Saturday, 19 September 2020

Saturday 19th September

Apart from a spell mid afternoon, birding spanned from dawn to dusk on a day that  started overcast in a chilly northerly, which at this time of the year can be good for early overhead passage.  The most notable and highest count of the year was 109 Siskin northeast. Also on the move, 70+ House Martin, 30+ Swallow, ten Meadow Pipit, two Buzzard, a Grey Wagtail (plus another in The Bight) and a Rook.

A single feeding flock contained the majority of warblers and tits, totals were 14 Long-tailed Tit, seven Chiffchaff, two Blackcap. Also present two Great Spotted Woodpecker; the pair of Collared Dove and a vocal Coal Tit. Other notables were a Stock Dove, a Wheatear; and other selected counts were 68 Starling, 60 Goldfinch, 50+ Linnet; also six Stonechat, three Cirl Bunting, two Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk.

Both tides were covered and the spring tide tonight (about 9 p.m.) at 4.4 metres predicted for the Exmouth Docks gauge will be a really big one. The Environment Agency's 'sand-sausage', the last line of defence to prevent a sea breach of the spit, is perilously exposed and vulnerable. The near future is looking ominous unless remedial measures are implemented quickly. The Bight, now protected by only a narrow neck of the spit, continues to support large numbers of roosting waterbirds, where today (at points in time) were found most of the 1,063 Oystercatcher, 211 Dunlin including a diminutive arctica type; 78 Knot, c.50 Ringed Plover, 41 Great Black-backed Gull, 21 Cormorant, 16 Pale-bellied Brent Goose (accompanied by two Dark-bellied Brent Goose); seven Grey Plover and six Sandwich Tern.T Along the beach were 10 Sanderling.

In the estuary corner, the saltmarsh and beside the railway, 353 Curlew, 329 Redshank, 160 Wigeon, 155 Black-headed Gull, 148 Canada Goose dropped briefly in the evening; 71 Teal, 31 Bar-tailed Godwit, 22 Mute Swan, 13 Shelduck, 13 Pintail included those that flew in off the sea; 12 Mediterranean Gull (9 ad, 1 sw, 2 fw); six Greenshank, four Turnstone, four Common Snipe, two Great Crested Grebe, two Black-tailed Godwit, 'Herbert' the Slavonian Grebe, an imm/♀ Eider, a Whimbrel, a Kingfisher, and yesterday's returning unpleasantness that could be a Wigeon x Pintail hybrid.

Wildflife news: a fresh Wall butterfly sunned itself on the dunes; also a few Large White, Small White, Meadow Brown and a Red Admiral.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Tuesday 15th September

High cloud cover and clement conditions saw a step-change in 'vis-mig', but encumbered by low elevation at this site, observers could only speculate as to the identity of many dots that passed many hundreds of metres overhead. Ambient noise is another issue at Dawlish Warren and can be so unpleasant as to force birders off the site. Resilience was rewarded with an Osprey high south; the first Lesser Redpoll of the year; the autumn's first Chaffinch and Tree Pipit; also 25+ Meadow Pipit (many more likely at altitude), eight Swallow, two Grey Wagtail, two Grey Heron high south and a Rook.

In the bushes six Chiffchaff, four Blackcap and a Whitethroat, plus the expected notable residents - the pair of Collared Dove, two Great Spotted Woodpecker, and a Bullfinch, and irregular visitors from the mainland - a Coal Tit and a Green Woodpecker. Around Greenland Lake (Note to new readers: it's not a lake) the finch flock grew again to hold 67 Goldfinch and seven Greenfinch. Also three Cirl Bunting. In the evening as the last golfers departed, 80+ Linnet, a dozen Pied Wagtail, a Wheatear and a brighty-coloured male Yellow Wagtail foraged the 6th and 7th fairways; then towards dusk, 70 Starling descended to roost in the adjacent Golf Course Pond sallows.

Offshore just a few Gannet and a Great Crested Grebe.

The evening tide saw in the estuary corner 85 Wigeon and 79 Teal; three Snipe lifted from the golf course saltmarsh; the Railway Saltmarsh supported a three-figure count of Redshank, 210 Curlew, 12 Little Egret, four adult Mediterranean Gull, two Greenshank, a Common Gull and another Grey Heron; also in the estuary 25 Mute Swan and the resident Slavonian Grebe.  On the wader island posts stood six Sandwich Tern, and elsewhere, particularly around The Bight and along the beach were most of the 760+ Oystercatcher, 240+ Dunlin, 125 Ringed Plover, 116 Black-headed Gull, 60+ Knot, 27 Sanderling, 22 Great Black-backed Gull, 21 Bar-tailed Godwit, six Turnstone, three Little Stint, a Whimbrel also the Common Scoter roosted on Finger Point.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Monday 14th September

The only records today were from a brief jaunt around the bushes first thing where interest was in short supply. A mixed flock contained 14 Long-tailed Tit; only four Chiffchaff and two Blackcap, and singles of Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Bullfinch. Roaming flocks of finches contained upward of 52 Goldfinch. Overhead passed nine Meadow Pipit and single Grey Wagtail and Siskin.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Sunday 13th September

Calm and clear, observations from after a couple of hours from first light only caught what was suspected to be the last vestiges of overhead passage with modest totals of 20+ Meadow Pipit, five Swallow, two Siskin and a Grey Wagtail.

Usually more grounded migrants leave than arrive at this site in such conditions and five each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, four Wheatear, two Whitethroat and a Goldcrest were unimpressive, but about as expected. Selected counts of other passerines were 106 Starling, 47 Goldfinch, nine Stonechat, six Skylark, three Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Raven and a Bullfinch.

Warm inviting sunshine and the eve of tighter pandemic-related social gathering restrictions were likely factors that drew out large numbers of visitors to the site whom engaged in all manner of unchallenged land and water-borne activities.  Waterbirds that attempted to find refuge in less disturbed areas to roost
, and not always successfully, during the mid-afternoon neap tide were c.450 Oystercatcher, 330 Redshank, 195 Black-headed Gull, 142 Curlew, 111 Ringed Plover, 93 Knot, 73 Dunlin, 59 Teal, 47 Wigeon, 47 Great Black-backed Gull, 29 Bar-tailed Godwit, 22 Mute Swan, 21 Cormorant, 19 Sanderling, six Lesser Black-backed Gull, four Little Egret, four adult Mediterranean Gull, three Turnstone, two Greenshank, the long-staying male Common Scoter and only one Sandwich Tern.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

Saturday 12th September

Numbers of waterbirds present can be adversely affected by the behaviour of watercraft that stray from, or speed above the legal limit navigating in and out Eales Dock.  Particularly reprehensible behaviour today did just that with no Wigeon and only 14 Teal present in the estuary corner.  Apart from four Pale-bellied Brent Goose, a sw Yellow-legged Gull and a notable count of 12 Greenshank, other counts and species were not unexpected and included 360 Redshank, 144 Curlew, 97 Knot, 63 Dunlin, 36 Ringed Plover, 25 Mute Swan, 21 Bar-tailed Godwit, 18 Cormorant, 17 Little Egret, 16 Great Black-backed Gull, eight Sanderling, four Mediterranean Gull, four Sandwich Tern, two Common Gull, also single Turnstone, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, the resident Slavonian Grebe, the long-staying, moulting Common Scoter; and a Kingfisher flew across The Bight.

Overhead 13 Siskin flew west but otherwise only three Grey Wagtail, two Meadow Pipit and later a Buzzard flew over. In the woodland and scrubby areas, 16 Long-tailed Tit, eight Blackcap, six Whitethroat, five Chiffchaff, two each of Willow Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Bullfinch and Cirl Bunting. Also today, two Wheatear, two Kestrel and a Raven.

Wildlife news: another new bee species for the reserve, an Orange-legged Furrow Bee Halictus rubicundus, a relatively common and widespread species.

Orange-legged Furrow Bee Halictus rubicundus - Alan Keatley

Great Green Bush-cricket - Alan Keatley

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Sunday 6th September

This, the 250th day of the calendar year, was noteworthy for a series of scarcer bird sightings that was assisted by a larger than usual contingent of birdwatchers to the site today.  A Wryneck flushed from a path at 08:50 just beyond Dune Pond promptly disappeared and when later re-discovered near the middle of Greenland Lake, it was mobile and soon made its way along bushes beside the Back Path, unusually sometimes perched atop to look around, then lost behind Dead Dolphin Wood and unfortunately for those that twitched it, was not seen again.  This was approximately the 27th individual here since 2001 (elusive long-stayers the pop up days between sightings complicate the estimate) with 2004 & 2009 the last blank years.  With three Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Green Woodpecker  present, this was a 'three woodpecker day'; [Lesser Spotted Woodpecker has never been recorded on site].

This was not the main target for everyone that twitched the site; a Nuthatch that repeatedly called from trees behind Crocus Compound was, again unfortunately for others that twitched it, also not seen or heard again.  Less than annual, there have possibly been fewer individuals here than Wryneck (individuals that periodically return to site from the mainland complicate the estimate) and since 2001 there have been five blank years. Most records here occur between late-April to mid-October.

Its appearance coincided with the arrival of a large mixed roaming flock of c.20 Blue Tit, c.14 Long-tailed Tit, two Great Tit and some warblers, with site totals of those being eight Chiffchaff, five Whitethroat, three Blackcap, and a Sedge Warbler.  There were also roaming flocks of 107 Starling, 70+ Linnet, 31 Goldfinch, 20+ Greenfinch; also present eight Stonechat, four Cirl Bunting, a Wheatear and a White Wagtail with the Pied Wagtails.

A flock of 13 Pale-bellied Brent Goose briefly in The Bight, later seen off Powderham, were the first of the autumn. A flock of 54 Wigeon flew in off the sea but other than single figures of Gannet and Common Scoter, nothing else of note was offshore.

On the high tide, the best of WeBS and other available counts were 750+ Oystercatcher, 335 Redshank, 332 Dunlin, 132 Ringed Plover, 27 Knot, 24 Mute Swan, 24 Great Black-backed Gull, 23 Cormorant, 13 Little Egret, nine Greenshank and also nine each of Turnstone and Bar-tailed Godwit on the beach where also 20 Sanderling ran about on the dropping tide; also seven Sandwich Tern, a Whimbrel, and the Slavonian Grebe.

A Hobby passed straight through west; up to 45 Swallow, six Grey Wagtail, three Meadow Pipit, two House Martin flew northeast; and a Yellow Wagtail flew southwest.

On the Main Pond, seven Teal, seven Mallard, some Moorhen and a Little Grebe.

Wildlife news: single figures of Common Darter, Migrant Hawker, Emperor Dragonfly and brief views of what were likely to be Blue-tailed Damselfly.  Another Wall flew along the dune ridge, one Red Admiral and the usual range of regular species were on the wing between the heavy downpours. 

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Saturday 5th September

Intermittent warm sunny and cool dull spells prompted a number of exchanges between sun-hat and woolly hat. The day's birdlife also had a late autumn feel. Searches of wooded areas and scrub revealed only an expected range of species, including 12+ Long-tailed Tit, 11 Blue Tit, eight Chiffchaff, four each of Blackcap, Whitethroat and Willow Warbler, two Great Tit, a Sparrowhawk, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, the exception was a count of six Collared Dove, the highest count on site since Nov 2017.  The railway line is a hard site boundary to delineate from birds that reside on the mainland and Collared Dove seen in the village should be reported (e.g. to DBWPS) as 'Dawlish Warren village'.

Some gregarious species continued to grow in numbers with 81 Goldfinch 
and 28 Greenfinch being the biggest counts of the year so far; also c.70 Linnet and c.60 Starling present.  Most of the eight Wheatear noted were on the golf course.

Attempts to count the hundreds of Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank and Dunlin, and the tens of Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot were dashed by a the presence of birds-of-prey rather than by tourists today; an adult Peregrine snatched a Ringed Plover from above the beach and scattered small waders that were roosting beyond groyne 9; three Kestrel were over Warren Point and elsewhere, and the final straw that pushed most waders to abandon the site altogether was a juvenile Osprey that cruised over Warren Point at c.11:00, drifted southwest down to Dawlish Warren village then turned north to follow the wooded ridge-line. This was perhaps the same bird seen later around Powderham.

The only wader count was of 41 Sanderling along the beach, and of the gulls there were 24 Great Black-backed Gull, 16 Common Gull and six Mediterranean Gull

Rain on more days than not over the past month has risen water levels on ponds and saw the welcome return of a Little Grebe to the Main Pond (last seen on 1st August), joined by eight Teal, a few Moorhen and a Mallard

verhead northeast passed 60+ Swallow, some House Martin and a Sand Martin, also three each of Meadow Pipit and Siskin, two species not recorded here since the spring, and three Grey Wagtail.

Wildlife news: apologies are in order, a dragonfly initially identified as a Lesser Emperor was later retracted and relabeled (for now) as an emperor Anax sp.  Also present single figures of Southern Hawker, Migrant Hawker and Common Darter. A Wall was the first in months, otherwise regular butterflies in the form of Common Blue, Small Copper, Small White, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown; and also a Red Admiral. A few Silver Y flew out from the meadows. A Lesser Hornet Hoverfly Volucella inanis, not to be confused with its larger and more familiar relative V. zonaria, was again on flowering Water Mint Metha aquatica around Crocus Compound.

A frenetic Stoat was 'squeaked' out from hunting in bushes along the Back Path

Wall - Alan Keatley
Stoat - Alan Keatley

Not wildlife news: a Spitfire twice passed overhead and still anchored inshore between Teignmouth and Hope's Nose, the luxury Cunard liner 'Queen Mary II' (345 metres length), and P&O's sister cruise liners 'Ventura' and 'Azura' (both 289 metres in length).

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Tuesday 1st September

Both the morning and evening high tides received cover, and at least on the evening tide, a timely pause to appear as a sentinel silhouette with a big telephone up high on the dune ridge added enough disincentive to a number of dog-walkers from passing the row of big warning signs along groyne 9, at a time when hundreds of mixed small waders, plus unusually  Bar-tailed Godwit, foraged frenetically along the shoreline beyond that point.  There was plenty of beach up to groyne 9 for all to enjoy on what was a beautiful day.

There was a noticeable swell to c.975 Oystercatcher and the best of other counts were 403 Dunlin, 255 Curlew, 198 Redshank, 109 Ringed Plover, 59 Canada Goose, 52 Knot, 41 Great Black-backed Gull, 23 Sanderling, 20 Bar-tailed Godwit, 15 Wigeon, ten Mute Swan, only seven Sandwich Tern, six Turnstone, some Greenshank, three Shelduck, three Curlew Sandpiper, three Little Egret, two Grey Heron, two Teal, the reliably sedentary Slavonian Grebe; the juv Little Stint again and the male Common Scoter was asleep with the Oystercatcher flock on Finger Point.  

An Arctic Skua approached close enough to photograph; other noted migrants were 16 Swallow, seven Chiffchaff, three Wheatear, two Whitethroat and singles of Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail and White Wagtail.

On the Main Pond toward dusk, the snowy white plumaged Aylesbury Duck roosted with regular Mallard.

Great Spotted Woodpecker - Dave Jewell

Monday, 31 August 2020

Bank Holiday Monday 31st August

A reasonable tally of 72 species were recorded today. The woods, scrub and reed-beds supported 12 Chiffchaff, six Blackcap, five Whitethroat, two Reed Warbler, single Great Spotted Woodpecker, Collared Dove and Sparrowhawk; at least 70 House Sparrow emerged from a shrubby roost next to the main car park and 60 Starling roamed the site, as well as did c.60 Linnet, 16 Goldfinch, ten Stonechat, six plus Greenfinch and four Cirl Bunting.

Overhead, mostly of movement northeast involved c.30 Swallow, 16 House Martin, two Sand Martin and three Grey Wagtail.  Also three Buzzard drifted over during the hottest part of the day.

Along the beach were 37 Sanderling and out on the sandbars on the ebbing morning tide, c.1,425 Herring Gull, 17 Cormorant and 64 Sandwich Tern, of which a similar number returned in the evening and included the 2018 Ynyslas ringed bird KJB not seen here for a few weeks. On the evening tide arrived c.800 Oystercatcher, c.425 Dunlin including one arctica type, 289 Curlew, 237 Redshank, 179 Ringed Plover, 70+ Knot, 70+ Black-headed Gull, 30 Great Black-backed Gull, 18 Bar-tailed Godwit, 12 Teal, seven Greenshank, seven Little Egret, five Turnstone, three each of Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Gull and Mediterranean Gull; a juv Common Tern, a Shelduck, a Whimbrel, a Kingfisher, the Slavonian Grebe, a juv Curlew Sandpiper, a Common Sandpiper, a Grey Heron and yesterday's juv Little Stint still.
Offshore 22 Common Scoter plus the long-staying male still in the estuary; ten Gannet, a few Kittiwake and an immature Great Northern Diver.

Wildlife news; a Grey Seal offshore. One or two each of Clouded Yellow, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Sunday 30th August

On the rising tide around The Bight were 692 Oystercatcher, 409 Dunlin, 122 Ringed Plover, 73 Knot (the largest August count here since 2011), 35 Sandwich Tern, half of the eight Bar-tailed Godwit, eight Cormorant, seven Turnstone, six juv Curlew Sandpiper, four Sanderling, and four Snipe  oddly; also a juv Little Stint (only the 2nd record of the year), a juv Yellow-legged Gull and a juv Lesser Black-backed Gull.

A moulting adult Bar-tailed Godwit had multiple colour-rings and an orange-flag.  It was ringed as an adult at Réserve Naturelle de Moëze-Oléron, which is located about halfway down the Atlantic coast of France, on 16 May 2018.  The same bird was then frequently seen at Dawlish Warren 01 Jun - 08 Sep 2018.

On and near Railway Saltmarsh and in the estuary corner, 362 Curlew, 147 Redshank, 20 Mute Swan, ten Little Egret, six Greenshank, six Common Gull, four Mediterranean Gull, three Grey Heron, a Whimbrel and the Slavonian Grebe.

Other migrants noted today were at least 11 Swallow, six Wheatear and three Whitethroat.

Wildlife news: singles of Clouded Yellow, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Saturday 29th August

Temperatures tumbled to their lowest level this morning since early-July in a brisk north-northwesterly and there was little to whet the appetite waiting for the late afternoon high tide with only seven Chiffchaff, four Blackcap and single Willow Warbler and Whitethroat in scrub and wooded areas, plus the resident species with counts of c.70 Linnet, small numbers of Greenfinch and Goldfinch; also six Stonechat, four Skylark, four Raven and singles of Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Bullfinch.

The tide was worth the wait as two juv Ruff dropped into The Bight, the first record of the year, and three juv Curlew Sandpiper were mixed in with the 326 Dunlin, including two diminutive greyey looking arctica types; also 107 Ringed Plover, 40+ Knot and three Sanderling.

Aside from one over-estimate, counts of Oystercatcher this autumn have been a concern and over the next four weeks when annual maxima tend to occur, the true scale of decline will be revealed. A count of 690 Oystercatcher today is down to only quarter of numbers expected at this time in comparison to counts of the 1980s. Research continues to understand what the underlying drivers are.

Also around The Bight and in front of the still un-repaired hide, 47 Sandwich Tern, including KBV, an annual autumn visitor here since 2017, was ringed as an adult on the Dyfi Estuary, located on the mid-west Welsh coast; also 33 Great Black-backed Gull, 14 Cormorant, two Lesser Black-backed Gull, two Common Tern, a juv Yellow-legged Gull and a surprise dark-phase adult Arctic Skua that swooped at and chased the male Kestrel for a bit before heading back over the ridge and out to sea. Foraging in the glasswort sp Salicornia sp were four of today's six Wheatear and three overdue White Wagtail, the first record of the year.

On the rising tide along Shutterton Creek there was a three-figure count of Redshank and also in estuary corner at high tide were 188 Curlew, ten Greenshank, most of the ten Mediterranean Gull (2 ss, 8 adult), including white-ringed '3EXH', ringed as a pullus in the Oost-Vlaanderen region, Belgium in June 2013 and re-sighted at Dawlish Warren in July or August in six of the past seven years. Seven Whimbrel flew off SE leaving three behind.

A close in Common Scoter and less than 20 each of Gannet and Kittiwake were offshore. Just 12 Swallow and a House Martin overhead.

 Common Scoter - Alan Keatley

Wildlife news: sheltered sun traps attracted two Small Tortoiseshell, a Red Admiral, as well as good numbers of Speckled Wood, Small White, Large White, Common Blue, Meadow Brown and Small Copper. Notable were Black Mining Bee Andrena pilipes and White-zoned Furrow Bee Lasioglossum leucozonium. One of two Emperor Dragonfly, Migrant Hawker and a Southern Hawker.

Black mining bee Andrena pilipes - Alan Keatley

Small Tortoiseshell - Alan Keatley

Friday 28th August

During a visit in the afternoon to observe arrivals over the high tide, selected counts were 304 Dunlin, 142 Ringed Plover, 25 Sanderling, ten Greenshank, a juv Curlew Sandpiper and a Knot. Counts were interrupted at times by a hunting juvenile Peregrine.  Among the 51 Sandwich Tern present was a Spanish ringed bird not seen here for a number of weeks and a new individual ringed on the Farne Islands.  A glance off the seawall produced a Great Northern Diver and also noted on site three Wheatear

Timing of the visit was fortuitous to catch sight of the two Spoonbill as they left site and flew off south at 14:20. Initially it was assumed that these were the same two seen later from Berry Head, 15 km to the south of Dawlish Warren, in the "early afternoon", but subsequent inquiries revealed a more intriguing movement.  The sighting off Berry Head was of two Spoonbill heading strongly south at 12:36, so before the Dawlish Warren sighting.  Its not unreasonable for these birds to have simply changed their minds and returned instead of making a perilous journey over the open sea, theorising perhaps due to sensing a change in the weather conditions as rain did arrive in the region later the same day.  Clearest on one of the photos; see link (, both had black marks in the outer primaries, as did those at Dawlish Warren, but seemingly less black in those off Berry Head, so perhaps different birds; can't be certain. 

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Thursday 27th August

The two immature Spoonbill that have frequented the top end of the Exe Estuary since 19th August finally made it down to the site this evening, actively feeding along the shallows of Shutterton Creek swaying their bills side to side feeling on morsels to eat that included some small fish.  Foraging along the margins of the creek were 173 Redshank and two Greenshank. And oddly, one of this evening's two Wheatear was stood way out on the mudflats.

The clear fresh air and bright evening sunshine was in sharp contrast to the deluge earlier this afternoon and from early morning the menacing gloom impeded birding.  Persistence in wooded areas still managed counts of 14 Long-tailed Tit, ten Blue Tit, eight Great Tit, seven Blackcap, six Chiffchaff, two Willow Warbler and single Sparrowhawk and Great Spotted Woodpecker.   

Two Snipe flew over before the rain arrived and later in the wetness a juv Little Ringed Plover was in The Bight and 17 Sanderling were along the beach. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Tuesday 25th August

Storm Francis struck today and became the second named storm to hit this month.  Maximum gusts here topped 50 mph in the afternoon, with winds in the early morning from the SSE later veering W; the rain mostly stopped after 08:30. These conditions sound promising but in reality six hours of seawatching effort was poorly rewarded, much to the chagrin of observers learning of fantastic sightings elsewhere in Devon and Cornwall.  Possible reasons are that the storm was isolated and not preceded for long enough by persistent winds from the western quarter to push seabirds into the English Channel and Lyme Bay; and also Storm Francis took a quick left turn up the Irish Sea, instead of continuing on a trajectory straight along the Channel, which relatively few storms do. Dawlish Warren, geographically situated as it is, needs a particular set of conditions to perform and this was not in evidence today.  

That said, it's done a lot worse - counts were of 315 Kittiwake, 215+ mixed small wader flocks (Dunlin and Ringed Plover); c.105 Gannet, c.100 Sandwich Tern, 72 Common Tern (plus 4 'commic' tern), 56 Common Scoter, 15 Manx Shearwater, 13 Fulmar, 7 Arctic Tern, five Whimbrel, three Storm Petrel, a single Great Skua, plus a skua sp.; an immature Great Northern Diver and a Great Crested Grebe. Most birds flew south.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Sunday 23rd August

Present for its sixth day, the Melodious Warbler was again the highlight for a steady trickle of visitors and it performed well at times in its favoured area of brambles just beyond the timber-clad flood wall; it also twice uttered a sparrow-like chatter call.  A remark on Twitter from a visitor about the helpfulness of birders to each other to see this bird was widely applauded.  

The bushes received good coverage but no counts and no scarcer migrants were reported today. More remote parts of the reserve supported c.75 Linnet, eight Stonechat and three Wheatear. Overhead, only c.10 Swallow, two House Martin and single Sand Martin and Swift continued a poor run of hirundines this autum

The fresh westerly was not conducive to seawatching which only produced a few Gannet and Kittiwake, six distant Manx Shearwater, four Common Scoter (another remained in the estuary) and two Fulmar. Most of the 26 Lesser Black-backed Gull today were offshore and flew south.

During the high tide, as usual nearly all of the
 314 Curlew, 87 Redshank, 19 Mute Swan, 17 Whimbrel, 15 Mediterranean Gull, 14 Little Egret, 11 Greenshank, nine Bar-tailed Godwit, three Black-tailed Godwit and single Grey Heron and the Slavonian Grebe roosted on the Railway Saltmarsh or floated beside the railway embankment.  The 265 Dunlin, 145+ Ringed Plover, five Turnstone, ten Sanderling and three Knot were along the beach and in The Bight; as usual most of the 794 Oystercatcher, 26 Cormorant and c.20 Great Black-backed Gull roosted on Finger Point.  Perched on and around the posts of the 'wader island' were 42 Sandwich Tern and six Common Tern.  Also present were four mobile Common Sandpiper and a Green Sandpiper was reported calling as it flew over the site. As the sand-banks became exposed on the dropping tide, an impressive count of c.1,460 Herring Gull congregated before the kite-surfers then arrived.

Wildlife news: lots of Autumn Lady's-tresses still in flower in Crocus Compound and Greenland Lake.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Saturday 22nd August

The one-eyed Melodious Warbler attracted a trickle of admirers and for most showed well in its favoured brambles beside the Back Path just beyond the flood wall, ranging  from Crocus Compound to Dead Dolphin Wood and in sunny spells sometimes foraged quite high up in Hawthorn and Grey Willow bushes.  

Melodious Warbler - Alan Keatley

Also present, eight Chiffchaff, six Blackcapsix Stonechat, five Willow Warbler, five Whitethroat, four Cirl Bunting, two Sedge Warbler and a Garden Warbler. The now familiar sight of passerine flocks roaming around the site comprised of at least 50+ Linnet, 44 Starling, 25 Goldfinch and 17 Greenfinch; also three Wheatear.

A Snipe and a Short-eared Owl rose from the dunes at Warren Point, a welcome return after its absence in 2019 and this is the earliest autumn record here since one in July 1959 and is only the second ever in August.

There can be few places where folks clad appropriately in drab and camouflaged clothing with optics and cameras are mixed in with people dressed in swimwear, or in the case of one or two less modest individuals wearing nothing at all; and whilst some were oblivious, others focused their attention on the flocks of small waders running around everyone's feet frantically foraging along the tideline on what little space remains of the eroded beach.  The moment, between groyne 9 and 10, epitomized the world we now live in today. 

Waterbirds counted during the high tide period in the estuary were 355 Curlew, 310 Black-headed Gull, 239 Dunlin, 213 Ringed Plover, 41 Redshank, 30+ Great Black-backed Gull, 24 Cormorant including a sinensis race roosting on Finger Point; 20 Whimbrel, approx 20 Sanderling, 17 Sandwich Tern, 14 Mediterranean Gull, six Shag, five Bar-tailed Godwit, five Common Gull, four Little Egret, four Common Sandpiper, three Turnstone, three Knot, two Great Crested Grebe, two Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Grey Heron and a Greenshank.

Also present the resident Slavonian Grebe and its security contingent of ten Mute Swan.  The storm-wrecked drake Common Scoter remained in the estuary corner and off The Bight for its third day.  Nothing of note was seen offshore.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Tuesday 18th August

A Melodious Warbler along the Back Path was an unexpected highlight, the first Warren record since 1980 and the sixth record overall. It had a damaged left eye but seemed to be catching insect amongst the bramble were it showed well but was typically elusive at times. Other news was limited but other migrants included a Garden and two Willow Warbler.

Melodious Warbler - Luke Harman

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Sunday 16th August

A visit over the evening tide saw counts of 236 Dunlin, 215 Ringed Plover, 180 Redshank, 18 Whimbrel, 12 Bar-tailed Godwit, 10 Mediterranean Gull, eight Grey Plover and the Slavonian Grebe in the estuary. Other migrants included three Wheatear and a Swift

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Saturday 15th August

A damp overcast day with continuing signs of migration with the first Snipe of the autumn and two Teal in the estuary, along with 85 Ringed and a Little Ringed Plover, 39 Sanderling, eight Common Sandpiper, four Whimbrel and a Black-tailed Godwit. Other records included 32 Common Scoter offshore, a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, six Wheatear, two Willow Warbler and a Swift.

Friday, 14 August 2020

Friday 14th August

No sign of either Kentish Plover today but a noticable arrival of waders and even wildfowl with the first two Wigeon of the autumn. Apart from these the pick of the new arrivals was another Wood Sandpiper briefly in the Bight and three juvenile Little Ringed Plover. Counts from the estuary included 187 Ringed Plover, 141 Dunlin, 27 Sanderling, seven Mediterranean Gull, six Sandwich and five Common Tern, two Knot and the Slavonian Grebe. Passerine migrants were limited to seven Wheatear.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Thursday 13th August

The day's highlight was a fem/imm Kentish Plover found on the beach with Sanderling early morning and then promptly disappearing, before turning up with Ringed Plover and a second(!) on the mudflats mid evening. This rare migrant is a Warren speciality with over 100 records but is now considered a national rarity. Three of the five in the UK this year have been onsite!

Kentish Plover - Alan Keatley

Other records included 56 Ringed Plover, 51 Dunlin, 29 Sanderling, seven Turnstone, just seven Sandwich Tern, two Greenshank and the Slavonian Grebe

Wildlife News: Several Migrant Hawker on the wing with this mating pair at the Dune Pond. Other insects included the Hornet Hoverfly Volucella zonaria.

Migrant Hawker - Alan Keatley

Monday, 10 August 2020

Monday 10th August

Heavy showers in the morning brought only temporary relief from the high humidity and temperatures. Coinciding with the tide, may have been responsible for bringing down some  waders with increased counts in The Bight of 144 Ringed Plover and 126 Dunlin. Another Wood Sandpiper (the site's 42nd record) was again present only briefly. A meagre 15 Sandwich Tern and two adult Little Tern also.

An evening walk around wooded areas saw a mixed flock pass through that contained 12 Blue Tit, nine Long-tailed Tit, two Great Tit and single figures of Chiffchaff. Up to four Willow Warbler and a few Blackcap, a juvenile Bullfinch and a Sparrowhawk were also present. 


Wood Sandpiper (and Dunlin) - Lee Collins

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Sunday 9th August

An emphatic reminder of yesterday's cautionary tale about it still being the bird breeding season came in the form of the bizarre sight of a family party of Mute Swan waddling in a line along the Back Path near Dead Dolphin Wood with the cob, 'DDN', leading from the front. Although trying reach the estaury, the abundance of fencing means they will have to wait until the young have fledged before they escape. 

The party was chaperoned by one of the local birders, from a safe distance, back to the Main Pond. The sensible behaviour of dog-walkers this morning with their dogs on leads and giving the swans a wide berth ensured a positive outcome. 

Wood Sandpiper remained all too briefly as it called constantly from The Bight area, then flew over the ridge and was lost heading out to sea in an easterly direction. This is the site's 41st record, it's on a peak date and was of typically short duration; only one individual (in Oct 1999) is recorded as having remained on site for more than one tide.

Also present, more-or less-similar counts to those of recent days were c.480 Oystercatcher, 59 Dunlin, 56 Ringed Plover, 17 Sanderling, three Turnstone and a Greenshank. About half of the 18 Mediterranean Gull flew in off the sea (8 juv, 1 ss, 9 adult); again single figures of juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull were mixed in with the Herring Gull and only 30 Sandwich Tern dropped onto 'woodhenge', including a presumed Welsh-ringed bird.

The bushes had 12 Stonechat, including fledglings, also seven Whitethroat, six Chiffchaff, five Willow Warbler, four Blackcap, and one Garden Warbler; also singles of Sparrowhawk, Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Also noted, about 15 Swallow passed through, three Wheatear and a Stock Dove.

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.