Thursday, 1 September 2022

Curlew Sandpipers

Absolutely made up to find 3 beautiful juvenile Curlew Sandpipers on the Otter Estuary this evening. Only the second time I have seen Curlew Sandpiper on the patch and that was back in September 2013 and was one bird!

Other recent patch birds have included good numbers of Yellow Wagtails on the top fields, including quite a striking grey plumaged bird, that made me look twice! Not heard to call. I was also gutted to find one of the Yellow Wagtails had become trapped in the excessive netting being used on the farmland! Despite failing to release it yesterday as it vanished within the huge maze of netting, I returned this morning and was chuffed to find it again. I was very relieved to finally release it successfully. and it flew off strongly calling.

Also good numbers of Swallows and Martins feeding around the top fields. A couple of Hobby have also been a nice treat and a species I see surprisingly infrequently on the patch.

Two juvenile Curlew Sandpipers

Three juvenile Curlew Sandpipers

Grey-looking Yellow Wagtail

Excessive netting on South Farm

Juvenile House Martin

Saturday, 12 March 2022

Ring-necked Duck & Water Pipits

I have been away for the month of February leading Wise Birding tours in California and Minnesota. These days I tend to try and keep this blog for just local wildlife sightings, but as the Canada Lynx encounter we enjoyed in Minnesota was pretty exceptional, I thought I would share the video here. As you will see, it was an amazing encounter and one which will never be forgotten!

Back in Devon, I was very pleased to find a drake Ring-necked Duck on Bicton Lake, East Budleigh during the early evening of 8th March. I presume it was one of the two drakes that friend Matt Knott found at nearby Blackhill Quarry on the 20th Feb whilst I was in the US, so not a true “pure find" for me, but very nice on the doorstep nonetheless! 

It seems the two birds were last reported from Black Hill Quarry on the 24th Feb. Then a drake appeared at Bowling Green on the 5th March and was present there again on the 9th March. I (and others) have visited Bicton Lake a few times since, but the bird was only present on the evening of the 8th March. Who knows if it is the BGM bird or if it is the other drake that has simply been hiding elsewhere?

Other than the duck excitement, LORP continues to look good and I had a count of 12 Water Pipits there on the 5th March. This is now the 3rd consecutive winter that I have had double counts of Water Pipit here with similar flock sizes in Dec 2019 and Dec 2020. See HERE and HERE

Drake Ring-necked Duck Bicton Lake, East Budleigh

Sunday, 16 January 2022

Glossy Ibis

During the late autumn / winter there has been a national influx of Glossy Ibis records. Records have ranged from the Isles of Scilly to Scotland and during the last couple of weeks at least, it has included a number of birds in Devon. As a result, I have been keeping a close eye on the new Lower Otter Restoration area which is perfect feeding habitat for the species. I wasn't the lucky one today, but thanks goes to Laurie Allnat who found nine birds late this afternoon feeding in the newly restored area just north of South Farm Road. 

It is certainly not the first time, the Otter Valley has hosted Glossy Ibis. Personally this is my third sighting of birds on the patch (though there have been other sightings pre-2010), following a bird I found in Jan 2014 with Doug Cullen that soon increased to two birds and then of course there was the memorable flock of 20 birds in September 2010!

Always a great bird to see and seemingly a species that will become more common in the future and all the better for being on the local patch!

The nine Glossy Ibis on the Lower Otter Restoration area

Eight of the nine Glossy Ibis when spooked by a low flying helicopter 

Friday, 7 January 2022

Local Birding

The last few days have seen the year list slowly creep up since New Year's Day. Highlights included a nice selection with Spoonbill (Mudbank Lane 5th Jan), Dartford Warbler, Brambling (5 birds Hayes Lane 5th Jan), 4 Egyptian Geese (LORP 4th Jan) and a surprise Lesser Redpoll on the patch today. Also seen today were three beautiful Roe Deer feeding around the recently removed Blackthorn hedge; two females and a young Stag.

Female Roe Deer

Female Brambling

Saturday, 1 January 2022

New Year's Day Local Listing 2022

After many years of always trying to crack the magic 100 species on New Year's Day but never quite making it, today me and the Mrs tried a different strategy just to see how many species we could tally by walking from home. This meant ignoring the Exe Estuary, so we were sure to see fewer species, but in the end after a miserable, grey, gloomy, slightly damp and stupidly mild day we managed a quite respectable 80 species. 

We walked 15 miles and concentrated on the Otter Estuary and River Otter, the coast and the East Devon Commons. Highlights of the day included Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter, Goosander, Cirl Bunting, Green Sandpiper and Woodcock. As always, there were many frustrating omissions that included Bullfinch, Fieldfare, Dipper, Sparrowhawk, Jay and Dunlin! There's always next year......

Happy New Year!

Friday, 31 December 2021

St Martin's, Isles of Scilly Take 2

 A short belated photo highlights post from my second autumn visit to St Martin's where I spent 23rd - 30th October looking for rarities. It was a quiet week with a Richard's Pipit being my best find. However, as always it was great to be back on my favourite island looking for rare and scarce birds and anticipating what might be lurking in the next bit of habitat!

Richard's Pipit, St Martin's 26th October
Richard's Pipit, St Martin's 26th October

Richard's Pipit, St Martin's 26th October

A late Spotted Flycatcher by the Cricket Pitch Elms,  28th October

Siskin were literally everywhere with large movements overhead daily

Red-breasted Flycatcher - A poser found by Mark Telfer on 29th October

Red-breasted Flycatcher, behind the community Hall

Red-breasted Flycatcher, behind the community Hall
Red-breasted Flycatcher, behind the community Hall
Lesser White-toothed Shrew - This animal seemed to be suffering with a large tick on the side of its head

A migrant Lapwing at the east end of the island

Pale-bellied Brent Geese (incl. 2 Juvs) at Higher Town Beach

Meadow Pipit, Little Arthur Farm

Olive-backed Pipit, St Mary's - Seen at Old Town on my way to the airport on my final day

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Greater White-fronted Geese, Otter Valley

There was a stiff east wind blowing this morning and I woke to news of a national movement of wild geese with White-fronted and Pink-footed Geese being seen in various parts of Devon, both of which are rare species here. So, I knew it was worth a special effort to check the Otter Valley this morning. This area is currently undergoing a big restoration project and the landscape is changing drastically. One of the key aims of the project is to create more inter-tidal habitat for birds to compensate for losses in the Exe Estuary due to "coastal squeeze."

Literally, as I arrived on site this morning a text from local friend Dave White confirmed I should have arrived earlier, as he had just found 19 European (or Russian) White-fronted Geese! A single bird would be noteworthy, but 19 birds!! Within a few minutes I was very happy to be watching these wonderful geese, a mix of adults and juveniles and a fantastic record for the Otter Valley. 

However, the story doesn't end there! Later in the day the flock size increased to an incredible 34 birds thanks to Clive and Liz from Sidmouth. All in all, a fantastic day on the patch and an exciting time as the Lower Otter Restoration Project develops further.

Checking Devon Birds Reports and thanks to Kev Rylands, the last White-fronted Goose flock involving 20-30 birds was in January 2002 when a flock of 23 birds was present at Exminster Marshes and 30 birds flew over Colyton in 2005 (Gavin Haig). However, it seems you have to go back to 1994 to find a flock that is closer to 34 birds, when there was a flock of 33 birds at the Tamar Lakes. Other than that you need to go back to 1982!

Amazingly, the River Otter area recorded and incredible 200 birds in January 1963!

Saturday, 23 October 2021

St Martin's, Isles of Scilly Take 1

Well after a busy Summer of work, I thought it was about time to re-instate the blog!
Below are some of the highlights of another wonderful stay on our favourite island of St Martin's, Isles of Scilly. We clocked up the miles on foot, absorbed the fabulous scenery, consumed some great food and enjoyed a good run of rarity finding too!                                                                                                                                                                      
Dates: 25 September - 14 October 2021
Miles Walked: 195 miles
Red-backed Shrike: An adult female frequented the camp site from 25 Sep - 5 Oct. Initially seen by Viv Jackson (without bins) as a Shrike sp on 24th.
Western Bonelli's Warbler: First heard calling on the morning of 26 Sep and then seen well. 
Bird stayed for at least 3-4 days.
Glossy Ibis: Picked up in flight over Middle Town on the morning of 27 Sep and seen by St Mary's birders later in the day.
Common Rosefinch: Found in finch flock near Cricket Pitch late pm on 27 Sep.
Red-breasted Flycatcher: Found in the Middle Town Pines on the morning of 3 October.
Woodchat Shrike: Found late afternoon on 4 October at Little Arthur Farm. Bird was very mobile & elusive and considered to be a new arrival and was not seen subsequently.
Radde's Warbler: First heard calling late afternoon on 9 October, otherwise I would have walked past it! A visiting birder managed to "hear" it with me just after I found it but he had to make a dash for the boat so didn't see it! The bird finally showed well for me and Viv during the early evening but it was sadly not seen the next day. The bird I found in 2020 on 14 Oct at Little Arthur Farm was similar in that I found it late afternoon and it disappeared overnight. However, there is so much suitable habitat on St Martin's for a Radde's Warbler that a bird only has to move a short distance and it is likely to never be seen again!
Little Bunting: Seen 11 Oct after being found by visiting birders on 10 Oct.

Western Bonelli's Warbler, Middle Town Pines St Martin's - Picked up on call on the morning of Sep 26th

Western Bonelli's Warbler, Middle Town Pines St Martin's

Western Bonelli's Warbler, Middle Town Pines St Martin's

Western Bonelli's Warbler, luminous retrices! Middle Town Pines St Martin's

No debate as to whether the bird was an Eastern or Western Bonelli's Warbler
 as it was calling frequently the morning we found it

Glossy Ibis, Middle Town St Martin's with St Mary's Mast in the background - Found flying west on the morning of the 27th Sep
and later seen by birders on St Mary's

Gannet feeding frenzy north of St Martin's during a rainbow

Grey Seal, St Martin's

The Mrs scanning for Cetaceans near the Day Mark, St Martin's - Harbour Porpoise were regular amongst the feeding Gannet flocks

The Day Mark, St Martin's

Some of the flock of 14 Crossbills seen on 13 Oct at Lower Town, St Martin's

A very tame juvenile Kestrel at Higher Town, St Martin's

Little Bunting, Higher Town St Martin's

Lesser Whitethroat, Middle Town Pines, St Martin's

Lesser Whitethroat, Lower Town, St Martin's

Lesser Whitethroat, Lower Town, St Martin's

Lower Town, St Martin's

Chapel Down and the Day Mark, St Martin's

Pied Flycatcher, Middle Town Pines, St Martin's

Common Redstart, Perseil, St Martin's

Reed Warbler, Seven Stones, St Martin's

Red-breasted Flycatcher found on the morning of 3 Oct, Middle Town Pines, St Martin's

Red-breasted Flycatcher, Middle Town Pines, St Martin's

Common Rosefinch, found at Higher Town Cricket Pitch on 27 Sep, St Martin's

Speckled Wood, St Martin's - The subspecies found on the Isles of Scilly, has orange-brown rather than cream markings. 

White Island north of St Martin's

The Mrs Birthday!

Date night at Little Arthur Cafe

Radde's Warbler found on 9 Oct, Middle Town, St Martin's

Radde's Warbler, Middle Town, St Martin's

Radde's Warbler, MiddleTown, St Martin's

Adult Female Red-backed Shrike, Middle Town, St Martin's

Adult Female Red-backed Shrike, Middle Town, St Martin's

Adult Female Red-backed Shrike, Middle Town, St Martin's

Snow Bunting - One of 4 birds at the Day Mark, St Martin's

Tree Pipit, Middle Town, St Martin's

Tree Pipit, Middle Town, St Martin's

The Mrs at Lower Town, St Martin's

St Martin's Selfie!

Oystercatchers and Sanderling, Lawrance's Bay, St Martin's

Water Rail, Little Arthur Farm, St Martin's

Wheatear, north coast St Martin's

Whinchat, Middle Town, St Martin's

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike found on 4 Oct, Little Arthur Farm, St Martin's

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike, Little Arthur Farm, St Martin's

Sunset looking South West from Higher Town, St Martin's

Rainbow looking north, St Martin's

Colliford Lake from the Skybus

The Exe Estuary from the Skybus