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

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Sunday 15th November

Eventful weather with heavy squally, occasionally thundery showers interspersed with periods of bright sunshine. With a fresh breeze from the south overnight, a sea-watch during the first half hour of light saw moderate passage that involved  172 Gannet, 43 Kittiwake, 18 auk spp., four Great Northern Diver and two Common Scoter. A single Razorbill dropped into The Bight and later floated up the estuary.

Timings were right to allow the ebbing spring morning tide and rising evening spring tide to receive coverage. A solid set of waterbird counts and eight species with field reads of rings was achieved, probably a site record, so today was just as much about science and research as it was to enjoy fulfilling birding. Sightings were approximately 1,500 Dunlin, including a new metal-ringed Swedish bird. Some of the 1,015 Oystercatcher foraged in Eastdon Fields and on the empty fairways of the golf course.  There were many colour-ringed birds of the current Exe Estuary scheme among them and a 20-year old 'wasp-ringed' bird from a previous scheme; and also in The Bight the return of orange-ringed 84, ringed as a pullus on Skokholm island, Wales in June 2018.

A count of 498 Black-tailed Godwit that roosted in Railway Saltmarsh is exceptional and the fifth highest count here ever, but isn't the best of the year, exceeded by 530 on 12th March. The winter population of Limosa limosa islandica on the Exe Estuary has increased in step with its biogeographical population and thus the estuary continues to support internationally important numbers (GB threshold = 390, international threshold = 1,100); so today's site count was of national-level significance. Two of these birds were colour-ringed, one as an adult at Snettisham, Norfolk on 1st Sep 2019, and what was likely to be the adult ringed at Olfus, Auosholt, Iceland on 10th Jun 2017 and seen at Bowling Green Marsh 29th Dec 2019.

Also present, 369 Dark-bellied Brent Goose with three Pale-bellied Brent Goose, including the bird ringed as a juvenile at Alftanes, Fotbaltavollur, Iceland on 11th May 2017. Also, 93 Redshank, 89 Shelduck, a big count, with two colour-ringed birds from the Seaton Marshes project; 85 Grey Plover, 70 Turnstone, 43 Bar-tailed Godwit, 38 Knot, 31 Teal, 30 Cormorant on Finger Point included two sinensis-race, 19 Curlew, ten Great Crested Grebe, which is a lot for this part of the estuary; nine Sanderling, eight Little Egret, seven Mute Swan, five Red-breasted Merganser, four Greenshank, a pair of Canada Goose and the resident two female Mallard waddled about on the soaked fairways. Also, a Grey Heron, the drake Eider was sat on Bull Hill and the Slavonian Grebe was again seen accompanied by a Little Grebe. Gulls, except Herring Gull, were all counted, these were 56 Black-headed Gull, 33 Great Black-backed Gull, 21 Common Gull and an adult Mediterranean Gull.

At least six Rock Pipit were scattered about the site and three of these were considered to be Scandinavian Rock Pipit and remarkably one of these was the yellow-coloured ringed '632' individual that wintered here 26th Oct 2019 to 2nd Jan 2020, ringed Makkevika, Giske, Norway. This is highly likely to be the bird seen on site on 6th Nov and again too briefly some days afterwards. Research has indicated high fidelity to breeding territories (Taylor, 2007), but fidelity to winter sites, particularly by this ssp. in England is perhaps unknown, so today's sighting could be precedent-setting; further enquiries are underway.

record shot only of '632' Scandinavian Rock Pipit - David Flack

super-cropped and enhanced image of the bird's leg


Main Pond continued to hold three Shoveler, a few Moorhen and Water Rail and the drake domestic Mallard thing; and at dusk a murmuration of c.105 Starling assembled.

Woodlands held a few mixed tits, four each of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest; two each of Great Spotted Woodpecker and Bullfinch and singles each of Chaffinch and a vocal Firecrest. Other notables were two Reed Bunting, a Grey Wagtail and a Raven. Regularly counted residents were seven Pied Wagtail, six Cirl Bunting and four Stonechat. Nomadic finch flocks were in similar numbers of those of late, c.35 Goldfinch, 18 Linnet and c.10 Greenfinch. A few singles of Skylark, two Jackdaw and a single Lesser Repoll were the only birds noted overhead.  Report of a Black Redstart at the shops was unsubstantiated.  These bring the day-list to 76 species. 

Other news: sea erosion of the dune-cliff has removed another couple of metres of width from critical areas and the beach level has dropped again by a quarter of a metre overnight.  The newly re-routed chestnut-paling lined path to access the hide area is again under threat of collapse and will need re-routing again.  The Environment Agency visited yesterday to stitch patches to the deliberately sabotaged Geotube and whilst some were saved were too late for the two or three sections that had already fully burst. 

EA repairing Geotube on Saturday with sections already emptied of sand - David Flack

sea erosion (left) of dune ridge with narrow access path to and back from the hide area - Ivan Lakin







Saturday, 14 November 2020

Saturday 14th November

Wet and dank with a southerly that gusted to 25 to 30 knots, one observer braved the weather and during an hour seawatch only had 35 Gannet, three Kittiwake, a Razorbill and a Great Northern Diver. Five Shoveler were on Main Pond; little was found in the bushes, just four Goldcrest, one Chiffchaff, a Bullfinch and a Firecrest in Dead Dolphin Wood.

Late news: the pair of colour coded ringed Dark-bellied Brent Goose seen here on 6th November were ringed These were both ringed on 16th May 2019 at Friesland, Netherlands before presumably they departed to breed on the Taimyr Peninsula, northern Siberia. They then returned to winter around the Terschelling region of Netherlands and
were recorded 27 Feb to 16 Apr 2020. The male is ringed lime-green '4' (left leg) and dark-green '=' (right leg); the female is ringed lime-green '0' (left leg) and dark-green 'P' (right leg). If see them, please report to Tracking Marked Geese and Swans website (here); may need to create a log-in to do so. Thanks to Bart Ebbinge for the results and tips.

Friday, 13 November 2020

Friday 13th November

Rain stopped before dawn and the day became pleasantly sunny, calm and mild. A half-hour seawatch from first light saw 102 auk spp., 69 Gannet, 11 Kittiwake and single Great Northern Diver, Red-throated Diver and a diver sp. depart south out of the bay. Two Great Crested Grebe floated offshore. Wooded areas were busy with 22 Long-tailed Tit, 14 Blue Tit, eight Goldcrest, seven Great Tit, seven Chiffchaff, four Chaffinch, three Coal Tit, two Bullfinch, two Great Spotted Woodpecker and a juv male Sparrowhawk found stunned in Dead Dolphin Wood; perhaps it crashed into something whilst in pursuit of prey.  Despite good numbers of foliage dwellers on site, the absence of Firecrest was possibly explained by one or two individuals seen in gardens of Dawlish Warren village today. 

On Main Pond, most of the seven Moorhen, four Shoveler, three Water Rail and two Mallard, including a domestic-type thing which has been seen before to commute towards Dawlish town down the coast. Mobile around the site, small feeding flocks that totaled c.40 Linnet, c.30 Goldfinch and 18 Greenfinch.  Also a Stock Dove circled Greenland Lake; other representative counts were eight Skylark, six Meadow Pipit, four Raven, four Cirl Bunting, four Stonechat, a Grey Wagtail and a Rook.  The tide was too low to enable meaningful counts of other waterbirds in the estuary.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Wednesday 11th November

A huge passage of 751 Gannet (third best ever count in November here), 207 Kittiwake and many auks spp flew south mostly during the first 90 minutes of daylight in a stiff southerly wind. Also ten Common Scoter, five Red-throated Diver and two Great Northern Diver.

On Main Pond, four (3 drake, 1 female) Shoveler and the long-billed female Mallard, a Little Grebe, Moorhen and Water Rail

The woodlands and bushes, single-figures of tits, six Goldcrest, two Firecrest with one that favoured thick Ivy foliage for cover; just two Chiffchaff, a Song Thrush, Bullfinch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

On the incoming mid-afternoon tide, counts of waterbirds included 657 Wigeon, 340 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 131 Dunlin, 103 Redshank, 51 Teal, 39 Grey Plover, 38 Shelduck, 34 Turnstone, 32 Ringed Plover, 31 Great Black-backed Gull, 20 Cormorant, 16 Knot, nine Common Gull, five Lesser Black-backed Gull, five Mute Swan, five Greenshank, three Little Egret, three Common Snipe in the saltmarsh; two Grey Heron, one Black-tailed Godwit, an adult Mediterranean Gull, the drake Eider and the Slavonian Grebe.  No counts were managed today of the Oystercatcher, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Herring Gull and Black-headed Gull.

A Short-eared Owl flew over the golf course; this now totals 9 bird-days for the second half of the year with 7 weeks still to go.  The average (1970-2019) for this period is 6 bird-days, so 2020 appears to have been a good breeding season.  Research indicates relationships between the 3-4 year cyclical abundance of voles to Short-eared Owl breeding success that then leads to common, sometimes abundant and widespread overwinter dispersal.  By shifting site data to sum Jul to Jun, instead of the more normal Jan to Dec period, to present more clearly the combined autumn and winter bird-days totals, a roughly cyclical pattern just about emerged, interspersed periodically with influxes or/ and long-stayers, even at our rather small site.  

data analysis and presentation - Ivan Lakin

More regularly seen additional species today were 60+ Starling around the carpark, four Skylark on Warren Point, four Rock Pipit and a Kestrel.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Tuesday 10th November

In a light south-southwesterly, mild and overcast, overhead passage was only brief and involved c.160 Woodpigeon that flew south, two Jackdaw, a Rook and a Mistle Thrush.

On and over calm seas, five Common Scoter, four Red-throated Diver, a Great Northern Diver; single-figures of Guillemot, Razorbill and Gannet, and a Mediterranean Gull.

The lunchtime mid-range high tide was not enough to cover The Bight and other roost sites on the estuary, particularly under anticyclonic conditions (1023 mb). Incidentally, high tide predications by the UK's Hydrographic Office are based on average barometric pressure, which in the UK ranges from 1011 mb (in the north) to 1016 mb (in the south), so not calculated to 1000 mb. The units of millibars (mb) most commonly used by the Meteological Office is the same as hecto Pascals (hPa) used by UKHO. A change in 10 of either unit roughly equates to a 10 cm change in tide height, but storm surges influenced by wind can greatly exacerbate this. Combinations of low pressure, rain and wind have risen predicted tides locally on occasion by 30 cm, and when coincident with spring tides has resulted in much of the damage to the dunes.

Benign conditions today saw reduced numbers of some selected counts that included 348 Dunlin, 169 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 37 Shelduck, 16 Ringed Plover, 12 Mute Swan, 12 Grey Plover, five Little Egret, four Sanderling, three Red-breasted Merganser, two Grey Heron, two Mallard and the drake Eider. Also a Peregrine over the estuary.

On Main Pond, five Moorhen, three Water Rail, two Shoveler, a Little Grebe and another Mallard.

In the woods, 15 Long-tailed Tit, ten Chiffchaff, single-figures of Blue Tit and Great Tit, four Goldcrest, four Chaffinch, four Siskin, two Bullfinch, two Lesser Redpoll and single Firecrest, Coal Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Song Thrush and a Sparrowhawk. Mixed finch flocks had c.70 Goldfinch, c.40 Greenfinch and c.30 Linnet; and also in the Greenland Lake area, most of the 13 Meadow Pipit, three Cirl Bunting and a Reed Bunting.

Wildlife news: regularly seen these days, two Water Vole were on Main Pond. Four Grey Seal (one offshore and three resting on a barge) was a large count here. As temperatures topped 14°C, single-figures of Buff-tailed Bumblebee, a Red Admiral and a Common Banded Hoverfly Syrphus ribesii were active.

Monday, 9 November 2020

Monday 9th November

In wet conditions, a brief visit after dawn found a fall of 16 Goldcrest in the woods, the highest site count since Oct 2004; also a flock of 16 Long-tailed Tit, five Siskin, four Chiffchaff and notably a Brambling in the Alders. On Main Pond, three Shoveler and a couple of Water Rail called.

Wildlife news: a Water Vole swam across a channel of Main Pond.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Sunday 8th November

Humid, warm, overcast and with a light southerly, these balmy conditions were in sharp contrast to that of just two days ago when the weather was characterised by frosts, clear skies and a bitter cold northerly.

From early morning passage was noted offshore and later in remarkably clear and calm conditions, there were a few rafts of Wigeon, 105+ Gannet (flew S), 21 Common Scoter, singles and small flocks of mixed auks; six Great Northern Diver, four Great Crested Grebe, three Red-throated Diver and a Kittiwake.

Overhead visible migration was virtually non-existent with one flock of 140 Woodpigeon (SW), 85 Redwing departed NW & NE at dawn; 23 Jackdaw (NE!), 13 Siskin (NE), six Chaffinch (NE), three Song Thrush (NE), two Rook, two Skylark, a Golden Plover (S.

The late morning tide continued the cycle toward neaps and noticeably fewer waders than yesterday, partly due to the exposure of some of Cockle Sands and -   what is an increasingly rarified event these days - that area was not disturbed by kite-surfers. Some reduced counts then were c.675 Dunlin, 497 Oystercatcher (plus c.270 on Cockle Sands); 123 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 61+ Redshank, 40 Knot, 35 Ringed Plover, 32 Grey Plover, 30+ Turnstone, 28 Bar-tailed Godwit, 27 Shelduck, 22 Cormorant, 20+ Canada Goose, ten Greenshank, nine Sanderling, seven Curlew, three Mute Swan (yesterday's newly arrived immatures), another two Great Crested Grebe, two Little Egret (another far out at sea and ten more foraged in Eastdon Fields); a Whimbrel, a Red-breasted Merganser, a Little Grebe, the Slavonian Grebe and the usual drake Eider. Wigeon and Teal were not counted due to boat disturbance from Eales Dock.

On the Main Pond, 13 Mallard departed pre-dawn; three Shoveler, Water Rail, another Little Grebe also. In the woods, eight Goldcrest, six Chiffchaff (all P. c. collybita) single-figures of tits including a Coal Tit, two Lesser Redpoll and single Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker and Bullfinch. A feverishly active flock of 30 Long-tailed Tit gained height NE from Windmill but was probably the same flock seen back in the village some time later. Around the Greenland Lake area, a mixed flock of c.70 Goldfinch, c.30 Greenfinch, c.20 Meadow Pipit and c.10 Linnet; also two Reed Bunting and a Kestrel. Also on site, c.70 Starling near the shops, six Stonechat, six Cirl Bunting and a Raven on Warren Point.

The exceptional run continues and with 80 species recorded today is the twelve date in 2020 with 80 species, which equals the annual record set in 2010 when such records began.

Wildlife news: two Water Vole swam about in the Main Pond and another 'plop' was heard in Entrance Pond.

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Saturday 7th November

Some observers rued the egregious decision to first look offshore briefly at dawn where only low single-figures of Gannet, Razorbill, Kittiwake and Common Scoter passed. Meanwhile, 'vis-mig' was of high quality if not matched by volume. The highlight was a Richard's Pipit that was seen and heard as it flew NE at 07:10. This neatly follows the extraordinary find of three Richard's Pipit at Orcombe Point yesterday afternoon (reported here), the imposing headland 1.75 miles east of the site Then a Short-eared Owl chased by Carrion Crows was lost from view over the golf course. Most action was noted within the first hour of daylight except for a large mixed pipit and finch flock that lingered around the Greenland Lake and Back Path area. Totals were (all flew NE unless otherwise stated) 91 Goldfinch, only 48 Woodpigeon, c.47 Greenfinch, 46 Redwing, 32 Meadow Pipit, 25 Chaffinch, 20+ Linnet, four Siskin, three Lesser Redpoll, three Stock Dove, three Fieldfare, a Golden Plover, a Song Thrush and a Great Northern Diver high north up the estuary. Also, in addition to those on the estuary, three new three immature Mute Swan flew N through the site.

The mid-morning, mid-height tide pushed into The Bight area the big Oystercatcher flock, 929 Dunlin, most of the 130 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 97 Bar-tailed Godwit, 86 Grey Plover, 52 Shelduck, 48 Knot (including 20 that flew S), 34 Ringed Plover, 27 Cormorant, 13 Sanderling, 12 Great Black-backed Gull, ten Greenshank, a year max count of eight Lapwing; eight Lesser Black-backed Gull, the usual drake Eider and an adult Yellow-legged Gull.


drake Eider in front of hide area - Lee Collins

Adult Yellow-legged Gull on Finger Point - Lee Collins

Around and in the estuary corner and Railway Saltmarsh, 1,044 Wigeon, 182 Teal, 115 Redshank, many of the 70 Turnstone, 38 Common Gull, most of the five Curlew, three Great Crested Grebe, three Common Snipe, two Black-tailed Godwit, two Little Egret, and a Gadwall, a Kingfisher, a Little Grebe and the Slavonian Grebe. Another dozen or so Little Egret wandered Eastdon Fields, just outside the recording area, and these birds are often around the cattle.

On the Main Pond, five Shoveler, five Moorhen, a couple of Water Rail and a domestic Mallard departed at dawn. Aware to avoid potential duplication of counts of dinky passerines that ventured as far up the site as The Spinney and Dune Pond area, there were at least 18 Blue Tit, 11 Long-tailed Tit, eight Goldcrest, six Chiffchaff, four Great Tit, one Great Spotted Woodpecker and possibly the same elusive Firecrest of recent days buried itself inside an Ivy covered bush.

Also today, 65 Starling around the shops, eight Cirl Bunting, six Stonechat, three Bullfinch, two Sparrowhawk and two Raven. Today's day-list of 88 species is the site's new November record.

Wildlife news: two Migrant Hawker, one was over the Main Pond.

Other news: access to the hide area was re-established yesterday after storm damage to the dune cliff had recently washed away another section of the dune ridge path. As it has always been, the hide area is a dead-end and the only public access back to the car park and village is back along the same route you came. The golf course has no public access; Warren Golf Club management has reiterated this as remaining the case during the nation's 'soft lockdown' period. Those individuals whom have been granted access can continue to do so. If visitors see staff and persons on the course, please don't follow them!

re-established access to hide area - photo by Ivan Lakin



Friday, 6 November 2020

Friday 6th November

A bit milder and winds shifted to a fresh ENE this morning with the effect of visible migration a distinctly muted affair compared to recent days with only 1,835 Woodpigeon of which 325+ flew low northeast in the reverse direction from usual, a larger reverse movement than that seen yesterday (excluded from that day's total). Unless otherwise stated all flew northeast: c.50 Goldfinch, c.30 Greenfinch, 17 Meadow Pipit, c.15 Linnet, 15 Siskin, 14 Chaffinch, three Skylark (W), three Pied Wagtail (NE), two Great Northern Diver did a circuit high overhead; two Jackdaw (WSW), single Song Thrush (N), Blackbird (NW), a Rook and a late Swallow.

Time allowed for the high tide period to be covered and most waterbirds were counted - 1,115 Wigeon, 552 Dunlin, 256 Teal, 159 Redshank, 84 Grey Plover, 50 Bar-tailed Godwit, 31 Ringed Plover, 26 Curlew, 26 Knot, 21 Great Black-backed Gull, 18 Cormorant, 12 Pale-bellied Brent Goose among a three-figure count of Dark-bellied Brent Goose; a few Mute Swan, eight Sanderling, seven Little Egret, four Greenshank, four Lesser Black-backed Gull, three Grey Heron, two Mallard, two Common Snipe, single Canada Goose, drake Shoveler, immature Pintail, the usual drake Eider, a 'red-head' Red-breasted Merganser, a Little Grebe, the Slavonian Grebe and perhaps yesterday's Lapwing.

A second-winter (male?) Caspian Gull showed well on and around Finger Point for while before it flew off southwest down the spit at 11:17. This is the site's seventh record; all have been since April 2014.


second-winter Caspian Gull on Finger Point - Lee Collins

Ringed birds produced much of the interest with the Icelandic-ringed Pale-bellied Brent Goose again; two Swedish metal-ringed Dunlin, the return of 'J9Y', a Polish colour-ringed Dunlin that was ringed as an adult in early-July 2017 on the Baltic Sea coastline and seen at Dawlish Warren in Dec 2019/ Jan 2020. The long-staying German metal-ringed Ringed Plover again, and to the dismay of the observer, a too briefly seen yellow colour-ringed pipit in The Bight.

In the Entrance Bushes, four Goldcrest, three Chiffchaff, three Bullfinch and the Firecrest was elusive and remained largely hidden in the thick foliage of an Ivy-covered tree for shelter against the strengthening wind.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Thursday 5th November

Similar conditions to yesterday with a frosty dawn and a chilling northerly winding around a huge high pressure (1041 mb) stationed over the North Atlantic. The first pigeon flock rose above the estuarine fog and flew WSW at 07:05 and passage continued all morning with some large flocks passing SSW down the west side of the estuary to total 9,340 Woodpigeon that contained only seven Stock Dove and four Feral/ Racing Pigeon. Passage was moderately heavy and steady for hours, involving 309 Chaffinch (NE), 207 Jackdaw (W), c.190 Goldfinch (NE), 100 Linnet (NE), 65 Siskin (NE), 63 Lesser Black-backed Gull (S), 53 Starling (NE), 43 Meadow Pipit (NE), c.40 Greenfinch (NE), 37 Skylark (NW), 13 Song Thrush (NW to NE), seven Lesser Redpoll, six Reed Bunting, six Pied Wagtail (WNW) plus a White Wagtail that landed briefly; five Redwing (NW to NE), three Buzzard, three Coal Tit (flew NE then double-backed); three Brambling (NE), two Golden Plover in off (NW), two Mistle Thrush, two Grey Wagtail (NE), two Bullfinch (NE) plus another two in woodland; only one Rook, an adult-winter Mediterranean Gull in off (NW), and a Great Northern Diver that flew south out of the estuary.

The counts today of Lesser Black-backed Gull, Buzzard, Jackdaw, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Brambling, Chaffinch and Reed Bunting were all the highest or equal highest counts here of the year so far.

On the Main Pond, the pair of Shoveler, at least one Little Grebe, a Common Snipe, the female Mallard, a few Moorhen and Water Rail was heard, as usual.

A group of 21 Long-tailed Tit adventurously explored brambles beyond Dune Pond and associated with them one or two of the seven Chiffchaff, six Goldcrest and even the Firecrest reached this far up the site.

Offshore, a raft of eight Common Scoter, four Great Crested Grebe, the usual drake Eider, a Red-throated Diver and just a single Gannet. The tide was missed again to concentrate on 'vis-mig' and from a distance the usual range of species were noted present, except for a single Lapwing. This contributed to another impressive day total of 84 species, one species shy of the November record here. 

Wildlife news: one or two Migrant Hawker and Common Darter were seen on the wing when the air temperature had climbed to about 10°C, having survived the past two nights when temperatures dipped to nearer 3°C. 

Other news: Environment Agency staff worked on temporary repairs to the Geotube ('sand-sausage') today that had clearly been vandalised with long lateral cuts to a number of sections.  It is bewildering why anyone would do this.  Not intended to be exposed, its purpose is as a last line of defence against a sea breach to protect from damage important habitats and species; the Warren golf course, homes and infrastructure.  If you have any information about this crime, you can contact Devon & Cornwall Police via 101 or online, and anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

vandalism of geotube sea defences - photo by Ivan Lakin