Saturday, 24 December 2011

Clennon Valley Ponds

A couple of pictures from the ponds this morning. Also seen: 4 chiffchaffs (2 tristis type, 2 collybita), 3 shoveler, 2 teal, 1 water rail (and another heard), 10 snipe.

Plymouth (belated news for 22/12)

Peverell, Plymouth
1 Firecrest 700+  Redwings heading NW (largest flocks of over 100) & a Fieldfare heard. No's would easily have gone over 1000 if I had been able to watch for more than about 1/2 hr at 8.30am.

Saltash Br
50 Redwing heading WNW across the border at bridge height.

[Robert Hurrell]

Lower Tamar Lake

11 male Goosander; 1 Gadwall; 60+ Mallard; 70+ Teal;  c50 Wigeon; 2 Shoveler; ^ GreatCrested Grebe; 4 Little Grebe;  c80 Coot; 7 Moorhens; 2 Grey Herons; 90+ Lapwings; c100 Golden Plover; 1 Kingfisher; 1 Peregrine over; 2 Ravens over; 1 Willow Tit at the feeding station by the hide plus Nuthatch, Blue and Great Tit.  Coal Tit calling

[Harvey Kendall]

Weare Giffard

Lovely Whooper Swan at Annery Kiln Bridge today - photo by Brian Palmer


Seawatch from 8.00 - 10.30. All west, 2 Great Northern, 1 Black-throated and 16 Red-throated Divers, 135 Gannets, 4 Fulmars (still in short supply), Goosander (redhead), 45 Kittiwakes and 253 Auks, mostly Razorbills. Not much on the land, just 2 Water Rails, Reed Bunting, and single Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Highlight of the day, and most unexpected, occured just as I was about to leave, in fading light. All the birds went up and started circling and calling. After a few minutes of frantic scanning, I found the culprit. Way out to sea, very high up and moving rapidly east, I could just make out a string of Reindeer, pulling some kind of sleigh. The lead one had a very bright nose. Looks like he's on his way. Hope you've all been good this year! Happy Christmas.

West Prawle

After being told of 5 Egyptian Geese in a field with a swan, I went to have a look. Only 3 geese by then, but the swan turned out to be this adult Whooper. Site is on the East Portlemouth road, about 1/2 a mile beyond Vinivers Cross, opposite the entrance to West Prawle farm. Frustratingly, this is 2 fields outside the Prawle patch boundary. Yours truly is looking for one more year tick to beat my previous record - both these would fit the bill !!


On sea: 7 Black-necked Grebes, 11 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Guillemot, 1 Common scoter.

Around car parks: 13 Cirl Buntings on seed, 2 Reed Bunting and in the marshy ditch now 5 Chiffchaffs, 2 whiter undersided tristis types plus one much better buffy and brown bird that called 3 times - perfectly for tristis, also 2 collybita type birds. 1 Water Rail in marsh.

Near Tedburn St Mary

A late early-winter Atlas tetrad yielded a decent total of about 150 each of Redwing and Fieldfare gorging on apples, and a cold-looking Peacock butterfly looking for some shelter.

Even Later news from yesterday

1 Short eared owl briefly in strong breeze at 1545 hrs at North end of Exminster Marsh,flew briefly and landed did not see it again before dusk,but was not looking in that area all the time so may of flew some more,lots of birds on the marsh but nothing unusual, Merry Xmas to every one and good birding,

Aveton Gifford

Late news from yesterday - Bewick's Swan still viewable from the tidal road.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Preston Down yesterday

A nice group of 3 brown hairstreak eggs found during the site survey.

Wembury 22 and 23/12

While most people were searching for last minute Christmas presents, I was searching for last minute year ticks. Just like shopping, I had to wait until the last possible minute to find something that I wanted! Lots of time and effort searching for Firecrest, Water Rail, Purple Sand and Tawny Owl but no luck! Best bird of yesterday was a Stock Dove (only just annual here although 3-4 seen this year). Masses of Redwings with 1500+ yesterday when normally we would be scratching round for the odd one in December. No Fieldfare but lots of Song Thrush (many in song...) and Blackbirds seeming very conspicuous.

Today a quick seawatch yielded 7 Common Scoter, 5 Kittiwake and 10+ Fulmar. One Guillemot was on the sea as well. In the fading light of this evening a Woodcock flew out of the radar compound to add itself to the year list.

Edit: A quick request - if anyone has got our Turnstones, can we have them back please? I have only seen one in the whole of December when normally we have 50+.

North devon reserves

Visited Bradiford reserve this morning early, but was surprised to see a squad car and two policemen looking over the gate! They were watching some shooters in the fields just over the river on the far side of the reserve. Fat lot of good providing a refuge for birds only to find that shooting is permitted just over the river. No doubt where the birds they would be shooting would come from! And I've also no doubt that that their dogs would be sent into the reserve to collect any birds that fell in the reserve...... I didn't stay to see what happened.

Went later to Velator and found the reserve pond swamped with Canada Geese, scores of them! They soon flew out into an adjacent field! Quite a few Redwings present with all the Finches.

Axe Estuary

The 1st-winter Caspian Gull present again opposite Coronation Corner (with apologies to all yesterday's visitors!) from at least 11:50 until 12:42, when it flew slowly SW towards the coast.

A minimum of 3 adult Med Gulls and an intermedius type LBBG too.

Dinnaton, nr.Ivybridge

Like Mike P, heading off to get the sprouts & mushrooms when a merlin decided to fly alongside the car. Nice surprise!!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Bursden Moor

Three Hen Harriers came in to roost late afternoon, an adult male, a second winter male and a ringtail. A male Merlin was also around, and three Buzzards. In the fields were 350 Lapwing and 150 Golden Plover. Several large Starling flocks were flying over towards their roost near Meddon.

Axe Estuary

No sign of the Caspian Gull today (one day we'll all catch up with one in the county!), but 2 Yellow-legged Gulls (ad + f.w.), at least 2 different ad Mediterranean Gulls and a Common Sandpiper. There were a few Black-tailed (I didn't count them) and at least one Bar-tailed Godwit present as well.

Around the Exe

Dawlish Warren - Dick Andrews & I went looking for the Surf Scoter (it was there) but got the most pleasant surprise - this male Eider was resting on the sea just off Langstone Rock at lunchtime. It didn't look in any hurry to depart.

Also lots of activity well offshore with a mixed flock of Gannets (100+ at least) and Gulls, with the Gannets giving good diving displays; flock of 20 Common Scoter also present

With apologies for the photo quality.

Exminster Marshes - the lagoon had 32 Gadwall and 3 Pochard in addition to the usuals.

Matford Scrapes - as wet as I've seen them, but with 27 Snipe in and on the various small islands and tufts of grass

Exminster Marshes

Two Short-eared Owls flew north along the canal, on the estuary side, near the anglers' carpark at 1550. The same or another two then hunting over the northern part of the marshes between 1600-1630.

Thurlestone Bay

Pretty desparate on the marshes/aby this morning - after an hours seawatch producedonly30 gannet & a Kiitiwake suddenly deceided to look more closely at the steady flow of Herring Gull -must have been in excess of a 1000, only addn'l species a2w Common Gull, 2 Lesser B B Gull and 70 Black H Gull- one day I will find the first Caspian for the patch..

This afternoon driving out of the village when a juv ringtail Hen Harrier flew in front of me , who says shopping doesn't pay!

Red-breasted Goose among Brent Geese near Turf.
200+ Avocet on estuary
Water Pipit on edge of pond nearest to Canal Car Park
Water Rail in ditch
Short-eared Owl quartering over rough ground near Motorway Bridge from 1440 to 1500
Other birds of prey :- Peregrine, male and female Kestrel and female Sparrowhawk. Surprisingly no Buzzard

Teign Estuary

I haven't posted in a while and so thought I'd put up some of my (4 days late WeBS) count from this evening.

Not much to report but the "highlights" were 11 Ringed Plover, 29 Dunlin, 1+ Avocet and a Great Northern Diver (near Shaldon bridge). There were 11 Snipe feeding in the open at Passage House which was unusual, and a Water Rail feeding frantically along the undercliff of one of the roost islands was also unusual (and nice).

Other wader counts included 344 Oystercatcher, 118 Curlew, 62 Redshank, 20 Lapwing and a Greenshank. Nothing much in the way of wildfowl and no sign of Iceland Gull.

Upottery Airfield, Smeatharpe

Great Grey Shrike still present this morning and showing well between 11.00 and 11.30. Also 12 lapwings, 150 fieldfare and 120 redwing.

Yesterday: 25 lapwing, 1 snipe, 1 stonechat, 4 stock doves and 10 raven

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Lower Tamar Lake

1 Water Rail; 31 Wigeon; 52 Mallard; 6 male Goosanders; 8 Tufted Ducks;10+ Teal;  2 Little Grebe; 3 Great Crested Grebe;  37 Lapwings; 151 Black headed Gulls; 60+ Coot;  1 Reed Bunting; 1 Nuthatch; Dunnocks, Robins, Blackbirds and Blue and Great Tits (at the feeding station) but no winter thrushes or raptors.

Harvey Kendall

Aveton Gifford

walked the tidal road this morning with AJL - 27 Curlew, 7 Redshank, 1 Greenshank, 3 Common sandpiper, 1 Green sandpiper, 6 Little Grebe, 8 Wigeon, 1 Grey wagtail, 2 Mistle Thrush. The juv Bewicks Swan is now showing some yellow on the bill.

Over Thurlestone Village a flock of 75 Redwing & Fieldfare. On the beaches 2 Sanderlin, 9 Ringed Plover, 1 Turnstone.

Thurlestone Marsh- 18 Lapwing, 35 Teal, 20 Wigeon. In my garden - 6 Reed Bunting on the feeders, a male Blackcap , a male Bullfinch.

Still no sign of the Starling roost returning

Axe Caspian...again

In case there is still appetite for this - the 1st-winter Caspian Gull showed very well on the Axe estuary today, from at least 12:00 - 13:10 when I left. There was also an adult Yellow-legged Gull, and what was most probably a Herring x LBBG hybrid.

Teign Est

Iceland Gull on the Teign Estuary between Wear Farm and Jacks Patch. (Robin Shute)


Hear .. Hear... to Gavin's blatant plug, I too always relish seeing the annual report, it's certainly changed enormously from my first DBR in 1978 (the 1977 report), that didn't so much thud, but sort of slapped on the door mat. The new editorial team did good job this year, with more people submitting records and hopefully getting involved in the writing of it will get even better.

Broadsands today: 1 Great Northern Dive, 8 Black-necked Grebes (5 in one flock), 13 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Wigeon, 6 Razorbills. 6 Cirl Buntings on seed in car park and 1 tristis type and 2 collybita type Chiffchaffs in marsh.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A Quick Plug

Assuming that many readers of this news blog are not members of the DBWPS, please excuse this quick plug.

Last week this publication landed on my doormat...

The Devon Bird Report is 204 pages of quality A5 paper, and is as good a county report as you're likely to find. Many (most?) birdwatchers of my generation were weaned on their county bird reports, but I'm not so sure about younger birders? When I first moved to Devon it was an essential purchase, quickly followed by membership of the Society. The main reasons (for me) were to familiarise myself with the county's birdlife (especially the status of different species) and to access local news and contacts. DBWPS also publishes two excellent journals each year - Devon Birds - of the same format and quality as the report, though usually 40-odd pages, not 200+! And if you're relatively new to the hobby or the locale, membership would be a great way to access the many organised field trips/indoor meetings and meet like-minded folks.

There, that's my plugging done.

Good birding all...

Exminster marshes

From 15:00 till 16:30

3+ short eared owls over the fields between station road and the motorway bridge around 16:25
Also 2 kestrels, 1 sparrowhawk, 2 peregrine, 30+ shoveler, 1 water rail, 800+ lapwing 200+ Dunlin, 40+ golden plover good numbers of wigeon, 1 cetti's warbler several snipe.

Clennon Valley & Three Beaches Headland

The Yellow-browed Warbler in usual place at Clennon Valley this morning with 1 tristis type and 1 Collybita type Chiffchaff, 1 Blackcap, 2 Goldcrest, 1 Water Rail and Ruddy Shelduck flew over. (photo yesterdays Drake Mandarin).

3 Beaches Headland this evening to check the Gull Roost: 2 Mediterranean Gulls 1 Adw & 1 2w, 179 Common Gulls, 2 Great Northern Divers, 1 Common Scoter, 2 Black-necked Grebes & 2 Great Crested Grebes also 1 Firecrest in cliff undergrowth.

Clennon Valley and Broadsands

The Yellow-browed Warbler (found by ML) was still by the western pond at Clennon Valley, along with a tristis type Chiffchaff.

Off Broadsands were 7 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers and a Red-breasted Merganser. Feeding very close into the beach were 15 Great Crested Grebes, one has forgot its winter still resplendent in summer plumage!

Also a tristis type Chiffchaff along the flooded ditch by the first carpark .

Bursdon moor

2 hen harriers male and female at 08;00hrs

Upper Tamer Lake

Cetti's warbler singing,plus 5 great crested grebe,3 goosander. on lower lake 7 great crested grebe,6 little grebe,9 mute swan,117 teal,28 widgeon, 4 gadwall, 11 shoveler,17 tufted duck,1 goldeneye,9 goosander all males, 83 coot 170 lapwing.3 snipe.

East Devon Commons - Squabmoor

10am Tuesday - flock of c25 to 30 Lesser Redpoll very mobile around woods to the north of Squabmoor Reservoir and Withycombe Raleigh Common; feeding briefly on the tops of birch and alder. 2 Bullfinches present.
First seen last Thursday 15th feeding in the same trees when a small flock of 8 Bullfinches were also with them.

Weare Gifford

Whooper Swan adult with 2 Mute Swans in field next to Annery Bridge. Green sandpiper on nearby river Yeo opposite Whitehouse

Budleigh / The Otter

No sign of Lyndon's impressive count of five from yesterday, but a single Snow Bunting (one of the original two birds from November) still remains faithful to the beach east of the Lime Kiln car park.
On the sea: a GC Grebe and 2 GN Divers.
On the Otter and adjacent scrapes: 29 Curlew, 4 Dunlin, 5+ Redshank, 170+ Wigeon, 60+ Teal a drake RB Merganser.

Yesterday: 3 Redhead Goosanders on the Otter late afternoon.

Aveton Gifford

At low tide below the bridge:

2 green sandpipers; 4 common sandpipers and a "lost looking" imm.Bewicks's swan.

Axe Caspian

The 1st-winter Caspian Gull present again briefly at lunchtime - would have been less brief if it weren't for a couple of kayaks!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Colour-ringed/flagged Redshank

Charlie Fleming photographed this Redshank on the Exe at Turf, Friday 16/12...

It is part of a Dutch project, and the co-ordinator (Wim Tijsen) sent more details to Charlie, as follows...

The reported sighting on 16 December  is good news (Wim's words) because it is the first proof that this bird is over-wintering on the Exe Estuary where it has bee seen twice before during this Autumn and previously on the Exe at Turf on 10 November 2005.  The bird was first rung as an immature bird in 2004. It is a female and a proven breeder both last year and this, very close to where it was rung at Westerland, Netherlands. The green flag is a transponder and was placed on the bird 13 May 2011. A metal circle is placed around the nest area and each time the bird enters or leaves the circle this is recorded via the transponder. Here is a copy of an email received from Wim that explained more about the bird.

" ........They raised at least one or more juveniles this spring despite the very dry summer. But the farmer I am working with is into nature farming and mow's his land very late, after 8 june or later for the birds in schedules. The farmer (Jan Mulder) also caught her back by hand when she was a juvenile. My main study area is around a skating rink in a open polder of 40 hectares, the skating rink is specially a wet-grass-land area, where the farmer get paid for. It is wet for 60% untill 15-5.This year my farmer pumped his land wet during the dryness, specially for the meadow birds."

A few more details on Charlie's blog here.

Newton Poppleford

A berry-eating wintering Blackcap! [photo by Pete Adey]

Exminster Marshes

2 Kestrels, Sparrowhawk, 9 Curlew, 2 Redshanks, a beautiful view of a fox eating a vole and 1 extremely distant short-eared owl virtually under the motorway.

[Sam Marles]

Axe Estuary

A 1st-winter Caspian Gull, north of Coronation Corner from 15:10 - 16:15 at least.

Clennon Valley

Yellow-browed Warbler still present usual place, also 2 tristis type and 4 Collybita type Chiffchaffs, also Male Mandarin, 10 Snipe, Kingfisher, Little Egret and 2 Water Rail.

Budleigh Salterton

No less than 5 snow buntings feeding on the lower beach path this pm.

Some Photos from the Weekend

Short-eared Owl at Exminster Marshes - taken Sunday 18/12 by Martic Cox...

...and freshly scrubbed Snow Buntings at Northam Burrows - taken by Rob Cross, also Sunday 18/12

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Beesands Ley

Birds seen on the WeBS count this morning included 3 Teal, 3 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, 9 Tufted Duck and 7 Pochard. Only 3 Coot but great not to see a single Canada Goose. Black Swan still present.
Offshore 9 Common Scoter and 3 Great Northern Diver.


Spent the whole weekend doing common bird survey work - it's much better than christmas shopping! Away from the common birds, totals as follows; Merlin (female, Airfields), Green Sandpiper (over), 8 Purple Sandpipers, 10 Turnstones, Water Rail, 18 Redwing, 2 Fieldfare, 15 Stonechats, Water Pipit, 50 Rock Pipits, 8 Bullfinches, Reed Bunting, 4 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaffs, 4 Goldcrests and 2 Firecrests.

Clennon Valley Ponds

No sign of the yellow browed warbler until 2pm when we left. However the eastern race chffchaff showed well, in willows by the brick slipway between the 2nd and 3rd pond (see photo). Also at least 3 water rail, and 2 snipe by the 1st pond.

Brixham Breakwater & Broadsands

On a a stroll along the breakwater this afternoon counted: 15 Purple Sandpipers, 9 Turnstone and 1 Ringed Plover.

Broadsands this morning: 3 Black-necked Grebes , 11 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 5 Common Scoter, 1 Little Egret.

11 Cirl & 3 Reed Buntings on seed in 2nd car park. 

Photo: Black-necked Grebe Broadsands

Exe Estuary area

A mainly sunny day, providing excellent light for the WeBS count this morning. In my estuary section, between Starcross and Dawlish Warren Golf Course, the American Wigeon gave excellent views. Although mainly seeming to be unpaired, at times it displayed, called and followed closely a female Wigeon, which was within the range of plumage colours exhibited by Eurasian Wigeon (I never saw its axillaries though!) - see digiscope image. The count also included 7 Little, 4 Great Crested and the usual Slavonian Grebe, 400+ Brents, 1 Shoveler and 27 Mergansers, with Whimbrel, Water Rail and 3 Reed Buntings in the saltmarsh.

A quick look at the sea from Langstone produced Great Northern Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Eider and the female Surf Scoter.

At Exminster Marshes in late afternoon, the Red-breasted Goose was with Brents near the M5 and at least 2 Short-eared Owls were hunting.

As I was driving over Haldon Hill as darkness fell (16:50), a Woodcock flew over the A38.

Bowling green marsh

Watched from the hide from 08:30 till 13:15 a very cold and icy morning.

180+ bar tailed godwit, 400+ black tailed godwit, 450+ avocet, 43 Dunlin, 1 knot, 3 turnstone, 500+ wigeon, 250+ teal, 1 gadwall, 4 shoveler, 1 peregrine made at least 4 attacks but none sucessful, 1 cetti's warbler, 5 fieldfare, 80+ redwing, 2 Greylag geese 30+ Brent geese, 2 meadow pipits.

Velator reserve

A session ringing this morning delivered 21 birds: all Finches (4 Green, 7 Chaff and 2 Bull) and Thrushes with 7 Blackbirds and a Redwing.
Sadly I didn't catch the Buzzard (sitting atop a tree), or the Kestrel which was mobbing it. Neither did I catch any of the 40/50 Fieldfares that arrived, chacked about a bit, and left. I also failed to snag the Water Rail I saw fly from the pond into an adjacent nettle bed.
I did, however catch SE97815, a Kingfisher that I originally ringed on 4th July this year. I tentatively put it down as a male that day, and was able to confirm this today.

Powderham, Exe Estuary

Just before the start of the WeBS count a single goosander (redhead) flew south down the estuary. On Powderham Sands were 269 avocets but they flew north within the first few minutes of the count starting at 9.40. Few other waders apart from 5 turnstones and about 400 dunlin. A flock of about 260 brent geese were off the Turf until they decided to fly. About 110 landed over Greenland Bank and the others returned towards the Turf.

On the fields - 6 meadow pipits, 2 robins and 2 stonechats.

Some recent sightings off Plymouth Sound

14 Dec: Drakes Island, Plymouth:
Ad unringed Spoonbill at roost till 10am
87 Cormorant (far more than usual)
13 Shag
Min 37 Little Egret

17 Dec:
Ad unringed Spoonbill at roost till 8.45am
Min 55 Little Egret

[Robert Hurrell]

Plymouth - yesterday 17/12

1 female Black Redstart in gardens behind Durnford Street, Stonehouse, Plymouth

[Tom Forster]