Follow in Nigel's Footsteps

Monday, 19 January 2015

A Devon Dumpling...

I have to admit, I had reservations about going to see this one. Although very tame (as they almost invariably are) I had a feeling this bird had seen more than it's fair share of people over the last week and was hesitant about adding to the circus. With absolutely nothing else around and the prospect of continuing on to Dawlish Warren to try and find the elusive Bonaparte's gull, Dave Helliar and I decided to take a look and see how busy it was. Well, we were amazed! Considering it was a sunny, clear, beautiful winter's day there was only one other person who had been watching it when we arrived and they were just leaving? We sat on the sea wall at a distance and sure enough it started making its way towards us coming to within about 12-15 ft. Plenty close enough to get good pics and some film of it.

Snow Bunting, male: Dave Helliar
Snow Bunting, male: Dave Helliar
Snow Bunting, male: Dave Helliar
Snow Bunting, male: Dave Helliar
Snow Bunting: R. Harris

Male Snow Bunting, Powderham, Devon: R. Harris

We had it all to ourselves for 20 minutes. A few interested walkers asked what we were looking at, including a couple who were really pleased they'd stopped and asked - made their day seeing it. As they left they even asked where they should walk so as not to disturb it! Lovely people. Then came a photographer or two. Straight away one had to walk 10ft closer than the rest of us...why? And so the chase ensued. The Snow Bunting stopped feeding and hastily made its way along the wall until it was 40+ ft away and down onto the tide line. With that Dave and I departed before the red mist descended.

By the time we reached the car the road was in chaos. Closure of the main road through Powderham meant that everything had been diverted along Church Lane and it was stacked with traffic. We decided there and then to turn around and head back to Aylesbeare Common to see if we could chance upon the Great Grey Shrike which hasn't been seen for a while. No luck with that but a beautiful day for walking the common and picked up a single Siskin, at least 4 Coal Tits and a few Stonechats.

Stonechat: R. Harris

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Penduline Tits...and about time too!

The weather yesterday was foul. It was blowing gale force winds, overcast and at time raining quite heavily. So I was surprised (and somewhat annoyed) to see that the three roving Penduline tits had turned up yet again at Darts Farm near Exeter and to top it all, they were showing well and stayed for more than their usual 20 minutes...in fact they stayed for about an hour-and-a-half! I made the decision there and then that I would give them one more shot, my fifth attempt no less.

Today the weather was much better but would they finally give themselves up? Dave, Andy and myself set off at a rather relaxed 8am departure (as they rarely show much before 11am) and arrived at a much sunnier Darts Farm than on my previous trips of late. Things were already looking up. Shortly after we arrived Dave picked up the Black Brant with several hundred Brents out on the fields and then just after nine someone located the Pendulines in the bulrushes by the fishing pond - they were quite early today. A dash from the hide and everyone had great views as the three birds did what they do best, pull seeds from the heads of the bulrushes. They gradually made their way around in front of the hide and again showed fantastically well. It was so satisfying to finally connect with these charismatic little birds in such great conditions. Got some decent video but photos were more difficult as the Bridge camera tended to hunt for focus. Thankfully Dave and Andy got some decent photos today:

Don't forget - if viewing the video in YouTube you can click on the settings option below the video and select 1080p to see it in its original HD quality. Warning! this doesn't necessarily mean it'll be any better!

Penduline Tits, Darts Farm, Devon: R. Harris

Penduline Tit, Darts Farm, Devon: D. Helliar
Penduline Tit, Darts Farm, Devon: A. Grinter
Penduline Tit, Darts Farm, Devon: D. Helliar
Penduline Tits, Darts Farm, Devon: D. Helliar
Penduline Tit, Darts Farm: R. Harris
Penduline Tit, Darts Farm: R. Harris
Penduline Tit, Darts Farm: R. Harris
After leaving Darts Farm we made a visit to Bowling Green Marsh and managed distant views of the Spotted Redshank along with stunningly close views of some of the more regular species that we all take for granted.

Black-tailed Godwit: Andy Grinter
Wigeon, male: Andy Grinter
Snipe: Andy Grinter
Common Snipe, adult: R. Harris

Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits

Needless to say we were all very happy and satisfied birders today.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Brean Down...

Well, Dave Helliar really nailed it today! Just check out these fantastic Twite photos taken this morning at Brean Down - the best I've seen so far and all on a Nikon bridge camera.  Just goes to show a bit of patience goes a long way. To top it all he also got the mobile Lapland Bunting, two Water Pipits, 5 Jack Snipe followed by a female Red Crested Pochard and Goldeneye at Cheddar Res as well as the five Bewick's Swans at Nythe. What a change of fortunes after dipping the Devon Pendulines yesterday!

Twite, Brean Down: Dave Helliar
Twite, Brean Down: Dave Helliar
Twite, Brean Down: Dave Helliar
Twite, Brean Down: Dave Helliar
Twite, Brean Down: Dave Helliar
Lapland Bunting, Brean Down: Dave Helliar
Bewicks Swans, Nythe: Dave Helliar
Bewicks Swans, Nythe: Dave Helliar


Pendulines: 0 Great Grey: 1

After missing the Penduline Tits again at Darts Farm (by 10 seconds!) on Friday I really wanted to give them one more try yesterday - fourth time lucky!  It was Dave's fourth attempt too, between us we've put in quite a lot of time on these birds over the Christmas break. But it was not to be. After three hours of standing around patiently in the cold staring at bulrushes, we had little to show for our efforts: 3 Stonechats, a few Chiffchaff, a Kingfisher, the flock of Brents (sans Black Brant) and frozen legs! By one o'clock we decided they just weren't going to show and headed off to try and catch up with the Great Grey Shrike at Aylesbeare Common instead.

At last a bit of luck. It was hanging out exactly where we heard it had been seen earlier in the day. Though initially distant, two 'bird watchers' went to a great effort to repeatedly flush it and it did come slightly nearer to us (merci!) and eventually it passed to within about 60 ft of us. It would have stayed quite happily but was then flushed by a walker and appeared to fly high over the main road towards Hawkerland. Pity the light was so bad:

Great Grey Shrike: Dave Helliar
Great Grey Shrike: R. Harris
Great Grey Shrike: R. Harris

A few more local birds from this week, thanks to Dave Helliar for the photos:

Black Redstart at Brean Down: D. Helliar
Mallard on ice, Chard: D. Helliar
Drake Goosander, Chard: D. Helliar


Friday, 2 January 2015

Blue snow...

It wouldn't be Christmas without snow but as we didn't get any of the precipitation kind, we'll have to make do with this blue phase Snow Goose found by Dave Helliar when it dropped into a local nature reserve with 107 Canada Geese. Now if this had been found in the north or east of the country, it would unquestionably be accepted as a wild (no rings or tags) bird. However, it turned up in Somerset and that kind of puts to rest any possible chance it could be accepted as a wild bird - they just don't get accepted down here for whatever reason. Not only was it not ringed, it was also extremely skittish...who knows:

Blue phase Snow Goose: R. Harris
Staying with a wildfowl theme - Andy Grinter is in Cornwall for a few days and sent me over these lovely shots of a Whooper Swan that's currently on the boating lake at Helston - what a performer!

Whooper Swan, Helston Boating Lake: A. Grinter
Whooper Swan, Helston Boating Lake: A. Grinter
Whooper Swan, Helston Boating Lake: A. Grinter
Whooper Swan, Helston Boating Lake: A. Grinter
Happy New Year!