Monday, 31 December 2007


If November had been unusually dry (under 4" of rain in Moretonhampstead: and in the three months of September, October and November half the average we usually get), December has been somwhat wetter, including a very damp day at Roadford, when I realised that my Barbour jacket is no longer waterproof. The opportunities for watching birds have been few and far between, with our outings being mainly walking, not birding; although the month began with a fabulous day at Dawlish (and a memo to myself to remember to take our coffee to the hide: see my post "Nature's Fireworks" on )

Saturday 1 December
Sun and rain

Dawlish Warren (11.00 - 14.00): off the beach, Common Scoters and a Slavonian Grebe; in the trees and bushes, Goldfinches and from the hide, Oystercatchers, Grey Plovers, Ringed Plovers, Sanderlings, Dunlin, Turnstones, Brent Geese, Curlew, Egret, Shelduck, Pochard, Great Black Backed, Herring and Common Gulls, Shags
Cockwood: Canada Geese, Lapwings
Powderham (Estuary by the church): Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew, Widgeon, Goosanders
On the way there and back: Buzzard, Little Egrets (3 and 1), Kestrel

Saturday 8 December High wind and heavy squally showers; dark early

Roadford (10.30 - 14.00): Snipe, Woodcock

Sunday 16 December Grey and cold

Teign Valley, Clifford Bridge to Fingle (11.30 - 13.30): Dippers (3), Grey Wagtail (2), Heron (2). On the way back over Mardon Down, Fieldfares and Starlings in the hedgerows

Wednesday 19 December Bright and cold

Blewbury (10.30): Red Kite just on the outskirts of the village. Red Kites were re-introduced on the Chilterns Scarp some 20 or so years ago. When we first looked for them, 11 years ago, I remember being very excited at seeing them in the distance over Swincombe Down. Now they are a common sight in this part of the world, but I had not seen one quite so far over towards the Downs.

Sunday 23 December Damp and cold, brightening later

Hennock Reservoirs (14.00 - 16.30): Mallard and singleton Pochard on Trenchford, Shag on Kennick, Greenfinches in the treetops and later in the rhodedendron bushes along the path on the southern side of Tottiford, Pied Wagtails along the Trenchford Dam

Thursday 27 December Wind and low cloud, rain later

North from Two Bridges (11.00 - 16.00): the (very) occasional Skylark, 20+ Plover north of Lower White Tor

Saturday 29 December Bright and windy

Hennock Reservoirs (14.00 - 16.00): Goosanders (two pairs and a singleton m.) on Trenchford, Tufted Duck (14) on Kennick and a pair of Shag, Greenfinches in the treetops and Pied Wagtails on the mud of Tottiford and the Trenchford Dam, Sparrowhawk in the air over Trenchford as the light was lost and a Buzzard. Several pairs of Crows

Friday, 30 November 2007


A raw November and preparation for winter on the moor. Although it is a quiet time for watching birds, especially on the High Moor, the light is magical in late afternoon and there are Winter Thrushes, Fieldfares and Redwings, arriving, along with the Starlings returning after a summer spent in the far north of Europe. It is also that much easier to see such birds as there are, as the trees lose their leaves. Plus the feeders in the garden are visited by a variety of birds, as well as the Rooks who dominate them most of the year.

Wednesday 14 November Early morning sun

Moorgate near Leapra Cross (Lettaford) (08.00): Winter Thrushes in the hedgerows

Thursday 15 November Cloudy and overcast

Bodmin (08.00): five or six small groups of Starlings (c.25 each) flying east

Friday 16 November Failing light

Whiddon Down (17.30): Starlings massing at Whiddon Down before roosting

Sunday 18 November Overcast and chilly

Yarner Wood (14.30 - 16.30): Longtailed Tits; at the hide Great, Blue and Coal Tits, Nuthatches, Greenfinch (f.), Chaffinch, Greater Spotted Woodpecker; in the woods, Redwings, Bullfinch, Goldcrests, Trecreeper, small flock of Tits, Raven

Sunday 25 November Bright and windy

Soussons Wood (11.00 - 13.30): Jays (several pairs), Goldfinches, Goldcrests, Coal Tits, a pair of Ravens, Green Woodpecker, Greater Spotted Woodpeckers (2), Buzzard, Robins everywhere defending territory, Chaffinches, Blackbirds. Just outside the wood, a medium sized raptor: not a Buzzard, but possible a Hen Harrier (f).
Off Challacombe Down (13.35): Fieldfares, Kestrel.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007


We started the month on Cape Cod, with Sibley's Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America and The Shorebird Guide, and print outs from Mass Audubon's website. The Fall was late this year, and the temperature much warmer: in New York a full 20F above the usual October temperature. This meant that although we saw a wide variety of birds - all new to us - the Fall migration had not really started, and the number of shorebirds was not what we expected. Back in England we did not get out again until the end of the month, and a day with friends that ended in glorious golden light below Gutter Tor, watching a pair of Ravens.

Monday 1 October: Sunny and warm

West Barnstable (07.00 - 09.00): watching the bird feeders and the garden of The High Pointe Inn: Northern Cardinals, Cowbirds, Catbirds, a Baltimore Oriole, Downy Woodpeckers.
Nauset Harbour/Fort Hill (10.30 - 12.00): Chickadees, an American Robin and bird song and chatter in the woods; Egrets, Blue Herons, and clusters of shorebirds (too far away to identify).
Race Point, Provincetown (14.00 - 16.00): Redtailed Hawk and a smaller raptor high over the Visitor Centre; Sanderlings, Sandpipers and Plovers (Semi-palmated?) on the beach. Great Blackbacked and Herring Gulls, adults and juveniles, and off-shore, Eider Ducks and crowds of smaller gulls being harried by the Great Blackbacked Gulls.
North Truro, Mass (16.30): a cloud of Tree Swallows (500 - 1,000) on the edge of the land.
Mass Audubon's Reserve, Wellfleet (16.30 - 19.00): Cooper's Hawk, mobbed by Crows, a dozen Blue Heron, shorebirds to indistinct to identify, and the most magical of sunsets.

Tuesday 2 October: Sunny and very warm

Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, Nantucket Island (13.30 - 17.00): Northern Harrier, Belted Kingfisher, Sanderlings, Herring and Great Blackbacked Gulls, White Winged Scoters (female), Eider Duck, Tree Swallows (100s), Peregrine, Horned Larks, Blackbellied Plovers, Cormorants, Canada Geese, Crows ~ plus Grey Seals (10+), hornets, and the priceless question, "You mean that seagulls come in different types?"

Wednesday 3 October: Sunny and warm

West Barnstable (07.00 - 09.00): once again watching the bird feeders and the garden of The High Pointe Inn: Downy Woodpecker, Chickadees, Sparrows, Tufted Titmouses, Northern Cardinal, Goldfinch in autumn moult, Grey Catbirds, American Robin.
Morris Island, Chatham (10.00 - 11.30): Cormorants (75+) shepherding a shoal of small fish, raptor high above the wood, Plovers, Herring Gulls, shorebirds on Monomoy Island, too far away in the haze to identify, a young fox hunting in the saltmarsh.
Mass Audubon's Reserve, Wellfleet (13.00 - 16.00): before we went out on the Reserve, we saw the day old Diamond back Terrapins they take out of the swamp (to stop them being eaten too soon). In the woods, a Redbreasted Nuthatch, and we heard Blue Jays but could not see them. Out towards the sea, another Huthatch, a pair of Northern Cardinal (or were they Grosbeaks: I find identification of North American birds challenging), a Cooper's Hawk high in a dead tree, two Lesser Yellow Legs in the Goose Pond, Crows everywhere. On the beach Eider Duck, Sanderlings and Plover too far away to identify clearly; on the way back, a juvenile Herring Gull fishing (successfully) in the Goose Pond, and the (same) Cooper's Hawk being mobbed by Crows. Finally a Woodpecker (larger than the Downy Woodpecker) in the pines.

Friday 5 October Hot and hazy

The Battery, NYC (11.30): a single raptor flying fast above the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.
The Rambles, Central Park, NYC (5.00): heard a lot of birds but saw none (but did see the Grey Squirels)

Saturday 20 October Overcast but sun later, mild

Lopwell (2.30): Little Egret, Mallard
Whittenknowles Rocks (above Ditsworthy) (4.00): singleton Wheatear
Gutter Tor (4.30): pair of Ravens on the ground, Buzzard

Sunday, 30 September 2007


This has been one of those months where we have walked, rather than watched birds (although we always take the lightweight binoculars just in case). The problem with trying to do both is that watching birds takes time and patience: a trip to Yarner Wood will be three or four hours, and only a couple of miles or so covered. On the other hand, in the same time on the moor we will tramp eight or so miles, and stopping means getting cold! The moor should have been busier: September is usually the month when Meadow Pipits on passage from further north stop to feed in the bracken. We saw this in late August (see my previous post) but not this month. The weather in this part of the world has been better after the rain in June and July. It has also been warm: 7 September as warm as any day this year. One result is that the bracken turned early. At month end we were in upstate New York, in the Catskills and a whole new birding world.

Sunday 9 September Overcast and chilly

Higher White Tor/Lower White Tor and Broad Down (11.00 - 3.00): a pair of Ravens flying west towards Devil Tor; otherwise the moor seemed almost empty.

Sunday 16 September
Bright at first then overcast

Hennock Reservoirs (3.00 - 5.00): birdsong and chatter through the woods up from the Trenchford car park - Coal and Blue Tits and Nuthatch; Wren and juvenile by the stream at the top of Tottiford; Mallard on Kennick.

Friday 28 September Starting bright but overcast later

Boiceville, NY (09.00): a dozen Turkey Vultures slowly wheeling in a bright blue sky above the Trail Motel.
Ashokan Reservoir, NY (10.30 - 11.30): above the Lemon Squeeze, Bald Eagle, Northern Goshawk, American Crow mobbing a smaller raptor (?Merlin), Wild Turkey (4) on the edge of the woodland, Blue Jays (6+ pairs).

Saturday 29 September Bright and warm

Boiceville, NY (0.900): again, Turkey Vultures high over the town.
Prattsville, NY (11.30): gaggle of Wild Turkey.

Sunday 30 September Sun and cloud, and warm

West Barnstable, Mass (Cape Cod): Rough Legged Hawk, Downy Woodpeckers, Goldfinch (in transition), Black-capped Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, Brown-headed Cowbird, American Crow, various sorts of Sparrow.

Friday, 31 August 2007


After the rain in July, summer at last. The first weekend found us in Oxfordshire, where Red Kites are now as numerous as Buzzards are in Devon (well, perhaps not quite but in the 11 years we have been visiting in the Wallingford-Henley area, what was once rare is now commonplace. Nonetheless, the sight of one of these magnificent raptors is still exciting, even if there is something unreal about sitting in a suburban garden in the early evening watching one circling above. Apparently Red Kites are developing a taste for cooked bacon scraps. Closer to home, we have been out on Mardon, round the Hennock reservoirs and on Dartmoor but principally to walk, rather that watch birds. Even so, the last Bank Holiday of summer found us on Great Trowlesworthy Tor, watching Ravens. August is the month that sees the summer migrants leave, and there are far fewer birds on the moor, so walking it is.

Saturday 4 August
Hot and bright sun

En route from Twyford: Red Kite (at least 6, close to the road at Marlow and again at Christmas Common), Buzzard.

Otmoor (11.00 - 2.00): in the field by the gate, 4 Brown Hares, Goldfinches, 60+ Crows, Lapwing (200+) with some Starlings in among them: lifting off and settling down, Herons (3 in the trees next to the field in which the Lapwings were), Canada Geese (80+ in a number of loose skeins, flying across the reserve),Coots (adults and juveniles) in front of the hides, Mute Swans and cygnets, Mallard and ducklings, Reed Bunting, Willow Warbler, Kestrels (4+), Red Kite, Tufted Ducks, Great Crested Grebes (2 and a juvenile), Cormorants (on the water and in the trees), Marsh Harrier (too big for a Kestrel or Hobby, and not a Buzzard), Chaffinch (sadly not a Bullfinch), Grey Partridge.

Bank Holiday Monday 27 August Hot and sunny, some haze

Out from the Scout Hut to Great Trowlesworthy Tor, Hen Tor and back across the Plym (11.30 - 3.30): Meadow Pipits and Larks in family groups in the bracken; we watched a pair of Ravens above the Plym as we crossed towards Great Trowlesworthy and on the Tor we watched the same pair on the ground, close by, Owl pellets (? again) on the Tor; possibly a Raven's nest at Hen Tor (see my Flickr photograph ), and then watching two pairs of Buzzards from the top of Hen Tor as they soared above the Plym; Crows; a pair of Wheatears; a Sparrowhawk hunting above the bracken. And lizards and Beautiful Demoiselles along the way.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007


A cold start to the month, rain and wind; and a hot ending. In between some of the wettest weather for years, with heavy flooding first in the North East, and then in Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire. We missed nearly all of it. It rained the first afternoon we were out on the Gower, but thereafter we had good birding weather, even if the time of year was not the best to see birds: very little bird song and quiet woods on our home territory (Yarner), but the weekend we had in West Wales more than made up for this.

Thursday 5 July Heavy rain

Oxwich Bay, Gower (2.30 - 4.00 ~
Fierce south west wind and heavy rain): in the woodland, a Tawny Owl, Robins and; on the marsh, nothing at all; back along the beach, into the teeth of the wind, Common Gulls

Friday 6 July: Sun and wind

Strumble Head (10.00 - 11.30 ~
bright sun, strong south westerly and a rough sea): Choughs by the lighthouse; from the Observation Station, Fulmars (a steady stream flying East to West, 150 metres off-shore), Manx Shearwaters in broken water 400 metres farther out, Guillemots and Razorbills, Common and Lesser Blackbacked Gulls, Cormorants, Harbour Porpoise (?), Grey Seal in the broken water under the cliffs

Teifi Marshes (Welsh Wildlife Centre) (1.30 - 3.30 ~ bright sun, with wind flattening the reeds out of the shelter belt): Mallard in transition on the ponds, Kingfishers (two: one fishing, one glimpsed flashing across the water), Longtailed, Great, Blue and Coal Tits, Heron (4+), Chaffinches, Robins (adults and juveniles)
Dinas Head (5.00 - 6.30 ~ bright sun, with South West wind): Peregrines (2) playing and hunting/hawking: motionless in the wind, Stonechat (4+ adults and juveniles), Whinchats, Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars, Common and Lesser Blackbacked Gulls, Chough (3 pairs in a field with sheep) joined by 4 Curlew, Oystercatchers in the air over and on the beach.

Sunday 8 July Sun and heavy showers

Elegug Stacks (11.00 - 1.30) sea calm, squalls (with a real drop in temperature) from the South West: Guillemots ('000+) and Razorbills on the stacks (with young) and in the water [see my Flickr photos], Lesser Blackbacked, Common and Herring Gulls (with young), Fulmars, Kittiwakes (with young), Linnets by the car park, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, a very bedraggled Rock Pipit, Housemartins, Goldfinches (pair, twice), Choughs (single, family groups and mixed in with Crows and Rooks).
Lark song on the clifftop.

Saturday 21 July Fine

Exeter (4.30): walking from Mary Arches car park down to The Picture House, heard and then saw the Peregrines returning to and flying around the spire of St Michael's Church

Sunday 22 July Cloudy and dry

Out from Princetown to King Tor and back (12.00 - 3.00): Greenfinch on a fence post on the path out, Rooks (30+) above the old railway line, Ravens (pair: hard to confirm but typical flight), Wheatears at Foggintor Quarry, Pied Wagtails, Larks and Meadow Pipits, Kestrel

Sunday 29 July Overcast at first, then brighter

Yarner Wood (11.30 - 13.00): Marsh, Longtailed, Blue and Great Tits, Pied Flycatcher ~ all seen in the first 20 minutes; after that nothing, and very little to hear.
Trendlebeare Down, Haytor Down and Black Hill (13.00 - 15.30); Ravens (pair: very distinctive flight and call), Wheatears, Meadow Pipits, Larks, Blackbirds (looking for Dartford Warblers but instead saw Blackbirds on the moor edge)

Saturday, 30 June 2007


The wettest June for 93 years, or so they say. We certainly have had our share here in Devon, although nothing to match the rain in the Northeast. This has meant that opportunities to watch birds have been limited: it is not much fun (either for us or the birds) standing in a torrential downpour, in the middle of a wood. It may be good weather for ducks, but little more! Nonetheless there have been some magic moments, not least the Tawny Owl teenager in Yarner Wood.

Sunday 3 June
Overcast and warm

Yarner Wood: Pied Flycatchers (we watched a pair feeding their brood in nest box 47, below the hide; and another pair later, plus the odd male in the canopy. Have finally got their song); a pair of Bullfinches, skipping around the trees on one of the upper walks; Great and Blue Tits; Greater Spotted Woodpecker; Buzzards, in the sky and among the tree tops; Crows, Goldfinches; Blackbirds, Chaffinches and Woodpigeon.

Sunday 10 June Sunny and warm

Yarner Wood: Grey Wagtail; Tawny Owl "teenager" (perched on the branch of a silver birch) and Tawny Owl (possibly the parent, in undergrowth ~ slowly flapped away, past a Roe Deer, that did not even notice); Pied Flycatchers (we watched four pairs, three feeding broods, one in a nest box but two in holes in hollow trees, and several others); a pair of Bullfinches, a pair of Long Tailed Tits; a pair of Tree Creepers; Nuthatch (disturbed by one of the deer); Blue and Coal Tits; Greater Spotted Woodpecker; Wrens; Blackbirds. A pair of Roe Deer that came up from below the hide and crossed the road in front of us.

Sunday 17 June Sunny and warm

North Wood, below Cadover Bridge: a good start with a pair of Nuthatches as soon as we got into the woods, Chaffinches, Jay and a pair of Buzzards just above the woods.
Lopwell Reservoir: Mute Swans and Mallard
Bere Ferrers: tide well out and Shelduck on the far side, two pairs of Godwit, Herring and Black Headed Gulls

Saturday 23 June: Showers and sun

Sloncombe: 24+ Longtailed Tits in the woodland at the bottom of the
Wymers' garden (Secret Gardens weekend)

Sunday 24 June Oppressively warm out of the showers, very heavy showers (and a corresponding drop in temperature), and occasional sun

Hennock Reservoirs: Yellowhammers on the road up to Trenchford, and Meadow Pipits in front of the Land Rover. Chaffinches and Thrushes, eight Canada Geese on Kennick, a very bedraggled young Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Buzzard in the woodland, Willow Warbler, Dunnocks, pair of Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, 12+ Marsh Tits and Great Tits in a sunny moment, Mallard (5) on Trenchford and Herring Gulls. Robin song much of the walk