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







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