Sunday 31 May 2020

Sunday 31st May

May 2020 looks set to be the sunniest and driest in England on record, or at least since 1896.  It was another day of unrelenting bright sunshine made bearable by a cool light easterly breeze.  A visit to coincide with high tide discovered 35 watercraft pulled up between Finger Point and the end of Warren Point, which doubtless influenced the drop from 157 yesterday to only 14 Oystercatcher present today.  
Some of the 26 boats, 4 jet-skiis, 3 kayaks and 2 kite-surfers on Warren Point - Ivan Lakin 
Some respite from the disturbance was found in front of the bird hide and in the saltmarsh by eleven Whimbrel, nine Shelduck, eight Great Black-backed Gull, four Curlew, four each of Grey Plover, Dunlin and Black-headed Gull, two Little Egret, single Bar-tailed Godwit, Lesser Black-backed Gull and the Golden Plover was again in The Bight. 'Herbert' the Slavonian Grebe, in full summer plumage was in the estuary.

Shuffled about about tourists along the tideline, a flock of 25 Sanderling contained another 'Sanderbling', this one with a black flag and various colour-rings that revealed it was ringed on the Bijagos Archipelago in Guinea Bissau on 24 Nov 2018, about 2,800 miles away to the SSW; this was its first recovery.

Wildlife news: Brown Argus on Warren Point, two or three Emperor Dragonfly and a Broad-bodied Chaser over pools and ponds.

Saturday 30th May

A Hobby flew in off the sea over the seawall and inland at c.08:20, but only six Swallow and a single Swift where seen thereafter overhead in a cloudless and uneventful sky.  No visible migrants were in the bushes, woods or dunes today; just present were familiar individuals, such as two (have been up to four) Raven on Warren Point and at least five Jackdaw that continued to commute with food, presumably to nest sites somewhere in the village.  One of the two pairs of Little Grebe on the Main Pond had three (not two) chicks.

The tide was too low to push many waders in, so yesterday's unseasonal Golden Plover, present again today, alone stood in The Bight.  Random statistic of the day, this is only the tenth individual to have appeared here in May since 1937, but seven of those have been since 2005.

Wildlife news: a few Meadow Brown was among active butterflies in the meadows.  

Thursday 28 May 2020

Thursday 28th May

An enthusiastically early start and long session into the early afternoon was not reciprocated by bird life, with only single figures of Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and a single Bar-tailed Godwit on the tide along with the non-breeding flock of Oystercatcher.  Also a dozen Swallow passed and three Song Thrush noted in the bushes. 

Wildlife news: the hot and sunny conditions turned attention to other forms of life. The unmown meadows and glades teemed with insects.  The striking yellow striped, bulb-bodied hoverfly Xanthogramma pedissequum, and the bee-mimic hoverfly Volucella bombylans were on the wing. Along the dune ridge, many Silvery Leafcutter Bee (Megachile leachella), a few Grey-patched Mining Bee (Andrena nitida) and a ruby-tailed wasp (Chrysididae spp., probably Hedychridium roseum given habitat and time of year).  Other sightings were of Red-headed Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis), Wasp Beetle (Clytus arietis); as well as various butterflies such as Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood.

Silvery Leafcutter Bee Megachile leachella - Alan Keatley

Volucella bombylans - Alan Keatley

Tuesday 26th May

Briefly, before the heat of the day returned, sightings on the rising tide produced 197+ Oystercatcher and only singles figures of Whimbrel, Curlew, Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plover.  A distant raft of 36 Shag and a Sandwich Tern in off were the only notables offshore.  At least a couple of the semi-resident Raven continued to preside over the site.  A Stock Dove feeding in the saltmarsh behind the golf course follows a series of records for this species here. 

Monday 25 May 2020

Bank Holiday Monday 25th May

A chilly, misty early morning soon transformed into a hot and cloudless sunny day. Fortune also shined on the site in the form of two colour-ringed Sanderling among a flock of 52 feeding around The Bight.  The combinations of ring and flag colours revealed that one (with a green flag) was ringed at Ostgonland, located on the mid eastern coast of Greenland on 18 July 2019.  And the other was ringed at Banc d'Arguin, Mauritania (with a white flag) on 13 Jan 2018, a popular winter destination for this species and for the project.  This bird stayed until at least 23rd.  It was next seen on Nevern Estuary, in south-west Wales on 04 Aug 2019, then back on the same wintering grounds in Mauritania from at least 23 Nov 2019 to 11 Jan 2020.

Colour-ringed Sanderlings - Dave Boult

These are the 33rd and 34th individual sets of Sanderling colour-rings read in the field at Dawlish Warren since the first in 2009. See 'RINGING REPORTS' links for details of some of the others.

Also present at high tide, 214 Oystercatcher, 13 Whimbrel, 13 Curlew, ten Shelduck, seven Dunlin, six Ringed Plover, three Little Egret, three Bar-tailed Godwit, two each of Grey Plover, Turnstone and Sandwich Tern, and a Grey Heron.

Apart from just a couple of Black-headed Gull north and a couple of Swallow, there was no passage, and despite the conditions, the only bird-of-prey seen on site was a Buzzard that drifted over.  Nothing unexpected was noted in the dunes, bushes and woodland areas today.

Wildlife news: various butterflies were on the wing in the sunshine including some now tally Brown Argus.

Sunday 24 May 2020

Sunday 24th May

Soaring to over 1033 mb, the highest since late-March, high pressure quickly returned to temper the westerly to only a mild breeze and later in the day encouraged out the sunshine, and the jet-skiers.  During the morning high tide, the estuary supported 184 Oystercatcher, 72 Sanderling, 22 Canada Goose, nine Shelduck, eight Dunlin, seven Great Black-backed Gull, six Whimbrel, three Curlew, three Grey Plover, two Ringed Plover, two Bar-tailed Godwit, one Little Egret.

On the Main Pond, the pair of Mute Swan continued to incubate, two pairs of Little Grebe - one with its single half-grown first brood youngster and the other pair that lost its first brood chick today nurtured two tiny (2nd brood) chicks. Monitoring these potential meals was a Grey Heron. Also there a female Mallard with its two surviving mostly grown ducklings.

Overhead passage was typically light and comprised of 15 Swallow, five House Martin, three Swift and a single Black-headed Gull flew north.  As some birds continued their epic cross-continental journeys to breeding grounds, some other migrants and resident species that had established territories back a couple of months ago were in various stages of their respective breeding seasons on site.  A family group of nine Long-tailed Tit bounced through the Entrance Bushes, and five nest-boxes at various locations occupied by Blue Tit and Great Tit showed signs that they were all about to fledge.  An elusive juvenile Song Thrush briefly showed.  Young are expected soon from the three-four territories each of Reed WarblerChiffchaff and Blackcap, and from the 10-11 territories of Whitethroat.  However, three of the four pairs of Stonechat on site have already fledged young and today's absence of females perhaps suggests these are on their way to producing 2nd broods.

Wildlife news: single Emperor Dragonfly were on Warren Point and over the Main Pond.  A Red Admiral nectared on Red Valerian.    

Saturday 23rd May

A change in the weather to a strong WSW breeze produced the first Balearic Shearwater of the year and approximately 40 Gannet and 30 Manx Shearwater, most were very distant. Five of 20+ auk that passed were all Guillemot; also noted offshore were three Fulmar, a summer-plumage Great Northern Diver, a Kittiwake and a first-summer (2cy) Common Gull.

On Finger Point 211 Oystercatcher roosted - the highest count since 217 on 11 April. If an indication of the number to over-summer, this closely follows the steadily declining trend in the population of this species here, now reduced to only a quarter of that here in the 1980s at this time of the year. Also present at high tide were 22 Sanderling, 13 Shelduck, 12 Great Black-backed Gull, ten Ringed Plover, six Curlew, five Dunlin, three Whimbrel; and single Grey Heron, Little Egret and Turnstone.

Passage overhead continued at only a trickle with 13 Swallow, two House Martin, a single Swift and one Lesser Black-backed Gull flew north. A male Peregrine passed by.

A Spotted Flycatcher, the first of the year, was the only obvious passerine migrant in the bushes. Inexplicably, a pair of Mallard were perched for a time on the cliff edge of Langstone Rock.

Friday 22nd May

A complete list of 48 species was about as poor as this site can get and negligible passage was evident at the high tide roost when only single figures of Whimbrel, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Turnstone were noted, with the exception of 58 Sanderling along the beach.  A dozen Swallow and only a single Sandwich Tern was seen offshore today.   

Thursday 21 May

High pressure still dominated and it was a little warmer today. Again both tides were covered with counts of 180 Oystercatcher, 80 Sanderling, 20 Ringed Plover, 12 Whimbrel, eight Dunlin, four Curlew, single figures of other waterbirds, plus the resident Slavonian Grebe.

Before 10:00, six Red Kite had flown over the site with another five passed outside the recording area. 

An 'Aylesbury Duck' joined a Mallard on the Main Pond. 

Wednesday 20th May

A fortnight has passed since it last rained and high pressure still dominates, thought it was less warm today.  A complete species list of 53 species today was about on par in the context of recent years for this time of the year.  Both tides were covered, 208 Oystercatcher, 105 Sanderling, 25 Ringed Plover, 18 Dunlin, seven Whimbrel, a few Curlew, six Great Black-backed Gull, two Little Egret, a Common Gull and the Slavonian Grebe.

Offshore, rafts of foraging flocks of 520 Herring Gull and two distant Sandwich Tern.  Apart from a Green Woodpecker, the bushes and dunes held only usual species. 

Tuesday 19th May

Low tide and calm, warm, sunny weather were conditions not expected to produce much, so another Cuckoo on Warren Point was a bonus.  Offshore, two Great Northern Diver (one summer plumage) was the highlight; also seen was a raft of 25 Shag, six Gannet and a Fulmar. Apart from a Whimbrel, all other recorded species were of established territories, breeders and lingering non-breeders.  

Monday 18th May

A count of 130 Sanderling feeding along the beach exceeded yesterday's max and was the highest count on site since May 2016.  Other waterbird counts in the estuary were more modest with 17 Whimbrel, 13 Dunlin, ten Shelduck, eight Great Black-backed Gull, seven Ringed Plover, five Cormorant, three Curlew, two Little Egret, and a pair of Mute Swan present.  Also, perhaps an indication of passage, was the first Redshank since 13 April.

Just four Sandwich Tern and two Gannet noted offshore. The other pair of Mute Swan, the two pairs of Little Grebe and a Grey Heron were all on the Main Pond. 

Sunday 17th May

Pleasant conditions aided birding but the low neap tide not so much the afternoon's WeBS count.  That and other counts during the day totalled105 Sanderling (highest count so far this year), 38 Dunlin, just 22 Oystercatcher, 15 Whimbrel, ten Curlew, six Mute Swan (including the pair on the Main Pond), six Great Black-backed Gull, three each of Canada Goose, Little Egret and Ringed Plover, and the resident Slavonian Grebe.  At low tide, 68 Carrion Crow foraged on the estuary mudflats and offshore sandflats.

Overhead passage was light with 27 Swallow north-east; 15 Black-headed Gull and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull flew north, five House Martin, a few high flying single Cormorant and today's highlight, a Hobby flew high west. 

Little seen offshore with 15 Gannet, 13 Shag, six Sandwich Tern, two Common Scoter and two Kittiwake noted. 

Friday 15th May

The biting cold northerly that produced frosts locally and the coldest May temperature since 1982 in Northern Ireland yesterday relented today and the afternoon was pleasantly  very warm and sunny.  

The unusually neap high tide (only 2.5 metres at Exmouth Docks) and the dry weather conditions, predictably, didn't produce much with only 24 Whimbrel, eight Ringed Plover, six Dunlin, four Sanderling, three Little Egret and two Bar-tailed Godwit noted.  At sea, 13 Sandwich Tern foraged; and overhead a trickle of c.25 Swallow headed northeast, but no other migrants were reported. 

The site is abound with recently fledged young birds and nestlings.  In response to the Government's subtle changes to easing restrictions, there has been a rapid upsurge in visitors to the site since Wednesday, so keep vigilant of parent birds trying to feed their young whilst exploring and enjoying the wildlife.   

Wildlife News: at least ten butterfly species were on the wing with Brown Argus in the meadows, and passing through two Red Admiral and a Painted Lady.

Thursday 14 May 2020

Thursday 14th May

Exceptionally cold last night, coastal temperatures in Devon dipped <5C and the coldest May in 40 years was experienced in N Ireland where overnight temperatures dropped < -6C!  In a light chilly north-easterly, the lunchtime high tide was about as underwhelming as a neap tide can be here (2.6 m at Exmouth Docks), but a mix of waterbirds still arrived with counts of 177 Oystercatcher, 41 Sanderling, 36 Whimbrel, 15 Dunlin, including yesterday's assumed 'arctica' race individual; also ten Shelduck, four Bar-tailed Godwit, three Curlew, just three Great Black-backed Gull, two Ringed Plover, two Little Egret and a Knot.

A Cuckoo, a new species for the year, ate caterpillars on Warren Point. This raised the site year-list to 142, the lowest tally by this date in all but one of the past 21 years.  Offshore, 13 Sandwich Tern, ten Gannet, a late flock of four Common Gull flew by,  and just three Shag. A trickle of 21 Swallow passed plus a Sand Martin.  

Of the two pairs of Long-tailed Tit on site, the pair nesting in the Entrance Bushes fledged seven young today.  Another species present on site included a male Sparrowhawk, one of the regular Raven, one of the breeding pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Collared Dove and a pair of Bullfinch

The first Moorhen chick was spotted on the Main Pond, where two pairs of Little Grebe remain, but with only one surviving chick between them. 

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Wednesday 13th May

Daily updates return as Government lock-down regulations ease a little from today. All reported sightings continue to follow guidance in respect of the Covid-19 crisis. The site remains open but the VC and hide are still closed.

Despite only a neap high tide (2.9 m at Exmouth Docks), this was moderately productive with 175 Oystercatcher, 87 Sanderling, 16 Dunlin, 13 Shelduck, a dozen Ringed Plover, eight Whimbrel, two Bar-tailed Godwit, two Turnstone and a Knot.  

A 'Sanderbling' with a white flag indicated that it was ringed in Mauritania, but in missing two colour-rings its identify remains uncertain.

A presumed 'Greenland Dunlin' (Calidris alpina arctica) accompanied a small group of 'Southern Dunlin' (Calidris alpina schinzii) in The Bight, where at close quarters this individual was a particularly obvious candidate for this taxa in being peep-sized, overall greyer-toned, especially the head. Its black belly patch was more restricted and incomplete. And its buffier scapulars had much less chestnut than shown in those of its southern cousins. The total World population of this race is in the low ten of thousands, and only ones and twos are noted here on passage less than annually. The nominate race 'Scandinavian Dunlin' (Calidris a. alpina) appears in here and on other estuaries in Britain in vast numbers to over-winter and also on passage in smaller numbers with the other two regular races. The vernacular names used here are in limited use.

Offshore, 13 Sandwich Tern, nine Common Scoter, single figures of Gannet and Kittiwake, and a Great Northern Diver flew E. Three chunky, long-winged, more pronounced upright stance and with plumage details all characteristic of Greenland Wheatear strutted around Greenland Lake.

On the move overhead, 11 Swallow, three Sand Martin, two Swift, a House Martin and a Buzzard drifted over in the face of the light, but icy cold north-northeasterly.

Thursday 7 May 2020

April 2020 summary

Daily updates will continue to be replaced with summaries during the Covid-19 crisis, which has meant that levels of observations are lower than usual. The bird hide remains closed. All of the reported sightings below were made following Government regulations and guidance. Stay safe and hope to see you all soon.

Up to six Dark-bellied Brent Goose were present until 13th with a dozen on 9th and five on 26th indicating passage, with Pale-bellied Brent Goose on six coinciding dates, including counts of 11 (4th) and 13 (5th) and a flock of c.60 flew in off the sea on 26th.

Pale- bellied Brent Goose 04/05/2016 - Dave Jewell

The male of a pair of Mute Swan nesting on the Main Pond was ringed (yellow ‘DDN’) at Abbotsbury, Dorset as a first-summer in July 2015 and has been periodically seen at the Warren since April 2018.

A drake Shoveler on Main Pond, no longer with a female, persisted until 2nd.  The last Teal in the estuary departed on 7th, but a drake that befriended Mallard located on the flooded areas around the Entrance Bushes, where it became quite confiding, remained until 21st. Two pairs of Little Grebe on the Main Pond each produced two noisy chicks.

Little Grebe 15/05/2013 Andy Stuthridge

A pair of Eider remained offshore until 25th; the max count of 15+ Common Scoter on 2nd. The last three Red-breasted Merganser in the estuary on 6th were followed only by a single offshore on 11th; and the last three Great-crested Grebe offshore were on 9th.

The high tide roosts supported dwindling numbers of over-wintering wader with some passage suggested by flocks of 21 (19th) and c.30 (28th) Ringed Plover. More obvious wader migration appeared in the form of regular two-figure counts of Whimbrel from 6th with a max of c.70 (26th); one individual with yellow and green-coloured ring combinations was likely to be ‘D63’, a Welsh ringed bird present at Dawlish Warren for its fourth spring visit.  A flock of 154 Dunlin on 28th were new in.  A Black-tailed Godwit flew by on 8th, a Common Sandpiper was on rocks below the seawall on 24th and the highlight was a pair of vocal Avocet that flew past The Bight and continued NE on 10th; the first April record here since 2006.

Whimbrel 12/05/2017 - Dean Hall

Small parties of Black-headed Gull (max 36 on 11th) and Lesser Black-backed Gull (max 21 on 5th) flew N through the month, the latter max the best since 2013. Sandwich Tern passage was very light with a max of 36 (19th); by contrast, good numbers of Common Tern were seen including 31 on 30th. Other tern spp. numbers were not impressive, with two Roseate Tern on 30th, just two Little Tern on 18th and a single on 30th; and two Arctic Tern on 30th.

Unsettled conditions on 29th produced a pale-phase ‘spooned’ Pomarine Skua and three Great Skua. Other records included a single Arctic Skua on 19th and three single Great Skua on 22nd, 24th & 25th. Red-throated Diver was the only diver species seen in April with relatively heavy passage, including 11 on 4th and nine on 12th. This is the first blank April since 1995 for Great Northern Diver, no doubt influenced by the reduction of hours in the field.  The first three Manx Shearwater on 13th were followed by one 24th and 16+ on 29th.

A Grey Heron frequented the Main Pond 10-26th; three-four Little Egret were present all month with individuals adventurously stalking along ditches and flooded areas where not previously seen, presumably due to the reduction of people about.  An unseasonal Kingfisher perched up outside Eales Dock on 11th was the first in April since 2003.

An Osprey briefly fished in The Bight early morning on 7th. A Red Kite drifted NE on 11th; the resident male Kestrel was briefly joined by another, a presumed migrant on 10th.  Up to four Raven, unusual for this site, regularly foraged on the Golf Course. The first Swift on 19th was followed by three on 26th. Hirundine passage was lighter than average with single-figures of Sand and House Martin, and a max of 41 Swallow on 19th. 

Osprey 06/04/2019 - Lee Collins

Warbler passage too was comparatively light, a reflection of coverage but also mirroring low numbers of migrants elsewhere. There was a max of 11 Chiffchaff, five Whitethroat, four Blackcap and two Willow Warbler. Six Yellow Wagtail included four on 19th, with a Tree Pipit overhead on 8th and only single figures of Meadow Pipit on eight dates during the month. 

A Mistle Thrush foraged on Golf Course fairways (2nd & 6th) was the first of the year. Male Ring Ouzel on 4th was sub-singing then ventured onto the empty fairways to forage where it was chased around by the resident Blackbirds.  This was the 20th individual (18 records) for the Recording Area, the earliest ever and first since 2015.

Wheatear 12/04/2016 - Dave Boult

A total of just 18 Wheatear was the worst bird-days total since 1994; although a male Redstartpresent on 23rd is a species not seen every Spring. Two of the four territories of Stonechat have so far fledged young. Peaking at 84 (3rd) Linnet numbers gradually dropped to about half that by the close of the month. Goldfinch passage peaked at 15-22 birds on some days during the period 5th-11th, dropping to a resident six or so birds by the end of the month. 

A lone unpaired roaming male Reed Bunting was seen twice but Cirl Bunting were paired up and seem to be doing well.