Tuesday 31 December 2019

2019 Wildlife Review: Birds

A total of 183 species were recorded on site this year with 35 species confirmed breeding including Stonechat, Little Grebe and three pairs of Cirl Bunting.

The annual total was the lowest in 20 years, continuing the recent decline, however 2019 wasn't without its highlights with one new species for the Recording Area and two new site record counts Black-tailed Godwit (976 in Nov) and Cirl Bunting (12 in Nov). 



Cirl Bunting - Simon Thurgood

Unfortunately counts of many other species are going in the opposite direction numbers of wintering birds in continuing decline. Migrants were generally in low numbers with just one Redstart, two Cuckoo, four Tree Pipit, five Garden Warbler and five Spotted Flycatcher


Omissions from the year list included Little Stint, for the first time since 1971, Short-eared Owl, Black-throated Diver, Jack Snipe and the now expected absences of Coot, Red-necked Grebe, Dartford Warbler and Spotted Redshank. Other species that appeared in lower than usual numbers included Storm Petrel, Gadwall, Avocet, Black Tern and Brambling.


Black Tern - Lee Collins

Rarities included the 1st site record of Long-billed Dowitcher, the 3rd Glossy Ibis, 4th & 5th records of Cattle Egret, 4th Red-rumped Swallow, 6th Caspian Gull, 8th Stone-curlew10th Cetti's Warbler and 12th Marsh Tit


Long-billed Dowitcher - Luke Harman
January

A total of 76 species were recorded in good conditions on the 1st, the highlights including overwintering Cetti's Warbler and Firecrest as well as Herbert, the only Slavonian Grebe of the winter. 

Offshore Great-crested Grebe peaked at 80 late month with an immature Velvet Scoter present from the 10th and the year's only Black-necked Grebe late month. Elsewhere Brent Geese rarely reached three figures, 80 Pied Wagtail roosted in the Golf Course Pond and a Woodcock was a surprise find on the Car Park Roundabout on the 13th. 


Shoveler - Alan Keatley

February

Overnight snow saw a small scale cold weather movement on the 1st with 183 Skylark and 62 Fieldfare heading west, followed by 1856 Lapwing the next morning, the fourth highest site count. The Cetti's Warbler and Velvet Scoter remained throughout the month. Elsewhere five Gadwall south on the 14th turned out to be the only record of the year, also offshore a peak of 55 Red-throated Diver with the first Sandwich Tern of the year on the 27th.


Red Kite - Alan Keatley

The last day of the month saw the third Glossy Ibis for the Warren drift overhead with a Red Kite also taking advantage of the balmy early Spring conditions. 


March

Three Egyptian Geese flew over on the 1st, the site's 15th record with a Pomarine Skua south the next day and the year's only two Spoonbill, again in flight only, on the 5th. A Red-legged Partridge on Warren Point early in the month was no doubt a released bird but matched the vagrancy window for the site. 


Red-legged Partridge - Lee Collins

The first migrants arrived on the 9th with two Swallow and a Sand Martin, the earliest and second earliest records respectively. The first Wheatear didn't make landfall until the 17th.


A Barnacle Goose arrived with a flock of 15 Pale-bellied Brent Geese on the 22nd, then joining up with a few remaining Dark-bellied Brent Geese for a couple of days.


Pale-bellied Brent and Barnacle Goose - Alan Keatley

Another arrival of migrants late in the month saw an early Yellow Wagtail overhead on 28th, the first Willow Warbler on 30th and the first Osprey and the year's only Redstart the next day.


April

A second Osprey and two Little Ringed Plover arrived on the 1st with one of the year's highlights on the 2nd, a Red-rumped Swallow feeding around the Main Pond for several hours, the fourth Warren record. 

 Red-rumped Swallow - Dave Land

Red-rumped Swallow - Lee Collins

Osprey were a regular feature early in the month with the earliest ever Little Tern alongside two Common Tern on the 6th and an early Arctic Tern on the 9th. Five more Arctic Tern but just one Little Tern arrived during the month. 

Merlin and Hobby coincidentally arrived on the 14th with a Puffin the previous day. Foggy conditions on the 19th dropped in a typically brief Pied Flycatcher and smart male Black Redstart with a Tree Pipit overhead. The Black Redstart was still present the next day with the first three Whitethroat of the year.



The Warren's 16th Great White Egret flew east offshore on the 22nd with another fall of migrants on the 24th including a Grasshopper Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Whinchat and the site's latest ever Fieldfare. The only Garden Warbler of the Spring arrived on the final day of the month.




Fieldfare - Lee Collins

May

A very quiet month with migrants in short supply but three Whinchat, single Cuckoo and Spotted Flycatcher arrived early in the month. The only Avocet of the year was an unseasonal arrival on the 17th, with four Cattle Egret north the next day, the fourth site record. Terns were also largely absent with just a single Arctic Tern on the 29th and a complete blank for Common Tern for the first May ever.

Dunlin - Alan Keatley

Two more Spotted Flycatcher and a Yellow Wagtail arrived later in the month with a Mistle Thrush over on the 22nd perhaps the first sign of post-breeding movement. A pair of Tufted Duck offshore on the 25th were also unseasonal.

June

Puffin flew south on the 2nd along with only the third Little Tern of spring. The same day saw a Nuthatch circling the Bight before dropping into bushes behind the hide, a flock of 38 Long-tailed Tit, the largest count on site since November 1985 and an unseasonal Kingfisher at the Main Pond.

Long-tailed Tit - Alan Keatley

An Osprey on the 6th was only the fourth June record, but all since 2011, with Storm Miguel producing the first of just three Storm Petrel for the year the next day. The month's highlight was a Marsh Tit in Dead Dolphin Wood on the 14th, the first since 2010 and only the 12th site record. A summer plumaged Golden Plover on the Golf Course on the 17th was the first June record in 15 years.

Breeding records included three pairs of Cirl Bunting, although two of the nest sites have since been removed, two pairs of Little Grebe and Stonechat with Reed Warbler holding territory in all four ponds.

Little Grebe - Alan Keatley

July

The start of the month saw the first dispersing juvenile Sandwich Tern, Black-headed and Mediterranean Gull move through and the first Oystercatcher project birds returning for the winter.

The first of the month's six juvenile Yellow-legged Gull arrived on the 9th. Tern and wader numbers started to build with six Arctic Tern on the 19th and the first of six Roseate Tern the next day. Despite the low numbers a welcome increase on 2018.

Roseate Tern (ringed at Rockabill, Dublin) - Lee Collins

An Osprey was present intermittently at the end of the month with two juvenile Lapwing on the 27th the first July record since 2013. Offshore a Pomarine and several Arctic Skua chased the increasing tern flocks and the first two Balearic Shearwater of the year flew south.

Lapwing - Alan Keatley

August

A juvenile Ruff on the 1st was the first of the year but was eclipsed the next day when the Warren's sixth Stone-curlew was found roosting with Oystercatcher on Finger Point.

Stone-curlew - Lee Collins

A Marsh Tit also on the 2nd was presumed to be the bird first seen in June. This time it was seen again the next day when a juvenile Black Tern started a week long stay.

Two summer storms on the 9th & 10th produced 38 Balearic Shearwater, 18 Arctic Skua and two Storm Petrel with 13 more Balearic Shearwater later in the month.

A Wood Sandpiper was in front of the hide on the 14th with a juvenile Roseate Tern there two days later. Up to three juvenile Curlew Sandpiper were present from the 28th with five Little Ringed Plover during the month.


Little Ringed Plover - Lee Collins

The first fall of the Autumn occurred on the 24th with single Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler amongst other migrants with two Lesser Whitethroat and a Whinchat the next day. The last few days of the month saw single Spotted Flycatcher and Lesser Whitethroat in the bushes with a Tree Pipit overhead.

September

The change of month saw a distinct change in season with the first five Wigeon of the autumn flying in off the sea, but with the exception of a couple of Curlew Sandpiper in remained quiet.


Curlew Sandpiper - Alan Keatley 

A juvenile Purple Sandpiper with Dunlin in the estuary on the 8th was still present the next day when a Garganey was with Teal in the saltmarsh. Other migrants were limited until the 14th when 31 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, a Whinchat, a Sedge Warbler and an Osprey arrived. A Quail flushed the next day was only the second Recording Area sighting following the first in May 1967. This run continued with a Wryneck on Warren Point on the 16th. 


Sedge Warbler - Alan Keatley

Mid month saw another Lesser Whitethroat and the fifth 
Spotted Flycatcher of the year with 2019's first Sooty Shearwater on the 23rd. Seawatching on the 26th also saw 77 Balearic Shearwater and a site record 2160 Gannet head south. 

The same day saw 500 Meadow Pipit overhead with the first Siskin and Mistle Thrush arriving in the following days and the year's first Little Gull offshore on the 29th.

October

The 10th site Cetti's Warbler was found on the 4th, lingering into November. A Great White Egret flew inland over the spit on the 8th with the first Long-billed Dowitcher for the Warren present during the afternoon and evening on the 10th. This bird arrived at Bowling Green Marsh on 26th September and remains into 2020. Nice of the north end to share a rarity for once!


 Long-billed Dowitcher - Alan Keatley

Long-billed Dowitcher - Luke Harman

Seawatching the next day saw a rare four skua day with single Great and Long-tailed Skua south with 17 Arctic and three Pomarine Skua. The 12th saw another first for the Warren with a Siberian Lesser Whitethroat in the Entrance Bushes, unlike the Dowitcher it remained the next day. 


 Siberian Lesser Whitethroat (blythi) - Lee Collins

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat (blythi) - Luke Harman

Vis mig was relatively slow but the ninth Richard's Pipit flew through on the 19th with 381 Jackdaw, and the third Great White Egret of the year headed south the next day. The first big Wood Pigeon movement was on the 21st with 3,351 overhead along with 859 Jackdaw, the second highest site count and 412 Stock Dove, the fifth highest count.

Scarcities included a Black Redstart was along the seawall on 24th, a Sooty Shearwater on the 26th, a brief Hoopoe, the 19th record, three Pochard and a Little Gull on the 30th and five Greylag Geese on the 31st, a day of noticeable wildfowl movement. These were all however eclipsed by a site record 12 Cirl Bunting.

Slavonian Grebe - Lee Collins  Herbert, the resident spent a 13th year on the estuary. 


November

The start of the month saw a couple of Firecrest and Merlin on site, with a late Wheatear and Black Redstart on the beach and a Goosander circling offshore on the 2nd. 


Scandinavian Rock Pipit - Alan Keatley . This bird was ringed in on 6th March 2019 on Giske, Møre & Romsdal, Norway, 1,440 km to the NNE.

Vis Mig picked up again from the 3rd but finches still remained virtually absent. around 70,000 Wood Pigeon flew west in the next four days with over 1000 Jackdaw.

Offshore the first Little Auk since 2015 was close in on the 6th with the only Long-tailed Duck of the year on the 8th and the first migrant Slavonian Grebe since March 2017 the next day.


Little Auk - Jo King

A Snow Bunting was overhead on the 17th, the same day the third Black Redstart of the autumn arrived. The sixth Caspian Gull for the Warren, a first winter, sheltered from southeasterly gales on Finger Point on the 20th. 

The end of the month saw both the exposure of the 2017 Geotube sea defences and a new record tally of Black-tailed Godwit in Shutterton Creek with 976 counted on the 29th. This is almost double the previous peak of 512 in December 1984, the majority of the wintering population on the Exe. 


26/11/19

December

The year ended on a quiet note with reduced numbers of wintering birds and scarcities limited to 19 Fieldfare and two Lapwing overhead in cold weather on the 1st, a late or overwintering Whimbrel on the 2nd and a Goosander on the 23rd.

High numbers of Snipe were a feature of late month with at least 285 counted on the 22nd and four Cattle Egret, the fifth site record, were reported mid month. 


Golden Plover - Lee Collins

Happy New Year. Many thanks to all those who share their sightings with Recording Group. Good birding to all for 2020.


Tuesday 31st December

A quiet end to the year, 70 species will be a challenging target for tomorrow. Counts from the estuary included 1600 Dunlin, 184 Grey and 27 Ringed Plover, 180 Wigeon, 174 Bar-tailed Godwit, 94 Brent Geese, 82 Teal, 58 Shelduck, three Greenshank and the Slavonian Grebe

Elsewhere five Red-throated and two Great Northern Diver were offshore with the female Eider and three Common Scoter

Monday 30 December 2019

2019 Wildlife Review: Fungi & Lichens

Fungi

Dawlish Warren hosts an impressive range of over 450 fungi species ranging from large puffballs to minute leaf spots. One of the more noticeable of these so called microfungi is Hemlock Water Dropwort Rust Protomyces macrosporus which causes a gall to form on the host plant.

Hemlock Water Dropwort Rust - Alan Keatley

This year several new species were discovered, including Holly Leaf Tuft Pyrenochaeta ilicisWrack Spot Stigmidium ascophylliSycamore Mildew Sawadaea bicornis and Mint Rust Puccinia menthae, these groups are often identifiable by association with their host species.


Parasol Mushroom - Alan Keatley

In the main autumn season there were good numbers of Parasol Mushroom scattered across Greenland lake with Sandy Mushroom Agaricus devoniensis and Dune Brittlestem Psathyrella ammophila on Warren Point. Another good find was the Bird's Nest Fungi Crucibulum laeve, but Dune Stinkhorn remained absent. The main area for this species has been lost through a combination of erosion and the sea defence work.


Bird's Nest Fungi - Lee Collins

Amongst the larger mushrooms Ergot Claviceps purpurea var. spartinae was found on Cord-grass in the saltmarsh along with it's hyper parasite Gibberella gordonii, Hypocrea pulvinata was parasitizing Birch Polypore in Dead Dolphin Wood and several Pestle Puffball where growing under a sallow on Warren Point, these matured leaving behind their distinctive stems.

Pestle Puffball - Alan Keatley

Lichens

Two of the Warren's rarest species both had a poor year with some Ramalina fraxinea lost when their trees were felled and one of the largest patches of Peltigera neckeri lost to erosion on Warren Point. On the plus side two brief visits in December found over 20 species new to the Recording Area including Aspicilia contortaCollema tenax, Opegrapha physciaria and Toninia aromatica, however three of these new species were found on cut vegetation awaiting burning.

The same visits also saw ten new species of lichenicolous fungi recorded on site including Vouauxiella lichenicolaIntralichen christiansenii and Didymocyrtis slaptoniensis

Monday 30th December

A pair of Pintail and two Shoveler were in Shutterton Creek with counts from the estuary including 1495 Dunlin, 1149 Oystercatcher, 183 Grey and 32 Ringed Plover, 169 Knot, 145 Bar-tailed Godwit, 120 Wigeon, 82 Brent Geese, 78 Redshank, 74 Shelduck, 73 Teal, three Greenshank and the Slavonian Grebe

A Lesser Redpoll in Dead Dolphin Wood was a lone arrival with three Redwing, a Goldcrest and a Green Woodpecker still on site, whilst two Little Grebe continue to sing from the Main Pond. Elsewhere six Red-throated Diver, 26 Great-crested Grebe and the female Eider were offshore.  

Sunday 29 December 2019

2019 Wildlife Review: Plants

Flowering Plants

The year began as is now traditional with the BSBI New Year Plant hunt which saw a total of 34 species in flower including Sea Spurge, Sweet Violet and, new for the Recording area, Winter Jasmine. Several other new plant species were also found this year bringing the Warren total to over 720. All of these were non native species or likely garden escapes. Rose of Sharon appeared on Warren Point, whilst Fox and Cubs flowered just inside the Entrance Tunnel. Elsewhere Cockspur arrived with imported soil and Lamb's Ear, Elaeagnus and Daisy Bush are starting to spread from Council plantings.

120+ Sand Crocus

An exceptionally warm and sunny period of weather in mid March brought out what may have the best ever display of Sand Crocus with over 2000 flowers in bloom, with some rediscovered as far up as the 7th fairway. Other short turf specialists such as Upright Chickweed, Early Forget-me-not and Suffocated Clover also put on a good show.

Sand Crocus

Orchids came to the the fore midsummer with a carpets of Southern Marsh Orchid and Marsh Helleborine, the former have reduced considerably whilst the latter go from strength to strength. Bee and Pyramidal Orchid showed a year on increase in numbers with 36 and 22 spikes respectively, and the lone Green-winged Orchid again flowered with two more found in a new location. The last orchid of the year, Autumn Ladies-tresses, were out in exceptional numbers across Greenland Lake. The sea defence works aim to return many of these areas back to a tidal creek, with the vast majority of these disappearing under the tide so enjoy them whilst you can.

Southern Marsh Orchid - Alan Keatley

Also in Greenland Lake three flowering Snake's-head Fritillary, a vibrant mass of Yellow Iris and Meadowsweet, with Creeping Willow and Small Adder's-tongue still present and Devil's-bit Scabious rediscovered.

Yellow Flag - Alan Keatley

On Warren Point the summer weather again saw the nationally rare Sea Daffodil in bloom, one of just three locations in the UK.  Also present an exotic escape in the form of Devon's only Belladonna Lily, this species was previously lost when the Dune Ridge was reprofiled. 

The increased erosion vastly reduced areas of the Dune Ridge and the Desert on Warren Point, this has seen much of the Sea Holly take a battering from high tides, but it still manages to cling on in places.

Sea Daffodil - Alan Keatley

Mosses & Liverworts

Petalwort Petalophyllum ralfsii remains in good numbers around Greenland Lake but seems to be in decline elsewhere on site. There was positive news with the discovery of Micheli's Balloonwort Sphaerocarpos michelii and Blue Crystalwort Riccia crystallina in the Recording Area. This is the second Devon location for these nationally rare liverworts, although the other site is just the other side of the Railway Tunnel. A further discovery concerned the more widespread Bifid Crestwort Lophocolea bidentata on sallows in Dead Dolphin Wood.


Saturday 28 December 2019

2019 Wildlife Review: Spiders & Grasshoppers

Spiders

Approximately 130 spiders species out of British total of 670 have been recorded at the Warren, however most are old records pre 2000, including Euophrys herbigrada at one of only four UK post 1992 locations. With no recent spider surveys there is scope to refind this and no doubt discover many more species. One nationally scarce sand dune specialist recorded was the Dune Jumper Marpissa nivoyi with the locally rare Alopecosa cuneata also discovered this year.

Dune Jumper - Andrew Cunningham

Other new species found year were included Stealthy Ground Spider Haplodrassus signifier, Bleeding Heart Spider Nigma puella, False Widow Spider Steatoda bipunctata and Cheiracanthium erraticum.

The majority of records were however limited to common species such as Garden Orbweaver Araneus diadematus, Nursery Web Spider Pisura mirablis, Dune Wolf Spider Arctosa perita, Gorse Orbweaver Agalenatea redii and the Cricket Bat Spider Mangora acalypha

Flower Crab Spider - Alan Keatley

Elsewhere the Flower Crab Spider Misumea vatia could be found hiding amongst the flowerheads, the Missing Sector Orbweaver Zygiella x-notata was around the Amusements and on wooden fencing the ever alert Zebra Jumping Spider Salticus scenicus. However the spectacular looking Wasp Spider Argiope bruennichi, once a feature of the nature reserve, was limited to a single sighting. Requiring areas of uncut vegetation over winter, it has been scarce in recent years and next year should be looked for in any undisturbed and uncut areas of grassland.

Zebra Jumping Spider - Alan Keatley

Other arachnids included five new gall mite species, including Aceria megacerus on Water Mint, two new harvestman, Leiobunum rotundum and Spring Harvestman Platybunus triangularis and the Recording Area's first pseudoscorpion Chthonius ischocheles.

Grasshoppers & Crickets 

There were no new species this year to add to 21 previously recorded at Dawlish Warren, but bearing in mind that the British total is just 34 this was no surprise. The new arrival from last year, Roesel’s Bush-cricket could not be found again, confirming the male last year was a lone vagrant. However there was still a good selection around the meadows and scrubby edges.

Common Ground-hopper - Alan Keatley

The season started with Common Ground-hopper in April, with GreyOakSpeckled and Dark Bush-cricket appearing by mid Summer. Although tall vegetation helped to conceal Long-winged Conehead and Great Green Bush-cricket, their calls give them away and they could still be found with careful looking. No such problem finding the widespread Common GreenMeadow and Field Grasshopper with their giveaway chirping (stridulation) sound coming from areas of short turf. Unfortunately there was no sound or sign of any Mottled Grasshopper or Slender Groundhopper this year.

Long-winged Conehead - Alan Keatley


Related species included Tawny Cockroach and the the ubiquitous Common Earwig. The nationally scarce Lesne's Earwig was relocated but the known wintering population (in umbellifer stems) was unfortunately cut down and then burnt in mid December.