Sunday 28 June 2020

Sunday 28th June

Expectations were low in a cool brisk west-southwesterly and with a neap tide in late-June, so when patience soon waned after only c.20 Gannet, two Common Scoter and a Fulmar offshore, there was some speculation that an Aylesbury Duck on the Main Pond was going to be 'bird-of-the-day'. However, as regular birders here know, Dawlish Warren can never be written off when it rains. A single Teal, which  bizarrely alighted briefly on the diminutive Dune Pond, was only the four record ever here in June, all since 2010.

Flushed away from roosting on Cockle Sands by kite-surfers, the Railway Saltmarsh and estuary corner provided safe refuge for 210 Curlew, 21 Redshank, most of today's seven Mediterranean Gull, six Whimbrel, four Bar-tailed Godwit, four Little Egret and a Grey Heron.  Only about 130 Oystercatcher arrived in The Bight. Also noted were 13 Great Black-backed Gull and nine Sandwich Tern

With two second broods of Stonechat present plus others, their were at least a dozen on site. In sharp contrast, tits had largely abandoned the site today with only singles of Blue Tit and Great Tit seen.

Wildlife news: admirers have taken to social media to express their sense of wonder at the profusion of Marsh Helleborine.  With these and many other scarce plants species in the 'dune slacks', great care is needed when searching through this sensitive habitat, which is nearly unique in south Devon. 
Marsh Helleborine - Ivan Lakin

Saturday 27 June 2020

Saturday 27th June

A depression brought intermittent light rain overnight and into dawn on a breezy SE swinging to SW, but a 3h:45m seawatch was remarkably poor by comparison to results from Berry Head, 13.5 miles to the south, likely due to the weather not being unsettled enough.  Efforts produced 83 Gannet, a flock of ten Shelduck; only only seven Fulmar, six auk spp, five Common Scoter and three Manx Shearwater.  Also flying south were some of the 30 Mediterranean Gull seen around the site today (20 adults, 6 ss, 3 fs and 1 juv) and most of the 19 Great Black-backed Gull, the highest count here since early-March. 

The late morning high tide provided 200+ Curlew, 187 Oystercatcher, 160 Black-headed Gull, 14 Sandwich Tern, including the first juv of the year being fed presumably by a parent bird; also ten Redshank, eight Whimbrel, seven Bar-tailed Godwit, two Greenshank and a Dunlin.  Also in the estuary, a mixed feeding flock contained c.320 Herring Gull and two Common Tern. The Slavonian Grebe was still in its summer finery. 

Small pulses of 27 Swift and 15 Swallow moved through.  Nothing of particular note was seen on terrestrial habitats.

Thursday 25 June 2020

Thursday 25th June

Billed as the hottest day of the year so far and with a UV Index predicted to reach an unprecedented level 9, it was indeed uncomfortable even from relatively early in the morning.  On the rising tide in the estuary there was the usual Oystercatcher flock, 174 Curlew, 15 Whimbrel, 15 Redshank, a dozen Sandwich Tern, nine Bar-tailed Godwit, five Little Egret, four Great Black-backed Gull; also two each of Greenshank, Shelduck, Mute Swan and Canada Goose still with three goslings, and a single Grey Heron.   

A flock of 17 Mediterranean Gull (of mixed ages) had among them two colour-ringed adults, yellow '2L50' was ringed as a chick at Langstone Harbour, Hampshire on 25th Jun 2018, since spending a lot of time around Weymouth, Dorset, also Scolt Head, Norfolk on 6th July 2019 and Portscatho, Cornwall on 17th Dec 2019.  The other, green 'RV2K', is from Polder de Sebastopol, Vendée, France, from where this is about the 15th ringed Mediterranean Gull to be recovered here.  This particular bird was ringed on 1st July 2018 and since seen in various locations in France, Portugal, Spain and in Kent. Also noted were the first juvenile Black-headed Gull and Sandwich Tern of the year here.

Wildlife news: butterflies were active in the hot sunshine with lots of Meadow Brown, several Red Admiral, Small Skipper, Gatekeeper and Ringlet. Two fresh Small Copper and a scarce sighting these days of a Small Tortoiseshell.  The highlight was an Orange-spot Piercer Pammene aurana, a showy tortrix moth of which its larva feeds on Hogweed; it was a new species for the site.

Orange-spot Piercer Pammene aurana - Alan Keatley
Gatekeeper and Small Copper - Alan Keatley
Small Tortoiseshell - Alan Keatley
Emperor Dragonfly - Dean Hall

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Wednesday 24th June

Another calm and hot sunny day with a brief morning visit to observe the rising tide on which appeared 186 Oystercatcher, 148 Black-headed Gull, 140 Curlew, eight Sandwich Tern, six Mediterranean Gull, five Whimbrel, four Redshank, three Bar-tailed Godwit, three Little Egret, two Greenshank and a single Grey Heron. At least ten Swift and a few Swallow passed overhead.

Wildlife news; a Southern Hawker quartered a path through the Entrance Bushes was the first of the year.

Monday 22 June 2020

Monday 22nd June

A glance at the evening high tide in balmy conditions produced 181 Oystercatcher, 112 Curlew, 71 Black-headed Gull, 13 Whimbrel, nine Great Black-backed Gull, four Little Egret, three Bar-tailed Godwit, three Redshank, two Greenshank, two Ringed Plover, two Mediterranean Gull (adult and fs), the long-staying Golden Plover

colour-ringed Black-headed Gull - Dean Hall
A white colour-ringed Black-headed Gull seen today 'T7VE' was ringed as a chick (pullus) in at Borowko, Pobiedziska, located in the middle west part of Poland in June 2012, and this is the fifth year it has been seen at Dawlish Warren, generally late-June to early-Sep. 

This, the first three-figure count on site of returning Curlew, was today on a date fits the general pattern shown since 1999 of this threshold count being met in mid- to late-June.

Sunday 21 June 2020

Sunday 21st June

Today's Summer Solstice sightings, together with those of yesterday marked the end of 2020's brief summer recess here with bird movement now clearly underway.  The day list of 71 species was the highest ever recorded here in the month of June, helped by the site's first ever June record of Goosander.  Two 'red-heads' hunted together to push small fish into the shallows of the ebbing tide just behind the bird island.  Although still scarce here with one to three records about annually since 2000 this sawbill has increased since the previous decades, a trend probably driven by its expanding range and breeding success along the River Exe.  The nearest regular site, following the river valley, is about 27 km (17 miles) away to the north upstream.

Also in the estuary on the tide, 212 Oystercatcher, 7 Black-headed Gull, 85 Curlew, 17 Bar-tailed Godwit, 14 Turnstone, eight Great Black-backed Gull, five Whimbrel, two Redshank (first since 18th May), two Greenshank (first since 28 Apr), a Dunlin, yesterday's unseasonal Dark-bellied Brent Goose the long-staying Golden Plover, and 'Herbert' the Slavonian Grebe.  On 'Woodhenge' (the posts of the bird island), 15 Sandwich Tern and two Common Tern roosted for a while.

The pair of Canada Goose and their three goslings, ousted from the Main Pond by the breeding pair of Mute Swan, continue to occupy the bird island and Bight.

Heavy rain passed through in the early hours and although only a light southwesterly, seabird numbers picked up a little this morning with 23 Gannet, a dozen Fulmar, 11 Common Scoter, seven Kittiwake, three Manx Sheawater, the year's first juvenile plus a fs Mediterranean Gull and a Great Crested Grebe. Two young Rock Pipit on rocks below the seawall were likely the progeny of a breeding pair located between Langstone Rock and Dawlish. 

Overhead, eight Swallow, seven Swift, three Stock Dove, three House Martin  and single Sand Martin (the first since 14 May), Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.

The bushes remained active with breeding birds; the three pairs of Stonechat all behaved in ways to suggest they had nestlings, and the males of all five territories of Chiffchaff, for example, continued to sing quite late into the day.

Record shot of one of the 'red-head' Goosander fishing in shallows behind the bird island this morning [anon]

Saturday 20 June 2020

Saturday 20th June

A non-summery feel to the morning with an overcast sky, offshore mist and occasional light drizzle.  Bird-life too reflected a sense of change in the air with the unexpected arrival of a Dark-bellied Brent Goose; the long-staying summer-plumage Golden Plover (present since 28th May), and a noticeable increase in presumably failed breeding Curlew with 79 present on Railway Saltmarsh. Also on the dropping early morning tide were c.220 Oystercatcher, 16 Bar-tailed Godwit, 11 Shelduck, six Cormorant, five Whimbrel, four Little Egret, just three Great Black-backed Gull, two Dunlin, a Ringed Plover and an adult Kingfisher hunted along tidal creeks, later seen on the Main Pond briefly. Occasional sightings this spring along a nearby stream could account for this individual.   

Both Brent Goose and Kingfisher are very scarce here in June with only four previous records for each species since 2000.  The sea also reflected procession of the seasons with the first three Arctic Skua since 5th May; all appeared to be immatures.  Also, single figures of Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Sandwich Tern.  A Common Tern that flew out of the estuary was the first reported since 12th May.   Not much to report from passerines, flocks totaling over 130 Starling roamed the site and two families of fledged Long-tailed Tit joined forces into a flock of 15 birds to forage in Entrance Bushes. 

Wildlife news: focus on bees today found usual species such as Large Sharp-tailed Bee Coelioxys conoidea, Hairy-saddled Colletes Colletes fodiens, Coast Leafcutter Bee Megachile maritima, Silvery Leafcutter Bee Megachile leachella, Green-eyed Flower Bee Anthophora bimaculata, Yellow-legged Mining-bee Andrena flavipes, and the highlight, confirmation of the presence of Common Yellow-faced Bee Hylaeus communis on site.

Large Sharp-tailed Bee Coelioxys conoidea - Alan Keatley

Common Yellow-faced Bee Hylaeus communis - Alan Keatley

Hairy-saddled Colletes Colletes fodiens - Alan Keatley

Thursday 18 June 2020

Thursday 18th June

Low tide, drizzle, no wind and mid-summer conspired to dampen expectation in more ways than one today, but observations continued all morning until the rain became heavier, ahead of which passed 32 Swift.  A miscellany of other sightings noted were 35 Black-headed Gull, five House Martin, a Stock Dove and the regular breeding birds.

Reed Warbler - Alan Keatley

Sunday 14 June 2020

Sunday 14th June

The lunchtime neap tide was again about as low as 'high' tides get here, but was attended by more waders than expected, perhaps encouraged over from Cockle Sands and other estuarine sand-bars exposed on these tides by the presence of myriads of people out on various types of watercraft, including kite-surfers, on what was a lovely sunny afternoon.  So, as a bonus for the WeBS count, present were 142 Oystercatcher, 13 Curlew, ten Knot and single Grey Heron, Bar-tailed Godwit and Dunlin.  Apart from six Sandwich Tern nothing else of note was seen offshore, and just the usual species were in the dunes and bushes.

Wildlife news: Marmalade Hoverfly, Silver Y and Red Admiral were less numerous than yesterday; a few Volucella pellucens hovered in glades within Entrance Bushes.   

Saturday 13 June 2020

Saturday 13th June

Mixed weather today with light showers, some hot spells of sunshine and a persistent moderate easterly. Short sessions of sea-watching produced 28 Manx Shearwater, 20 Gannet, four Fulmar and a single Common Scoter.  In the evening, most of the 17 Mediterranean Gull (5 fs, 5 ss, 7 ad) present foraged offshore.  The neap tide (2.7 metres at Exmouth Docks gauge) was nearly as low as 'high tides' get here and this failed to push in any representative numbers of waders into The Bight, where instead the pair of Canada Goose and their three goslings trudged across the flats, 700 metres from their Main Pond nest site and evidently having accepted  defeat to the imposing resident pair of Mute Swan with which they had battled for supremacy.  Eight Sandwich Tern within the recording area were part of a total of 25 birds further up the estuary. 

Elsewhere, three Swallow and single Swift and House Martin were overhead. Four speckled youngsters of the 'Dune Pond' pair of Stonechat were their second successful brood of the season. 

Wildlife news: migrants were abound with hundreds of Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus, tens of Silver Y and a few Pied Hoverfly Scaeva pyrastri on flower heads and in meadows everywhere on site; most had dispersed by the afternoon.  A Marbled White was the first of the year and other butterflies present were lots of Small Skipper and Meadow Brown, some Common Blue and Speckled Wood, three Red Admiral and a Large Skipper.  With all the insect activity, a couple of Emperor Dragonfly quartered sheltered areas.   Tree Bumblebee were on bramble flowers around the Entrance Bushes and a wide variety other invertebrates were found today along un-strimmed paths and grasslands, as they should be at this time of the year. 

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus and Pied Hoverfly Scaeva pyrastri - Alan Keatley


Slender-bodied Digger Wasp Crabro cribrariu and Ornate-tailed Digger Wasp Cerceris rybyensis - Alan Keatley

Friday 12 June 2020

Friday 12th June

The Danish pastry resembling weak depression swirling around the Bay of Biscay brought over rain bearing fronts throughout the day, but on only light NNE winds, the best that could be found at sea were single figures of Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Common Scoter, Sandwich Tern and auk spp.  

About 150 Oystercatcher were present during the late morning neap tide, along with eight Ringed Plover, three Dunlin and single Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover and the long-staying Golden Plover.

A Cuckoo was again on Warren Point where also Skylark, Common Whitethroat, Linnet and Stonechat remain among the more visible passerines on site.

Cuckoo - Warren Point - Dave Boult

Thursday 11 June 2020

Thursday 11th June

Heavy rain passed through in the early hours and the day started with a leaden sky and a fresh northeasterly.  Predictably unproductive, the sea only produced a Great Northern Diver; also small flocks of distant auks, a dozen Fulmar, seven Sandwich Tern, seven Common Scoter and some Gannet.  A Rock Pipit over the seawall was the first report here in about a month; breeding pair(s) occur nearby along the coastline towards Dawlish.

The mid-morning high tide pushed in 228 Oystercatcher, 40 Sanderling, four Great Black-backed Gull and single Ringed Plover and Dunlin.  The resident Slavonian Grebe and a new 2s (3cy) Mediterranean Gull were in the estuary.

Cuckoo and two Raven were on Warren Point.

Wildlife news: Variable Longhorn Beetle Stenocorus meridianus was a new species for the site. A cluster of 16 Pyramidal Orchid spikes were flowering on Warren Point. Regular butterflies Small Skipper, Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood were seen.  Aptly named, drabness of adult Dingy Flat-body Depressaria radiella, isn't shared by its showy features at the larval stage, and close inspection of Hemock Water-dropwort heads found one of these today. 

Variable Longhorn Beetle Stenocorus meridianus - Alan Keatley

Pyramidal Orchid - Warren Point - Alan Keatley
Dingy Flat-body Depressaria radiella on Hemlock Water-dropwort - Alan Keatley

Wednesday 10 June 2020

Wednesday 10th June

An unseasonable selection of birds on site this morning and one of these attracted a number of visitors whom generously shared their sightings through social media, some of which are summarised here.  A female Long-tailed Duck drifted along the shoreline between the groynes of Warren Point and later flew into The Bight then move to Shutterton Creek.  Exceptionally rare in June, there are only two previous records here, a summering duck in 1983 and an "immature" on 25 June 1989.

Two mobile and noisy Mistle Thrush moved around Dead Dolphin Wood and Greenland Lake.  A Coal Tit singing in Dead Dolphin Wood was the first record of the year.

The tide brought in 58 Sanderling, 17 Curlew, nine Ringed Plover, two Dunlin and the Golden Plover still.  The Slavonian Grebe remained in the estuary and five Sandwich Tern were inshore.

Golden Plover - wader island - Dave Boult

Monday 8 June 2020

Sunday 7th June

Multiple visits over a nearly 15-hour period boosted the day list to a respectable 61 species.  An Osprey flew over high northwest, returned for a while then headed towards Haldon at 08:42. Not recorded here in June before 2002 this constitutes the sixth record in that month.  As has happened so many times before, presence of this imposing raptor was given away by startled Oystercatcher and the circling flock of 232 set off a chain reaction that involved other waders, of which present were 20 Ringed Plover, 15 Curlew, 12 Sanderling, four Whimbrel, two Bar-tailed Godwit and the lonesome summer-plumage Golden Plover still.  The resident Slavonian Grebe was looking resplendent in the estuary corner.

Further up the estuary, large flocks of gulls foraged and of those that entered the recording area were 33 Black-headed Gull and an adult Mediterranean Gull, the first here in about a month.

At sea, a summer plumage Great Northern Diver close offshore, 15+ Gannet, eight Manx Shearwater, a few Kittiwake and single Guillemot, Fulmar and Lesser Black-backed Gull passed. Small pulses of Swift and single figures of Swallow flew southwest.   

Saturday 6 June 2020

Saturday 6th June

A set of distinctively blobby and dinosaur-sized prints along a path in the sand confirmed as being on site yesterday's reports from golf course staff of a "peacock", or Indian Peafowl to use its modern vernacular.  This raises the Dawlish Warren recording area total of Category D and E species to 28 or 29 species.  Rumours of the recent release of another six individuals in the village, including males, to supplement the two females present there over the past few years, to some this might seem delightful, but the deliberate release of non-native species into the open natural environment (without a licence) is illegal, for good ecological reasons, and those responsible risk prosecution.

Back to normality, the morning high spring tide was buffeted by a strong north-westerly and roosting waterbirds hunkered down around The Bight and on the Railway Saltmarsh.  These included 230 Oystercatcher, 27 Sanderling, 27 Black-headed Gull, 12 Curlew, 11 Ringed Plover, seven Shelduck, seven Dunlin, five Great Black-backed Gull, just two each of Little Egret and Cormorant, and singles of Grey Plover, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, plus the solitary Golden Plover again roosted on the island.  A flock of six Sandwich Tern flew in off the sea.

The dunes, bushes, woodlands and ponds all continued to support birds engaged in the peak of the breeding season with some parent passerines already carrying food to nestlings following successful fledging of first broods.  Also of note, eight Swift flew west, a male Kestrel and two Raven.

Wildlife news: unusually, first sightings of both Small Skipper and Large Skipper occurred on the same day today. Other butterflies seen were a Red Admiral, a few Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood.

Friday 5 June 2020

Friday 5th June

The weather remained unsettled with a chilly north-westerly so focus was on the early morning spring tide, which pushed in 238 Oystercatcher, more than of late and included some adults, presumably failed breeders. Also present, 15 Dunlin, 11 Ringed Plover, eight Sanderling, eight Shelduck, seven Great Black-backed Gull, a few Whimbrel, two Curlew, a Grey Plover, and Slavonian Grebe

Little reported elsewhere, most notable five Swift overhead; three Jackdaw, two Raven and a flock of 80 Starling roamed the site.

Thursday 4 June 2020

Thursday 4th June

Light rain at times and overcast skies in a chilly northwesterly fresh breeze stirred things up a little today with a minimum of 50 Swift, perhaps 20 Swallow and 17 House Martin through in flocks and at low altitude. A Red Kite clutching prey from Warren Point gained height and drifted east.

The evening tide yielded 222 Oystercatcher, 19 Sanderling, nine Ringed Plover, nine Dunlin, eight Great Black-backed Gull, seven Whimbrel, seven Shelduck, five Little Egret, three Curlew, two Grey Heron, the long-staying, summer-plumaged Golden Plover, and the Slavonian Grebe. Close inshore to hunt over calmer waters, six Sandwich Tern and four Gannet.

On the main pond, the pair of Mute Swan with their three small cygnets and the pair of Canada Goose with their three small goslings occasionally battled for supremacy in bouts of hissing and wing arching. One pair of Little Grebe remained with at least two chicks and eight Mallard also on ponds.

Mute Swan with cygnets - Alan Keatley

Canada Goose with goslings- Alan Keatley
One of the families of Stonechat were along the golf course track and flocks of post-breeding Starling continued to roam the site and for a time coalesced to one flock of 96 birds.

Wildlife news: the first Coast Leafcutter Bee Megachile maritima of the year and good numbers of Silvery Leafcutter Bee Megachile leachella. The display of independently waving about one or other of its bold patterned wings gives the Small Semaphor Fly Rivellia syngenesiae it name.

Megachile maritima Coast Leafcutter Bee - Alan Keatley

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Wednesday 3rd June

A couple of hours early morning tallied 57 species, an above average day list for this time of the year. Not seen here for quite some time, a blanket of cloud drifted in from the west heralding a change in the weather, but for now it remained warm and calm.  The receding early tide produced a reasonable selection of standard waders, namely 191 Oystercatcher, 42 Sanderling, 13 Bar-tailed Godwit, seven Ringed Plover, six Whimbrel, four Dunlin, three Grey Plover, two Knot, the long-staying Golden Plover and a single Curlew.

Two Stock Dove with Woodpigeon feeding on fixed dune grassland was notable.

Monday 1 June 2020

Monday 1st June

On the rising tide, 21 Sanderling foraged out on a sand bar.  Footware removal and wading out into the tidal channels was thea level of commitment one observer was prepared to go to to secure details of a colour-ringed individual, which turned out to be yesterday's bird from Guinea-Bissau.  A Dunlin was also present.

A late Spotted Flycatcher was in the Entrance Bushes. The Canada Goose nest must have been well concealed because up until now only a single bird had been seen on the Main Pond, but today the pair was back together shepherding their three goslings.  Noisy Little Grebe chicks and their parents largely remained hidden in the reeds.  

Distantly outside of the recording area, a Red Kite drifted by.


Sanderling (colour-ring code N3YGWY, metal code POL D59675) - Lee Collins