Saturday, 31 December 2011


This afternoon: 7-8 Cirl Buntings down on seed in 2nd car park with 2 Reed Bunting, 1 tristis type and 3 collybita type Chiffchaffs in marshy ditch. 2 Black-necked Grebes in Broadsdands bay and 3 Great Crested Grebes a little further out.


Seawatching from 8.15 - 10.45; My record-breaking patch year-tick scraped in under the wire today, in the form of a female Long-tailed Duck which flew west. Remarkably this is only the 5th site record, and the first since 1999. Also passing (all west unless stated) were single Great Northern Diver, 8 Red-throated Divers (2 east), 225 Gannets, 66 Fulmars (good numbers at last), single Common Scoter and Goosander, 48 Kittiwakes and 350 Auks. More Guillemots today, but still less than half the total.

Tramping round the fog-free areas turned up some of the regular wintering fare, namely Water Pipit, 3 Chiffchaffs, Goldcrest and Firecrest.

Braunton again

Forgot to mention that I saw a huge loose flock of Golden Plover this morning over the Chivenor airfield - probably 2000 plus.

Late afternoon a flock of about 40/50 Siskin feeding in Alders along the Tarka trail by the Braunton Tesco brings 2011's birding year to an end.

Happy New birding Year to all!

Upottery Airfield, Smeatharpe

A nice end to the year. This morning a site record of 600 Golden Plovers on the barley field were flushed presumably, by an unseen raptor judging by the behaviour of the passerines and corvids.  120 lapwing were also flushed and about 6000 starlings were around the airfield in about 3 different groups.

This evening the Great Grey Shrike was showing well just before dusk and has now been present since mid October.

Exminster marsh

A quick visit to exminster marsh between 13:30 and 15:00 was rewarded with distant views of the glossy ibis from station road looking towards the lagoon feeding with the wigeon. Also a possible merlin but only a brief view, and 2 pintail, 1 water rail and 1 cetti's warbler.

On matford marsh earlier 30+ snipe 160+ lapwing , 21 black tailed godwit, 1 little grebe, 2
common gull in with 100+ black headed gull.

A good end to the year.


A rather splendid Song Thrush singing by the main road as I headed to Velator this morning. 5 Shoveler on the flooded field across the Tarka Trail from Wrafton Pond.

Plym Estuary

1st winter Spotted Sandpiper still present on Blaxton Marsh, along with 6 Greenshank and 67 Curlew.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Torre Abbey beach, Torquay

Three Black-necked Grebes, 5 Grest Crested Grebes and a Razorbill at lunch time today.

Devils Point, Plymouth

Late news for yesterday; the Spoonbill was on Drakes Island again, leaving at about 10.50.
Otherwise very quiet down here.

Exminster Marsh

The (unringed) Glossy Ibis still on Exminster Marsh. This morning viewable distantly from the path south from the RSPB car park south of the lagoon and then this afternoon north of the lagoon on the main marsh viewable from the canal path. Also, a superb male Merlin flew in with prey and sat on a fence south of the lagoon and a Water Pipit showing well around the middle car park area.

The Photographer's Tale

Following recent comments on this blog about some poor behaviour at Exminster Marshes, and to present a balanced picture, I thought it might be good to publish this account from Seb Loram...

'I have always loved wildlife and over the last few years developed a passion for photography.  Two weeks ago I was at Exminster Marshes hoping to see a Short Eared Owl with the intention of photographing it.  So, as most ethical photographers will hopefully tell you, I started planning my shots and hoped to use my knowledge of the bird, a bit of luck and most importantly fieldcraft.

So, I walked to an area I identified as a good place with nice light, background etc etc and hunkered down in full camouflage near a post I had seen a bird perch on regularly.  I waited for 6 hours, froze to death, then suddenly the bird came across the reeds and alighted on the post about 10 metres away. The next 20 mins it sat there preening before floating off to quarter the reeds.  I waited until it had gone to the other side of the marsh and darkness fell before getting up and leaving.

The next day I came back and at 2pm a bird (the same?) was sitting on that same post.... I was so chuffed.

The feeling you get when you capture images of that nature with the subject unaware of your presence is what wildlife photography should be about, not chasing a bird around the fields just to get a photo..... its only a photo.'

This is a bird news blog, and I can't help wondering if several recent posts (this one included) have strayed a bit too far from that remit. Perhaps circumstances have demanded it though? Anyway, as a final remark on this topic can I just refer any would-be photographers to the link on the right entitled 'Bird Photography Code of Practice'. It has been there for some time, and if everyone who includes a camera in their birding kit were to read and apply it there would be a lot less bad press aimed at photographers.



Northam Borrows

Glaucous Gull first winter also a adult Med Gull at goose pool at 10:30 hrs.


A sweep of the bay this morning came up with: 2 Great Northern Divers, 4 Black-necked Grebes, 10 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Common Scoter, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Shelduck still lots of Razorbills and a few Guillemots.

At Broadsands: 15 Cirl Buntings on seed in back of 2nd car park + 6 Reed Buntings. In the marshy ditch between the car parks there were two tristis type and 4 collybita type Chiffchaffs.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Exminster Red-breasted Goose

An email today from David Byrne, which said in part:

'...had good views of the Red-breasted Goose with Brents close to the new viewing platform on the cycle path between 1130 and 12 this morning. It and all (I think) the Brents  took off in a single sudden flurry of wings...'

Exminster Marshes

The Glossy Ibis was in fields opposite the Lion's Rest Industrial Estate mid afternoon, earlier it had been nearer the motorway so obviously mobile. No sign of the Red-breasted Goose reported nearer Turf in a quick check but a Pale-bellied Brent was present.

The Long-eared Owl was not present, yesterday it was flushed twice from its roost by the same photographer so its absence today was not surprising. Photographers have also been reported disturbing the Short-eared Owls well away from the footpaths across the Marsh.

A reminder to all readers of this blog (with or without cameras) that the area is protected as a SSSI and It is an offence under Section 28 P(6) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as incorporated by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000), without reasonable excuse, intentionally or recklessly to destroy or damage any of the flora, fauna, or geological or physiographical features by reason of which land is of special interest, or intentionally or recklessly to disturb any of those fauna. A person found guilty of any such offence may be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20,000 or on conviction on indictment to a fine.

Away from the Exe regular checks of the Teign have failed to turn up the Iceland Gull but a gull on the evening of 26th was possibly an albino Lesser Black-backed Gull, maybe the Axe bird of previous winters?

N Devon

Malcolm Shakespeare rang me late morning to say he was at Down End (between Saunton and Croyde) - he'd been looking for the Iceland Gull, but saw a Great Skua instead - great record for this site at this time of year!

Clennon Valley

Yellow Browed Wabler still present late morning in the general area of the top pools


14 Cirl Buntings on seed in back of second car park with 4 Reed Buntings. In the marshy ditch between the car parks were 2 collybita type Chiffchaffs, one tristis type and a Water Rail.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Bursdon Moor

Three Hen Harriers there late this afternoon (4.30) adult male, 2nd winter male? and a ringtail all quartering the moorland. Also Merlin and Kestrel around with them.

[Karen Sims and John Towers]

Exminster Marshes

At 13.45 whilst watching the marsh from the railway line path, with Paul & Tom Kemp, all the birds flew up as they often do. Amongst them however was a Glossy Ibis. This bird then dropped back on to the marsh. The bird then flew up again at 13.55 and flew ever up and away so that it appeared to drop down at or near Bowling Green Marsh. At 14.10 to my amazement the same or another bird was feeding happily close to the same path we were on by the railway line. Great views and it could be identified as a Juv/Imm. The bird then took off and flew back towards Topsham last being seen at 14.25 flying high and north. Nobody else had mentioned it when we had arrived, so I am hoping that I was lucky enough to have found it. One subsequent report was that it was seen flying back from Topsham between our sightings so confirming that it was just one bird.

Also seen were one Short-eared Owl (plus a number of birders out on the marsh with their cameras. Can I support Gavin's comment below, this is not fair on the birds. One guy with his camera flushed the bird twice. His actions were simply selfish and unreasonable. He was wearing a full set of blue waterproofs, so if you know him tell him) and a Merlin.

Kingsbridge Estuary


Off Lincombe Pt: 
GN Diver juv 
Blk N Grebe - Blanks Mill
Pintail 30 - Blanks Mill 
Bar T Godwit 8 - off Gerston
Blk T Godwit 12 same with a few around the tide edge
Dunlin 280-300
Grey Plover 6
Spotted Redshank 1 - landed right in front of me during a hail storm, I though, if I move it will fly off - I moved, it flew off!!
Brent geese are scattered so no accurate count. duck, grebes and particularly Common Gull in good numbers.

Exminster Marshes

With most of the family commitments and a very persistent cold behind me I decided to venture on to the marshes. The brisk walk to the Turf along the railway path revealed at least one stonechat and 8 grey geese that I presumed were greylags but were very difficult to see. At Turf 21 dunlin fed on the remaining mud (it was almost high tide) and a single kingfisher was on the river.

There were about 500 brent geese on the fields. I could not see any other geese with them. A few ducks on the lagoon all appeared to be gadwall. There were an additional 4 greylags on the bank. More brent geese flew in from the estuary but still I was unable to see any other geese accompanying them. Elsewhere on the marshes were lots of lapwings, curlew, shoveller, teal and a few tufted ducks.

A female sparrowhawk seemed interested in the blackbirds near Turf. The only other raptor I saw was a kestrel near the main road. With deference to Gavin's posting I won't mention anything to do with long winged owls.

Happy New Year to all.

Totnes riverbank

A short amble along the riverbank path between the bridge and weir this afternoon produced a pair of Goosander,16 Teal, Kingfisher and 2-3 Siskins.

Exminster Owls - a Plea

The recent Long-eared Owl at Exminster has raised an issue that this blog has had to deal with a few times - whether or not to publish reports of a potentially sensitive nature. Obviously I would be quite upset to learn that a direct consequence of news published on DBN was the disturbance and harassment of the birds in question. So, following concerns raised after the first report was published, the decision was taken to keep quiet instead. However, this was without realising the bird was so obvious and had rapidly become a virtual tourist attraction! So it was 'on', then 'off' and now 'on' again. Sorry, these things happen. We are not always going to make the correct call, but will always try to err on the side of caution. Apologies if your posts or reports have been affected by this, but hopefully you'll be understanding.

The LEO has apparently chosen a rather accessible roosting bush. Might there be a temptation to approach it too closely? The Exminster Short-eared Owls have likewise become very popular. Rumour has it that some visitors are not content to watch the birds from a sensible distance but are getting into the habitat for some reason, with the obvious risk of disturbance. Clearly this is daft. All these owls will only put up with so much hassle and will move on if not left alone. I have deliberately not ascribed this alleged behaviour to any particular 'group' of enthusiasts, because the point of this post is not to lay blame, but to encourage responsibility.

The instant availibility of bird news is potentially a double-edged sword. While it gives everyone the opportunity to hear about good birds (and to go and see them if they choose) it is not discerning, and cannot tell if the recipient will behave in a resposible fashion. So, for what it's worth can I please ask that if you learn some bird news through this blog you also treat it with respect. Thanks.


Plym Estuary

The Spotted Sandpiper still present this afternoon on Blaxton Meadow (islands). Also: Little Grebe (3) and Greenshank (1).

Weare Gifford

adult Whooper Swan in field near village hall at 12.00 hrs.

Kingsbridge Estuary

GN Diver
Goosander 2 fm Blanks
Dunlin 280
BT Godwit
GC Grebe 9+ plenty around sams Little G's
Tufted Duck mf
Goldeneye 2f
Pintail 30'ish 
Razorbill and
Eider - 1cy male. Castle Pt Salcombe (view from Cliff Rd?)
blackcap 2 and colibitta Chiff in the Sewage works Char Marsh
Barn Owl 2100hrs below Sorley Cross Kingsbridge.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Iceland Gull North Devon

On Boxing Day, an immature Iceland Gull was seen both in the morning and afternoon over the sea between Baggy Point and Croyde Beach. [Rob Jutsum]


This morning 10.30 AM, at the top of Port Hill (on the way out of Galmpton halfway to Waddeton, on the Stoke gabriel road,)  2 x Grey Partridge ( a year tick)......I have seen a pair in this area before......they caught sight of me, and ran off at high speed !!

[Trev Leaman]

Clennon Valley

The Yellow-browed Warbler was showing around 2-2.30 pm by the wooden bridge at rear of the last pool. A drake Mandarin was still on the main pool. Two Water Rails, Kingfisher, 6+ Snipe and 2 Teal also present.
Not much off Goodrington beach, the 4 Black-necked still favouring Broadsands-Elbury. No divers seen.

Bowling green marsh and exminster marsh

08:00 till 11:00 from the hide at bowling green marsh

420+ avocet, 500+ black tailed godwit, 150+ bar tailed godwit, 1 tufted duck, 1 shoveler, 300+ wigeon, 1 little egret, 150+ Brent geese, 22 Dunlin, 1 knot

13:45 till 15:30 exminster marsh great views of the long eared owl and 1 short eared owl toward motorway bridge, also peregrine, sparrowhawk, kestrel, 600+ lapwing and barnacle goose in with the Canada geese.

An excellent day


Did some ringing in the reserve this morning. Delighted to ring another wintering Blackcap, a first-winter female not carrying any fat at all, but looking in cracking shape! Later heard and saw an unringed Chiffchaff, then caught another. Best of the rest were 5 more Bullfinches, and a first-winter Song Thrush.

R.Taw between Pottington and Penhill Marsh.

13:00 - 14:00

At least 3000 Golden Plover in 2 flocks just off Penhill Marsh, with c220 Brent Geese and c1000 Lapwing.

Just 1 Bar-tailed Godwit; 5 Grey Plover and c160 Dunlin off Pottington, with fair numbers of Redshank and Curlew.

3 Black-tailed Godwit at Bradiford Reserve and the Green Sandpiper still in the ditch just before Ashford sewage works.

Dawlish Warren

At Dawlish Warren, the female Surf Scoter showing well mid morning just north of Langstone Rock and an adult Little Gull feeding offshore a bit further out.

Interesting Wigeon - Christmas Eve

Came across this quite striking cold grey-headed Wigeon in amongst the Wigeon flock feeding in fields beside the Otter on Christmas Eve. It did seem to show some features that could potentially be good for female American Wigeon with the cold grey dark peppered head contrasting with warmer flanks, dark shadow behind eye and paler forecrown and subtly different head shape. Wing coverts possibly show a third white bar in wing.
However, it could equally be a very grey variant Eurasian Wigeon.

Frustratingly I did not have enough time to get the critical underwing shot! I have had a brief look again yesterday and today, but the Wigeon flock seems smaller and greatly dispersed on the estuary. Worth keeping an eye out for it amongst the the Axe/ Exe Wigeon flocks as I would be keen to see the underwing!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Parke & Lustleigh

A pair of Mandarin on the river Bovey at Parke today, and a Firecrest just south of Lustleigh.

Broadsands-Elbury Cove

Very low tide this lunchtime, four Black-necked Grebes on the sea and single Razorbill and Guillemot. Grey Heron on rocks. A Firecrest was reported by the fence where the footpath enters the golf course , with Long-tailed Tits, but I was unable to relocate it.

Matford marsh

A walk out along the river from the mill on the exe pub to matford marsh from 10:30 till 15:00

At the mill on the exe had 2 grey wagtail and a dipper, between the quay and double locks another 2 grey wagtail, 2 kingfishers and 6+ snipe on the pools and a redshank by the overflow dam near the quay

On matford marsh excellent views of 42+ snipe on main scrape in with 50+ lapwing 4 shoveler, 1 tufted duck, 30+ teal, 2 black tailed godwit. On the back pool 3 snipe 13 shoveler and 100+ wigeon, 1 buzzard.

On the walk back along the canal had another kingfisher fishing and giving exellent views not a bad few hours walk.

Clennon Valley

Yellow-browed Warbler still present at Clennon Valley usual place:

Also 3 Chiffchaffs including at least one tristis type, 1Pintail, 3 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, 12 Tufted Ducks, 2 Tea, 2 Water Rail, 8 Snipe and 1 Little Egret.

brixham breakwater

Breakwater 13:30-14:15.
6 turnstones, 1 ringed plover, 13 purple sandpipers feeding right up on the breakwater. The purple sandpipers could be viewed up to under acouple of metres away.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Exminster Marshes

Martin Cox reports four Short-eared Owls on Exminster Marshes late this afternoon, he got some pretty good photos too!