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29 August 2018

South Hams

On Monday I went around the Exe, walked a few miles and buggered up my knee, so yesterday was spent doing nothing which I hated! today I went down to the South Hams, first stop was East Soar to look for some Yellow Wagtails.

Because of my knee I stayed around the top fields close to where the cattle are, first field had nothing but Gulls with the cattle but the next field next to the footpath you could see plenty of Wagtails close to the cattle.

The cattle were slowly moving across the field, so I sat on the bench that overlooks "Starhole" which is also next to the cattle's water trough and sure enough after about 20 minutes the Cattle came over for a drink and to check me out. Not only the Cattle but 32 Yellow Wagtails of various ages! Also saw 6 Wheatears, Stonechat, House Sparrows, Linnet, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Swallows, House Martins, Carrion Crows, Raven and Buzzard.

Saw a few Butterflies with Wall, Small Cooper, Red Admiral, Small and Large White.

I found out when I got home that there had been 3 Dotterel West of the car park, I went East and left early, typical!

I then went to Aveton Gifford as I knew that the tide would be out so I could use the tidal road to see what was about, bit of a disappointment, not only the road was exceptionally busy but people were in the river so apart from the Gulls just a Little Egret present.

Then went over the other side of Kingsbridge to Beesands to see what was about, which was very little on the bird front, couples of Mallard, Tufted and Gadwall Ducks, Grey Heron, a few Gulls and a couple of Mute Swans.

In fact I saw more Dragonflies than birds with good views of both Southern and Migrant Hawkers as well as a couple of Emperors. Plenty of natures bounty on show as well with Blackberries and Sloths.

Then for a quick visit to Slapton Ley on my way home, plenty of Gulls with Herring, Black-headed, Lesser and Great-black Backed Gulls, flying, on the ley and around the car parks, Tufted Ducks, Mallards as well as cross farm yard Ducks, Mute Swans and Great Crested Grebes. There was probably more but didn't spend too much time here.

Good day out and pleased to be able to stretch my legs!



27 August 2018

Around the Exe

Went to the Warren again today and caught the early high tide at 8.15am.

To be honest I was a little disappointed to see hardly any birds in front of the hide, ideal height 3.6 but when I arrived just a few Oystercatchers and some Black-headed Gulls so I was a little under whelmed to say the least! As time went on things started to get busy and the numbers of Swallows started to rise and many landed on the beach in front of the hide, looked like they were after flies and bugs off the seaweed, I also noticed 4 House Martins amongst them and after looking at photos there was at least 2 Sand Martins, 1 being a juvenile. Whimbrel appeared and started calling bring 2 others from the salt marsh and they flew around for a while before disappearing up river. Linnet, Pied Wagtail and Starlings, Carrion Crows, single Sandwich Tern, Herring and Great-black Backed Gulls were all stirred up when a female Sparrowhawk took a pass at the mound in front of the hide, thankfully the tide was going out at this point so was going anyway.

On the bite plenty of Dunlin and Ringed Plover and again checked a picture and looks like some Sanderling in the middle.

Around the reserve I saw plenty of small birds around the meadows on the grass seeds with Whitethroat, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Stonechat, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Kestrel and Jackdaw.

Decided to head up the River Exe to see what I could find, first stop Cockwood Steps and the water was still too high so no mud, just some Mute Swans and Cormorants on the Wreck.

At Cockwood Harbour the water had gone leaving mud but disappointingly just Gulls. On to the River Kenn outflow, just a little mud showing and a single Redshank on show with the usual gulls and Mute Swans. In Powderham around the River Kenn plenty of Grey Herons and Little Egrets, also about 100+ ducks on the Kenn and surrounding banks, lots of Mallard but due to moult wouldn't want to say what the others were. Also Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk flying around.

Off to Topsham and the bird of the day here was Canada Geese, just everywhere! must have been 3-400 birds between Goosemoor, BGR, the Estuary and in front of the "Goat Walk". They were the only bird in Goosemoor apart from some Black-headed Gulls, must have been 100+ birds here.

At the reserve another 100+ birds also the escapee Snow Goose was here with them, also Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Grey Heron and Little Egret. A few Lapwings but that was that, a walk to the platform found a few Waders, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank and some Oystercatchers. Gulls and about 50 Canada Geese on the mud just south of the platform, the Goatwalk saw some Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank and more Canada Geese.

Decided to head home but pop back in at the Kenn out flow and Cockwood Steps to see what there now the tide had gone out. At Kenn the numbers of Gulls, Swans and Little Egrets and gone up massively, joined by Greenshanks, Redshanks, Oystercatchers and Curlew.

At Cockwood Steps lots to see and even with people out on the mud collecting bate and fishing plenty of birds with Oystercatchers, Curlews, Redshanks Great-black Backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Cormorants, Mute Swans and A Red-breasted Merganser close to the wreck.

Good day out and good to see everybody at the Warren, lots of people out walking, cycling and generally enjoying the Bank Holiday, I actually met some polite cyclists and well behaved dog owners, things are looking up!!



23 August 2018

Dawlish Warren

Went to the Warren today to catch the high tide at 5.38pm. The tide wasn't very high 3.3m but enough to push them close tot he hump.

Only saw one Tern which was a surprise but it was starting to get windy from the NE and they might have gone for shelter else where like the beach.

Did see plenty of Oystercatchers, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, redshank, Cormorants, Carrion Crow, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull and Great-black Backed Gulls.

About 45 minutes before high tide a Hobby darted by the hide a couple of times, not sure if it caught anything but looked like it was trying to get a Starling of one of the Linnets?

Also saw 2 Wheatears and the Oystercatcher with more white than black on it was back, is it "Leucistic"?



21 August 2018

Fontmell Down

Went up to Fontmell Down in Dorset to try and find some Silver-spotted Skippers. This would make 49 species of Butterflies this year which is a bit of a disappointment as hoped to be 52-55 by this time but was unable to get north in time.

Fontmell Down and surrounding areas are just stunning, the photo on the left doesn't do it justice!

When I parked up I was met by a couple of Butterfly enthusiasts who had been taking pictures and were very happy with what they had seen, "double figures" I was told with glee!

So following directions I found myself on the steep slopes with others who very kindly shouted to me to go over as the Skippers were with them. By the time I had got there it was about 12.30pm, one of the ladies said they were a lot busier earlier in the day and many had moved off down the slope.

Plenty of other Butterflies about with Adonis everywhere, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Common Blue, Brown Argos, White sp in the distance, Small Heath and Small Copper.

I had 12 sightings while I was there but some might have been the same Butterfly at a different time.

Great day, some great Butterflies and met some great people!



19 August 2018

Birdfair2018

Went to the Birdfair2018 at Rutland Water for Friday and Saturday which I enjoyed immensely, met some of the great and good such as the Urban Birder, Simon King and Mark Avery. Also good friends such as Rebecca Nelson from Shetland who had a stall selling her pictures, she with her husband Phil run the Shetland Sea Bird trips. Also locals Mike Langham who was showing his drawings and George and his wife Les Carr.

Went and spent time at the Nikon stand and got some good tips for my new camera, also went to see the "Wildfoot" stand to talk about my trip to Svalbard to see the Polar Bears next year.

There was so much to see and enjoyed going around looking at all the fantastic places I could visit if only I had the time and money to do it. Talking of money I was shocked at the cost of everything, a coffee and a muffin £7??? I nearly chocked when they said!

Still had a good trip and worth the effort.



14 August 2018

Isle of Scilly

Just returned from a six day trip to the Scilly Isles, went over on Wednesday 8th on the "Sick bucket" otherwise known as the Scillonian 111. The boat would be leaving Penzance at 9.15 am and arrive in St Marys at mid-day so thought I would leave Dawlish at 5am to give me time to get there, park up and have some breakfast before getting on board. This didn't go to plan as I couldn't find the secure park up of "IOW Parking" their directions found me in Sainsbury's carpark on the wrong side of the hedge! I could see their pink flags but took me a while to work out how to get there eventually parked up and took the shuttle to the ferry. After it got on its way I went down to the café, mistake! A child was starting to be sick and the smell was starting to start a reaction with others, I can understand why it's called the "Sick bucket" hahahaha

Back upstairs in the fresh air and looking around I was expecting to see more but just a few Gannet, Gulls, a couple of Manx Shearwaters and some Dolphins quickly came and went. Arrived at St Marys on time at 12, Disembarked and went to the "Atlantic" where I was staying for the next five nights bed and breakfast, it was a bit expensive but I enjoyed my stay, the people was lovely! Certainly would stay again. Did a bit of a walk around the Island both in land as well as the coastal paths, plenty to see but very impressed with the numbers of Butterflies about, some worn but the numbers of species was good with Speckled Wood, Small Copper, Common Blue, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Peacock, Small White and Meadow Brown.

Thursday and a quick boat trip to Tresco to look around the Abbey Gardens, Abbey and Great Pools and other parts of this beautiful island.

The Gardens are a fantastic place and you could easily lose yourself here and spend hours with the plants. Plenty of art work and sculptures such as the "The Tresco Children" Also what was a pleasant surprise were Red Squirrels which were running around as well as Golden Pheasants that had been brought into the garden.

Those who like a bit of maritime history a visit to the Valhalla Museum which was a collection of Figure heads from wrecks is worth the time. There are also a couple of Castle's on the Island for you history buffs.

The beaches are beautiful especially "Old Grimsby Qua"y why go abroad? There was supposed to be a Bairds Sandpiper here on the Island, but typically for me I missed it!

Back to St Marys to go on the first of the Pelagics, this was on the "Sapphire" skippered by Joe Pender. We went out 4 miles and drifted another 4 while we were "chumming", the sea was quite lumpy but nothing too bad.

It was a mixture of Bird Watching and Shark Fishing, the Sharks are caught and tagged then returned to the sea, this time they not only caught a couple of Blue Sharks but a Porbeagle, quite a set of teeth! We also saw a Sunfish and a few Common Dolphins. Plenty of Gulls at the back of the boat with Lesser-black Backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Yellow-legged Gull, Fulmar and Gannets. We also were lucky enough to see Wilsons and European Storm Petrels. But the real prize for me was the Shearwaters, sitting on a back of a boat with these beautiful birds flying around the boat is a fantastic experience that I can't get enough of. Plenty of Manx Shearwaters with Sooty and a first for me Great Shearwaters, stunning birds!

Friday took a boat to St Agnes and spent a lot of time on the part of the island called Gugh where they have the Lesser-black Backed Gull nesting Colony.

Also caught up with the RSPB warden who was there and talked about the Rat problem which seems to be no more with all the work gone in to eradicate them to protect the ground nesting birds also on the island such as Manx and Storm Petrels, did notice not many Waders around the Islands, just saw a solitary Oystercatcher, perhaps there is just not the mud you would find around place like the mouth of the River Exe?

Back to St Marys to go out on the first of the Scilly Pelagic Birder specials run by Bob Flood, still on the "Sapphire" skippered by Joe. The trip like last night was 5-10pm and the weather and sea state was a bit calmer, we came across several "feeding Frenzy's" with Gannets,200+ Dolphins and Shearwaters involved, really something to see up close and personal around the boat, unless you have seen it its difficult to describe it, the speed of it!

3 Cory's, 200+Great, 75+Sooty and countless Manx Shearwaters seen as well as 2 Wilsons and many European Storm Petrels, Bonxy, Fulmars, Kittiwake and all the normal gulls, we also saw 3 Grey Phalarope's on the water. After ending 10 miles out it was time to go back in and it was dark when we did, such a great trip!

Saturday was the first of an all-day starting at 11am which was to prove a difficult day weather wise with wind and rain, the boat was rolling and we ended out about 10-13 miles off Scilly, we chummed for about an hour at "Bristow's" and ended up NW of and Stones, we did a southerly anti clockwise trip around the Island. But with the difficult weather came the birds with 5 Species of Shearwater with 200+ Great, 1 Cory, 1 Balearic, 35 Sooty and 100s Manx. As well as all the Gulls there were Gannets, Bonxy, 3 Wilson and 50+ European Petrels.

Found conditions very frustrating for taking pictures as we were being bounced about a bit, cant complain as we saw some great birds, I just didn't have my sea legs, A Cory's came close to the boat, but I just couldn't get a picture, I got lots of backs of heads and parts of the boat but no bird, I do need a pic for my gallery but its just another excuse to come again!

A big well done to Jim who was at the back of the boat putting the Chum out in difficult conditions. I think he got thrown around more than me.

Sunday was an early start at 8am and the conditions were a lot calmer but so was the numbers of birds, still all the Gulls you would expect, Common Dolphins and 4 Species of Shearwaters today with 60+Great, 35+Sooty, 4 Balearic and good numbers of Manx. More Grey Phalarope, Bonxy, Gannets, Fulmar with Wilsons and 10+ European Storm Petrels at the back of the boat. Finished at 3pm today so people can get home on the Scillonian.

Monday has just been a chill out day, packed my bags and became a tourist for the day, eating Ice Cream and sitting on the beach waiting for the time to get home on the boat, had a nice journey back but very little to see out to sea.

Had such a great trip, big thank you to Joe, Bob and Jim who made the trips a pleasure to be on. Met lots of great people both on the boat and the Islands while I was walking around, better start saving up for the next trip!



03 August 2018

Sandpipers

I went to Seaton Wetlands in East Devon, reports of Wood Sandpiper here and its always a great place to take pictures of waders as you can get them in still water giving good reflections.

Had a good look around the reserve which has 5 hides as well as the River Axe, saw a wide range of birds and there was a very large number of Gulls with Black-headed, Herring and Great-black Backed Gulls of all ages. There was a report of a Yellow Legged Gull but I couldn't find it.

A few Cormorants, Little Egrets, Grey Heron, Coots, Moorhens, Mallards, Shelducks of all ages, Oystercatchers, Redshanks, Black-tailed Godwits, Curlews, Carrion Crows, Buzzard, Wood Pigeons, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Blue and Great Tit, Mute Swans, Swallows and best of all Sandpipers!

The Juvenile Wood Sandpiper was showing well from the Island Hide as well as the screen by the entrance, trouble with here is you are looking into the sun so picture taken from the Island Hide. Also counted 4 Green Sandpipers although could be more as they were flying around quite a bit and some could have been hidden on the other sides of the islands, like wise with the Common Sandpipers, saw 8 but could have been more.

Met some nice people today, a few families out with kids enjoying nature at its best!



01 August 2018

Birding around Topsham

On this grey overcast day I went to Topsham today for a walk around un aware that Spotted Redshank and Curlew Sandpiper had been seen this morning, unfortunately for me a peregrine had come through the reserve and sent everything up so I missed these two although I did think I got a sneak view of the Redshank from the platform but then lost it in the distance.

While I was in the hide the Glossy Ibis dropped in for a brief visit. Also seen were Little Egret, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Shelduck, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstone, Curlew, Godwits, Dunlin, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Chiffchaff, Goldfinch, Woodpigeon, Herring Gull and Black-headed Gull.

Good to see everybody especially Steph, Joe and the two Dave's.



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