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