Friday, 22 January 2010


There's something about the weekend. We usually rise earlier than in the week, then spend as much time as possible exhausting ourselves outside, it seems to me. This weekend was no exception, though we had a lie-in on Saturday & only got up at 7. Yay!

We met our bosom pal Judith in the highly respectable carpark at Exminster Marshes RSPB reserve, and promptly headed across the water for Bowling Green. The snow had thawed and intense rain had added to the surface flooding, so there was a huge shimmering mass of water lying in the floodplain of the Exe estuary. Shimmering indeed, because against all expectations, the sun was shining too... Weird. We struck out with enthusiasm and confidence, finding a nice selection of waders and ducks still off the river - nothing exceptional, but it's amazing what a warm and sunny day does to lift the spirits! Massed ranks of Avocet concealed a posse of Bar-tailed Godwit and Redshank, the Wigeon were all out on the bank grazing, with Black-tailed Godwit tottering around between them, all hunched backs and splayed tails and chattering with that gentle churry call they have. We sauntered on down to the Clyst, where more birds were chasing the ebbing tide - Grey Plover, Dunlin and Redshank, more Avocet and a handful of Curlew...

We continued on to the recreation ground, where nothing of note showed itself, bar a pair of Red-breasted Merganser loafing on a backwater - surely one of the most outrageous-looking of ducks, with their grunge hairdos (that dates me - ouch!) and mad eyes. No dice finding the long-reported Spotted Sandpiper, so we headed on to Powderham, where we wandered up the riverbank towards Turf. The fresh mud by the railway crossing rippled with brigades of Knot, interspersed with nippier, more manouverable Dunlin, whilst Grey Plover and Oystercatcher pattered around on the more distant mud, close to the water's edge. There was nothing much to show on the marshes, and the Brent Geese were way up on the river, so we sat down for a bite to eat, only to see a drake Smew lurking way out on the edge of telescope use... Judith and Na were rather underwhelmed by the view of him, which was understandable, so we packed up and headed further upriver, to check the goose flock out, as they were now in the fields by the pub. Predictably enough, the Red-breasted Goose amongst the Brents was pronounced bird of the day - a fair assessment, given the views (pleasantly close) and the light (perfect). Some poor pictures from a previous visit:

Our final destinations were Starcross and Dawlish Warren. The former was superb, with a couple of Slavonian Grebe and three Great Northern Diver on flat calm water, but the latter was disappointing, as the long-promised rain finally caught up with us. A final tally of about 84 species was pretty respectable, given the time and effort we put in and the weather.

Sunday (will the writing never end?) we headed out for a morning's survey-cum-birding - Na out to help on Atlas work, myself to bimble round Hembury Woods (Lesser Spotted Woodpecker) and then meet up with Jo, Arturo, Laura and Basti to head down to the National Marine Aquarium... some dodgy photos follow!

Beech leaf, Hembury

A confiding Robin

Arturo and Laura tempting the rays

Plumose Anemones

Friendly fish in the Atlantic Reef tank

Nettle jellyfish

Basti and Laura shark-watching

Laura, Basti, Jo, Na. Sand Tiger Shark...

Can't remember your name, but won't forget your face...

Monday, 11 January 2010

Hybrid Aythya on Exe

One parent appears to be Pochard, but what's the other? Perhaps Tufted Duck? Either mummy or daddy was playing away - maybe both.
Similar size to the Tufted Ducks, perhaps a little smaller. Profile is very Pochard-like. Blaze is very Tufted-like. Body is Tufted, head is Pochard.

An instructive one, anyway. Don't take Scaup reports at face value on the Exe for a while, eh?

Thanks to James for mentioning the bird this morning...

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Yet more snow.

We've been snowed in now for a few days - well, I say snowed in, it's more like iced in to be honest: the road outside is completely impossible to drive in our cars and we're not exactly a priority area for the gritters. Not that it matters too much, as we are both able to work from home, but it gets a bit tedious! We decided that we ought to shop for some staple foods today, so walked to Bovey - the scenic way - and did a little birding on the way. Interestingly, there is a significant movement of Lapwing and 'winter thrushes' (Fieldfare & Redwing) going on along the valley, with perhaps 150 Lapwing in a couple of wind-cleared fields and a further 50 or so heading vaguely westwards, hoping to escape the freezing weather. We must also have totalled some 1,500+ Redwing and perhaps 200 Fieldfare, all rampaging through the small patches of leaves the sun had warmed in the woods. Spectacular stuff.

Icicles beside a small roadside stream

Redwing fossicking on a hedgebank.

Lapwing and Fieldfare making the most of snow-free areas

Looking to Haytor from Trough Lane (pronounced 'trow lane', for some inscrutable local reason...)

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Snow again...

Na enjoying a wee bitty snow above the village

Five lanes junction
 Sheep with abundant Yellowhammers, all calling out rude comments from the hedge
 Looking over Bovey to Haytor way
 Snowy Shaptor Woods

Monday, 4 January 2010

New Year: Cologne

A few pics of a New Year celebration to be proud of: the Germans know how to party! we spent the Christmas/New Year period away in Rheinland-Westphalia, where we ate a lot, walked a lot, birded a little and threw a few snowballs. Birds of the trip? Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Short-toed Treecreeper and Goshawk, Crossbill, Hawfinch, Willow Tit and Crested Tit. Nothing to get over-thrilled about, but a pleasant way to round off the year.




Finally, it would be wrong not to wish anyone and everyone reading this the most successful, happy and healthy of years. There's a lot going on this year in our household, so should be plenty to write about! Gute Rutsch...