Saturday, 8 August 2020

Saturday 8th August

The early morning, with a cool, fresh northwesterly breeze encouraged some warblers to seek warmth from the rising sun on the leeward side of wooded areas where actively foraging were nine Chiffchaff, five Blackcap, four Whitethroat, four Willow Warbler; a few mixed tits and only the third Spotted Flycatcher of the year.
Long-tailed Tit - Dave Jewell
Willow Warbler - Alan Keatley

Small parties of hirundines passed through early on, at least 50 Swallow and 35 House Martin, also three Swift, a Yellow Wagtail and a Little Ringed Plover flew southwest. As often happens in autumn, hirundines' sense of direction baffles with earnest movement early on heading northeast then late morning a trickle of Swallow headed southwest. A flock of six Common Tern flew in off and north up the estuary. 

Just before the heat haze contrived to confound counts of waterbirds roosting on the Railway Saltmarsh, which from the hide area is a challenge at 850 metres away (or just over a half mile away), counts over there plus in and around The Bight included 483 Oystercatcher, 376 Curlew, 192 Redshank, 135 Black-headed Gull, 61 Ringed Plover, 53 Dunlin, 48 Canada Goose, 34 Whimbrel, 23 Sandwich Tern, 20 Sanderling, 18 Mute Swan, 11 Bar-tailed Godwit, 11 Cormorant, ten Great Black-backed Gull, seven Little Egret, six Mediterranean Gull (2 juv, 1 fs, 6 adult), five Common Gull, three Lesser Black-backed Gull, two Turnstone and a Common Sandpiper.

August is usually the peak month of passage for Ringed Plover and counts so far have been rather but since this species presents a distinctly peaked pattern to its occurrence here, it is too early to comment yet on its performance this autumn; its average peak date (1980-2019) is 20th August. A different story is emerging for Sandwich Tern, which has an average peak date two weeks earlier, on 6th August, and the max count so far this year is only 123 (on 26th July), less than half of expected numbers, so a late flourish is hoped for.

Also today, two Wheatear around The Bight. Although passage birds are featured, it is still the bird breeding season with Reed Warbler juveniles still being fed and the 'Dune Pond pair' of Stonechat have just fledged two chicks (their third brood and the second to be successful), serving as a reminder for all visitors and site managers to be careful.

Wildlife news: temperatures rose sharply late morning to a sweltering 29
°C, which encouraged invertebrates to become very active and butterflies seen included four Clouded Yellow, singles of Peacock, Red Admiral, Painted Lady and Brimstone, a scarce species here. Two or three Emperor Dragonfly, Migrant Hawker and Common Darter ranged over ponds and dunes.

Brimstone in Greenland Lake - Alan Keatley

Volucella inanis Lesser Hornet Hoverfly by 'Crocus Compound' - Alan Keatley

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Thursday 6th August

Dreich described the early morning weather and no more than awareness was of a few Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff present in the bushes. Lost in the mizzle, two Fulmar cruised low along the dune ridge, and low over the wader island an immature Arctic Skua appeared, spooking all the roosting birds into taking flight and after only a half-hearted chase of a gull, it vanished back out over the dune ridge.  As things brightened up, waterbirds came into view and selected counts were 350 Black-headed Gull, 284 Curlew, 55 Dunlin, 33 Sandwich Tern, 21 Sanderling, 11 Common Tern, four Turnstone and a Greenshank. Also seen today, three Manx Shearwater south; the resident two Raven on Warren Point, two Wheatear and only six Swallow passed through.

Wildlife news: two Clouded Yellow were in Greenland Lake, other butterflies included a few Small White, Common Blue, Small Copper and Speckled Wood. Other invertebrates noted were Batman Hoverfly Myathropa florea, Plain-faced Dronefly Eristalis arbustorum, Small Spotty-eyed Dronefly Eristalinus sepulchralis, Beewolf Philanthus triangulum and Pantaloon Bee Dasypoda hirtipes.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Wednesday 5th August

In a quite breezy southwesterly with showers, 30 Common Scoter, three Arctic Tern and two Pomarine Skua passed offshore. The weather dropped in 85 Ringed Plover, and although the highest count of the year so far, is a typical count for the time of year; as were other wader counts conducted, these being 415 Oystercatcher, 58 Dunlin, 27 Sanderling and seven Turnstone.  Among the Sandwich Tern were up to ten Common Tern. Other notables were a the two Raven, a Wheatear and the Slavonian Grebe in the estuary.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Tuesday 4th August

On a still, dry and sunny morning, a brief search of the bushes produced ten Chiffchaff, eight Blackcap, five Blue Tit, three Whitethroat, three Bullfinch, two Willow Warbler, two Great Tit, the usual pair of Collared Dove and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  At least 76 House Sparrow emerged from roosting in a large bush next to the main car park.  A scan through the smaller waders assembling along the beach and in The Bight included 71 Dunlin, 50 Ringed Plover and 21 Sanderling

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Sunday 2nd August

Fresher, far less humid and a south-westerly air-stream was a return to prevailing conditions and with this make a sense of normality in the range of bird-life present today, but still some interest persisted. On the high tides in the estuary and along the beach beyond groyne 9, the demarcation where the Bylaw applies and beyond which dogs are not permitted to enter, there were 607 Oystercatcher, 385 Curlew, 154 Redshank, 69 Ringed Plover52 Sandwich Tern37 Dunlin, 25 Sanderling, 19 Whimbrel, 15 Mediterranean Gull (4 juv, 4 fs, 7 adult); 15 Mute Swan, seven Greenshank, ten Great Black-backed Gullsix Lesser Black-backed Gullfive Canada Goosefour Common Gull, four Common Ternthree Little Egret, three Bar-tailed Godwit, two Kingfisher, two Teal, a Grey Heron and the Slavonian Grebe. And again two Stock Dove were on the railway embankment. 

The sight of eight mixed age Moorhen together on the Main Pond prompted the question again of - what counts? For nidicolous passerines the straightforward standard is to count individuals once they are out of the nest and more-or-less fledged, but this is not so straightforward for most nidifugous waterbirds, especially if precocial. Since many young fall victim to predation and other natural causes, its not representative to count chicks at this time; so when to drawn the line? The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) methodology is followed by which juveniles that have survived to become at least two-thirds grown are counted. However, the recording of young birds is also valuable for e.g. working out productivity. So, in the case of our eight Moorhen, four were adults, three were mostly grown first-brood juveniles and the last was a dinky fluffy chick, so that is recorded on 'BirdTrack' as as a count of 7 and in the comments one can put "7 plus a chick". If also adding a BTO breeding evidence code, this nidifugous chick has left the nest but it isn't fledged, so the 'NY - nest with young' code to used (not 
'FL'). Different codes apply if recording under the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

A juv Shelduck in off the sea otherwise little until the evening with totals of 
26 Common Scoter23 Gannet, a trickle of commuting Kittiwake and rising from the sea to intercept them two skua sp. plus an adult pale-phase Pomarine Skua.  Single figures and fewer warblers in the bushes than recently with migrant species present in the form of four Willow Warbler and three Sedge Warbler were on Warren Point.  Also the juv Redstart still, two Wheatear and a male Reed Bunting.

Better passage in the evening, totals overhead were c.40 Swallow three House Martin and a Swift.

Wildlife news: a helice Clouded Yellow, Painted Lady and Red Admiral. Two Bottle-nosed Dolphin were a long way offshore.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Saturday 1st August

Both high tides received coverage and yesterday's adult summer-plumage Curlew Sandpiper was present on the morning tide only. Another Green Sandpiper rose from the estuary early morning and departed south. An impressive 11+ were seen at one site at the top end of the estuary this morning. Other waterbird counts in the estuary were 570 Oystercatcher, 376 Curlew, 182 Canada Goose departed from roost shortly after dawn; 142 Redshank, 118 Dunlin, including a plain orange and yellow coded '4U3' from Wales; also 57 Whimbrel, 67 Ringed Plover, including a metal Norwegian-ringed individual, 12 Mute Swan, ten Greenshank, eight Great Black-backed Gullfive Little Egretfive Bar-tailed Godwit, three Knot, three Common Sandpiper, a Turnstone, a Mallard, an adult Grey Heron and the Slavonian Grebe. Along the railway embankment were two Stock Dove.
Welsh-ringed Dunlin - Lee Collins

The wader island aka 'woodhenge' hosted 72
Sandwich Tern, including a yellow colour-ringed Irish individual; four Common Tern, again an all-red billed bird were present, and presumably yesterday's adult Roseate Tern present on the morning tide only.

Along the beach tideline 27 Sanderling and some of today's 20 Mediterranean Gull (3 juvs, 2 fs, 1ss, 14 adult) accompanied 305 Black-headed Gull, as did two Common Gull. And as the tide ebbed further to expose Pole Sands, Bull Hill and and mudflats, c.1685 Herring Gull descended to loaf.

Just 13 Gannet offshore, nine Common Scoter and three Manx Shearwater offshore. In the early evening at this of the year, Kittiwake return with prey from their daily commute hunting out at sea to feed their near fledged young at the Straight Point colony. It's not uncommon for skuas to exploit this opportunity, so can be a good time of day to look out for them but can be distant and whilst a dark phase Arctic Skua was identified, another skua harrying a Kittiwake was either Pomarine or Arctic.

The pair of Mute Swan with their two cygnets and a Little Grebe were on the Main Pond; at least a dozen Reed Warbler, including young were still being fed on this and at other ponds on site.

Overhead, ten Swift, nine Swallow, two House Martin, an unseasonal Golden Plover and a Yellow Wagtail. Two of four Raven flew SW and nine of the 13 Lesser Black-backed Gull seen today flew south in the first obvious autumn movement of this species.

A mixed feeding flock boosted numbers in the bushes where counts were of 19 Blue Tit, 15 Chiffchaff, 12 Stonechat, nine Blackcap, five Long-tailed Tit, four Whitethroat, three Willow Warbler, three Great Tit, three Collared Dove, two Sparrowhawk, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Song Thrush and remarkably still here, the juv Redstart first seen on 18th July.   

juv Redstart - Lee Collins


On Warren Point a single flock contained c.240 Starling and two Kestrel hovered overhead.

Wildlife news: a Red-tipped Clearwing Synanthedon formicaeformis a 'National Scarce B' was a new species for the site. Butterflies on the wing were one or two Red AdmiralClouded Yellow and Brown Argus, plus regular species GatekeeperCommon Blue and Small White.  One of the two Emperor Dragonfly hunted behind the hide.

Red-tipped Clearwing Synanthedon formicaeformis - Alan Keatley

Friday, 31 July 2020

Friday 31st July

BirdTrack can be set up at the behest of County Recorders to highlight unusual species and counts in red, to flag potential clerical errors and requirement of further details. Given the site's prominence, receiving four red 'warnings' among a day's species list is frequent, but today there were six; it was a good day.

Even in the humid, cloudless sky and bright sunshine, with the tide well retreated, waders were audibly and visibly on the move early morning and the highlight was a Green Sandpiper that called a few times from the estuary corner as it flew off over the the site south; the second record of the year.

Cloud built through the day and light rain coincided with the early evening tide. As reported before, Dawlish Warren can really perform if its rains and this was no exception with a remarkable double of a summer-plumaged Curlew Sandpiper and a summer-plumaged Little Stint in The Bight. The last time these species were seen here in July was back in 2012 and 2005, respectively; this being only the 9th Little Stint in July and the last time both species were seen together here in July was in 1987.

adult Curlew Sandpiper - Lee Collins

Wader counts were 586 Oystercatcher, 389 Curlew, 218 Redshank, 53 Whimbrel, 35 Sanderling, 32 Ringed Plover, 20 Dunlin, eight Greenshank, six Bar-tailed Godwit, two Knot and a single Turnstone. That's 1,353 waders of 14 wader species.

Only about 55 Sandwich Tern on 'woodhenge', these included remaining Irish and South African ringed individuals. With them, six Common Tern including a second all red billed bird,  and an adult unringed Roseate Tern - another new bird. The Slavonian Grebe was again with up to 11 Mute Swan in the estuary. And a Kingfisher flew over the golf course.

A flying ant swarm in front of the rain attracted at least 200 Black-headed Gull, five Mediterranean Gull and 84 Swift. Earlier eight Swallow, three Raven and one House Martin flew through.   

A flock of 66 House Sparrow foraged in the Buffer Zone. Warblers in the woods and bushes included ten Blackcap, seven Whitethroat, six Chiffchaff and three Willow Warbler  and a Garden Warbler.  Also present, ten Stonechat, five Blue Tit, also five Collared Dove including the usual pair, again perched on their favorite dead Elder branch. Also three Long-tailed Tit, two Great Tit and two Bullfinch. Single Sparrowhawk with one less Blackbird, a Kestrel and one each of Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Flocks totaling at least 90 Linnet and smaller number of Greenfinch and Goldfinch foraged on the dune grasslands and among herbaceous plants, where on Warren Point the year's first Grasshopper Warbler was reported. There are only two previous July records.

Wildlife news: a Silver-washed Fritillary near the Main Pond is a rare sighting here.

Thursday 30th July

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Typical counts of an expected range of species in the woods and bushes today with nine Blackcap, five plus Stonechat, five Chiffchaff, two Willow Warbler, two Whitethroat and the pair of Collared Dove. Also 13 Skylark on Warren Point.

Blackcap - Alan Keatley

On and around the Main Pond, some Mallard and Moorhen, adult Reed Warbler continued to feed fledged young; the pair of Mute Swan with their two cygnets, and a lingering fledged Little Grebe.

Along the beach, 29 Sanderling with a few Dunlin.  Also three Mediterranean Gull (two adult, one juv) and a Common Gull mixed in with Black-headed Gull along the tideline. Due to the low tide, no other representative wader counts were possible.

Wildlife news: in the warm sunshine nectaring on flowering Water Mint, Buddleia, Hemp-agrimony, Bramble and anything else spared by the mowers were lots of Gatekeeper, several Common Blue, Speckled Wood, Small White, Large White, three Clouded Yellow, and fresh Painted Lady and singles of Red Admiral and Peacock.
Painted Lady - Alan Keatley

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Wednesday 29th July

A search of the bushes and ponds this morning discovered a typical range of species for this time of the year with 20 Blackcap the highest count of the year so far and the largest ever count here in July.  Autumn passage for this species typically picks up quickly in Aug and peaks in Sep, as illustrated in the chart below of averaged max counts (which is differentof course, from a single max count throughout time).


Also present, 18 Chiffchaff, nine Whitethroat, five Willow Warbler, five Blue Tit, three Great Tit, two Long-tailed Tit, the resident pair of Collared Dove, and single Great Spotted WoodpeckerGreen WoodpeckerSparrowhawk and a Kestrel. Notables were a Garden Warbler and a Sedge Warbler. Some of the five or more Reed Warbler included juveniles and were quite high in the willow canopy.  Elder birders may recall, with affection, reliance on the ground breaking field guide "The Shell Guide", as it was known.  The plate of plain 'acros' and regular 'hippos' was widely discussed among birders at the time due to portrayed Melodious Warbler as superficially resembling juvenile Reed Warbler, and was said to have been partly responsible for a number of dubious claims of 'hippo' in the 1980s, when they were actually in truth also more regular visitors to Britain.  In any case, juvenile Reed Warbler can especially become a pitfall when, as today, they leave reed-beds to forage more productively as foliar gleaners.   

p.211 of 'The Shell Guide to the Birds of Britain and Ireland' (1983).  

In bushes around the main car park, 60+ House Sparrow emerged from roost. On the Main Pond, 13 Mallard (plus ducklings), the pair of Mute Swan (plus two cygnets), some Moorhen and an immature Little Grebe.  Seven Swift flew south.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Tuesday 28th July

An early morning search of the bushes found the 17 Chiffchaff, ten Blackcap, seven Willow Warbler, five Blue Tit, four Whitethroat, some Long-tailed Tit, two Great Tit, a pair of Collared Dove, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Sparrowhawk, a Kestrel and a visiting group found a Redstart. A 

The group remained for the neap lunchtime tide to record a flock of Sanderling, and among the roosting flock of Sandwich Tern, at least a couple of Common Tern and a Roseate Tern.