Friday, 18 August 2017

Quick update on a good day

Thursday 17th August:
Plenty of pics to come but little time to sort them out so here's a very brief summary. A morning visit to BHM yielded 3 Greenshanks, 2 Whimbrel, 1 Cattle Egret, 1 Snipe and 1 Cattle Egret. A look from Tower Hide yielded great views of a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull on the estuary.

Another visit to BHM in the evening yielded 3 Greenshanks and 3 Green Sands some of which were showing very well at times. There were also 50+ Dunlin and 4 Med Gulls (1 adult and 2 juvenile --> 1st Winter on BHM and another juvenile --> 1st Winter on the estuary).

I'm surprised to have not seen a few more wader species recently; Ruff, Wood Sand and Little Stint must all be imminent and hopefully something a bit rarer too...

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Wader pics

Well I'm still waiting for something really good! BHM has seen little change recently with a Cattle Egret and an LRP remaining as the best birds. The LRP was very vocal and flighty last night so it may have been thinking of leaving... There are also still 2 Greenshanks and at least 1 Green Sandpiper about.

Black-tailed Godwit numbers are now into the 70s and some have been posing well at times:

Black-tailed Godwits


Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover

Green Sandpiper

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

LRP, Cattle Egrets and Mink

An early visit to Tower Hide yielded a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull on the estuary right in front of Coronation Corner, perhaps the bird which arrived late the previous evening. After having a couple flyover Yellow Wags recently (heard but not seen) it was nice to see perhaps 6 Yellow Wagtails perched up yesterday. I had 4+ from Tower Hide in the morning; they dropped in during a brief rain shower and there were a couple at BHM in the evening. 

Other birds of note included 2 Cattle Egrets, 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 juvenile Med Gulls, 1 Greenshank and a juvenile LRP which Ian W found in the afternoon. Seaton Marshes was quiet apart from a showy Buzzard.

This Mink was sat underneath a perch that one of the juvenile Kingfishers was fishing from. It watched the Kingfisher diving from perhaps 2 foot away so it was rather uncomfortable to see. 

Monday, 7 August 2017

Cattle Egret pics and Patch Update

At least 2 Cattle Egrets are still with us and have been showing well at times. One flew over the tram track and didn't come out the other side so I had a look in the tree (approx 120 ft away)...

Also of interest recently was a flock of 24 juvenile Black-tailed Godwits on the estuary early morning on the 5th; there was a total of 52+ including the adults and a couple more juveniles on Black Hole Marsh. Unfortunately it looks as though nearly all of the flock of juvs left us and continued on.

I also had a snipe fly in on the 4th.

Tonight (6th) I finally found a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull. It arrived well after sunset so it's a good job the camera can 'see' better than my eyes can otherwise I wouldn't have been able to ID it. This is my first of the Autumn and also the first I've found here; I'm spending more time on gulls now whereas I used to pretty much ignore them. Quite a lot more learning to do in this area mind you... A 2nd gull flew in which I think may have been another YLG. I've popped a video grab over to our patch gull expert Steve in case he can work out what it is; it was pretty dark at the time so high ISO made for bad video footage!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Curlew Sandpiper at BHM

With rough weather forecasted from the early hours of this morning I was hoping some more waders would drop in. Only a few seconds after arriving at Tower Hide I spotted 4 Turnstones flying downriver at 07:40. 4 Turnstones is a flock by our standards; I'd not seen more than one at a time here previously. My camera was still in the bag due to the weather so I thought I'd missed my chance but luckily the birds parked up and sat on the estuary just south of Tower Hide for a few minutes.

I'll warn you now that all pics that follow are bad (except perhaps the Cattle Egret). It was dull, rainy and birds were distant but any patch scarcity is worth a pic or two.

Shortly before 08:00 I saw a wader fly in and a quick check revealed it was a moulting adult Curlew Sandpiper, our first of the Autumn. As Autumn Curlew Sands go this was a relatively bland one with little colour (not helped by the light) but nice to see none-the-less.

More waders continued to drop in and repeated scans through them revealed a Sanderling at 08:35. This is another Autumn first for the patch (first one I've seen all year although I recall Steve having double figures off the seafront in Spring). A Greenshank was also heard.

From Tower there were 2 maybe 3 Cattle Egrets (can't guarantee the 3rd as I didn't see them all at the same time). Awful conditions for pics but I quite like the pose here:

Kingfishers were also performing well again but I'll save those pics for another post.

Today (August 2nd) is the 1 year anniversary of the arrival of the first of our 2 Least Sandpipers. I used to change my blog header image regularly but I can't persuade myself to let the current one go just yet. I still can't believe how showy and obliging that cracking little bird was; it was a shame the 2nd bird never came close but the performance by the 1st remains comfortably in my top 5 birding experiences here.

3 Cattle Egrets and an excellent morning

1st August:
Island Hide shortly before 08:00 yielded nothing more interesting than 2 Green Sands but the following 4 hours from Tower Hide were far more productive. Upon arriving, 2 Kingfishers were showing briefly but quite well. I was hoping the Marsh Harrier would show but it seems as though it moved on last night after I last saw it at around 19:00.

Ian Mc spotted 6 Goosander on the estuary so myself and Richard (@cork_head on Twitter) grabbed a few distant shots.

At 10:40 I spotted the 2 Cattle Egrets that have been here since the weekend, sitting on one of the islands on BHM. Again we grabbed a few distant shots until I noticed there were 3 Cattle Egrets on the island. A new one! I wonder if more are yet to come...

All 3 Cattle Egrets amongst the Little Egrets

We had some new waders in today as there were 8 adult Ringed Plover at BHM yesterday along with a juvenile but today yielded 4 juvs and 4 adults. It was low tide at this point so there were probably some more around locally. There was also a Greenshank on the estuary for much of the day.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Marsh Harrier and Cattle Egrets

What an excellent evening at Black Hole Marsh and around the Axe estuary between 17:00 & 21:00!

BHM yielded:
37+ Dunlin
9 Ringed Plover
2 Green Sandpiper (at dusk)

A look from Tower Hide yielded a promising number of gulls but I've still not seen any 'good' big ones. At 17:52 the gulls in front of the hide flushed and a look up quickly revealed why; a Marsh Harrier was flying South & low over the river before gaining height into clearer view. Brendan was in the hide with me so we tracked the Harrier in case it came back down; it did in the usual passage Harrier area of Colyford Common. We hurried up there and it was still preening in the field, for 30 mins or so. Hopefully it's still about; it was quartering over the estuary for a while between Colyford Common and Tower Hide but I lost sight of it down in reeds at 18:50. Nice that it was showing well for almost an hour though! I spotted the 2 Cattle Egret on the far side of the estuary from here too so it was good to finally catch up with these after missing them more than once over the weekend.

The Harrier flushed a load of Curlew when it was quartering opposite BHM and I counted 78 on the scrape on Colyford Common alone (and it was low tide, there were likely more elsewhere) so we've got a decent flock here.

Pics aren't great as the birds were distant and heat haze was not helpful.

Spot the Kestrel in the distance...

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Turnstone and Ringos

I'm back! It was SO good to get out on patch for some birding after a few days away doing a Three Peaks Challenge (see previous 2 posts). Fortunately I didn't miss anything really good whilst away; it's obviously still a bit early for most of the rare stuff but there's always a chance. I paid BHM and the Axe estuary a couple of visits today and the notable birds were:

1 Turnstone
1 Green Sandpiper
1 Med Gull (adult)
3 Whimbrel
6 Ringed Plover (5 adult, 1 juvenile)
23+ Dunlin

A juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was the target with a few about lately in this unsettled weather but it was not to be.

Light was poor for photos and the camera gear got wet but at least a couple of birds came fairly close today:


Ringed Plover

Expect more regular posting from me from now on!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Ben Nevis photo update

If you don't know what I'm doing in various other parts of the UK then please read my last post HERE.

We had some stunning scenery and weather upon arrival at Corpach near Fort William on Monday evening:

Part of the group at the top of Ben Nevis

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Three Peaks Challenge & Mental Health

For bird updates please keep an eye on my Twitter feed to the right hand side of this page.


Here's a quick plug for a charity event I am taking part in next week; a small group of us are climbing 3 peaks to raise money for Young Minds Trust. Mental health issues suffered by young (and less young) people is something that everyone should know more about. I suspect many of my readers may have suffered personally or perhaps you've lost friends or family due to mental health issues. I have lost both.

I can write with a high degree of certainty that you will know someone, perhaps even someone very close to you, without realising the sort of battle that they go through each day. This could be a friend. This could even be a family member and yet you may never know, or at least not until things end.

Please have a look at the Young Minds Trust website for information on the great work they do.

We will be travelling on Monday 24th, climbing Ben Nevis on 25th, climbing Scafell Pike on 26th, climbing Snowdon and travelling back on Thursday 27th. Hopefully there'll be some birds to see during the walks; I will have a camera with me but not a 'wildlife' lens. With Black Hole Marsh looking so good there's a chance I may miss something good on patch but given that I'm away for such an important cause I can't be too annoyed by this.

If signal is good enough I'll do some mobile blogging with updates and pics from the walks.

We have a JustGiving page HERE. At the time of writing we are 97% of the way towards our target for the donations received via the site. I have also set up a text number to make it even easier to donate. Simply text KLAW98 £5 to 70070 to donate £5 to our page (you can change the value of the donation i.e. £1, £3, £10 etc). It would be great if we could exceed our target and raise as much money as possible to help other people.

JustGiving sends your donation straight to Young Minds and it is a quick and safe way to donate. Please be generous if you are able. Many thanks.

Monday, 10 July 2017

LRP, Greenshank, Whimbrel - BHM update

Very busy week for me so here's a quick list of what I saw at Black Hole Marsh on the 8th:

1 Greenshank
1 Whimbrel
1 Little Ringed Plover
1 Hobby which lingered in the area
11+ Common Sandpiper
2 Dunlin
5 Black-tailed Godwit
3+ Med Gull

And on the 9th:

4 Dunlin
5 Black-tailed Godwit
11+ Common Sandpiper
1 Med Gull

The water level is up again on BHM so there's likely to be fewer birds there for a while until it's dropped.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Med Gulls (lots), Waders and some pics

The Twitter feed on the right hand side of this page (might have to scroll down a little) gives a regular update as to what I'm seeing as it is much quicker and more convenient than blogging; I'll summarise here as well though.

Thursday morning at Black Hole Marsh yielded 14+ Common Sands but no new species. I had a look over the estuary from Tower Hide and was surprised to see a group of 8 Med Gulls together, comprising of 4 adults and 4 juveniles. They were very distant so I took the below record shot before hurrying to the other side of the estuary; I'll post some better pics when I have time to process them but heat haze was a problem all morning.

All 8 took off and flew high together, out of sight. Mid-afternoon yielded 2 juvs on the estuary which soon joined a 1st Summer on BHM and there were still 3 present in the evening. I probably missed some others during the day but this is the most I've seen here in 1 day and definitely the first time I've squeezed 8 into a single pic. The evening visit to BHM also gave 1 Green Sand, 4 Black-tailed Godwits and a Hobby.

One of the juv Meds came fairly close to Island Hide at one point. The heat meant getting a sharp shot was very tricky but these are stunning birds even if some of the detail was lost:

The Green Sand stayed distant but I'm quite pleased with how well this pic held up when cropped heavily:

Little Egret posing in the last few moments of warm sunshine

Friday 7th:
I was about to leave to head to BHM when Ian Mc texted with news of an LRP which is only the second one of 'Autumn' so far. I saw this distantly before heading home to carry on with some work.
Another visit in the afternoon produced 5 Blackwits and the Hobby again but little else of interest. A 3rd visit from 20:15 to 21:15 was only slightly more rewarding with the LRP and Green Sand showing again but distantly.