Friday 31 December 2021

Wildlife Review 2021 - Birds

A total of 184 species were recorded on site this year with 36 species confirmed breeding, including six pairs of Cirl Bunting, six pairs of Stonechat, two pairs of Little Grebe and a pair of Bullfinch. After last year’s absence Reed Bunting made a welcome return.

There were no new species recorded, with the annual total around the average for the last five years. 2021 highlights including new site record counts of the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater (271 in Aug), Cattle Egret (68 in Nov), Kittiwake (2,022 in Oct), Woodpigeon (111,500 in Nov), Siberian Chiffchaff (five in Dec), Jay (62 in Oct) and Cirl Bunting (15 in Jan).

Rarities included the first Dotterel since 1961, 3rd Ruddy Shelduck, 5th Red-rumped Swallow, 7th Caspian Gull, 8th Barred Warbler, 12th Cetti’s Warbler, 13th Marsh Tit and 14th Whooper Swan and Great White Egret.

Omissions from the year list included Storm Petrel, Red-necked Grebe, Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Goosander, Green Sandpiper and Yellowhammer with regular no shows from Black-throated Diver and Coot.

A full report can be downloaded at Dawlish Warren Bird Report 2021

Slavonian Grebe. Herbert RIP - Lee Collins


2021 got off to a cold start on the 1st with a good total of 81 species were recorded, including Marsh Tit, two Jack Snipe, Water Pipit, Blackcap and Firecrest along with two wintering Scandinavian Rock Pipit and Herbert, the resident Slavonian Grebe; once again the only one recorded during the year.

Other highlights included a Woodcock, two Purple Sandpiper and nine White-fronted Geese on the 2nd, Pomarine Skua on the 15th and the first Spotted Redshank since Nov 2014 on the 27th.

Counts from the estuary were lower than average with a peak of just 800 Oystercatcher and 13 Red-breasted Merganser. Offshore Great-crested Grebe peaked at 86 late month with a max of just 14 Red-throated Diver. Scarcer species included the first two Mediterranean Gull late month, singles of Golden Plover on 6th & 31stBlack-tailed Godwit on 22ndPale-bellied Brent Goose on 24th, a pair of Mistle Thrush late month and Lapwing on 31st.


The month started with the first Jay since 2018 on the 2nd, two Lesser Redpoll the next day and a Treecreeper on the 8th which remained until the 10th March. Also around the scrub a Siberian Chiffchaff (re)appeared on 11-12th with a Firecrest, both staying into March.

Treecreeper - Jo King

An early Sandwich Tern on the 6th did not linger, with an adult Little Gull on 14-16th one of the few scarcities, although cold weather early in the month saw wader numbers increase slightly with at least three Avocet noted. The same spell of cold weather also brought the last ever sighting of Herbert on the 8th.

As Spring arrived there were two noticeable arrivals of Stonechat and a Red Kite made the most of the high pressure on the 28th. Both the ringed wintering Scandinavian Rock Pipit left midmonth, with one being resighted in Norfolk two days later.

Scandinavian Rock Pipit - Alan Keatley


Three Whooper Swan that flew south before returning north and undertaking a tour of the Exe Estuary on the 6th were looking to be the month’s highlight before the brief arrival of a White-tailed Eagle, from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme on the 21st. A Red-legged Partridge on the 30th had no doubt been released much nearer by.

White-tailed Eagle Cofton 21 Mar - Lee Collins

Migrants were slow to get going with the first Wheatear on the 17th with a White Wagtail the next day.  The first Sand Martin flew through on the 24th, with a Willow Warbler on 27th and five Swallow and two Blackcap on 31st.

Wheatear - Lee Collins

Other scarcities included a female Tufted Duck in the estuary on the 25-26th, a Jack Snipe on 19-20th and a Golden Plover on the 4th.


The month started with a flock of 14 Eider off John's Watch on the 1st, which flew E past Portland Bill the next day, the only confirmed record of the year.

A Ruddy Shelduck flew in off the sea on the 4th, perhaps arriving from the feral population in northern Europe. It relocated to Exminster Marshes and made a brief reappearance on the 29th. 

Ruddy Shelduck - Lee Collins

Other wildfowl highlights included a pair of Gadwall on the Main Pond on 13th, the only record of the year; a peak of 70 Pale-bellied Brent Geese on the 19th and two Egyptian Geese on Finger Point on 27th, the first in a record year for the species.

Wader passage included 84 Bar-tailed Godwit and 83 Whimbrel on the 23rd, a Ruff on 7th, only the second April record this century; and a Little Ringed Plover on the 18th.

Whimbrel - Lee Collins

Sandwich Tern passage was again poor with the exception of an influx of 108 on 28th with 70 the next day. Also offshore four Great, two Arctic and Pomarine Skua passed from 23rd, five Little Tern on 28th and the latest ever first date for Common Tern with one eventually present on 25-26th.

Other migrants included the earliest ever Whitethroat and an Osprey on the 2nd, a Siberian Chiffchaff on the 10th & 19th, another two Osprey on 11th and 29th, Grasshopper Warbler reeling briefly on 13th & 20th and a female Redstart on 16th and 18th. Later in the month the first Hobby on 27th with two Whinchat on the 29th.

Whinchat - Lee Collins

Overhead just three Yellow Wagtail but six Red Kite during the month with maxima of 13 Chiffchaff, 10 Willow Warbler, seven Wheatear and six Blackcap.


The 1st saw a singing Lesser Whitethroat which proceeded to hold territory through the month, other migrants included Garden Warbler on the 2nd, with seven Spotted Flycatcher, three Sedge Warbler and a Tree Pipit all arriving on the 8th, a day that saw the best fall of the spring with Cuckoo, Whinchat and a Garden Warbler also present.

Lesser Whitethroat - Dave Jewell

Tern numbers remained low with the first Arctic Tern on 3rd with 11 the next day outnumbering Sandwich Tern, which peaked at just 16 during the month. There were no Roseate and just two Common Tern during the month.

Wader passage was however more positive with 580 Dunlin in the Bight on the 19th, the highest May count since 2007, along with other notable records such as the first May Purple Sandpiper on the 9th since 2005 on the 9th, and on the 13th, following an overnight deluge when 10 times as much rain fell than through all of April, the first May Little Stint since 2005.

Dunlin - Ben Lucking 

The Dawlish Water Red-rumped Swallow was photographed heading north over the Warren after it departed on the morning of the 14th with a Spoonbill heading south the same day. Another Spoonbill flew south offshore on 20th as it flew past a couple of Pomarine Skua rose off the sea to investigate, a rarely seen combination.

Offshore Great Northern Diver peaked at 15 on the 20th and 12 Arctic and eight Pomarine Skua passed during the month with six of the latter on the 23rd.

Other highlights included a male Nightjar in Dead Dolphin Wood on 25th and 31st, presumed the same individual as several birds were reported elsewhere lingering in atypical locations during a spell of poor weather. On the 28th a Marsh Harrier flew low north early morning, heralding the start of a good late May day with four Spotted Flycatcher and a female Whinchat notable late migrants and an Arctic Tern offshore.

Spotted Flycatcher - Alan Keatley


The highlight was confirmation of the first breeding Lesser Whitethroat since 2005 with three fledged young. Other breeding records included six pairs of Cirl Bunting and Stonechat, both records; three pairs of Collared Dove, two pairs of Little Grebe, seven pairs of Reed Warbler holding territory in all four ponds and at least one pair of Reed Bunting.

Little Grebe - Alan Keatley 

Notable records included a flyover Tufted Duck on the 6th, a Nuthatch on 12th & 16th and the year’s only Puffin south on the 27th. 

Other records included a Mistle Thrush overhead on the 6th probably the first autumn migrant, two Great Northern Diver summering offshore, a drake Wigeon in the saltmarsh on 22nd, only the second June record in the last 20 years, two Egyptian Geese over on the 26th and a count of 204 Curlew on the 29th was line with the early arrival of presumed failed breeders, since 1999.

Great Northern Diver - Alan Keatley


Three Roseate Tern on the 3rd were the first of the year with five other birds during the month, a welcome if slight improvement.

Roseate Tern - David Flack

The first juvenile Sandwich Tern arrived on the 6th with a monthly peak of just 76 the same day. The first juvenile Common Tern were present on the 15th peaking at 27 on the 24th, with 10 Arctic and five Little Tern during the month.  The first of eight juvenile Yellow-legged Gull appeared on the 25th.

Notable records included a good run of Little Ringed Plover sightings from the 3rd with at least five individuals during the month including several longstayers, a Treecreeper in Dead Dolphin Wood on the 4th, a Nuthatch on the 17- 18th with the first juvenile Wheatear on the 18th and a juvenile Siskin the same day; only the second July record.

Little Ringed Plover - Lee Collins

Other migrants saw the first two Willow Warbler on the 10th, Sedge Warbler on the 18th, 22nd and 31st, Teal on the 18th, 14 Raven overhead on the 24th and Water Rail on the 31st.

The first Balearic Shearwater of the year flew south on 30th with Merlin heading south offshore the next day the least expected sighting of the month, the first July record with only four August records.


The month started with the years only Wood Sandpiper and a third Nuthatch on the 1st but the first half of the month was generally quiet. The first Curlew Sandpiper of the year, an early juvenile, was in the Bight on 12-19th with the first of good numbers of juvenile Sanderling on 14th, a flock of 230 Dunlin on the 22nd consisted of 90% juveniles also indicated a successful breeding season.

Curlew Sandpiper - Alan Keatley

Seawatching early morning on 22nd saw at least 241 Balearic Shearwater south in just over an hour, a new site record, with another c40 shearwater sp further out also likely to be this species. This is between 1-2% of the global population and the absence of seawatching conditions indicates this was a feeding movement, highlighting the importance of Lyme Bay for the survival of this species. 

A Nightjar on the 21st and an early Wryneck on the 24th were the pick of the migrants, but they were otherwise in short supply with five Yellow Wagtail, two Sedge and two Garden Warbler and single Lesser Whitethroat, Tree Pipit, Spotted Flycatcher and Whinchat during the month.

Other records included the only autumn sightings of Osprey on the 22nd & 28th, the first six returning Wigeon on the 24th and a Nuthatch on the 27th.


The month started with a large movement of 645 Common Tern, with them the first Black Tern since Aug 2019 and at least seven Arctic Tern. This was the highest September count since 1961. Interestingly of a sample of 338 birds, 90% were juveniles.  They remained a feature with three-figs present until the 12th, numbers peaking at 980 on the 5th, with them eight Arctic and five Black and Little Tern.

Also offshore a Tufted Duck on the 5th, a second winter Little Gull from the 7th to the 11th, totals of 149 Balearic Shearwater, 22 Arctic, two Pomarine and a Great Skua and the first Grey Phalarope since 2017 on the 28th.

Little Gull - Lee Collins

A juvenile Purple Sandpiper on the beach on the 1st was a good find, with other wader records including a Little Stint on the 4th-11th, a Curlew Sandpiper on the 5th-21st, 11 Avocet, two Ruff and a Spotted Redshank on the 5th. An adult Spoonbill also dropped in on the 5th, with a juvenile on the 10th and five on 21st-22nd.

Spoonbill - Lee Collins

The highlight, and probably bird of the year, was a juvenile Dotterel in the Bight on 18th-22nd, the first record in 60 years. During its stay it adopted tidal movements , roosting around the shoreline of the Bight at high tide and feeding on the mudflats at low tide with other waders.

Dotterel - Lee Collins

Three Wryneck were seen during the month; an elusive bird around the Bight and Golf Course on the 7th-11th, one on the 19th and one on Warren Point on the 25th. Other passerine migrants included the autumn’s only Redstart and Grasshopper Warbler on the 5th, a max of 17 Wheatear on 10th with five Sedge Warbler, three Spotted Flycatcher, two Tree Pipit and single Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Goldcrest and Whinchat. A Jay from the 15th was a sign of things to come.

Wheatear - Dean Hall


Seawatching on the 2nd saw a site record 1439 Kittiwake head south, along with the years only Sooty Shearwater, a Grey Phalarope, five Balearic and a Manx Shearwater.

Also offshore a late influx of Sandwich Tern peaked at 57 on 10th, a first winter Little Gull on the 13th, a total of 15 Arctic and single Pomarine and Great Skua; the latter on the 27th was the fifth and final record of a poor year for the species. The Kittiwake record was again broken when at least 2022 flew south in the first hour on 30th.

The UK wide Jay interruption reached the Warren in force on the 7th when 21 flew west (19 in one flock), with a new site record of 62 W the next day (with 90 others moving offsite). The record count had been 47 on 21 Oct 1983, part of the previous UK influx.

Other vis mig during the month included max of 450 House Martin on the 5th, 164 Goldfinch on the 8th, 856 Jackdaw on the 13th and 2,267 Woodpigeon and 14 Reed Bunting on the 30th. Other species were in short supply with just 38 Siskin and six Redpoll during the month.

The 9th began with a Turtle Dove in the Golf Course Spinney before flying west over Warren Point, the first since Oct 2017 and only the 8th record in the last 10 years. Mid-afternoon a flock of 10 Cattle Egret were roosting on the Wreck off Cockwood and a Yellow-browed Warbler was found in Dead dolphin wood early evening, remaining until the 13th, the 16th record in the last ten years.

Cattle Egret - Alan Keatley

The next day a Great White Egret flew east over Warren Point where an immaure Dartford Warbler was found, the first since Oct 2017, the Cattle Egret flock increased to a very brief Devon record of 57 birds and a Purple Sandpiper was off Langstone Rock.

The fifth Wryneck of the year was by the Main Pond on 16 Oct, with other late migrants including a Reed Warbler on the 2nd and a Whinchat, a Yellow Wagtail and the last two Wheatear of the year on the 9th.

Wryneck - doctorv64jr

Other migrants included a Cetti’s Warbler by the Main Pond on 18th-30th, only the 12th site record, but now been recorded for five successive autumns, two Merlin, both south offshore on 23rd and 31st, two Short-eared Owl, in the saltmarsh on 27th and on Warren Point on 30th and the eighth site record of Barred Warbler around the east end of the Buffer Zone on 30th-31st.

Barred Warbler - David Land

In the estuary the first three Red-breasted Merganser finally arrived on the 21st, a very high count of 573 Black-tailed Godwit on the 30th with a Little Stint the next day, the latest since 2003.  


The annual Woodpigeon movement built up some steam at the start of the month but 111,500 on 4th was unexpected, almost doubling the site record, with them three 3-fig counts of Stock Dove peaking at 154 on 5th. Also overhead maxima of 74 Skylark & 48 Rook on the 2nd, 90 Greenfinch on 4th, 855 Jackdaw and 579 Redwing on the 5th, seven Bullfinch on 7th and 50 Chaffinch on 14th. Also during the month 10 Brambling, 22 Siskin, four Redpoll, four Mistle Thrush and just three Fieldfare.

Other migrants included a Snow Bunting, along the beach on 9th-13th, the 21st individual since 2000, on the 5th a fem/imm Black Redstart briefly on the seawall, with a Woodcock, two Swallow and a House Martin around the Main Pond, a Siberian Chiffchaff on the 6th, the only autumn Firecrest in Greenland Lake on 7th and a Short-eared Owl south on the 27th.

Snow Bunting - Dave Jewell

In the estuary the Spotted Redshank put in a final appearance on the 3rd, with a new site record of 68 Cattle Egret the next day. with some present intermittently until the 21st. These are presumed to include returning birds from last winter. Their arrival on site seems linked to a combination of tide and afternoon milking times. The first two Water Pipit appeared in the Saltmarsh on the 20th with singles on 21st & 28th.  

Other records included the first returning Goldeneye, unusually offshore, on 5th, a Grey Phalarope along the beach on the 11th, a late Manx Shearwater south on the 21st, a Barnacle Goose offshore on 28th and the Warren’s first ever duetting Tawny Owl pair.


The month began with a Siberian Chiffchaff influx, with a record five present on 5th with up to three birds present most of the month. A Mistle Thrush on the 4th and a male Black Redstart on the seawall on the 16th were the only other notable passerine migrants.

Black Redstart - Alan Keatley

In the estuary two Black-necked Grebe were present 3rd– 27th, with an injured Avocet on the 4th-5th, a juvenile Spoonbill roosted on Finger Point through the month, a first winter Caspian Gull that flew in from the southwest and roosted on Bull Hill on the 10 Dec, the seventh Warren record and a Water Pipit on the 19th.

Black-necked Grebe - Alan Keatley

Other notable records included a max of 47 Great Northern Diver on the 3rd and the years only Scaup, a female, south past the seawall on 19th.

The year ended with a Spoonbill, two Black-necked Grebe and a Siberian Chiffchaff looking set to overwinter but wader and wildfowl numbers remained at a low ebb and seaduck were non-existent.

The hide remained closed all year and due to continuing erosion there remains no public access to the surrounding viewing areas. The Recording Group would like to thank the Warren Golf Club and Devon Wildlife Trust for allowing access enabling monitoring efforts to continue.

Happy New Year to all. Many thanks to those who share their sightings with Recording Group. Good & safe birding for 2022 and hope to see you on the Warren soon.

Dawlish Warren - Birds

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