Monday 6 May 2024

Passage Waders and more GWT

Great to see some wader passage on the Otter Estuary NR yesterday morning in the drizzly conditions and a light SE wind. A very flighty mixed flock of at least 55 Dunlin, 2 Sanderling and 7 Ringed Plover were whizzing up and down the estuary. 

The Green-winged Teal showed much better on the evening of the 4th May and the first Shelduck ducklings of 2024 (9 birds) were fantastic to see. Shelduck numbers have increased considerably since LORP, so fingers crossed for many more new recruits!

Dunlin, Ringed Plover And Sanderling, Otter Estuary NR 5th May

Drake Green-winged Teal, Otter Estuary NR 4th May

Drake Green-winged Teal, Otter Estuary NR 4th May
Drake Green-winged Teal, Otter Estuary NR 4th May
Shelducks, Otter Estuary NR 4th May

The first Shelduck ducklings of 2024!

Thursday 2 May 2024

Green-winged Teal

Chuffed to find this Green-winged Teal today on the patch this afternoon! It was sleeping when I first found it and it spent most of its time on one of the islands that the Shelduck like to rest on. It seems to be the 3rd record for the Otter Estuary - Thanks to Mark Bailey for the Stats!

First Record: Dec 1970

Second Record:  Dec 1999

Third Record: May 2024

Obviously, I was very wary of the hybrid potential with ducks! However, it appears to show all the classic id features.

1 - Strong vertical white flank stripe

2 - Very little pale surround to the green face mask

3 - Lack of strong white horizontal stripe below scapulars. There is a hint of paler grey but nothing that seems too alarming.

Additional features that can help and seem to be present include a richer pinker breast colour. smoother grey and less coarsely pattern flanks and possibly a narrower, parallel-sided upper border to speculum, which is mostly orange-coloured (broader, mostly white and more wedge-shaped in Eurasian Teal).

Useful References:

My first view of the Green-winged Teal
Heads up! A square-headed look

Green-winged Teal, Otter Estuary NR

Green-winged Teal, Otter Estuary NR

Underwing of GW Teal

Upperwing showing extensive thin orange above speculum?

Rich coloured breast
Very slight paler horizontal grey line below scapulars

Eurasian Teal on the Otter Estuary, March 2024

A CR Shelduck from the Axe Estuary also on the island

Saturday 27 April 2024

Migrants finally arriving

Despite a lack of blog updates, I have been out birding pretty much every day throughout March and April staying loyal to the patch around Budleigh Salterton and the Lower Otter Restoration Project - LORP. Certainly an odd Spring with constant Northerlies and feeling cold with odd warm days and some early signs of migrants but then reverting to a slower pace. 

LORP seems to be in a "transition" stage as the salt marsh habitat slowly develops and begins to take hold. It will be interesting to see how the reedbeds cope with the saline conditions.

Summary Highlights:

Red Kite: A single bird circling above River Otter today 27th April.

Whimbrel: My first was a bird on LORP 3rd April. Then nice to have regular sightings of at least 3-4 birds on most days throughout the second half of April.

Bar-tailed Godwit: A single winter plumaged bird at the end of March and then a bird coming into summer plumage, daily since 22nd April.

Black-tailed Godwit: Very few since the incredible sight (for here at least) of 90+ birds in December 2022/January 2023 'Pre-breach." Therefore it was nice to see a passage flock of 13 birds heading north on 13th April.

Little Ringed Plover: 2 birds first seen 21st March LORP.

Great Northern Diver: A flyover at the golf course on 13th April.

Reed Warbler: First heard singing in the reedbeds at LORP on 14th April.

Sedge Warbler: One today 27th April

Lesser Whitethroat: A bird barely singing, no doubt due to cold temperatures! Calling regularly and frequenting the blackthorn hedges 26/27 April.

Garden Warbler: Not a common bird here so great to see one singing along the River Otter 27 April.

Willow Warbler: First seen 2nd April LORP.

Common Whitethroat: First seen 14th April E Devon Golf Course.

Wheatear: First seen 13th April LORP.

Swallow: First on 7th April LORP

House Martin: First seen 9th April LORP.

Sand Martin: First seen 23rd March Bicton Gardens.

Swift: First seen 21st April LORP.

Cuckoo: Singing on East Budleigh Common 27th April. Always great to hear them on the Pebbled Heaths as they are not at all common here these days!

Bar-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel on LORP

Black-tailed Godwits on passage through LORP

Great Northern Diver over Budleigh Golf Course

Drake Goosander on the River Otter

A confiding Cetti's Warbler back in March

Reed Warbler on LORP

A dapper male Wheatear at Stantyway Farm
Red Kite LORP

Tuesday 2 April 2024

Slow Spring

The Spring still seems a long way off as the dreary, grey, cold and wet weather continues! Migrants seem few and far between around the local patch. Highlights have been 2 Little Ringed Plovers, just 2-3 Willow Warblers, 3 House Martin and a couple of Swallow all heading straight through. Still yet to see my first Wheatear of 2024, but I must remind myself, it is only the 2nd April…..

Recent Nocmig highlight has been a Barn Owl (presumed male) calling over the garden during the early hours of 22 March.

Drake and female Teal, LORP Budleigh Salterton

Little Ringed Plover, LORP Budleigh Salterton

Curlew, LORP Budleigh Salterton
One of at least 2 Water Pipits, LORP Budleigh Salterton
Barn Owl 01.21hrs 22 March 2024

Thursday 21 March 2024

First Spring Migrant

Very pleased to see my first true Spring migrant of 2024 on the patch this morning with two Little Ringed Plovers on LORP just south of South Farm Road on the main river channel.  Other than that, it has been very quiet on LORP for some time now, but good to see so many Shelducks using the site. I recorded a personal site high count of 45 birds on the 17th March. A colour-ringed bird "VC" has also been on site and is one of the many birds initially ringed on the Axe Estuary - Hope to get more information on its history.

Monday 11 March 2024

Catching Up on 2024

A few photos from the last few months.....

A visit to the fantastic RSPB Greylake Reserve in Somerset on 3rd February. Helen and I visited specifically to see the very smart drake Baikal Teal and to witness the equally impressive numbers of other wildfowl and huge flocks of Lapwing!

Plus a few photos from the patch and LORP where up 2-3 Avocets were present throughout much of Jan - March and nice to see Mediterranean Gulls appearing in recent weeks too. 

Also a belated Merlin on LORP back on November 1st 2023 was a rare treat for the site!

Drake Baikal Teal, RSPB Greylake

Drake Baikal Teal, RSPB Greylake

Drake Baikal Teal, RSPB Greylake
RSPB Greylake

Huge flock of Lapwing, RSPB Greylake

Merlin - A rare treat on LORP

Avocets on LORP

Mediteranean Gull with Black-headed Gulls, LORP

Saturday 30 December 2023

Remembering Dad

I have been thinking a lot about my Dad lately, after he very sadly passed away not long before Christmas 2023.

Dad's big passions were the English language, writing, and helping others learn English through his teaching with a characteristic twist of humour! When I was little, my Dad regularly featured on radio programmes such as "Start the Week" with Richard Baker and "Woman's Hour". Dad also wrote a book, "A Day in the Life of..." focused on a number of humorous short stories aimed at helping students learn English and grammar. He studied at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities and carried on working throughout his retirement, helping teach students through a very successful English online website. I could go on as my Dad achieved so much, but modesty was another of his many qualities, despite having so much to brag about, but that simply wasn't Dad's style.

To me personally, Dad was simply the best father, both thoughtful and kind and always seeing the good in everyone. Despite him not having a huge interest in birds, he (and Mum) always encouraged me with my passion for birds as I grew up. Dad so often drove me to numerous RSPB and nature reserves, he would always be the dedicated driver on my annual 24 hour Herts county bird races with friends; and he also drove me specifically to try and see a number of rare birds. The Brill, Buckinghamshire Sea Eagle in Nov/Dec 1983 and the Holme, Norfolk Ruppell's Warbler Aug 1992 both spring to mind! On more than one occasion, he even picked me up after I became stranded as a result of me missing last trains or having failed hitch-hiking quests for my ever growing obsession to see new birds! I will always be hugely grateful for both Dad (and Mum's) encouragement and support for my passion for wildlife and so much more, which undoubtedly paved the way to begin my career with RSPB and start my own wildlife watching business.

I miss him greatly along with his characteristic infectious humour and I will ensure that my many happy memories with him and his humour, live long into the future.

Me birding with my Dad on a ferry near Isle of Skye around 1983

Thursday 26 October 2023

St Martin's, Isles of Scilly 2023

I have just returned from my usual stay on St Martin's Isles of Scilly. 
This time it was from 30 September - 23rd October and another very enjoyable stay on this beautiful island with the usual mix of weather, amazing scenery, great people and over 200 miles of walking!

The clear bird highlight for me was finding a beautiful juvenile female Pallid Harrier early on the morning of Friday 13th October! It was hunting on the heathland at the back of Middle Town Pines. Within 30 minutes of me putting out the news on the local WhatsApp group, the bird had already travelled across to St Mary's and was being seen by many other visiting birders and it also visited the island of Tresco later the same day. The following day it was seen flying south out to sea in good calm conditions. Other personal finds were far commoner and more expected with Wryneck, Common Rosefinch and Yellow-browed Warbler.

Exciting and very welcome rarities found by other visiting birders included an Arctic Warbler and Rustic Bunting and both appeared on the 11th October.

Photo highlights can be seen below. and E-Bird Trip Report:

Arctic Warbler behind Pool Green, 11th October.
Amazingly just 50M from where I found a bird in 2003!

Arctic Warbler behind Pool Green, 11th October

Arctic Warbler behind Pool Green,  11th October

Pied Flycatcher - Just one bird seen

Spotted Flycatcher - a number of individuals seen

Rustic Bunting at Perpitch, 12th October

Rustic Bunting at Perpitch, 12th October

St Lawrance's Beach looking towards Middle Town Beach

Birding with the Mrs

An unusually tame Heron at Little Arthur Farm

Common Snipe - Flocks of up to 50 birds seen

My good friend Viv Jackson

A drink in the Seven Stones Pub

Higher Town looking to Par Beach

Common Rosefinch at Perpitch, 14th and 15th October

Convulvulous Hawk Moth, Higher Town

Juvenile Pallid Harrier at Middle Town, 13th October

Juvenile female (dark iris) Pallid Harrier, 13th October

Juvenile Pallid Harrier, 13th October

Juvenile Pallid Harrier, 13th October - My first view!

Richard's Pipit at Higher Town cattle fields, 11th October

Richard's Pipit at Higher Town cattle fields, 11th October

Higher Town looking South West

Looking towards Round Island, St Helen's and Dean from Top Rock

Ruddy Turnstones - small groups on the beaches

Whimbrel - odd birds seen

Siskin - small flocks seen

Looking to the Bishop Rock and the SW Approaches from Higher Town

The Mrs in the Seven Stones Pub

The Mrs at Scilly Organic Veg Stall

The obligatory St Martin's Selfie

Looking towards White Island

Ring Ouzel - 1 of 2 birds seen

Ring Ouzel - 1 of 2 birds seen

Common Whitethroat at the Cricket Pitch

Sunset from the Karma Hotel Garden

Juvenile Pallid Harrier

Juvenile Pallid Harrier

Juvenile Pallid Harrier

Sunset looking across to Tean and Tresco