Saturday 3 October 2020

Saturday 3rd October

To the delight of the four 'patch-birders' that braved the wind and rain, a spectacular and unprecedented passage of 4,806+ House Martin flew in mostly northeast direction from about 09:00 and continued into lunchtime. Pulses numbered hundreds at a time, these passed by offshore and along the spit, all at very low altitude and were all around us.  Such counts maybe familiar at other sites but here four-figures has only been achieved twice previously, in early-Sep 1083 (1,000+) and late-Sep 2002 (1,500+).  Put into context, considerably more House Martin were seen in five hours today than in all of the past five years here combined.

in contrast, only 101 Swallow (c.2% of hirundines) and no confirmed sightings of Sand Martin.  Also overhead and some ground migrants were 30 Goldfinch, 23+ Siskin, c.15 Meadow Pipit, six Wheatear and a Chaffinch.

Storm Alex, presented by a particularly gnarly-looking synoptic chart, was responsible for today's phenomenon. 

synoptic chart at 00:00 03 Oct 2020 - acknowledgement to Met Office

Described before, Dawlish Warren can perform in the rain and today was no exception with many other birds on the move, mostly notably an Osprey low to the waves that flew in off west and made the coastline somewhere south of Dawlish. Two Goosander and a Shoveler flew straight through WSW.  A Merlin (a site year-tick) stayed a while and from vantage points on fence posts chased hirundines and a Wheatear around, without success. 

A variety of waterbirds arrived all morning in off the sea and combined with counts in the estuary corner and The Bight that include those during an evening visit were 939 Wigeon, 660+ Oystercatcher, 166 Curlew, 124 Teal, 65+ Dunlin, c.50 Great Black-backed Gull, 49 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, plus a family of six Pale-bellied Brent Goose; 44 Knot, 30+ Ringed Plover, 29 Bar-tailed Godwit, 28 Pintail, 27 Cormorant, 26 Turnstone, 18 Mute Swan, 15 Grey Plover, a dozen Little Egret, eight Greenshank, six Sandwich Tern, four Sanderling, two Common Snipe, two Grey Heron, two Kingfisher, a Golden Plover, a Great Crested Grebe, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, and unusual in October, a Common Sandpiper dropped on the beach. Three Lapwing were new for the year, the latest ever first year-tick date here for this declining, 'red-listed' (BOCC4) species. The site year-list is now 167, about nine species less than the 20-year average for this time. 

The strong north north-easterly was not conducive to seawatching and offshore there were only single-figures of Shag, Common Scoter, Gannet and the long-staying pair of Eider.

notable species and counts were 260 Starling on 15th fairway; two Raven and two Kestrel. The bushes were blown out and during a short respite, a massive mixed flock of c.25 Blue Tit (year max count so far), c.20 Long-tailed Tit, seven Chiffchaff and five Great Tit moved along brambles bordering the main car park; a Blackcap also.

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