Black Hole Marsh is brilliant at the moment! Waders galore. I popped over briefly after work both today and yesterday. Nothing came particularly close, but 4 firsts for the year (including the ill looking Kittiwake) so I can't complain. Here's a few pics:
After yesterdays success with the ringed adult Dipper on the River Coly, I went out for another go today (yes, in the pouring rain). The first Dipper I saw was flying in an erratic manner, which made me wonder which bird it was as I am familiar with the characteristics of the pair, and this one didn't fit the profile! I managed to get quite close to it in the end. It looks like a juvenile but the feathers are fairly developed. I'm guessing this bird was from a brood that got away early in the breeding season. Great stuff!!
I'm hoping it'll still be hanging around the same stretch of river for a while so I can get out and take some decent photos when the weather suits (I don't think it's necessary to explain in depth why the photography aspect was difficult today; you're probably all aware of today's weather). I crept up towards the Dipper as I usually do, very slowly etc etc; the only difference this time is that I was holding my camera (definitely a two-handed affair) whilst also holding up an umbrella, with my legs. Image the scene; it may provide some momentary entertaining. Shuffling gradually towards this bird, umbrella propped between my legs, and trying to hold the camera within the confines of the umbrella's coverage. Oh yeah, and it was tipping it down. Ahh it's all part of the fun! There's also a couple of pics of the ringed adult bird at the end of the post.
Five hours after going to bed last night, I got up and headed to Black Hole Marsh arriving at 6:45, to see if the Turnstone was still there. It wasn't. There were plenty of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpipers and Green Sandpipers as per the usual of late. The only slightly unusual sighting was a Jay which flew over BHM and headed out over the estuary.
Later on in the morning, I headed down to the River Coly to have a much needed look around. About 4 mins into the walk I had some brilliant views of a Dipper. The light was appalling as the bird was in shadows under a bridge and it was too close to get a photo with my DSLR arrangement. It is VERY rare for a subject to be too close to me to photograph! I took the opportunity to concentrate on getting some shots of the ring on the birds right leg. Finally I've got all the info! I've passed it on so hopefully we'll find out where the Dipper came from fairly soon! I couldn't go as far upstream as I'd planned because I kept getting held up by people who were determined to ask various questions/have a catch up. So, instead I went home, had lunch, then went straight back down the Coly again. It didn't take long to locate the Dipper again. Unfortunately an elderly woman, in all her wisdom, saw that I was (very slowly, quietly and carefully) sneaking up on something; so she boldly strolls up beside me and proclaims unnecessarily loudly "Ooo it's a Dipper." Bloomin moron. Needless to say, the bird was frightened off. I did find it again, from a fair distance and again in shadows (they're good at that). Here's some of the pics:
After work, I decided to go and have a look around BHM. This proved to be a very worthwhile trip, despite the weather. There seem to be a few more waders around, one of which was this beauty:
Shocking image quality but I've never seen one before so frankly I don't care; the bird never came close (not even slightly). I'll probably try for it again tomorrow as the forecast looks distinctly promising.
If only it came as close as the Common Sandpipers...
Just a brief post to try and return the content of this blog to reflect its title (well, half of it anyway). Here's a couple of pics from this month which I hadn't looked through until now. They're nothing special, but the pic of the darter is of the only dragonfly I've seen this year that has landed. Shame it wasn't a slightly more interesting dragonfly, but there's certainly no embarrassment in blogging it. There's also a couple of pics from some fairly unproductive BHM visits:
Ahh if only that were an Osprey swooping down onto a fish instead of a Cormorant coming in to land. The light would have been ideal! Fingers crossed we get one stay for a bit during the migration Southwards.
I didn't see the Hobby as I was at the wrong part of the marsh and my attention was being monopolised by a couple of Snipe, but I did see the resultant terror of some of the other birds caused by the attack. I was reliably informed by a well respected birder that it was a Hobby so I'll go along with that ID. Hobbies have been an abnormally regular sight in Colyton, Seaton and Colyford over the last 4 months. I did get some shots of the Snipe; I wasn't that close to them, but as Snipe viewings go, this one was pretty darned good!
This next part is not wildlife related, so look away now if that's what you're here for!
Now back to cycling. A recent read of a fairly clever but flawed piece of writing got me thinking... true devotion to a hobby certainly is dependent on ones motivation and to an extent, discipline. The Strava app, which can be used to track yourself whilst out for a run or bike ride is increasing in popularity, and at a steadily increasing rate. After all, competition is one of the most potent motivators for anything, especially physical activity, and one of the main marketing points of this app is that it is specifically intended to compare people on a competitive basis (hence the 'Compete' section, and being rewarded with virtual medals for achieving a top 3 finish in a particular segment). Whilst aiming for and achieving your own personal goals can be very rewarding, many people relish the opportunity to try and prove themselves in relation to others. After all, if you aren't in it for the competition (or are a sore loser), there are other popular apps such as Endomondo which allow you to enable or disable the 'competitive' side as you can choose whether you want segments to be timed or not. A vast proportion (but certainly not all) of the riders using Strava use it primarily for the competitive aspect of cycling. This statement is one based from knowledge as opposed to assumption. I'm a competitive person, but not over-competitive. I recently made an observation about environmental influence aiding people with regards to a certain sprint section between Seaton and Axmouth. It seems a lot of people using Strava are significantly moreconcerned about this issue than I am; the evidence is for all to see on the Strava website, with people complaining in a snide manner to others about taking advantage of favourable winds. I take the hobby fairly seriously but I don't take it to the same sort of extreme as such people, but then again, I ride as my own unit; a lot of the people with half decent performances ride with fierce rivalry in mind, sometimes between friends or family (this is actually a very effective way of motivating yourself to improve and advance). Again, this is a comment based upon knowledge as opposed to assumption. After all, a statement made from initial personal opinion and supported with publicly-available evidence is significantly stronger than a statement in the form of a sweeping generalisation which can be proven incorrect with little tribulation.
Strava revolves (not quite in its entirety) around trying to beat others, not just yourself. To add to the motivation, if someone has managed to post the fastest time for a segment, and proven him/herself to be the fastest, then they are heralded as the King of the Mountain. To further increase motivation, Strava has a KOM (King of the Mountain) count on the main homepage, and it compares one persons KOM count to another's. It is fully intended as a direct competition. After all, professional athletes don't go to the Olympics specifically to improve their PB. Yes, doing so can be very satisfactory, but the primary motivation which drives people in this context is the desire for victory.
... which I didn't have time to see, thanks to a 6:00 - 21:00 stint of work.
I did however find time to spend an hour looking along the River Coly over the weekend. There wasn't a lot to see; with one Kingfisher (adult), one Sparrowhawk, multiple Buzzards and a juvenile Cormorant being the most interesting in the way of birdlife.
I also managed to put a few more miles on the bike between Friday and Sunday. I thought I'd have a go at the Seaton to Axmouth Sprint again as I'd been shunted down the timesheets a couple of places. I'll make some excuses now; this was after a draining day at work (this is generally going to be the case, having only 1 day per month entirely to myself if I'm lucky) and I DELIBERATELY waited for a day without a tailwind, UNLIKE a few of the other 'big names' who went out on the 15th when there were approx 40mph tailwinds (I know this because I went out on the mountainbike and figured it'd be an unfair advantage as I could maintain nearly 25mph without pedalling much) not being sour to the others but I'd rather know that I'd earned my position through physical ability rather than through environmental influence. ;) (not intended as a dig, just being honest).
Oh yes and there's my insomnia problem which had remained dormant for over a year until the beginning of this month. That certainly doesn't help. Maybe it's time to start inducing sleep with drugs yet again (it is not enjoyable I assure you). I don't particularly want to be hit with the Chronic Exhaustion diagnosis again.
Anyway, enough whining. I am considering purchasing a carbon fibre bike. I have many reasons for this. A low end one will be approximately 40% lighter than my current road bike (yes it really is that heavy), and hopefully the new bike would be the right size. My current road bike was the right size when I was 6 or 7 inches shorter than I am now. On the other hand I could save my money and spend it on something that I actually need as opposed to something I desire. Hmm. Unfortunately this is probably what'll happen and the carbon fibre will remain a dream...
Well, I say better, but still not that great! The light was bad (slightly backlit bird for most of the pics; I had to put the camera in full manual mode and play around with ISO and exposure compensation settings until the result looked mildly representative of the bird) and the distance of the bird from me was significantly greater than desired. Stunning birds though! Both were still present by early evening (3rd August). Here's a couple of pics:
Now onto something that's not wildlife related. I think the majority of the readers of my blog also read Gavin Haig's blog, and his recent cycling-orientated posts have inspired me to start using Strava to see how I compare to other cyclists in the area. I thought I'd start out by trying the Seaton-Axmouth segment, where you need to ride as fast as possible from the bridge at the mouth of the Axe, to Coronation Corner. The wind today was easterly so it was blowing from the right. I don't think this was too detrimental to my time, although no wind would have been preferable (or a southerly but that would be cheating in my eyes). I headed out after work to give the sprint a go. Here's the result (first ever attempt at a sprint this long):
5th out of 76, not bad! The interesting bit of info for you here is that not only was this done in heavy clothing (I wasn't embarrassing myself with figure-hugging lycra), but I was riding a MOUNTAIN BIKE. I rode home and swapped over to my road bike (cheap and heavy, Carrera Virtuoso) and achieved this:
3rd. This included having to slow down whilst a car pulled over in front of me. Pretty sure getting to the top of the leaderboard is within reach fairly comfortably :). Sprinting I can do. Hill climb segments?? Hmm, no thank you!
It seems as though EVERY patch birder with a camera apart from myself got the Wood Sandpiper up nice and close this morning. Ahh the joys of not having a single free morning in a week. I popped over in the evening after work and got fairly distant views of the Wood Sandpiper. In fairness, had I not been working, and had time to get decent shots of the Wood Sand in the morning, then I probably wouldn't have gone in the evening and therefore would have missed the Little Gull... (Kindly pointed out by Ian Waite). Again it was distant, but it's something I can add to my all time patch list (yes, really).
If you want to revisit some less rubbish shots, I managed to get some decent ones of Wood Sands last year... there is a wide and varied selection!! click here
Or for a shot of 3: