Monday, 28 January 2008

Website images update

As an addemdum to the last post, I've finally managed to reorganise a bunch of the photos on my website, now got them in a larger format to make them a tad more attractive. Kenya pictures are also updated, having scanned in a swathe of prints...

Have fun!

Surveys and sun

A bit of a change in the weather allowed me to do some surveys this last week: both tetrads for the bird atlas and roosting gulls on the Exe. The atlas squares were unremarkable in the main, though it was great to hear Woodlark singing so early in the year on the first tetrad. The better weather also allowed me to get some ringing going in the garden, with a control Greenfinch as a very pleasant surprise to kick the year off with! (For those who don't know and want to, a control is a bird ringed by someone else that you've caught. The general rule is that it has to have travelled more than 5km to count as a control, to factor out the local movements that our birds potter through as a matter of course - in this case, none of my neighbouring ringers are admitting to having ringed this bird, so it should be the first proper control for the garden!)

Pre-survey birding on Saturday produced about 10 colour-ringed Brents on the estuary, although one of those had lost one colour ring, so is no longer individually identifiable. Pity... The others were mainly birds I've seen earlier in the winter, although one of them I hadn't seen since 2004, so it's good to know it's been lurking somewhere! The sour note of the day came later, when something went wrong with the steering on the car... Nothing obviously broken, and nothing leaking, but I bet it costs a pretty penny to fix!

The gull survey involved lurking at the confluence of the Clyst and Exe, counting the gulls coming from the northeast to roost overnight on the Exe. Not a great number of birds on our section; only a few hundreds, in fact, but those watching the Exe must have had a busy time of it - a fair stream of birds was passing downriver behind us for about an hour and a half. Will be interesting to see the combined results eventually. The evening was made by one of those sunsets that looks as if it's been photographed through one of those Cadbury's Roses red cellophane chocolate wrappers:

Looking from the end of the Clyst down the Exe towards Dawlish Warren

Sunday was, in it's own minor way, a quite exciting day: a ringing tick in the form of Siskin (yes, I know...) and a very pleasant wander along Exminster Marshes to Turf Locks. A colour-ringed Avocet (not the bird below, that's just an example of an Avocet) was nice, but judging by past results, I'll never hear anything about its origins. Bloody ringers...! The two Cattle Egrets were showing nicely in the sunshine, but not really worthy of photographs. Not much else of note on the river, although a flyby Peacock butterfly was pleasant to see. First butterfly for the year, and all that malarkey...

Male Siskin Carduelis spinus.

(Pied) Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta from Turf Locks Hotel, through the telescope

Monday, 21 January 2008

Fossil fossicking

Late, but none the worse for it. Last Wednesday (16th) I travelled with my cousin Pete down to Lyme Regis to search for fossils. We took a brief look along the beach at Seaton first, in driving rain and generally grim weather and came away with little to show for it beyond a handful of Rock Pipits 'psit'-ing, some funky waves breaking on the beach and regular chunks of rock falling off the cliffs. We moved on to Lyme, which immediately proved it's superiority - a nice male Black Redstart on the beach in front of us...

We stomped up the beach along with the falling tide, and found an incredible number of ammonites, some clam-type fossils and various other odss & sods, including a rather fine cockle-shell (below). Keep scrolling for some more views of some fossils! Must do that again sometime...

Monday, 7 January 2008

Weekend birding - Jan 5th-6th

More Exe-based pottering this weekend, though it doesn't count as patch-based work, as I visit many sites around the river. Saturday morning was spent watching the Lapland Bunting (Longspur, if you prefer) at Orcombe Point, Exmouth. Only the second I've seen in the county, it was lurking in the midst of a reasonably large flock of Skylark - about 150 birds - with a couple of Woodlark and a good smattering of alba wagtails, Linnet, Meadow Pipits and Chaffinch. The birds were fairly flightly, in part due to the attentions of a female Sparrowhawk, which pitched into the flock a couple of times.

Moving on, I managed a quick Slav Grebe at the river mouth, then half a dozen colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit were found at Bowling Green Marsh - the dowitcher wasn't evident though, as the tide was still rather too low.

Final birding was a repeat visit to Exminster Marshes, where up to 5 Water Pipit were skulking around a couple of ponds on-site. Nice birds, and good to be getting my eye back in on winter birds...

Sunday's birding was pretty much a repeat trip with Judith & her dog, though we failed to see a great deal - the Surf Scoter off the mouth of the Exe and a single Water Pipit being the scarce bird highlight. We did manage to pull 9 colour-marked Brent Geese out of a flock of c.200 birds feeding on Exminster, one of which was ringed on the Taimyr peninsula a few years back. A Green Sandpiper on Bowling Green was also interesting; we don't have too many of them through the winter.

Lapland Bunting Calcarius lapponicus; one I photographed earlier

Thursday, 3 January 2008

100 species and Kenya - part I

Well, that's 100 for the year - and Devon - today. A meeting with a colleague found me Yellowhammer, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and Jay, and I dropped in on the Exe on the way home. Missed out on the Cattle Egret at Powderham, but a handful of Sanderling on the mudflats and then an evening Water Rail at Exminster took me to the ton! Plenty left to see though...

Now I've had some time to load some photos from Kenya on my website, it's time to think about writing a bit about the trip!

We headed out to Nairobi on the night flight of the 1st December '07, transferring immediately to the car-hire offices, then headed straight to Tsavo NP. Had the road been OK, it would have been an easy trip, but much of the road is under temporary diversions whilst the main road is resurfaced and/or rebuilt.
Much of the road (not the section above, obviously!) is hammered by the amazingly overloaded lorries passing along it, with sections of tarmac having ruts deeper than many mud roads I've driven on! We passed a handful of roadkill lorries along the way, but eventually rolled up to our lunchbreak site - Hunter's Lodge. This was a welcome break in that we could have food and a beer, as well as a taste of some interesting birds and beasts: Giant and Malachite Kingfishers were fishing, whilst African Golden Weavers were busy weaving nests in the waterside reeds. A variety of dragonflies were also present: I found a single male Emperor (Anax imperator), whilst Red-veined Dropwing (Trithemis arteriosa) and Hagen's Sprite (Pseudagrion hageni) were common, along with a couple of unidentified damselfly species (pictures posted when I get them processed) and a single Pintail (Acisoma panorpoides).

The next stage of the journey was rather more interesting, as we began to pick up a few more wildlife sightings. A brief pee-stop was enlivened by a mixed bag of Amur Falcons, Booted and Wahlberg's Eagles overhead and the soon-to-become-monotonous sound of Slate-coloured Boubou. In short order we reached the gates of Tsavo NP, were admitted, and headed for the lodge. Brief stops were made for such avian goodies as Martial Eagle, Golden-breasted Starling and Hartlaub's Bustard, with a backup mammal caste of elephant, hippopotamus and what were the only Black-backed Jackals of the trip.

We finally arrived at Ngulia, unpacked and freshened up for dinner. The nets were already in place, thanks to the earlier arrival of some local ringers, so we were spared having to set up completely from scratch... Ringing began that very night... to be continued.

New Year, new start

Hey ho, another year begins... First off, if anyone reads this, Happy New Year to you - good luck, success and happiness be with you for the coming 360+ days - whatever it may be now.

I managed to load up a few photos from my recent ringing trip to Kenya at - make of them what you will! They're only small low-res images at the moment, as I haven't the time to sort out larger images. I might get some uploaded elsewhere sometime; watch this space, I suppose!

The old year ended with a bit of style - the last day of ringable weather produced a record garden catch of 53 birds, including the first Great Spotted Woodpecker (an adult female) I've ringed here.

The last two days were spent walking round a couple of local sites - Yarner Woods on the 30th and Bowling Green Marsh on the 31st. Yarner was its usual semi-productive self, with very little to show for a long walk until the very end, when a superb Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and a cracking male Dartford Warbler gave themselves up in short order. Bowling Green was reasonably good, with the long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher giving reasonable views, and a handful of colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits. The latter were a mix of new birds and old friends, including one bird ringed in Norfolk in 1996 which I've seen on the Exe most years since 2000!

The beginning of the year continued the good run - a half-day round the Exe producing some 94 species, highlights being Pomarine Skua, Surf and Velvet Scoter, adult Mediterranean Gull and a very smart Water Pipit on Exminster marshes. Not too shabby a way to start the year - particularly now the weather's gone cold and gunky!