Saturday 31 December 2022

Wildlife Review 2022 - Birds

A total of 188 species were recorded on site this year with 33 species confirmed breeding, including six pairs of Stonechat, five pairs of Cirl Bunting, two pairs of Little Grebe and one pair of Reed Bunting. However both Bullfinch, with the first blank year since 2007, and Great Spotted Woodpecker were missing, the latter for the first time in since they first bred in 2008.

Stonechat - Alan Keatley

Two new species for the Warren were reported, a Ring-necked Duck in September and a Greenish Warbler in October, both await assessment by the Devon Birds Records Committee. The annual total was above the average for the last five years and the highest since 190 in 2016. 2022 highlights including new site record counts of the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater (287 in Aug), Cattle Egret (75 in Sep), Marsh Harrier (three in Oct) and Cirl Bunting (16 in Nov, 20 in Dec). 

Other rarities reported included the 1st Continental Black-tailed Godwit and 2nd Penduline Tit, the 3rd Pink-footed Goose, 4th record of Glossy Ibis, 7th Bonaparte’s Gull, 8-15th Caspian Gull, 12th Black Guillemot, 13-15th Cetti’s Warbler and two White-tailed Eagle from the Isle of Wight reintroduction programme.

Pink-footed Goose 25 Sep - Lee Collins

Omissions from the year list included Redstart, Goosander, Woodcock and Wood Sandpiper with expected no shows from Black-throated Diver and Coot.

Dawlish Warren Recording Group 2022 Bird Report


An unseasonably warm New Year’s Day, a stark contrast to the frozen conditions in 2020, saw a total of 77 species recorded. The lingering Scaup had departed just before the turn of the year, but the two Black-necked Grebe, two Siberian Chiffchaff and the juvenile Spoonbill all remained, with an adult Spoonbill overhead being the first new ‘day by day’ bird of 2022. 

Siberian Chiffchaff - Alan Keatley

The highlight was a Slavonian Grebe offshore, the first since Herbert, just the second new arrival in the last five years and the only record of 2022. Four Egyptian Geese on the 15th was one of few other surprises, although the juvenile Spoonbill occasionally made an appearance and a Water Pipit was present from the 10th.

Counts from the estuary were again lower than average with peaks of 1100 Oystercatcher, 190 Bar-tailed Godwit and 18 Red-breasted Merganser. Offshore Great-crested Grebe peaked at just 68 early month with a max of just 15 Red-throated Diver. Scarcer species included a Lapwing on 9th, with single Golden Plover and Fieldfare on 22nd and an early Sandwich Tern on 25th.

Kestrel - Dean Hall

The month ended with an immature drake Velvet Scoter arriving on the 29th and settling in for an extended stay.


Usually a quiet month for scarcities, the two Black-necked Grebe remained until the 4th, with a lone bird on the 17th; and the two wintering Siberian Chiffchaff were last reported on the 10th, the same day as the Slavonian Grebe. The Velvet Scoter remained throughout.

Velvet Scoter - Alan Keatley

A Jay was present on the 1st with three Goldeneye on the 2nd and an early Manx Shearwater south on the 13th. The sunny early spring weather saw the year’s first Red Kite drift low over on the 25th, with the start of a notable corvid passage. 


A light north westerly wind on the 5th produced some vis mig, the second highest spring count of 1,234 Chaffinch heading east with at least two Brambling, the only record of the year. Overhead passage continued next day with a single flock of 49 Stock Dove west. 

Wheatear - Alan Keatley

A south easterly wind and slight rise in temperature on the 10th, produced perhaps the most anticipated bird of the year, the first Wheatear. Other migrants followed with Sand Martin and Nuthatch on the 12th, the first March record of the latter; the two earliest ever Little Ringed Plover were on the 16th; an Osprey on 22nd and the first Willow Warbler on 25th.

Three Glossy Ibis that flew north over a pond-dipping school group, before being relocated at Exminster Marshes on 14th were the highlight, the fourth site, but first multiple record.

Other scarcities included two Little Gull on 13th; two different Caspian Gull on 16th & 19th; a Cetti’s Warbler on the 17th; a Red-necked Grebe on 19th; and an IoW White-tailed Eagle on 22nd, a year and a day since the previous record. The last week saw a smart male Black Redstart on the 23-24th, three Garganey on the 24th and a Jay on 29th.

Caspian Gull 19 March - Lee Collins


The month started with the third Black Redstart of the year at the seawall on 1-2nd, with the Velvet Scoter remaining until the last date. The third Caspian Gull of the spring, another first winter, was on Finger Point on the 5-6th, the 10th record, but the first to stay longer than 30 minutes.

Caspian Gull 6 April - Lee Collins

Sandwich Tern passage was again poor with a peak of just 53 on 12th, the same day the first Arctic and Common Tern arrived. Also offshore the first Little Tern on 24th, the year’s peak of 630 Manx Shearwater on 17th and just four Arctic and two Great Skua.

New migrants arrived through the month with first dates including Whimbrel on 9th, House Martin and Swallow on 10th, Whitethroat on 11th, Sedge Warbler on 18th, Hobby on 19th, Yellow Wagtail on 22nd, Reed Warbler on 23rd, Swift on 24th and Whinchat on 30th.

Whimbrel - Alan Keatley

Scarcities included a record spring passage of Jay, with 21 during the month, peaking at seven on the 12th; 171 Pale-bellied Brent Geese on 10th; the year’s only Long-tailed Duck circling the bay on 14th; two Puffin on 17th, the first multiple count since May 2009; the year’s only Lesser Whitethroat on 21st; and a Grasshopper Warbler on the 23rd, with five Red Kite during the month.

Pale-bellied Brent Goose - Alan Keatley


The first Gadwall of the year was in the estuary on the 2nd, the same day as a very mobile Cuckoo. A Black Guillemot offshore on the 5th was a good start to the month, the first since 2018 and only the 12th site record, although the fourth in May. 

Wader passage peaks included 218 Dunlin on the 2nd, 140 Bar-tailed Godwit, 110 Whimbrel and 59 Ringed Plover next day and 101 Sanderling on 28th, with a Little Stint on 14th. Two Little Ringed Plover at the end of the month were seen displaying but nothing further developed. 

Little Ringed Plover - Lee Collins

After a blank spring in 2021 a single Roseate Tern appeared on the 15th but just three Common Tern were recorded during the month.  Also offshore Great Northern Diver peaked at 14 on the 14th with just five Arctic and single Great and Pomarine Skua during the month, reflecting the poor tern numbers.

Conditions were rarely good for passerine migrants with no Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Redstart or Garden Warbler reported and just three Sedge Warbler, two Cuckoo, on 2nd & 26th, and singles of Yellow Wagtail on 2nd and Spotted Flycatcher on 12th. 

Hobby 17 May - Lee Collins

Being May the month was not without scarcities, with the first spring Turtle Dove since 2017 on the 12th; two Hobby and a summer plumaged Scandinavian Rock Pipit on the 17th; a first summer Bonaparte’s Gull visiting from Exmouth on the 19th, the seventh site record but the first since the returning adult was last seen in Feb 2018; a Great White Egret and 17 Red Kite flew over on the 23rd; and a Marsh Harrier through on the 27th.


The dry conditions continued with the birding taking on a midsummer feel, it was a varied breeding season with low water levels reducing the numbers of Little Grebe and Moorhen broods. The Main Pond was a source of much of the action with the breeding Canada Goose and Mute Swan pairs trying to keep a wide berth of each other. The first brood of Cirl Bunting fledged on the 1st, one of at least five pairs, other breeding records included six pairs of Stonechat, two pairs of Little Grebe, seven pairs of Reed Warbler holding territory in all four ponds and at least one pair of Reed Bunting.

Little Grebe - Dave Jewell

Spring migration continued into the start of the moth with Yellow Wagtail on 1st & 4th, a Pomarine Skua on the 1st, and a Hobby and two Little Tern on the 4th. 

Waders and gulls started returning mid-month with three Redshank on the 12th, a count of 98 Curlew on 17th was the first sign of return passage, rapidly climbing to 184 by the 30th and a Greenshank on the 18th. The first juvenile Black-headed Gull appeared on 24th, the same day as the month’s peak of 15 Mediterranean Gull.

Black Redstart 18 Jun - Alan Keatley

Other records included a female Black Redstart and the third Cuckoo of the year on the 18th, a Great Northern Diver was offshore on the 4-5th with another on 26th and a migrant Siskin on the 21st. 


The month opened (and closed) with the only Treecreeper of the year, aside from a Hobby on 7th, a Coal Tit on 9th and the first Grey Wagtail over on 13th, other migrants didn’t arrive until the last week. The continuing dry conditions impacted on Starling in particular, with the annual juvenile flock peaking at just 80 on 10th, indicating a very poor breeding season.

In the estuary the first juvenile Mediterranean Gull was found on 2nd with numbers building to a peak of 102 on 16th. The first juvenile Sandwich Tern arrived on the 5th; despite the impact of Avian Flu, there were increased numbers compared to last year with a peak of 201 on 17th. Other species were however in short supply with no Roseate or Little Tern and just the one Arctic Tern on 17th.

Mediterranean Gull - Dave Jewell

Movement began to pick up mid-month with the first of July’s five Yellow-legged Gull and a returning Teal on 13th, a Snipe and three Tufted Duck were present the next day. 

After the first 3-fig count of Redshank on 19th, wader passage picked up with a summer plumaged Knot on 21st, with the first juvenile on 25th. Greenshank peaked at 10 on 24th, Whimbrel at 59 on 30th, mirroring last year’s high autumn numbers and 79 Sanderling on 31st.

Dunlin and Sanderling - Alan Keatley

The first Garden Warbler of the year was around Greenland Lake on 23th, when an early Mistle Thrush flew over. The first autumn Kingfisher was on the estuary on 24th, with two Willow Warbler on 29th and a Sedge Warbler on 31st also new for the season. 

Offshore the first Balearic Shearwater flew S on 23 Jul, Common Tern numbers peaked at 30 on 30th, and an Arctic Skua flew south the same day, with two on 31st.


The first migrants were presumably local, a Bullfinch on 5th the first since March, with a Coal Tit next day. A Wheatear in the Bight and a Tufted Duck offshore on 7th had no doubt come further. The estuary was also quiet with the autumn’s only Little Ringed Plover on 9th, a juvenile Arctic Tern on 11th, the first three returning Wigeon on 14th and an adult Little Stint on 15th. The 14th also saw a flyby Hobby and a Nightjar hawking past a moth trap on the Golf Course, the latter only the 20th Warren record and the earliest ever in autumn.

Little Stint - Lee Collins

Other migrants also began to arrive mid-month with totals of 10 Sedge Warbler and Yellow Wagtail, six Whinchat, three Garden Warbler and three Spotted Flycatcher, but Willow Warbler only peaked at three on 27th, with 150 Swallow and the last Swift the next day.

Offshore the first double-fig count of Balearic Shearwater was 86 E on 20th, followed by a new site record of 287 E in just over an hour on 29th. The same week saw three Storm Petrel on 20th, 55 Common Tern and two Pomarine Skua on 21st, single Arctic Skua on 22nd & 26th and a Black Tern on 24th. 

The first two returning Shoveler were on Finger Point on 25 Aug, with three Spoonbill, 17 Avocet, a Curlew Sandpiper and a Spotted Redshank the next day. The 28th saw the first returning Osprey and a juvenile Little Gull in the Bight with the third August record of Short-eared Owl on the 31st.

Osprey - David Flack


The month will be sadly remembered for the presence of Avian Flu. Although spared the horrors seen at breeding colonies, Gannet in particular were impacted, with 30 strandline corpses in just a few days mid-month, with sick birds and unusual behaviour seen regularly.

Gannet - Alan Keatley

On a more positive note, a late peak of 160 Sandwich Tern at the end of the month, included juveniles from second nesting attempts after the adults had relocated after Avian Flu outbreaks. Other terns continued in low numbers, with a Little Tern on 2nd the first of autumn, the same day as the only Arctic Tern of the month. The only Roseate Tern of the autumn flew south with a Black Tern on the 5th.

Wader passage at the beginning of the month was varied with a peak of 12 Curlew Sandpiper on 6th, the first of four Little Stint the next day and single Ruff dropped in on 10th & 29th. Ringed Plover numbers peaked at just 245 on 3rd, some 50% down over the last 20 years. Autumn arrived early for wildfowl with three figure counts of Wigeon and Teal from 7 Sep, the first six Dark-belled Brent Geese on 12th and nine Pintail on the 14th, the year’s max count. 

Curlew Sandpiper - Alan Keatley

Seawatching was also productive with the year’s first Sooty Shearwater past on 4th along with five of the 13 Arctic Skua recorded during the month. Balearic Shearwater peaked at 230 on 7th, with a Grey Phalarope, Pomarine and Great Skua the next day.

Amongst all this activity a first winter Caspian Gull was picked out on 3rd, the fifth of the year, with three immature Spoonbill over on 7th, with three, an adult and two immatures, on 13th. 

A juvenile Marsh Harrier flew over on 10th, with 14 Cattle Egret the next day, rising to a site record 75 on 15th. These followed a site record four Green Sandpiper and a Short-eared Owl the previous morning. The 17th saw five Avocet over the high tide, with single Red-throated and Great Northern Diver offshore and a Great White Egret fly in off the sea. A Wryneck and the first returning Water Rail arrived the next day, the Wryneck reappearing on 20th & 28th.

Wryneck 28 Sep - Dean Hall

Other migrants included the long overdue first Tree Pipit of the year over on 3rd the same day as the first autumn Meadow Pipit; other autumn arrivals included Siskin on 10th and Goldcrest on 11th. Summer departures included Sedge Warbler on 10th, Spotted Flycatcher on 18th, Garden Warbler on 21st, Reed Warbler on 22nd, Whitethroat and Yellow Wagtail on 28th and Whinchat on 29th.

A persistent northerly weather stream at the end of the month was unusually productive; a female Scaup in the estuary on the morning on 24th was the earliest ever record. This record was mirrored by an even rarer Aythya there on the morning of the 28th, an immature Ring-necked Duck, the first for the Recording Area. In between the third Warren Pink-footed Goose was in the estuary on 25th, an adult Iceland Gull on 26th, the first since 2018 and only the second September record, and on the 27th single Barnacle and Pale-bellied Brent Geese

Ring-necked Duck (at Topsham) - Martin Elcoate

An abrupt change in weather saw a movement of 700 W House Martin on 29th, a welcome sight after only five other autumn counts over 20. 


Seawatching was worthwhile early month with 272 Balearic Shearwater on 4th and 205 the next day, when a welcome 1150 Gannet flew S, along with 2000+ Kittiwake, just short of the site record, two Sooty Shearwater and 26 Arctic Skua. The next day a Pomarine Skua was offshore and a Marsh Harrier and the first of four Merlin flew through, with a pair of Gadwall on the Main Pond, one of only three 2022 records.

Arctic Skua - Luke Harman

Further storms brought an influx of Great Black-backed Gull, peaking at 150 on 19th, the highest count since 2018, with them two first winter Caspian Gull on 15th, the first multiple record. A juvenile Arctic Tern was in the estuary on 18th, when a Storm Petrel and two Sooty Shearwater were offshore.

Last dates for summer migrants included Sand Martin on 1st, House Martin on 15th, Osprey on 18th and Swallow on 25th. Arrivals included 106 Skylark and a Mistle Thrush on 8th, Cetti's Warbler and Firecrest on 11th, a Dartford Warbler on 12th, only the second record since 2017, a second Cetti’s from the 15th, and a second Dartford on 16th. The first Redwing arrived on 18th with Black Redstart on 23rd & 28th. Overhead migration was limited with 111 Siskin during the month, max 33 on 18th, and ten Redpoll, max five on 13th.

Firecrest - Luke Harman

In the estuary a max of 20 Greenshank on 16th, two Lapwing and a Curlew Sandpiper on 19th, the last two Whimbrel on 22nd, a Purple Sandpiper on 24th, when the Black-tailed Godwit flock peaked at 520, bringing a Ruff with them from up estuary on 24-30th. Cattle Egret numbered 70 on 29th, with a late Little Stint and two Curlew Sandpiper arriving on 31st. 

Other records included a peak of 145 House Sparrow on 16th, a fem/imm Eider on 18-23 Oct, three Marsh Harrier on 20th, a Great White Egret flew SW with five Grey Heron on 23rd, a Great Skua on 26th, a Short-eared Owl on 28th, a frustratingly elusive Greenish Warbler the next day and two Velvet Scoter in the bay, before being tracked through east Devon and Dorset on 31st. 

Barnacle Goose - Alan Keatley


The Curlew Sandpiper count rose to three on the 1st, with two staying until 3rd, one again on 9th. Also in the estuary, Cattle Egret peaked at 28 on 4th, the fourth Lapwing of the year on 19th, a Barnacle Goose on 26th and the Spotted Redshank was last seen on 27th. A first winter Caspian Gull on 24th was the seventh of the year, but only the 14th record.

The anticipated Wood Pigeon spectacle was patchy this year with the exception of the morning of the 4th, when 34,500 headed W against a blue sky. Two juvenile Marsh Harrier also flew over, completing a record year, with four of the month’s 10 Mistle Thrush, the autumn peak of just 20 Chaffinch and the first of November’s 13 Fieldfare. A Short-eared Owl passed over on 5th, with the first Yellowhammer of the year over on 9th, and the last Merlin of the year on 12th.

Merlin - Luke Harman

In the bushes a Yellow-browed Warbler on 3rd-7th, with a likely second bird on 12-13th, also from the east, Siberian Chiffchaff on 6-13th and 27th. The origin of the Willow Warbler on 3-5th can only be guessed at, the same for an even later bird on 21st, the first November records for the Warren.

The two Cetti’s and the Dartford Warbler remained all month, with a second Dartford Warbler on 12th. The first of three Firecrest was on the 3rd, with the last Wheatear the next day before a Penduline Tit disappeared into the Main Pond on the 6th, the second site record.

Cetti's Warbler - Alan Keatley

Seawatching peaked late month with the first Leach’s Petrel since 2017 off the seawall on 24th, along with two Storm Petrel, only the third record for the month, a Grey Phalarope and five Little Gull. A Storm Petrel was seen the next day with further passage on 26th, with a Little Gull, four late Manx and a Balearic Shearwater

The last day of the month saw an adult male Eider in the estuary and the first Shoveler returned to the Main Pond.

Eider - Alan Keatley


Offshore an immature male Eider was present all month, occasionally joined by up to four different birds. Great Northern and Red-throated Diver both only peaked at 12 and were generally scarce, as were other species with the max of 30 Great Crested Grebe on 10th, double any other counts. Single Red-necked on 3rd and Black-necked Grebe on 9th did arrive with one of the latter also in the estuary on 26th.

The cold snap mid-month saw a slight but noticeable increase in migrants with 17 Lapwing, seven Golden Plover, three Cattle Egret and three Mistle Thrush between 14-20th, three Gadwall on 17th, with a pr on 19th, a site record 20 Cirl Bunting on 20th and a Yellowhammer on 21st. 

Lapwing (with Oystercatcher & Red-breasted Merganser - Alan Keatley

In the estuary Wigeon and Teal numbers climbed back up as flooded fields froze over, a Spoonbill was present from 16th, and a Sandwich Tern which arrived on 3rd stayed throughout, as did at least three Avocet

Spoonbill - Alan Keatley

Around the scrub and ponds, the two Cetti's Warbler remained until at least the 17th with one on 20th, a Dartford Warbler arrived (or reappeared) on 13th and a Firecrest was seen on 4th & 12th. With just one Chiffchaff, two Goldfinch and no Linnet towards the end of the month it seems many birds departed during the cold.

Right at the close of the year the first two Goldeneye finally appeared in the estuary on 26th when a Greylag Goose was a final late addition to the year's list.

Reed Bunting - Alan Keatley

The hide unfortunately remained closed all year and due to continuing erosion there remains no public access to the surrounding viewing areas. The Recording Group would like to thank the Warren Golf Club and Devon Wildlife Trust for allowing access enabling our long-standing monitoring efforts to continue.

Happy New Year to all. Many thanks to those who share their sightings with Recording Group. Good & safe birding for 2023 and hope to see you on the Warren soon.

Dawlish Warren - Birds

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