Saturday, 12 February 2011

Stover Country Park

A single Brambling was seen high in the trees around the lakeside near the canopy walk late in the afternoon.

Dawlish Warren

20 Common scoter, 1 velvet scoter and the surf scoter although very distant. Also 3 slavonian grebes, 10 great crested grebes, 15 eider, 1 black throated diver, 12 sanderling (at Warren Point), 80+ knot, peregrine.

Across the Exe, the redhead Smew was still at Bowling Green Marsh.

Forgot to add last night - A faded Red Admiral butterfly on the wing at Exminster Marshes around lunchtime. Successfully overwintered.

Harpford Common, East Devon

The Great Grey Shrike showed well all afternoon. Its preferred area had been burned recently where it was catching lizards on the ground warmed by the sun. Sometimes it would sit on the nearby power line eating a lizard.

R.Taw off Pottington Ind Est and Bradiford Reserve

13:35 - 15:00

Bradiford Reserve.

5 Gadwall in the shallows of Bradiford Water and 1 Green Sandpiper in the ditch alongside Ashford sewage works.

Just off Pottington Ind Est.

10 Sanderling; 2 Redhead Smew; 1 Redhead Goosander; 2 Little Grebe; 2 Little Egret; 2 Black-tailed Godwit; 1 Bar-tailed Godwit and 2 Grey Plover.
Plus the usual.

Clennon Valley

Around the ponds today: 21 Tufted Ducks, 2 Pochard, 1 Little Egret, 10 Snipe, 4 Goldcrest, 2 Chiffchaffs one very olive collybita type and a new bird in which confused me... see the two pictures below of the same bird in dull light in cover and then in sunlight!

Unfortunately non calling, legs brownish (not blackish) and a fair amount of pale on lower mandible, strong supercilium lacking eye crescents, very white underside and grey nape. On the bad side for Siberian Chiffchaff (tristis) it lacked buffy tones - especially around cheeks, it showed extensive yellow on body feathers at bend of wing and yellowish top to rear flanks, perhaps a hint of yellow in supercilium, in sunlight it also showed alot of olive in plumage including scapulars and hints of olive streaks in the mantle- perhaps even crown. It was half interested in tristis song playback (hopping up the branch and looking at me) but did not react with wing quivering, and very soon lost interest. Perhaps a intergrade or eastern abietinus or just an odd collybita!

Otter Estuary


Water Pipit on east bank of Otter, below hide, just above water line.
Sea-watching - Red-throated Diver, 40+ Gannets feeding offshore, 20-30 Auks a minute for about 40 minutes, flying west and east in equal numbers. After a while realised they were probably going round in a big circle! Included Razorbills and Guillemots, but mostly not ID'd I'm afraid.
Also present - 6 Shelduck, 180+ Wigeon, 30+ Teal, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, 30+ Curlew, 8+ Redshank.

[from Steve Oliver]

R. Taw - Pottington

Redhead Smew and female Goldeneye still present in the vicinity of the Taw Bridge at 13.45 this afternoon.

Seaton Bay

There were 12 Velvet Scoter off Seaton seafront this morning: other birds present included Red-throated Diver (one on sea, one flew east and three west), 3 Eider, 20 Common Scoter and 15 Great Crested Grebes.

Kingsbridge Estuary

Took a walk down to the hide on Charleton Marsh this morning on the high tide. Highlights were 4 Scaup ( male and 3 females ) and 5 Goosanders in the western side of Charleton Bay. Little Egrets seem to be a little down in numbers so maybe suffered a bit this winter ? Wrens also scarcer.

Martins or Swallows?

I received a call yesterday from Pete Dennis telling me he had seen at least 3 martins sp. over the road between Marldon and Totnes. Earlier in the day there was a report on Radio Devon about a group of House Martins and Swallows (seen by several people calling in!) in N Devon does anyone know anything about these?


Paignton: 1 Long-tailed Duck, 2 Great Crested Grebes.

Goodrington: 6 Black-necked Grebes, 3 Great Crested Grebes.

Broadsands: 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Black-necked Grebe, 5 Great Crested Grebes.
In the marsh: 1 Firecrest, 2 Goldcrest, 1 collybita Chiffchaff, 1 Water Rail.
On seed at back of 2nd car park: 13 Cirl Buntings, 7 Reed Buntings.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Odds and ends

Otter est - today - late pm - mediterranean gull 3ad, great skua 1 west (415pm), pied wag 18
Exmouth docks - 10/2/11- late pm - long-tailed duck 1 (fem type), 1 presumed ad
yellow-legged gull
Otter est - 2/2/11 - presumed fw scand herring gull, goosander 5 (fem type)
Also the above leucistic black-headed gull

Venn Ottery / Harpford Common

The Great Grey Shrike was present from 1600 - 1620hrs ar least near Venn Ottery this afternoon. Go down track to Woolcombs Farm from Aylesbeare Common (Joney's Cross), carry on past farm down track to stream. Cross over wooden bridge and follow steep right hand track up on to open common. On the left is a house with tall ornamental fir trees bordering it. The bird was in tree tops to the right of this house, showing very well.

Also the ringtail Hen Harrier was quartering the heath on Harpford Common mid afternoon.


After a disappointing WeBS count at Mansands, went to Broadsands late morning for something better! While watching a winter Med Gull through my telescope, a Red-throated Diver popped up behind it. Then another and another, then saw 14 altogether, all in a line. Also with them was a Black-throated Diver. Could only get some of them in the picture. After 15 minutes or so, they all flew off towards Brixham Harbour. There were also 2 Black-necked Grebes, 16 Great Crested Grebes and 6 female Common Scoters.

Other Early Breeders

Email from Charlie Fleming today...

hello Gavin,
In response to your post and Jon Turner's about singing and breeding etc. I also had a Blackbird singing at dawn yesterday (10th).   Also had Collared Doves nesting in my garden during the snow on Christmas day!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Venn Ottery

Great Grey Shrike on power lines. 4pm today 10 Feb
[from Andrew Hickson]

Early Breeders

I should quickly explain that I'm not talking about birds here, but the orgiastic behaviour of our local frogs. This morning I counted a staggering 67 in our (quite small) garden pond, and here is a photo of some of them, and their produce...

In the long, long wait for the first Wheatears this at least helps me to believe that spring is actually coming!


I was thinking yesterday that it would be a real treat to hear the first Blackbird singing, and lo and behold this morning there was one belting away at the back of my house. So that's joined the Great Tits, Song Thrushes and Dunnocks as heralds of spring.

I posted a note on Birdforum a couple of days ago about a juvenile Collared Dove, fresh out of the nest, that I found near the centre of Braunton on Tuesday. Unable to fly and most of it's flight feathers and tail feathers still in pin. I left it to the ministrations of the two adults I could hear calling nearby. Anyone else got any early breeders?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


On Sea: 1 Red-necked Grebe, 1 Slavonian Grebe, 2 Black-necked Grebes, 15 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 5 Common Scoter.

In marsh: 1 Firecrest, 2 Goldcrest, 2 Collybita chiffchaffs & 1 Water Rail.

On Seed in 2nd car park: 7 Cirl Buntings, 3 Reed Buntings.

West Town Farm, Ide

A Hawfinch still remains around West Town Farm, Ide, although mobile. This distant shot was taken mid-morning.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Steps Bridge/Dunsford Woods

Went in search of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but didn't make contact!  However, I was intrigued by the fishing technique of a male Goosander which was operating in a quiet stretch of water above the bridge. For some minutes it crossed the river backwards and forwards at speed with its body flattened and its neck stretched ahead to allow only its bill and eyes to be submerged.  The top of its head was always above the water and it only dived when it sighted something.  This method created no motion on the surface of the still water (presumably it hunted in this method to preserve energy from unnecessary diving).

Other birds present: Grey Wagtail, Marsh Tit, Raven, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Dipper, Sparrow Hawk and mixed Tit flocks.


11.30, Brixham, top of Windmill Hill, right by the windmill, a lovely male Black Redstart.

[from Trevor Leaman]

Exminster Marshes

I managed a short visit between 15.00 and 16.00 before the rain set in. Sheltering from a cold SE breeze most birds were spread out without the usual dense flocks of wigeon and lapwing. There were still impressive numbers of both together with over 100 curlew and about 60 black-tailed godwits. A bittern flew NW, from the ditch close to the lagoon, to a small patch of reeds in mid marsh at 15.10. A few minutes later a water pipit flew onto the shallow wet areas close to the canal-side car park. It called , paraded and then disappeared. The nine pintail were in pairs apart from a single male. Some of the teal and most of the shoveller were also paired. 5 grey lag geese flew over as did a solitary brent goose. A group of smaller geese close to the railway line and with Canada geese may well have been the white-fronted geese.

Thanks to those of you who have sent me records of bitterns in response to my earlier request. If you have bittern records from the Exe area please send them to me. My details are on my posting on the 27 January.


On seed and back on 2nd car park: 9 Cirl Buntings and 2 Reed Buntings.

In Marsh: 1 Firecrest, 1 tristis Chiffchaff, 1 collybita chiffchaff, 3 goldcrests.

Thought I'd give the new camera FZ100 a real go today on fast moving subjects, its definitely faster than the FZ38 and did very well in the dull light conditions! The firecrest as 35ft away and behind reeds. Tristis Chiffchaff is unedited and uncropped.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Great Grey Shrike Dartmoor

One by weather station on common above Yarner Wood mid afternoon today.

[from Mr Waite Senior]

River Exe, Exe bridges

Drake Red-breasted Merganser just upstream from Renslade House (the big ugly tower-block on the roundabout) this evening, about 1615.

Exminster Marshes

Bittern late afternoon in flight between lagoon and Powderham Marshes. Also 7 European white-fronted geese have reappeared, with the Canada geese.

Hopes Nose this afternoon

The Snow bunting was showing well 14.10 to 14.22 on the rock platform just right of the seawatching point. At 14.22 it flew straight out to sea (but may have doubled back or landed on Flat Rock). 3 eiders were off Flat Rock: they later flew off towards Berry Head. 156 guillemots were on the Ore Stone ledges.

R.Taw off Pottington Ind Eet.

14:45 - 16:30

No sign of Pink-foots or Red-necked Grebe.
12 Bar-tailed Godwits; 10 Gadwall on Bradiford Reserve; 1 Green Sandpiper in the ditch between Ashford Sewage works and field next to the reserve; c600 Golden Plover on the Taw off Penhill; 2 Redhead Smew and 1 female Goldeneye still under the Taw Bridge.

Bowling Green Marsh

The redhead Smew was still present on the main pool early this afternoon (still there 1330hrs at least).

R Taw etc

Started with a bike ride out to the pool opposite Bishop's Tawton where a Green Sandpiper was feeding at the far end.

Then saw Nigel, and most of what he saw, including (after we had parted) the two Pink-feet, which were out on the main river with the big Canada Goose flock. Nearby at least 277 Brent Geese.

Near the Chivenor main gate on the Tarka Trail a huge flock of mainly Chaffinches, but some Gold and Green with Linnets too.

R. Taw - Pottington etc. 0800-1100

Bradiford Reserve:
Pink-footed Goose 2 - feeding with the Canada Geese at 08.00 but gone by 10.30
Gadwall 10
Black-tailed Godwit 12

The Red-necked Grebe was seen off Penhill Marsh before it flew upstream after which I was unable to relocate it.

Bar-tailed Godwit 10
Sanderling 11

Goosander. I found three redheads but bumped into Jon Turner who had seen five readheads and one male.

Tarka Road Bridge.
Single female Smew and Goldeneye virtually under the bridge.


Preston Sea Front

Found a dead female MERLIN at the far end of the prom by the turning bay

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Bowling Green Marsh

Red head Smew still present today at midday.

Bowling Green Marsh 5/2/11

Very belated, sorry. To add to Steve Oliver's sightings from Saturday, a Spotted Redshank off the Clyst viewing platform.

Gara Bridge

Went looking for Dippers - managed to dip at 3 main sites. Did find a very nice flock of over 40 Siskin, 1 Marsh Tit, 1 Tree Creeper, 1 Grey wagtail

Still have 16 Reed Bunting coming to feeders in my garden

Hopes Nose

A Snow Bunting found this morning (DS,BH) still present late afternoon on the rocks at the end of Hopes Nose and showing very well ( no doubt, there will be photo's to follow),favouring the rocks to the right of the seawatching point.

Exe Estuary

Belated news from yesterday's Stuart Lines cruise in less than perfect weather: the party of 6 Scaup (2 imm drakes) gave excellent views off Lympstone Barracks. 4 were later seen flying and landing near Lympstone village. Otherwise, much the same numbers of waders as in earlier cruises, though more Knot (perhaps 50) and also more Lesser Black-backs than usual (c15).

As an aside, these might raise a smile or two: and

R.Taw off Pottington Ind Est and Bradiford Reserve

08:40 - 09:50

Redhead Smew pushed up close to Tarka Trail nr Pottington sewage outfall by high tide.

Bradiford Reserve

13 Black-tailed Godwit; 7 Gadwall; 160 Canada Goose with 1 Greylag.

Just offshore at rear of RGB were 3 Little Grebe plus 1 Red-necked Grebe. Easily distinguished in size and features from the Little Grebe.


Saturday 5th feb.

Pinkfoot grazing with canada geese, presumably the Thurleston bird. 4 redhead goosanders at Slapton Ley.