Saturday, 26 November 2011


2.5 hour seawatch from 8am with John Lambert in strong SW winds produced :
1 Balearic Shearwater, 2 Great Northern Divers,I Fulmar, I Common Scoter with small numbers of auks,Kittiwakes ,Gannets,and  5 Wigeon. Also 1 Harbour Porpoise and 1 Black Redstart.In the reserve 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker. The end of autumn ?
Tony Marchese

Axe Estuary

2 Yellow-legged Gulls and 2 Med Gulls on the estuary late afternoon. 6 Greylags flew from upstream, dithered around a bit, then seemed to head off S. 70 Canada Geese dropped in to Coronation Corner shortly afterwards.

Exminster Marshes

One Short eared owl over northern marshes at 4:30pm.

Devon Atlas Plea

If you don't want to read what I've written below, then please just click on this link...

If you do, then great....

As many will know, the BTO Bird Atlas survey period is now over. All the data is in and the guys at Thetford I'm sure are busy sorting it all out. BUT.... Devon still needs YOU!

We still have two years of surveying left for the Devon Bird Atlas - a Bird Atlas for Devon has not been published since 1988 (Sitters, H.P.), and this is your chance to get involved for the brand spanking new addition!

There are two ways you can help with the surveying...

1/ Roving records:

These are just casual bird sightings that can be entered. Now fear not, if you already submit records in to Bird Track or to the DBWPS - which I hope is everyone :-) - then you have to do nothing more, as all these records will automatically get uploaded into the Atlas database. If not, then see our website about how to help.

2/ TTV's:

Just like the National BTO survey, Times Tetrad Visits are required (two winter, two summer). Many Tetrads have been allocated and completed, but there are still a worrying amount still to be done - we only have TWO YEARS LEFT!

More information on what Tetrads have been done/still need doing can be found on the website. Please do do DO check as you may well live IN or NEAR TO a Tetrad that still needs completing.

We do REALLY need your help, as so many common breeding species are missing from so many Tetrads. I am as guilty as anyone for not recording or reporting the common breeding species, but for The Atlas we NEED THESE RECORDS.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this, and thanks to 'Mr Blog Master' for allowing me to post this desperate plea.....

Bowling green marsh

From the hide 07:45 till 09:30, 379+ avocet, 76 bar tailed godwit, 2 black tailed godwit
5 Greylag geese, 5 knot, 50+ wigeon, 10 shoveler, 1 female pintail,50+ redshank, 3 little grebe, 30+ teal, 1 cetti's warbler calling, 350+ Brent geese over towards darts farm.

From the viewing platform 09:40 till 11:00 1000+ Dunlin, 30+ knot, 22 grey plover, 7 red breasted mergansers, 4 greenshanks, 2 little egrets, 3 reed buntings, 12 meadow pipits, 1 Jay

Malcolms day out

7 mandarin at torridge est landcross, a ruff at southcott valley bideford.


The female Snow Bunting was skulking around on the beach side of the 2nd post on the pebble bank by the Yacht Club. Having walked back and forth several times, expecting to flush anything of interest, another birder said he almost stepped on it before it just walked off a few yards.

Apparently there was a Black Redstart on the houses at the end of the Beach Road, also next to the Yacht club.

Re: Ineresting Geese On R.Taw.

These are the 2 hybrids that I have been reporting for the past few days.
From their head size and shape plus the colour of their beaks, I still think they look more like
Ross`s/Barnacle hybrids rather than Snow/Barnacles.
I stand to be corrected.

Friday, 25 November 2011

'Interesting' Geese

On the River Taw at Yeo Bridge this morning...

[from Don Pratt]

Exminster Marsh

A late afternoon visit to Exminster Marsh, only 4 Greylags today,but large numbers of Greenfinch 200+ also 100+ Fieldfare and a few Redwings all these between canal car park and turf,also 1 Chiffchaff,10+ Gadwall 3 Pochard 1 Tufted Duck and 1 Pintail on the resoivoir,9 Common Gull on posts ,and walking back to car park a Short Eared Owl flew past me at 1610 hrs flying towards motorway end of reserve , Short eared owl showed to 1630 hrs at least at the motor way end. so not a bad 90 mins.


This Chiffchaff which plumage wise was very like tristis was giving an odd call, it was sharper than normal tristis but still more hollow than normal collybita, somewhere between the two! it responded brilliantly with wing quivering and quiet chuck - chuck call to tristis song but not to collybita song.

some closer photos of the bird:

Other birds included 8 Cirl Buntings on seed in back of 2nd car park, and collybita chiffchaff On Sea:1 Great Northern Diver, 3 Black-necked Grebes and 3 Great Crested Grebes. 

Thursday, 24 November 2011


Maer Rocks: 2 purple sandpipers, 1 turnstone, 1 rock pipit, 30+ common scoter, 1 female velvet scoter, 12 shags.
Mudbank lane: the usual redshank, dunlin, pintail, wigeon, curlew and brent geese but also 2 greenshank, 2 little egrets and 9 red breasted mergansers.

[Sam Marles]


Driving over Staverton Bridge early afternoon noticed 4 Goosanders ( 2 redheads ) and 3 Little Grebes on the R. Dart on the Staverton side of the bridge.

Thurlestone Bay

New arrivals today were on South Huish marsh - sigle Greylag Goose and a pale-bellied Brent Goose , latter feeding in the ' Great Bustard ' field. Haven't seen many of these over the last 7 years

R.Taw between Pottington and Penhill Marsh.

14:15 - 15:30

Good numbers of birds on the river this afternoon incl:-

c1500 Lapwing; c400 Curlew; c100 Dunlin and c130 Wigeon.

On Penhill Marsh were c300-400 Canada Geese plus the 2 hybrid Snow/Barnacle or
Ross`s/Barnacle pair; 9 Greylags and c30 Dark-bellied Brent.
On the Pottington side was a solitary Grey Plover and a Sparrowhawk flying across to Hollacombe being chased by a Gull.
A flock of c3000 Golden Plover were constantly being disturbed by a twin-engined aircraft doing repeated approaches and checking out Chivenor`s navigation beacons. At times while the birds were still in the air, the aircraft actually flew through the aerial Plovers and several were seen to be being tossed about by the aircraft`s slipstream. I`d be surprised it it got away without a birdstrike.

Clennon Valley

A stroll around the ponds this lunchtime produced: 1 tristis type Chiffchaff (non calling), 4 collybita Chiffchaffs, 4 Goldcrests, 2 Shoveler, 1 Pintail, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Little Egret, 2 Water Rail. 
I haven't given up on autumn yet!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


The desert wheatear appears to have moved on - not seen today. However 3 black redstarts were feeding around the coastguard cottages. 32 teal, a snipe and a water rail were on the marsh, and a firecrest was in bushes by the hide at 15:15, accompanied by several goldcrests.

Slapton Ley

In amongst tonight's c20,000 Starling roost was a juv/1w Rose-coloured Starling

West Charleton Marsh

Female Goldeneye in estuary off sea wall.


4 Hawfinches seen in Beech woodland at Longdown this morning.The birds were highly mobile and were seen to leave the private estate where first seen and fly towards the village itself. A short while later 2  were seen flying in the same direction and were probably different birds.

[Roy Adams]

Isley Marsh

16:00 top of the tide. On the high water roost back on the marsh were 10 Spoonbill, 12 Little Egret, c100 Lapwing, 2 Greenshank, lots of curlew probably between 100 to 200 plus a scattering of Teal and Wigeon.


Maer Rocks - 1545 - 1615 - c40+ common scoter, 1 eider and 4 velvet scoter (2 female type not far offshore and 2 flying west quite distantly). For some reason, presumably food-related, the scoters seem to be regularly not too far off from Maer Rocks at the moment. They are normally only visible extremely distantly, somewhere off Langstone Rock. Hoping the female surf will appear soon.


It was nice to see the Slavonian associating quite closely with a Black-necked. Can't ever remember seeing them like this before - classic field guide comparison!

Exminster Marshes

A definite influx of greylag geese. At one time there were 11 in the air (7+4) and a further 2 on the ground. A little later I saw another 4 near the railway bridge and I am confident they were different birds. So possibly 17, the highest number I have seen here. The 11 were very flighty easily disturbed by two female peregrines and distant shooting from the estate to the southwest. A couple of the greylags were mixed in with c400 Canada geese and one barnacle goose.

At the Turf c100 brents sitting on the water included one possible pale-bellied bird. Also on the water c100 wigeon and one male pintail. Many more wigeon and teal scattered over the fields. On the lagoon 4 pochard, 2 tufted ducks, 20 gadwall and a few shovellers. There were more shoveller on the wet fields.

In addition to wildfowl and the peregrines; 2 male stonechats, 30 greenfinches and a few redwings. I heard Cettis and water rails from 2 locations each. And I saw a stoat near the railway line.


A look around the beaches today produced: Preston: 2 Black-necked Grebes, 3 Great Crested Grebes. Goodrington: 1 Great Crested Grebe. Broadsands: 2 Black-necked Grebes, 1 Slavonian Grebe, 7 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers, 1 Red-throated Diver (white thigh patched bird again), 1 Shelduck. Around the car park and marsh; 8 Cirl buntings on seed in 2nd Car park with 2 Reed buntings, 1 Chiffchaff, 4 Goldcrest and 1 Water Rail.


Two Black Redstarts (male and female) around Brixham Hospital Car Park this morning.

Great Bustards

This RSPB Media Release might be of interest to readers...

Bustards on Tour

Great bustards released as part of an ambitious project that is bringing the birds back to the UK are causing a stir by conducting their own tours of southern England.

Brought from Saratov in Russia, this year’s great bustards were released in September, and there are currently 17 in the wild.

Andrew Taylor, Great Bustard LIFE Project Adviser for RSPB said; “This year’s released birds have been out for eight weeks now, and most are starting to roam more widely around their original release sites.

“Some however have been rather more adventurous than others! Black Six, named after the numbered black wing tag she carries, was last seen by project staff on the day of her release. She spent a couple of weeks on a neighbouring farm, but then went off the radar.

“On dawn of 5th November, a great bustard was seen flying south from Portland Bill in Dorset, and then the following lunchtime we received a report of Black Six in a field at South Huish, near Kingsbridge in Devon. She flew north an hour later.

This week [21 November 2011] we received a report of another bustard, this time without wingtags, but with a radio transmitter, on land owned by The National Trust near Langton Matravers in south Purbeck. They certainly are getting around”

Conservationists are looking forward to seeing where the bustards will fly to next, but are appealing to the public for help.

Trace Williams Great Bustard LIFE Manager for RSPB said: “Of the 17 birds in the wild we are able to track nine directly as they have radio and satellite transmitters. The remaining birds however have no transmitters so we need people who see them, and notice the very visible numbered wing tags, to let us know by calling 01980 671466.”

The great bustard is a globally threatened species that is listed on Annex I of the EC Birds Directive. As a species of concern in Europe, the re- introduction of the birds to the UK is generously supported by the EU LIFE fund and co-ordinated by a partnership of The Great Bustard Group, Natural England, University of Bath  and the RSPB.

It was formerly widely distributed across large parts of lowland Europe, but started to decline in the 18th century and is now absent from much of its original range. It became extinct from the UK in 1832, and from numerous other European nations over the rest of the 19th and the 20th centuries. It is responding well to conservation and many populations are now increasing.

Visitors are welcome to the great bustard release site to learn about the project and see the spectacular scenery and wildlife of Salisbury Plain. To book a visit phone 07817 971327 or email

Baggy Point - yesterday 22/11

There was a large flock of Common Scoter and a drake Eider again/still today off Baggy Point. [Peter Liddle]

Axmouth - 22/11

Wheatear by the Yacht Club [Mike Lock]

Westcombe - Sunday 20/11

Popped down to Westcombe beach near Bigbury and although there was not a lot of movement I did manage to spot a couple of Goldcrests in the thick bushes besides the stream and 3 Black redstarts on the beach itself taking advantage of the flies attracted to the kelp piles being washed up.[Tim Clyburn]

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


The desert wheatear showed very well for most of the day (to at least 3pm) on the coastguard cottage roof, sometimes accompanied by the black redstart (which spent much of the time lurking out of sight on the downhill side of the cottages). Also a flock of 5 buzzards and a kestrel behind the cottages, and a very close encounter with a fox beside the car park on the way back up.

Odd Geese on the Taw.

Having looked at the pic link on Mike`s posting of the Snow/Barnacle hybrids, I would say that it certainly looks like the birds I saw today. I observed them with my scope from a distance of about 800 yards so it was difficult to be positive what they were at the time. I`m pretty convinced after having looked at the image that they are the hybrids.

I also re-read the entry in the 2009 Devon Bird Report for the birds seen at Bishops Tawton.
I hadn`t realised that they had been i/d as Snow/Barnacle hybrids. At that time I thought their head shape and size made me think more of Ross` Geese rather than Snow Geese so is it possible they could be Ross`/Barnacle Hybrids?

Anyway, it appears they`re back.

Thurlestone Bay

2 f Black Redsart on the patch today - one at Thurlestone Rock flats & another on my roof.

At South Milton Ley Bob B ct 3 Chiffchaff inc one that was an Eastern type, another 12 in the sewage works . Large flock of 200 + Fieldfare / Redwing at the top end of the Ley approx 70% were Fieldfare

The juv Bewick's Swan at Aveton Gifford showing down to 25 feet- Someone has started feeding the Swans ( a la Slimbridge ) so likely to stay, if you do visit watch the tides - the tidal road floods around 1.5 hrs either side of high tide

More odd geese, Exminster Marshes

Seems to be the season for odd geese of unknown origin, so.....

amongst the large numbers of Canada Geese on Exminster Marshes at the moment is a smaller, shorter-necked bird with a very dark breast & small head. It seems to match at least some of the published characters & online images of 'Dusky Canada Goose' occidentalis (a very unlikely vagrant from restricted Pacific breeding grounds), but I am certainly not claiming it as such. But worth a look and a photo if anyone can get close enough.

Also, the Kingsbridge Estuary greylag geese are interesting, there were 19 (5 residents plus an unusual, separate flock of 14) on the Marshes on Sunday 20th. There has apparently been some kind of influx from somewhere to southern England over recent days.

Clennon Valley

 A walk around Clennon this afternoon produced 6 'collybita' Chiffchaffs and one non-calling possible tristis (Siberian) see pictures. Not as black legged as many and perhaps a hint of yellow in supercilium (I could not pick this out in the field so perhaps reflected light from leaves?). Interesting to see how plumage colour varied when photos taken in shadow, overcast and direct sunlight.


Are the geese the presumed hybrid snow x barnacle geese that seem to turn up in the winter in Devon initially 3 in North Devon in 2009 then 2 that moved around including visits to Exminster very similar to: in 2010?

Unidentified Geese on R.Taw.

At 15:20 today, while observing Dark-bellied Brents on Penhill Marsh from Pottington, 2 small white geese appeared from out of the ditches that criss-cross the marsh.
Initially I thought these to be Snow Geese of the "Blue Morph" variety.
They appeared to be with the Canada Geese that were roosting on the marsh at high tide.
Both birds were approx 2/3s the size of Canadas with white, small heads and white,short, thick necks. Bearing in mind the distance, the small beaks and legs appeared very dark grey. The backs were grey/brown with darker primaries and undersides were pale/white with slight barring.
They both appeared similar to the 2 "blue" or intermediate morphs that were seen at Bishops Tawton in 2009.
From studying pics on Birdguides "Iris" site, these 2 appear to me to be Intermediate Morph, Snow Geese.
Keep your eyes open and study the Canada Geese flocks on the river.

Kingsbridge Estuary

10ad Greylag Geese this afternoon 14:00hrs
 of Wareham Point, Charleton.

Averton Gifford

Bewick Swan juv. still present along the tidal road (LOW WATER!)

English Channel 30nm SSE of Start Point

Yesterday foraging around the fishing boat: Sooty Shearwater (getting quite late now for these), 27 Little Gulls (down channel passage of small groups of adults not stopping), 3 Mediterranean Gulls (all adults), 12 Bonxies, 150+ Kittiwakes, 300+ large gulls (mixture of LBBs, GBBs and Herring) and only one Fulmar (where have they gone? There are usually lots!). Also 30+ Common Dolphins while heading out.

Monday, 21 November 2011


1 x Drake Mandarin on pond 2 , 4 x Teal ( 2 m . 2 f ) on pond 3 , and 3 singing Chiffchaff in the bushes around pond 1


3 Woodcock at Waddeton Estate, near Galmpton [Chris Noakes]

Exminster Marshes

A collection of 40+ Golden Plover brightened up an otherwise gloomy day on the marshes.

Thurlestone Marsh

WeBS count for the Erme Est this am - 370 Wigeon, 8 Teal, Kingfisher, 20 Curlew, 4 Little Grebe.

Came back to Thurlestone marsh to find no Canadas -just a single Greylag Goose , 3 Snipe & Black T Godwit.

Received a call to go and look at the Swans at Aveton Gifford, amongst the 16 Mute a single juv Bewick's Swan , first at this site for a number of years , well worth a look if you are passing

Grand Western Canal

Afraid I could not match the Desert Wheatear on my WeBS today. However, in addition to the usual Mallard, Moorhen, Mute Swan and a few Coot, I did get to see 5 Goosander (3 male + 2 redheads), 4 Kingfisher, 4 Reed Bunting, 2 Water Rail, and a Little Grebe. However, the highlight of the day has to be the young OTTER which was swimming in and out of the reeds completely ignoring (or maybe oblivious) of me watching it for 3 or 4 minutes from the other side of the canal.


Just to say that the Great Northern Diver was still present today on Burrator Reservoir - it's eleventh day. Also 9 Little Grebe, male Tuftie, Goosander, Kingfisher and female Mandarin. Crossbills, Siskin and Long-tailed Tits close by.


Some cracking shots of the Desert Wheatear and a Black Redstart, taken yesterday by John Lee...


Desert wheatear still on NT building roof first thing thismorning

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Aveton Gifford

2 Egyptian Geese and 3 Little Grebes on the estuary [Frank Prowse]

Paignton + Kingswear

Female Black Redstart in observer's Paignton garden, and 6 Grey Seals at Noss Marina on the Dart at Kingswear

[Terry Lakeman]


A real 'end of season' feel about the place today. WeBS count results not worth mentioning, but 3 Water Pipits on Maelcombe beach were much appreciated. Otherwise, just a Brambling over (heard only), 1 Chiffchaff and 4 Goldcrests. Nice to have Steve Waite along today - maybe not the best day to show off the best of Prawle, but at least he saw where the Chestnut-sided Warbler was! (Ooops, sorry!!)

Recent reports include Swallow (19th), Hen Harrier (ringtail) and Dartford Warbler within the last week or so.

Exminster marshes

Watched from 08:00 till 13:00

51 golden plover, 600+ black tailed godwits, 5 snipe,2 water rail, 5 cetti's warbler, 5 goldcrest, 45+ redwing, 2 fieldfare, 3 pochard, 12+ gadwall, 4 tufted duck, 1 barnacle goose in with Canada geese, 1 sparrowhawk, 2 kestrel, 14 Graylag geese, 5 reed bunting, 7 skylark, good numbers of wigeon and lapwing, 4 shoveler, 40+ long tailed tits in two groups, 2 great spotted woodpeckers.

From turf hotel

100+ grey plover, 120+ avocet, 2200+ Dunlin, 1 red breasted merganser, 3 knot, 6 little egrets

Another good morning around the marsh

Plym Estuary

Spotted Sandpiper 1st wint, still present on Balgdon Marsh, showing a few spots on the undertail covets. Also greenshank 4, Common Sandpiper 1, Little Grebe 5.

Thurlestone Bay

Another very nice day- plenty of sunshine and a gradually increasing SE wind.

On Thurlestone marsh this morning - F Goldeneye, 2 Shoveler, 75 Teal, 30 Wigeon 5 Snipe, 1 Blk T Godwit, 1 lapwing. New garden tick a nice male Cirl Bunting.

In the bay - 7 Ringed plover, on the sea 115 Wigeon with another 130 flying high over SE.

Bob B had a productive morning at South Milton Ley - 1 Firecrest & 3 Chiffchaff (ct & ringed )also 30 Fieldfare, 20 Redwing, 1 water Pipit, 5 Bearded Tit, several more Chiffchaff in the sewage works one was an abietinus.

On South Huish marsh an ad & 2w Med Gulls

Exe Estuary & Dawlish Warren

During my WeBS count between Starcross and Dawlish Warren Golf Course: 69 Shags on water-skiing raft off Starcross, 2 Bar-headed Geese, American Wigeon with 1153 Wigeon, 261 Teal, 2 Shoveler, 14 Mergansers, 4 Avocets, 5 Snipe, 3 Greenshank and 3 Rock Pipits. In the Bight near Dawlish Warren hide were 11 Pale-bellied Brents (2 family groups) keeping apart from the Dark-bellied birds.

Slapton Ley - murmuration of Starlings

Yesterday a good Starling roost at Slapton Ley. But when confronted with numbers like this very difficult to know how many? At the time we guessed about 20,000. However, took some high-res (16mp) shots of the flock - some sub-sampling back home on the computer (using on screen grid at 100% resolution) came up with a better estimate of 30,000 and more arrived after the shot was taken! Predators attracted to the roost were a Peregrine and Sparrowhawk.

Earlier while talking to Perry at the bridge a Bittern flew over from the higher to lower ley.


A tour of the beaches: Preston, no interesting seabirds at all! Goodrington, 2 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Crested Grebes. Broadsands, 1 Slavonian Grebe, 13 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Red-throated Divers (one sporting high white thigh patches similar to Black-throated). 6 Cirl Buntings on seed in back of 2nd car park also a Reed Bunting with them.

Broadsands, Cirl Buntings - anyone wish to get good close views on a day when I have not dropped seed this winter (courtesy of RSPB) just take a bag of foreign finch seed or Budgie seed available in any pet shop - please don't put cheap 'wild bird seed' mixes with wheat and corn, in it attracts crows, pigeons and rats so frightening the Cirl Buntings off!

Mansands Desert Wheatear

A couple of photos taken yesterday by Jon Mercer

Kingsbridge Estuary

Charleton Marsh / Bay ( 08:45-10:00, rising tide )
Quiet on the marsh, just a lone Snipe ( difficult to see here ) . In the bay 21 Red-breasted Mergansers, c100 Teal and 3 Pintail.