UPDATE: Dec 31st
My explorations of the ‘countryside’ around Buckfastleigh this Xmas have fetched up the following:
Two Song Thrushes singing along the road out towards the Dart Bridge; one was right next to the river Dart by the Salmon Leap cafe.
I went out specifically looking for Rooks – and I found rooks. In fact I’d barely got out of town when I spotted a rook sat up on a TV aerial in Jordan St. Up on Church Hill there were more rooks digging about in green fields. Returning home I then saw, to my amazement, a rook sat in the top of the silver birch rawking his head off.
There were about a million and one Robins down every back country lane and hedgerow (actually they were all over town too)
I spotted a female Goosander floating down the Mardle by Ela Woods. And then a pair turned up (on Xmas day) at the bottom of town next to the Orchard.
A Sparrowhawk glid straight past where I stood (filming magpies) on Merrifield Rd. It didn’t change course – go up, or around me – but simply cruised past as if I wasn’t there. I didn’t have time to get the camera on it. Too quick.
I’ve seen numerous small birds all over the place but couldn’t get good film of them so won’t list them all here.
Starlings are popping up on the silver birch more and more.
Next to the ruined church were over 100 Jackdaws roosted together.
Noticeable is how many Gulls are flocking around the surrounding fields.
Back Garden Birds
We may as well start with the Big Event.
The visitation of a female Sparrowhawk into the garden. It was ripping into a sparrow on the wall outside the kitchen door. Luckily, Haze was stood (stockstill) at the door filming in stunned and amazed silence. Then the Sparrowhawk hopped up onto the willow to clean the blood and feathers out of her claws (Haze filmed that too) Remarkable. Extraordinary.
All last years winter birds are back (although not necessarily the exact same birds)
A funny feisty female Blackcap is now claiming the fatball feeders. A male Blackcap darts occasionally in and out.
A Robin is in every day chasing away the Dunnocks.
A Wren comes in from time to time to dig up a worm or 2.
A male (British) Blackbird has been a regular visitor in the last 2 months.
And of course, last but not least, are the Sparrows. They’ve been around all year and are now permanent residents in the garden. As many as two dozen have been seen bouncing about together, and there always seems to be half a dozen to a dozen daily regulars.
I’ve been going down to Babbacombe beach in the last month.
I filmed what appeared to be a weary and worn out old Raven. He seemed reluctant, or unable, to get himself up in the air. So I followed him around for a couple of hours. Quite a privilege to be that close to a ‘wild’ Raven. Other Ravens were kronking off around the cliffs that day, but I haven’t seen them (or old Crone) since.
Rock Pipits, Oystercatchers, and Shags/Cormorants are regularly feeding down there. Might be a good place to go seal spotting.
On the beach next to Corbyn Head I fluffed up a little gang of Turnstones (turning their stones).
Incidental Birds in Incidental Places
At Decoy Park were Coots, Moorhens, and Tufted Ducks
At the flooded Queens Marsh in Dartington were a mass of Canada Geese
At Totnes Weir Cormorants were feeding and fishing (and a seal too)
On Aller Brook right next to Penn Inn roundabout was a Little Egret prancing purposefully about.
Just shows you that wherever you look, and wherever you are – the next bird is at hand, to be experienced, enjoyed.
UPDATE Sept 12th
This summer there’s been:
Pied and Grey Wagtails wagging about on the river Lemon.
An influx of Sparrows; as many as 15 to 20 at a time, bouncing around the garden, addicted to the fatballs in the feeders.
I attempted to film Swifts flashing across the rooftops in the centre of town.
Upwards of a couple of hundred young Jackdaws were soon coming in, as they do every summer, to roost in the carpark below.
Young Blackbirds were being brought into the garden and taught how to eat toast.
I followed the progress of 2 nests of Swallow chicks up in the ruined church on the hill. They finally fledged after 18 days.
A Goldfinch appeared at the sunflower seed feeder. Then 2 Goldfinches. Then a third.
In August we bussed up to the Warren
The tide was too far out to see anything very clearly, or nearly, from The Hide.
But we were able to pick out, with the binoculars:
Hundreds of Oystercatchers.
Two Little Egrets frisking about together.
A Kestrel hovering.
A flock of Linnets rapid flyover.
A Robin singing any other bird off.
A Cormorant hanging its wings out to dry.
A Grey Heron preening, prancing, flapping, and flying.
Nearer to was a dainty stepping Mediterranean Gull.
Six Barnacle Geese were sat on the golf course obstructing play
A bald Magpie came into the garden (looking like a mini vulture)
Down from Park Rd I saw upwards of 100 Crows feeding on a school playing field. Plus a pair of Rooks (near enough to the fence to get a positive id on camera).
UPDATE May 31st
A list of birds to film more of this summer:
Jackdaws (close up)
Crows (close up)
Starlings (close up)
A list of birds to find and film:
Great Black Backed Gull
Lesser Black Backed Gull
Yellow Legged Gull
Little Ringed Plover
UPDATE: May 29th May
Here’s a list of the birds that have videos on the blog (from most to least)
Little Egret (5)
Wood Pidge (3)
Grey Heron (2)
Song Thrush (2)
Pied Wagtail (2)
Herring Gull (2)
Black Swan (2)
Chinese Goose (2)
Blue Tit (1)
Great Tit (1)
Long Tailed Tit (1)
Chocolate Headed Gull (1)
Cirl Bunting (1)
Reed Warbler (1)
Collared Dove (1)
UPDATE: May 24th 2018
Our ‘birding’ has gone ballistic in the last 6 weeks.
Haze is creating a birdbook of watercolour illustrations of all the birds we’ve seen. She’s up to 25 so far.
At the beginning of May she saw, and filmed, a Reed Warbler down at Slapton Ley warbling away on his reed. We’ve been to Dawlish Warren in the last 2 weeks and heard yet another reed warbler doing his non-stop persistent warbling at the edge of the dragonfly pond. But we couldn’t get in close enough to see or film him. Tantalizingly out of sight.
There was skylarking Saturday last weekend. Laid down flat on our backs gazing up as numerous Skylarks fell on top of us (almost). A decent bit of film of skylark sat on a tall dry stalk a mere 50 feet away. But only blurry bits of sky where the larks were meant to be (on camera)
Two Linnets were spotted and filmed on The Warren also.
I guess seeing ducks and geese in captivity doesn’t really count as proper birding.
But I’ll count them anyway:
Black Swans, Chinese Geese, Blue Phase Snow Goose, Call Ducks, Crested Ducks, White Faced Whistling Duck, Mandarin Duck, Cayuga Ducks, Tufted Duck, Mallards (with 17 chicks) Shelducks.
Mrs Blackbird was making a nest in the Winter Jasmine Bush. But seems like she relocated a couple of days later. She still comes into the garden every day to feed and chill out. Mr Blackbird sings on the wisteria, on nearby telegraph poles.
The Dunnocks have been clacking their cloacas.
And now Mr Dave Dunnock is singing up in the wisteria (and nearby telegraph poles) from dawn till dusk for the last week. No sign of Mrs Dunnock, so we assume she’s sitting on eggs.
A family of Sparrows are daily chirpy squabbly visitors; there’s a young female who is especially cute. We’ve filmed them having flicky dust baths in the dug up earth under the new apple tree.
A Great Tit has flashed onto the feeders all month (along with a baby?) but hasn’t been seen for the last 3 or 4 days. A pair of Blue Tits have been occasional visitors.
The piggy Wood Pidge continues to be a prize pain in the posterior.
But beware you Wood Pig! And you Moggy Ginge pest!
Haze is ready. Wiv her water pistol!
UPDATE: April 12th 2018
So far, these 40 birds have flittered across our eyes, twittered through ears.
Birds Seen (and filmed)
Shag (& pics)
Cormorant (& pics)
Blackcap (& pics)
Long Tailed Tit
Black Headed Gull
Birds Seen (vids still to be made)
Birds Seen (but too fast to film)
Birds Heard (but also difficult to film)
Birds Seen but too Boring or Annoying (to film)
The following 18 birds are on the Burdnurd Spring & Summer wishlist
Dawlish Warren and/or Exe Estuary
Avocet. Curlew. Sanderling. Lapwing
Great Crested Grebe.
Back Garden Summer Visitors:
Goldfinch. Greenfinch. Bullfinch. Great Tit.
Rook. Raven. Jay.
Of course, you can never predict what you might see next. I mean, a Peregrine Falcon could zoom across the very next sky at any minute.
UPDATE: April 10th, 2018
A delightful Sunday morning up at Labrador Bay Nature Reserve filming dozens of buntings bouncing and bunting about. One of the few sites in the UK you can see cirl buntings. Wonderful to be able to see such rare birds so up, close, and personal.
A pair of gooselike ducks hoovering about the mudflats of the Teign estuary at low-tide. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, all the winter wading birds seem to have vamooshed off back to where they came.
Bopping about in the hedgerows next to main road; they could still be just about heard above the noisy din of the traffic.
Several regular visitors to the feeders in the last couple of months.
Seen perched up on a cliff edge at Institute beach. A male tufting out its headcrest.
The proper British blackbird. A Mr and his mississ are daily visitors.
A pair (the beta male seems to have gone now) have been everpresent all winter long. The male wants to clack her cloaca.
Sometimes 2 males are seen. The female blackcap is very present, very aggressive around the feeders next to the willow. Has been seen to see all other birds off.
A pair turned up in January. Recently, a solitary male? has been having a go at the fatballs next to the willow. Well, if Mrs blackcap will let him.
A crow with white wing seen up in the silver birch frequent enough to be considered a town centre resisdent. Maybe he (or her) just likes to keep an eye on what bargains people are buying in the Co-op.
Seen 2 or 3 times now at Institute beach. Seen once actually being quite ‘active’ (that is, stalking and stabbing around the rockpools)
A male seen on at least 3 seperate ocassions flashing by at Institute beach. Would appear he’s made the little lagoon his home territory. Too quick for us to get much of a camera on.
Long Tailed Tits
A little family flock of them came into the garden 3 times in January. Sparking and and sparkling about the feeders. Like a Visitation. Miraculous. Marvellous.
January 11th, 2018
This is meant to be an ongoing ‘live’ page. It will be updated as and when we see, hear, film, draw, new birds, and more birds.
Plus updates to already familar birds experienced in surprising, and/or different ways.
Took a while for birds to arrive in Hazes back garden. They weren’t coming to the feeders. For a whole year nothing much happened.
She switched to trailing some nuts and seeds next to the low kitchen wall. Here came a Dunnock. Then a Blackcap. Then a Blackbird. Then 2 Dunnocks. Then 2 Blackbirds.
She bought a birdtable. Here came the Jackdaws and the Magpies and the Crows. Here came that clunky fat Wood Pigeon (Grrr! – Get off!)
She strung up fatballs and peanuts. Here came a Sparrow. Then 3 Sparrows. Then 5 Sparrows.
After a year (2017) of training and feeding these birds, she’s got a steady stream of back garden regulars now.
The Dunnocks have made themselves more or less permanently at ‘home’.
As have the Blackbirds (presently, both European and British Blackbirds are competing for dominance)
A Robin – “Stokesy” – has taken up residence this Winter, and is aggressively protective of his garden ‘gaffe’; puffs himself up, and chases off any bird – large or small – that tries to pinch his food, or steal his territory.
The Wood Pigeons that pigged out on the birdtable have been deterred and sent packing.
The Gang of Gangster Gulls don’t frequent the garden much either (now that there’s no big chunks of bread for them to gobble on)
The Sparrows of last year will be back by Spring.
Here is a brief summary of all the birds we’ve seen, or heard, or had some kind expereince of, in the last 3 years.
Lets lump all the Corvids together first.
Have been everywhere in this blog. They’re up on roofs next to chimney pots kissing and cuddling. They’re up in the silver birch. They’re doing en masse flyovers in pearly sunsets. They’re nicking food off the bird table. Jackdaws always cheer us up.
Many Crows keep cropping up. Not together. Mostly solitary. Just about every place we’ve gone to there’s been a crow lurking about somewhere. We respect and admire crows. Despite their somewhat dark and questionable attitudes.
We don’t admire. I made a funny vid of them Magpie Malarking about on the birdtable. But they are not intrinsically endearing or funny birds. Seeing too many, or any, of them in the garden is bad news. They steal eggs from nests and gobble out chicks. We say: a Malarkerious Magpie is OK. A Murderous Magpie can go away.
I was mistakenly – for ages, for years – calling the Jackdaws that fly around this town Rooks. Admittedly, Jackdaws and Rooks do roost together. Rooks are baggy-trousered shabby crows. They don’t appear to be in Haze’s, or my, locality. So I’m yet to see one nearly or clearly enough to film.
I’ve heard the heavy ‘kronk, kronk’ of a raven when we’ve been walking in woods. But not got a good look of them.
And now we come on to the more typical Back Garden visitors
A quite specific, and quite ‘singular’ robin: Mr Stokesy. He’s made Haze’s back garden his Manor this winter. Initially, he was attacking himself in the corner window, giving his reflection a good old pasting. Hopping back and forth across the shed roof like a demented, er, nutcase. Presently (Jan 2018) he wants to see off any bird that has the audacity to poach on his patch. He puffs himself up like the Big Boss bird he thinks he is (but isn’t) and chases off Dave Dunnock and Co. Even tries to have a go at the Blackbirds. Not on sonny jim. Calm down a bit. You’re funny.
Two kinds. The foreign one (minus yellow beak). And the British one (with yellow beak). The foreign (European) one turned up first. But appeared to be seen off by the British one. British Blackbird rightfully claimed his British soil. For the Missus and thems kids. Its all on film. He was up on that wisteria first thing every morning; and last thing at night. Singing himself away. Or chink-chinking off rivals. Blackbird Missus is seen on film digging up plantpots. What lovely black birds you are. With songs so sweet, so peaceful, so reassuringly familiar. Everything is still alright in the world if a Backbird can still find time to sing in a back garden. And of course, if you’ve still got the time, and the inclination, to listen to him.
Dunnocks would not register much in most peoples consciousness. Some think Dunnocks drab. We think Dunnocks delightful. They’re peripheral, creep-around-the-edges kind of birds. But they’ve definitely taken very kindly to Hazes back garden. Been more-or-less everpresent for the whole of 2017. Dave Dunnock (Alpha-Male) Doreen Dunnock (Female) and Dennis Dunnock (Beta-Male) can stay as long as them likes. This garden is your Home my friend (s) (And take no notice of that Stokesy Robin; him just being spiteful)
One Summer day last year a Sparrow turned up. He was soon onto the feeders picking out the peanuts. He was quickly onto the trail of nuts and seeds left on the wall. Looked like he was mouth-rolling the peanuts to unpeel their skins. Before too long, more Sparrows were arriving, which was heartening to see (given that there’s been a chronic drop in Sparrow numbers in that last 20 years or so) We’re expecting them to be back any time soon.
Haze was seeing Goldfinches flitting about in the garden last Spring. But not consistently enough, or near enough, to get good vid.
I’m hearing a chaffinch soloing away out of my bedroom window every early morning in the summer. Goes on and on it does. And probably carries on and on after I’ve left for work.
We hear Chiff Chaffs chiffchaffing whenever we go walking in woods.
Last winter a Blackcap tried to muscle in on the seeds, nuts, and fatball left on the little wall next to the kitchen. The stationary camera picked up a bit of argy bargy going on between the Blackcap and a Dunnock. Blackcap was seen off, and never seen again. Mr (Dave) Dunnock you is the winner!
Wood Pigeons & Collared Doves
We don’t really want to know Wood Pigeons thank you very much. They’re not birds, they’re pigs. Hoovering every morsel of food up off the birdtable if you let them. So Haze had to put a stop to that (tied string around to prevent the clumsy clots from clogging on) Nearly as bad are Collared Doves with their repetitive “Coo-coo-coo, Coo-coo-coo” (“U-nit-ed, U-nit-ed”) Actually that’s all they do, is coo-coo-coo all early morning long. Mind you, the Wood Pigs, “My-Name-Is-Freddi-Ee” dirge is equally as monotonous and ubiquitous. Drives you barmy it do – on a lovely Spring day. (Its obvious I don’t like them)
These can vamoosh too. Far too unweildy and ungainly to be invading a little back garden. Like the Wood Pigs they hoover up any sight of food they can see and grab at with their big awkward beaks. Like clumsy delinquents they are. Hey! See! There’s no chips here guvs. Go and pester grockels down on the Harbour!
Long Tailed Tits
A little family of them turned up in the garden this week (Jan 18) Jumping about so flipperty gibberty, Haze didn’t know where to point the camera next. They easily get the Cutest Little Fluffkins Ever Award. So round. So twee. So cuddly. So chatty.
The UK’s smallest bird. It turned up this week (9th Jan 2018) Possibly following the long tailed tits around. Haze got a ?? sec vid of him/her. A sort of Wren with a gold streak (Wrens have not featured on this blog – Yet! But I am forever hopeful)
Not sure if I’ve really see these. Haze has. But not long enough to commit to film.
Haze recorded a Song Thrush singing away up in Moreton. Then I had one turn up outside my bedroom window last summer. He kept turning up, and sing songing away, for the next couple of months. He was just within range for me to hear and see him clearly enough on camera. His singing was relentlessly intense; woke me up in the morning; then sung me off all evening. Could have been at it all day. I hate to admit this; but after about 3 weeks, I was getting everso slightly irritated by his relentless tunefulness. Oh dear! I’m going to be shot for saying that!
Frequent winter visitors to the silver birch outside my kitchen window. I’ve made several vids of them chattery sparkling about together. Remarkable birds. Especially when 100,000 of them get together and start murmurating their atavistic gyres into the sky. Goes without saying, we’d love to see this one day (actually, Haze already has; a mini-murmuration up at The Precinct 3 years ago)
See Swifts and hear Swifts just about every night in Summer. Tearing strips out of the sky with their high pitched screeching. Being up so high, and racing around so fast, the Swifts calling doesn’t get to be as painful as it could sound if you were right up close. Hearing them chase around feels quixotically exotic; as if you’re up there in the sky with them.
Saw these flitting about the rooftops in Moreton. Also seen them darting about Buckfast Abbey. Like all small racy ‘air’ birds its almost impossible to get useable film off them.
Tawny & Little Owls
We haven’t seen Tawny Owls; we’ve heard them. Camped down on the Teign Eastuary we heard them. Camped up on Dartmoor we heard them; hooting away right above out tent. But by the time I’d got the camera out to record the hoots, they’d gone. A couple of hours later Little Owls started up further down in the woods (by the river Ashburn) Probably never going to see Owls well enough to film them. Too nocturnal. But their hooting is more than good enough.
Away from the garden we are always looking for, and finding, birds on the coast and estuaries
Cormorants & Shags
We’re always looking for Shags and Cormorants. Sometimes we’re seeing Shags when we should be calling them Cormorants. And vice versa. Cormorants like to be sat on rocks hanging their wings out to dry in the form of a cross or crucifix. Made 2 or 3 vids of them (Cormorants or Shags?) popping up and down in The Bay while diving for fish. They never pop up in the place they popped down. So you have to be scrutinizing the horizon very intently.
Seen prancing about on the Teign Estuary, Institute Beach. Even seen stalking up the little river Lemon in Newton Abbot. And to think they weren’t seen in the UK until 20 years ago. A most photogenically pleasing bird.
Only seen once. On Institute beach. Stood around like an inanimate object, hardly moving. I’m guessing you’ve got to have a couple of hours of spare patience to get ‘active’ vid out of herons.
This bird starts wagging about in Meadfoot beach car park every time you throw crumbs out the window. Pump that pied boddum little Waggy.
Got some good looks of these on Institute beach.
Tried to film skylarks on Dawlish Warren out on the back bit (called The Spit) They were too soon shot up in the air, alarmed we might be treading on their nests. The shaky clips of them weren’t distinctive enough to make a film of to post on the blog. But maybe you don’t need to see them. Just need your earholes open, so as to be tuning in to them larking about up there in the wide open sky.
Not a totally positive identification. Could have been Dunlins. At least 30 or 40 of them flittering in and out of the tide on Dawlish Warren.
Black Headed Gull
This gull had raspberry coloured legs and beak. And a neat chocolate coloured head. For some reason it made me think of Neapolitian ice cream.
We heard curlews while wild camping on the Teign Estuary. Captivating. Enchanting.
A flock of these came scootling over the Hide on Dawlish Warren. Too quick to get a camera on them. And anyway, we was busy. Munching on bacon baps, sausage, and suchlike.
Been seeing these pippit about rocks on beaches. Which means, sort of like, everywhere. Perhaps a little too drab to do a whole film of. Which is why I haven’t. But maybe I should.
Buzzards (& possibly Kestrels)
We see a lot of buzzardy buzzarding. Soaring high up above the cliffs usually. Just a bit too far away up the sky to get a steady zoom on.
In Dawlish these are. Filmed the protective parents with 3 little 2 week old fluffy cygnets back in November 2017.
Dawlish is good for oriental ducks. There was a Chinese Goose with a flappy dewlap. And Indian Crested Runner Ducks doing their cartoonish road runnery running.
Out at Newton Abbot quay are Greylag Geese and sundry other ducks. Some swans here too. I heard what sounded like warbling going on in the marshy estuary reeds. With a good pair of bins and a couple of hours of quiet waiting you might be putting birds to all the warbling going on. Lined up in a row across the bridge numerous small gulls and pigeons wait for walkers to toss out bags of crumbs for them to all squabble over.
Seeing birds trapped behind nets doesn’t really count does it? Well, OK, we’ll include for the sake of completion. An amusing vid (I thought) of the Tufted Puffins tufting about.
There were numerous Inca Terns, Redshanks, and a Banked Cormorant. Plus a bird that sat there on a post, on one leg, sounding terribly distressed for about half an hour. God knows what it was upset about. Dumped by gelfriend possibly?
Birds still to see, Films still to make
Crow Close up; really get into their eyes. Try and fathom their glassy thoughts.
Cormorants and Shags on their sea skimming race over.
Get some visuals to match audibles of calling Curlews
Buzzards doing that drop dead dive they do.
Starling Murmuration; goes without saying that this would be the No 1 bird event to experience. A phenomena. Phenomenal. Extraordinary. Any number would do. Doesn’t have to be half a million. Could be a few hundred having a bit of whirl over Dartmoor one winter evening.
A little Wren belting out its Big Song