Sunday, 11 April 2010

Chris & Kay

Chris & Kay kindly stopped by for our wedding - Chris to be my best man, Kay to make sure he didn't run away. They stopped by on Good Friday so they could have a week with us, having never spent any time birding or even visiting Devon before. So we had a week of effective holiday, showing off some of the many delights of our fair county!

As the journey down was obviously rather quicker than anticipated, we started with a wander round Parke (National Trust), where between catching up with the gossip of a year's fermentation, we managed such delights as a pair of Mandarin duck and a goodly variety of Common Buzzard.

Whilst Na entertained some of her visiting family on Saturday, Chris, Kay and myself began some more serious birding with a short visit to Yarner Woods, where we failed to see the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers that Na and I had found the weekend before, but did have some corking views of Marsh Tit, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. We returned to show our faces to the family, who had been shown around our new house, then packed off to Stover Lake to wind down - a swarm of Sand Martin and (Barn) Swallow were trawling midges from the water's surface, whilst Great Crested Grebes indulged in some semi-serious display. More Nuthatch and Marsh Tit added some distinctly 'foreign' flavour for our visitors from the Isle of Man.

Chris & Kay at Stover, admiring Great Crested Grebes displaying - a scarce wintering bird on the Isle of Man 

Sunday began with a full-on Easter-egg hunt, followed by a half-successful exploration of the Exe estuary. The area was heaving with people, which made it rather difficult to find many birds - the Slavonian (Horned) Grebe was lurking at Starcross as usual, now in full-on spanking breeding plumage, but very little else showed - no Woodlark, no Cirl Bunting, no waders worth mentioning... weather was nice though!

We decided that Monday was worth striking out a little further. We dragged Chris from his bed at the unsociable hour of 7.15, and headed down to Prawle Point. Just to increase the tension, I decided that Cirl Bunting (a new species for both Chris and Kay) could wait whilst we checked out Ash Lane and Gammon Head. We worked our way round the cliffs towards the coastguard's cottages, admiring Peregrine and Yellowhammer en route, as well as the strikingly pale Buzzard that's been at this site for a number of years. Eventually we reached the thicket below the carpark, where everyone traditionally gathers to see Cirls, and sure enough, as well as a couple of people toting improbable phallic substitutes lenses, a pair of Cirl Bunting popped up to show themselves - albeit rather distantly and in a fresh breeze. "Never mind", I assured the visitors, "we shall see them better a little further on." And so we did. A sparkling male Wheatear on the coastal rocks, then at least two pairs of Cirl at point-blank range, in perfect sunshine. We headed back through Slapton, where a Cetti's obliged briefly, followed up with a cracking Long-tailed Duck, which was moulting into breeding colours.

Tuesday was 'let's iron shirts' day. Wedding looming: better look smart (so I left my shirt here). Chris, Kay and myself headed up the lane behind my parents' house whilst Na headed off with my sisters for a practice beautifying session. We managed distant views of the target species - Woodlark - as well as some point-blank views of a Little Owl, which glared at us suspiciously over it's wall, and a small flock of Stock Dove.

Coot. Slapton. Nuff said.

We packed Chris and Kay off on Wednesday to make of the moors what they would. They came back happy, though without seeing anything of great note.

Thursday dawned clear and bright, so I took Chris & Kay off to look for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker again, and again we failed. We found all sorts of interesting goings-on, but no LSW. Undaunted, we drove off around Exeter to the pebblebeds, where we found two more new species for the Manxies: Dartford Warbler and Brimstone butterfly. A stop-off at Bowling Green Marsh on the way back provided some better waders: Avocet, Black- and Bar-tailed Godwit, and Knot, as well as some lingering Wigeon and Shoveler...

Peacock butterfly on willow, Aylesbeare. Bee-youtiful.

Friday was totally useless for birding: Na and I got married, so we didn't get out at all...!

We spent a while recovering on Saturday - Chris and Kay were packed off to Yarner again, where they dutifully saw LSW and a couple of male Pied Flycatchers, newly arrived from Africa. A total trip list of about 102 species, which isn't too bad for a week with a wedding in.

Na and I finally got some peace today - we headed out to Yarner ourselves, where we managed to find all three British breeding woodpecker species, a handful of Pied Flycatcher and a singing Tree Pipit - another summer migrant on another beautiful spring day. Not a bad week in all...

Great Spotted Woodpecker. Stover. Not the best photo, but I can live with that.

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