Friday 31 July 2020

Friday 31st July

BirdTrack can be set up at the behest of County Recorders to highlight unusual species and counts in red, to flag potential clerical errors and requirement of further details. Given the site's prominence, receiving four red 'warnings' among a day's species list is frequent, but today there were six; it was a good day.

Even in the humid, cloudless sky and bright sunshine, with the tide well retreated, waders were audibly and visibly on the move early morning and the highlight was a Green Sandpiper that called a few times from the estuary corner as it flew off over the the site south; the second record of the year.

Cloud built through the day and light rain coincided with the early evening tide. As reported before, Dawlish Warren can really perform if its rains and this was no exception with a remarkable double of a summer-plumaged Curlew Sandpiper and a summer-plumaged Little Stint in The Bight. The last time these species were seen here in July was back in 2012 and 2005, respectively; this being only the 9th Little Stint in July and the last time both species were seen together here in July was in 1987.

adult Curlew Sandpiper - Lee Collins

Wader counts were 586 Oystercatcher, 389 Curlew, 218 Redshank, 53 Whimbrel, 35 Sanderling, 32 Ringed Plover, 20 Dunlin, eight Greenshank, six Bar-tailed Godwit, two Knot and a single Turnstone. That's 1,353 waders of 14 wader species.

Only about 55 Sandwich Tern on 'woodhenge', these included remaining Irish and South African ringed individuals. With them, six Common Tern including a second all red billed bird,  and an adult unringed Roseate Tern - another new bird. The Slavonian Grebe was again with up to 11 Mute Swan in the estuary. And a Kingfisher flew over the Golf Course.

A flying ant swarm in front of the rain attracted at least 200 Black-headed Gull, five Mediterranean Gull and 84 Swift. Earlier eight Swallow, three Raven and one House Martin flew through.   

A flock of 66 House Sparrow foraged in the Buffer Zone. Warblers in the woods and bushes included ten Blackcap, seven Whitethroat, six Chiffchaff and three Willow Warbler  and a Garden Warbler.  Also present, ten Stonechat, five Blue Tit, also five Collared Dove including the usual pair, again perched on their favorite dead Elder branch. Also three Long-tailed Tit, two Great Tit and two Bullfinch. Single Sparrowhawk with one less Blackbird, a Kestrel and one each of Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Flocks totaling at least 90 Linnet and smaller number of Greenfinch and Goldfinch foraged on the dune grasslands and among herbaceous plants, where on Warren Point the year's first Grasshopper Warbler was reported. There are only two previous July records.

Wildlife news: a Silver-washed Fritillary near the Main Pond is a rare sighting here.

Thursday 30 July 2020

Thursday 30th July

Typical counts of an expected range of species in the woods and bushes today with nine Blackcap, five plus Stonechat, five Chiffchaff, two Willow Warbler, two Whitethroat and the pair of Collared Dove. Also 13 Skylark on Warren Point.

Blackcap - Alan Keatley
On and around the Main Pond, some Mallard and Moorhen, adult Reed Warbler continued to feed fledged young; the pair of Mute Swan with their two cygnets, and a lingering fledged Little Grebe.

Along the beach, 29 Sanderling with a few Dunlin.  Also three Mediterranean Gull (two adult, one juv) and a Common Gull mixed in with Black-headed Gull along the tideline. Due to the low tide, no other representative wader counts were possible.

Wildlife news: in the warm sunshine nectaring on flowering Water Mint, Buddleia, Hemp-agrimony, Bramble and anything else spared by the mowers were lots of Gatekeeper, several Common Blue, Speckled Wood, Small White, Large White, three Clouded Yellow, and fresh Painted Lady and singles of Red Admiral and Peacock.

Painted Lady - Alan Keatley
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Wednesday 29 July 2020

Wednesday 29th July

A search of the bushes and ponds this morning discovered a typical range of species for this time of the year with 20 Blackcap the highest count of the year so far and the largest ever count here in July.  Autumn passage for this species typically picks up quickly in Aug and peaks in Sep, as illustrated in the chart below of averaged max counts (which is differentof course, from a single max count throughout time).

Also present, 18 Chiffchaff, nine Whitethroat, five Willow Warbler, five Blue Tit, three Great Tit, two Long-tailed Tit, the resident pair of Collared Dove, and single Great Spotted WoodpeckerGreen WoodpeckerSparrowhawk and a Kestrel. Notables were a Garden Warbler and a Sedge Warbler. Some of the five or more Reed Warbler included juveniles and were quite high in the willow canopy.  Elder birders may recall, with affection, reliance on the ground breaking field guide "The Shell Guide", as it was known.  The plate of plain 'acros' and regular 'hippos' was widely discussed among birders at the time due to portrayed Melodious Warbler as superficially resembling juvenile Reed Warbler, and was said to have been partly responsible for a number of dubious claims of 'hippo' in the 1980s, when they were actually in truth also more regular visitors to Britain.  In any case, juvenile Reed Warbler can especially become a pitfall when, as today, they leave reed-beds to forage more productively as foliar gleaners.   

p.211 of 'The Shell Guide to the Birds of Britain and Ireland' (1983).  

In bushes around the main car park, 60+ House Sparrow emerged from roost. On the Main Pond, 13 Mallard (plus ducklings), the pair of Mute Swan (plus two cygnets), some Moorhen and an immature Little Grebe.  Seven Swift flew south.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Tuesday 28th July

An early morning search of the bushes found the 17 Chiffchaff, ten Blackcap, seven Willow Warbler, five Blue Tit, four Whitethroat, some Long-tailed Tit, two Great Tit, a pair of Collared Dove, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Sparrowhawk, a Kestrel and a visiting group found a Redstart

The group remained for the neap lunchtime tide to record a flock of Sanderling, and among the roosting flock of Sandwich Tern, at least a couple of Common Tern and a Roseate Tern.

Monday 27 July 2020

Monday 27th July

No news today other than some rather paltry results, compared to elsewhere, from seawatching for a few hours from the seawall before dawn with counts of c.50 Gannet, c.40 Manx Shearwater, 30 Common Scoter, 21 Sandwich Tern, three Arctic Skua, two Great Skua, two Balearic Shearwater, an adult pale-phase Pomarine Skua and a Common Tern through.

Sunday 26 July 2020

Sunday 26th July

The autumn's first Sedge Warbler in Greenland Lake was the first on site since 26th April. Also noted in bushes and wooded areas, eleven each of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, ten Blackcap, four Whitethroat, the resident pair of Collared Dove and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  Only very small numbers of tits present so presumably the mixed flock was foraging off site on the 'mainland' somewhere as they often do.  

Today's parity in numbers of 'phyloscs' and reflection on comments about proportions observed on an east Devon headland prompted a look at the data for here.  Monthly maxima are regularly published in county Bird Reports to express species summaries, and less so 'bird-days' but there is another metric of equal value that isn't used, partly due to data insufficiencies, and that is 'average birds per day seen'.  Each method have their pros and cons. During the 2010s, for instance, if guided only by monthly maxima this infers that Willow Warbler outnumbers Chiffchaff during the month of August in four of those ten years.  However, since Willow Warbler occurs here more prominently as 'falls', this may hide the truth.  The 'average birds per day seen' results reflect a more accurate representation of passage due to being a summary of all days in a month when the species was recorded, not just the one maximum count.  Roughly overall, in Augusts of the 2010s, there were two Chiffchaff for every Willow Warbler (a 2:1 ratio).

Data capture, analysis and representation - Ivan Lakin

On the Main Pond, 18 Mallard, the pair of Mute Swan and their two cygnets, a few Moorhen, a few Reed Warbler, and an immature Little Grebe.  Just the raft of nine Common Scoter and single figures of Gannet and Kittiwake offshore  early morning.

The late morning high tide was well observed and selected counts were 400+ Oysercatcher, 385 Curlew, 192 Dunlin, 113 Redshank, 81 Sanderling with yesterday's Spanish-ringed bird still; 43 Ringed Plover, 38 Whimbrel, a dozen Cormorant, ten Little Egret, nine Mediterranean Gull (2 juv, 1 fs, 1 ss, 5 adult), five Greenshank, four Common Sandpiper, two Turnstone, one Bar-tailed Godwit, a Common Gull and a Lesser Black-backed Gull.  

A white-rumped wader on the beach that was larger than the Sanderling it was with flew off into the sun before it allowed identification, possibly Curlew Sandpiper.

The terns again entertained with 123 Sandwich Tern present that included the South African-ringed bird and a Dutch-ringed bird, both also seen here over the past two days.  Also 11 Common Tern, including the individual without a black tip, and an adult Little Tern.

Little Tern with Sandwich Terns - Dave Jewell (left) and Lee Collins (right)

Wildlife news: a Jersey Tiger was in the Sycamore patch; two Clouded Yellow again in Greenland Lake, also single Golden-ringed Dragonfly and a Migrant Hawker.

Saturday 25 July 2020

Saturday 25th July

Humid with frequent light rain showers all morning on a light breeze from the southern quarter offered promising conditions. An early morning seawatch produced 45 Gannet, a raft of nine Common Scoter, three Manx Shearwater and two Great Skua in about an hour.  The woods and dune bushes were lively with roaming mixed feeding flocks and a few scattered migrants with selected totals of c.60 Linnet, 29 Goldfinch, 19 Long-tailed Tit, c.20 Greenfinch, 18 Blackcap, 12 Stonechat (many this year's fledged birds); ten Blue Tit, nine Chiffchaff, nine Cirl Bunting, five Willow Warbler, one of which landed briefly atop a post on the wader island (!).  Also four Whitethroat, two Great Tit, two Bullfinch, a Garden Warbler, a juv Green Woodpecker and one Great Spotted Woodpecker.  

In addition to the two resident birds, a flock of six Raven flew southwest otherwise, just a single Swift and a few Swallow overhead.  The pair of Mute Swan with two cygnets and two Little Grebe remained on the Main Pond. 

The late morning tide pushed in 414 Oystercatcher, c.300 Curlew, 146 Dunlin, 117 Redshank and 89 Sanderling, the largest count in July since 2011 and two of these were colour-ringed, both new schemes (for this species) to be recorded here, one from Spain and the other from Orkney. Despite missing one of its colour-combination rings, it was also missing a foot, and about this distinctive individual were forthcoming. It was ringed 29th Apr 2018, where it remained a few days, then was seen near Redcar, Cleveland in Aug 2018 then in Brittany, France a few days later, and that's some of this bird's eventful history.

The Spanish ringed with four colour-rings on one leg (left) and the Orkney ringed Sanderling (lime-green flag plus various colour-rings) - Lee Collins

Other counts, 33 Whimbrel, 28 Ringed Plover, nine Bar-tailed Godwit, nine Turnstone, eight Great Black-backed Gull, seven Greenshank and three Common Sandpiper

The Bight and 'woodhenge', located in front of the hide (which still remains unrepaired and closed), are the best places to view terns up close during the mid- to high-tide period as they rest between bouts of fishing.  Approximately 120 Sandwich Tern (47 juvs) and 11 Common Tern (7 juvs) were present.  

A Sandwich Tern ringed as a pullus in June 1993 at Lady's Island, Co. Wexford, making it 27 years old and thus one of the oldest ever recorded.  

One of the adult Common Tern has a completely bright orangey-red bill with no dark tip.  This variant is described as "occasional" (BWP) and "exceptional" (Olsen & Larsson, 1995).  The recent variety of small terns has attracted visitors and without practice can present an identification challenge, particularly this bird, which could be mistaken for an Arctic Tern.  However, on closer inspection the bill was not the deep coral-red of Arctic Tern; also the legs were too long, which is a diagnostic feature when perched at close range on a post, and various other features relating to its build, GISS, primary colouration and moult. 

Common Tern with all orangy-red bill and no black tip - Lee Collins

Friday 24 July 2020

Friday 24th July

Humid, calm and still during a high tide were optimal conditions for scrutinising ringed birds and efforts were well rewarded. An innocuous metal ring on a Sandwich Tern field read as '4H18572' reveals a remarkable story.  This is one of only five ever ringed in South Africa and recovered in Britain.  Ringed at Port Alfred on 1st December 2007 as an adult, would make this bird at least 15 years old. The same bird was seen here at Dawlish Warren 18th - 22nd July 2019 and at Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour, Dorset on 11th May 2008 and 7th May 2011, where presumably it was attending the breeding colony.  Distances quoted with ring recoveries are straight lines, but by following the coast, the true 'direct' distance is over 9,000 miles (>14,500 km) away.  Given assumptions about its age, migration route, site fidelity and average foraging distances when at its breeding (e.g. Thaxter et al, 2012) and wintering sites, this bird has flown the equivalent distance to the Moon and part of the way back (>267,000 miles!).  Estimates were based on this bird being only only half of its maximum possible age.  And behold, here it is -

'4H18572' South African-ringed Sandwich Tern - Lee Collins
The first metal-ringed juvenile Sandwich Tern of the year was also seen today, 'NL1 872' (read as two columns) is a new type of ring used in the Netherlands ('NL'), Germany ('6A'), Denmark (V0') and Poland ('PL').  

Also today, there was a noticeable increase in Oystercatcher and counts included 289 Curlew, 153 Dunlin, 121+ Redshank, 69 Sanderling, 33 Whimbrel, 18 Ringed Plover, 14 Little Egret, 11 Cormorant, nine Mute Swan with new bird 'FDA', seven adult Canada Goose, five Bar-tailed Godwit, three Greenshank, a Turnstone, a Grey Heron and the Slavonian Grebe.

Seven Mediterranean Gull included two white-ringed juvs '33JR' and '34JK', both ringed in Belgium; six Great Black-backed Gull, six Common Tern, an adult Little Tern, a metal ringed Roseate Tern and a juv Yellow-legged Gull.

juv Belgian-ringed Mediterranean Gull - Lee Collins
Little Tern - Lee Collins

Just 18 Gannet and a raft of nine Common Scoter offshore.  The pair of Mute Swan with two surviving cygnets and an immature Little Grebe remain on the Main Pond.

Flocks totaling c155 Starling roamed the yellowing grasslands; in the woodlands and buches were at least twenty each of Greenfinch and Goldfinch, eight Stonechat, single figures each of Blackcap, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff plus a Willow Warbler.  Also two Great Spotted Woodpecker and a pair of Bullfinch and the juv Redstart was again in its favoured bush for its seventh day.  

Thursday 23 July 2020

Thursday 23rd July

When undisturbed, different species of waterbirds have reasonably predictable day-to-day movements and habits on the rising tide, and as expected, most 309 Curlew and 23 Whimbrel crossed the estuary from Cockle Sands to land on the open mudflats, walk up with the tide to then roost on Railway Saltmarsh.  Most of the 154 Redshank worked their way down the west side of the estuary and along Shutterton Creek to also roost on Railway Saltmarsh, alongside various other species.  Whilst Dawlish Warren and the rest of the estuary has been legally protected since 1952 under various designations such as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC), the latter and later two designations giving it internationally important status, the Railway Saltmarsh is, bizarrely, outside of these boundaries.  

Good news is that regular long-term recording of waterbirds here can provide the evidence needed to provide some legal protection to this vitally important high tide roost, which in a sense extends these designated boundaries against certain types of threats to it, should they arise. Nothing imminent; just noted here for interest.  

Also present, 70 Sandwich Tern, including 'K4B', a new Lady's Island, Co. Wexford ringed bird; 34 Ringed Plover, 18 Mute Swan, 17 Dunlin, 13 Mediterranean Gull (3 juv, 1 ss, 9 adult), a dozen Common Tern, 11 Cormorant, five Great Black-backed Gull, four Common Sandpiper, three Greenshank, two Sanderling, a Bar-tailed Godwit, a Grey Heron and the Slavonian Grebe.

About 15 Swallow and a Sand Martin flew by. Ten Common Scoter rafted offshore and only a few Gannet. Two Kestrel on Warren Point, the juv Redstart was still by the Main Pond and a juv Green Woodpecker was near the entrance.

Wildlife news: a Clouded Yellow was in Greenland Lake.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Wednesday 22nd July

Similar conditions and birding activities to the last two days with a little less reported, selected counts were 284 Oystercatcher, again a rather low count for this time of the year; c.280 Curlew and Whimbrel, 130 Redshank, 100 Sandwich Tern (27 juvs) that included regular bird 'KDB', 'KJB', and also 'KBV', another bird ringed at Ynyslas, Wales, in Sep 2015, making its fourth consecutive autumn appearance here; and 'K9C' from Lady's Island, Co. Wexford. Also, 69 Dunlin, 48 Sanderling, of which most were along the beach; 34 Ringed Plover, a few Common Tern, three Common Sandpiper and a Turnstone. On the evening tide, two Roseate Tern appeared, the same birds as seen in recent days. Two Willow Warbler were the only obvious passerine migrants.

Wildlife News: Three Clouded Yellow were in Greenland Lake among Comma, Peacock and other butterflies today.

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Tuesday 21st July

Similar weather conditions and similar routine to yesterday with the estuary receiving most of the attention where high tide counts were 351 Curlew, 257 Oystercatcher, which included the return of '9C', the distinctive partial leucistic bird ringed here on 29 Oct 2018 and last reported here on 17 Jan 2020. 

Clouds numbering thousands of mostly smaller gulls were seen half way up the east side of the estuary and only modest numbers were within the recording boundary where c.215 Black-headed Gull with a few Mediterranean Gull were mixed in. In the 87 Sandwich Tern, 'KJB' made its first appearance of the autumn. Ringed at Ynyslas, Ceredigion on 12 Aug 2018, it was seen here on two days in Aug 2018 and stayed for an 11-day stay in Sep 2019.  This is not to be confused with the regular bird 'KDB', also ringed in Wales, and seen here a few days ago.

Also 135 Redshank66 Dunlin (one juv), 28 Canada Goose, 18 Whimbrel and 16 Mute Swan with the Slavonian Grebe in attendance; 15 Ringed Plover, eight Common Tern (four juv), four Greenshank, three Turnstone, three Sanderling, two Bar-tailed Godwit and one Black-tailed Godwit and an unseasonal Golden Plover.  An unringed adult Roseate Tern was a new bird and was probably the 11th individual since 5th July.

A Kingfisher flew up into Eales Dock, three Stock Dove along the edge of the railway embankment was a typical place to see them; a Yellow Wagtail was on the golf course and young Rock Pipits were in front of the hide.  The softer calls of juveniles is a potential pitfall and again noted today can be highly reminiscent of littoralis or even other Anthus taxa.

Monday 20 July 2020

Monday 20th July

Temperatures doubled from a chilly 110C at dawn aided by clear blue skies and summer sunshine. Up to 122 Sandwich Tern assembled on Finger Point, including 41 juveniles, joined by five Common Tern and a fs Arctic Tern.  Roosting on Railway Saltmarsh were most of the 368 Curlew, 125 Redshank, 13 Whimbrel and two Greenshank.  Swimming beside the railway embankment were 11 Mute Swan and the Slavonian Grebe; four Teal were in the estuary corner, and around The Bight were 268 Oystercatcher, 82 Dunlin (one juv)33 Sanderling, six Ringed Plover, two drab Knot and a Turnstone.

After many years of innumerable dips, one regular observer managed at last to catch up with Redstart, which appeared to be the same juvenile in the same place as seen two days ago; this species can be surprisingly elusive here.

Sunday 19 July 2020

Sunday 19th July

Dankness and mizzle persisted until about 09:30 as a cold front slowly moved ESE across southern England.  As this coincided with an early morning high tide, inclement conditions dropped in some wader species that were evidently on the move, notably 98 Dunlin and 38 Black-tailed Godwit, which was the second highest ever July count here after 90 in July 1988.  Also three Little Ringed Plover (a juv, a probable 2cy and an adult) in The Bight and on the beach, which were also present on the evening tide.

Little Ringed Plover adult and probable 2cy (left) and juvenile (right) - anon

Other waterbird counts from both tides were 396 Oystercatcher, 289 Curlew, 138 Redshank, 40 Canada Goose, 26 Whimbrel, 14 Ringed Plover, six Sanderling, five Mute Swan, five Turnstone, five Greenshank, four brick-red Knot, three dowdy Bar-tailed Godwit, two Common Sandpiper and the Slavonian Grebe.  

Still large numbers of gulls and terns present today with 92 Sandwich Tern, in total.  Adults returned from offshore forays with sand-eel prey to feed the 28 noisy juveniles waiting to be fed as they stood out on the mudflats.  There is evidence that pair bonds persistent from year to year and that family parties migrate together.  Assuming this is so and if all adult Sandwich Tern present had attempted to nest, that would give a productivity rate of 0.875. However, it might be the case that a larger proportion of the successful Sandwich Tern use Dawlish Warren as a vital stop-over to feed their young, so inflating this 'straw poll' figure. Aware that tern families from colonies across Europe may also visit, in fact, the UK productivity rate has declined over the past 3 decades to a range of 0.3 to 0.6 young per pair, and it has been calculated that a productivity rate of 1.1 is needed to sustain a Sandwich Tern population (JNCC's Seabird Monitoring Programme).  So, the offshore waters of the Exe Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA), as well as the estuary itself, are clearly also very important to maintaining migratory birds that still have long journey's ahead.

Also present on sandflats and in offshore waters, 550+ Herring Gull, 230 Black-headed Gull, 61 Mediterranean Gull (including Dutch and French colour-ringed birds), seven Great Black-backed Gull, 12 Common Tern (3 juvs), three Lesser Black-backed Gull, two adult-type Roseate Tern, each with a ring on the other leg; and a Common Gull.  An Arctic Skua took a tour around The Bight this morning before heading back out to sea.. Further out, a group of four spooned Pomarine Skua lifted off the sea to pursue Kittiwake then as the weather improved flew off south.


Two Roseate Terns (note ringed on different legs) - Dave Boult

Dropped on the golf course in the morning mizzle, a Grey Wagtail and a Yellow Wagtail; and in the bushes 14 Chiffchaff, single figures of Blackcap, Whitethroat and the two Willow Warbler were certainly migrants since this species did not breed on site this year, meanwhile a pair of Reed Warbler in the Dune Pond were carrying food for their young.  Overhead visible passage remained slow with just 17 Swallow, four Swift and three House Martin through. 

Saturday 18 July 2020

Saturday 18th July

A Green Sandpiper that dropped into the saltmarsh behind the golf course for 15 minutes and departed high south at 05:20 was the first record in nearly two years. The growing flock of now 368 Oystercatcher include the return of 'H7', last seen here in Feb and was the bird that made the epic over-night journey to Co. Antrim from Dawlish Warren in Feb 2019. Max waterbird counts for the morning and evening tides were 274 Curlew, 97 Redshank, 43 Canada Goose, 35 Whimbrel, 19 Little Egret (the highest and only two-figure count here this year), seven Cormorant, six Shelduck, five Mute Swan, four Bar-tailed Godwit, three Dunlin, two each of Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Sanderling and Common Sandpiper; a Turnstone and the Slavonian Grebe.

Hundreds of Black-headed Gull on the morning tide included German colour-ringed 'XL10' and 'X2J7'; white colour-ringed '
26V3' from Hosehill Lake, Berkshire where ringed as a chick in April 2016; and colour-ringed '2RCJ' from Pitsea, Essex ringed in April 2016. Heat haze limited some ring reads but of the 73 Mediterranean Gull present there were two Belgian white colour-ringed birds '3VTR' and '3LL4'; and French colour-ring 'RE61'. The age classes of these Mediterranean Gulls was 22 juv, 9 fs, 12 ss and 30 ts/ adult. The masses of gulls also contained five Great Black-backed Gull, two Lesser Black-backed Gull, one ss Common Gull and a juv Yellow-legged Gull. At least 78 Sandwich Tern included the regular returning Welsh red colour-ringed 'KDB' and a Spanish white colour-ringed 'M9L'. Also in The Bight and on 'woodhenge' seven Common Tern and an adult Roseate Tern.
Roseate Tern on 'woodhenge' - Lee Collins
part of the large post-fledged Starling flock - Alan Keatley
A Stock Dove was along the Railway embankment. The bushes and dunes were comprehensively searched. A juv Buzzard perched in trees behind Crocus Compound was unusual; a Sparrowhawk carried prey off site and one of juv Kestrel was still on Warren Point where also the resident two non-breeding Raven can usually be found. 

Other notable totals were c.200 Starling, c.75 Linnet, 17 Magpie, 15 Goldfinch, 12 Greenfinch, ten Blackcap, eight Stonechat, seven Chiffchaff, six Whitethroat, some Cirl Bunting, three Willow Warbler, a singing Coal Tit and an early autumn arrival of a juvenile Redstart briefly. 
Water levels on the Main Pond have dropped substantially with still enough for 11 Mallard and an Aylesbury Duck. One or two ducklings from three broods in various stages of development trailed their parent birds among the emergent vegetation.

Just ten Common Scoter and five Gannet offshore. Swarms of gulls ascended in the evening to prey flying ants and a loose flock of 120 Swift drifted over west.

Wildlife news: a Broad-bodied Chasera Red Admiral
and a Short-tailed Field Vole sprinted across one of the fairways.  New for the year were European Beewolf Philanthus triangulum and Pantaloon Bee Dasypoda hirtipes.

European Beewolf Philanthus triangulum (left) and Pantaloon Bee Dasypoda hirtipes (right) - Alan Keatley

Thursday 16 July 2020

Thursday 16th July

Nearly 12 hours of solid coverage on site was not enough to find either of today's two highlights which instead were achieved from the Exmouth side - a flock of ten Cattle Egret flew past Exmouth Quay and continued up river at 07:55 and were followed shortly afterwards by an eclipse male Tufted Duck; see details here.    

Selected counts on the mid-afternoon high tide were 305 Curlew, 214 Oystercatcher, 108 Redshank, 94 Sandwich Tern, 18 Whimbrel, nine Little Egret, five Mute Swan, five Dunlin, four Ringed Plover, three Greenshank, two Bar-tailed Godwit and a juv Shelduck.  Masses of small gulls present early morning dispersed and may have supported more, but throughout the rest of the day only about 20 Mediterranean Gull were seen. There were also singles of Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Gull and Common Tern.

On flat calm waters offshore, 21 Common Scoter, 16 Gannet and five distant Manx Shearwater. Just six Swallow and a couple of Swift overhead.  The Entrance Bushes were lively as a mixed flock moved through with totals of 24 Chiffchaff, 14 Long-tailed Tit, six Blue Tit and two Great Tit.  Long-staying notables were the two Raven, the male Kestrel and a Great Spotted Woodpecker

Wildlife news: the occasional 'plop' in the Main Pond was improved on today with two Water Vole actually seen.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Tuesday 14th July

News today was dominated by a site record count of at least 223+ Mediterranean Gull.  This is probably a new Devon record count too with the last published record of 215 on Taw/ Torridge Estuary in Aug 2015.  

Approximately 185 of today's birds were on mudflats beside Shutterton Creek, simultaneously nearly another 40 stood on Bull Hill and others were counted as they flew in off the sea during a four hour visit in the middle of the day either side of the neap tide.  However, the actual day's total was likely to be far higher since small groups continued to fly in off the sea late into the evening and everywhere there were Mediterranean Gull with over a 100 present at any one time as birds continued to fly in and up the estuary.  

The expansion of this species in Britain has been well documented with 54-65 pairs in 2000 (Ogilvie & RBBP, 2002) rising to 1,399-1429 pairs in 2017 (Holling & RBBR, 2019).  The near Continent has also experienced massive increases and for instance the Dutch population is now over 2,000 pairs having nearly quintupled during the preceding 15 year period. Due east of Dawlish Warren only 42 miles away, counts in recent years have apparently reached a remarkable four-figures, so breaking the previous modest record count seemed inevitable. 

Also present today, 400+ Black-headed Gull, 280+ Curlew, 67+ Sandwich Tern, five Common Tern and a Roseate Tern and the Slavonian Grebe. Along the shoreline 7 Sanderling and out to sea 40+ Gannet and a raft of 13 Common Scoter. Passage overhead was also heavy with 80 Swift, the largest count of the year, and 35 Swallow through.

Monday 13 July 2020

Monday 13th July

Tranquility returned to the site this morning and inshore waters, sand-bars and mudflats were covered in gulls with estimates of 2,180 Herring Gull, 1,075 Black-headed Gull, 116+ Mediterranean Gull, plus single figures of Great Black-backed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull. At least 76 Sandwich Tern included 28 juvenile birds out on the estuary flats and parent birds regularly commuted in from successful forays offshore with fish to feed them.  Eight Common Tern and two Roseate Tern were seen through most of the day; one of these was metal-ringed (right leg) and thus was a new bird.

Despite the neap tide (only 2.8 metres Exmouth Docks gauge), 12 Dunlin and four Ringed Plover were present. Heavy rainfall can attract small waders to forage in The Bight at any state of tide and this afternoon's drenching certainly created the right conditions for that.

Apart from gulls and terns, the early morning mill-pond like sea only offered a dozen Common Scoter, seven Gannet, six Shag and a Fulmar.  Passerines have noticeably aggregated as post-breeding flocks with c.280 Starling on the 6th fairway; also present in the bushes and grasslands 21 Greenfinch, c.15 Goldfinch and a mixed tit flock with Chiffchaff worked their way through the wooded areas. 

Eight Swift flew south and three Swallow seemed to be local birds.  On the Main Pond, the pair of Mute Swan (including yellow-ringed 'DDN') with their two cygnets were undergoing moult and both appeared to be flightless.  Although the cob of a breeding pair usually moults some weeks after the hen there can be a short period overlap such as seen today. 

Wildlife news: a distant pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphin passed in front of Carnival Breeze, the third Dream-class cruise ship to grace our waters in recent weeks.