Local pipits and a plan that worked

I have been assiduously searching for rare pipits this autumn. This has involved many early mornings on Wains Hill with a recorder just waiting for that fly-over Olive-backed or Red-throated .Numerous trips to the Yeo through ideal Richard's habitat, Slogs around Steart (the day before a Richard'sturned up) and scrutiny of every Rock Pipit in case it was the very similar, Buff-bellied Pipit from America.The results so far have been ..........lovely views of Meadow Pipits.

Some of which seemed less than happy to meet me

And truly super views of Rock Pipits

But nothing else, Nada, Zip, ZilchI will keep trying though and eventually I will turn up something.As usual I tried to spend one day off the patch each week and again, as I often do I headed for the levelsI decided that I would love to see an Otter again as it has been a long time since my last one. So I drove to Westhay reserve and quizzed the Somerset Wildlife Trust officer there as to my best approach. He suggested that the …

Migrants at last and a bird of prey surfeit

Numbers of overflying migrants at Wains Hill definitely increased over the past two weeks with a boost in variety and a real highlight in the form of a flock of 10 Crossbills.You will need headphones or the sound up loud for this. I am still struggling with getting sounds onto here despite following lots of good advice about extra add-ons for audacity etc which just have not worked for me yet. With luck this will though

My efforts at photographing migrants shooting past are equally dire for example these Chaffinches
I wish I could better convey the excitement of feeling that something rare just could appear in the next thirty seconds.
Yellow-browed Warblers are increasingly common but usually elusive and always, to me anyway, exciting. Ever since I found my first at Girdleness, while a student at Aberdeen University in the 1970s, I have looked for them every autumn with mixed success. This year I heard one call by the car, literally as soon as I parked on Saturday (12th Oct). It was som…

What to look at while migrants are scarce

Wain's hill vizmigging has continued to be dire with literally ones and twos of Siskins, Mipits, Redpolls and Chaffinches most times when I have tried. The high background noise has also not helped with recordings.The local Peregrines and Sparrowhawks keep trying though. This young falcon has been having a go at everything from Ravens to Blue Tits, without success as far as I know.

How it thinks it can take a Raven down is beyond me

There have been at least a couple of Sparrowhawks dashing through bushes too. I've noticed that the Magpies are happy to mob the Sparrowhawks but not the Peregrines, which seems a wise move.

Down at the seawall I had the good fortune to come across a relatively tame Bar-tailed Godwit this week which allowed a couple of photos

They are dangerously close to being sharp.
Another trip to the levels was needed to confirm that the cafe at the Avalon Marshes Center, near Westhay village, really was as good as it seemed last week. It was with an excellent steak…

An entirely unexpected bonus on the Levels

Yesterday I decided to try and photograph 4 species of heron with the hope of seeing 5 and an outside chance of 6.

Things started well as I arrived on the levels road to be greeted with a field of cattle and cattle egrets

A bonus grey heron in the same spot meant I was 2 down and 2 to go within minutes
My next site was the reserve at Westhay where a purple heron had been seen a few days ago and was therefore my outside chance.
There were several cars parked on the road as the actual car park is currently being resurfaced and a spotted crake had been showing on and off from the island hide.
Arriving at the boardwalk I realised that several people were crowded onto it waiting for bearded tits to appear and feed on grit placed there. So I rapidly retreated and headed a few yards farther along the track and just generally birded.
After  20 mins or so I heard an unusual trilling call from nearby reeds interspersed with bearded tit pings which clearly were being made by the same bird. As it soun…

Vizmigging, A new frontiers approach

Alright I stole that title format from some much better birders who developed the art of bird ID in the 80s to a new level.
I will not pretend to be at the very vanguard of this new movement but I think it will improve my call ID skills and want to do my bit in demystifying this area and expand its take up.
Essentially its nocmig during the day and I was inspired to try it after reading a blog post by Gavin Haig who decided to use his new recorder in the day time !
Having been interested in vizmig for many, many years this was way too exciting an addition not to try.
In essence then all you are doing is adding a sound recorder to your armory when standing on whatever hill, coastal headland, empty national park in Latvia, etc that is your chosen location for observing migration as it happens.There is one big advantage over nocmig in my opinion, and when I say big it is simply enormous: Everything you see and record, or even hear an…

Waders on the seawall 2

In the absence of any wrynecks I have had lots of opportunities to look for waders in channel view bay.

My actual success depends on where they are when I happen to visit and what happens to have roosted here rather than elsewhere in the estuary.
The flock roost depends to a certain amount on the height of the high tide plus of course whether I have judged it exactly correctly on the day.
Its mostly small waders at this time of year and they can be on the mud

in the grass beyond the path

Or on the seawall itself

The species to search for in particular in early autumn are Sanderling, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper which are all difficult-to-impossible in the spring.
This last fortnight has been very good with all three species giving themselves up over the course of 8 to 12 visits and being tame enough to photographSanderling

Little Stint

Curlew Sandpiper

In addition I have seen the odd Knot fly past (the bigger waders with the whitish rumps in the pic below)

And have been treated to close up…

Beaver watching

My daughter was visiting and fancied looking for the Beavers in Devon so we arranged a few hours at Bicton gardens followed by an evening on the river Otter at Otterton.

I had been here a few weeks ago when a brief view at dusk produced a photo that was frankly more of an artists impression than an identifiable image. I was really delighted, therefore when this animal appeared in front of the assembled crowd (well 6 or 7 people) at 7.15 pm.Before that we had been entertained by a series of rapid flash-pasts by Kingfishers, a surprise Dipper flying upstream and a family of Grey Wagtails going the other way. I had also, much to my surprise, heard a party of Crossbills fly over.
The Beaver did not stay in view for longer than half a minute or so. but I fired off a series of shots.

We then stayed for a further hour and were well rewarded. First the female appeared under some bank-side vegetation and we could hear it gnawing loudly.
She then moved off downstream and after a while a kit reappe…