Thursday, 3 May 2012

Not my turn today

Early up this morning after hearing rain at 5:15 and after making the kids lunches I crept out. First stop was farm gate - no stilts on Colyford and then down towards the river. The only place I stopped was at the Tram shed because I live in hope of repeating the Axes only Kentish Plover that graced this piece of hard sand. A Ringo and 4 Dunlin had me actually try an visualise a KP over on the sand. I must have looked 2 or 3 times just believing it should have been there but it didn't magically appear. So off to Beer Head and to my surprise an empty parking bay - probably because it had started to rain and didn't stop for the next hour. No birds save a female Redstart right as I was getting back to the car (sorry Honiton Ian) and I turned up at work very wet and cold. And the point of the story... Having had a few texts with Steve, one telling him to go find a KP and the other to start playing Golden Oriole tapes a blessed female Kentish showed up for a few minutes...on the Axe, our patch. I knew it, but my day will come.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Drive-by shooting

Unfortunately I can't add a photo of my mates digi-ing away with frozen fingers this morning but I think the time for a scope with in-built USB port and internal camera has come.
The event? A lovely (cos it is wild) sub-adult Crane feeding in a reedy bend of the Axe. Total patch blocker (not that I really care but they are a niggle) lifted and a good way to start the week!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Been a long time a comin...

There are some birds that have a real curiosity appeal to me and some that have none. I would think of any excuse to travel via a Rough-leg or shrike but I have been within a shout of the Hampshire Junco a couple of times and it just hasn't drawn me in.
Well watching the photos of the Gwent Yellowthroat turn from a first winter almost into a spring male has been causing me to look for the chance to swing by. Throw in having to actually maybe find it and it fitting a behavioural hole between gropper and I'm not sure what & I was up for it with the right space in the diary.
So a late morning M4 meeting gave me an hour, plus the last day of the March heat wave gave me the hurry-up. I was planning. My only failing was try as I might I couldn't sway Steve (although we had a agreed this was worth an off-patch trip) so it was print out the very helpful directions and off I went (this was on the way back...).

Sun in Devon turned to low cloud at Bristol... Might it be too cold before I had to leave by 10? But things quickly turned for the good, easy parking, close to the motorway (if I was late) and a couple walking down the hill who told me there was a young lad watching it. Thank goodness as I hadn't fancied searching a fair swathe of bracken all alone.
Up the hill and all too easy there it was, a beautiful little bird- bright as anything and making me realise how amazing a Point Pelee fall must be. I had seen a few North American warblers in California many many years ago and it make me realise however pretty Sedge and Whitethroat are, they really do play a poor second fiddle. What was more amazing was its behaviour, it would just vanish into thin air and the reappear in exactly the same place 5 minutes later. I'm reasonable at being quiet and following skulkers but I can only think this this bird must have just sat and had a kip because it just stopped, vanished and then started off again.
Good also to see its plumage developing, this bird is going to be gorgeous in about 10 days,you can see the pin feathers round it's mask- its gonna be a stunner.
So that was my first yank passerine and a twitch shot ( ala Karen) of this :-)

After that just lots of plastic Red Kites and a lot of miles but what a lovely drive-by bird.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Various observations

It's been a while an not for the lack of trying, so where do I start?
Let's begin with a techno bit (!) not a common topic on Devon bird blogs I know but it's worth saying...I couldt care less about the apple-Microsoft argument because I use both a lot but I have to tell you that htc is a way better phone than this I-whatever it is that I have just moved to. Sorry had to get that off my chest - but it is and that's from someone who wishes smart phones hadn't been invented. My old phone could be dropped in a bucket of water and survive but then I had to get a htc then now I have this thing a year later. Hands down winner there & that's not just about how hard it is to update my blog from it.

Second comment, that crane project is such a waste of money it's not true. I passed by on the way back from Bristol and looked an looked across flooded meadows through wonderful flocks of wigeon, teal and shovelers but no sign of any stately cranes amongst them. Giving up I was bailing out when I had a last look over a bund to see a glorified flock of turkeys standing round next to a feeder. Pathetic, so much so I couldn't even be bothered to check which was the wild one or take a photo. That bad. Where are they gonna nest? Why? As I said to Steve I'd rather fund ruddy duck eradication than that project!

Goodness, any good news James? Well I have been all over in the past month and managed a couple of ticks - a trip to London where I didn't see a parakeet and a trip to Belfast where our franchisee has a pair of bins and about 20 black guillemots across the road. LOVE this bird. Last observation... How much bigger the silver winter plum birds look vs the black summer ones. Optical illusions n all that.

I promise...there are about half a dozen Black Guillis in this picture & they aint that far away either!

Purple Sand and nice Eiders were work ticks though trying to beat my 'Sand Martin on the way to work' record right now :-)

Anyway now I've figured this phone-thing out I might be back soon...

Friday, 10 February 2012

It would have been rude not too

20 min drive, 20 mins there and then 20 mins back made it a perfect lunch twitch to visit one of my all time favorites, a Yellow-browed Warbler that's currently in residence near Chard.
Nearly didn't find the place....used my nouse "where would a really posh Somerset village stick its sewage works?" I one round the village green or shop knew so I took the road heading down the stream valley far away from all the lovely Taunton lawyer abodes. Just about giving up I was saved by that welcome sight, a birder seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Happy days.
I stop look at what he was watching, a small green double wingbarred bird and walk over to say hi..."that's not it" he shared carefully referring to the Goldcrest, oh lord do I look like a dude birder I thought! And then he kindly showed me the sewage beds and an exquisite well marked YBW. Don't u just love them? If they replaced chiffs I still wouldnt get sick of them, bit like autumn willow warblers - cute as can be.
Saw one clear cold tristis type & another that could have easily been but also had lovely views of Grey Wags, Goldcrest and even the Robins and Wrens looked bright and beatiful in the sunshine. Huh...yes I was there yesterday, not today in the gloom!
If you are local, go see this gem...not often you get to enjoy open views looking down on one hopping about on concrete rather than upwards against the sky, I know I'm going back!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Back on the road again

A 600 mile circuit held great prospects for a few good birds. Had felt confident to find a couple of slots within the two days but, as all too often, work got in the way and my bins didnt even emerge till the second day.
A night trip across from Devon to Essex was beautiful with a rising moon but was spoilt by a lack of Barn Owls on Salisbury Plain (i have seen up to 5 some nights) and by spurs winning on the radio.
Nothing in Essex nor Suffolk even though i must have been within spitting distance of the Waxwings in Ipswich - doubt they will make them onto my work list this winter then having been there the past 2 years.
Sleeping in Cambridge I had been wishing for a swing north towards Rough-leg territory but not to be. All i had to console was a flock of grey geese which had my hopes up, but as i went 360 round the next roundabout to have a quick look and i knew what they would be - next to Huntingdon race course? Yup Greylags. 2012 wasnt looking good but a bit further - less than 2 miles from my destination and with 20 minutes to spare i came across this place?
..Stanwick lakes. Ever heard of them? Nope neither had I but it was a string of gravel pits and as with all of these places anywhere in the country outside of Devon, they were packed with duck! Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall and a bunch of lovely Goldeneye...what a bird - i can never make up my mind if I prefer the male or the duck...both super cool.
Work then and driving again but with a choice...I had an hour of daylight so where to spend it....3 choices of about the same drive time - Oxford to Newbury then try and find the Short eared owls on Salisbury Plain (gona be tough but nice birds, winter evening etc.). Second would be to go straight thru Newbury and twitch this Junco and come home throgh Dorset but to be honest who really wants to travel 2 hours to a stake out. Then tick an ,albeit quite cute, finch that would probably hop up on a log and hop back down again. Not my scene, dont think there are even any Brambling to make it tempting. So my final choice...even though it hadnt been seen for 2 days, it was going to to drive towards Bristol and try for the Yellowlegs that was 5 minutes off the M5 near Taunton...risky, tide dependent etc...
Onto the Avon bridge & i tell myself, low tide & i dont go. Bugger i dont think i have ever seen the tide that low!!! But of course the temptation was too great, Birdguides still didnt have it reports but i had to have a go, so off i turn and figure out where to go.
Got lucky and found a road exactly to the creek, was my luck swinging - but which bank? I chose south and promptly saw the only birders on the other side looking away from me. Hmmm...
Anyway, lovely saltmarsh, beautiful winter evening and not a soul, my type of place and potential twitch.

But no bird!!! I walk out to the pond, look at the silhouettes of Redshank out in the Severn and realise i wasnt gonna be lucky. I did doubt it had gone, why should it so on the way back i check the last bend i hadnt been able to view and there with a few Redshank was what i was sure would turn out to the Lesser Yellowlegs. A bit a fieldcraft (hard when Redshank are involved) and i eventually get reasonable views of this very nice bird, a Wood Sandpiper crossed with a shank & easy to pick out. Cool, quite fancy going back for another look with a scope though.

So first trip of the year and off we go again!