Tuesday 29 September 2020

Tuesday 29th September

The favourable conditions and birding effort produced a series of waterbird counts, mostly from the evening tide and these included 887 Oystercatcher, 803 Wigeon, 257 Curlew, 253 Teal, 174 Dunlin, 121 Canada Goose, no oddities in them; 52 Dark-bellied Brent Goose (no hrota today), 22 Mute Swan, 15 Grey Plover, ten Little Egret, nine Greenshank, eight Sandwich Tern, three Turnstone, two Grey Heron, two Mallard, a Pintail and 'Herbert' the Slavonian Grebe re-appeared, in moult.  Also three-figures of Redshank and two-figures of Cormorant, Great Black-backed Gull, Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot present. Just 28 Common Scoter noted offshore.

Overhead in the morning, some of the 15 Skylark and seven Meadow Pipit, four Swallow, two Jackdaw and two Rook.  Counting common resident species, such as the handful of corvids seen today, is the 'grass-roots' of patch-birding and if that commitment is sustained for years and decades, the wider birding and scientific community can benefit. For example, the seminal Migration Atlas (Wernham et al. 2002) explains that British and Irish Rook are sedentary with only a 4 km median distance of dead recoveries and only exceptionally have ringed birds been recovered abroad.  However, influxes of Rook from the Continent into Britain occur, the majority during Oct to May, with recoveries from the Netherlands and as far as the Baltic states.  So, when decades of records are collated and analysed, even the Rook can reveal something quite amazing; see chart below. 

data courtesy of countless dedicated birds; collation and analysis by Ivan Lakin

In the bushes, 14 Chiffchaff, four Blackcap, a Goldcrest and single-figures of tits.  Popular counted regular species were five Stonechat, two Collared Dove, two Bullfinch, a Kestrel and a Raven.  

Monday 28 September 2020

Monday 28th September

A brief evening visit to look at the estuary corner found the Snow Goose (Cat. E) again present among 251 Canada Goose. The year's highest count of 956+ Wigeon, also 128 Teal, 25 Mute Swan and two Pintail roosted out on the waters. Regular waders were noted present and of the few counts taken of other waterbirds, these were as about as expected, such as 30 Great Black-backed Gull, three Lesser Black-backed Gull and three Mediterranean Gull (2 ad, 1 fw). Ten Little Egret and three Grey Heron roosting in the saltmarshes were also typical numbers of recent days.

Sunday 27 September 2020

Sunday 27th September

The persistent breeze from the north strengthened today and a dribble of overhead migrants passed through at reduced altitude all morning but with only modest totals of 37 Meadow Pipit, 22 House Martin, 19 Siskin, 20 'alba wagtail' including at least one White Wagtail and some on the golf course; 11 Swallow, two Lesser Redpoll and a Rook and a Lesser Black-backed Gull flew south.

Again, most action in the woods was as a mobile mixed flock that held the majority of the 19 Long-tailed Tit, 16 Blue Tit, 11 Chiffchaff, four Great Tit and three Blackcap. Regular residents reported were eight Stonechat with one on Warren Point that sported a distinctive supercillium was not anything scarcer; six Skylark on Warren Point, three Cirl Bunting, two Great Spotted Woodpecker, the pair of Collared Dove, an imm male Kestrel and a male Sparrowhawk. Apart from the familiar flocks of finches, other migrants present were three Wheatear and a Snipe flushed out of Greenland Lake.

Close offshore a full summer plumage Red-throated Diver, the first of the autumn and on a typical date; six Common Scoter and some distant Gannet.

In the estuary, 30 Pale-bellied Brent Goose and eight Dark-bellied Brent Goose; there were three-figure numbers present of Wigeon, Teal, Oysercatcher, Curlew and Redshank; other selected counts were 84 Dunlin, 23 Ringed Plover, 19 Great Black-backed Gull, eight Little Egret, six Grey Plover, four Greenshank, three Grey Heron, three Sandwich Tern, three Common Gull, two adult winter Mediterranean Gull and the drake Eider still.

In Shutterton Creek, 191 Canada Goose loafed  and with them the Canada x Greylag hybrid and the long overdue appearance of the white morph Snow Goose. This bird is highly likely to be the remaining one of two that have resided at the upper Exe Estuary since February 2018. It is also a new confirmed species for the site at Dawlish Warren (Cat. E); the species has an inauspicious past with reports of 'snow goose' up to 1992 probably relating to white farmyard geese, and one recorded here March 2019 was thought to be a clerical error on BirdTrack and instead related to elsewhere on the estuary.

The official list of bird species recorded in Britain by the BOU has Snow Goose categorised as AC2E*, which means that is has occurred in a wild state; it also exists as an introduced, naturalised self-supporting population(s), and also that escapees, which do not form part of those populations, have bred in the wild - it's a complex picture, as reflected in many popular ornamental wildfowl species. The admission to Category C in 2006 (Dudley & BOU, 2005) was on account of its established populations on the Isle of Mull, but not the declining populations located in Hampshire or Oxfordshire. There are no convincingly genuine vagrant records for this species in Devon. Something to be aware of for some apparent escapees is the possibly of 'C5' occurrences, denoting vagrants of species that have introduced, naturalised self-supporting populations outside of Britain. The few thousand feral Snow Goose in Germany have recently gained Category C status, and whilst at present Egyptian Goose is the only species that sits on the official British list with 'C5' status, it seems only a matter of time before it is joined by others. Today's Snow Goose firmly sits in category E.


Saturday 26 September 2020

Saturday 26th September

Similar conditions to yesterday that began with the chilliest morning so far this autumn (7°C) with a light north-northwesterly and a few isolated clouds.  Overhead passage was mostly too high and distant; the lone 'vis-mig' observer out today managed to at least record 31 Meadow Pipit, 18 House Martin, 17 'alba' wagtail, including some on the golf course, eight Swallow, seven Siskin and three Song Thrush that rose out of the bushes soon after dawn and flew NE, clear passage birds and the highest count here since successful breeding noted in late May.  Appreciably scarce this year, two Reed Bunting were clearly migrants; also two Lesser Redpoll, two Chaffinch and single Grey Wagtail, Raven and Rook

A mixed tit flock moved through the wooded areas and with it some of the nine Chiffchaff and also seen were three Blackcap and a Goldcrest.  In open areas and on scattered bramble patches, c75 Goldfinch with 18 Greenfinch; 65 Starling, eight Stonechat, four Cirl Bunting and one Wheatear.  At least 97 Linnet at one moment foraged in The Bight. 

The neap tide saw many waterbirds remain within the bounds of the recording area throughout the day, particularly along Shutterton Creek and the best of counts combined with those in the afternoon were c.755 Oystercatcher, 563 Wigeon, 406 Curlew, 178 Redshank, 167 Teal, 152 Black-headed Gull, 57 Knot, 40 Bar-tailed Godwit, 28 Pale-Bellied Brent Goose plus 13 Dark-bellied Brent Goose; 20 Cormorant, 19 Mute Swan, seven Turnstone, four Greenshank, four Little Egret, three Common Gull, two adult winter Mediterranean Gull, two Pintail, two Grey Heron and the male Eider roosted in The Bight. An unseasonal Little Ringed Plover was the latest record since 1983.  On the beach were 10 Sanderling.

Among the 169 Canada Goose that dropped into Shutterton Creek, a Canada Goose x Greylag Goose hybrid was the first individual of this unattractive union here since Sep 2008.

Offshore just 12 Common Scoter, eight Gannet and also five Shelduck flew in off.

A Woodpigeon sat incubating (more) eggs or warming squabs in a nest beside the Butterfly Ride explained the broken egg shells found nearby yesterday. The bird breeding season is sometime described as March to August, derived from cross-compliance rules that farmers and landowners must follow if claim under the Basic Payment Scheme, as now known, to maintain minimum environmental standards. Similar or different periods that describe the bird breeding season exist in legal binding agreements such as planning conditions and contracts. However, the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended; 'the 'Act'), the cornerstone legislation that protects all wild bird species in Great Britain, does not define a breeding season. As a result, subject to derogations and exemptions, this makes the intentional damage or destruction etc. of a bird egg or a nest, when it is in use or being built, an offence, at any time of the year.

Contrary to popular belief, the Woodpigeon is not actually a 'quarry' bird in Britain (despite international law saying it can be), so although it's the 'open season' (for some 'quarry' species) at the moment, the Woodpigeon sat in its nest can rest easy.  But what about 'pests'? This vernacular may still be in use but hasn't applied to birds, in a legal sense, since about 1992.  Although the Woodpigeon is listed under a number of 'general licences', or alternatively one could apply for a licence to request to remove it, hypothetically of course, licensing is (more-or-less) restricted to only specific purposes listed in the 'Act', and since this late nesting Woodpigeon isn't causing any problems listed, it should be fine - which means that, if the circumstances persist, any scrub clearance and habitat management works needs to proceed rather carefully in this area.

Wildlife news: plenty of warmth in the sunshine still and in sheltered margins were numerous Small White and Speckled Wood, a few Large White, two Red Admiral, a Common Blue and a worn out Gatekeeper. Also a few Common Darter, Migrant Hawker and a Southern Hawker.

Friday 25th September

A brief morning visit in sunny skies and a light chilly northerly recorded 15 House Martin, 15 Meadow Pipit, 14 Siskin, two Lesser Redpoll and a Grey Wagtail pass overhead.  An immature male Sparrowhawk buzzed finch flocks around Greenland Lake, which comprised of 79 Goldfinch and a few Greenfinch.  In the bushes ten Chiffchaff, two Bullfinch and a single male Blackcap, a Goldcrest and a Song Thrush.

Thursday 24 September 2020

Thursday 24th September

Last night the minimum temperature dipped into single digits, the barometer plummeted to 991mb, the lowest since Feb and in the afternoon the rain fell hard; it was a decidedly autumnal day. In the breeze, 106 Gannet foraged early morning; also a Common Scoter offshore. Skulking in brambles, a Sedge Warbler was the best of the migrants; eight Chiffchaff hunted for insects on the sunny sides of wooded edges, and some of the seven Blackcap munched blackberries. Also today, 14 Greenfinch, some with the Goldfinch flock; 12 Long-tailed Tit, two Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk. A Kingfisher was on the Main Pond briefly.

Attending the late morning tide, 22 Pale-bellied Brent Goose (in juvs) and 19 Dark-bellied Brent Goose were the highlight. Selected other waterbird counts were 265 Curlew, 220 Wigeon, 187 Dunlin, 68 Ringed Plover, 34 Turnstone, 22 Mute Swan, six Little Egret, two Grey Plover, the male Eider and a Grey Heron.

No obvious overhead passage and only a few other, mostly grounded migrants included just eight Meadow Pipit, seven Pied Wagtail, also six Swallow and a Grey Wagtail. Other notables were three Raven, five Skylark still on Warren Point, a Bullfinch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Wildlife news: some warmth before the rain arrived encouraged out a few regular dragonflies and Ivy Bee.

Ivy Bee - Alan Keatley

Sedge Warbler - Alan Keatley

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Wednesday 23 September

A brief look around the bushes in the morning mizzle found 46 Goldfinch, five Chiffchaff, four Blackcap and an immature male Sparrowhawk.

Another visit intercepted the early afternoon high tide when highlights and selected counts included 620 Oystercatcher, 313 Dunlin, 73 Ringed Plover, 19 Pale-bellied Brent Goose, 13 Grey Plover and nine Sandwich Tern. Two Wheatear also seen and offshore were 14 Common Scoter and two Eider.

Sunday 20 September 2020

Sunday 20th September

A little less overcast but otherwise similar conditions to yesterday, so with better attentiveness on the skies from dawn, 'vis-mig' was busy for many hours with a massive total of 595+ House Martin, the highest count here since Sep 2006 and only the 11th in excess of 500 birds. Also 192 Siskin was the highest count since Oct 2010 and, including yesterday's count, was only the 12th in excess of 100 birds here.  At 08:50, eight Avocet flew in off the sea, remained high as they circled the estuary corner, and perhaps unable to see anywhere suitable to land (it was nearing high tide) double-backed and flew out to sea; only the second record of the year.  Also overhead 47+ Swallow but larger non-estimated numbers apparently passed through offshore; 25 Meadow Pipit, 18 mixed 'alba' wagtail including at least two White Wagtail; 13 Grey Wagtail (best count here for six years), three Grey Heron high in off (flew west), three Lesser Black-backed Gull flew south, two Yellow Wagtail, two Lesser Redpoll and a Buzzard.

This type of birding is not easy and is advisably done with company. A few rough calculations to illustrate this - if someone has 20:20 vision and if birds were similar in perceptibility as distinguishing letters from each other, let's say by comparison to a Snellen eye chart, then given the wingspan of things like Siskin, Meadow Pipit and House Martin, should be visible to the unaided eye at distances of c.150 to c.215 metres away, but if features on such birds were a tenth of those sizes, then 10x binoculars would be needed to ID them, notwithstanding difficulties of lighting, shaking and, of course, the bird is flying (not the sorts of challenges one experiences during a standard eye test!). Whilst human eyesight has impressive 180° vertical x 135° horizontal FOV (field of view), some binoculars have only approximately 6°, so that's a lot of scanning around to do to find birds that are more distant, and to identify them.  And furthermore, if a bird was identifiable at 150 metres distance and leisurely flew by at 20 mph, one may still only have c.25 seconds to spot it, but this reduces to only 16 seconds if earnest movement approached 30 mph, and often a lot less time than that as birds are found already part way through and bins will be needed to get those crucial features.  Competence in identifying bird flight calls evens the odds and many of the individuals and flocks passing through were first picked up this way today.  

Little was supported in the bushes with counts of just three Chiffchaff and single Blackcap and Whitethroat. In open areas, there was a minimum of 55 Goldfinch since small parties continued to arrive and leave; 40+ Linnet, nine Greenfinch and three Wheatear. Later in the afternoon a tit flock moved through that contained most of the 16 Long-tailed Tit, 13 Blue Tit and five Great Tit.  Regularly reported popular residents were nine Stonechat, three Cirl Bunting, two Great Spotted Woodpecker and two Bullfinch

The high tide was covered throughout and highlights were three Pale-bellied Brent Goose with five Dark-bellied Goose and another three Dark-bellied flew in off later. An adult drake Eider snoozed on Finger Point and later flew out to sea; perhaps the same as yesterday's imm/♀ was close offshore.  The only counts actually gathered were 262 Wigeon, 190 Dunlin, c.30 Ringed Plover, 25 Cormorant, 24 Great Black-backed Gull, ten Sandwich Tern, four Turnstone; all the usual species were present.  Beach depth had visibly eroded since last night's huge tide and along the shoreline were 34 Sanderling (29 juvs, 5 moulting adults).

Only five Common Scoter and a solitary Gannet offshore.  On the Main Pond, ten Teal (more in the estuary) early morning only; four Moorhen and a Kingfisher.  The main viewing gap, repeatedly re-blocked by TDC to obscure viewing of this attractive vista since November 2019 (!) was re-opened a few days ago to allow access onto a screened viewing platform.

Saturday 19 September 2020

Saturday 19th September

Apart from a spell mid afternoon, birding spanned from dawn to dusk on a day that  started overcast in a chilly northerly, which at this time of the year can be good for early overhead passage.  The most notable and highest count of the year was 109 Siskin northeast. Also on the move, 70+ House Martin, 30+ Swallow, ten Meadow Pipit, two Buzzard, a Grey Wagtail (plus another in The Bight) and a Rook.

A single feeding flock contained the majority of warblers and tits, totals were 14 Long-tailed Tit, seven Chiffchaff, two Blackcap. Also present two Great Spotted Woodpecker; the pair of Collared Dove and a vocal Coal Tit. Other notables were a Stock Dove, a Wheatear; and other selected counts were 68 Starling, 60 Goldfinch, 50+ Linnet; also six Stonechat, three Cirl Bunting, two Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk.

Both tides were covered and the spring tide tonight (about 9 p.m.) at 4.4 metres predicted for the Exmouth Docks gauge will be a really big one. The Environment Agency's 'sand-sausage', the last line of defence to prevent a sea breach of the spit, is perilously exposed and vulnerable. The near future is looking ominous unless remedial measures are implemented quickly. The Bight, now protected by only a narrow neck of the spit, continues to support large numbers of roosting waterbirds, where today (at points in time) were found most of the 1,063 Oystercatcher, 211 Dunlin including a diminutive arctica type; 78 Knot, c.50 Ringed Plover, 41 Great Black-backed Gull, 21 Cormorant, 16 Pale-bellied Brent Goose (accompanied by two Dark-bellied Brent Goose); seven Grey Plover and six Sandwich Tern.T Along the beach were 10 Sanderling.

In the estuary corner, the saltmarsh and beside the railway, 353 Curlew, 329 Redshank, 160 Wigeon, 155 Black-headed Gull, 148 Canada Goose dropped briefly in the evening; 71 Teal, 31 Bar-tailed Godwit, 22 Mute Swan, 13 Shelduck, 13 Pintail included those that flew in off the sea; 12 Mediterranean Gull (9 ad, 1 sw, 2 fw); six Greenshank, four Turnstone, four Common Snipe, two Great Crested Grebe, two Black-tailed Godwit, 'Herbert' the Slavonian Grebe, an imm/♀ Eider, a Whimbrel, a Kingfisher, and yesterday's returning unpleasantness that could be a Wigeon x Pintail hybrid.

Wildflife news: a fresh Wall butterfly sunned itself on the dunes; also a few Large White, Small White, Meadow Brown and a Red Admiral.

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Tuesday 15th September

High cloud cover and clement conditions saw a step-change in 'vis-mig', but encumbered by low elevation at this site, observers could only speculate as to the identity of many dots that passed many hundreds of metres overhead. Ambient noise is another issue at Dawlish Warren and can be so unpleasant as to force birders off the site. Resilience was rewarded with an Osprey high south; the first Lesser Redpoll of the year; the autumn's first Chaffinch and Tree Pipit; also 25+ Meadow Pipit (many more likely at altitude), eight Swallow, two Grey Wagtail, two Grey Heron high south and a Rook.

In the bushes six Chiffchaff, four Blackcap and a Whitethroat, plus the expected notable residents - the pair of Collared Dove, two Great Spotted Woodpecker, and a Bullfinch, and irregular visitors from the mainland - a Coal Tit and a Green Woodpecker. Around Greenland Lake (Note to new readers: it's not a lake) the finch flock grew again to hold 67 Goldfinch and seven Greenfinch. Also three Cirl Bunting. In the evening as the last golfers departed, 80+ Linnet, a dozen Pied Wagtail, a Wheatear and a brighty-coloured male Yellow Wagtail foraged the 6th and 7th fairways; then towards dusk, 70 Starling descended to roost in the adjacent Golf Course Pond sallows.

Offshore just a few Gannet and a Great Crested Grebe.

The evening tide saw in the estuary corner 85 Wigeon and 79 Teal; three Snipe lifted from the golf course saltmarsh; the Railway Saltmarsh supported a three-figure count of Redshank, 210 Curlew, 12 Little Egret, four adult Mediterranean Gull, two Greenshank, a Common Gull and another Grey Heron; also in the estuary 25 Mute Swan and the resident Slavonian Grebe.  On the wader island posts stood six Sandwich Tern, and elsewhere, particularly around The Bight and along the beach were most of the 760+ Oystercatcher, 240+ Dunlin, 125 Ringed Plover, 116 Black-headed Gull, 60+ Knot, 27 Sanderling, 22 Great Black-backed Gull, 21 Bar-tailed Godwit, six Turnstone, three Little Stint, a Whimbrel also the Common Scoter roosted on Finger Point.

Monday 14 September 2020

Monday 14th September

The only records today were from a brief jaunt around the bushes first thing where interest was in short supply. A mixed flock contained 14 Long-tailed Tit; only four Chiffchaff and two Blackcap, and singles of Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Bullfinch. Roaming flocks of finches contained upward of 52 Goldfinch. Overhead passed nine Meadow Pipit and single Grey Wagtail and Siskin.

Sunday 13 September 2020

Sunday 13th September

Calm and clear, observations from after a couple of hours from first light only caught what was suspected to be the last vestiges of overhead passage with modest totals of 20+ Meadow Pipit, five Swallow, two Siskin and a Grey Wagtail.

Usually more grounded migrants leave than arrive at this site in such conditions and five each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, four Wheatear, two Whitethroat and a Goldcrest were unimpressive, but about as expected. Selected counts of other passerines were 106 Starling, 47 Goldfinch, nine Stonechat, six Skylark, three Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Raven and a Bullfinch.

Warm inviting sunshine and the eve of tighter pandemic-related social gathering restrictions were likely factors that drew out large numbers of visitors to the site whom engaged in all manner of unchallenged land and water-borne activities.  Waterbirds that attempted to find refuge in less disturbed areas to roost
, and not always successfully, during the mid-afternoon neap tide were c.450 Oystercatcher, 330 Redshank, 195 Black-headed Gull, 142 Curlew, 111 Ringed Plover, 93 Knot, 73 Dunlin, 59 Teal, 47 Wigeon, 47 Great Black-backed Gull, 29 Bar-tailed Godwit, 22 Mute Swan, 21 Cormorant, 19 Sanderling, six Lesser Black-backed Gull, four Little Egret, four adult Mediterranean Gull, three Turnstone, two Greenshank, the long-staying male Common Scoter and only one Sandwich Tern.

Saturday 12 September 2020

Saturday 12th September

Numbers of waterbirds present can be adversely affected by the behaviour of watercraft that stray from, or speed above the legal limit navigating in and out Eales Dock.  Particularly reprehensible behaviour today did just that with no Wigeon and only 14 Teal present in the estuary corner.  Apart from four Pale-bellied Brent Goose, a sw Yellow-legged Gull and a notable count of 12 Greenshank, other counts and species were not unexpected and included 360 Redshank, 144 Curlew, 97 Knot, 63 Dunlin, 36 Ringed Plover, 25 Mute Swan, 21 Bar-tailed Godwit, 18 Cormorant, 17 Little Egret, 16 Great Black-backed Gull, eight Sanderling, four Mediterranean Gull, four Sandwich Tern, two Common Gull, also single Turnstone, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, the resident Slavonian Grebe, the long-staying, moulting Common Scoter; and a Kingfisher flew across The Bight.

Overhead 13 Siskin flew west but otherwise only three Grey Wagtail, two Meadow Pipit and later a Buzzard flew over. In the woodland and scrubby areas, 16 Long-tailed Tit, eight Blackcap, six Whitethroat, five Chiffchaff, two each of Willow Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Bullfinch and Cirl Bunting. Also today, two Wheatear, two Kestrel and a Raven.

Wildlife news: another new bee species for the reserve, an Orange-legged Furrow Bee Halictus rubicundus, a relatively common and widespread species.

Orange-legged Furrow Bee Halictus rubicundus - Alan Keatley

Great Green Bush-cricket - Alan Keatley

Sunday 6 September 2020

Sunday 6th September

This, the 250th day of the calendar year, was noteworthy for a series of scarcer bird sightings that was assisted by a larger than usual contingent of birdwatchers to the site today.  A Wryneck flushed from a path at 08:50 just beyond Dune Pond promptly disappeared and when later re-discovered near the middle of Greenland Lake, it was mobile and soon made its way along bushes beside the Back Path, unusually sometimes perched atop to look around, then lost behind Dead Dolphin Wood and unfortunately for those that twitched it, was not seen again.  This was approximately the 27th individual here since 2001 (elusive long-stayers the pop up days between sightings complicate the estimate) with 2004 & 2009 the last blank years.  With three Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Green Woodpecker  present, this was a 'three woodpecker day'; [Lesser Spotted Woodpecker has never been recorded on site].

This was not the main target for everyone that twitched the site; a Nuthatch that repeatedly called from trees behind Crocus Compound was, again unfortunately for others that twitched it, also not seen or heard again.  Less than annual, there have possibly been fewer individuals here than Wryneck (individuals that periodically return to site from the mainland complicate the estimate) and since 2001 there have been five blank years. Most records here occur between late-April to mid-October.

Its appearance coincided with the arrival of a large mixed roaming flock of c.20 Blue Tit, c.14 Long-tailed Tit, two Great Tit and some warblers, with site totals of those being eight Chiffchaff, five Whitethroat, three Blackcap, and a Sedge Warbler.  There were also roaming flocks of 107 Starling, 70+ Linnet, 31 Goldfinch, 20+ Greenfinch; also present eight Stonechat, four Cirl Bunting, a Wheatear and a White Wagtail with the Pied Wagtails.

A flock of 13 Pale-bellied Brent Goose briefly in The Bight, later seen off Powderham, were the first of the autumn. A flock of 54 Wigeon flew in off the sea but other than single figures of Gannet and Common Scoter, nothing else of note was offshore.

On the high tide, the best of WeBS and other available counts were 750+ Oystercatcher, 335 Redshank, 332 Dunlin, 132 Ringed Plover, 27 Knot, 24 Mute Swan, 24 Great Black-backed Gull, 23 Cormorant, 13 Little Egret, nine Greenshank and also nine each of Turnstone and Bar-tailed Godwit on the beach where also 20 Sanderling ran about on the dropping tide; also seven Sandwich Tern, a Whimbrel, and the Slavonian Grebe.

A Hobby passed straight through west; up to 45 Swallow, six Grey Wagtail, three Meadow Pipit, two House Martin flew northeast; and a Yellow Wagtail flew southwest.

On the Main Pond, seven Teal, seven Mallard, some Moorhen and a Little Grebe.

Wildlife news: single figures of Common Darter, Migrant Hawker, Emperor Dragonfly and brief views of what were likely to be Blue-tailed Damselfly.  Another Wall flew along the dune ridge, one Red Admiral and the usual range of regular species were on the wing between the heavy downpours. 

Saturday 5 September 2020

Saturday 5th September

Intermittent warm sunny and cool dull spells prompted a number of exchanges between sun-hat and woolly hat. The day's birdlife also had a late autumn feel. Searches of wooded areas and scrub revealed only an expected range of species, including 12+ Long-tailed Tit, 11 Blue Tit, eight Chiffchaff, four each of Blackcap, Whitethroat and Willow Warbler, two Great Tit, a Sparrowhawk, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, the exception was a count of six Collared Dove, the highest count on site since Nov 2017.  The railway line is a hard site boundary to delineate from birds that reside on the mainland and Collared Dove seen in the village should be reported (e.g. to DBWPS) as 'Dawlish Warren village'.

Some gregarious species continued to grow in numbers with 81 Goldfinch 
and 28 Greenfinch being the biggest counts of the year so far; also c.70 Linnet and c.60 Starling present.  Most of the eight Wheatear noted were on the golf course.

Attempts to count the hundreds of Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank and Dunlin, and the tens of Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot were dashed by a the presence of birds-of-prey rather than by tourists today; an adult Peregrine snatched a Ringed Plover from above the beach and scattered small waders that were roosting beyond groyne 9; three Kestrel were over Warren Point and elsewhere, and the final straw that pushed most waders to abandon the site altogether was a juvenile Osprey that cruised over Warren Point at c.11:00, drifted southwest down to Dawlish Warren village then turned north to follow the wooded ridge-line. This was perhaps the same bird seen later around Powderham.

The only wader count was of 41 Sanderling along the beach, and of the gulls there were 24 Great Black-backed Gull, 16 Common Gull and six Mediterranean Gull

Rain on more days than not over the past month has risen water levels on ponds and saw the welcome return of a Little Grebe to the Main Pond (last seen on 1st August), joined by eight Teal, a few Moorhen and a Mallard

verhead northeast passed 60+ Swallow, some House Martin and a Sand Martin, also three each of Meadow Pipit and Siskin, two species not recorded here since the spring, and three Grey Wagtail.

Wildlife news: apologies are in order, a dragonfly initially identified as a Lesser Emperor was later retracted and relabeled (for now) as an emperor Anax sp.  Also present single figures of Southern Hawker, Migrant Hawker and Common Darter. A Wall was the first in months, otherwise regular butterflies in the form of Common Blue, Small Copper, Small White, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown; and also a Red Admiral. A few Silver Y flew out from the meadows. A Lesser Hornet Hoverfly Volucella inanis, not to be confused with its larger and more familiar relative V. zonaria, was again on flowering Water Mint Metha aquatica around Crocus Compound.

A frenetic Stoat was 'squeaked' out from hunting in bushes along the Back Path

Wall - Alan Keatley
Stoat - Alan Keatley

Not wildlife news: a Spitfire twice passed overhead and still anchored inshore between Teignmouth and Hope's Nose, the luxury Cunard liner 'Queen Mary II' (345 metres length), and P&O's sister cruise liners 'Ventura' and 'Azura' (both 289 metres in length).

Tuesday 1 September 2020

Tuesday 1st September

Both the morning and evening high tides received cover, and at least on the evening tide, a timely pause to appear as a sentinel silhouette with a big telephone up high on the dune ridge added enough disincentive to a number of dog-walkers from passing the row of big warning signs along groyne 9, at a time when hundreds of mixed small waders, plus unusually  Bar-tailed Godwit, foraged frenetically along the shoreline beyond that point.  There was plenty of beach up to groyne 9 for all to enjoy on what was a beautiful day.

There was a noticeable swell to c.975 Oystercatcher and the best of other counts were 403 Dunlin, 255 Curlew, 198 Redshank, 109 Ringed Plover, 59 Canada Goose, 52 Knot, 41 Great Black-backed Gull, 23 Sanderling, 20 Bar-tailed Godwit, 15 Wigeon, ten Mute Swan, only seven Sandwich Tern, six Turnstone, some Greenshank, three Shelduck, three Curlew Sandpiper, three Little Egret, two Grey Heron, two Teal, the reliably sedentary Slavonian Grebe; the juv Little Stint again and the male Common Scoter was asleep with the Oystercatcher flock on Finger Point.  

An Arctic Skua approached close enough to photograph; other noted migrants were 16 Swallow, seven Chiffchaff, three Wheatear, two Whitethroat and singles of Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail and White Wagtail.

On the Main Pond toward dusk, the snowy white plumaged Aylesbury Duck roosted with regular Mallard.

Great Spotted Woodpecker - Dave Jewell