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18 September 2018

Around the Exe

Had a great day out around the River Exe, stopped off several places and ended up at Topsham.

Saw lots of birds and found some difficult to Id. Mainly down to moulting and whether they where Juvs. Was that wader a Spotted Redshank?-No it was a very light Redshank, was that Wader a Juv Curlew Sandpiper?-No its a Dunlin and when it stuck its head out of its wing I could see, Is that a Ruff?-No!

Did find a Ruff later Iam pleased to say and many other birds too, loads of Greenshanks at Goosemoor, 45+ and moor at BGM and another 10 from the platform. Loads of Redshank, Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Curlew, Oystercatchers, little Egrets, Grey Heron, Little Grebes, Moorhens and Coots of all ages, plenty of Ducks, some still in moult such as Shoveler, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Pintail, Widgeon and Tufted Ducks.

The Usual large numbers of Canada Geese, Mute Swans, plenty of Corvides with Rook, Carrion Crow and Jackdaws seen, Magpie, Jay all seen.

A few Buzzard seen on my travels and a hunting Kestrel at Exminster Marshes.

Loads of Wood Pigeon seen 100+ crossed the Clyst while I was at the Platform, also Collard and Stock Doves seen.

Smaller Birds, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits.

Even though the wind was picking up and the odd spot of rain there was still a few Butterflies about with Spotted Wood, White sp and a Red Admiral, couple of Dragons mostly Hawkers, especially around the platform area.

Met lots of nice humans and good to talk through what was what in the bird world.



17 September 2018

Dartmoor

Went up on Dartmoor today, the weather wasn't the best so went looking for some clear area not covered in mist.

I ended up in the North West area around Meldon and the reservoir.

For some reason I've never been here before and not sure why, I have passed on several times but never stopped.

The wind was picking up and the bushes were blown out certainly an area that deserves a good look at, I walked on the Northern part above the dam and plenty of bushes full of berries, could be a good spot for winter Thrushes.

I went over the Viaduct which is part of the cycle way. Stunning views both up and down the valley.

Did also find a Tor amongst the woods, all grown over with trees but clearly a Tor just not been able to name it yet, also visited Brent Tor which is the most westerly Tor on Dartmoor and in the mist looked quite eerie.

Not that much wildlife about, plenty of Corvides both on the fields and in the air with Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Raven, Magpies, woodpigeons, small flocks of Chaffinch and Goldfinch around hedges and roads. While I was walking around Meldon Reservoir there was quite a big Tit flock of Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits.

Not that many humans about, I suppose the kids are back to school and its a wet, foggy Monday!



14 September 2018

Dawlish Warren

Went to the Warren to catch the high tide, it looked very quiet from a distance but when I arrived at the hide there was Whimbrel, Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Oystercatchers, Black-headed Gulls, Sandwich Terns and some very annoying Crows!

Around the Bite and Finger Point where Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling, Cormorants, Herring and Great-black Backed Gulls. Out on the water only Mute Swans seen, around the hide a couple of Wheatear, Swallows, Linnets and several White Wagtails.

Went out onto the point as there had been a Wryneck spotted but I couldn't find it, in fact the only bird I saw was a hunting Kestrel.

Didn't really spend much time around the rest of the reserve and only saw a Robin, Blackbird and some flyover Woodpigeon.



13 September 2018

Bit of a tour

Thought I would make the most of the good weather and get out. Also thought I would visit a couple of Reserves I hadn't been to in a while.

First stop was Labrador Bay and look for some Cirl Buntings, wasn't disappointed! 30+ easy, all very mobile and also crossing the road to the fields and back again. Lots of Juveniles/1st winters, they must have had a good breading season. Also lots of Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Robin, Great Tit, Woodpigeon and Carrion Crow.

Plenty of insects, Butterflies, Dragons and especially Wasps which were everywhere.

Then off to Yarner, I knew that all the summer birds had gone so was going to see if anything had moved in, it was very quiet, the guys from Natural England were busy sorting out the feeders for in front of the hides so nothing there, still saw Buzzard, Raven and Woodpigeon over head, heard Green Woodpecker and saw Blue Tit, Blackbird, Robin and Wren. Best of all was at the Lagoon which had opened this year, its a old reservoir which now has a hide in the corner looking out over the water.

Good views of 8 Mandarin Ducks,1 Mallard, Grey Wagtail, Swallows hawking over the water and best of all 2 Kingfishers, one was calling a lot and following the other about the edge of the water. Not sure what it was fishing for as it kept tipping the water like it was after some insects? Shame it was so far away, talking to the Warden and he said they were going to get some Rafts for the ducks and do some work on the edges to cut back some trees.

Had some time over so went up on the Moor and knocked off a couple more Tors, "Wind Tor" and "Hound Tor" which is one of two such named Tors, its also called "Great Hound Tor", it also has a great little mobile café in the carpark which I regularly frequent when Iam up on the Moor.



11 September 2018

Dartmoor

Spent today on Dartmoor out walking in some stunning scenery. Stayed away from Widdicombe area because of the fair and how busy it will be.

Went looking for wildlife and Tors and its been really interesting. Went to a new area for me, between Moretonhampstead and Drewsteignton, just north east of Butterdon Down. "Willingstone Rock" and "Pin Tor".

"Willingstone Rock" which is also called "Willistone on H" consists of one, tall granite stack of large blocks. This is on private land but easily seen from the road and its a big piece of rock!

Pin Tor is interesting because its not named on the map,( Iam using a OS Explorer Map OL28 ) Luckily the local farmer came along and was very helpful, is in an area of accessible land but they have had to padlock the gates to stop vehicles from going in. So once I climbed the gate and worked my way through the undergrowth I found the Tor, its very over grown but the top is viewable.

Then off to one of my favourite walks, along the "Hunters Path" above the River Teign close to Castle Drogo. Normally I would park up close to the Castle and walk to Fingle Bridge, have a cuppa and walk back to the car via the "Fisherman's Path" by the River Teign but was running out of time so just visited the two Tors on this path.

The "Hunters Tor" also called "Hunts Tor". There are 2 "Hunters Tors" on Dartmoor the other is close to the River Bovey and the other Tor is one of the 7 "Sharp Tors", you get some great views from here, not only over the valley but across the north of Dartmoor.

On the wildlife front not that many birds. Buzzard, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon, Blackbird and Dunnock seen, actually saw more Grey Squirrels harvesting Acorns and other fruit getting ready for winter, plenty of fruit about, Apples, Berries especially Rowen, Blackberries and other berries al waiting for the Winter Thrushes to appear.

Big thank you to a few Dartmoor locals who helped me find the first two Tors. That's another 4 Tors completed, 357 left!

Had a great day out in stunning countryside, so lucky to live here!



10 September 2018

Good days Birding!

Started the day at Dawlish Warren, got to the hide for 8am for the high tide which was 4.1 and the sun was out.

From a distance there didn't look like too many birds and with the groundsman cutting the grass on the golf course I thought it was going to be a duff morning.

But when I got to the hide and looked out I could see a good mix of birds, not high in numbers but several species, singles of Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew and Whimbrel, 3 Grey Plover, 2 of which were in summer plumage, single of Sandwich Tern, dozen of Oystercatcher, Black-headed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Little Egret and couple of annoying Carrion Crows that kept harassing the other birds.

Had several flocks of Dunlin and Ringed Plover fly around the island and hide but didn't settle close.

A 100+ mixed flock of Dunlin and Ringed Plover where in the bite and I presume it was these birds.

Also had fly overs of Mute Swans, Redshank, Cormorant and several Curlews. Plenty of Oystercatchers, Cormorants and Great-black Backed Gulls on finger point.

Several Wagtails in front of the hide and counted 4 White ones.

Behind the hide on the golf course 6 Canada Geese stood stubbornly on the fairway while the mowers were in action.

On the beech there was a small mixed flock of Dunlin and Ringed Plover and a few Swallows were hawking over the sand dunes, strangely nothing out to sea?

Around the rest of the reserve I saw Blackbird, Robin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Starling, Linnet, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Moorhen, Jackdaw and a Pheasant.

Off up the river and a stop at Cockwood Steps, not much to see with Cormorants on the wreck, Mute Swans, Black-headed Gulls and Oystercatchers on the mud just down from the steps.

Up to the Kenn outflow and nothing to see as some man was fishing off the steps but on the River Kenn viewable from the road 100+Ducks on the river, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard and looked like a few Widgeon, also Grey Heron, Mute Swans, Little Egrets and a good number of Canada Geese viewable by the lake, 6 Greenshanks flew out of the park and out onto the River Exe.

Off to Exminster Marshes and did a circular walk from the car park, it was fairly quiet and tree felling on the path to Turf didn't help. did see plenty of Gulls flying quiet high, looked like they were feeding on something, also Chiffchaff, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Starling, Grey Heron, Mute Swans and a fly over Buzzard.

Turf was very quiet, a fly over of 30+ Curlew was the only thing of note.

Decided to drive back to Dawlish via the country lanes, great scenery but nothing to see on the wildlife front.

Very enjoyable day out, good to see Steve and Alan at the Warren.



09 September 2018

Dartmoor Tor Challenge

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Not that I don't have enough challenges to do, I've set myself another one! After a bit of research on numbers and where they are, I have decided to set myself the challenge of visiting every Tor on Dartmoor. Its also a reason to get out walking even more, to get me fit again as long as my knee doesn't bite me back!

When I started to research this, I thought wrongly that everybody knew the number and the OS map would have every one on there, wrong on both counts!

Eventually after looking on the internet, the local library and talking to a very nice lady at the Dartmoor information centre at Postbridge, they had two books on sale with two different totals 152 and 365! the lady told me that locals had come forward to say the later book has still left Tors out?

On the OS map they have put a name to a group of rocks but in fact there are two Tors there, also some have got several names such as "Hucken Tor" is also called "Okel Tor" and some Tors have the same name, there are 7 "Sharp Tor".

Also some Tors are not called Tors but such names as "Branscombe loaf", "Buckland Beacon", "Button Hill" and "Cathanger Rock" but are all Tors by definition.

The "Oxford Dictionary of Earth Sciences" defines a Tor as a "mass of exposed bedrock standing abruptly above its surroundings, and typically but not exclusively developed on granite rocks".

So I will be walking around Dartmoor with my trusty new guide written by Ken Ringwood who is part of the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team based in Plymouth and I expect he would know what he is talking about.

I managed 4 Tors today Top Tor, Pil Tor, Hallow Tor and Bovey Rock. That's 4 down 361 to go!!

Also walking around the Moor Iam hopeful to see some wildlife and not much about on Saturday when I was up there, Wheatear, Carrion Crow, Buzzard, Kestrel and Stonechat.



08 September 2018

Around the Exe

Spent yesterday (Friday )walking around the Exe, with the tide and weather just right was hoping to see a wide range of birds and wasn't disappointed. There was a report of 7 Avocets around Topsham on Thursday but none seen while I was there, beautiful birds and a sign that winter is defiantly on its way!

First stop was supposed to be at Cockwood steps but the lay-bye and with people on the top I drove by, Cockwood harbour was empty of Water and birds due to the on going work being done, plenty of noise and orange jackets walking around.

On to one of my favourite places to look over the Exe, the river Kenn outflow. You have to time it right here as no matter how hard you try, if the tide hasn't gone out far enough you scare the birds as you come over the Railway Lines and they fly off, today I timed it correctly and they stayed put. Plenty of Gulls washing in the fresh water with Herring, Great-black Backed and Black-headed Gulls of all ages, Mallards, some still in moult, Little Egrets, Curlew, Red and Greenshanks, Oystercatchers, Canada geese and the usual Carrion Crows. A look into the River Kenn and round Powderham from the road found plenty of Mallards, Gadwall, Mute Swan, Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Buzzard and fly over female Sparrowhawk being harassed by what looked like Goldfinches. Plenty of Swallows hawking over the Kenn with Shelduck and Canada Geese in the lake in front of the Castle.

Parked up in a busy Powderham car park, 50+ Canada Geese in the stubble field by the church and House Martins still around the Lodge where they have been nesting this year, thought they would have gone by now?

Walking up to Turf, plenty of mud with the tide right out, Black-headed Gulls spread over the mud with the odd Herring Gull and Carrion Crow. Great-black Backed Gulls flying around to add to the mix. Oystercatchers, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwits and Redshanks on the waters edge with Mute Swans and Cormorants on the water. On the field side Goldfinch, Linnet, Pied Wagtail, Woodpigeon and Starling. Also saw a couple of Raptors with a Hobby chasing a Young Peregrine out over the Exe.

Got to Turf and sat down with a mug of Coffee by the side of the Exe and enjoyed the view, this is they way to do bird watching!

From here we could see Greenshank, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwits, Oystercatchers, Little Egret, Curlew, Black-headed, Herring, Great-black Backed gulls with what looked like at least 1 Med Gull with a distant view of Shelduck. Also on the Exe there was both Mute and Black Swans who are obviously escaped from somewhere.

Also met up with Mike Langham who was leading a group of birders who all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Back to the car for the trip to Topsham, Darts Farm was surprisingly busy, but found a place to park at the back. While it was busy with humans no birds flying about which is unusual with all the bushes, the cycle track was the same and just some Black-headed Gulls and a Black-tailed Godwit on the creek.

Goosemoor was quiet on the way through with just some Black-headed Gulls and a single Herring gull, but on the way back when the tide was coming in they was joined by Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwits and Lapwings.

Around the reserve and along the road there was Canada and Greylag Geese, Mute Swan, Pintail, Teal, Widgeon, Mallard, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Greenshank, Redshank, Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Lapwing, Coot, Moorhen, Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Blue and Great Tit with fly over Buzzard and Sparrowhawk.

From the platform Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Little Egret, Carrion Crow, Black-headed and Herring Gull.

Around at the Goatwalk the tide was still quite a distance but could see Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Egret, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Black headed and Herring Gulls.

Had a good day and met some great people and saw some great birds, slightly spoiled by a couple of Birders at the Platform, rude and ignorant is the best way to describe them! A slight bump on a otherwise good day!



05 September 2018

Ortolan Bunting

After hearing that two Ortolan Bunting had been seen on Portland on the ground and showing well I decided to go up, its a bird I've been trying to catch up with for years.

I left early Tuesday but not early enough as I met every Car, Bus and Tractor on the road adding another 30-45 minutes to my journey time. First stop was the Ops and Martin C told me they were still there and had been showing well, so after picking up directions off I went to Fancy's Farm which is at the North of the Island by the "High Angle Battery". The Farm is a small holding were members of the public can go in to feed the animals so by the time I got there was quite busy as well as walkers, dogs, runners and about 20+ birders. I could see everybody trained on to a bird with their bins, scopes and cameras and I managed 20 seconds with my bins, just saw the moustache and it was off, over the bushes and away. After looking for another couple of hours I called it a day and went off the Island. Did see lots of other birds, plenty of Swallows hawking getting ready for the trip south as were many of the other birds such as Redstarts, Wheatears, Whitethroats and Whinchat. Local Dunnock, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crows and Buzzard also on view.

At Ferry Bridge plenty of Swallows hawking with Ringed Plover, Redshank, Starling, Wheatears Little Egret, Black-headed and Herring Gulls.

Plenty of Ducks at Radipole Lake as you would expect with Mallard, Tufted, Teal and Gadwall. Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Coot, Moorhen, Black-headed, Mediterranean, Herring and Great-black Backed Gulls. Buzzard, Kestrel, Long-tailed Tits, Robin, House Sparrows and Cettis Warblers still in tune.

Plenty of Dragonflies seen today with Darters and Hawkers in good numbers, so were Butterflies that were making the most of the Autumn sun.

Back to Dawlish with the aim to come back tomorrow but earlier.

Up and out by 5am today on route to Portland, good journey and was onsite by 6.45am to join 5 other birders who were already there, we spread out and by 8am one of the growing group had found it but had flown off which had been seen by others but frustratingly not me! Sadly not relocated but it could have been anywhere, there are places fenced off and it could have been sat there quite happily all day.

Saw plenty of other great birds such as Pied Flycatchers, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, loads of Wagtails and Swallows in the sky flying around.

So off I went back home but decided to pop into Blackhole Marsh which was quite busy, plenty of birds spread about the lagoon with Black-headed, Herring and Great-black Backed Gulls, Dunlin, Redshank, Common, Green and Wood Sandpiper, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Teal and Lapwing seen on my visit.

Quick visit to Budliegh to see the Spotted Crake but after hearing from other birders in the hide that it hadn't been seen for the last 3+ hours I gave it a miss and off home for tea and cake!

While it ahs been a bit frustrating I have enjoyed this last couple of days, if it was easy it would be boring! Met lots of nice people, birders and non birders, while at Black Marsh met some local birders who helped me out when I was having some technical issues with my phone, cheers guys, I lack patience with IT!



02 September 2018

Lyme Bay Boat Trip

Went out on the "Optimist" skippered by Nigel L and the trip organised by Nigel S. The weather was good and the sea was relatively calm.

We went out about 7.5 miles and "chummed" before heading home, the trip was about three and half hours and well worth it!

On the way out we saw 2 Grey Seals, 3 Harbour Porpoise and 150+ Common Dolphins of all ages all around the boat, Dolphins never seem to do things slowly and I got plenty of pictures of half a animal but I never get tiered of seeing them.

Bird wise was a mixed bag with Turnstone, Grey and Pied Wagtails around the Harbour, Black-headed, Herring, Lesser and Greater-black Backed Gulls, Yellow Legged Gull, Kittiwake and Fulmar. Also Gannet, Cormorant and Shag.

a single Storm Petrel put in a quick show as well as about 20 Manx Shearwaters, plenty of sightings but they were flying around so difficult not to count twice.

Two Bonxie around the boat and a Artic Skua at the far end of the slick, there was another Skua which caused some discussion, some said it was a Bonxie but to me it didn't fly like one so Skua sp. Also a possible 1/2 Sooty/Balearic Shearwater seen by others flying in distance.

Another good trip with a good bunch of people.



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