Sunday, 29 November 2020

Sunday 29th November

A bit milky first thing with reduced visibility, inshore were 21 Great Crested Grebe, c.20 Gannet, 15 Common Scoter, six Red-throated Diver, a few Guillemot and two Great Northern Diver.  No sign of yesterday's Purple Sandpiper on the exposed rocks below Langstone Rock, just seven Turnstone and a Kingfisher again there today.  The yellow-colour ringed '632' Scandinavian Rock Pipit was again on the seawall and a Grey Wagtail was in this area.

Similar selection of bird on Main Pond over recent weeks with two Shoveler, two Water Rail, some Moorhen, a Mallard and a trilling Little Grebe.

In the estuary and along the seafront during the daytime mid to low tides, 400+ Teal, 391 Wigeon, 214 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 129 Redshank, 88 Shelduck, 75+ Black-headed Gull, an extra 63 Turnstone, 54 Knot, 25+ Common Gull, 18 Cormorant, five Great Black-backed Gull, four Grey Heron, three Little Egret, three Mute Swan, 15+ Common Snipe in the saltmarsh, three Red-breasted Merganser, two suspected captive bred Mallard, an imm Pintail, the drake Eider and the usual Slavonian Grebe.  

In the lovely calm conditions and bright sunshine, staff were kept very busy advising folks about responsible use of the site and understandably receive questions about why dog access is not permitted beyond groyne 9 during low tide, whilst people can continue past groyne 9.  Aside from that fact an enforceable bylaw is in place, today presented a good example of why this is the case with the presence of 158 Brent Goose that chose to rest near the beach waterline beyond groyne 9 at low tide.  A relatively confiding species, they were content to be there with the passage of people slowly walking by, but they would not be safe there from unleased dogs.   The bylaw reflects that the presence of important bird flocks can be at any state of tide and at any time of year, so in addition and certain times, people are also asked to avoid this particular area when large numbers of more disturbance sensitive species are presence.   A dog-friendly link to the various zone is click here.

Back to bird news, in the woods and bushes, with some taking advantage of the feeders, were c.35 Goldfinch, 27 Greenfinch, 19 Long-tailed Tit, nine Goldcrest, seven colybita Chiffchaff, four Siskin, three Song Thrush, two Bullfinch, two Chaffinch, a Coal Tit and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  Highlights were a Firecrest and a vocal showy Siberian Chiffchaff behind the Main Pond.   

Also today, seven Skylark on Warren Point; seven Stonechat, seven Meadow Pipit, five Cirl Bunting and single Green Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.  No 'visible migration' noted, just two Raven and single Rook, Jackdaw and Skylark passed overhead.

Other news: in what appears to be a targeted arson attack, the Tractor Compound suffered severe damage last night with the fire brigade attending a large fire in the early hours.  The entire shed and its contents, including important interpretation boards were incinerated and the tractor looks irreparably damaged. To carefully avoid prejudicing the ongoing police investigation, this has apparently gone very well.  Motive, if known at all yet, has not been shared. The rest of the site, including the Visitor Centre, seem OK. 



Saturday, 28 November 2020

Saturday 28th November

Overnight rain associated with a warm front passed through before dawn to leave a mild and overcast day that drew a number of local birders to the seawall and at sea were found 25 Great Crested Grebe, rafts of c.30 Guillemot with many more down the coast in Dawlish Bay; 18 Common Scoter, plus 15 further south; seven Red-throated Diver, five Razorbill (plus one dead); three Red-breasted Merganser flew south, two Great Northern Diver with another off Dawlish; and the drake Eider.  The highlight was a Velvet Scoter that flew in and landed on the sea off Langstone Rock at c.08:00 but wasn't later relocated; a new species of the year.

The exposed rocky shore of Langstone Rock and its breakwater hosted a Purple Sandpiper all morning, accompanied by a few Turnstone.  This was another new species to bring the site year-list to 182, which surpasses the end-year total of 180 in 2019.  A Grey Heron and a Kingfisher also perched on the rocky shore, and two Raven and a Grey Wagtail flew over there.

Purple Sandpiper - Alan Keatley

A mixed feeding flock that roamed wooded areas moped up most of the smaller passerines with totals present of 14 Blue Tit, seven Long-tailed Tit, seven Goldcrest, four Great Tit and one Coal Tit. Of the eight Chiffchaff, one had characteristics of abietinus, another was noticeably greyer but couldn't be ascribed to race (see photo); the remainder looked and sounded like regular colybita.  Three Song Thrush, two each of Bullfinch and Chaffinch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were also found in the woods.  As a warning, in the same place behind Crocus Compound where a year or two ago a Robin used to utter a good impression of a Hawfinch, an individual today there was unhelpfully calling rather like a Penduline Tit.

Chiffchaff type - Alan Keatley

Main Pond, as usual, had three Shoveler, the trilling Little Grebe, squealing Water Rail and the domestic Mallard. 

The yellow-ringed '632' Scandinavian Rock Pipit was again on the seawall rip-rap and four more littoralis foraged at close quarters in the dead glasswort spp. of The Bight; unusually no regular petrosus.  Unexpectedly, green-ringed 'AVP' was not among them which was later explained by it being seen on Exton marsh this morning, four miles to the north, providing interesting information about their homing range.

Scandinavian Rock Pipit '632' - Lee Collins

The tide was too low for proper counts of many species, numbers of regular waders and wildfowl were out on the mudflats and along Shutterton Creek where among the 265 Teal and Wigeon were five more Shoveler, three Pintail and two non wild bred looking Mallard. The number of Mallard released annually in the UK for recreational shooting was previously estimated at half a million (Harradine, 1985) and a recent estimate has puts the figure between 1 and 4.9 million Mallard (Madden, 2020).  For individuals that look and behave a bit odd, the 'Domestic Mallard' option on BirdTrack can be used to separate genuine wild birds from captive bred ones.

Of the few waders counts managed, highly notable ones were 116 Turnstone on the rising late afternoon tide and including a few on Langstone Rock earlier, which was third highest count here over the past 30 years.  Also 47 Common Snipe rose from the saltmarsh and 12 Greenshank assembled along the edge.  A Belgian or Dutch ringed first-winter Mediterranean Gull was joined by three adults in a roosting flock of 220 Black-headed Gull and 22 Common Gull in the estuary corner. Other gull counts were 11 Great Black-backed Gull and two Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Thursday 26th November

Offshore, a distant frenzied feeding flock of c.150 Gannet, also 12 Great Crested Grebe and five Red-throated Diver.

The woods continued its good run with 13 Long-tailed Tit and mixed tits that included four Coal Tit and also present four Great Spotted Woodpecker, both counts were the highest ever here at this time of the year.  Some individuals made use of the bird-feeders.  There were also 11 Goldcrest, eight Chiffchaff, but none reported as anything other that colybita, four Bullfinch, two Chaffinch and the presumably one of the long-staying Firecrest again showed well in brambles near Dead Dolphin Wood.  Mobile around the woods and wider site, 25+ Goldfinch were joined by six Siskin.  A Mistle Thrush flew NE; not unexpected in late-November, and counts of resident species included six Cirl Bunting and two Stonechat.

female Cirl Bunting - Dave Jewell

As usual on Main Pond, three Shoveler, a few Water Rail, some Moorhen, a Mute Swan and the domestic Mallard.

There was enough water in the channels between the mid-range high tides in the early hours of the morning and mid-afternoon to allow counts of some wildfowl which included 592 Wigeon, 270 Teal, 83 Shelduck and a Red-breasted Merganser.  Tide states were not high enough to push in waders in representative numbers and the only count was nine Common Snipe that rose from the saltmarsh.

Wildlife news: a Harbour Porpoise was again seen offshore from the seawall.  From a chilly start temperatures managed to climb to 9°C and in the bright sunshine, sheltered spots got just warm enough attract out a Red Admiral and a late Marmalade Hoverfly.

Red Admiral - Alan Keatley


Sunday, 22 November 2020

Sunday 22nd November

Another productive day, despite long spells of dank mizzle. The first couple of hours were spent sea-watching when the light was excellent and the sea flat calm,  allowing some passing seabirds to be identified as they crossed behind 'Pacific Egret', a cargo ship anchored 6⅓ miles (5½ nm) away (!) SSW off the seawall. Birds that flew south included 205 mixed auks, 75 Kittiwake, 67 Gannet, 34 Common Scoter and a Fulmar. Bobbing about on the water was a large influx of 36 Great Crested Grebe, including seven on estuarine waters, the largest ever November count here but not a surprise since this species has continued to increase dramatically each decade here since the 1960s and it tends to arrive in large numbers to over-winter from about this time. Another record, 28 Great Northern Diver was the largest count in November here and equal sixth highest ever; all higher counts have been in December.

data capture, analysis and presentation - Ivan Lakin


An unexpected bonus was a Great White Egret that slowly flew by and headed up the estuary mouth at 09:23; the third record of the year. 

The 3.1 metre late-morning neap tide was just high enough to push in the waders with large numbers of Dunlin and Oystercatcher present, and on the dropping tide counts of waterbirds were 285 Wigeon, 225 Canada Goose that inexplicably dropped in, such high numbers are usually seen here attending overnight roosts; 182 Black-tailed Godwit, 174 Redshank, 140 Grey Plover, 137 Teal, 125 Knot, 107 Dark-bellied Brent Goose plus two Pale-bellied Brent Goose with them in The Bight; 81 Black-headed Gull, 74 Shelduck, 68 Turnstone, 24 Ringed Plover, 16 Common Gull, 14 Common Snipe, nine Red-breasted Merganser, another seven Great Crested Grebe, seven Greenshank, only about six Curlew, only three Great Black-backed Gull, a Mediterranean Gull and the Slavonian Grebe.

On Main Pond, four Water Rail, plus another probing around Entrance Pond, four Shoveler (♂♂, imm ♂,♀), four Moorhen, two Mallard, the drake duck thing, a single Mute Swan again, another Common Snipe, a trilling Little Grebe and a Kingfisher.

Ten migrant Lesser Black-backed Gull flew south; four Rook, two Jackdaw, a Golden Plover flew south and the odd single Skylark and Chaffinch also passed overhead.

Particularly favouring the Alders and Silver Birch, up to 15 Siskin, a Lesser Redpoll and various other common finches. Three Coal Tit included a bird that flew over to Langstone Rock briefly and two others were at the bird-feeders; otherwise in the woods and bushes, single-figures of mixed tits, 7+ Goldcrest, possibly the Firecrest but too elusive to confirm, 7+ regular colybita Chiffchaff and the highlights, one, possibly two Siberian Chiffchaff. The first sighting was indicative of a new arrival as it appeared with two Chiffchaff in the dune ridge tamarisk then soon moved into sallows and presumably the same bird, along with Chiffchaffs made their way to sallows around Main Pond where it was watched at close range with another bird of characteristics that more placed it into the 'fulvescens' trait camp, or to imply that its perhaps from the Urals hybrid zone, a 'riphaeus'-type, in that it showed a little bit of green around the bend of the wing, too much of a contrasting 'Bonelli's-like' folded wing panel and yellowy, less buffy hints on parts of the face. The monotoned loveliness of light greyey brown and tan hues of the Siberian Chiffchaff, together with its plantive '(b)eeep' call (heard when in the tamarisk) led to its being described as a 'classic'.

Both the yellow-ringed '632' (seawall), that first returned on 6th November and the green-ringed 
'AVP' (in The Bight), first seen here 28th October were seen today, plus another Scandinavian Rock Pipit, accompanied by a regular petrosus Rock Pipit.  

Also notable today, six Cirl Bunting, five Stonechat, two Song Thrush, a ♂ Green Woodpecker fed along the deserted fairways; an imm ♂ Kestrel, a Reed Bunting and a Grey Wagtail. Less the sub-species and excluding Siberian Chiffchaff, the site day-list was an impressive 84 species.

Wildlife news: a Water Vole 'plop' was heard at Gold Course Pond. Three Harbour Porpoise breached a long way out.

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Saturday 21st November

Comprehensive and sustained coverage in conditions conducive to observations enabled collation of a solid set of counts and an impressive day-list of 79 species. However, disturbance to the site's entire assemblage of estuarine waterbirds was caused by a kayaker and persons scaling over fencing with warning signs.  On these occasions, local birders and patrolling staff weren't able to intercept to educate them, as is normal practice. 

The first hour of light was spent sea-watching, which was productive with 215 Kittiwake, c.120 Gannet, c.80 auk spp that comprised of both Razorbill and Guillemot; 12 Great Northern Diver, 11 Red-throated Diver, 37 Common Scoter, seven Great Crested Grebe and three Fulmar.

After the disturbance events, birds settled down and the ebbing mid-morning tide received a lot of attention.  A full run-down of counts were c.825 Oystercatcher (so missing c.200 somewhere); 520 Black-tailed Godwit arrived from the direction of Starcross to feed along the receding waterline opposite Railway Saltmarsh; at least two were colour-ringed, one was ringed on the Axe Estuary and another was apparently ringed on the Humber Estuary; 1,486 Dunlin, 315 Wigeon, 313 Teal, 137 Redshank, 130 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 124 Grey Plover, 107 Black-headed Gull, 82 Knot, 68 Bar-tailed Godwit, 66 Turnstone, including six below Langstone Rock; 38 Common Gull, 37 Ringed Plover, 21 Cormorant, 14 Curlew, ten Sanderling, ten Greenshank, eight Red-breasted Merganser, eight Shag, including a few offshore, six Canada Goose, five Mute Swan, five Little Egret, a few Common Snipe, just four Great Black-backed Gull, two Lesser Black-backed Gull, two Grey Heron, two Kingfisher, another Great Crested Grebe, the drake Eider and 'Herbert' the Slavonian Grebe. A Peregrine also briefly spooked the waders.

On Main Pond, three Shoveler, at least of couple each of Moorhen and Water Rail, another Mute Swan, a trilling Little Grebe, the resident female Mallard and the now regular drake farmyard duck-thing. 

Through the wooded area and with some that roamed up site nearly a far as the hide, a flock of 26 Long-tailed Tit 'carried' a number of other birds that included some of the ten Chiffchaff of which one presumed Scandinavian Chiffchaff P. c. abietinus, eight Goldcrest, seven Blue Tit, two Great Tit, a Coal Tit and the Firecrest was vocal and showy along Butterfly Ride. Also two Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Song Thrush, two Bullfinch and a Sparrowhawk. Scattered throughout, most as small feeding flocks and some on the bird-feeders, 36 Goldfinch, 31 Greenfinch, 16 Linnet, six Meadow Pipit, six Cirl Bunting, four Chaffinch and three Siskin. Two Raven flew over Warren Point; five Stonechat; and at least one of the Rock Pipit on site was a Scandinavian Rock Pipit but was not seen well enough to determine if it was ringed. 

Firecrest - Alan Keatley

A Jay that flew toward the site landed in trees along the landward side of the railway line was, sadly, just outside of this strictly observed site boundary; the last individual to make it on site was back in Oct 2018.

Wildlife news: a little above average for the time of year at 12°C, a few bumblebees and single hoverflies Eupeodes luniger and a Syrphus ribesii were active and still quite a few flowers in bloom.


Friday, 20 November 2020

Friday 20th November

A couple of birders were on site today to cover the morning tide. Both tides were about 20 cm lower than predicted, likely due to the max 1,037 mb high pressure overnight, despite some light rain. A few counts were conducted, 940 Dunlin, 406 Wigeon, 232 Black-tailed Godwit arrived on the dropping tide; 190 Canada Goose on the estuary before they departed from their roost; 165 Teal, 141 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 116 Grey Plover, 96 Bar-tailed Godwit, 53 Shelduck, 25 Ringed Plover, 16 Cormorant, seven Great Black-backed Gull, six Common Snipe rose from the saltmarsh; two Mallard, the drake Eider and a Kingfisher. Also present were the usual Oystercatcher, Curlew, Knot, Sanderling, Turnstone, Redshank, Greenshank and common gull species, but had no counts or those obtained were not representative of numbers present today. Elsewhere, notables were c.60 Goldfinch, a Coal Tit and a Reed Bunting.

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Thursday 19th November

The noticeable change in weather since yesterday lunchtime continued today and a fresh WNW wind cooled the new day to 9°C.  From 07:55 and for the next two hours, a spectacular passage of 25,505 Woodpigeon flew SW over the site.  Clouds of birds rose over Exmouth and passed low overhead and caught the attention of many passers by.  All counts at this site of ≥5,000 Woodpigeon have occurred 20 Oct - 22 Nov, but massive passage after 07 Nov is rare.  Today's count is the ninth largest ever. In Devon, smaller movements of Woodpigeons were reported today at Wembury and South Brent. Further afield, thousands were reported on the move today at single sites in Hampshire, Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire and Co. Louth, in the northeast corner of Republic of Ireland.  Only a handful of Stock Dove and one 'Racing Pigeon' were noted in these flocks.

A yellow-ringed Scandinavian Rock Pipit, presumably the returning bird was along the seawall and on groyne 1.  Offshore only a single Great Northern Diver was of interest.  Wildfowl counts in the estuary on the dropping tide included 202 Dark-bellied Brent Goose with four Pale-bellied Brent Goose mixed in; 316 Wigeon, 141 Teal, 107 Canada Goose (with three offshore), 77 Shelduck, four Mute Swan and the drake Eider. The good run continued with 368 Black-tailed Godwit; other waders counted were 820 Dunlin, 129 Redshank, 83 Grey Plover, 41 Knot, 25 Ringed Plover, two Sanderling and a Greenshank.

I
n the woods, 14 Long-tailed Tit, mixed tits, five Chiffchaff and two Goldcrest, a Bullfinch and a Chaffinch. At least one Shoveler remained on Main Pond.

Wildlife news: a Buff-tailed Bumblebee and a late hoverfly Melanostoma scalare.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Wednesday 18th November

A fresh south-southwesterly with rain forecasted to arrive from 09:00, the first hour of light was spent sea-watching which produced a steady passage 187 Gannet, 95 Kittiwake, c.35 auk spp., 11 Common Scoter, three Red-throated Diver and a Red-breasted Merganser.  It was with uncanny timing that the cold front moved through and temperatures fell from lunchtime that a Glaucous Gull flew south past the seawall - the first record of the year.  But just before the mild wet conditions gave way to a blast from the north, a very late bedraggled male Wheatear was on the end of Warren Point.

Waterbirds in The Bight were watched as they followed out the receding morning spring tide and the few selected counts performed were c.1,100 Dunlin, 183 Black-tailed Godwit - noting that massive numbers were reported again today on Oak Meadow Golf Course, Starcross; also 93 Grey Plover, 37 Great Black-backed Gull, 25 Cormorant and 20 Ringed Plover; and the first big winter count of 76 Common Snipe flew up from the saltmarsh.  On the estuary corner waters floated 571 Wigeon, 179 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 60 Shelduck, 17 Teal, 15 Canada Goose, seven Mute Swan, the drake Eider and the Slavonian Grebe

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Tuesday 17th November

The huge 4.3 metre spring tide at dawn saw waders cram onto the extremities of saltmarsh and islands that remained exposed and four-figures of birds piled onto the top of the island in front of the hide, mostly Dunlin, of which three Swedish metal-ringed individuals were seen and two of these were ringed on Ă–land. Incidentally, this island in SW Sweden supports breeding Calidris alpina schinzii, the Western Dunlin, the same ssp. that breeds in Britain; its Baltic population has declined and its conservation status in that region is under serious threat. Enquiries will follow about when ringed if their race was determined to be a migrant alpina or a locally breeding schinzii.  

Also 93 Grey Plover, double-figures of Knot and Sanderling, four Ringed Plover and briefly a Kingfisher. The sandy tide-line of The Bight had dropped by approximately 15 cm overnight in places, due to tidal wash-out, which made it ever harder for the c.125 Bar-tailed Godwit and other mixed waders to find space to roost.  

For reasons unclear, larger waders that have established roosts at the upper end of the estuary chose to utilise flooded fields north side of Starcross and Oak Meadow Golf Course, south side of Starcross to roost and the massive count of 690 Black-tailed Godwit at Dawlish Warren likely involved most of the 850 seen at those aforementioned locations.  Despite being outside of designated sites (see MAGIC), an earlier post (23rd July) alluded to potential and limited legal protection to such places and the term recognised by authorities in the context of the SPA designation is 'functionally linked land'. Recognition is dependent on observations, so when recording (e.g. on BirdTrack or eBird) and submitting (e.g. to Devon Birds), an accurate location is really important to note in addition the core site, which here is 'Exe Estuary'. 

A walk through the woods noted 11 Long-tailed Tit, four Goldcrest, two Chiffchaff, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Bullfinch.  On Main Pond, four Shoveler (♂♂, imm ♂,♀), two Water Rail, a ♀ Mallard and at least one Little Grebe.  The sea was almost birdless when looked at briefly shortly after dawn.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Monday 16th November

Focus was on estuarine waterbirds during the early morning high tide.  The few counts made were of 433 Wigeon, 422 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 84 Grey Plover, 77 Shelduck, 62 Bar-tailed Godwit, 47 Teal, 14 Curlew, 11 Canada Goose, eight Pale-bellied Brent Goose and two ♂ Pintail.  Random event of the day was a Long-tailed Duckprobably an adult drake, that flew low across the golf course from the estuary and out to sea.  This is the second record of the year after the unseasonal bird on 10th June and 4th July, possibly the same bird that spent 12th-19th Jun at Mudeford, Christchurch, then returned.

Picked up via Twitter, Greenland Lake area supported 35 Linnet, 27 Goldfinch, nine Meadow Pipit, seven Stonechat, six Greenfinch and two Cirl Bunting