Friday, 19 December 2014

Bunting Diversity Continues!

This afternoon I checked an area which has had up to three Cirl Buntings wintering in recent years which is significant in this part of Devon. Soon after arriving, I heard the distinctive tsip call of a Cirl Bunting and located two females, but after searching the nearby wider habitat I was amazed to count a minimum of 11 birds in one single group! Bizarrely, for no apparent reason shortly after finding the flock, five of the birds flew off high to the east and I lost them to view. I don't know when the last double figure counts of cirl buntings in East Devon was? Guess it is quite a few years?

There has been a migrant bird in Dorset in recent days at West Bexington, but I am not aware of any others? I look forward to seeing if the flock stays in the area. Be great to see them breeding in this part of Devon again......

Three of the eleven cirl buntings

Five of the eleven cirl buntings

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Female American Wigeons on the Gannel Estuary, Cornwall

Yesterday, I had some bird survey work to do in Cornwall and finished a little earlier than I thought, so decided to head to the Gannel Estuary near Newquay where two female American Wigeons have been present since at least late November. I was pretty keen to see these birds as I have limited experience of female American Wigeons and I always wondered just how many female birds get overlooked in the UK, so to have two on one estuary is pretty impressive. On arrival, I picked up one bird straight away and with a careful scan, the second less obvious bird with a darker head was also found without too much trouble. The beauty of this site, is the Eurasian Wigeon flock seems incredibly small (only around 70 birds) therefore making things much easier!

It was great to study these birds at quite close quarters and get a feel for their plumage. Interestingly, it was the rich chestnut (almost orange) flank colour that seemed to be the easiest way of picking the birds out amongst the flock. The cold smoky grey, dark flecked head was also prominent on one bird. Neither bird seemed to show black bill base line that "if" present is meant to be diagnostic for American, but absence of this feature is also not uncommon. Of course, the underwing is the "killer feature" for this species and it was also the best weather to see the feature i.e. dull light and I got lucky with some photos as below!

Well worth a look if you are in the area and well done to local birder Steve Rowe, who I believe found them.....

Two female American Wigeons both showing off their diagnostic brilliant white axillaries (armpit) compared to the greyer axillaries of the female Eurasian Wigeon (bottom right)

Two female American Wigeons facing each other at either end of the photo. Showing subtly different head shape (higher forehead) to nearby Eurasians

Female American Wigeon (the more subtle of the two)

Female American Wigeon (the most striking of the two) with Eurasian Wigeon
Male Eurasian and Female American Wigeons

Two female American Wigeons
Spot the Yank?

Monday, 8 December 2014

More Buntings

Had another look for the Lapland Bunting today in a different area and had a shock in finding a different bunting - Corn Bunting! The bird was very tricky to see and I only found it due to it calling but very difficult in the wind and with the noisy Skylarks. Seems to be the first record in Devon since 2010? I have always hoped to find one near Budleigh as they have bred historically. Hopefully we can encourage it to stick around as I am hoping to see the farmer tomorrow......

Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting and Skylark

Corn Bunting and Skylark

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Lapland Bunting

A lovely calm and sunny day today, perfect for checking the sea, so I looked off Otterton Sewage Works where 3 Great Northern Divers, 1 Red-throated Diver and 6+ Guillemot were on the sea. However, highlight of the day was a late afternoon walk around the top fields with the Mrs. As expected I disturbed a few Skylarks and the odd Meadow Pipit and then a coastguard helicopter flew low overhead and flushed a larger group of Skylark ahead of me. As I scanned the flock in the sky I could see a smaller passerine in with them that looked like a bunting but they all flew off and I was cursing!

However, with a little patience the flock returned and the bunting was still in with the flock but remained silent. The light was not great to see much detail, so I grabbed a few SLR shots before the flock finally settled back in the stubble and my suspicions proved right as a chestnut wing panel and strong face pattern was clearly visible from the back of my camera. Result! My 4th Lapland Bunting for the patch after at least two birds during the invasion autumn of 2010 and a single bird in Nov 2011. I saw the bird again in flight and heard it call, but very quietly for a Lapland with a subtle mini machine gun trill followed by the odd tee-uu note, but very quiet amongst the Skylark.
A good day on the patch!

Lapland Bunting

Lapland Bunting

Lapland Bunting

Lapland Bunting

Lapland Bunting

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Spot the Purple Sand

Had only my second Purple Sandpiper on the patch yesterday, the first being on 12th November 2013. The bird was on the rocks near Otter Ledge (same area as last year). To be fair they are probably more regular in Budleigh, but they are easily hidden on the rocks and often in an inaccessible spot where you cannot see them!
Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone

Monday, 1 December 2014

More Ducks....

A late afternoon visit to the scrapes this afternoon was definitely worthwhile, despite the dreary grey sky, as I finally connected with the female Red-crested Pochard that was first seen on 16th November but until today, had only been seen very briefly on two previous occasions. Really not sure where it is hiding in between its visits to the scrapes - maybe Bicton Lake??

The Teal x Wigeon hybrid was also present in with the Eurasian Wigeon flock and interesting to see its wing pattern - the first time I have managed to get a photo of it in flight.

Female Red-crested Pochard

Teal x wgeon hybrid

Sunday, 30 November 2014

It has been a while!

It has been a while since I posted a cake on here, so in honour of our good friend Mr Stanbury visiting us this weekend, I baked my latest signature cake! - a fine pure chocolate number complete with chocolate ganache.

On the birding front, not much to report other than a good count of 15 Black-tailed Godwit on the Otter scrapes yesterday, 3 redhead Goosander and a Mink on the river. Perhaps of most interest was the returning Teal x Wigeon hybrid which was present this evening on the scrapes with 230+ Eurasian Wigeon.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Great Grey Shrike

Got lucky for the second year in a row with a Great Grey Shrike on the local Commons this evening.
Interestingly, it was about 100 metres from the tree I found it in last year, but just three days earlier! Presumably a returning bird?
Found the bird with the Mrs at 17.00hrs (hence the dodgy pic!) after having watched a very nice male Merlin.

Great Grey Shrike - Colaton Raleigh Common

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Firecrests - Don't you just love them!

It's never a dull day when you see a Firecrest and there seem to be good numbers around the local patch at the moment. I have certainly seen at least 6-7 different birds over the last couple of days including this very obliging bird yesterday on Jubilee Green just a short stroll from home - Lovely!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

YBW - Patch Tick!

Yesterday I found myself a much overdue Yellow-browed Warbler on the patch. It is quite an interesting bird as when I first found it, the bird only called twice and it seemed to be giving a seemingly untypical inornatus call - quite short and subdued compared to the more typical powerful and drawn out call that I am familiar with. I only saw it briefly and it didn't seem the brightest YBW I had ever seen, though I was very conscious of the poor light. The last couple of days here have been very misty and murky on the coast and the light has been terrible! Thanks must go to local birder Matt Knott, who re-found the bird with me later in the afternoon. The bird then appeared to show dark legs and be quite dusky below, possibly showing some similarity to Hume's Leaf Warbler, though both wing bars did appear to be bright and obvious. The weak and short call was niggling me as well as the overall drabness of the bird so I was keen to see it first thing today.

This morning the bird gave a burst of 2-3 minutes of the more classic powerful drawn out "sooo-eet" call and so re-assured me it was just a standard YBW. It never gave great views, but I managed a few photos below. 

Interestingly, the bird does seem to show dark legs and the bill did still appear mostly dark (though "blown up" there is significant pale base to lower mandible) the supercilium doesn't appear that prominent before the eye and it appears quite dusky below. No doubting the prominence of the two wing bars though and the dark margins that enhances them. 
Certainly not the brightest YBW I have ever seen(!), but all in all, a great bird to have on the patch and all good learning.

Yellow-browed Warbler, West Cliffs, Budleigh

Firecrest, West Cliffs Budleigh