Friday, 31 December 2010

Exminster marshes

Some photos from the canal today. Greenshank at Turf lock midday, smew and bittern at Topsham lock, mid afternoon. The bittern was quite mobile, flying up and moving between reedbeds 4 times.

Starling Roost

The Starling roost that Mark mentioned in his Hartland posting is in a pine plantation on the Devon/Cornwall border. It can be viewed just off the A39 on the minor road to East Youlstone/Bradworthy at SS272164. In my experience there are no spectacular aerobatics, the birds just fly straight into the roost but still quite a sight none-the-less.

Happy New Year everybody.

Hartland area

Walked Shipload Bay to Hartland Point, good numbers of Red-throated Divers, we had a minimun count of 140, many close in. As usual many of these birds look quite contrasting with some showing white flank patch (but no Black-throats seen)! Obviously a good food source present, as also over 100 Razorbills / Guillemots and at least 20 Harbour Porpoise milling about.

A quick stop at Bursdon Moor saw one 'ringtail' Hen Harrier and a Merlin hunting. Also huge Starling flocks (10000s) heading for what must be a massive roost nearby.


The year ended with three nice birds including a Brambling and a male Blackcap in the garden followed by a drake Goosander on the River Exe just south of town.


10 Purple Sandpipers on the west end of the town beach / nearest rockpile at 1500hrs over high tide.

(Also 2 male Blackcaps in my back garden, Cedar Close, Exmouth at 1300hrs, but again, no sign of the female - hope she didn't perish in the severe weather).

Exminster Marshes

In late afternoon, a ringtail Harrier (dark under-secondaries suggested a juv) flew from marshes west of Topsham Lock bridge over the canal, perhaps to roost in the reeds. A Peregrine chivvied a good-sized Starling roost into spectacular gyrations. Smew and a few Gadwall and Tufted still on the canal, and several Grey Plover pretending to be Goldies on the marshes.

Wembury 31/12

A good bird to finish the year - a Water Pipit at the point (someone else had a probable a few weeks ago). The female Eider was still just west of the point too.
The very pale Great Grey Shrike still at Aylesbeare Common at 14.35 at the hawkerland end of the reserve


2 Black-necked Grebes, 113+ Great Crested Grebes, 1 Eider. 14 Cirl Bunting, 8 Reed Bunting on seed in back of 2nd car park, 1 tristis Chiffchaff, 1 collybita Chiffchaff.

Thousands of Herring Gulls (min 4000) feeding along the beaches and surf at Broadsands and Goodrington I had a good look through but couldn't pick anything else of note except 1 ad w Med Gull.

Exminster Marsh

One last effort for the year produced, the very confiding redhead Smew on the canal by Topsham Lock and 2 Bitterns- 1 flew up the canal and landed in reeds just north of Topsham Lock and another flew across the canal between the viewing platform and Turf Hotel. Also seen Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel ,Buzzard and also the Marsh Harrier was seen by others twice this morning. Several Reed Buntings along the canal.

Woodbury Common

A good few birds on a family dog walk this morning. Notably a single lapland bunting with a mobile skylark flock near the grenade range and 16+ reed bunting . A great grey shrike in the expansive boggy area beneath Woodbury Castle, visible from several points on the footpaths that border the boggy area. No sign of any dartfords on the hour long walk.
A quick return visit late pm produced c30+ reed buntings, great grey shrike approx 800 yds east of the Warren carpark, 1/2 redpoll sp, ringtail hen harrier and 2 raven.

whooper swan

one with 2 mute swans in field near Weare Giffard church beside river torridge seen by Malcombe Shakspeare today

Thursday, 30 December 2010


The strong easterly wind and rough seas made viewing difficult - however in addition to 100+ great crested grebes there were 4 red throated divers, 1 black necked grebe, 1 eider, 30 guillemots, 3 razorbill, 6 fulmars, 1 brent goose and 1 grey plover sat on the rocks.
In the second car park, 11 cirl buntings, 7 reed buntings and 1 chiffchaff.

Topsham, recreation ground to M5 bridge

11am to 1pm. 4 goldeneye, 3 red breasted mergansers on the river, and a few brambling and reed buntings visiting an adjacent garden.

Exminster Marsh

A couple of hours at Exminster Marsh this afternoon, and it seems full of Birds.All birds mentioned were seen today, but not all, by myself, so during the day there have been 2 Bitterns,1 ringtail Hen Harrier,1 female Marsh Harrier, 3 Water Pipits, Peregrine, 2+ Sparrowhawk, 14+ Grey Plover, 1 female Smew 1 female Scaup on the Exeter canal at Topsham lock, 5 White Fronted Geese flew down towards turf and seemed to come down, hundreds of duck of many type,and various wader speci, but best of all an Otter which was moving through the main waterway by the bends parking area, and showed on and off for 5 mins until it swam out of view.

Prawle area

A quick trespass on Pat M' s turf today! In Horsley Cove the Water Pipit still present. What was amazing was the sheer array of bird species feeding on the invertebrates in the rotting seaweed, which also included: 2 Purple Sandpipers, Turnstones, 4 Redshanks, Oystercatchers, Black-headed Gulls, Rock Pipits, Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Wren, Stonechat, 4 Chiffchaffs, Dunnocks, Robin and Blackbird!
A party of seven Med Gulls (4 ads, 2w & 2 1w) also flew down the coast.

Out to sea was a feeding frenzy of c50 Gannets, but we could not tell if they were shadowing any cetaceans.

Heading home past Beeson (cross?) c290 Lapwing were in a field by the road.

Yelland Ashbeds and Old Power Station Site

To all you North Devon Birders.

If you haven`t looked at the website for the proposed development on the Yelland Ashbeds then here is the link below.

From within the website you can register to receive all the latest information and also to express your own views and concerns. Needless to say I have already expressed my dissaproval both to the developer and to Tom Evans, the town crier and tourist info officer, who wholeheartedly supports the project.

It`s down to you to tell them what you think of the idea.

R Plym, Plymouth

Some good local counts on the Plym yesterday with three Goldeneye, eight Gadwall, 25 Teal and six Red-breasted Mergansers.

Also counted were 128 Mallards, five Greenshank and three Lapwing.

In flight over Blaxton Meadow were c.60 Linnet and c.40 Skylark. These landed on Blaxton but were impossible to see in the ground cover.

Tuesday the Great Northern Diver and a Goldeneye were seen on the Cattewater from TR2.

(Roy McCarthy)

Thurlestone Bay - South Milton Ley

Thurlestone marsh -am 2 m Pochard ( first since Jan 2009then on South Huish marsh- as far as I am aware they have not previously been on Thurlestone marsh). 80 Teal, 35 Wigeon, 3 Shoveler. 10 Snipe, 25 Fieldfare , 30 Redwing. 1 Curlew flew over.

South Huish marsh- 80 Wigeon , 50 Teal, 6 gadwall, 2 Dunlin 1 Curlew 3 Lapwing. A Yellowhammer flew over( unusual on the site )

Baggy Point

Took a final walk of the year to Baggy today, in bright sunshine!

Small birds were notable only by not being there - no Stonechats, no Meadow Pipits... the only passerine I saw before the point was a flighty Lapland Bunting! never seen one here before!

Off the point a female Eider was also a site first for me, then a Red-throated Diver, and a flock of 20 Common Scoter.

Sadly, no sign of any Dartford Warblers.

Otter and Exmouth

one of two woodlark - Orcombe Point

Surprisingly good birding this morning but had to cut short seawatch because of the cold easterly-biased wind and no gloves!
Otter Ledge - 905-1005 - red-throated diver c15/20+, auk sp c1800+(v rough estimate), gannet c100+, kittiwake c200+, great northern diver 1, pintail 2, great skua 1 tufted duck 1 - all birds east
Also on estuary, black-tailed godwit 8, pintail 2, shoveler 1, gadwall 2, dunlin 9+, mediterranean gull 3ad, turnstone 2.
Orcombe Point - 1120-1300 - lapwing c200+, golden plover 10, grey plover 2(!), snipe c70+, pintail 1fem(!), curlew c30+, starling c30, merlin 1male, woodlark 2 (see photo), chaffinch 6+, mistle thrush 2, redwing c100+, grey wagtail 1, peregrine 1.
It was really odd to see two grey plover and a pintail feeding amongst the lapwing in the top stubble field this morning. No doubt this very unusual record can be explained by the recent exceptionally cold weather. Snipe numbers are also exceptional and the woodlark is a personal first for me for these fields.

Exminster Marshes

The visibility was much improved. Yesterday the fog was thick and lasted most of the day. Today almost the first bird seen was an adult female marsh harrier over Powderham marshes chasing what I suspect was a flock of skylarks. About half an hour later the bird flew onto the marshes, over the lagoon, and north towards Topsham at about 10.00. Almost at the same time a bittern flew low over the fields north of the main track.

Scattered across the marsh several thousand wigeon, a few hundred black-tailed godwits fed on the fields. 20 tufted ducks had returned to the lagoon and 7 pintail flew in from the estuary - the first I have seen for over a month. One kingfisher, 6 long-tailed tits and a wren suggested some small birds had survived.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Princetown Bramblings

Latest news received from Jan and Mike D suggest a flock of circa 70 Bramblings coming to feed in their Princetown Garden.

Tamar Lakes

A quiet and interesting walk yesterday, Tues 28th at Tamar Lakes with hardly a soul about and much warmer than for many a day. Some open water on both lakes but still a great deal of decaying ice.

Lower Lake:

7 male Goosanders

9 female Goosanders

36 Coot

165 Mallard

254 Teal

200+ Wigeon

1 Shoveler

1 Grey Heron

1 Jay

3 Mute Swans

A marked lack of small birds

Upper Lake:

5 male Goosander and 6 females.

(Harvey Kendall)

Wembury 29/12

Normal service resumed unfortunately - the female Eider still present on rocks at the point and 6 Cirl. Not a single Skylark present today!

Thurlestone Marsh

Very limited viewing today because of the fog. Pn the Marsh this am - 30Teal, 25 Wigeon, 4 m Shoveler,75 + Snipe, 25 Redwing.

At 16.00 Starling flock to roost was 10k. This is the first big roost of the winter. Last year the roost moved from Thurlestone on 30 Dec, this year they return on 29 Dec. Does anyone else have roosts that have a common date change ?


Single Hawfinch c100 yards down road from West Town Farm briefly this morning.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Ringed Spoonbills on the Taw.

Ringed Spoonbills on the Taw were subject of an article in the Devon Birds Journal Volume 62 No.2 August 2009, by Tim Jones and Tim Davis.

Bird Ringed "FJ9" was ringed in April 2007 in Spain and has spent several winters on the Taw. See History No.9.
Left leg:- White ring inscribed FJ9.
Right leg:- Metal ring no. ESI 9050263

Flagged bird was ringed in Holland in June 2007 and is also a regular winter stayer on the Taw.
Left leg:- Dark green ring over yellow flag over dark green ring.
Right Leg:- Dark blue ring over metal ring over lime-green ring. Metal ring no.NLA8048768.
See History no.7

A total of at least 6 ringed Spoonbill have been recorded on the Taw since 2006.

Exminster Marshes

A quick trip around the marshes, the highlights being ringtail Hen Harrier & Bittern plus good numbers of Black Tailed Godwit, wigeon and teal, also a Barnacle goose (wild?) with the Canada's. Plenty of Redwing feeding around the fields.

Stubble fields at Powderham - Linnet 750

Taw Estuary - Isley Marsh/Yelland Quay

This morning along the shoreline with tide high and still coming in (09:15 - 10:30). Poor light, turning to light drizzle. Wader numbers estimated as some movement of groups along the shore during the walk.

Spoonbill 7
1 with yellow band on left leg, either FJ9 or EJ9
1 with colour bands which appeared to be: blue over yellow flag over blue on left leg, blue over pink over white on right leg - colours hard to make out properly

Barwit 27

Oystercatcher 60
Dunlin 50
Turnstone 30
Redshank 30
Grey Plover 20
Curlew 20

25 Brents over heading E

Plenty of Teal and Wigeon along shore, plus 4 GC Grebes and 3 Little Grebes on water.

[from Mark Skevington]


Broadsands: 163 Great Crested Grebes, just 3 Red-throated Divers the big numbers seemed to have moved on again (2 of the 3 with white flank patches), 3 Black-necked Grebes, 4 Common Scoter, 1 Eider, 1 Curlew and 1 Grey Plover (both unusaul here). 18 Cirl Buntings and 9 Reed Buntings on seed in 2nd car park, 1 tristis and 2 collybita Chiffchaffs in marsh.

Preston/Paignton: 1 Long-tailed duck, 1 Common Scoter, 2 Black-necked Grebes, 1 Purple Sandpiper on rocks with Turnstones.

Velator reserve/Wrafton Pond

With all the snow gone, the Thrush population has nearly all headed off to forage in the fields. Only 3/4 Song Thrushes in and around the reserve. 2 Great-spotted Woodpeckers seen calling. A Great Tit singing - lovely sign of spring to come! One Woodcock seen under the trees.

Wrafton Pond is still mostly iced over, but a pair of Swans has arrived (to reclaim their territory?) 80+ Black-headed Gulls, including one or two showing quite a lot of black on their heads. 2 Common Gulls.


3 Waxwings in trees alongside the railway station at 1230hrs. The male Blackcap remains around my back garden in Cedar Close.
The male Black Redstart was still present at 1615hrs on the roof of Pennant House, between Shelly Beach and the marina basin.
Mist, then later fog, hampered viewing at Mudbank Lane this afternoon, but the usual good numbers of common wildfowl and waders were present.

Exminster Marshes

At 8.30 thick mist or fog covered the fields but the snow had gone. The canal and smaller ditches remain iced over but it won't be long before they become open water once again. Possibly due to the poor visibility the amount of bird noise was incredible. Wigeon, redshanks and black-tailed godwits called incessantly. Blue tits and reed buntings called from the reeds and even two water rails sang. Maybe they were all celebrating the warmer weather and that they had survived. As the mist rolled back and forth I glimpsed a probable female marsh harrier flying towards Topsham at 9.45. ( Martin Elcoate's posting was most welcome and confirmed my suspicions).

A fisherman was fishing in one of the ice free pools on the canal. Probably because of this only a few (12) coot remained. The other pool only held 8 coot and no ducks.

Near the bend in the lane 3 water pipits were back on their favoured scrapes. Lots of skylarks flying overhead in the fog which finally dispersed about 10.00 revealing hundreds of wigeon and waders on the fields including one grey plover, 3 redshank and 21 dunlin.


1 female Marsh harrier hunting over Exe Reed bed (10:30 to at least 11:00). Having seen a Hen harrier at the same time yesterday over the reed bed, I was surprised when this harrier turned out to be Marsh. 16 Brambling in garden - numbers falling fast now the thaw has set in. Also 5 Goldeneye on the river.

Kingsbridge Estuary

Charleton Marsh / Bay, 08:00-10:00, high tide.
On the marsh 30 Teal, 4 Pintail, 3 Gadwall, Shoveler and Black-tailed Godwit. In the bay Tufted Duck, Coot and 14 Bar-tailed Godwits. 3 Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap in the sewage works, 100 Redwing and 60 Fieldfare around Marsh Lane.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Broadsands etc

Broadsands - Goosander and Black-throated Diver
Slapton - Great Skua harrassing Gannets

[from Tim Clyburn]

Cold weather and shooting restrictions

I've noted a couple of comment re shooting during this cold weather. The BTO have a section on the website regarding cold weather shooting restrictions. This link should take you there.

A bit of news as on Christmas day a Waxwing flew over Plymstock calling heading west.

Prawle area

A juvenile Glaucous Gull in Horseley Cove was the pick of today's birds.
Otherwise it's pretty much as-you-were, with a few additions. Waders were represented by 64 Oystercatcher, Curlew, 5 Redshank, 83 Lapwing, 12 Golden Plover, 3 Grey Plover, 2 Sanderling, 3 Knot, Ringed Plover, 13 Turnstone, 2 Purple Sandpiper, 6 Snipe and a Woodcock.
Earlier, a seawatch threw up 2 Red-throated and 1 Black-throated Diver, Balearic Shearwater, (flying east, and possibly the same bird as seen over the last couple of weeks?), 417 Gannets, 6 Eider, Red-breasted Merganser and 51 Kittiwake.
Other highlights were 3 Goosander that flew in from the east, circled a couple of times then flew off west, 5 Mediterranean Gulls, Teal, Shoveler, Water Rail, 300+ Skylark, Water Pipit, 65 Song Thrush, 47 Redwing, 30 Fieldfare, 5 Mistle Thrush and a Chiffchaff.
Woodcock 2, Hen Harrier male, low over 11:10 then 1/4'ing NW. Merlin, Comm Buzzard 3. Skylark 4000? in 2 groups but kept busy by the above! Chaffinch 60+, Lapwing 11

KINGSBRIDGE Est. Lincombe Bay
Goosander 4 fem. Med Gull 2W. Scaup 1Wmale. Brent Goose 83 (1pale bellied)

Plym Estuary

6 Gadwall and 1 Shoveler (drake) - both scarce here. Also flock of c30 Skylarks on Blaxton Pool - again unusual. Very few small birds in Efford Marsh - no Chiffchaffs and just one Goldcrest; obviously the cold weather taking its toll.

Dartmoor - Brambling flock

Almost daily I am getting updates from Mike & Jan Daniels on the increasing number of Bramblings coming to feed - currently the numbers are around 45.
Exceptional for a high moorland garden.

Thurlestone Marsh

About 70 % still frozen . What looked a promising am disturbed due to a shooting party of 4 Guns.
Whist there was no direct shooting at the Duck /Snipe they caused everything to flight . Is there supposed to be a restriction on this activity during the cold weather ?

Before the sooting started--135 Wigeon. 5 Shoveler, 40 Teal ,5 Coot. 100+ Snipe , 2 Woodcock, 2 Lapwing, 1 Black T Godwit 30 Redwing .

Snipe were interesting to watch- they were feeding on the ground and then flying up the valley in groups of up to 30

Exminster Marshes and Turf

The Canal was still frozen over in part, and the Smew was still there just North of the Fishermen's Car Park.

At the entrance to Turf Locks a Bittern flew North along the Canal.

In the bushes by the Locks, Fieldfares, Redwings, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds were feeding on the berries.

Hawfinches and a Waxwing

Three Hawfinches perched in Ash trees behind the church at Holcombe Burnell (SX858917) at midday today.

[from Phillip and Lucy Delve]

Yesterday a single Waxwing in Axminster opposite the Fire Station feeding on crab apples

[from Joan Le Goode]

Exminster Marshes

A brisk walk around the marsh before the rain arrived. Most water is still frozen but many of the fields had lost their covering of snow. On the fields groups of wigeon, totalling over a thousand, were busily feeding along with black tailed godwits (c200), 12 lapwing, 1 redshank and 8 grey plovers. I had never before seen grey plovers feeding in these fields.

At Turf a small flock of 6 greenfinches reminded me how scarce they have become. A bittern flew north over the marshes towards the canal but was lost to view behind trees so I am not sure where it landed and I failed to see it again.

The rain arrived at 3.00 pm and I hurried home.

The garden is still attracting fieldfares, redwings and reed buntings. Single blackcap (male), coal tit and goldcrest have all been seen over Christmas somewhere in the garden.


Ley still c80% frozen over so low numbers of wildfowl eg 2 Shoveler, 11 Gadwall, 15 Pochard and 4 Tufted Duck.
Quite a few birds in the first field on the left from the path towards the hide, best was a Ruff, also 8 Lapwings, 3 Snipe, plenty of Redwings and a Mistle Thrush.
A quick look at the sea ( no scope ) produced a couple of Red-throated Divers and a Slavonian Grebe.

Clyst St. Mary

Short-Eared Owl this morning around 10.30: the Clyst St Mary - Clyst St George bypass

[from Dave Stone]


Ring-tailed Hen harrier hunting over Exe reed beds at 10:30. 32 Brambling & 1 Blackcap in the garden.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Broadsands this afternoon

Little auk well offshore and drifting towards Hopes Nose. Also 10 wigeon, 3 eider, 5 goosander, 9 common scoter, 2 black necked grebe and numerous gt crested grebes on sea. Goosander were flushed by a boat and flew off south, as did the eider.


Highlights from Exe Est from recreational playing fields to Countess Wear bridge: 55 Brambling & 28 Chaffinch in my garden are both record highs, where Reed bunting numbers have fallen to 6 (from recent high of 16). A single Gadwall on the river is my first since moving here in 2002. Also 1 adult Yellow-legged gull, 28 Coot, 4 Little grebes, 2 Pochard, 6 Tufted duck, 1 Goldeneye. Starling roost has moved out of the reedbed further down river.

Babbacombe Bay and Torbay

Off Babbacombe out to sea were: 32 Red-throated Divers and 34 Great Crested Grebes.
Off Preston: Red-necked Grebe, 2 Black-necked Grebes, 17 Great Crested Grebes and 30 Red-throated Divers (so at least 60 in total!). However most were spooked by the Lifeboat an dispersed.

Kingsbridge Estuary

Geese Quarries-Curlew Drive, 11:15-14:30, falling/low tide.

78 Brent Geese ( 8 first winters ), 8 Pintail, 22 Shoveler, 6 Gadwall, 27 Tufted Duck, 3 Scaup ( ad male, ad female, first winter male ), 9 Goldeneye, 37 Red-breasted Merganser, 7 Great Crested Grebe, 6 Little Grebe, 9 Coot, Snipe ( on rocks ), 20 Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, 5 Knot, Rock Pipit, 120 Fieldfare, 60 Redwing.


Around the Shelly beach area this afternoon were an adult Yellow-legged Gull, 3 Avocet (unusual here), a Greenshank and a Black-tailed Godwit flew along Camperdown Terrace!

Around my house today were 100+ Redwings (20 of which were still coming to cut-up apples I'd put out just a couple of minutes ago) and the male Blackcap.

Ringed & deformed Skylark - Exmouth

Any of our Ringers recognise this Skylark? It's been hanging around my garden since the snow fell, taking advantage of porridge oats on the patio (with the Song Thrushes). It has a dull grey metal ring on its left leg, a broken lower mandible and what appears to be an extended upper. In pretty good condition and eating OK.

Exmouth LNR - Boxing Day morning

Very large numbers of wildfowl and waders along whole of the Local Nature Reserve area this morning, feeding as the tide dropped. Visibility restricted by mist on the river. Highlight was a count of 264 Pintail - highest number that I've ever recorded here - with c1000 Wigeon, c300 Mallard, Teal, 500+ Brent Geese etc. Pair of Gadwall, and 2 Greenshanks. Anyone wanting to study Dunlin and Redshank at close quarters could have them almost at their feet on the water's edge! Imperial Road car parks still very dodgy

Hillhead, Brixham

Up to 13 Brambling (5 males) in the garden, typically coming to black sunflower seed but I could only manage 8 in the same frame. Also, a ringtail Hen Harrier came south over Southdown towards Mansands at 11.47am before dropping into the valley below the house when it was lost to view. It reappeared at 12.08pm but managed to avoid having its picture taken for a second time by dropping back down into the valley almost immediately. Lots of Snipe and the odd Curlew flying around later so the harrier may have ended up at Mansands (?)


At least 12 Woodlarks in the fields just east of the point. Also 35 Golden Plovers (mainly on the beach), Grey Plover and 6+ Cirls.


1 Little Auk at Broadsands at midday, relocated close into north side of bay between the 2 fallen rock areas viewed from edge of golf course, then flew into bay but couldn't be relocated again. (It had been seen by others briefly mid morning on south side of bay by bench). Also 2 Black Necked Grebe offshore, a Ringed Plover on a rock off the headland and flocks of Wigeon and Teal in Broadsands Bay. On way home, a Lapwing flew south over Chelston


Bittern still showing at 9am flew off from pond 1 towards the zoo.
3 snipe
14 shoveler
11 teal
5 gadwel
1 woodcock. flushed between ponds 2 & 3
1 lapwing

Exminster Marshes 25th

Highlight for me were the 2 Bitterns at Turf, couldnt get both together, but the more dominant one forced the lesser one out in the open for most of the time I was there. Also a Water Rail showing very well off & on. But no Smew. A hawk of somekind also showed briefly, sadly not well enough to tell, only that it was not a Buzzard.
Rest of the single sightings more usual, Common Sand, Grey Plover, Kingfisher.

Saturday, 25 December 2010


A lapwing flew south over Chelston this morning (very unusual here) and a female Blackcap in the garden.

On a completely different subject, does anyone have any more info on the Eagle Owl report from near Clovelly yesterday?


Sharkham Village- A good number of birds around the garden today including male Black Redstart (a pair have been resident over the last few weeks), Meadow Pipits and loads of Redwings. The last few days have seen 3 Lapwing on the common areas also.
On another note I was very pleased to recieve 'The Birds of Devon' as a present from my wife today. On first looks it's excellent!

Happy Christmas.

Slapton Ley & Beesands

A festive wander around today was quite rewarding. On the sea off Beesands was a Velvet Scoter and 4 Red-throated Divers. Beesand Ley itself still mostly frozen but in fields close by were 50+ Lapwing and 20+ Golden Plover.
While at Slapton Ley highlights were a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier hunting the line and in with the wildfowl, on the unfozen part by Ireland Bay was a 'redhead' Smew. Again a fair few Lapwing on fields around the Ley and 3 Woodcock and 2 Snipe. On the sea another 3 Red-throats and Great Northern Diver.

Paignton - yesterday 24/12

9 Waxwings near top of southfield avenue,Paignton at 3pm today

[from Chris Noakes]

Friday, 24 December 2010

Brixington, Exmouth

Sadly no sign of any Waxwings around my house today. However there were 300+ Redwings stripping berries off every available bush in the neighbourhood, with a couple of Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush. The male Blackcap was loitering around my back garden all morning, but didn't see the female today. A new garden tick was a Common Snipe which flew low over early morning.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tarka Trail etc...

Snowy cycle on the Tarka Trail from Barnstaple to Braunton this morning:

Near the new bridge, a Pochard floating down on the outgoing tide was unusual.

A few Bar-tailed Godwits with Redshank, Dunlin, Grey Plover and 4 Sanderling around the Pottington/Bradiford Water area - nothing of note on the reserve.

Across on the Penhill saltmarsh were the most Wigeon I have seen on the estuary in many a year - may have been over a thousand. Plenty of Canada Geese in smaller flocks.

On Wrafton Pond - which still has some unfrozen water - 6 Shoveler, and 16 Common Gulls in amongst the Black-headed and Herring Gulls.

In the Velator reserve, still lots of Song Thrushes and Redwings, but the Buckthorn berries are fast disappearing! Highlight of the morning was 2 Woodcock in the reserve.

Only fell off the bike once!

[from Jon Turner]

Bunts Lane - Seaton

Plenty of birds in the garden today - 40+ Redwings, 12 Fieldfares, 56 Blackbirds, also 6 Brambling ( 2 male & 4 fems ) 3 Blackcaps, 2 Marsh Tits, and 3 Woodcock over the woods at dusk.


The ley almost completely frozen with no wildfowl apart from 86 canada geese. I did however flush out a Bittern on the path to the hide. Lapwing seem to be everywhere with c. 40 in the field and others drifting over in ones and twos. Also saw a fox sneaking down to the lakeside, perhaps in the hope of an unwary coot!
 I would like to offer salutations to John Gale for his stirling efforts to save the roosting wrens, I don't think intervention is a bad thing John, I'd like to think that if you found me shivering under a tree, you'd put me in a box and feed me worms.

Thurlestone Bay - South Milton Ley

Thurlestone Marsh this am - 45 Stock Dove -N ,75 Skylark, 30 Linnet 10 Redwing , 40 Fieldfare, 4 Lapwing , 1 Grey Wag., 15 Snipe

South Milton Ley late am - Walked round the top end 7 Woodcock ( a site record for me), 7 Teal, 1 m Shoveler, 6 lapwing, 45 Fieldfare ,20 Redwing 15 Song Thrush, 3 Chiffchaff( they must be hardy) No Cettis Wblr.

Colyton WTW

Despite a good look this morning I couldn't find the Eastern (?) Yellow Wagtail, but at least 2 Chiffchaffs and 3+ Water Pipits were in residence. No sign of Woodlarks in the field across the road either - too much snow I guess.


Clennon Valley - no sign of the Bittern this morning but 1 Ruddy Duck, 5 Gadwall, 6 Wigeon, 5 Teal, 8 Shoveler, 5 Lapwing, 5 Snipe around ponds and 3 Bramblings >over.

Broadsands: sea too choppy to check but 22 Cirl Buntings on seed at back of 2nd carpark and 5 Reed Bunting and 11 Dunnocks! still a flock of 200+ Skylark in the stubble field.


1 female Brambling at the top of Cockington Valley and lots of Fieldfares and Redwings around Upper Cockington/Chelston.

Waxwing Wembury

A single Waxwing by the school briefly this morning but no sign when I searched for it again - lots of gardens!!

Underdown, Haldon Forest - Wren Roost Update (yesterday 23/12)

The wren roosts at Underdown have been severely affected by the cold weather. Three days ago I counted about 30 birds going to roost in our house martin's nest. On returning home after a drink with neighbours at 9pm I saw that wrens were falling out of the nest and hopping about in the snow - the nest had collapsed. I immediatly decided to catch all remaining birds in the broken nest, so using a net I leant out of the bathroom window and took the whole lot including the nest. I transfered them into a cat basket and went to find other birds in the snow. Back indoors the birds had got out of the cat basket and we had 20 wrens flying around the house. We left them to go to roost and all birds flew off fine the next day at 8am. I spent the morning making a replica house martin nest for birds to use, and amazingly some used it the following night.

Wrens are also using our neighbours HM nests and last night one of their nests collapsed. Due to the prolonged cold weather this time birds were simple falling down dead. We immediatly got a ladder and decided to again take the remaining nest down plus birds all in one go. As I went up the ladder I was picking up hypothermic birds and putting them in my pockets. I pushed a box over the nest and slid a piece of board down against the wall, placing everything into the box. Decended the ladder with the box, I found more hypothermic birds and with my pockets full and no were else put them I ended up gently holding them in my mouth.

This morning we had 15 dead birds. I 'wren proofed' my studio, where I have housed the remaining 6 birds, feeding them live food. They have voracious appetites and will ONLY eat live food, despite what wild bird food suppliers say. They are doing well and will be released tomorrow morning, hopefully with a bit of reserve for the next 48hrs.

Some people may say I should not have interfered. A short period of cold weather, catching the first nest collapse would have saved about 20 birds, but after prolonged cold weather and the birds body reserve depleted there is very little one can do.

I estimate that about 60-100 wrens have been roosting within the immediate area and we are now down to about 10.

[from John Gale]

Dousland - yesterday 23/12

In our garden at Dousland the number of Bramblings has been increasing since the beginning of the month to a maximum of 33 today. The garden is still snow-bound and providing regular food and water attracts many species including two Reed Buntings

[Maureen and Rob Harrison]

Red Kite - Willand - yesterday 23/12

Lucky enough to spot a Red Kite working low over the M5 at Willand this afternoon

[from Tim Clyburn]

Turf Lock - yesterday 23/12

This Ruff was photographed by Simon Thurgood.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Topsham Lock

Two redhead smew together on the unfrozen pool just south of the lock, from midday on. One flew off shortly after, the other flushed by a walker later at 1.04pm. Also good numbers of gadwall and tufted duck, and a few pochard and shoveler among the many coot.

Thurlestone Bay

Expectations never live up to actuality . Not so much on the move today but still interesting

Movement this am - 22 Stock Dove -n , 10-0+ Redwing , 90+ Fieldfare, 15 Siskin -s , 34 Song Thrush, 250+ Skylark- N , 4 Mistle Thrush. 95 Lapwing, .On the Marsh 70+ Wigeon ,8 Teal, 1 Water Rail.15 Snipe. 1 Jay. 10 Reed Bunting on my feeders.

In the Bay - 3 Mute Swan, 8 Gadwall, 7 Wigeon, . 35 Golden Plover in the cafe field

at 8.20 a Grey Lag Goose flew into the Marsh -landed just outside my garden . Flew off at 9.50 -west

At Southdown Farm near Bolberry - Bob Burridge had v good views of a hunting Short-eared Owl and a male Hen Harrier- needless to say by the time I arrived neither could be found but still over 2000 Skylarks in the fields

Thrushes Galore

Barnstaple Garden today.
Never seen so many Song Thrushes and Redwing as in my garden today - the cut up red apples seem to be bringing them in. On a berry hedge just down the road from me there must have been 50 Redwing.

Powderham Marshes (RSPB land)

The large flocks of larks and finches have dwindled to a mere 300 skylarks and another similar size flock of brambling and chaffinches. However there was still excitement with a male cirl bunting, a male yellowhammer and one woodlark. A little unusual was a curlew feeding within the dense stands of bird crop, which was a patch of sunflowers.

A wren and small flock of 7 long-tailed tits suggests some small birds have survived so far, but several small piles of feathers marked successful hunting by the sparrowhawks.


Got the 90th species for my garden list (i.e. seen from my house or garden) this morning: a long-awaited Little Egret.

River Dart Totnes-Dartington

The lower Dart today produced a good variety of wildfowl forced in by the cold weather, including: 12 Wigeon, 4 Shoveler, 5 Gadwall, Pochard, 20+ Tufted Duck, 5 Teal, 10+ Little Grebe, 4 Goosander, 30+ Moorhen and 5 Coot.

Strete Ralegh, Whimple

Another tip when feeding Thrushes etc. cut up windfall apples into quarters (having first found them in the snow) as the birds go for the cut up ones first and don't lose energy trying to get through the tough skins and halved apples always seem to end up cut side down.  The pic shows 6 Fieledfare, 4 Redwing, 6 Blackbird and a Pied Wag.

Old Turf Lock Cottage

Some nice Gadwall, Tufted Ducks and a female Smew early this morning

Winter lunch - Exmouth

A pair of Song Thrushes visiting my patio today (Thursday) so I thought that they deserved some help and protein. A slate with wintering snails has been much appreciated! Hopefully, two well fed thrushes - they also appreciated porridge oats.

Wembury 23/12 - Woodlarktastic

The fun continues - Started off with a Brambling in the garden before a long (and very treacherous) walk along Wembury Beach. Still good numbers of Lapwing (50), Golden Plover (80+) around but Song Thrush numbers down (50). Good movement of Redwing (3-400) along with 100+ Fieldfare, 2 Snipe, Knot, 2 Grey Plover, Redshank, Merlin, 3 Buzzard (one in off), Pintail, 5 Wigeon, 2 Gadwall and 3 Dunlin. Still 1000+ Skylark, 4 Cirl Bunting and a few Chaffinch about. Then we come to the Woodlarks. Scanning the stubble field yielded me 3 Woodlarks flying over. Moving on the wheat field (W of stubble field, almost at Wembury Point) yielded hundreds of Skylark circling round very nervously and a big flock of Linnet. Then a group of about 35 birds got up from the back of the field and my brain went into meltdown - I identified the two Skylarks easily but my brain had a bit more trouble coming to terms with the fact that at least most of the rest were Woodlarks. In a bit of a state of shock, I waited for them to get up again but they didn't so I walked around to where I could see the back of the field a little closer. A Sparrowhawk came through and put the whole group up and they flew over my head Tillueeing gently as they went. I was able to identify 20 Woodlarks as they settled back in the wheat field but I think I missed at least a few. At the risk of getting referred for an eye test or psychiatric help, there may be as many as 30 birds present!

Clennon Valley

Bittern located and photographed by Terry Lakeman on the lower (Easternmost) pond, it showed again briefly pm slipping and sliding on the ice before going into dense cover. Also 1 Ruddy duck, 6 Wigeon, 1 Pintail, 3 Teal, 2 Little Grebe and 1 Water Rail.

The Bittern was probably the same bird that was seen earlier in the day on one of the ponds in Paignton Zoo, apparently it was seen flying down the valley towards Clennon Ponds.


Waxwing located whilst out and about at work. Single bird present feeding on berries at 1000hrs in the service lane to the rear of Lower Ellacombe Church Road.


5 Waxwings were a pleasant surprise this morning in the oak tree overhanging my back garden! They are feeding in a berry-laden cotoneaster (along with Redwings and Fieldfares) in a private garden to the rear of Holly Walk. They may well be visible from Maple Drive/Cedar Close but please do not try and drive on these roads as they are extremely dangerous with iced- over hard-packed snow. Please respect residents' privacy. A word of warning to anyone contemplating driving anywhere in Exmouth - do not under any circumstances try and drive off the salted main bus routes, the road surfaces are lethal. Just checked again and another bird has joined the Waxwings making it 6!
Latest update - 9 birds in all seen at 1010hrs, but they flew off over the other side of Jubilee Drive. However singles seen again round the lunchtime period.
Also a male and female Blackcap in my back garden, and amazing numbers of Redwings feeding in every berry bush in sight!

Mudbank Lane this afternoon:
male Cirl Bunting still present, favouring the grassy areas around the 'stone cages' midway between Lower Halsdon Farm and West Lodge. Also 12 Goldeneye, 25 Teal, 3 Lapwing, Greenshank, 21 Avocet and 9 Black-tailed Godwits.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Exeter Canal Smew

Some cracking shots of a Smew from Charlie Fleming...

On the Exeter Canal near Topsham Lock

Thurlestone Bay

Another day with plenty of cold weather movement-

Song Thrush were the surprise with 168 logged, 150 Redwing , 14 Fieldfare . 232 lapwing, ( only S Thrush west all others east.)32 Stock Dove -W , 103 Skylark -E 3 Mistle Thrush,

3 f Goosander in the bay, 12 Wigeon -e +64 on the Marsh.,10 Teal 3 Turnstone, 1 Mute Swan -w (first since Sept ) 1m Shoveler, 1m Gadwall.

46 Golden Plover in cafe field. 30 ad Gannet feeding close offshore. 1 ad + 1 1w Med Gull,

T hurlestone Marsh 1 Cettis Warbler still croaking and 1 Water Rail.

Roll on Thursday !


Male cirl bunting along the cycle path between Lower Halsdon farm and West Lodge this afternoon. It is very unusual to see them in Exmouth and this one had found some snow-free hedgerow to its liking. The skylark pictured above was clearly struggling to find food and looked very weak, again beside the cycle track. The waxwings and redwing were feeding beneath the rowans this morning because of the lack of berries on the bush!


Broadsands: 173 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Red-throated Divers, 4 Black-necked Grebes, 1 Teal, 5 Pochard, 21 Wigeon, 10 Common Scoter. 1 Chiffchaff, 11 Cirl Buntings, 6 Reed Bunting.

Clennon Valley: The female Ruddy Duck (I assume it's the same one) is back at Clennon Valley: also 9 Shoveler and 2 Water Rail. Nick Bray saw a couple of Waxwing by the Leisure Centre during the afternoon.

More from a Barnstaple Garden

Plenty of birds visiting the garden today including Redwing, Song Thrush , Goldcrest and Blackcap, nothing as good as Bittern Though !!! - Another day of snapping from the comfort of indoors.


Buckfastleigh - Garden

27 species in the garden today, far more than normal. There were 11 Song Thrush when we usually have one! Also an abnormal Blue Tit with a blue belly - I assume some sort of feather problem. I'm finding putting peanuts in a blender makes them attractive to a variety of species, together with sun flower hearts and apples.

Wembury 22/12

More excellent birding this morning: 70 Golden Plover, 100 Lapwing, 150 Song Thrush, 100 Redwing, 20 Fieldfare, 4 Snipe, 4 Mistle Thrush, Teal, 7 Cirl Bunting, Merlin (Male), Sparrowhawk, Redshank. About 1500 Skylark in the big stubble field - I trawled through them for nearly an hour before finding 2 Woodlark feeding very much by themselves on the western edge of the field.
Note: the last bit of the hill down to the beach car park is not really passable in a car - park at end of Mewstone Avenue and walk the last 500m or so to the car park.

Mondays Med Gull (4V7) (still here today) was ringed near Nantes in France in June 2009 and was seen at Mount Batten in September 2010.

Exminster Marshes

Single corn bunting with the finches at Powderham Marshes, also 3 woodlark, 150 brambling & about 300 skylark on the bird crops and one jack snipe. Redhead smew still on canal.

Exeter Canal - yesterday 21/12

As I walked towards the large unfrozen pool on the Exeter Canal at Topsham Ferry at 1430 yesterday , all the birds remained including around 20 plus Gadwall but the 2 Smew were easily put up and flew down the canal to another unfrozen pool by the Fishermans car park.

Road through the marsh to Fishermans car park is treacherous and not worth the risk

[from Charlie Fleming]