Thursday, 25 May 2017

48 Red Kites

A single flock of thirteen Red Kites passed rapidly over Mudbank at 0650. I begrudgingly headed home to get ready for work, fairly certain that they wouldn't be the last to pass westwards. Once at work I pleasantly surprised to discover that my year 11 class would be in a GCSE maths exam so I nipped back home and set the scope up in the garden. Almost immediately I picked up 4 more birds flying low towards the river and they were followed by groups of 8, 4, 1, 3, 2, 6 and 2 before I once again needed to head back to work. All birds were relatively low and all were heading west, most roughly towards Starcross/Cockwood, but a few further upriver. This afternoon, following a call from Keith, I picked up a further five birds, the last one actually heading north upriver rather than west. Many thanks Keith.
So a personal tally of 48 birds by about 5pm but hundreds of birds must have passed through Devon today. I only wish I'd been able to sit and watch for longer. The birds caused very little consternation amongst the local gulls with most groups slipping purposefully but silently west. No doubt there will be numbers building in Cornwall.
The only other raptors noted today were a single Peregrine and 3+ Buzzards.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017


Dartford Warbler and Hobby seen in Exmouth this evening.


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Birds and Bees

Still very quiet in this neck of the woods. A single Whimbrel off Mudbank and 4 Swift on Orcombe were the only entries in my notebook this afternoon. The latter part of this evening was spent watching local Nightjars with Paul Gosling - truly magical to watch wing-clapping and superb aerial displays at such close quarters. Otherwise a few unidentified bumblebees on Orcombe - I suspect the top one is red-tailed but as always I'd appreciate any help with identification. All four photographed species were of similar size - pretty small.
Edit - many thanks to 'Slush Puppy' for identifying the bumblebees.

Swan-feather Dwarf


Heath Spotted Orchid

Red-tailed Bumblebee - Bombus lapidarius

Common Carder Bee - Bombus pascuorum

Buff-tailed Bumblebee - Bombus terrestris

Early Bumblebee - Bombus pratorum

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Minimal News

Almost no news for this weekend. Yesterday was spent at a football tournament and today has been busy with family stuff, though I did manage a ten minute look off Maer Rocks around 7'ish this morning, noting 4 Great Northern Divers, 4 Sanderling and a single Sandwich Tern.

A typically high-flying May Great Northern Diver

A male Dartford Warbler on heathland within the Exmouth boundary.

Small Copper

Peregrine over the garden.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Digitising Moth Photos

Crimson Speckled

I've just finished digitising a big chunk of my collection of moth photos, the majority of which are in albums. I haven't added dates or locations yet but I'll get round to it at some point. The photos can be seen by clicking on the 'moths' tab on the menu bar (guessing that's what it's called) at the top of this page. So far 460+ macro species have been added and I plan to add micros (and possibly butterflies too) in due course. It's mainly for my benefit but if, like me, you enjoy looking through moth photos you may find it of use. I should point out that the majority of photos were taken in east Devon but there are some European species in there too.

Merveille du Jour

Tamarisk Peacock

Green-brindled Crescent

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Old Subalp Stuff and Local Stuff


Western Subalpine Warbler - presumed S.c.iberiae - Higher Kineggy, Cornwall - April 11th 1996
The first Subalpine Warbler that I saw in Britain was way back in 1996, at Higher Kineggy in Cornwall. I twitched it with Kev and I think I'm right in saying that there was no question about which race it was. As far as I remember, back then, Subalpine Warbler was just one species and that was that, or at least as far as we were concerned. Seeing the Eastern Subalpine on Sunday prompted me to dig out my notes for that day and although my sketches are pretty crappy I'm glad I did them, because I reckon they point strongly towards it being a Western Subalp - sullied underparts (with a definite orange tinge on my sketch), not too dark on the throat and a narrow sub-moustachial too. I even mentioned there was no clean white below so perhaps I did have an inkling about eastern races back then. I can't remember and to be honest I very much doubt it! It was good to get to the 'tac' call too. I don't think I can do anything to rule out the north African Western subspecies and I don't really trust my detail on the tail. I drew what I saw but I doubt I paid much attention to the exact pattern of white on the outer retrices back then.
Prior to 1996 I remember going for a Subalp in Dorset with the legendary Pete Dennis but we dipped it. Believe it or not, before Sunday, I'd not seen another Subalp in Britain since the Higher Kineggy bird, but that just goes to show how little twitching I've done.

female-type Western Subalpine Warbler S.c.iberiae - Madrid 27/7/13 - common birds in Spain and fairly plentiful in southern France too.

Female-type Moltoni's Warbler - Corsica - 30/7/11 - This bird drew attention to itself by uttering a Mistle Thrush-like rattle - very different to Western Subalp. I saw several on Corsica but as you can see they were difficult to photograph and I devoted more of my energy to finding Marmora's Warblers that shared the same habitat. I also found Moltoni's in western Italy, on the Livorno coast - again birds were located by the odd Mistle Thrush - like call but they were sods to see.
As far as birds in Exmouth go - there were 3 Arctic Skuas lingering off the seafront yesterday evening and 27+ Manx Shearwaters went south during a brief spell of sea-watching.
Today there was a single Arctic Skua present along with 11 Common Scoter, 1 Sanderling, 1 Great Crested Grebe 2 Little Tern and 15+ Sandwich Tern.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

Eastern Subalpine Warbler - Dawlish Warren - don't worry there will be much better photos of this bird elsewhere on line I'm sure!
For the first time in what must be weeks I had a lie-in this morning. Well 7am to be precise but that's two hours longer than usual for me at this time of year. I came downstairs to a text from Mark - 'Subalpine at the Warren'. Now I'm not normally one for twitching, as you know, but this was too much of a temptation. I've seen masses of Western Subalps (Spain, France etc), a few Moltoni's (Italy and Corsica) but no Easterns, so I had to chance it, plus it would be a Devon tick whatever it was. On  arrival at the Warren I met Kev and Bob and it quickly became apparent that it may not be easy to catch up with. Ivan had found it and Lee had seen it briefly but it had last been seen heading off across the golf course. The assembled birders included Mark Bailey, Brian Heasman, Andy Bond, Dave Jewell, Lee Collins and Bill McDonald. We began to fan out and go searching for it. I headed up towards the hide and had nearly reached the cut-through when Kev texted to say it was back in its original hawthorn. A short jog and some hurried walking later and I was stood with everybody else waiting for the bird to appear in some sallows behind the main pond. I got on it just as it flew out of the sallows and flew to another large clump, singing as it went. My first reaction on seeing it was how white it looked below. Not the orange of a Western that I was kind of expecting. It fortuitously chose to land on some bare twigs where it continued to sing right out in the open - a short warble - pleasing to the ear, being less scratchy than Whitethroat and more melodic. Bob very kindly let me look through his scope and I was met with a really stunning little male Subalpine, but one unlike any other I'd seen before. I was immediately struck at how the richly-coloured dark red throat contrasted with very white-looking underparts. Additionally it was a lovely pale powdery blue-grey up top with a nice broad white sub-moustachial stripe. The general consensus was now leaning  towards it being an Eastern Subalpine Warbler!
I would like to have stayed longer but I needed to head back home. It was great to catch up with everybody. I literally can't remember the last time I went to the Warren which is a shame as it's an exceptional little reserve. Weird to think I see it most days from Exmouth but go there so rarely.
Anyway a big thank you to Ivan for a fantastic find. One which many would agree has been an awful long time coming.

A tatty-looking migrant Painted Lady in our garden yesterday.