Friday, 23 June 2017

Hobby, Red Kite & More Waders

Slightly late news but Wednesday 21st yielded Hobby, Red Kite (50th of the year for me although a small chance it was a lingering bird that I've seen before), 10 Redshank, 10 Black-tailed Godwit, 9 Curlew and also a Teal.

I took a few ropey pics of the Hobby and it looks VERY much like (one of) the bird(s) I saw just South of BHM on 6th June. Breeding locally perhaps? I used to see Hobby almost daily by the River Coly (Colyton) in summers pre 2010 but they've been a little less reliable in recent years. Hopefully there is a pair nearby!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Kestrel Fledglings

2 of the 5 Kestrels in a nest box near Black Hole Marsh fledged in the morning of 20th June. Photos were challenging due to heat haze but it was great to witness the first flights of these birds. Another visit to the marshes in the evening yielded some surprises in the form of 10 Redshank on BHM as well as 3 Curlew and 4 Lapwing flying along the estuary.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

More Red Kites

I've been looking up regularly over the last few days hoping for some raptor movement and this paid off this morning with 3 Red Kites over Black Hole Marsh between 09:04 - 09:10. The 3rd bird showed very well indeed, perhaps closer than any I saw of the 60+ birds we had on 24th - 25th May.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Another Hobby (or 2)

Despite many hours searching between BHM & Colyford Common, I failed to see the Red-backed Shrike which was reported on the 5th. Most interesting things seen in the heavy rain was a Slow Worm and a family of Weasels; surprisingly these were the first Weasels I've seen here (seen lots of Stoats, Mink and a few Polecats).

On 6th June I had 1 (likely 2) Hobby over the field South of BHM. I only saw the rear profile of the 2nd bird so couldn't be 100% sure it was a Hobby but it probably was; a decent number of them through here this Spring. A long way off but here is a snap of it:

On 7th June there were 18 Black-tailed Godwits on BHM in the evening and they were still there today.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Incredible Red Kite passage - another 46+ birds

The exceptional number of Red Kites passing by here continued this morning; Mike Hill saw 15 before I even stepped outside to have a look! My first glance to the sky yielded a single Red Kite flying over the house and this was quickly followed by a group of 7 at 08:50 then another 2. By 09:00 Mike had seen 26+ to my 10 and he was further W than me so I'd missed a minimum of 16 by this time, presumably going over at different latitudes. Another house viewing was booked so I had to leave the home watching spot; the A3052 just E of Colyford seemed like a good bet to try next as you can see wide areas both N & S. I gave it until 10:35 and saw a further 14 bringing my total up to 24. Most of the birds from here drifted over Colyford rather than Seaton so it makes me wonder how many we didn't see; there must have been a few passing out of view earlier. This was confirmed when Dad said he had 2 over his place in Colyton (NW corner); I wouldn't have seen these or the 4 Phil reported on Twitter at 10:36, just after I left. This gives a minimum count of 46 but I suspect it would have been a few more. Let's wait for the reports to see just how many are seen in Cornwall.

Unlike yesterday I had the 'birding' lens with me so the pics are a bit closer, although shooting into the Sun was far from ideal! Here are a couple of pics:

Right, back to work!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

15+ Red Kites and 3 Hobbies in 90 minutes...

What a brilliant afternoon!

I had to vacate the house at around 15:00 as a viewing was booked so I took the opportunity to go and look for some dragonflies at Lower Bruckland. A few minutes after my arrival a Hobby and 2 Red Kites drifted in from NE and were all quite low. I hastily sent out some messages before taking a few dodgy shots; they were heading towards Colyford/Seaton so I wanted to give the other birders as much time as possible to get out and wait for them to (hopefully) fly over. Some of the birds today showed very well, within 100 yards or so, but unfortunately I was only armed with my 'small' dragonfly lens and therefore not at all prepared to take pics of what was yet to come...


Red Kites

Just after sending out the first messages, a 3rd Red Kite joined the first 2 then they headed WSW and then another 2 flew over. Could they be the same ones turning around whilst I was typing on my phone? No, these were tidier looking birds so definitely a 4th and 5th.

In total I saw at least 15 Red Kites between 15:20 - 16:50. It may have been a few more as the last 4 seemed to linger and fly higher but it was hard to keep tabs on all of them at once. It's possible some of the ones I saw slightly later on were more birds but I didn't count them in case they were repeats of the ones which flew higher. Still, 15 Red Kites is bloody good around here regardless of how many may have been missed! There were at least 3 that I missed when comparing the timings of my sightings with Steve's, but likely a few more as well.

In with the last group of 4 Red Kites were 2 more Hobbies bringing my total for the day up to 3 (and 4 so far for Spring). Interestingly I don't think the Hobbies were seen elsewhere or at least I haven't seen any further reports, but they were associating (perhaps just by coincidence) with the Kites when I had them. The first Hobby was with the first 2 Kites and they eventually headed off in the same direction with the Hobby moving first, then the latter 2 Hobbies were both up with the 4 Kites and stuck with them for a while. This was all rather spectacular to watch; at one point there were 4 Red Kites, 2 Hobbies and 1 Buzzard all in one field of view.

Sorry for the lousy pics; hopefully other people got some better shots. I regret only taking my small lens!

Red Kite

3 Red Kites, 1 Hobby & 1 Buzzard

Spot fly and dragonflies

It's getting to that time of year when posts about migrant birds wane and posts about resident ones (or Summer breeders) & seasonal insects increase. Frankly I've not seen much of anything lately; I was hoping the recent warm weather would encourage a decent number of dragonflies to emerge but I've so far only seen two. One was a Scarce Chaser seen on Sunday and the other was an unidentified insect on Tuesday due to distant flight views only. A Spotted Flycatcher was nice to see on 23rd, a bird which used to breed in a few areas of Colyton but is now less easy (although definitely still expected) on patch; this was my first here of 2017...

Only recent photos are of House Martins which briefly sheltered from wind on the side of Island Hide on Saturday evening. Just look at those feet!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Iceland Gull

After missing the Iceland Gull on the 18th I was glad to get another chance to see it yesterday (presumably the same bird); it was showing from Tower Hide for nearly 3 hours in the afternoon.

Not much to report from today with 6 Whimbrel over Primrose Way being the most interesting.

Friday, 19 May 2017


Thursday 18th but posting after midnight so it'll appear as Friday 19th.
It's been a bit of of a mixed day for me; Ian Mc texted with news of an Iceland Gull near Coronation Corner at 08:45 but I couldn't escape a meeting until 09:30. I hurried down to try and double the number of Iceland Gulls I've seen this year but it had gone by the time I arrived.

Some heavy rain early evening had me out again in the hope that it could drop some waders in but 5 Dunlin on Black Hole Marsh was the limit of it. A Hobby over BHM at 19:40 was bird of the day for me but I would have preferred the Iceland Gull...

Swallow & Sand Martin 
House Martin with Sand Martins

Friday, 12 May 2017

Avocet and Sedge Warbler pics

An Avocet was showing distantly from Tower Hide in the evening of the 11th; I think this is the 4th Avocet of the Spring for us here which is a high number compared to most years. I didn't see anything else worthy of note but was pleased to get an almost clear view of a Sedge Warbler:

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Bit more movement

Tuesday 8th was the day I finally had a double figure count of House Martins with 30+ flying over Seaton Marshes and Borrow Pit. There was a Common Sandpiper and 2 Whimbrel out on the estuary from Tower Hide but it was otherwise quiet. Another look around in the evening yielded 2 Whimbrel on Black Hole Marsh but little else. After seeing a couple of 2nd/3rd hand reports on Twitter I had a look around Axmouth for a Ring-necked Parakeet but couldn't find it. We spoke to a local and it seems no-one noticed if it was ringed or not.

Wednesday 9th had some more movement of House Martins with 8 over Seaton Marshes in the evening and 14 (perhaps including some of the 8) over Black Hole Marsh slightly later. The female Goosander was again on Black Hole Marsh late evening, as was 1 Whimbrel, 1 Common Sandpiper and 3 Ringed Plover. Robin Morrison reported a Whinchat from Axe Cliff. Bird of the day would have been a Cuckoo which Ian Waite saw flying from Black Hole Marsh towards Seaton Marshes late afternoon; Brendan Shiels had it from a tram whilst I was on site but I didn't manage to see it.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Goosander again on Black Hole Marsh

I didn't see much of interest this evening with the best birds being singles of (female) Goosander, Dunlin & Whimbrel on Black Hole Marsh, with another Whimbrel at Colyford Common and a single Cattle Egret overhead.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Swifts and Sprawk

Not much to report from me recently but it was nice to see 12+ Swifts back at nesting sites in Colyton on Friday evening. A look around on Saturday afternoon yielded little of interest other than 13+ small waders flying upriver; unfortunately I was too far away to tell what they were (likely to be Dunlin and/or Ringed Plover). Two pairs of Canada Geese on BHM have Goslings now and interestingly the two pairs were interacting; some of the Goslings were moving from one group to the other! The adults seemed wary of each other at first as you'd expect but the 4 adults and 10+ Goslings were all together for a while.

There were few photo opportunities today although I did get a nice view of a (ringed) Sparrowhawk flying over Colyford Common:

Monday, 1 May 2017

Marsh Harrier

There was quite a lot of action on the South Coast yesterday thanks to the rougher weather but I didn't have time to get out. This morning I started at Black Hole Marsh and 4 Whimbrel were the only birds of note here. On to Colyford Common and I was pleased to see that the Marsh Harrier was still about albeit quite distant from the hide for most of the time. There was also a Greenshank on one of the scrapes here but nothing else of note between 12:00 - 14:00.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Awaiting something different

An evening visit to Black Hole Marsh yielded 10 Dunlin, 3 Whimbrel (plus a 4th on the estuary), 1 Greenshank and 1 Goosander which continues to occasionally roost on one of the islands. There were also many Sand Martins and Swallows flying low over BHM & the estuary. It was nice to have some different weather this evening; we even had some rain! Hopefully the birds cope well with this brief chilly spell; I've seen on Twitter that some Ospreys in Scotland are incubating eggs in igloo-like mounds of snow!

Path from Tower Hide

Monday, 24 April 2017

Axe Patch Update

It's been heavy going here for the last few days (for me at least) and I've seen little in the way of new arrivals. I had nothing worth mentioning between 19th and 22nd other than the lingering Cattle Egrets and all I saw of note this evening (23rd) was a Greenshank on Black Hole Marsh along with 8 Dunlin. A look around Colyford Common and the Reed Bed Loop was similarly unrewarding other than several Swallows and also a Grey Heron which conveniently landed about 100ft in front of me whilst I was watching from the viewing platform.

Better (and more) birds soon no doubt. Hopefully I'll get some Yellow Wagtails posing in the next few days - did quite well with them at Seaton Marshes around this time last year.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Stunning Spotted Redshank

Having seen some excellent pics of the rather smart Spotted Redshank at Goosemoor from Steph Murphy and Jo King I thought I'd pop over to see it yesterday morning (17th). I was lucky with cloud cover as it would have been side-lit without it; not what you want with a dark coloured bird.

The patch had a fall this morning with Ian Mc finding some good birds on Beer Head; he had a female Pied Flycatcher and 5 Redstarts (3m, 2f) amongst others. It was a while before I could get up there for a look around so I thought some of the birds may have moved through by the time I had cleared my work. It was worth a look around anyway and I caught up with 3 Redstarts (1m, 2f), 3 Wheatear and 30+ Willow Warblers although there would likely have been many more of the latter in the bushes at the base of the cliffs as there was a lot of activity down there. I didn't manage to find the Pied Flycatcher in the area it was showing earlier on in the day but did hear a Grasshopper Warbler reeling. Heat haze and distance made taking good pics impossible but it was worth taking a couple snaps of a male Redstart anyway:

An evening visit to Black Hole Marsh yielded 1 LRP (briefly), 5 Dunlin, 1 Common Sand and 1 Whimbrel. 7 Cattle Egret flew over Axmouth with 6 in one group initially then a single with a Little Egret about 10 mins later.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Whinchat and Wheatear

Whilst out in Topsham this morning (this trip will be in the next post) Ian Mc texted with news of a Whinchat and 20 Wheatear on Colyford Common so upon returning I went for a look in case they were still about. Sue was there waiting on the boardwalk when I arrived so things were looking promising. I joined her and we continued to sit there for quite a while; the birds were gradually being pushed our way by the cattle so we were hopeful that they'd give themselves up eventually. Just as they were starting to get close some more people arrived and the birds hopped over to the other side of us. The number of people about has been a tad disruptive at times but that's to be expected over the Easter Holidays. Generally I think it's great that there are lots of people about enjoying the facilities here! One of the visitors was struggling to get a clear view of the Whinchat down amongst the reeds so we briefly walked a few yards off the boardwalk to try and help get everyone on it. It had flown a good distance away by this time so we could move a bit without causing disturbance and the visitor was pleased to be able to see it (just about) well enough to tell what it was. Apologies for the lack of quality with the Whinchat shot; it was a fair way off. Very smart bird though and the photo doesn't do it justice here.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Missed birds and more of the same

It's been more of the same for me on patch today with 2 Wheatears, 2 Common Sandpipers, 1 Ringed Plover & 1 Whimbrel on BHM tonight. The estuary wasn't quite full at this time so there was likely more out there too. There was one more Wheatear on Coly Common and all 3 were female. Swallow numbers are picking up significantly now with birds showing for much of the day and with 24+ together at Coly Common tonight. Phil and some visiting birders had a Spoonbill on Black Hole Marsh early afternoon but it had just left by the time I got there. Phil said it had flown over the estuary but stayed low so I thought a check of the lower estuary and Seaton Marshes was worth a punt. This proved fruitless as I had no luck relocating the Spoonbill and didn't see anything else of note either!

During the evening visit a gentleman in the hide mentioned that he had the flock of Pale-bellied Brent past Lyme Regis yesterday so they would almost certainly have continued past us here at Seaton. I should have given it a few more minutes of waiting it seems.

Hopefully tomorrow brings us something new.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Osprey (another), Red Kite (another) and more Waders

On 13th I had my 3rd Osprey of the spring flying over the Axe near Bridge Marsh. The views of this one were similarly distant to the last and my camera was still in the bag so I didn't manage a dodgy record shot of it. Paul (Lyme), Steve (Axminster) and Phil got on it before me and I was struggling to pick it out but got there in the end; it was below the horizon at this point so picking it out was tricky. There were also still 10 Ringed Plovers on Black Hole Marsh.

This afternoon (14th) I headed to BHM to see if anything new had arrived and about 5 mins after arriving I spotted a raptor flying distantly and high above the estuary. It was too far away to tell what it was through the binoculars but thankfully the photos were more informative; perhaps this is why birders in the other hide got the message but couldn't spot it. There has been a bit of a trend of dodgy record shots on this blog lately so here is another one...

A good 1000 - 1500 metres away!

That's 3 Ospreys and 2 Red Kites I've seen on patch in the last 8 days. That's more of these two species than you will sometimes see in an entire year here depending on luck! We still haven't had any Harriers yet though; Marsh Harrier is definitely due and the Montagu's Harrier from last year arrived on 19th so it's certainly 'that time'. Ideally I'd like to find a nice Hen Harrier as I've not seen one on patch yet.

Other birds of note from this afternoon/evening are 30 + Swallows including a group of 11 (my first double figure count of Swallows so far this year) and 1 martin sp. Also at least 6 of the Ringed Plovers were still on BHM along with a smart Dunlin. 3 Common Sandpipers were new in today at BHM; at last some waders have posed near to Island Hide! Everything has been fairly distant so far this Spring but at least the variety has been good. Here are a few pics of them:

A Peregrine was circling overhead hence the posture here!

Steve messaged late afternoon saying that there were some Pale-bellied Brent Geese heading our way from the East so I headed to the seafront to try and see them. I saw Tim Wright there and we waited a while beyond the time they were due but didn't see them. Lots of gulls went up on the estuary whilst we were there so I thought I might have missed another good raptor i.e. Osprey but upon returning to Black Hole Marsh I asked a few birders who were there and they saw nothing unusual, but reported that not all of the gulls went up and the Godwits etc remained on BHM. Richard (Charmouth) said there was a Buzzard over the estuary at the time too and the gulls were jumpy this afternoon, but it did seem a larger reaction than most Buzzards get. We will never know.

I'm hopeful that this weekend is going to give us some more arrivals so watch this space...

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Spoonbills, Cattle Egret and another Osprey

Another excellent day on patch today! I started out early at Seaton Marshes hoping to see the Cattle Egrets at their main roost site but none of them were there at 07:00. The only birds of note were singles of Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler at Borrow Pit (Sedge was heard only). Next stop was Black Hole Marsh to see if the Spoonbills had spent the night here, which they had. I arrived shortly after 07:30 and they were sleeping until 07:45 but upon waking it was clear that they were thinking of moving off. They soon flew high and North but returned 5 mins later, then did a similar routine about 20 mins later. I moved to Tower Hide as this was the better spot for photos in terms of light direction despite the distance being far from ideal. I struck lucky when a Cattle Egret flew in and landed close to one of the Spoonbills for 10 seconds or so; I certainly wasn't expecting to come away with a shot like this this morning:

Here's a few more snaps of the Spoonbills:

Knot as a bonus as well!

Shortly before 09:00 both Spoonbills flew off high and East and were seen at The Fleet in Dorset about an hour later (probably the same two birds). It's nice when things move off and are re-found not far away, although some of the patch birders between here and there weren't too impressed that they (probably) missed them flying overhead!

With the Spoonbills now gone I thought I'd try again at Seaton Marshes and this proved worthwhile as there were 5 Wheatear showing well by the path to the hide. The cloud helped get some sharp shots too (heat haze close to the ground ruins photos):

An afternoon look at Colyford Common yielded 1 Cattle Egret although it was flighty, perhaps due to people walking along the path or maybe the tram noises (neither of which can be avoided so that's fine). It was alternating between Colyford Common and Bridge Marsh.

I also had my first House Martins of 2017 with 4 along with a Sand Martin over Coly Common. I initially reported 5 House Martins but a look at the pics revealed one was in fact a Sand Martin.

After a good morning out I headed home to crack on with some work until a bit before 17:00 when Brendan rang with news of an Osprey flying over Black Hole Marsh! I tried to get it from the house but could only see the mayhem with gulls and waders flying around. On another quick call Brendan said that it was heading North but hadn't caught anything yet so we figured that if I ran down to Tower hide I might get lucky and have it fly back downstream and fish in front of me. Yeah that was a pretty optimistic plan... When I arrived the Osprey had gone a long way North and everyone had lost it due to distance. Determined to see it I scoured above and below the horizon and eventually could exclaim OSPREY; it was flying above the A3052 near Bridge Marsh. This is about a mile away from Tower Hide and with significant heat haze you can imagine how tricky it was to pick out. Brendan and partner Hannah then got it in the scope and followed it until it eventually headed our way (vaguely); it got to within perhaps half a mile of us so please forgive the truly appalling record shot that appears below. I've already seen an Osprey here in the last few days but with the number I missed last year I'd like to see as many as possible (on patch) in 2017, even if that means running!

Many thanks to Brendan and Hannah for initially finding the Osprey and then keeping me updated with its whereabouts! Very helpful indeed and I would probably have missed it without you both.

The Buzzard (right) was very persistent with harassing the Osprey

One more look over the marshes later in the evening produced singles of Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover.

Excellent day!

P.s. Apologies if the pics look a little soft; I am having trouble processing pics properly on my Mac. It may be a 'Pro' model but darn do I miss my Windows machine!