[Simon Thurgood Images] [Simon Thurgood Images]


30 August 2019

Out and About

This week in between domestic stuff, life and other such joyous things I managed to get out on few walks. A couple around Exminster Marshes, A walk from Powderham Church up the River Exe and a walk around little Holden in the woods.

While all the walks were very enjoyable not much about, probably the timing of my walk up the river didn't help as the tide was completely out and apart from Gulls, Mute Swans and the odd Oystercatcher not much to be seen, although a visit to the River Kenn Outflow did find a large number of birds with Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Oystercatcher, Greenshank, Redshank, Curlew, Cormorant, Little Egret, Mallard, Black-headed, Herring and Great-black Backed Gulls.

Around Exminster Marshes there is still plenty of work going on, still wondering if they are going to cut down some of the trees to make observing better?

Plenty of Swallows, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Starling, Magpie, Coot, log-tailed, Great and Blue Tits, Willow Warbler, Wren, Robin, Blackbird, Pied Wagtail, Wheatear and Kestrel seen over the visits.

Up on Holden did a long loop through the trees taking in both sides of the road, hadn't been here for a while and surprised by the number of dogs, must say all well behaved as their owners, there was 3 humans with about 20 dogs on leads and some running free, must be some dog walking service, anyway all happy and not causing any offence.

Saw a few birds but heard more than I saw, Raven Blue, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Wren and Crossbills. While I was trying to pin point the Crossbills I was looking up and not looking where I was going, luckily I heard a "Hiss" and I looked down to see a Adder which stopped me in my tracks, luckily I had my camera out and got a few shots off before it slipped away.

Plenty of Butterflies and Dragons about especially Painted Ladies, some very worn and others that look like they are new.

Met lots of birders out, Steph and Rob Murphy, Dave B and many more, sorry I forget names, anyway all seem happy enough.

26 August 2019

50 up!

To my surprise I managed to get to 50 species of Butterflies this year, with being away so much this year thought I would miss a few.

Went to Fontmell Down today and managed to find Adonis Blue and Silver-spotted Skipper to make the 50.

Lots of other butterflies, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Heath, Meadow Brown, Large and Small White and Common Blue and beautiful flowers in stunning scenery making it a great visit!

25 August 2019

48 up

Well with a few Clouded Yellows, I got lucky today and saw a couple of female Long-tailed Blues on Pea plants on the west side of the River Axe, one was laying eggs.

In the picture you can see an egg by its front leg.

While the females were starting to look a little tatty there was apparently a very smart male about but I was unable to locate it, big thank you to Brian and his wife who pointed me in the right direction.

13 August 2019

Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

Drove down to Cornwall for the day and overnight stay before going to the Scilly Isles for the week.

Staying overnight at the Premier Inn in Camborne, but arrived a bit early so went to RSPB Hayle where I saw a few birds, Common Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Little Egret and a assortment of Gulls. Then off to Pendeen Look out via St Ives and the coastal road B3306 to watch the Choughs that are there. After I parked up I could hear the Choughs calling making finding them very easy, I was lucky enough to see 2 quite close to the Lighthouse, they are stunning birds especially the dark ruby red beaks, also a Kestrel put on a show hunting over the steep slopes.

Early start to get the Scillonian to the Scilly's. As I am away for a week I use the services of IOS parking, I park up on the outskirts in a secure site and they taxi me in and back again at the end of the trip, it works well.

It was a bit rough and the boat lived up to its nickname "The Sick bucket" and the sound and smell of people being sick was all around, I just sat downstairs and caught up on some sleep.

Staying on the Scilly's this time in Self Catering, in the past I've tried B&B, Hotel and the pub, decided to do something different and well impressed with where I am staying and looks like its going to be good value for money!

After settling in on Wednesday and getting the supplies in I went for a walk around the Island, I walked further than planned as the sign posts here all seem to say the same place but eventually got to my destination. The plan was to take in the "Lower Moors Nature Trail", "Rosehill Nature Garden", "Holy Vale Nature Trail" and the "Higher Moors Nature trail". Saw a good range of wildlife with plenty of House Sparrows, Collard Dove, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren, Dunnock, Starling, Blue Tit, Reed Warbler, Mallard, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch and Swallows hawking over the fields. Plenty of flowers attracting insects especially Butterflies, found 10 species including one that was a new one for me this year a Clouded Yellow that just wouldn't settle for a picture.

Impressed with the good numbers of Butterflies especially around the southern part of Holy Vale Nature Trail, the flowers were just full of insects. Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Common and Holy Blue, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, Large and Small White and Gate Keeper. Not to mention all the Bees and Hoverflies!

Also saw some Dragons with Common Darter and what looked like at a distance Emperors but could have been a large Hawkers, difficult to id as they were flying on the other side of the pool.

Back in time to get ready for my first boat trip of the week at 5pm with Joe on the "Sapphire". Its a evening trip for fishing and birdwatching, we go out about 5 miles and drift for a couple of miles. Chum is used and this evening we had some good results with 6+ Wilson Storm Petrels as well as good numbers of European Storm Petrels, also Manx and Sooty Shearwaters seen. As you would expect good numbers of Herring, Lesser and Greater-black Backed Gulls, Fulmar and Sabines Gull flew by at a distance which was a bit frustrating. Gannets and a Great Skua that kept harassing the gulls around the boat looking for a easy meal.

We also saw Common Dolphins, Grey Seal and the fishing brought in a few fish and a Blue Shark that was released back to the ocean. Back to the harbour at 10pm in the dark and home for a nice cup of Tea!

Friday was not a very good weather wise, heavy rain and strong winds through the day and its a day where you find out how good your waterproofs are, my so called waterproof trousers are crap!

Still went out on the boat at 5pm, while the wind had dropped a bit but still 20 knots, the rain continued. Joe took us out to the Eastern side of the Islands where it was calmer but the sea was still lumpy and you had to hold on, a couple of watchers felt worse for wear but must admit I loved it! You cant beat being out in a rough sea especially when you have Storm petrels in touching distance of the boat, we had a steady stream of European Storm Petrels as well as several Wilsons Petrels joining, also Fulmar, Gannets, Manx Shearwaters, Great, Lesser-black Backed and Herring Gulls. We also had a visit from some Common Dolphins. Half way back the rain stopped and a fantastic sunset over the Eastern Islands.

To attract birds to the boat they start feeding the Gulls with bread almost straight away, this in turn attracts other birds. The boat acts like a Trawler with birds at the back, when they drift and "Chum" they put cut up fish into a red net bag, the fish look like they have been soaked in fish oil. the bag is put over the side and tied to the boat, fish oil is also dropped over the side to cause a slick.

The smell starts to bring in the Tubenose birds and the Fulmar don't take long to arrive, then the Storm Petrels start to arrive and work there way up the slick. They also put mealworms out to keep things like the Gulls interested to continue to attract other birds such as Gannet and Skuas.

Saturdays trip started at 11am and we were to return at 6pm, the harbour was very busy with holiday makers getting on boats to various islands around the archipelago, also the Scillonian had just come in, it being Saturday the ferry comes in twice a day so the harbour was hectic.

We left the harbour and headed south and went about 5-6 miles and drifted and chummed for a couple of hours, we were successful in attracting both European and Wilsons Storm Petrels, also Manx Shearwaters, Great Skua, Fulmars, Gannets and a good mix of Gulls to this point that had followed us out from the islands, Great and lesser-black Backed Gulls, Herring and Black-headed Gulls and a very smart Juvenile Yellow Legged Gull. from there we Steamed East and chumed, with the gulls following us we behaved like a trawler, we had plenty of European Storm Petrels, Manx and a couple of Sooty Shearwaters, couple of Great Skua constantly hassling the Gulls, Fulmars and Gannets also followed the Sapphire. When we got closer to the Islands we were also joined by Common Terns and in the Harbour Sandwich Terns flew over, also around the Islands we saw both Shags and Cormorants.

The Sea was quite lumpy and I found it very difficult to take any pictures of the Petrels as I found it almost impossible to focus on the fast moving birds, I have plenty of pictures of sea with black blurs speeding by.

8am start this Sunday, it was quite windy with 20+ knots wind so we went East and started to feed the gulls to bring other birds in, apart from Cormorant and Shags a flock of approx 20 Golden plover flew over, Herring, Great and lesser-black Backed Gulls, Kittiwake and Fulmar also joined the back of the back of the boat.

As we went out a feeding frenzy was spotted and we steamed towards it, the sea was quite lumpy making it difficult to stand but at least it was sunny and not raining. The number of birds here was in the vicinity of 1000 if you include all the Gulls, Fulmar, Manx Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwater, Gannets and Terns. These all were joined by a group of Common Dolphins.

We then steamed and chummed for a while until we came across a Juvenile Blonde headed Long tailed Skua, we had some great views down to Joe turning the boat around and going down the oil slick as the Skua was chasing the Storm Petrels, it passed the boat a couple of times giving some great opportunities for some great pictures. We stopped and drifted for a couple of hours and we managed to attract both European and Wilsons Storm Petrels, we also got lucky with a couple of sightings of Great Shearwaters that came to the back of the boat but didn't hang around. We sailed back via the south of the Islands being followed by Gulls all the way ending a great day.

Monday morning was spent on the Sea Quest which is a 30ft passenger boat with a glass bottom, Jo the skipper took us from St Marys to the Eastern Islands, she stopped the boat several times to look through the windows showing some fantastic views of Kelp, Thongweed and the very rare Sea Grass, plenty of small fish and even a Atlantic Grey Seal come to have a look. We paid a visit to many of the smaller Islands which had several groups of Grey Seals that hauled themselves up on the rocks, we were also visited by several Seals who came to people watch, saw several birds with Shag, Fulmar, Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Lesser-black Backed Gulls.

At 5pm it was time to go on the Sapphire for another evening pelagic, tonight we went south for about 6 miles before stopping and drifting, it already appears to be a quiet night for birds, even the gulls were down in numbers. While we were drifting there was only a few European Storm Petrels and no sign of Wilson Petrels. We then started to steam back when in the distance a Feeding Frenzy, when we arrived there was only about 100 birds involved, mainly Gannets and Manx Shearwaters with a pod of Common Dolphins. It quickly finished and we moved off, the sea state was quite lumpy and I went off my feet and landed on the deck, thankfully me and my camera where unhurt, we got back to St Marys in the dark and home for Tea.

Tuesday morning I went to Tresco on the Seahorse at 10am and returned at 2.15pm on the same boat. We arrived at New Grimsby Quay on the Western side of Tresco, I then walked to Old Grimsby Quay on the East Side of the island, I then walked down the coastal path on the East Side of the island giving great views of St Martins and the Eastern Islands and then into the Abbey Gardens, plenty of stunning plants here including some very attractive trees.

There is also here 100+ Red Squirrels and 10+ pairs of Golden pheasant and the males just look stunning in their colourful plumage. Stopped for a drink in the café and was amazed by the tame birds including a pair of Song Thrush and Blackbird.

While I was there had a look around the "Valhalla figurehead" Museum which is always worth a look, also there is a lot of Art and sculptures here, the gardens are a great place to walk around and are a regular fix for some culture for me. Took the "Seahorse" back to St Marys from the southern most Quay at Carn Near.

At 5pm took they last boat trip for this week at the Scilly's, its a combined Birdwatching and Fishing trip. All the usual gulls, Fulmar, Shag, Gannets, Great Skua, Manx and Sooty Shearwater, European and Wilson Storm Petrels, we also saw a wader fly-by the front and side of the boat, I did not identify the species but I was reliably informed it was a Grey Pharalope plenty of fish and 2 Blue Shark were caught and the Sharks were very quickly released back into the sea, we also saw at least 6 Blue Finned Tuna close to the boat. Home again in the dark which I loved, it gives a whole different perspective on the environment, great to see the stars and planets on show.

After a walk around the Island on Wednesday sadly it was time to leave the Islands for another year.

Staying in Self Catering was a great move, probably had the most relaxing time ever with not having to worry about anybody else, eating what and when I like has been brilliant!

Seen lots of great stuff and meet some nice people, I defiantly made the most of this week and do enjoy the Pelagic experience especially when its rough!!Big thank you to Bob Flood for the organizing and to Skipper Joe Pender for his skill in maneuvering the boat in interesting conditions!

12 August 2019

Dawlish Warren

Spent the day at the Warren, fairly quiet coming through the woods and Greenland lake until I came to the end when I came across a small flock of Linnet and a few Stonechats. One bird was so black I thought it was a Black Redstart until it turned around and you could see it was some sort of Stonechat, asked around and it came back that it was a well worn male Stonechat in moult. Never seen one so black so a new one for me!

Went on the beach and lots of small waders on the tideline with Dunlin, Turnstone and Sanderling, some looked stunning in their summer plumage. Also off shore some noisy Sandwich Terns, around the estuary mouth and on Bull Hill hundreds of Gulls with Black-headed, Herring and both Lesser and Greater-black Backed Gulls. A few Cormorants and Oystercatchers here as well.

Around the bite and in front of the hide there was Pied Wagtail, Starling, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Wheatear, Linnet, Swallow, Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Mute Swan, Redshank, Knot, Curlew, Cormorant, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Sandwich, Common and Black terns, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Black-headed, Herring and Great-black Backed Gulls, also a Peregrine Falcon put in a couple of passes while I was there.

it wasn't the highest of tides but it was enjoyable to sit in the hide and watch the birds get closer, a good range of species as well!

11 August 2019

Exminster Marshes

Did a circular walk around Exminster Marshes today and fairly quiet which I suppose you would expect for this time of year.

The work continues to make some scrapes and extend the lagoon which should make things look interesting in the winter. But are they going to sort the viewing platform out on the canal bank and are they going to trim back some of the bushes that hide the scrapes? If they are not going to do that why not put them more in the centre?

Anyway around the reserve saw plenty of Swallows and House Martins hawking for flies especially over the hedges on the back path and railway line.

Plenty of Herring and Black-headed Gulls sat on the pasture also Pheasant, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Kestrel, Cormorant, Dunnock, Wren and good numbers of Goldfinch.

At Turf there was Black-headed, Herring and Great-black Backed Gulls, Black-tailed Godwits, some in Summer plumage, Turnstone, Dunlin, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Little Egret, Redshank, Linnet and Cormorant.

Plenty of Butterflies, Dragons and a few Lizards out of the wind.

A few humans about and I was the only one looking interested in wildlife, all seemed happy enough though.

09 August 2019

All over the place

This last week in between visiting friends, family and shopping I have managed to fit a bit of bird watching in, down in the South Hams, Somerset and Topsham.

Tuesday saw me down in the South Hams and managed to spend a hour in the hide at Beesands, plenty of Gulls on the beach as was down the Torcross Line with Black-headed, Herring, Great and Lesser black-backed Gulls on the beach and in rafts on the sea.

Not that many on the Ley at Beesands, some Great crested Grebes, Moorhen, Coot, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, a few ducks with Mallard, Tufted, Gadwell and Shoveler. Around the Ley there was Magpie, Woodpigeon and a vocal Green Woodpecker. Both Swallow and House Martins Hawking over the water.

Wednesday was a early start off to Somerset, first stop was Greylake and a walk around the reed beds, plenty of Reed Warblers, a large Tit flock consisting of Blue Great and Long-tailed Tits, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Dunnock, Woodpigeon, Cettis Warbler, Magpie, Raven, Buzzard, Little Grebe, Little and Great White Egrets, Grey Heron, Moorhen, Water Rail and Herring Gull. The Reed Beds are still quite high and sure there is a few ducks hidden among them.

Next stop was Catcott lows which was very quiet with only a Grey Heron in the pools. Then off to Shapwick and walked to Decoy Hide from the top entrance. The lake here reminds me of what Stover looked like before they ruined it, covered in Yellow Lilly's, just a stunning sight, especially with Glastonbury Tower in the background.

Plenty of ducks with Gadwell, Mallard, Tufted, Pochard and a Shoveler, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Egret and a fly over Marsh Harrier. A couple of Swallows and a Sand Martin hawking over the water. Loads of Dragons, Butterflies, Bees and Flies that bite as you would expect here.

Then off for a Bacon and Sausage roll at the cafe at the Avalon centre before going to the other end of Shapwick at Ashcroft Corner. Did a circular walk from the car park going down the newish board walk and taking in a few of the new bird hides at Noah's and 70 acres. plenty of Mute Swans, Robin, Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Little Egret, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Coot, Moorhen, Wigeon, Mallard, Gadwell, Lesser black Backed and Herring Gulls, Blackbird, Raven, and a small flock of Long-tailed Tits. Didn't get to go to Ham as I ran out of time and the weather was deteriorating so off to see my Brother and his wife for Tea and Biscuits.

After doing a bit of shopping in Exeter went to Bowling Green Marsh and the bird hide. Must say how much better the atmosphere is here, it used to be full of grumpy middle and older aged men who used to think they were the "Bees and Ees"and the place belonged to them. Well today it was full of families and a few dogs, yes there was a bit of noise but even with all the windows open it didn't effect the birds one bit and it was nice to see everybody helping each other which used to be unheard of.

Plenty of Canada Gees which seems normal at this time of year, Black-tailed Godwits, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwell, Mallard, Wimbrel, Curlew, Shelduck, Mute Swan, Common Sandpiper, House Martin, Swallow, Goldfinch, Lapwing, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Woodpigeon.

Met lots of humans and all seem happy enough, long may it continue!

04 August 2019

Dunsford Meadows

While on Dartmoor today I spent some time in Dunsford Meadows.

Slow start as it was a bit cloudy but when the sun eventually came out it brought everything to life, looks like people had been about cutting the bracken down making paths.

Nice range of Butterflies, Peacock, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Holly Blue, Small White, Gate Keeper, Meadow Brown, Small-pearl Boarded Fritillary and a Brown Hairstreak flying around the top of one of the trees in the middle of the meadow, typically wouldn't settle for a photo like the one I saw at Alners Gorse.

Interestingly I haven't seen a Silver Washed Fritillary here this year, even though I have visited several times. Normally its a good place to see them?

Seen lots of humans today and as normal they leave their driving skills behind when they arrive on Dartmoor!

02 August 2019

Dawlish Warren

Everything went to plan this morning and managed to get to Dawlish Warren to see the sun come up at 5.45am which as always is quite special.

Also what was important was getting there early enough to get to the hide before being cut off by the tide, you now have to walk right up to the beach, scramble up the dune then walk back on yourself to get to the hide, iam sure the locals have worked out a short cut using the golf course but I suppose it keeps you fit!

A few birds at the back of the hide, mostly Linnet but a Reed Warbler flitting along the hedge between the reserve and the golf course.

Sat downstairs in the hide and watched the tide come in, quite a high tide at 4m so hoping for a few birds on the island, it took a little time but plenty of Terns arrived and sat down, mostly Sandwich but at least 3 Common Terns as well. Several Curlew and Whimbrel put in brief appearances, as did Redshank, Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and 4 summer plumaged Grey Plover which flew around the island.

Also Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Little Egret, Black-headed, Herring and Great-black Backed Gulls, Cormorant, Oystercatcher, Carrion Crow, Swallow, Starling, Magpie and best of all a Stone Curlew!

I saw a text put out, I think by Ivan that it was on Finger Point, I could see a group of people watching the birds in there scopes and had fun trying to id them, apart from Ivan there was Lee and Dave B amongst others. Walked over and thanks to all who pointed it out and allowed me to use their scopes. I did managed to get some distant pictures which was a bit of a result, the bird then flew off Finger Point to half way across the Bite and was still there when I left.

Lots of humans about and all happy and friendly, some I dont your names and some I have already mentioned also Dave S, Phil and Steve.

01 August 2019

Exminster and Powderham Marshes

Wednesday saw me at Exminster and today at Powderham Marshes, to those who dont know Powderham Marshes, its on the other side of the Railway Line and the entrance is behind the Swan pub. Lots of people think Powderham Marsh is next to the River Kenn by the Castle but that is the Deer Park.

Work is being carried out on Exminster Marshes to dig out more scrapes and more water areas. I know when they did this work at Bowling Green it didn't go down well as some pointed out that the islands sides were to steep and there was too much water etc etc etc! Iam no expert so I will see what happens this winter and reserve judgment on both Exminster and Bowling Green.

Back to the birds, although very little on the reserve because of the work, plenty in the air with Swift, Swallow and House Martins hawking over the hedges,trees and Canal. Also seen Wood Pigeon, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Magpie, Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Blackbird, Wren, Blue Tit and a few Canada Geese.

In and around Turf there was tame Muscovy Ducks, Mute Swan, Swallows, Black-tailed Godwits, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Shelduck, Cormorant, Black-headed and Herring Gulls.

Today at Powderham it was quite quiet, Swallows, House Martins, House Sparrows, Sedge Warblers, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Carrion Crows, Goldfinch, Great and Blue Tits, Grey Heron, 50+ Canada geese, Mallard, Pheasant and a fly over Buzzard.

No Dragons but 8 species of Butterflies seen, lots of flowers and a joy to walk around both these Reserves.

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