yellowhammers were singing in close proximity, yesterday, on Withycombe Raleigh Common. Also, three Dartford Warblers again seen up there (including a singing male), and a Mistle Thrush in song too. Amazing what a bit of warm sunshine can do! Nearby on Blackhill Quarry - 2 Crossbills and 2 Kestrels but no sign of the Ring-necked Duck on a brief visit.
I went back to Torquay today, to see my brother and niece - lovely to see them both, as always. I also popped in to Highweek to visit Dad's grave. Couldn't resist a look at Stover's Mandarins on the way there. Surprised to see so many birds on the lake. A very quick count produced c30 Coot, 8 Shoveler, 5 Gadwall and 15+ Tufted Ducks. No Pochard.

Dartford Warbler.

Drake Mandarin.


Drake Tufted Duck.

One of eight Shoveler, seven of which were drakes.


Thursday 24 February 2022


Drake Red-breasted Merganser - one of four off Mudbank today. Otherwise just 23 Pintail of note.

The Velvet Scoter and a couple Great Crested Grebes were off Maer Rocks first thing this morning. A flock of 39 Dark-bellied Brent Geese was on the rocks - no doubt feeding up in preparation for their imminent journey back east. 
I made a couple trips up to Blackhill Quarry/Bicton Common today - initially with my good friend and neighbour Neil, and then again pre-dusk. Totals included the drake Ring-necked Duck, 7 Tufted Ducks, 1 drake Teal, 2 Goosanders, 2 Canada Geese, 1 Kestrel, 15 Snipe, 1 Jack Snipe, 1 Dartford Warbler, 2 Siskins  and 37 Fieldfares. Good to bump into Rupert and Keith today.

The Velvet Scoter was again off Maer Rocks this morning - this appalling record shot was the best I could manage!

Drake Tufted Duck - one of seven on Blackhill Quarry pool today.

Just a pair of Goosanders in to roost this evening.

Starcross (and Herring Gull) from Mudbank.

The view from Exmouth Quay this afternoon.

Two trips up to Blackhill Quarry today - the Ring-necked Duck remained asleep and mostly hidden but popped out to feed this evening.

Wednesday 23 February 2022

Blackhill Buddleia Bullfinches

  Ponies on Blackhill Quarry - think they're Exmoor and/or Dartmoor.

Blackhill Quarry today - 10 Tufted Ducks, 1 male Ring-necked Duck, 5 Goosanders, 6 Crossbills over, 1 singing male Dartford Warbler, 5+ Bullfinch, 2 Ravens and 1 Kingfisher. Just down the road, at Hayes Barton pig farm - c100+ Chaffinch and at least 10 Brambling although there could have been considerably more. The birds were down into stubble and up in to the hedge so quickly that I just couldn't get a true handle on numbers. A surprise sighting there today was a single Green Sandpiper, which flew from a wet area over towards the river Otter.
A very quick look off Mudbank produced the pair of Goldeneyes, 2 Greenshank, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Teal, 13 Pintail and 9 Wigeon.

Goosander - one of just five this evening.

Ring-necked Duck with Tufties this evening.

Quarrying has ceased at Blackhill and the site is now undergoing restoration/rewilding which, as far as I'm aware, involves some considerable re-landscaping. They've left the cliff with all the Sand Martin tunnels and it's looking as though the site will become more and more special as nature regains its rightful place. It's already home to a wonderful array of birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. I think I'm right in saying that it will be opened up for public access in 2030, which sounds like a disastrous idea. The pebbled heaths are so heavily used, and disturbed by the public (and military), that it seems utter madness not to keep this area fenced-off and quiet. 


Dartford Warbler - already established and breeding within the quiet confines of the quarry.

Tuesday 22 February 2022

Local Heath and Woodland

A lot of miles walked over heathland and through woodland today. Highlights included the single drake Ring-necked Duck and 6 Goosanders on Blackhill Quarry Pool, 2 Jack Snipe along with c60/70+ Snipe, 8 Crossbills, Peregrine and Goshawk.
Additionally, 36+ Mallard, 3 Tufted Ducks, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Little Grebe, 14  Canada Geese, 3+ Dartford Warblers, 6+ Stonechats, 4 Buzzards, 11 Pied Wagtails, 3 Fieldfares, 5 Mistle Thrushes, 2 Tawny Owls, 1 Grey Heron, 3+ Bramblings, c80+ Chaffinches, 7 Reed Buntings, 7 Goldcrests, 1 Treecreeper, 2 Nuthatches, 1 Green Woodpecker, 1 Raven and 1 Jay made the notebook. Interestingly no Redpolls and very few Siskins noted. Song Thrushes were in song in woodland and Meadow Pipits seemed in reasonable supply. Really nice to do some birding with Rupert today and good to bump into Ian.

Male Stonechat.



Bystock reserve.

The dark waters of Bystock Pool.

Goosanders. This pair was in early and having a snooze. Four more came in nearer to 6pm, when it was almost dark.

Blackhill Quarry.

Just the single drake Ring-necked Duck again today.

Monday 21 February 2022


Really strong westerlies today, courtesy of storm Franklin. Birding isn't easy in such conditions and even walking the dog on the beach was quite testing. Lu, the dog and I have been thoroughly sand-blasted. 
A look at Blackhill, first thing, revealed the continuing presence of one of the Ring-necked Ducks, along with 10 Goosanders, 15 Mallard and 4 Bullfinches. Shortly afterwards, a quick sea-watch produced the Velvet Scoter, 3 drake Pintails and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers
Ninety Pintails was an exceptionally high count for Mudbank at this time of year.
I popped back up to Blackhill later on in the morning, but could still only find one of the Ring-necked Ducks. Nearby, at least 4 Brambling were in with a flock of c30+ Chaffinches at Hayes Barton pig farm. Also a Peregrine over there.

Looking north-west (ish) along Exmouth beach. Blue skies but a strong wind blowing sand directly into our faces.

United Heavy Lift still sitting out the strong winds in the bay.

Bramblings and a Chaffinch at Hayes Barton.