Monday, 27 March 2023

NORTHERN LIGHTS from southern UK

Whilst primarily a birding blog, I just have to post this. Aurora Borealis is rarely seen, to any extent, from my latitude near the south coast in East Devon. There was a truly exceptional level of activity on the night of Thursday 23rd into Friday 24th March, caused by a CME (coronal mass ejection) a few days prior.

Long story short, I stayed up the entire night (then went to work, ~ 41 hours awake straight), and took images that I never thought would be possible near home, the like of which have almost certainly never been taken here before. 

I have a lot of images to go through but they'll have to sit on the hard drives for a bit, but hopefully you enjoy these as a taster:

Friday, 6 January 2023

I've never been so pleased to see a wagtail!

I admit to being moderately frustrated on Christmas Day; an apparent Eastern Yellow Wagtail had been found by John Gale on Colyford Common, about an hour after me leaving that same site. I'd been hoping ever since that I'd get a chance to see it, and a chance I got! With afternoon seeming the best bet from the few reports, I scheduled the day (Thurs 5th) around me spending some time at Coly Common. It was my daughter's 2nd birthday, and I had quite a bit of 'my own' work to do, so I told 'my other' work that I wasn't going to be in. Good move!

At 14:40 ish I heard, distantly, a Yellow Wagtail ish call. I've not got any first hand experience of EY Wagtail calls, but anything sounding vaguely like Yellow Wagtail at this time of year is interesting, and this had to be the bird. It flew over Coly Common from the west, and continued east beyond the tramline and towards the river. At this point I was concerned that that was going to be it. I did manage a couple of VERY ropey pics of it as it flew over, but fortunately it did the right thing and flew to the wires at Coly Common a couple of minutes later. It was distant at first, near the reedbed loop (I was on the main boardwalk), but even so this was very clearly the apparent Eastern Yellow Wagtail that had been seen on 3 previous occasions. 

A few more people arrived and then, much to our gratitude, the bird flew over and dropped down relatively close, maybe 40-50ft from where I was standing. It was pretty obscured by grass, but I didn't care, it was a relief to see it well. An 'I can't believe it' moment came when it found the Issy Wheatear, and they were in the same frame through the camera... At least at that point the Issy wasn't being totally ignored anymore! Is that two 2nds for Devon, on the same patch of grass, at the same time? Incredible.

Monday, 2 January 2023

Isabelline Wheatear reappears!

Well hello again. This was a pleasant surprise, after its apparent absence since Boxing Day! Susie spotted the Isabelline Wheatear back on Coly Common this morning, much to the delight of quite a few birders, especially those listing. Just a brief visit from me as it was a Daddy daughter day whilst the misses got triple pay for Bank Holiday. Missing the presumed Eastern Yellow Wagtail later in the afternoon hurt though, and my Dad missed it by minutes. It's here somewhere, but none of us have had any luck finding it's 'usual spot' yet...

And a headshot from Boxing Day:

Sunday, 1 January 2023

January 1st Patch Birding

1st of January, a day that wherever possible goes in the diary as a patch birding day!

Steve Waite had a Great White Egret land on BHM early morning, which fortunately was still about later & I managed to catch up with in the afternoon. It was perched, rather unusually, on a house... I'm not sure if this is the bird I had on December 26th or not, as someone else said they'd seen it on a rooftop late December. I haven't seen any pics good enough to be able to compare; mine from today were absolutely terrible as I was at Seaton Marshes, and the bird was on a house west of Black Hole Marsh! Similar distance to the Marsh Harrier which was a nice surprise today.

I'd been hoping to get the Dartford Warbler which has been about, but elusive, for a few weeks now; a bird I've not managed to see on patch yet, and it'll stay that way for the time being.

So, how bad a standard of pics do we want to see on this blog? A photo-less post just looks a bit lame in my opinion, but the photos from today are lame too. I'd say my priority balance has swung to more like 95% birder 5% photographer these days. I like photos for records, I like photos to help with ID, and occasionally I like to try and get nice photos of a nice bird.

So, lame photos are a go-go. To make this extra lame, the pics probably aren't worth getting off the camera, so I'll post a BOC (back of camera) pic taken on my phone instead...

Saturday, 31 December 2022

Bring on 2023

Another year gone. 2022 has been a good year on patch for locally scarce birds!

I never did quite revive this blog, but it was less neglected than recent years so I'm taking that as progress. Quite a few nice finds this year considering the disappointing amount of time I've been able to put into it, with the Glaucous Gull over my garden being perhaps the most unexpected. The 2nd of the 2 Honey Buzzards (Dorset) was impressive though, flying pretty much straight over me! 

I should probably do a bird montage image but to be honest, I can't be bothered to make it tonight (sorry), so here's one of some of my 2022 astro images!

Good luck to all heading out for January 1st birding, and all the best for 2023.

Thursday, 29 December 2022

Isabelline Wheatear & White-tailed Eagle

What a gorgeous wee bird!

Boxing Day was such a superb birding day on patch here with the Isabelline Wheatear continuing to show well, a visit from a White-tailed Eagle, as well as a flyover Great White Egret. There have been triple figures of people visiting us here for the Wheatear, with a plethora of pics appearing all over social media. You can't blame the photographers (or birders or twitchers) for coming for this one, it was both rare and very, very obliging. I crouched down on the boardwalk and waited, and the Wheatear duly hopped towards me, within perhaps 20-25ft at times. It gave a similar feeling to the incredulous views of the 1st Least Sand we had on Black Hole Marsh back in 2016.

With there being so many pics of this bird already doing the rounds online, I made a conscious effort to try and get something different, if possible. A flight shot was an outside hope because as much as we like to get them, they're just so difficult. Something a little more likely was a shot with streaks of rain, something I have a soft spot for in wildlife images (but preferably not my astro stuff...).

These 2 are by far & away my favourite images from the day:

And a very, very distant shot of the White-tailed Eagle. Bun (Kevin Hale) first saw what he thought might be a WT Eagle in flight over the other side of the river but views were distant and brief. He described where he thought it had gone in and I set my scope up on the area. This did show a blob of a bird, but it was just too distant for my 50x eyepiece and no amount of squinting or good eyesight was going to help any of us. Fortunately the camera was a bit more useful, and the very few pixels that were actually on the bird did seem to show it was likely an Eagle; I stuck my neck out and said to the crowd that I was 95% sure it was one. Half an hour or so later it flew and at that point there was no doubt at all. We've had a few passes of WT Eagle over the patch now, but this was the 1st time I've managed to see one, so cheers for initially spotting it Kev!

Saturday, 10 September 2022

2 Garganey, Hobby, Pec Sand & Osprey

I hate how sparse my blogging has been over recent years but if I ever only worked 100 hours per week, I'd genuinely consider it part time 😂

On September 1st, in terrible light, and very distant, I had 3 small ducks fly in and park up on the Axe estuary. My immediate hunch was 2 Garganey and a Teal, so I alerted the others in the hide. Some umm-ing and ahh-ing later and the scope & bin views just weren't good enough, but fortunately the camera revealed more, especially when they came a bit closer, 400 ft or so (but DARK). Bang on, 2 Garganey and a teal! I've found quite a few Garganey here over the years, but these were the first that were properly hard work. Hobby was nice to see that same evening, my 1st of the year I think; pretty poor, but birding time has been poor so...

Roll on the 9th, my birthday! An alert went out about a Pectoral Sandpiper at Colyford Common so I quickly popped over for a look before going to work (late...). Got it, in the drizzle, but got it. No sensible pics but I was just glad to see another one here. Keen to have another try after work, I headed back there in the evening, but before I could check the waders, an Osprey approached and flushed everything...

Pec and Osprey, happy birthday!