'Storm Belle' made the headlines today with widespread flooding in Britain and damaging winds of up to 106 mph (recorded at The Needles, Isles of Wight). Parts of southwest England were on Met Office 'amber alert' status last night. This was a really deep depression at 956 mb which on average only occurs every few years in Britain. At Exmouth, winds reached 67 mph, heavy rain fell throughout the early hours and had cleared through by about 08:30. The rest of the day was quite pleasant. Damage on site was negligible with only small branches down and a little more floodwater. A dead Kittiwake on the golf course was the only possible victim found.
Offshore was predictably uneventful since Dawlish Warren tends not to do well in westerlies. During the first 1¼ of light pasage moved south, 108 auk spp. (with a Guillemot bias); 94 Gannet, nine Kittiwake, five Common Scoter, five Red-throated Diver, three Great Northern Diver and three more diver spp., and 30 Great Crested Grebe bobbed about on the choppy waters.
Main Pond and surrounding flooded areas had four Water Rail, four Mallard (including the domestic drake thing) and three Shoveler. At dusk, c.360 Starling roosted.
The sun came out and in the woods foraged the usual single-figures of tits, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff with brief views of a 'grey chiffchaff' probably the Siberian Chiffchaff; two each of Song Thrush, Siskin, Bullfinch and a Redwing. Commuting between the depleted bird-feeders and Greenland Lake were flocks of 58 Goldfinch and 32 Greenfinch
During the early evening high tide, 4-figures of Dunlin, high 3-figures of Oystercatcher and 425 Dark-bellied Brent Goose descended on site, a big count for December here. Of these 24 were juveniles (5.6%). Interestingly, all 10 juv of 347 birds (2.9%) that were in The Bight were around the flock and waterline margins, and a disproportionately large 14 juv of 78 birds (17.9%) were on the adjacent flooded 7th fairway grazing. Sub-flocks that contain significantly different proportions of juveniles can persist over-winter and this is influenced by social status. Aware that this evening's observation was just a snapshot, the greater proportion of juveniles on the grassland habitat and generally around the edges of those sub-flocks reflects findings of studies on this species, e.g. Lambeck (1989) and Lambeck (1990). This emphasises the importance of taking multiple counts of sub-groups in different habitats to calculate an accurate breeding productivity percentage.
Other counts were c.230 Black-headed Gull, 153 Grey Plover, 133 Bar-tailed Godwit, 122 Shelduck, 113 Knot, 48 Turnstone, 35 Ringed Plover, 33 Redshank, 14 Shag (estuary), nine Great Black-backed Gull, eight Red-breasted Merganser, two Mute Swan, two more Great Crested Grebe, ♀ Goldeneye, the Slavonian Grebe, adult Mediterranean Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull, and the female Scaup continued its stay accompanying wildfowl tight to the saltmarsh edge.