Saturday 24 September 2016

Grey Plovers & Common Tern on the Axe

There are still at least 2 Grey Plovers around the Axe Estuary, viewed distantly North of Tower Hide this evening. Just as it was starting to get dark a Tern sp. flew upstream so I quickly got the camera out to bank a few shots. I'm 90% sure it was just a Common Tern but I'll look at pics later just in case; conditions were too dark to tell through the bins or scope so hopefully the (awful) pics are more useful.

Here's another pic of the Lesser Grey Shrike (Plymouth). I took my shots from about 40ft away but it's been showing down to 10-15ft at times today apparently! That's so close that my lens wouldn't be able to focus on it. Remarkably tolerant bird:

Thursday 22 September 2016

Lesser Grey Shrike - Action Shots

Here's some pics of the bird in action! It's still being reported as present today and showing closer too; hopefully it'll stick around for a few more days so that some of the weekend birders can see it.

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Lesser Grey Shrike in Devon

I simply couldn't resist going to see the Lesser Grey Shrike near Mount Batten Point (Plymouth, Devon). The original plan was to dash over yesterday but I ended up spending all afternoon on calls with some overseas colleagues; thankfully the bird was still there this morning. Here's a video clip and 1 pic of about 1000, so there'll be a lot more appearing on here soon:

I'm hoping for some patch action soon as 300-400 Yellow-browed Warblers have arrived in the UK over the last couple of days. This is both early and on unprecedented scale - it seems they've had another bumper breeding year. Brendan Sheils had one in Charmouth in the evening of 20th and it was still present this morning; they aren't far away from us here...

Tuesday 20 September 2016

Buff-breasted + Pectoral Sand getting friendly...

Given how many fantastic photos of the Davidstow Airfield Buff-breasted have been put online I thought I'd try something a little different - going on a drizzly day. This does make getting decent shots significantly more challenging (poor light and wet optics) but the results can be really interesting. With the right shutter speed, the raindrops make little streaks across the image, something which I find looks quite pretty in some scenes. Things didn't go totally to plan; the forecast was for an occasional shower so I was hoping to get some shots of the bird both in the wet and in the dry. However it ended up peeing it down all afternoon; the Buff-breasted was looking really quite scruffy. The Pec remained looking smart regardless of the rain so all was not lost.

After initially finding the Pec in a separate area to the Buff-breasted, I was glad when they posed together for a while. This happened a few times but as they scurry around quite quickly it was often difficult to get a good shot. I'm pleased with this one though:

Pectoral Sandpiper (left) with Buff-breasted Sandpiper (right)

Here's a few more of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper:

And a few more of the Pectoral Sandpiper:

Monday 19 September 2016

Twitched a Buff-breasted and found a Pectoral

What a day!!! I'll do a proper write-up with a load of pics and video footage soon but for now here's a couple of pics as a taster. It rained from early afternoon onward near Camelford but I quite like what the raindrops do to the pics.
It took me an hour or so after arrival to finally locate the Buff-breasted, but shortly after that I found a new-in Pectoral Sandpiper to go with it...

Pectoral Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpiper bathing

MUCH more to come.

Sunday 18 September 2016

Nightjar - Video Footage

Here's a short video clip of the juvenile patch Nightjar, taken late August. As is expected with night photography/videography the ISO setting was very high but this has slightly less influence on the final result than it does with stills.
Hopefully they'll have a successful breeding again if/when they return next year. It'd be good to have 2 breeding pairs again like we had in 2015!

Friday 16 September 2016

VIDEO: Red-backed Shrike vs GG Bush Cricket

The first video includes some preening but if you wanted just the clip of the demise of a GG Bush Cricket then the 2nd video is the quicker option.

Here's a pic of a GG Bush Cricket that the RB Shrike impaled and saved for later... The cricket was still alive an hour after being impaled so it must have suffered a fair bit of discomfort!

And here's another pic of the bird. Posing well, showing off its colours and looking back slightly towards the camera:

Thursday 15 September 2016

Red-backed Shrike at Beer Head

A brilliant find by Bun (Kevin Hale) on patch this morning - a nice colourful juvenile Red-Backed Shrike near the 'Summit' at Beer Head. There were birds everywhere; in the field, on fence posts, on wires etc. As well as the RB Shrike, between 09:00 & 12:00 there were at least:

100 + Meadow Pipit
2 Tree Pipit
8 Wheatear
20 + Yellow Wagtails over

Here's a  few snaps (many more to come along with video footage but I have to crack on with work now). The bird was very obliging; I simply sat on the ground and waited for it to come to me. It didn't seem remotely bothered by people even when there was a small crowd:

It caught quite a few Great Green Bush Crickets!

Steve had an Osprey over the estuary at 14:50 so I rushed down but dipped. However, there was a near constant stream of Swallows going through, with perhaps 400 - 600 passing by Tower Hide in a 15 minute period so that was good to see. There were also new singles of Ruff & Knot as there were 3 of each (1 Ruff on estuary, all others on BHM).

Wednesday 14 September 2016

Excellent day on patch - Avocet, Knot, Ruff, Curlew Sand...

14th September:
Steve found an Avocet on Black Hole Marsh at dawn - a good bird for here. Given how numerous they are on the River Exe during the Winter period, Avocet is a bird that a lot of people don't have a great deal of interest in, but this is a different story for patch birders here. This is only the 5th one I've seen on patch and 3 of the previous 4 were seen together. I saw it on BHM in the morning before it flew out to the estuary; views were generally distant but it was good to get prolonged views. Here are a few pics from this morning (I returned in the evening and the bird was still present at dusk):

Also on Black Hole Marsh: 6+ Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Ruff, 1 Curlew Sandpiper (presumably the juv from yesterday lingering), 1 Knot (Steve had a 2nd on the river) and 2 Wheatear on the hedgerow just South of BHM. The Knot showed superbly in the morning light...

There are a few pics in this series so I'll post some more soon

An XZ691 Royal Navy Westland Lynx HMA.8 caused havoc over the Axe Estuary as it did a VERY low fly-by & circle. A great sight but the birds were not at all pleased...

Unfortunately this is the closest I've got to anything Osprey related on the Axe this year...

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Curlew Sandpiper - pics + video

Well the weather was certainly more extreme than was anticipated here; the oh-so-trustworthy forecasts gave it dry pretty much all day today yet we ended up with torrential rain and prolonged spells of thunder & lightning until the afternoon! Steve had a Ruff and the 5th Curlew Sandpiper of the year on Black Hole Marsh early afternoon and they were still there this evening. The juv Curlew Sand showed well in the end and successfully avoided the talons of a hunting Peregrine.

Brendan Sheils had the best bird of the day with a juv Spotted Redshank (as well as 1st Winter Yellow-legged Gull & Little Stint) from Seaton Marshes hide at 19:00. Hopefully the former will still be around tomorrow - it's the first Spotshank to be reported on patch this year and I didn't see one on patch at all in 2015!

This one was taken in the last of the evening light, giving the bird a more peachy hue

Here's a short video clip:

Monday 12 September 2016

Green Sandpiper Reflection

Here's the aforementioned (previous post) Green Sandpiper:

There are many other pics including some much closer ones but I quite like the aesthetic of the reflection here; the light direction and angle only allows this type of shot at certain times of the day so it's something that takes deliberate planning rather than simply pointing a camera at it and clicking. Black Hole Marsh is perfect for such projects but the wildlife still needs to cooperate - all part of the fun!

BHM was fairly quiet this evening (12th) during a brief visit with the only highlight being 6 Yellow Wags dropping in and giving some nice close views on the lines in front of Island Hide. Away from BHM, Steve had 3 Yellow-legged Gulls on the Axe Estuary during the day.

Saturday 10 September 2016

Birthday Twitch - Sanderling on BHM

Steve found a Sanderling on Black Hole Marsh at high tide on 9th Sept - although not generally rare, they are pretty scarce on patch so I headed straight down. In fact prior to this one, I'd seen the same number of Least Sands and Monty Harriers (2 of each) on patch as I had Sanderlings!

The Sanderling remained pretty distant but it was nice to just see one - took a couple of snaps then just watched it for a while.

Black Hole Marsh was fairly quiet early afternoon today (10th) with a single Green Sand being the best on offer. It was showing very well from the viewing screens at the end of the boardwalk to Island Hide; pics of this to follow when I've put them on the PC.

Here's the snaps of the Sanderling:

Thursday 8 September 2016

Wood Sandpiper - 'Slowmo' video footage

It's come to that time of year to change the age number in my profile text yet again. I'm not a great fan of birthdays; some nasty things have happened around this time of year in the past so it's usually a month to try and forget!

The patch continues to be fairly quiet with the exception of a few lingering Barwits; this is just as well really as the last couple of weeks have been pretty heavy on the work front (16-18 hours a day, every day). Looking at reports slightly further afield, the River Exe seems to be the place to be right now if the spectacle of 7-10 Ospreys appeals to your taste. 7 to 10!! A flock of Ospreys!! I've still not seen one so far this year despite there being at least 3 passing through the Axe Valley here - I missed them all due to hospital stuff and/or work. There is still time to get one though...

Here's a short video clip of a Wood Sandpiper, taken from Island Hide at Black Hole Marsh in August. It was taken at high frame rate 4K so it appears in slow motion when reduced down to HD. I quite like the splashing of the rain - it sure was a grim evening:

Monday 5 September 2016

An influx of waders

Up until today, the last few days have been disappointing on patch with nothing new of interest dropping in. I've had Black Hole Marsh & Coly Common mostly to myself in recent evenings, perhaps because of the rain. I got pretty wet and didn't find anything new but it's always worth putting in the effort just in case! Brendan had a Great White Egret heading West from Charmouth over the weekend so I was hoping it may drop in here but no such luck. Black Hole Marsh was quiet again last night with 6 Ringed Plover and 8 Dunlin being the only small waders. The best bird (loose use of the term) was a Greenshank which dropped in at dusk - likely the bird which has been on Coly Common lately.

Late afternoon on the 5th finally brought in some new birds with an Osprey reported at 16:30 as well as 19 Bar-tailed Godwits on the estuary from Tower Hide. The number of small waders (Dunlin, Ringed Plover) was also over 50 which is a decent increase from recent days. High tide was at around 22:00 tonight so it'll be interesting to see if there's anything extra of interest on Black Hole Marsh in the morning (tide pushing more birds off of the estuary). There is a chance that the Osprey is still here - it was last seen flying North up the estuary so it'll have to return South at some point...

To distract from the monotony of reading text here's a recent Little Stint pic taken at Black Hole Marsh. It was pretty distant and isn't particularly sharp but I quite like the open-bill pose. Cute wee things!

Thursday 1 September 2016

Ruff Video Footage

The blog has been quiet for the last couple days as I had meetings in Ireland but thankfully nothing really good was missed on patch; it's always a concern leaving the patch this time of year! Between the meetings and a delayed flight (oh don't you just love delayed flights...) I had over 40 hours without a glimpse of a bed, but some of the Irish scenery (plus grub & a pint) more than made up for the hassle:

There were 2 Wheatear down on these rocks!

It's still much the same on patch with the highlights being 2 Ruff and 1 Little Stint remaining on Black Hole Marsh. Brendan found a 3rd Ruff in the afternoon on 31st and there was also a report of a Garganey briefly on 30th. The Ruff have been showing very close to Island Hide at times - here is a video clip that's uncropped & straight from the camera. It's best viewed on YouTube at 1080p HD if your bandwidth can tolerate it: