Monday, 12 December 2011

Just me & Mr(s) Humes

Certainly have got a thing going on for little sibe leaf warblers...aren't they just the best - can't imagine how exciting it must have been to find this one cos its lovely!
Up early and my trip to Hampshire had a 30 minute bit of travel fat so a very short divert past Wyke Regis and (as per Birdguides) a 0.75 mile trot across a few fields with a fab view down the Fleet towards home. Now if anywhere in the country is due a Desert Wheatear it has to be in the army bridging camp here, just made for them & probably got some Afghani dust in the treads of the vehicles too.
Which way to go...think like a bird and head down into the bushes and just as the sun came up over Portland Harbour I was in place. Thanks for the placing of 'Post 12' and about 5 yards away '13' because the second I found the post, I turned to the willows let out probably 3 gentle 'pishes' and immediately out pops a the Hume's Leaf Warbler calling. But what a bird, pale to the point of silver with a wacking eyestripe and big broad wing bar just total class. Throw in eye-level views against a dark background at about 8-10 feet...heaven. Sorry Steve, your's was lovely (back in 2007) but it was always against the sky..this was awesome! Less than 60 seconds and it slunk back into the bush and that was pretty much that. Wow.
And then I turn around and see the Fleet, a million Brent Geese and probably more Red Breasted Mergs than I have seen in my combined life (62 in just one area plus a ton elsewhere)...all displaying and flying around and stuff. Wonderful.
Back to the car - 28 mins - and off to work.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Skive tick

5 minutes on the way to a pool session in Newton Abbot gave me a chance to finally have a look at Stover CP, somewhere I've wanted to check out as they get Goosander once in a while.

Small lake but a handful of Tufties n a skive tick - a female Pochard - was nice. Don't see many of them in East Devon. Kingfisher was only other thing, tho good to hear a bunch of Coal Tit...haven't seen one for ages round our way since last winter.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

It didnt move for me...

Had long been trying to wangle a lunch meeting at Darts Farm to see the Red Breasted Goose and finally managed all of 14 mins before casually walking into the cafe right behind the people I was seeing.

Darts is easy for a quick walk but as I was in a hurry I drove down, amazed at the finch flocks coming off the seeds. Looking to the fields, the Brents were clearly in & its so like a zoo I didn't even bother looking till I got to the blind from where the whole flock wad visible. First quick scan and it wasn't obvious so I had to work marginally harder & half way across I found it, dozing. The only thing I can say was I found it a nice brick orange which wasn't what I had expected. I must have looked at it for all of 20 seconds before the Teal n Wigeon proved far more interesting but nothing among them. Another glance & the goose was walking, couldnt make the patterns of that bird up, should be renamed Picasso's Goose.

So a minute on te RBG, a couple on the Teal, same for the Wigeon and also on the lovely Brents which were real close. So if you do the math that left me with about 5 mins after the driving etc...what did I do with that? It was lovingly spent on the Chaffinch and Greenfinch flock but to no avail...

So why didn't a beautiful bird do anything for me? A zoo like environment? A park n tick? A ungulate of a bird? Dunno, I guess its just this gorgeous bird has been forever spoilt by crappy duck ponds for me & unfortunately it would have to be a family group in the taiga that'd change that....but do I tick it? To be honest, I'm really not bothered.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Wake up - its winter

Various family stuff left me with a whole 2 hours early afternoon birding - that's quite a treat for me. Unfortunately its late November but my birding brain hasn't figured that with the warm weather and after the wonderful autumn we have had.
What do I do with my time? Seaton Hole doesn't yield the Desert Wheatear tho a Black Red was probably a 'skive' tick....nor was there a Humes in the Holm Oak on the road.
The dunlin flock hasn't anything with them and the Axemouth church and then valley is devoid of birds save a single chiff. Refusing to give in, its Bruckland ponds where, after tracking them down, the tit flock contains....just tits.
And so the title....its regrettably all over, a few wandering winter waifs we get here and wait patiently for the spring again. What a year though we've had on the Axe, must be the best since 2007 by a mile.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


A Temminck's Stint at Colyford scrape was just out of lunch range...20 min drive both ways and the hide is a good 8 min run downhill & way more than that back up (plus I really am not into running too birds).
It's funny the local reaction to this East Devon mega - so much almost disappointment for what we all appreciate is quite a cool bird. Such are local hopes for a true mega after such a fantastic autumn. It really has been a treat this year, every morning we have thousands of wood pigeons, good numbers of thrushes, geese, goldcrests n allsorts and there is a real feeling that next movement could be the one.
All that said I am tempted for a dawn raid tomorrow.....though figuring out how to get 90 minutes to see the Red breasted Goose on the Exeter all my mates have succumed too also draws me.
Did I see anything today? Just a Sparrowhawk over the carpark at work...first for a few weeks that.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

10 minutes at best...

A quick trip over to Seaton to see a new franchisee gave me a couple of minutes to bomb round the area. Cool and grey I didn't manage to see some newly arrived Greylags, though the 12 Brents were on colyford marsh. While talking on the phone I used the time to look at Brucklands where I am convinced a leaf warbler is hiding....found the Long tailed Tits and the tristis chiff but nothing new. Finally on the rush back to the office, the 'normal' field at the Honiton junction had 6 Golden Plover with 80 Lapwing...why this field always holds these spp I will never understand.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Dorset wash-out

A 'short' planning meeting had given me high hopes for a trip back past Ferrybridge this afternoon, but that was blown out by rain and a finish that went well beyond my hoped-for 1:30 mental schedule.
3:05 & saying goodbye was just too late so no chance to visit the Brents or find a Phalarope off the Fleet. Not lucky with that office - this summer I found they were only 15 mins from where a bunch of Quail had been singing...I go up there after the work & the field had just been cut! Next year :-)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

My first lunchtime twitch

Every blog's first page seems to have to say where the idea came from...well this one is about 4 years old and stems from picking up a ringing mobile as I walked out of a was Steve (Axe Valle Birding)...  "Get in your car now...". The emphasis was on the now and after quickly saying to my boss "Umm just got to pop out to Tesco" I was on the 12 mile trek to my patch - the Axe Estuary in East Devon.
The drive was quick - following a brisk walk, not a run as some fellow locals sometimes do - & I was in a busy (10 people) Seaton hide where Karen (Wild Wild & Wandering) said "look down my scope" and there sat the UK' 4th Auduoins Gull.
I stayed for about 5 minutes ran back to the car and was back at the office within my hour break - luckily no-one noticed the lack of shopping bag - and that was the start of my lunchtime jaunts.

That makes me sound like a twitcher...not at all, a patch lister at times but genuinely a lover of cool birds and Audoins are certainly cool birds with sleepy eyes and sharp colours. To further defend that statement, take last Tuesday's pre-work rush...I hadn't been able to get to Seaton for our first White-rumped Sand on the Monday so I got clearance for an early Tuesday pass-by. Leaving my 14 year old to walk to the bus, I had 40 mins of light before having to set-off to work...would I be able to find it & not be late??
Walking out to the Tower Hide, it was worse than gloomy. Mist, light rain and a flat grey light didn't get my hopes up, and arriving at the hide to see the tide only just clearing mud really depressed me. Not a chance I thought. However a bit of luck and I found our minute Dunlin flock (normally  <20 through the winter) in the distance, one of them looked dark chest and headed but was constantly walking away. A text from Steve (who was across the river) didn't raise my confidence '8 Dunlin' but I wasnt convinced.
Having wasted 20 minutes, I felt I had to go round to the other side (5 mins drive) and still had time. So a run back to the car (notice the running away from birds theme) and as heading round when a text from Steve '2 Snow bunts at Sailing Club'... aagh, a real local scarcity - only 3 records and I had missed 2 of them due to children. Not a moments hesitation it was Snow Bunting over W-R Sandpiper anyday and I was soon heading across the shingle to enjoy 2 stunning 'em! Still think I'm a true twitcher?
A proper full-blown run back to the car (now down to between 5-8 minutes before I needed to leave Seaton) and up along the other side of the river. I was telling myself, unless I could see any small waders right close by, it was straight to work.
Stop, jump out & 2 small waders just where I had last seen them from the hide. Scope from car, run across grass and lovely views of my only White-rumped Sandpiper since I found one as a 14 year old in the days they were a real rare. Amazing - wings sticking out the back like a swift. Tell Bun & Steve & straight off to work arriving cooly at 8:29. Out of wellies & into the office.
Great 40 mins birding - and luckily for me I had no knowledge all day that I was suffering slanderous comments untill 3pm as the Sandpiper had duly vanished...but luckily back it came & my name remained untarnished, for now...