Tuesday, 30 October 2007

website update

Some updates to trip reports are happening on my website. Not a huge change in circumstances yet, but a gradual increase in information... More pictures to be loaded at some stage too.

Monday, 29 October 2007

London pics

A whole two pictures from the weekend in London - not really photo weather, to be honest, but nice to catch up with family again!

The Golden Hinde

Setting up for Diwali in Trafalgar Square

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Followup photo

Just as follow-up to the previous post - here's one I photographed earlier... From Drift reservoir, Cornwall a couple of years back.

Juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher

Small brown wading bird

One of those odd things happened yesterday - I managed to hear of a decent rare bird on the Exe in time to go and search for it on the same day. A Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus), on Bowling Green Marsh. Oddly, it was a new Devon bird for me, so I was pretty keen to see it in that strange, somewhat obsessed manner of the lifelong birder...

Needless to say, I couldn't persuade myself that I'd seen it properly, so this morning I was back in the hide at first light. A massed pack of waders was on the pool, with about 500 Black-tailed Godwit, a couple of hundred each of Curlew, Redshank and Avocet and a smattering of Dunlin, Knot, Golden Plover and Lapwing. Everything hunkered down and snoozed for a while whilst the two of us present scanned the flock and enjoyed the whistling of the Wigeon flock - a bird that sounds uncannily like it's just been goosed!

After an hour, everything went nuts as a male Peregrine hurtled through the site and attempted to catch a fast breakfast, putting the smaller waders to flight and rudely interrupting the larger birds' sleep. After three racing passes in front of us, he disappeared back up the river and allowed everything else to settle. This obviously did the trick - all the birds were jumpy, running around at the slightest stimulus and allowing us to scan through properly; and eventually I managed to pick up the dowitcher amongst the Redshank, getting some decent views in the end. A nice juvenile bird, a little darker than I had remembered them being.

Incidentally, I discovered today that the word 'dowitcher' comes from an Iroquois Indian language, perhaps Mohawk, apparently meaning 'small brown wading bird'... and is the only Mohawk word in the English language. So there!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007


Bunked off for a quick wander round a couple of my stamping-grounds this morning - the sun was shining and the birds were a-singin', so it seemed like a good idea at the time. A brief wander down the canal-bank at Exminster Marshes (picture on the header) made me realise just how biting the ene breeze actually is today, and that I was slightly under-dressed. There were few birds of great interest, the best probably a juvenile female Ruff on the lagoon. Despite the wintry feel to the day, wintering birds were not particularly numerous - around 50 Wigeon, 100 Teal and a single Black-tailed Godwit on the marshes, plus a handful of Redwing flying over. When a local farmer moved in to top some of the grass round the pools and scared all the birds off, I headed off to the old sludge-beds at Countess Wear in search of wintering warblers.

Briefy, the sludge beds are the old settling pools area from the Exeter sewage works - a land use that has traditionally attracted birds and birders alike. The sewage works have long since moved to more modern techniques of treatment, and of course everything associated with them is now fenced off to prevent random numpties from falling in. The old beds, however, have been turned over to the Devon Wildlife Trust, who leave them part-flooded, with a mix of willow carr and reedbed.

(part of the boardwalk through the sludge beds reserve)

Inside the reserve, the wind was buffered by the trees to some extent, and I was able to get into a couple of flocks of mixed passerines - handy being able to cling to branches with your toes, I've found.

Not much amongst them, beyond a quartet of Chiffchaff flicking and flycatching their way around the sunny patches and a couple of the resident Cetti's Warblers exploding with indignation at my intrusion. Frustrating point of the day came when I caught a very brief glimpse of what was most likely a Yellow-browed Warbler in an ivy-clad oak: it stuck it's head out from behind a leaf and then vapourised.

My return journey was brightened by a rather tame Goldfinch feeding on teasel, which allowed me one photo only, and the disturbing sight of Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) seeding madly in the sunshine...

(Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis) and Japanese knotweed seeds. Vile invader...

Monday, 22 October 2007

Garden ringing

A handful of birds ringed in the garden this morning - two new female Blackbirds first thing were followed by a selection of the usual suspects (Greenfinch, Goldfinch) and a retrap Coal Tit. This is the first retrap CoaTi in the garden, after ringing a rather surprising six in the last month. Some pictures of this bird at first ringing - back on the 13th September, and a nice adult male Greenfinch from earlier in the year - just for the hell of it!

Winter seems to be heading in to the region now: Redwing (Turdus iliacus) and Fieldfare (T. pilaris) passing over regularly along with a smattering of Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) and Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis). One of our local Woodlarks (Lullula arborea) has begun to sing again on sunny days - yesterday I watched him looping high in the air, singing hard whilst flying in what I can only describe as a bouncy circle. This is a species that only moved in to the village in the last 12 months, presumably benefiting from the weedy stubble fields that are being left into the winter.

Coal Tit (Periparus ater)

Adult male Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)

Monday, 15 October 2007


As an occasional blogger, don't expect any frequent updates. This one is to let people know that some new photos have been uploaded on my Flickr account, and that my website has been updated fairly recently - new look, some new content.