Sunday 30 June 2019

Sunday 30th June

The Slavonian Grebe was off Cockwood with counts from the estuary including 237 Curlew, 18 Redshank, 12 Shelduck, single Dunlin and Grey Plover and just four Oystercatcher. Another 100+ Oystercatcher were roosting offsite on the estuary's new island at Cockle Sands. Elsewhere 280 Starling, mostly juveniles, were feeding in Greenland Lake in the evening and one of the pairs of Little Grebe now has a second brood.

Wildlife News: A Marbled White was on the wing with Marsh Helleborine now out in abundance.

Thursday 27 June 2019

Thursday 27th June

Despite much searching there was no sign of the estuary's star bird in the Recording area. Just five Sandwich Tern, an adult Mediterranean Gull and the Slavonian Grebe were noted off Cockwood. The Warren's only Caspian Tern remains the short-staying bird from July 2004.

Wednesday 26 June 2019

Wednesday 26th June

The Slavonian Grebe remains the highlight of the quiet midsummer period with two Mediterranean Gull, first & second summers, and five Sandwich Tern also in the estuary. Elsewhere a Common Scoter and 27 Shag were offshore, two small broods of Mallard remain on the Main Pond and 23 Swift flew through.

Wildlife News: A single Marbled White was on the wing with 10 Painted Lady, a Large and several Small Skipper, Common Blue, Small White and Meadow Brown. A new species for site was Leopard Slug with a pair found under log in educational area, another common and widespread species previously overlooked or unreported.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Tuesday 25th June

An quick early morning visit saw a Great Northern Diver close inshore with a raft of 43 Shag also offshore along with 30 Black-headed Gull, 10 Sandwich Tern, five Gannet and four Kittiwake. Elsewhere a dispersing juvenile Coal Tit was near the Dune Pond, a Collared Dove was in Dead Dolphin Wood and a Rook flew NE.

Sunday 23 June 2019

Sunday 23rd June

The mid-morning 3.0 metre high tide only just and briefly inundated Cockle Sands, so across to roost came 93 Curlew, c.30 Black-headed Gull, 10 Shelduck, eight Cormorant, seven each of Oystercatcher and Redshank, three each of Little Egret and Dunlin, two each of Grey Plover, Mediterreanean Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and Common Tern, and single Grey Heron, Ringed Plover and an unseasonal summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit, which flew in off the sea into the estuary.  Of the 30+ Sandwich Tern in the lower estuary, about a dozen entered our recording area.

The fresh easterly failed again to produce anything noteworthy at sea with low single figures of the usual Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Gannet, Kittiwake and auk sp, and a single Great Crested Grebe.

A pair of Collared Dove were in Dead Dolphin Wood; two Swift and a few Swallow passed overhead.

Wildlife news: Along one kilometre of shoreline, the remains of 443 Barrel Jellyfish Rhizostoma pulmo of various sizes were counted. The mass beaching may be related to plankton blooms and onshore winds.  Elsewhere a Marbled White was in the uncut margins of the Car Park and hymenoptera included Silvery Leafcutter Megachile leachella, Common Spiny Digger Wasp Oxybelus uniglumis and Crabro peltarius.  

Saturday 22 June 2019

Saturday 22nd June

The 3.2 metre high tide was just high enough flood Cockle Sands and Bull Hill sandflats to bring over the welcome return of 206 Oystercatcher and among the few with colour-rings, the Icelandic bird ringed as a chick (pullus) nearly two years ago was seen, confirming its decision to over-summer on and around the Exe Estuary.  Briefly in front of the hide, the flock was spooked and evacuated the estuary again, flying off around Orcombe Point.  Also present 140 Curlew, 11 Shelduck, eight Cormorant, five Mute Swan, five Bar-tailed Godwit, four Canada Goose, three each of Little Egret, Dunlin and Great Black-backed Gull, single Grey Heron, Grey Plover and Redshank. 

Usual residents on the Main Pond were the Little Grebe pair with two chicks and a fledged bird, Moorhen chicks and eight Mallard.

Considerably more speedboats, jet-skis and general water traffic offshore than birds, where only two each of Gannet, Common Scoter and Sandwich Tern, and an adult Mediterranean Gull were seen.

A Stock Dove flushed up from Greenland Lake.  The usual Kestrel hovered over Warren Point.  Leaving south, c.20 Swift and a few Swallow. A flock of 28 Long-tailed Tit roamed the bushes and Great Tit were again busy feeding young inside the rear wall of the hide. Both fledged broods of Stonechat met on Warren Point where five were seen, plus a singing male near Dune Pond. 

singing male Blackcap - Alan Keatley

Wildlife news: from mid-morning, the strong mid-summer sun encouraged out less butterflies than hoped - a few Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood, Small Copper, Common Blue and Small Skipper, and one Green-veined White. Lots of bumblebees and other insects, including the black and yellow long-horned beetle Strangalia maculata, some stridulating Field Grasshopper and the first Six-spot Burnet on the year. 

Thursday 20 June 2019

Thursday 20th June

Nothing to get the pulse running over the high tide with 103 Curlew, 76 Black-headed Gull, 12 Shelduck, seven Canada Goose, four Sanderling, two each of Grey Heron, Little Egret, Grey Plover and Sandwich Tern, and 'Herbert', the resident Slavonian Grebe.

Sanderlings - Alan Keatley

Three Stock Dove on Warren Point was unusual there, but nothing else of note with only two Shag and a Gannet illustrating just how poor it was offshore.  

Wildlife news: black and yellow stripes were in vogue, with two new striking species for the site Chrysotoxum festivum Hook-banded Wasp Hoverfly and Nephrotoma flavipalpis, a tiger cranefly. Though chic black is never out of fashion, flattering the delta-winged poise shown by the Cheilosia variabilis Figwort Cheilosia, a hoverfly.  

 Cheilosia variabilis Figwort Cheilosia - Alan Keatley

Chrysotoxum festivum Hook-banded Wasp Hoverfly - Alan Keatley

Nephrotoma flavipalpis, a tiger cranefly - Alan Keatley

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Wednesday 19th June

Counts during the morning 3.7 metre high tide were about as expected with 81 Oystercatcher, 63 Curlew, six Canada Goose, six Sanderling, four Shelduck, four Little Egret, three Dunlin, two Grey Plover, two Great Black-backed Gull, and single Ringed Plover and Grey Heron.

In a similar theme of things as they should be, a raft of 21 Shag offshore; four Swallow and two Swift overhead; and elsewhere, a flock of 30 mostly juvenile Starling, five Stonechat, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and just the usual tits, warblers and finches during a morning's effort.

Blackcap - Dave Jewell

Monday 17 June 2019

Monday 17th June

A summer plumage Golden Plover strutted about calling on the 7th fairway between the mowers for a short while in the morning before flying off high east.  This was the first June record here in 15 years.  Scant recollections of other less notable sightings in the estuary over the high tide included 80 Curlew, eight Mute Swan, two Oystercatcher, a Bar-tailed Godwit and the immature Grey Plover.

Sunday 16 June 2019

Sunday 16th June

During a brief evening visit for the high tide, counts from the estuary and in The Bight were 81 Curlew, six Canada Goose (plus four surviving goslings), five each of Mute Swan, Black-headed Gull and Sandwich Tern, four Cormorant, three Little Egret, three Dunlin, two Shelduck, two Grey Heron, and single Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit. No Oystercatcher, no Ringed Plover and no Great Black-backed Gull; what can only be described as a mid-summer lull.

Saturday 15 June 2019

Saturday 15th June

Hopes of seabirds as last night's rain cleared early morning in the breezy southerly were soon dashed with only a dozen distant auks, low single-figures of Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Gannet; two Swift flew south and two first-summer Mediterranean Gull flew in off.  

On the dropping tide, the only suggestion of weather induced change was 20 Sandwich Tern.  Further up the estuary, a Common Tern quartered over Cockle Sands, Exmouth and the long-staying Spoonbill was visible from the hide on the Exe-Clyst confluence, 4.5 miles north and so way outside our recording boundary.  More expected, and on site, were 80 Oystercatcher, 48 Curlew, seven Mute Swan, seven Cormorant, six Dunlin, six Great Black-backed Gull, four Little Egret, three Shelduck, single Grey Plover, Redshank, Ringed Plover (heard only) and the resident, 13-year-or-so old Slavonian Grebe.  Only three Oystercatcher were on Finger Point during high tide, the rest were seen to fly into the estuary from the direction that matches a recent report, and past sightings, of these birds roosting in Sandy Bay, east of Exmouth.  A Fox, which was yet again wandering aimlessly around Finger Point and The Bight in the daytime on the dropping tide remains a possible culprit for this mass displacement.

On the ponds were nine Mallard including a female with nine tiny ducklings; Little Grebes and two new broods of Moorhen on the Main Pond and Golf Course Pond.

No sign of yesterday's Marsh Tit, but woodland oddities Nuthatch and a juv Coal Tit, as well as roaming flocks of tits on site were perhaps more than just coincidental.  Deluges of rain over recent days and the cacophony of chainsawing emanating from local areas were noted.

Wildlife news: the sun appeared late morning and in sheltered spots there were two Hairy Dragonfly, Wasp Beetle, Small Skipper, various hoverflies such as Hornet Hoverfly Volucella zonaria and the common Helophilus pundulus. The colourful, nationally scarce Ornate Brigadier Odontomyia ornata, a soldier-fly, has been recorded here annually since 2016. Lots of toadlets were crawling around the undergrowth at the pond end of Greenland Lake. 

 Odontomyia ornata Ornate Brigadier, a soldier-fly

 Episyron rufipes Red-legged Spider Wasp  

Small Skipper - Alan Keatley

Looking at the best now, counts of 36 Bee Orchid spikes and 22 Pyramidal Orchid spikes can be viewed from around the temporarily fenced areas (do not pick!). 

Pyramidal Orchid - Alan Keatley

Friday 14 June 2019

Friday 14th June

A Marsh Tit calling and showing in Dead Dolphin Wood this evening was the first record since 2010 and only the 11th since 1964.  About half of the records are in mid to late-summer records, perhaps relating to post-breeding dispersal.  

The evening high tide supplied more predictable offerings of 51 Curlew, ten Mute Swan, ten Ringed Plover, six each of Cormorant, Dunlin and Great Black-backed Gull, five Shelduck, four Canada Goose, only two Oystercatcher and a single Grey Plover.  

On the Main Pond, a pair of Little Grebe engaged in some display and ignored their remaining two nagging chicks for a while. 

Brief glances out to sea produced two Arctic Skua (dark and a pale phase) lingering far offshore; two Manx Shearwater, two Sandwich Tern and a Fulmar.

A flock of 64 Starling roamed the grassy areas and two mobile fledgling Stonechat explored Warren Point.

Thursday 13 June 2019

Thursday 13th June

Rain all day and the tide had dropped, so numbers were a little low, though representative counts were likely to have been seven Ringed Plover, four Canada Goose, four Little Egret, four Dunlin, two Shelduck and just two Oystercatcher. The estuary also held 12 Black-headed Gull.

Off the seawall, a summer plumage Great Northern Diver and just one Gannet during a short session of seawatching.  Although just one today, mid-summer adult Gannet have been regular visitors here for some decades now and tracking data shows that birds from the expanding Alderney colony forage into Lyme Bay as close as the Devon coast.  

The two grown, first brood Little Grebe and four Mallard were on the Main Pond.  A dozen Swallow quartered low over the site in the rain.  Three juvenile Stonechat were around the hide.

Sunday 9 June 2019

Sunday 9th June

A flat calm sea revealed a summer-plumage Great Northern Diver and an immature Red-throated Diver, but the inky expanse supported little else; a raft of 21 Shag, five Sandwich Tern foraging distantly and two Mediterranean Gull in off, the only additions of note.

The medium-height high tide managed to push in 22 Dunlin, 16 Curlew, 11 Sanderling, ten Great Black-backed Gull, eight Cormorant, seven Mute Swan, five Canada Goose, three Shelduck, two Little Egret and single Whimbrel, Turnstone and Oystercatcher.  Reports of whereabouts of the missing hundreds of Oystercatchers will be appreciated. 

Quiet overhead, six Swallow, the usual immature male Kestrel and an unseasonal Rook flew north.  A party of 34 Long-tailed Tit passed through the entrance bushes and parent Little Grebe and Reed Warbler continued to feed their young on the Main Pond.  The pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker also continue their routine of foraging and commuting to a nest somewhere off site.

 immature Little Grebe (from the 1st brood) - Lee Collins

Wildlife news: small counts of common bird species above illustrate how challenging birding here can be, especially entering mid-June, but there is plenty else to see. In a brief warm sunny spell, attention turned to wooded margins of flowering Hemlock Water-dropwort, that which hadn't been cut down, and were rewarded with an abundance of life, including Tree Bumblebee, Volucella pellucens, Hairy Dragonfly, Cucumber Green Orb Spider and the locally distributed moth Telechysis tripuncta.

Araniella cucurbitina (Cucumber Green Orb Spider) - Lee Collins

 Hairy Dragonfly - Lee Collins

 Telechysis tripuncta - Lee Collins

 Tree Bumblebee (worker) - Lee Collins

Volucella pellucens - Lee Collins

Saturday 8 June 2019

Saturday 8th June

On the late morning tide, 24 Dunlin, 23 Sanderling, eight Curlew, seven Cormorant, six Ringed Plover, four Shelduck, three Grey Plover, single Grey Heron and Little Egret, the resident Slavonian Grebe but not a single Oystercatcher again.  No sign either of the Bonaparte's Gull today on the Exmouth side.

Grey Plover - Lee Collins

Up to 40 Manx Shearwater flew south but little else at sea apart from a Great Crested Grebe.  A Swift and a couple of Swallow seemed to be local birds.

The highlight in the bushes was a Cuckoo, the second of the year, calling a few times from Dead Dolphin Wood as the drizzle stopped.

juvenile Blue Tit - Lee Collins

Friday 7 June 2019

Friday 7th June

Storm Miguel was certainly wet and windy but relatively short lived here and failed to sustain winds for long in a productive direction. Consequently seawatching was tough going with the only reward being a European Storm-petrel and a skua sp. Also small numbers of Gannet, Fulmar and Kittiwake; four Common Tern, three Manx Shearwater, two Common Scoter, two Sandwich Tern and a single Guillemot.  

On the mid-morning tide, c130 Oystercatcher, five Ringed Plover, five Dunlin, three Grey Plover, two Whimbrel, single Turnstone and a first-summer Medieterrean Gull.

Thursday 6 June 2019

Thursday 6th June

In pleasant conditions, an Osprey flew south out to sea from 07:50 and watched out to sea for 15 minutes, so it was some surprise to learn of an Osprey over Exminster Marshes at 09:50; presumably it has second thoughts and doubled backed.  Since the first in 2011, this is now the fourth June record here. 

Osprey - Lee Collins

On the mid morning tide, 39 Oystercatcher, 16 Ringed Plover, 12 Sanderling, ten Dunlin, five Curlew, four Shelduck and three Sandwich Tern,  The Bonaparte's Gull was in the estuary feeding among a melee of Black-headed Gull up the estuary, outside of our recording area.

With single Grey Heron and Cormorant on the Main Pond, the Little Grebe chicks were secreted away in the reeds.

Elsewhere, two Common Scoter on the sea; six Swallow flew by and evidence of breeding in the diminishing areas of bushes were three recently fledged Stonechat near the hide (the first brood was predated) and a family of Chiffchaff.  

 juvenile Chiffchaff - Lee Collins

juvenile Stonechat - Lee Collins

Wildlife News
 Hairy Dragonfly - Simon Thurgood

Large Skipper - Simon Thurgood

Monday 3 June 2019

Monday 3rd June

On the evening tide within the estuary and along the beach, selected counts were 138 Oystercatcher, 67 Sanderling, 44 Dunlin, 18 Ringed Plover, nine Great Black-backed Gull, nine Canada Goose including a pair with their remaining four goslings; six Sandwich Tern, five Mute Swan, four Little Egret and three Curlew.  

The first-summer
Bonaparte's Gull found early morning off Shelly Beach, Exmouth was seen distantly from Dawlish Warren, but outside the recording area.

Wildlife News: Both male and female Ornate Brigadier Odontomyia ornata were on Hemlock Water Dropwort around the Entrance Bushes. These plants are key to the survival of this nationally scarce species.

 Ornate Brigadier (male) - Steve Fuller
Ornate Brigadier (female) - Steve Fuller

Sunday 2 June 2019

Sunday 2nd June

As usual, the early morning was the most productive time for  sea-watching and among a light passage of Gannet, Kittiwake and auks south was a Puffin at 07:10, a scarce bird here and fitting in with the remarkable count of 91 today off Berry Head, located 22 km to the south. Also at sea, 18 Swift (plus two more over later), seven Common Scoter, six Great Northern Diver, four first-summer Mediterranean Gull, three Sandwich Tern and single Little Tern and Great Crested Grebe.

The tidal cycle today returned to higher tides and this morning's 3.5 metre high tide was hoped to produce the hundreds of missing Oystercatcher, but only 11 individuals turned up.  Also in the estuary, The Bight and along Warren Point beaches, 62 Sanderling, 38 Dunlin (of which two were putative 'arctica'), 18 Ringed Plover, nine Mute Swan, five Shelduck, two each of Curlew, Little Egret and Grey Heron, and one Turnstone.

Sanderling - Lee Collins

The bushes and dunes weren't given much attention today. A noisy flock of 38 Long-tailed Tit, the largest flock here since Nov 1985, foraged up the site as far as 'windmill' (near groyne 9).  The day's oddest sighting was a Nuthatch that circled The Bight and dropped into bushes behind the hide, the fifth June record for the site. A Kingfisher at the Main Pond was however equally unseasonal.

Whitethroat - Dave Jewell

Saturday 1st June

An unseasonal Dark-bellied Brent Goose on the evening tide flew in from Cockle Sands, Exmouth where another six brent ssp lingered.  Also in the estuary and along the beaches during high tides were 48 Dunlin including 3 putative 'arctica' race individuals based on structural and plumage characteristics; 29+ Sanderling, 28 Ringed Plover, a paltry count of 18 Oystercatcher, eight Mute Swan (highest count so far this year), five Sandwich Tern; a dinky immature sinensis Cormorant in the six birds present in The Bight, and two first-summer Mediterranean Gull.

At sea, at least 11 Great Northern Diver rafted were seen early morning as the mist cleared.  Single-figures only of Gannet, three Common Scoter, singles only of Fulmar, Guillemot and a Common Tern, the first seen from this site since late-Apr and follows the first time in modern recording history its absence in May, saved only by sightings from the Exmouth side on 7th & 8th. Overall, it has been a remarkably poor spring here for terns.

With no scrub now remaining along Warren Neck after the failed flood defence works of 2017 and subsequent erosion, a juv Coal Tit ditched into Marram-grass but later found safer sanctuary in the patch of Sycamores on Warren Point. Just three Swallow and two House Martin passed overhead.

Yellow Shell - Dave Jewell