Wise Birding Holidays

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Lesser Whitethroat, GND and Firecrest

Most of the day spent slogging the patch again today with good friend Andy S. An early start with some vis mig on the cliffs. Regular small flocks of Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Siskin, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Pied Wagtail and the odd Bullfinch, but still no hoped for Hawfinch! Though a high flying Great Northern Diver was my first of the autumn.
A walk round the top fields produced a late Lesser Whitethroat thanks to Andy. Just a standard looking Sylvia c. curruca and not anything from further east sadly!  
Also at least 3 Firecrest today.

Lesser Whitethroat, Otter Estuary

Lesser Whitethroat, Otter Estuary

Great Northern Diver, Budleigh Salterton

Firecrest, Otter Estuary

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Badgers and Migrant Hawker

A full day on and around the patch today in lovely weather with good friend and fellow birder Russ! I also retrieved my trail camera that had been left near Budleigh in the hope of filming some local badgers.

Highlights today included:
Linnet 100+
Skylark 50+
Wheatear 1
Firecrest 1
Peregrine 1
Kestrel 2
Cirl Bunting 3

Migrant Hawker
Common Darter
Red Admiral
Hummingbird Hawk-moth

Migrant Hawker, Otter Estuary 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Cedar Waxwing

I couldn't resist a day trip to Scilly and the island of St Agnes to see the juvenile Cedar Waxwing. Scilly is a great place and one I have very fond memories of over the years, so a great excuse to head over and the weather was fabulous.
Cedar Waxwing - St Agnes 6th October

Cedar Waxwing - St Agnes 6th October

Cedar Waxwing - St Agnes 6th October

St Agnes looking across to Gugh and St Mary's

St Warna's Cove, St Agnes - the bird remained faithful to this area feeding on the Coprosma berries
Cedar Waxwing - St Agnes 6th October

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Staying Local

I have been busy with survey work the last few days and slipping out to the patch when possible too. Highlights over the last few days have been my first Firecrest on 30th September followed by 3 different birds on the 1st October. A few Wheatears, a late-ish Sand Martin on the 2nd October and today a Merlin at Orcombe Point.

Keep slogging away!
Firecrest on the coast path today below the Golf Course

Firecrest on the coast path today below the Golf Course

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Norwegian Ringed Plover and First Firecrest of Autumn

It has been a while since my last blog post as I have been in California, but I hope to add some highlight photos from that trip soon.

Closer to home and it was great to see my first Firecrest of the autumn this afternoon. It was in the regular place on the clifftop path below the golf course.

Yesterday I visited Davidstow Airfield in Cornwall where amongst a group of Ringed Plover I found one with a red ring and a yellow flag with black letters VSV. After a little research it turns out it was ringed at Makkevika in Norway (62*30'N-06*02'E) at the Giske Ornithological Station! It was caught in a mist net at the wader ringing station on 6th September and 23 days later it is on Davidstow Airfield! Of course the other highlight at Davidstow was a lovely group of 3 Buff-breasted Sandpipers - Such great waders. 

I saw my very first Buff-breasted Sandpiper on Davidstow Airfield 25 years ago when at Plymouth Uni. I travelled by train to Bodmin Parkway and then hitched to Davidstow! Happy days.....

Colour ringed and colour flagged Ringed Plover from Norway!

Distance travelled 1,464KM

Two of the three Buff-breasted Sandpipers at Davidstow Airfield

Wing stretching Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Friday, 1 September 2017

Budleigh Goose Safari

This morning I intended to look for migrants but was somewhat distracted by geese of captive origin! At this time of year the Canada Goose flock often feeds in the stubble fields above the Otter and this morning a flock of 450+ birds were present. The main distraction this morning was finding a "small-bodied" Canada Goose in the flock, known as Cackling Goose. 

On size and plumage it is presumably a Ridgway's Cackling Goose, a Pacific species fairly common in captivity and complete with green ring! It is also the same bird seen by James Diamond on Exminster Marshes on the 18th June on the Exe and then by Matt Knott a few days ago flying over Orcombe. 

Also in the flock this morning were the Bar-headed Goose now back for it's 3rd autumn and two Greylag Geese.
Regardless of their origins, the Cackling Goose and Bar-headed Goose are both very smart looking birds!

The following subspecies of Cackling Goose are now recognised: hutchinsii (‘Richardson’s Cackling Goose’), minima (‘Ridgway’s Cackling Goose’), taverneri (‘Taverner’s Cackling Goose’) and leucopareia (‘Aleutian Cackling Goose’).

A great article on the Canada Geese by David Sibley HERE

Migrants today included:
10+ Wheatear
4+ White Wagtail
1 Yellow Wagtail - over
Meadow Pipit - 10+ over
1 Black-tailed Godwit on the estuary
Plus a small movement of Swallow & House Martin this evening and at least 1 Sand Martin.

The Cackling Goose was on the Otter Estuary this evening.....

Presumed Ridgway's Cackling Goose in with Canada Goose flock - Budleigh Salterton Top Fields

Presumed Ridgeway's Cackling Goose - Apart from the obviously small size, the short neck,
stubby bill and dark breast also suggest this subspecies

Presumed Ridgeway's Cackling Goose - The green colour ring sadly suggests captive origin

Cackling Goose illustrating the tiny size against Canada Geese

Bar-headed Goose - This bird has been associating with the flock for a week
or so now and is presumably the same bird present for the last two autumns 

Greylag Goose - one of two birds in the flock plus a feral White Goose in the background

Monday, 28 August 2017

More Yellow Wagtails and other Migrants

Despite the continued high pressure and almost no wind, the patch seemed quite birdy today. A walk around the West Cliffs in the morning and an evening walk around the East Cliffs produced the following migrant highlights.

Yellow Wagtail - 15+ East Cliffs
Tree Pipit  - 1 West Cliffs
Reed Warbler - 1 West Cliffs
Wheatear - 1 West Cliffs and 5 East Cliffs
Garden Warbler - 2 Golf Course

The number of Yellow Wagtails in Devon in recent days seems exceptional with a number of counts of in excess of 100 birds. See Steve's Blog HERE. Many of these birds are grounded as feeding flocks which seems unusual in high pressure and light winds when you would perhaps expect most to be flyovers. Long may it continue!
Green Woodpecker - Juvenile

Yellow Wagtail - one of at least 15+ birds feeding on the east cliffs

Wheatear - 2 of a group of 5 birds on the east cliffs

Swallow - 2 juveniles on the east cliffs

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Cattle Egret and Yellow Wagtails

This morning I headed up to the West Cliffs just below West Down Beacon hoping for some visible migration. Biggest surprise was a Cattle Egret at around 07.50hrs heading low west. I wonder if it was one of the Seaton birds moving or just one of many that seem to be in the country at the moment? I immediately gave a call to adjacent patch watcher Matt Knott in the hope he might connect with it but there was no further sign. Maybe it went inland? Other birds this morning included 3+ Yellow Wagtails, 2 White Wagtail, Yellowhammer and small numbers of House Martin and Swallow heading west.

Following a tip off from Doug Cullen, I decided to visit a cattle field near Ladram Bay where there  a flock of at least 30+ Yellow Wagtails were present. Great to see such a flock particularly for a species which is sadly becoming less and less common these days!
Cattle Egret - Budleigh West Cliffs

Yellow Wagtail - one of the 30+ near Ladram Bay

Yellow Wagtails - Great to see this flock feeding in close proximity to the Cattle

Yellow Wagtails - More of the flock

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Yellow Warbler, Isle of Portland

Yesterday's news of an American Yellow Warbler just 60 miles away on the Isle of Portland was totally unexpected. Despite having seen plenty in the States and in Canada, seeing one in the beloved South West was just too tempting. Within a couple of hours I was on site and watching this great bird in the lovely evening sunshine. 
The rest as they say is history. 

No great surprises that the bird appears to have moved on today. It was very vocal just before dusk and flycatching regularly. You can just hear the bird above the sound of the camera shutters on the recording below.

Great to catch up with fellow birder and friend "Edge" too. Just a shame I couldn't join him for a celebratory pudding in the Pulpit Inn. Happy Days!

Below are a few pics for the record, but if you want some real quality pics have a look on Tim White's blog HERE
American Yellow Warbler - Isle of Portland 

American Yellow Warbler - Isle of Portland
American Yellow Warbler - Isle of Portland

Portland Bird Observatory and Lighthouse

Monday, 24 July 2017

SHETLAND: Fetlar Weeks 3 & 4

Another great couple of weeks on Fetlar with too many highlights to mention. Female Phalaropes are disappearing by the day and those that are still hanging on are in heavy moult. Great to see a reasonable number of chicks and fully fledged juveniles around too. Highlight of the last few days has without doubt been seeing Orcas just metres off-shore whilst taking a stroll with the Mrs on the west side of Fetlar - simply magic!

This bull Orca was one of the highlights of my penultimate week here - Simply magic!

Atlantic Grey Seal - Orca food!

Greylag Geese - many juveniles around at present

Lapwing - Great to see so many of these breeding up here, they are fabulous looking waders

Golden Plover - a magical sound around the moorland

Edmondston's Chickweed - Endemic to the island of Unst at the Keen of Hamar NR

Juvenile Red-necked Phalarope - Fresh juvenile plumage is quite stunning

Great Skua - You are never far away from one of these bruisers

Twite - feeding flocks are now quite common

KIller Whales or Orcas - Ridiculous views from shore seen from the west side of Fetlar at Lamb Hoga

Orca family - a group of at least 5 animals appeared right beside us for the classic wow factor experience!

More Orca action

Orca - one of two large bulls