Tuesday 31 December 2019

2019 Wildlife Review: Birds

A total of 183 species were recorded on site this year with 35 species confirmed breeding including Stonechat, Little Grebe and three pairs of Cirl Bunting.

The annual total was the lowest in 20 years, continuing the recent decline, however 2019 wasn't without its highlights with one new species for the Recording Area and two new site record counts Black-tailed Godwit (976 in Nov) and Cirl Bunting (12 in Nov). 

Cirl Bunting - Simon Thurgood

Unfortunately counts of many other species are going in the opposite direction numbers of wintering birds in continuing decline. Migrants were generally in low numbers with just one Redstart, two Cuckoo, four Tree Pipit, five Garden Warbler and five Spotted Flycatcher

Omissions from the year list included Little Stint, for the first time since 1971, Short-eared Owl, Black-throated Diver, Jack Snipe and the now expected absences of Coot, Red-necked Grebe, Dartford Warbler and Spotted Redshank. Other species that appeared in lower than usual numbers included Storm Petrel, Gadwall, Avocet, Black Tern and Brambling.

Black Tern - Lee Collins

Rarities included the 1st site record of Long-billed Dowitcher, the 3rd Glossy Ibis, 4th & 5th records of Cattle Egret, 4th Red-rumped Swallow, 6th Caspian Gull, 8th Stone-curlew10th Cetti's Warbler and 12th Marsh Tit

Long-billed Dowitcher - Luke Harman

A total of 76 species were recorded in good conditions on the 1st, the highlights including overwintering Cetti's Warbler and Firecrest as well as Herbert, the only Slavonian Grebe of the winter. 

Offshore Great-crested Grebe peaked at 80 late month with an immature Velvet Scoter present from the 10th and the year's only Black-necked Grebe late month. Elsewhere Brent Geese rarely reached three figures, 80 Pied Wagtail roosted in the Golf Course Pond and a Woodcock was a surprise find on the Car Park Roundabout on the 13th. 

Shoveler - Alan Keatley


Overnight snow saw a small scale cold weather movement on the 1st with 183 Skylark and 62 Fieldfare heading west, followed by 1856 Lapwing the next morning, the fourth highest site count. The Cetti's Warbler and Velvet Scoter remained throughout the month. Elsewhere five Gadwall south on the 14th turned out to be the only record of the year, also offshore a peak of 55 Red-throated Diver with the first Sandwich Tern of the year on the 27th.

Red Kite - Alan Keatley

The last day of the month saw the third Glossy Ibis for the Warren drift overhead with a Red Kite also taking advantage of the balmy early Spring conditions. 


Three Egyptian Geese flew over on the 1st, the site's 15th record with a Pomarine Skua south the next day and the year's only two Spoonbill, again in flight only, on the 5th. A Red-legged Partridge on Warren Point early in the month was no doubt a released bird but matched the vagrancy window for the site. 

Red-legged Partridge - Lee Collins

The first migrants arrived on the 9th with two Swallow and a Sand Martin, the earliest and second earliest records respectively. The first Wheatear didn't make landfall until the 17th.

A Barnacle Goose arrived with a flock of 15 Pale-bellied Brent Geese on the 22nd, then joining up with a few remaining Dark-bellied Brent Geese for a couple of days.

Pale-bellied Brent and Barnacle Goose - Alan Keatley

Another arrival of migrants late in the month saw an early Yellow Wagtail overhead on 28th, the first Willow Warbler on 30th and the first Osprey and the year's only Redstart the next day.


A second Osprey and two Little Ringed Plover arrived on the 1st with one of the year's highlights on the 2nd, a Red-rumped Swallow feeding around the Main Pond for several hours, the fourth Warren record. 

 Red-rumped Swallow - Dave Land

Red-rumped Swallow - Lee Collins

Osprey were a regular feature early in the month with the earliest ever Little Tern alongside two Common Tern on the 6th and an early Arctic Tern on the 9th. Five more Arctic Tern but just one Little Tern arrived during the month. 

Merlin and Hobby coincidentally arrived on the 14th with a Puffin the previous day. Foggy conditions on the 19th dropped in a typically brief Pied Flycatcher and smart male Black Redstart with a Tree Pipit overhead. The Black Redstart was still present the next day with the first three Whitethroat of the year.

The Warren's 16th Great White Egret flew east offshore on the 22nd with another fall of migrants on the 24th including a Grasshopper Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Whinchat and the site's latest ever Fieldfare. The only Garden Warbler of the Spring arrived on the final day of the month.

Fieldfare - Lee Collins


A very quiet month with migrants in short supply but three Whinchat, single Cuckoo and Spotted Flycatcher arrived early in the month. The only Avocet of the year was an unseasonal arrival on the 17th, with four Cattle Egret north the next day, the fourth site record. Terns were also largely absent with just a single Arctic Tern on the 29th and a complete blank for Common Tern for the first May ever.

Dunlin - Alan Keatley

Two more Spotted Flycatcher and a Yellow Wagtail arrived later in the month with a Mistle Thrush over on the 22nd perhaps the first sign of post-breeding movement. A pair of Tufted Duck offshore on the 25th were also unseasonal.


Puffin flew south on the 2nd along with only the third Little Tern of spring. The same day saw a Nuthatch circling the Bight before dropping into bushes behind the hide, a flock of 38 Long-tailed Tit, the largest count on site since November 1985 and an unseasonal Kingfisher at the Main Pond.

Long-tailed Tit - Alan Keatley

An Osprey on the 6th was only the fourth June record, but all since 2011, with Storm Miguel producing the first of just three Storm Petrel for the year the next day. The month's highlight was a Marsh Tit in Dead Dolphin Wood on the 14th, the first since 2010 and only the 12th site record. A summer plumaged Golden Plover on the Golf Course on the 17th was the first June record in 15 years.

Breeding records included three pairs of Cirl Bunting, although two of the nest sites have since been removed, two pairs of Little Grebe and Stonechat with Reed Warbler holding territory in all four ponds.

Little Grebe - Alan Keatley


The start of the month saw the first dispersing juvenile Sandwich Tern, Black-headed and Mediterranean Gull move through and the first Oystercatcher project birds returning for the winter.

The first of the month's six juvenile Yellow-legged Gull arrived on the 9th. Tern and wader numbers started to build with six Arctic Tern on the 19th and the first of six Roseate Tern the next day. Despite the low numbers a welcome increase on 2018.

Roseate Tern (ringed at Rockabill, Dublin) - Lee Collins

An Osprey was present intermittently at the end of the month with two juvenile Lapwing on the 27th the first July record since 2013. Offshore a Pomarine and several Arctic Skua chased the increasing tern flocks and the first two Balearic Shearwater of the year flew south.

Lapwing - Alan Keatley


A juvenile Ruff on the 1st was the first of the year but was eclipsed the next day when the Warren's sixth Stone-curlew was found roosting with Oystercatcher on Finger Point.

Stone-curlew - Lee Collins

A Marsh Tit also on the 2nd was presumed to be the bird first seen in June. This time it was seen again the next day when a juvenile Black Tern started a week long stay.

Two summer storms on the 9th & 10th produced 38 Balearic Shearwater, 18 Arctic Skua and two Storm Petrel with 13 more Balearic Shearwater later in the month.

A Wood Sandpiper was in front of the hide on the 14th with a juvenile Roseate Tern there two days later. Up to three juvenile Curlew Sandpiper were present from the 28th with five Little Ringed Plover during the month.

Little Ringed Plover - Lee Collins

The first fall of the Autumn occurred on the 24th with single Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler amongst other migrants with two Lesser Whitethroat and a Whinchat the next day. The last few days of the month saw single Spotted Flycatcher and Lesser Whitethroat in the bushes with a Tree Pipit overhead.


The change of month saw a distinct change in season with the first five Wigeon of the autumn flying in off the sea, but with the exception of a couple of Curlew Sandpiper in remained quiet.

Curlew Sandpiper - Alan Keatley 

A juvenile Purple Sandpiper with Dunlin in the estuary on the 8th was still present the next day when a Garganey was with Teal in the saltmarsh. Other migrants were limited until the 14th when 31 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, a Whinchat, a Sedge Warbler and an Osprey arrived. A Quail flushed the next day was only the second Recording Area sighting following the first in May 1967. This run continued with a Wryneck on Warren Point on the 16th. 

Sedge Warbler - Alan Keatley

Mid month saw another Lesser Whitethroat and the fifth 
Spotted Flycatcher of the year with 2019's first Sooty Shearwater on the 23rd. Seawatching on the 26th also saw 77 Balearic Shearwater and a site record 2160 Gannet head south. 

The same day saw 500 Meadow Pipit overhead with the first Siskin and Mistle Thrush arriving in the following days and the year's first Little Gull offshore on the 29th.


The 10th site Cetti's Warbler was found on the 4th, lingering into November. A Great White Egret flew inland over the spit on the 8th with the first Long-billed Dowitcher for the Warren present during the afternoon and evening on the 10th. This bird arrived at Bowling Green Marsh on 26th September and remains into 2020. Nice of the north end to share a rarity for once!

 Long-billed Dowitcher - Alan Keatley

Long-billed Dowitcher - Luke Harman

Seawatching the next day saw a rare four skua day with single Great and Long-tailed Skua south with 17 Arctic and three Pomarine Skua. The 12th saw another first for the Warren with a Siberian Lesser Whitethroat in the Entrance Bushes, unlike the Dowitcher it remained the next day. 

 Siberian Lesser Whitethroat (blythi) - Lee Collins

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat (blythi) - Luke Harman

Vis mig was relatively slow but the ninth Richard's Pipit flew through on the 19th with 381 Jackdaw, and the third Great White Egret of the year headed south the next day. The first big Wood Pigeon movement was on the 21st with 3,351 overhead along with 859 Jackdaw, the second highest site count and 412 Stock Dove, the fifth highest count.

Scarcities included a Black Redstart was along the seawall on 24th, a Sooty Shearwater on the 26th, a brief Hoopoe, the 19th record, three Pochard and a Little Gull on the 30th and five Greylag Geese on the 31st, a day of noticeable wildfowl movement. These were all however eclipsed by a site record 12 Cirl Bunting.

Slavonian Grebe - Lee Collins  Herbert, the resident spent a 13th year on the estuary. 


The start of the month saw a couple of Firecrest and Merlin on site, with a late Wheatear and Black Redstart on the beach and a Goosander circling offshore on the 2nd. 

Scandinavian Rock Pipit - Alan Keatley . This bird was ringed in on 6th March 2019 on Giske, Møre & Romsdal, Norway, 1,440 km to the NNE.

Vis Mig picked up again from the 3rd but finches still remained virtually absent. around 70,000 Wood Pigeon flew west in the next four days with over 1000 Jackdaw.

Offshore the first Little Auk since 2015 was close in on the 6th with the only Long-tailed Duck of the year on the 8th and the first migrant Slavonian Grebe since March 2017 the next day.

Little Auk - Jo King

A Snow Bunting was overhead on the 17th, the same day the third Black Redstart of the autumn arrived. The sixth Caspian Gull for the Warren, a first winter, sheltered from southeasterly gales on Finger Point on the 20th. 

The end of the month saw both the exposure of the 2017 Geotube sea defences and a new record tally of Black-tailed Godwit in Shutterton Creek with 976 counted on the 29th. This is almost double the previous peak of 512 in December 1984, the majority of the wintering population on the Exe. 



The year ended on a quiet note with reduced numbers of wintering birds and scarcities limited to 19 Fieldfare and two Lapwing overhead in cold weather on the 1st, a late or overwintering Whimbrel on the 2nd and a Goosander on the 23rd.

High numbers of Snipe were a feature of late month with at least 285 counted on the 22nd and four Cattle Egret, the fifth site record, were reported mid month. 

Golden Plover - Lee Collins

Happy New Year. Many thanks to all those who share their sightings with Recording Group. Good birding to all for 2020.

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