Thursday, 6 January 2011

Exminster canal

The stretch of canal north of the Turf hotel provided some dramatic bird watching at lunch time today. It began with a cormorant struggling with a very large eel. The diameter of the eel was at least twice that of the cormorant's neck. And it was long enough to wrap itself around the bird's neck twice. Eventually after repeated dives, to loosen the eel's grip, the fish slipped from the bird's bill and swam away.

As this finished hundreds of birds rose from the marshes. Lapwings, black-tailed godwits and wigeon flew in tight groups. Expecting a peregrine I found instead the ring-tailed hen harrier being pursued by two large peregrines. As the falcons kept up an aerial bombardment for over five minutes all three flew south towards the Turf. The harrier occasionally flipped on to its back and presented its talons to the descending peregrines. Although I failed to see any actual contact the efforts to escape by the harrier were quite spectacular. Eventually the peregrines lost interest and the harrier flew high out over the estuary. Slowly turning north it flew towards the reed beds south of the motorway bridge and was lost to view.

The white-fronted geese were reported to be with Canada geese close to the railway.