Friday, 31 August 2012

Little Stint

I managed to get a few shots of the Little Stint at Black Hole Marsh this morning, although it didn't come near enough really. I've been so spoiled with the likes of the obliging Wood Sandpipers and the Spotted Redshank that I now think everything is always too far away! The Ruff were nowhere to be seen nor was the Spotted Redshank or the Kittiwake. My guess is that at least one of the aforementioned is now inside a fox!

Female Kingfisher

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Blues on The Beach

On Sunday lunchtime, seeing as it was such a nice day for a change and I'd already seen (very belatedly) my first Painted Lady of the year earlier in the morning, I took a walk along a nearby stretch of coastline looking for butterflies, especially blue ones and one blue one in particular. I soon found .....

A gorgeous fresh male Common Blue. It's good to see them in decent numbers now as they had a particularly dire spring and early summer.

This is a female Common Blue of the  uncommon blue form.

My main target species was this ...

Male Adonis Blue. So aptly named!

The butterflies were all nectaring on Purple Loostrife.

Female Adonis Blues.

There were two or possibly three males and the two females pictured above. Adonis Blues were also seen at the same site last September and although this is the only known site for them in Devon (and is on private land) its location was inadvertently published last winter, albeit briefly. I obviously won't divulge where exactly it is but I am quite sure that lots of interested locals are already 'in the know' about it. So if anyone goes along to see them please don't leave the beach. The cliff area is private property as well as being a conservation area. I took all of these photos standing on the beach where the butterflies come down to nectar on the Purple Loostrife  and other flowers just a couple of meters away. They sometimes come onto the beach itself as my first photo of the male shows.

Although it is undoubtedly fantastic that we have this small colony in Devon, personally I think it is a little bit suspicious. It is a long way from the nearest known colonies in Dorset, the butterflies are known to be extremely sedentary in nature and the habitat is all wrong. Adonis Blues are known to require well grazed short turf and this area isn't grazed at all not even by rabbits. Just along the coast a bit there are several areas which have much more suitable habitat and these are where Chalkhill Blues are still just about hanging on. These areas would be much more likely to be re/colonized in the highly unlikely event of  'a wanderer' arriving at one them. I think it's a bit more than a vague possibility that the Adonis Blues have been 'put down' here, i.e. the result of an unlicensed release, especially bearing in mind the Marsh Fritillaries I found on patch back in May. 'The Phantom Butterfly Putter-downer' of East Devon strikes again!?

This morning I made a brief visit to Black Hole Marsh where the weather conditions were atrocious. All yesterday's waders were still present bar the Spotted Redshank which I couldn't spot. Not to say it wasn't there though as everything was well spread out and I couldn't see to the south very well because of the howling headwind! A couple of the Ruff came near enough for a photo but the light wasn't really good enough. Still I'll post this one because it shows the difference in colour and size of the male and female or Ruff and Reeve to be correct.

Oh dear! This isn't something I was hoping to see today. 
The plumage is starting to look unkempt and the eye dull and lifeless... So sad to see birds when they get to this state. I suppose this happens daily out at sea where individuals like this are probably picked off by Great Black-backs and Bonxies.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A Surprise on Black Hole Marsh

Plenty of nice birds around Black Hole Marsh this morning, with three Ruff  and a Knot new in yesterday evening. The Spotted Redshank was still present along with the usual Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, Green Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwits and Snipe. The surprise though was an adult Kittiwake, probably a first for Black Hole Marsh. Unfortunately though it appeared rather moribund as it sat hunkered down in the long grass on the edge of the marsh, so much so that it caught the attention of a Carrion Crow. As the Crow got closer the KIttiwake stood up briefly and the Crow moved off upon realizing it wasn't actually approaching a tasty corpse! The Kittiwake soon resumed the hunkered down posture and continued to cause concern until all the birds on the marsh were flushed by some unseen threat (only unseen by us humans) when it did actually get airborne, albeit temporarily. I must admit it did look a bit 'happier' sitting out on the marsh so hopefully it may just be recuperating from being caught in yesterday's gales.

Kittiwake, hopefully soon to be heading off back to sea.

I was hoping to get a few photos of the Ruff but they didn't come near enough. When I arrived at around 6.30am one of them was reasonably close to the hide but directly in the sun. 

Ruff in sunrise... It's artistic don't you know!

The resident Little Egrets were posing beautifully tempting me, nay, challenging me to try and take a decent photo of them. I don't often bother to try, they really are so difficult to get right. I accepted their challenge this morning and had a stab at some. A few came out okay. Well for Egret Photos!

I also took a couple more photos of the Spotted Redshank, seeing as it came quite close again it would have been rude not to! It was with a Redshank and I tried to get a shot with both in it, to show the difference.

Monday, 27 August 2012

A Little Fall of Wheatears

There were at least thirty Wheatears adorning the fence-lines and tall grass on Beer Head yesterday morning. Amongst them were a couple of Whinchats which as usual I failed miserably to get a photo of. Other migrants consisted of a fly over Yellow Wagtail and a Spotted Flycatcher and a male and female Common Redstart. Wheatears on posts coming right up!! ....

Wheatears Galore!


 Aww! It's so fluffy!

 Not a Wheatear

Moon over Beer Head

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Green Sandpiper

A Green Sandpiper came close enough for a few photos this morning. Quite a rare occurrence as they usually seem very attached to the extreme edges of the marsh. It didn't get anywhere near as close as the Spotted Redshank yesterday but the green vegetation reflected on the water's surface made for a few nice shots.

And staying on the green background theme, a shot of a Common Darter I took  a couple of days ago at Seaton Marshes.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Spotted Redshank

Phil found a Spotted Redshank on Black Hole Marsh last night. It was about twenty past eight when I got a text about it so I thought I'd wait until the morning to twitch it. We almost have to twitch any that are found on patch because they are only just about annual here. I've never managed to get a decent photo of one either as they always tend to stay pretty distant and when I arrived at 6.30am this morning it appeared that this wasn't going to change, it was indeed distant. Eventually though it wandered nearer, and nearer, in fact almost too near in the end! Photos in the bag! I'd love to see one of these in summer plumage some day. I'll have to make the effort next year. I believe this bird is a juvenile.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Flower of The Axe

A few miles from here is the village of Kilmimgton which was very famous amongst 19th century botanists, but don't just take my word for it. Here's an extract from a 1893 publication entitled The Rivers of Devon from the Source to the Sea, by John Ll. W. Page.

In this neighbourhood, on Kilmington Hill, grows one of the rarest possibly the very rarest of our wild flowers, the Lobelia urens, commonly called 'the flower of the Axe'. I have never seen it myself, but those who have tell me it is of rich blue colour. Needless to remark, its habitat is eagerly sought out, and Kilmington Hill is the happy hunting-ground of the botanist.

The flower, also known as Heath Lobelia was first found at this location in 1768 by Lord Webb Seymour and was for a while thought to be its only site in the country. It was subsequently discovered in several more sites along the south coast but today remains at only six of them. It is easy enough to see at the Devon Wildlife Trust's reserve at Andrew's Wood but having never seen it I was eager to see it at the site it was first discovered, especially as it's on 'my local patch'. The plant remained growing on at least four sites around Kilmington Hill (which was birch woodland and heathland) until the early 1960s when it was heavily afforested with conifers causing the decline and eventually extinction of the species at all but one small site. The actual location of the plants is kept pretty secret but I went along and searched for it on three occasions in the last couple of weeks and I'm pleased to report that it was a case of third time lucky! 

I was doubly delighted when I spotted them, firstly because after all the effort I'd put in I'd finally located them but also because I simply wasn't prepared for how stunning they would look. I was expecting to see a few plants dotted about in the grass but they were growing in a couple of large swathes and were a lovely colour too, not quite purple, not quite blue but quite magnificent.

Heath Lobelia
Very rare and very beautiful too.

This morning on Black Hole Marsh there were many, many waders, far, far away, except this Common Sandpiper, one of about a zillion on patch at the moment!

Very Common Sandpiper

Thursday, 9 August 2012

My New Morning Alarm Call (Take Two)

I've been enjoying feeding the birds in our nice new garden but I fear I've made a bit of a 'rod for my own back'. As from a couple of weeks ago if I'm not up and about and putting out the bird food before about 7 am I'm rudely awoken by this type of thing. I got up before seven this morning and decided to set the camera up. Sorry about the background noise, I'd already put on the washing and didn't realise how loud the machine was! He didn't really put that much effort in this morning and was then disturbed by Rex entering the kitchen but the first time I was woken up by his antics I actually thought someone was trying to break in!

EDIT:  This morning he put on a much more typical performance like so:

Friday, 3 August 2012

Then There Were Two

A few less waders in total on Black Hole Marsh this morning but there were now two Wood Sandpipers, which was nice. I tried to get a photo of both together but it's very tricky when digiscoping because they don't both fit in the field of view unless they're pretty close together and then I struggle to get them both in focus because of the very shallow depth of field. Still I just about managed it a couple of times. You can't have too much of a good Wood Sandpiper or two! If you disagree just wait until I bring out all of the moth photos I've got piling up on the hard drive! I also tried to get a photo of a Green Woodpecker that I spotted in the cemetery as I drove through on the way to the Black Hole Marsh car park. I digiscoped it from the drivers seat with both the scope and camera handheld. The results are predictably naff, but it's only the second time I've managed to get a shot of one. For such a common bird they're surprisingly difficult to get near to.