Sunday, 29 October 2017


I had every intention of going birding today. I wanted to take advantage of the ongoing mild weather to get out for a walk but as I sat in the armchair near the living room window munching on a piece of toast and contemplating where to go, two blobs caught my eye at the top of a birch tree 50 meters away. I regularly see things perched up in this tree and immediately knew from the size and posture that these were something different. Incidentally it's not the first time this has happened either. Earlier in the year I was pretty sure I had a bee-eater perched at the top of the same tree but the views only lasted a couple of seconds before it vanished...two days later a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater was seen three miles away in Yarcombe, maybe the mega that got away! But that's another story.

Anyway, back to today...luckily my bins were right at hand and to my surprise I soon discovered the two mystery birds were in fact Hawfinch, a new bird for the garden list and the first I'd seen in over a year. They sat quite happily, calling frequently for about 3 or 4 minutes before flying off out of sight. I'd heard one calling as it flew overhead a couple of days ago but hadn't expected to see one in the village - they are stonking birds.

Hawfinch, one of two, Whitestaunton: R Harris
Best I could manage in the early light.
The garden wasn't finished though. As I set up my scope and dug-in to wait for the Hawfinches to return the familiar call of a Firecrest exploded from the hedge in front of me and there it was, one of my favorite birds, a real gem amongst the foliage and yet another new bird on the garden list! What a start to the day. Although it showed well it was sadly too active to photograph. By now I really didn't want to go anywhere, this was too good to walk away from. Half-an-hour later all the birds went mad and I looked up to see a huge female Peregrine slowly gliding overhead and circling the garden - certainly not a bird I see in Whitestaunton very often at all. I can't remember a day as good as this for scarce birds in the garden, quite amazing.

The lanes around Whitestaunton are
looking great at the moment.
Also found this hornet on its last legs in the garden this afternoon:

European Hornet

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Rock Thrush...

After waiting nearly a fortnight, Dave Helliar and myself finally succumbed and made the journey across the Severn and into Wales today to go and see the Rock Thrush, which has been in residence around the disused quarries at Pwll-Du in Gwent since the 12th October.

The wind was howling from the North-West and it felt like it was freezing but that didn't stop the Rock Thrush from showing extremely well (could be something to do with the meal worms being scattered by the photographers!).  I'm just glad I was kitted out for the cold!  After our initial views it flew up to the quarry face to shelter but returned to the same spot by a pile of rocks on the ground 5 minutes later.

Rock Thrush, Pwll-Du: R. Harris

Rock Thrush, Pwll-Du: R. Harris

Rock Thrush, Pwll-Du: R. Harris
Rock Thrush, Pwll-Du: R. Harris

Rock Thrush, Pwll-Du: R. Harris

Rock Thrush, Pwll-Du: R. Harris

Rock Thrush: Dave Helliar

 Rock Thrush: Dave Helliar

Rock Thrush: Dave Helliar

Still drawing a crowd after two weeks.
Despite the overcast skies, the P900 did a fairly good job of getting pics and a short video too:

Rock Thrush, Pwll-Du, Gwent

The views from the quarry site were pretty cool too! 

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Med's and Mistles...

A quick visit to the River Axe last week yielded my first two Mediterranean Gulls of the autumn. Med's are my favorites, there's something appealing about their look and character. They seem completely independent of all other Gull species often standing alone and departing when others around them are content to stay put.

Mediterranean Gull, 1st winter, Axmouth, Devon 
Mediterranean Gull, 1st winter, Axmouth, Devon
Mediterranean Gull, adult winter
A wander around Axmouth yacht club produced three wheatear too.

Wheatear, Axmouth, male

Wheatear, female/1st winter type

On the beach I came across this Portuguese Man-o-war. You only normally see these syphonphores after extreme weather conditions and the tale-end of the recent Atlantic hurricanes has thrown up large numbers of these around the south west coastline.

Colourful syphonophore stranded on the
Tideline after heavy seas.
While at home a flock of ten Mistle Thrush moved through the garden accompanied by half-a-dozen Redwing. Winter is truly on its way!

Mistle Thrush, Whitestaunton 
Mistle Thrush, Whitestaunton 

Mistle Thrush 

Monday, 16 October 2017

Flying visit...

I spent the week before last working in Canada, four days in Newfoundland and a couple in Toronto.
Newfoundland is a very colourful place filled with equally colourful characters and the Irish and West Country ancestry shines through in their warmth and friendliness. Even the houses are colourful just about everywhere you go.

St John's, the Provincial capital
Nearby Quidi Vidi is a wonderful sheltered little harbour with fishing boats and an amazing brewery!

Quidi Vidi harbour 10 minutes from St John's city centre
Quidi Vidi Brewery, a great place to watch gulls from...

American Herring Gull, Adult

American Herring Gull, 1st winter

Black Duck are very common. Plenty in Quidi Vidi harbour, NF

The Skerwink Trail near Port Rexton offered some lovely coastal vistas. I'm sure earlier in the year it would have been teaming with birds but in October it's just a bit too late to see very much.
The Skerwink Trail at Port Rexton offers scenic vistas.
Coastline along the Skerwink Trail

Jon Joy of Tuckamore Adventures is a superb
local Wildlife guide.
The only seasbirds obviously present were the hundreds of Gannets fishing just offshore.

Gannet, Port Rexton

Toronto was warm - 25-30 deg over the two days I was there. Loads of Monarch butterflies were still heading south but never stopped for photos, unlike the ever present ring-billed Gulls.

Ring-billed Gull, adult

Ring-billed Gull, 1st winter

Double-crested Cormorant, Toronto Harbour
Double-crested Cormorant, Toronto Harbour

Double-crested Cormorant, Toronto Harbour

Double-crested Cormorant, 1st winter
A boat trip out to the Toronto Islands was a great way to see the city skyline properly. You can't get a view like this anywhere else.

Toronto skyline

Great Blue Heron

Would definitely like to head back to Newfoundland before too long. It's amazingly close to the UK - the flight time is just 5 hours and if you hit the Jetstream coming home, less than 4 hours!