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Old Monday 23rd January 2006, 22:45   #1
Gavin Haig
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Backwater Birding - Seaton, Devon

Have been thinking about doing this for a while (lots of inspiration in some of these patch/blog threads), so here we go...............

I've lived in Seaton for 3 years now and, while it's not Dawlish or Prawle, it's very not bad - loads of potential and underwatched (yummy). Last year I had a not-too-serious go at a local yearlist - within 5 or 6 miles of home (home is in the pink blob on the attached maps) and got 186. Doubt if I'll do it this year, but it made me wonder whether a patch report might make interesting reading 'cos there were certainly some exciting highlights, and I'm hoping there'll be some more......

Just to get the ball rolling and bring things up-to-date:

Jan 2 - local bird race - two teams of three - same 5 or 6 mile radius. Previous record was 94, which we hammered with 105 (the other team got 100). Sunshine and a calm, glassy sea contributed to the big totals....Hawfinch was our top bird - being found that day by a kind local who let us into his back garden to see it.

Jan 4 - 23 the Hawfinch became two - both present still very recently - feeding happily on Field Maple. Phil, who's been birding here since the 80's, says they're the first he's seen locally - anyone else saying the same after the strong passage last autumn? We have some elusive Water Pipits at Colyford Common - the odd visit has produced between 0 and 9. A nice feature this winter is a resident flock of 100-odd Common Scoter off Seaton and Axmouth. A Velvet joined them last Saturday, and an Eider or two have kept them company also. Amazing what a magnet a flock of duck is - a pair of Gadwall flew past today further out (I think the first I've seen over the sea), a minute later they were circling back and dropping on the sea near the Scoters - just couldn't resist it! They soon moved on......but hopefully a Surf Scoter might be similarly tempted.....now that would be nice. Finally today, a trawl through the gulls on the Axe Estuary surprisingly produced not a single Med........

Almost forgot - a local mammal tick for me on Jan 2 was a rather distant porpoise off Branscombe. If there had been the slightest chop on the sea I would never have seen it.

Will maybe have a list tot-up in the near future.

Future posts will mostly be shorter!

Cheers..............Gav
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Old Tuesday 24th January 2006, 10:11   #2
Andrew
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Cool. I shall follow this thread keenly. I can vouch for the Water Pipits being elusive little blighters. I managed the Topsham bird though.

Best of luck and hope you beat last year's figure.

Hope to see you again this year on my travels.
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Old Tuesday 24th January 2006, 18:41   #3
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Had a text from Steve at lunchtime: "cracking views of Firecrest at Jubilee Gardens" (that's in Beer). Could just imagine it in the glorious sunshine - Firecrests are so-o-o smart - but couldn't follow it up today........another time though, definitely.

Managed to check out the Seaton Hole gull roost late afternoon - at least 4, probably 5 adult Meds. I reckon we get quite a turnover of Meds locally - I'm sure they're not just the same birds.....one day must really make an effort to document each individual as accurately as poss. (sounds studious, but will it actually happen???!!)

2 Golden Plover on the estuary were new for the year (for me, anyway) - get loads of Lapwings, but few goldies. I think that's 3 new species since the bird race, so the total so far this year is 108.
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Old Tuesday 24th January 2006, 21:01   #4
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I am getting worried about a Devon Firecrest this year so I hope the Jubilee bird is a stayer.
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Old Tuesday 24th January 2006, 22:42   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew
I am getting worried about a Devon Firecrest this year so I hope the Jubilee bird is a stayer.
I'd be getting worried too Andrew - only 340 days to go!

Darrell

I had a cracker at Hannafore on Sunday - but that's Cornwall!
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Old Wednesday 25th January 2006, 21:22   #6
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Had time for a brief look at the gulls on the Axe late pm - 3 ad Meds, none colour-ringed........then scooted down to the sea off Axmouth harbour. Still c.100 Common Scoter, but a little further out today, plus really dull and gloomy, so couldn't pick out anything else amongst them......

Andrew - if you don't see a Devon Firecrest some time in the remaining 11+ months of 2006 I'll eat my greens all next year. Fear not - I won't have to do it.

Local young bird-whizz Steve Waite has just got a digi-cam which he can glue to his scope, and has given me the ok to include his pics in this thread if I want to - and I do............so here is one of the local Hawfinches. Enjoy.
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Old Wednesday 25th January 2006, 21:39   #7
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Don't buy too many greens Gavin. I am having a really bad run of late. I go out with four or five target birds of a day and only come home with one!
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Old Friday 27th January 2006, 18:07   #8
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Thought I'd have look for Firecrest this afternoon. Glad I did - superb close views at the Beer end of the coast path between Beer and Seaton, just E of Jubilee Gardens. As always, a real jewel of a bird.....

Offshore were 24 Common Scoter, a Great Crested Grebe and a very distant wheeling flock of hazy dots trailing a fishing boat of some kind, including 15+ Gannets.

Finished up arriving a bit late at the Seaton gull roost, but still managed 2 adult Meds

A pleasant couple of hours - smiles all round.......are you tempted, Andrew???!!
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Old Saturday 28th January 2006, 18:25   #9
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Had less than an hour first thing this morning, so thought I'd use it looking for Dipper at Branscombe......should have stayed in bed. The only dipper was me. Apart from a Chiff and 2 Goldcrest, the only other stuff on offer were deep-frozen bits of anatomy. Boy, have I got soft since living in the SW.

Had text from Andrew later in the day to say he'd seen Firecrest at Beer - nice one...

If any other BFers are ever in this neck of the woods (like that's going to happen often!) please feel free to put what you see on this thread........or if you're coming this way on hols or whatever, to PM me for local gen.......
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Old Saturday 28th January 2006, 19:43   #10
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It was nippy today and I was in my normal clothes and all!

As you know, Firecrest at Beer. Med Gull at Coronation Corner. Ruff and Chiffchaff at Seaton Marshes.

Nothing doing at Seaton Hole or in the Scoter flock at the Axmouth end despite good viewing conditions.
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Old Sunday 29th January 2006, 17:52   #11
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Had about hour and a half late afternoon, so checked Scoter flock off Axmouth Harbour - nothing - then Lower Bruckland Ponds (sometimes get the odd decent duck here) - nothing - then the gulls on the Axe estuary - nothing again!! Now, when I say "nothing".........

Many years ago, when I was a young and far less cynical beast, and had just got seriously into birding, I was striding eagerly round Wraysbury GPs in W London when I spotted this older, experienced looking chap with bins. I marched innocently over..... "Anything about?" I chirped (having recently learned the phrase). He looked at me and stopped dead. "Anything about?" he repeated. "ANYTHING ABOUT??!!" (I realised I'd touched a nerve) "Why yes!" he yelled "there's a Song Thrush over there, and a Reed Bunting over there........." and so he ranted on, obviously pushed close to apoplexy by this young upstart with his puerile question...........

So, when I say "nothing", don't take offence at my seemingly casual dismissal of commoner birds - I love my birding even when there's 'nothing' about!

Steve and I had a go at a co-ordinated Med Gull count this afternoon. He checked the Seaton Hole roost and had 7 adults at 16.30. I checked the estuary and had none. Short straw again......mind you, just as I was about to leave, down the river floated a drake Pochard - actually a pretty scarce bird locally, so, something positive for the notebook!

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Old Monday 30th January 2006, 18:19   #12
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It seems likely that the local record Med Gull count is 9. In the gull roost off Seaton this evening were at least 8 - all adults, in varying stages of plumage from full winter to 80% breeding. Can't be long before we get our first double figure count.

Steve had 29 Golden Plover NE of Seaton towards Musbury - moved this way by the chill, maybe? 5 Great Crested Grebes with the gulls this evening was the most I've seen so far this winter.
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Old Tuesday 31st January 2006, 13:59   #13
Larry Sweetland
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[quote=Gavin Haig]

Many years ago, when I was a young and far less cynical beast, and had just got seriously into birding, I was striding eagerly round Wraysbury GPs in W London when I spotted this older, experienced looking chap with bins. I marched innocently over..... "Anything about?" I chirped (having recently learned the phrase). He looked at me and stopped dead. "Anything about?" he repeated. "ANYTHING ABOUT??!!" (I realised I'd touched a nerve) "Why yes!" he yelled "there's a Song Thrush over there, and a Reed Bunting over there........." and so he ranted on, obviously pushed close to apoplexy by this young upstart with his puerile question...........

So, when I say "nothing", don't take offence at my seemingly casual dismissal of commoner birds - I love my birding even when there's 'nothing' about!

That guy all those years ago really did some damage !

I can only dream of such a hot local patch. Gutted I didn't get a jammy flyover on my bike ride through my local patch of Easton in Bristol today on my way to work. I was hoping to hit 30 by the end of January but only made it to 29.
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Old Tuesday 31st January 2006, 17:07   #14
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Well done for starting this Gavin, best estuary in East Devon, and Seaton Marshes the best reserve, even if I am a little biased!!
Jim
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Old Tuesday 31st January 2006, 17:58   #15
Gavin Haig
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Wheatland
That guy all those years ago really did some damage !
He'd like to have done! Do you remember him, Laz?? How could you forget? I suspect he did me some good really - a fine lesson in how not to treat people.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Wheatland
I can only dream of such a hot local patch. Gutted I didn't get a jammy flyover on my bike ride through my local patch of Easton in Bristol today on my way to work. I was hoping to hit 30 by the end of January but only made it to 29.
My heart bleeds!!!.......Mr. Big-world-list!! Jammy flyovers are, after all, one of your specialities.....but it's a bit early for Bee-eaters just now.

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Old Tuesday 31st January 2006, 18:07   #16
Gavin Haig
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ranger James
Well done for starting this Gavin, best estuary in East Devon, and Seaton Marshes the best reserve, even if I am a little biased!!
Jim
Hello Jim. Thanks. Yes.....very nice estuary.

Had to work all day today - best bird was a Marsh Tit in a customer's garden.
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Old Wednesday 1st February 2006, 12:21   #17
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Just got in from a morning ringing on the Marshes. Fantastic! I am covered in wigeon sh1t and my gortex boots have been inundated with cold puddle water since 7.10am! Well worth the early start though, as we had one wigeon with a Moscow ring! More on that, and a breakdown of numbers tomorrow - I'm off for an afternoon meeting reeking of duck poo!
Only thing of note other than the ducks and waders this morning was a possible redpoll at the gate. I thought I saw one dashing over head between the elms and Fraser reckons he heard it.
Oderously,
James

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Old Wednesday 1st February 2006, 18:40   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ranger James
More on that, and a breakdown of numbers tomorrow
Sounds superb - look forward to reading this.......

A bit naughty today - more birding than there should have been, really......

Started at Branscombe - not much on the sea, so had another look for Dipper. Success this time - jammed into one feeding in the stream right next to the beach car park. Managed not to flush it too. Always good value, Dippers......Also 5 Chiffs at the sewage works.

On to Beer, where a young male Velvet Scoter popped up amongst a good gathering of 45 Commons (looked like the bird that was off Axmouth a little while back). A Red-throated Diver here also.

Next stop Seaton Hole - just in time to see a Slavonian Grebe swim by. Only the second I've seen locally - Dawlish gets double figure gatherings, but here one is a twitch! Adding to the cold-weather flavour, 3 Pintail flew W, then back E again, one a smart drake.

Quick look off Axmouth harbour - c.75 Common Scoter and an imm. male Eider.Several Razorbills around - totalled at least 50 spread between the various venues today.

Just N of Boshill Cross were 45 Golden Plover with a few Lapwing (opp. Axmouth FC) - the most I've seen locally.

Later in the day went to Colyford Common....14 Water Pipits, 25 Rock Pipits and 175+ Carrion Crows - all record counts here (for me, that is). Also a Chiff and a couple of Stonechats. Incidentally, if anyone has a go for the Water Pipits here, 9 times out of 10 if it's West of the tramline it's going to be a Rockit (on the wires etc.), but if it's creeping about in the tussocky grass behind the scrape (East of the tramline) then it will probably be a Water Pipit - requisites are: a scope, patience and, ideally, a calm day. Having said all that, 2 of today's Water Pipits were on the wires with Rockits.........

Seaton Marshes produced 21 Shoveler, a pair of Gadwall (scarce), and the third year tick of the day, a Bar-tailed Godwit - again, a scarce winter bird here.........I think that makes the year-list 112.

Finally, a check of the gull roost produced only 4 Meds - too scattered, too dull - so retired a little early. The Slav was distantly visible, close to the Scoter flock off Beer.

Well chuffed.

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Old Thursday 2nd February 2006, 09:43   #19
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What a day - nice work! I'm surprised the Marshes had anything on them after the ringing in the morning, I'll let Fraser know there were two gadwall down there, I know he has a soft spot for them.
Ringing yesterday totalled 201 birds. 139 wigeon, including one previously rung in Russia. 16 black tailed gotwit, 28 mallard, 9 shelduck and 9 teal.
We didn't expect to get that many blackwits, otherwise the chap from the WWT would have brought coloured rings!
Still, a marvellous morning!
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Old Thursday 2nd February 2006, 17:28   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ranger James
Ringing yesterday totalled 201 birds. 139 wigeon, including one previously rung in Russia. 16 black tailed gotwit, 28 mallard, 9 shelduck and 9 teal.
We didn't expect to get that many blackwits, otherwise the chap from the WWT would have brought coloured rings!
Still, a marvellous morning!
James
Brilliant stuff!! Thanks for putting that on here.

Sneaked a swift look at the W end of Seaton Marshes before work - Barwit still there, and a fem. Pochard in the NW corner was a surprise.

Had a coffee break by Kilmington sewage works (mmm, n-i-i-i-ce) so I could have a quick scan. Pair of Stonechats and 4 Chiffs, one of which was a pale, non-olive job, I guess an abietinus - it wasn't as pale as a tristis we had at Colyton WTW last winter. Would like to have spent longer with it really.............

After work, a look at the sea off Beer produced 37 Common Scoter and our wandering imm. male Eider. No sign of yesterday's Slav or Velvet.
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Old Friday 3rd February 2006, 18:21   #21
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Very cold today, which was motivation enough to pack in work early.... Following up a suggestion Steve Waite made I spent some time stomping around a quiet corner of the estuary this afternoon - success....2 Jack Snipe, one of which showed well on the deck briefly. Also 10+ Rock Pipits, a Water Rail, 12 Snipe, and a forlorn looking Chiff, that obviously hadn't read the 'habitat' bit in the field guide.

Elsewhere on the estuary - 2 adult Meds, 2 Barwits and 2 Pintail (a smart drake on the river and a female flying S).

Off Axmouth harbour were 55 Common Scoter and a Velvet - looked like the same, slightly elusive imm. male that popped up at Beer 2 days ago. Also, a Great Northern Diver surfaced for a little while, submerged and vanished for ever - how do they do that?

Finally, Seaton Hole gull roost produced 5 adult Meds.

The Jack Snipe take the year list to 113.

Wonder if this cold snap will encourage any oddities to drop by......Smew or Scaup would be nice.
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Old Sunday 5th February 2006, 00:20   #22
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Only had a little free time this afternoon, so thought I'd take my scope and have a proper look at the presumed abietinus Chiff (if it was still there) at Kilmington sewage works.....it was still there, with 7 standard collybita birds, and another abietinus-type. Brain damage! I suppose making the effort to take a careful description on these occasions is all part of the never-ending learning curve in birding, but why can't I just find something bright and obvious, like a Waxwing or Great Grey Shrike?

Elsewhere, 44 Golden Plover near Boshill Cross, and 2 Barwits and a smart adult Med on the estuary, along with 100+ Common Gulls which steadfastly refused to yield a Ring-billed........

Meant to do this a few days ago, but thought it might be good to have a little summary at the end of each month, with a few of Steve Waite's pics, if poss.....don't have time right now, but watch this space......

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Old Sunday 5th February 2006, 17:59   #23
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January Summary

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gavin Haig
Meant to do this a few days ago, but thought it might be good to have a little summary at the end of each month, with a few of Steve Waite's pics, if poss.....don't have time right now, but watch this space......
A good start to the year, with a record-busting 105 on our Jan 2 bird-race. Our best bird that day, Hawfinch, was probably the best bird of the month, with 2 being present. Other Jan highlights were Slavonian Grebe, 3 diver sp., up to 14 Water Pipits and a Firecrest. Ducks featured well - a flock of up to c.150 Common Scoter was enhanced by a Velvet Scoter and 2 Eider; plus a Mandarin, 2 or more Pochard, the odd Gadwall and a few Pintail added variety, but the only scarce wader was a Ruff. Med Gulls were regular, with up to at least 8 roosting, and generally a few on the estuary.

Talking of Med Gulls.....Steve photographed a colour-ringed bird earlier in the month, which turned out to have been ringed in Poland last spring, then was recorded on the Torridge estuary (N Devon) last summer.....pic attached (the one with the red ring)

A few other Jan pics attached, courtesy of Steve Waite......forgive the inclusion of Pochard - they are scarce here, honest!
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Old Sunday 5th February 2006, 18:56   #24
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I was beaten to the biggy today.......Having mentioned to Steve that I'd be out after lunch to count Water Pipits at Colyford Common he only went and phoned while I still had half a mug of tea left - "11 Whitefronts at Colyford Common". No manners at all.........

Looked superb in the afternoon sun and, apart from abietinus Chiff, our first Devon A-list rarity of the year - 11 European Whitefronts (8 adults, 3 1st winters)....pics attached (cheers Steve). A minor Devon twitch ensued, I think! Oh, and there were 5 Water Pipits.

Elsewhere: off Branscombe were 2 Black-throated and at least 8 Red-throated Divers, plus a few just too distant to ID. Also 100+ auks, mostly Razorbills.

Beer produced a fem. Eider and 35 Common Scoter.

Golden Plover have increased to 79 at Boshill Cross, and the Velvet Scoter was off Axmouth again, along with a Great Northern Diver.
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Old Sunday 5th February 2006, 19:25   #25
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Few more Pics

Hi Gav,

A few more White-front Pics for you. Sorry for disturbing your lunch!!!!!!

Keep up the blog, its ace

Steve
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