Sunday, 14 January 2018

Hawfinches on Patch

Finally! Steve Waite had a Hawfinch in Musbury near the church a few days back and Sue Murphy had 2 the following day so I was hopeful of finally seeing one on patch. I popped up this afternoon and had a couple in the churchyard but then another 4 flew overhead calling. It was nice to finally hear their call other than on recordings; I never did convincingly hear the Shute birds. The most I saw at any one time was 8 but there must be a few more there; they were very mobile and covering a wide area and there were so many calls. 1 posed (albeit a bit distantly) for a pic in the churchyard but this turned out to be just outside of the patch boundary (cheers for the map Steve). The images have had a bit of shadow and highlight recovery here as the lighting was terrible:

And now for a pic of 4 Hawfinches which were on patch! These were the other side of the farm to the SW of the church so were comfortably within the patch boundary:

There are a couple of smart males amongst the group so I'll try and get back for some better pics. The forecast is looking a bit dodgy for pics for the next few days mind...

On the way back from Musbury I had a quick glance over Bridge Marsh and the estuary. Little of interest really other than a Peregrine causing havoc.

A few days ago now but there was still a good selection of Pipits on Colyford Common on 11th including 3+ Water, 3+ Rock and 1 Meadow.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

White-fronted Goose

Ian Mc texted with news of a White-fronted Goose on Colyford Marsh so this prompted a hasty exit from home having only seen one on patch previously. Whilst driving over I saw a helicopter passing low overhead so I figured the bird may be flushed and sure enough it was! Fortunately it only went as far as the estuary between Tower Hide and Coronation Corner though:

It was another very dull afternoon so pics are a bit grainy but it was great to see this smart bird. A couple of people (Brendan Sheils, Martin Wolinski) reported a Merlin hunting between Colyford Common and Black Hole Marsh but I missed it. Tim Wright mentioned that a lady said she'd seen one recently too so perhaps there is one lingering locally, or more than one bird seen.

Best bird of the day was yet to come though; Steve Waite messaged with news of a 1st Winter Caspian Gull briefly on the estuary before it flew South, a bird I've still not managed to see here. I'm guilty of feeling less inclined to spend as much time out birding this time of year and days like this with 3 patch goodies (plus the Glossy Ibis and Water Pipits) just goes to show that that isn't the right approach. Work/gym/life obviously affects free time but I could definitely make more of an effort to get out birding now...

Monday, 8 January 2018

Pipits and Glossy Ibis

It was great to finally do a bit of birding today, even if it was only brief! The day started off well with 2 male Bullfinches on the garden fence; the first I've seen from the house since moving here last July. An early afternoon trip to Colyford Common yielded 7 or perhaps 8 Water Pipits along with 2 Rock Pipits. They weren't always in one group and alternated between East and West of the tramline so I probably missed a few others.

Bridge Marsh was very busy with birds including the long-staying Glossy Ibis:

Sorry about the quality of the pics. It was very dull today so ISO settings were pretty nasty!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Birding highlights of 2017

2017 had some pretty special moments. Nearly all of my birding time was spent working the patch for which there were some decent rewards but nothing really rare.

My highlight of 2017 sitting firmly at the #1 spot was one of only a few off-patch twitches - the Yellow Warbler at Portland on 21-08-2017. I don't generally get a buzz from twitching off-patch; I appreciate seeing a rare bird but it rarely gives me any real excitement. However after a few initial brief sightings and about an hour of patiently waiting, this small warbler originally from America posed beautifully for a few seconds. Everything about this moment was a huge buzz. I was there with some other Axe patch birders, we'd seen the bird soon after arrival, it eventually posed well with a nice setting and then I came away with this in pretty challenging conditions for photography:

#2 for me has to be the Red Kite passage over the patch on 24th and 25th of May. I was out looking at dragonflies when the first few drifted over; at that point I had no idea just how many I'd be seeing in the coming few days. I saw somewhere between 50 and 60 but there would have been a fair few more than that going over in total. A lot of the birds were passing over low as well, sometimes only 100-200 foot above me. It was a fantastic spectacle. Some readers of this blog probably see Red Kites on an almost daily basis, but I typically see <5 in the average year here, so this really was exceptional.

#3 slot is filled by an Osprey, one of four that I saw on patch in 2017. On September 8th I got an early birthday present when an Osprey showed brilliantly only a couple hundred feet upstream from Tower Hide. Over 10 hours of waiting (had a Kittiwake and 2 Knot as bonuses) but every second was worthwhile. Rare? No. But bloody impressive.

#4 Spoonbill and Cattle Egret posing together. I found 2 Spoonbills on Black Hole Marsh on April 11th and managed to get a shot of one of them taking off alongside a Cattle Egret the following morning. Two locally scarce (although Cattle Egret numbers had a bit of a boom in England in 2017) species posing together was great to see! We ended up having double figure numbers of Cattle Egrets in total for 2017.

#5 A Grey Phalarope which stayed for a few days from September 20th makes the highlights as it was the first one I've managed to see on patch. It showed rather well at times...

A few other highlights worth mentioning include the Waxwings at Newton Abbott, the Stilt Sand (and Least Sand) at Lodmoor and the Hawfinches at Shute. Hawfinches would have been in the top 5 had I not managed to miss almost 10 patch birds!

Having just looked back at my 2016 review I see that the 2017 one is a lot shorter and with fewer rarities! Hopefully that will change for the next one...

I wish all my readers a happy & successful 2018. Hopefully it'll be a great birding year!

Sunday, 19 November 2017


Despite resisting for years I've finally caved and twitched some off-patch Hawfinches. Having missed the Hawfinches in Colyton on November 5th I was hopeful we'd get some more but so far my searches around Colyton have produced little of interest. Best of it has been a thrush flock visiting the yews at St Andrew's for a week now, with many Redwings (hundreds in Colyton at the moment) and a few Fieldfares. I'm still hoping to find some Hawfinches of my own but with Shute being only a few minutes up the road it was worth a trip up there to see the birds which have now been present for almost a week.

They were generally fairly distant but it was nice to see my first ones with 4+ there. Hopefully I'll get some better pics of these if they hang around for a while longer; the bird pictured below was the most showy in the short time I could spend there but it was a rather scruffy individual...

Only other bird worthy of note was a Cattle Egret flying over Colyton at 15:00 whilst I was returning from the Hawfinch twitch!

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Glossy Ibis and Great Egret (late post)

Sue Murphy found a Glossy Ibis on Colyford Common on 28th October and I caught up with it early the following morning and the day after. I heard a 3rd hand report that it has been seen as recently as Saturday 4th November too so perhaps it's still about but being elusive. Steve Waite had a Great Egret on 29th October and this one lingered for the rest of the day making a change from the usual brief visits of this species. Here are a couple of fairly distant snaps of both birds:

Of more interest is that there were 2 Hawfinches in Colyton on 5th November. Steve Waite found them early morning so I got some kit ready and popped straight out but unfortunately missed them by minutes. I tried again later and had a good look around a wider area but failed to find them. It's a bird I've yet to see (anywhere!) as I've been avoiding twitching any off patch in the hope that I'll see my first here...

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Great Egret at Black Hole

A Tweet from Bob Longhorn had me heading out of the door; he had spotted a Great Egret on BHM! This is the 3rd we've had on patch here since October 18th and the 5th reported in 2017. As is fairly typical with Great Egrets it didn't linger for long before heading off high (South West). I saw Ian Mc arrive at the reserve just after the bird had flown but a quick phone call got him onto it as it was heading towards Seaton. One was reported at Dawlish about 90 minutes later so quite possibly the same bird continuing SW.

I quite like the warm light coming through the wing here

I'm very late posting this but Steve Waite had 6 Avocets flying over the estuary and then landing on BHM on 19th. It was tipping it down by the time I could get there for a look but they were nice to see none-the-less.