Monday, 28 November 2016

Slapton Ley

Had a trip to Slapton Ley Saturday morning. Very bleak, overcast day with a moderate ENE wind . Had a look at the sea from the midway car park and in 20 minutes saw single flocks of 15 Common Scoter and 10 Brent Geese head north. The storm damage of recent years has left its mark on the car park, and if you shot out of your car quickly to chase after something on the beach you could have a you've been framed moment thanks to the undercut.
Looking across the reedbeds behind Ireland Bay towards the remains of Ireland Farm which I think was destroyed during
D-Day practises in 1944. I have been in there a few times and its the only place I've been in and felt the hairs on  my neck
   stand on end. On Saturday I was told its haunted, didn't know that  !                                                                                        
The Boardwalk below Southgrounds Farm at Slapton Ley. Cuts through a wonderful bit of habitat which promises all sorts. Siberian Chiffchaff on Saturday, hopefully wintering.                                                                                                               
Took a walk around Ireland Bay where there have been good numbers of wildfowl so far this autumn. Selected counts included single Shelduck, 2 Shovelers, 2 Wigeons, 76 Gadwalls, 78 Tufted Ducks, male Goldeneye, 3 Little Grebes and 50 Coots ( a large raft of c180 Coots were further south on the Lower Ley ). The fact that no Pochard were seen is extremely worrying, a decline reflected at many other sites. The little wooden angled walkway as you reach Ireland Bay  is a great place to view the wildfowl, well worth keeping an eye on this winter. Moving on to the boardwalk towards Deer Bridge there was a flock of Long-tailed Tits with a few Crests and Chiffchaffs. They were hard to get a look at but one Chiff  briefly glimpsed was quite brown with jet black legs and looked a good candidate for Siberian Chiffchaff. I lost it but soon heard a couple flat bullfinch like call notes as the birds moved on. It was getting time to backtrack and head home and on the way I bumped into Mike Langman by the quarry admiring the illustrations on the interpretation boards. His radar ears then picked up another Sib Chiff calling from some willows in reeds near the causeway. It was keeping out of sight but maybe a visit on a sunnier day will bring it out on show.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Rise of the Yellow-browed Warbler

    Yellow-browed Warbler, Lannacombe, 27th October  ( Alan Searle )

    With the exception of  the first dozen or so Siberian Accentors reaching the UK this autumn
    arguably the most amazing event was the huge numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers arriving
    from no nearer than The Urals when they should have been arriving in east Asia to spend the 
    winter. When an unprecedented 139 were recorded in the Flamborough area on the Yorkshire 
    coast on 21st September local birders were right to expect some to make there way down here
    and Alan Searle trapped the first seen in the 10k patch on 26th September. The rest as they say is
    history and by early November it would seem at least 50 individuals had passed through. The first
    main arrival were 7 in the Soar area on 9th October, I would think a record count for mainland
    Devon. Peak numbers may have been around this time eg a casual 20 minute walk around a small
    wood in Hope Cove on 10th produced 2 birds. Birds seem to have been evenly spread around the
    coast, particularly the Prawle and Soar areas. Others were seen at Start Point, Beesands, Slapton,
    Lannacombe, North Hallsands, Thurlestone area and Aveton Gifford. The later I believe were the  
    only birds found away from the coast. The true number of birds we will never know without daily
    coverage of the main sites and little elsewhere. Most birds seem to have moved through quickly, eg
    Alan Searle ringed 14 birds this autumn but did not retrap one. The last record ( to date )  is      
    probably the individual trapped by Alan at Lannacombe on 15th November.
    How does this number compare historically, the answer is beyond comparison. In 2014 a figure of
    57 was put for the number recorded in Devon, in what was an astonishing record breaking year,
    well we may have exceeded that number in our small area this autumn. Alan Searle caught 14
    birds this autumn when his previous best was 4 in 2012, 2 were trapped at Slapton and  3 at South
    Milton ( none previously caught here ). How amazing to think that the first local record was as
    comparatively recent as 8th October 1968 at Slapton Ley and the next not until autumn 1980 when
    5 were seen in the Prawle area ( the same time and place as Devon's first Pallas's Warbler ). A
    mere 20 were seen through the 80's when it was an almost exclusively Prawle bird apart from a
    small number like the first winter and inland record which a few people may remember was found
    by Paul Dukes in January 1987 in Alders by what is now the entrance to Tescos in Kingsbridge,
    the alders are still there. It was the first time myself and a good few others had seen Yellow-
    browed in Devon. Surprisingly there were further records of more elusive wintering birds in the
    middle of Kingsbridge in 1993 and 1996.
    The recent rise in sightings is not always consistant. The last blank year around here was 2002,
    a year described in the Devon Bird Report as the worst for a decade. This was followed by 2003
    being the best ever year for Devon ( 4 birds locally ). On day in early October 2005 I saw 3 Yellow
    -browed Warblers at Start Point which I thought was out of this world for a local birding patch,
    an amazing day made even better by ending up watching a Radde's Warbler Pat Mayer had found
    at Prawle Point. That was a watershed day for me and local Yellow-browed Warblers, since then
    I expect to see them each autumn and I generally have. I will never take them for granted though.
    Various theories abound as to the increased numbers reaching western Europe from which we are
    benefitting. The most worrying is that they are looking for new wintering areas with the forests
    disappearing in Asia at such an alarming rate. A happier theory would be its because of a
    westward expansion in their breeding range. No doubt they were not as scarce as the numbers
    suggest they were 35 odd years ago, not so many birders hitting the headlands back then. Equally
    though the few that were out and about looking were skilled enough to pick up what is a distinctive
    bird so they were definatly a lot, lot rarer. Where are they now, again plenty of theories, the most
    pessimistic that they fly away from dry land and out over the Atlantic to an eventual watery grave,
    the happier one that they reorient south-east towards France ( like lots of our autumn Chiffchaffs )
    and away into mainland Europe. Whatever happens lets hope we can keep having a reasonable
    chance of encountering them each autumn.


Saturday, 19 November 2016

Hello and welcome to the Charleton Birding Blog. It aims to concentrate on the birdlife of an area of southernmost Devon within a 10 kilometre distance of the village of West Charleton. Within this boundary are situated some superb, well known birding locations such as the Avon and Kingsbridge Estuaries, the Thurlestone area, the Soar area, the Prawle area, Start Point and Slapton Ley. Offshore there is Thurlestone Bay and Start Bay as well as the great seawatching localities at Prawle Point and Start Point. This blog will not be swiftly updated with the latest local bird news. This is already catered for on other sites. It will hopefully feature topical news, as well as a look at the status of birds in the area both from a present and historical context. It will be nice to build up a site guide in time. The map below ( click to enlarge ) shows the area covered, for the purpose of this blog i'll  call it the " Charleton 10 k patch ".