Friday 31 March 2023

Friday 31st March

Wet and windy conditions again today, but two Firecrest were found on site along with six Chiffchaff and a Wheatear. Elsewhere the two immature male Eider were again offshore and at the Main Pond, four Little Grebe and two Mute Swan were visible, hopefully not a sign of their nests being flooded out.

Wildlife News: Only a few Sand Crocus were even partially open in the dull conditions but the Snake's-head Fritillary continues to flower despite rising water levels.

Snake's-head Fritillary - David Flack

Thursday 30 March 2023

Thursday 30th March

No tidal visits today but the first Swallow of the year flew through with 11 Sandwich Tern offshore, Chiffchaff in good voice around the bushes and 45 Linnet and two Wheatear in Greenland Lake.

Wildlife News: An on and off weather day with numerous short, sharp showers, however, the intervening sunny spells were rewarding with a variety of insects on the wing. 

Best of all was the first Warren record of Cliff Mining Bee Andrena thoracica with a female excavating a nest hole along the Back Path. The species usually nests on a soft cliff slope, but occasionally uses level ground, a common coastal species, its discovery at the Warren is long overdue.

Cliff Mining Bee - both Alan Keatley

Another long-overdue addition were a few male Small Sallow Mining Bee Andrena praecox, with the first Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius of the year also on the wing.

Small Sallow Mining Bee - Alan Keatley

Hoverflies were represented by single Common Twist-tail Sphaerophoria scripta, Slender Melanostoma M. scalare and Tiger Hoverfly Helophilus pendulus, all new for the year along with a few Common Eristalis tenax and Tapered Dronefly E. pertinax and singles of Common Spotted Field Syrph Eupeodes luniger and Hairy-eyed Syrphus S. torvus. Surprisingly the only butterfly seen today was a lone Peacock.

Elsewhere the first Marram Weevil Philopedon plagiatum of the year was on the dune slope along with the first Dark-edged Beefly and in Greenland Lake, three Snake's-head Fritillary in flower.

Marram Weevil - Alan Keatley

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Wednesday 29th March

A Willow Warbler singing by the Main Pond was the only news received. 

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Tuesday 28th March

Spring took a slight pause today with the wet weather and brisk wind. Despite the seemingly ideal conditions there were however few gulls on Finger Point at high tide. Counts from the estuary included 78 Curlew, 28 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 28 Grey and 12 Ringed Plover, 22 Turnstone, 10 Dunlin, seven Sanderling, four Sandwich Tern, two Bar-tailed Godwit and a Greenshank.
Elsewhere the bushes were quiet and blown out, but a calmer evening revealed the first Willow Warbler of the year with six Chiffchaff noted, with five Shoveler amongst the usual suspects on the Main Pond, a female Sparrowhawk with a kill in the Entrance Bushes and offshore two Great Crested Grebe and an adult Mediterranean Gull.
Wildlife News: A few Scarlet Elf Cap have emerged in the Entrance Bushes, the Sand Crocus remained firmly closed and Insect sightings were reduced to a couple of diptera sheltering from the weather.

Hairy-eyed Syrphus S. torvus - Alan Keatley

Scarlet Elf Cup - Alan Keatley

Sunday 26 March 2023

Sunday 26th March

A first winter Iceland Gull was a brief visitor to Finger Point mid morning, flying in from upriver, it circled around and joined over 160 Herring Gull on Finger Point. The recent increase in Herring Gull roosting on Finger Point is a welcome occurrence, but it may have come about due to the reduction in Great Black-backed Gull numbers using the Point. This species has globally declined by 48% since 1985, the loss of another bird today due to poultry flu, highlights the risk to this familiar species. The tortured antics of the dying bird were enough to cause all the other gulls to desert their roost.

Iceland Gull - both Lee Collins

Also in the estuary the two immature Spoonbill were present on the dropping tide with counts of 366 Oystercatcher, 76 Curlew, 59 Turnstone, 52 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 28 Redshank, 21 Grey and four Ringed Plover, 13 Sanderling, five Greenshank, just two Dunlin and a Bar-tailed Godwit.

The Firecrest remains behind the Main Pond, with 11 Chiffchaff, four Wheatear and three Goldcrest also on site, along with at least five pairs of Stonechat and four singing Cirl Bunting. Offshore just 12 Great Crested Grebe present along with four Sandwich Tern, four Red-breasted Merganser, three Common Scoter and two Red-throated Diver.

No sign of any large swifts today, on or offsite, but frequent scanning revealed a light, often very high, mixed passage. Totals included five Rook, three Jackdaw, three Buzzard, two Stock Dove, a Sparrowhawk and a Raven along with single figure counts of Chaffinch, GoldfinchLesser Black-backed Gull, Linnet, Meadow Pipit and Skylark.

Iceland Gull & Finger Point high tide gull roost - David Flack

Wildlife News: Although chilly the bright start looked promising but the arrival of cloud cover and showers limited invertebrate activity and only provided a narrow window for flowering Sand Crocus. One or two Water Vole showed on the Main Pond swimming across the main channel. 

Saturday 25 March 2023

Saturday 25th March

Three Alpine Swifts remain offsite, visible over Easton Ridge before being lost to view just after 9am, when they headed S just before a heavy shower. They roosted again in Teignmouth, so may return tomorrow.

On site, a Firecrest singing behind the Main Pond was the highlight with five Chiffchaff and single Goldcrest and Wheatear also present and two Stock Dove overhead. In the estuary counts included 365 Oystercatcher, 81 Curlew, 58 Turnstone, 45 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 27 Redshank, 22 Teal, 21 Grey Plover, eight Greenshank and a first winter Kittiwake that flew off inland. 

Offshore 70 Gannet, 15 Kittiwake, 11 Sandwich Tern, three Red-throated Diver, three Red-breasted Merganser and two Common Scoter.

Wildlife News: The sunny morning and above average temperature heralded the first flowering of the Warren Crocus Romulea columnae as well as the discovery of a new population on the Golf Course. Increased mowing of a targeted south facing bank clearly benefiting the species with at least 113 flowering plants, a sight to behold.  The count gives some indication of numbers, but there are probably many more plants, either missed or yet to flower.  

Sand Crocus - Alan Keatley

The weather also saw the emergence of a few male Sandpit Mining Bee Andrena barbilabris, a queen German Wasp Vespula germanica, and a hoverfly, Dull-bellied Blacklet Cheilosia proxima. A single Peacock was the only butterfly noted. King Alfred's Cakes Daldinia concentrica was a surprise find emerging from a strandline Ash log. 

German Wasp - Alan Keatley

King Alfred's Cakes - Alan Keatley

Friday 24 March 2023

Friday 24th March

The highlight was a first winter Caspian Gull roosting with other gulls on Finger Point at high tide, the first of the year after a record six last year. 

Caspian Gull - Lee Collins

Counts from the estuary continue to diminish as birds migrate back to breeding areas, with 280 Oystercatcher, 65 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 41 Turnstone, 33 Curlew, 31 Redshank, 25 Dunlin, 16 Grey Plover, two Knot and a Bar-tailed Godwit over the high tide.

Moving in the same direction, but arriving from the south, 11 Sandwich Tern and six Wheatear.

Caspian Gull - Lee Collins

Thursday 23 March 2023

Thursday 23rd March

The highlight was again offsite with two or three Alpine Swift stubbornly remaining over Eastdon Ridge despite the showers and strong westerly wind. On site the first singing Chaffinch for several years, with at least seven Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest in the blown out conditions, two Shoveler remain at the Main Pond, where a Teal showed off its diving skills to evade a Sparrowhawk.

Offshore from first light birds heading south included two Manx Shearwater, 70 Gannet, 62 Kittiwake, 15 Fulmar and a Red-throated Diver with nine Common Scoter, nine Great Crested Grebe, eight Red-breasted Merganser and eight Sandwich Tern also present. Elsewhere a second year Mediterranean Gull and a Greenshank were in the estuary and an early Little Ringed Plover flew north.

Wildlife News: Not great insect weather but a few Buff-tailed Bumblebee and Tapered Dronefly braved the conditions.

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Tuesday 21st March

A mix of joy and frustration today, the joy of watching four Alpine Swift over the Eastdon ridge for several hours and the frustration of one getting as close as 400m from the Recording Area boundary! Off Cockwood Steps, whilst not watching swifts, the first Spotted Redshank of the year, presumably the Starcross bird getting itchy feet, was with 22 Redshank and three Greenshank, six Red-breasted Merganser were in the channel, 12 Sandwich Tern were offshore, two Mediterranean Gull and two Buzzard were overhead and the first Sand Martin of the year was over Shutterton Creek.

Sunday 19 March 2023

Sunday 19th March

Some overhead spring migration this morning with most birds heading N-E, including 233 Chaffinch, 120 Woodpigeon, 115 Starling, nine Jackdaw, five Meadow Pipit, four Buzzard, four Rook, two Sparrowhawk, two Raven, a Siskin and the first Stock Dove of the year. Also of note 13 Blue Tit heading east through site.

In the estuary peak counts were all outside the allotted WeBS hour with totals of 329 Oystercatcher, 280 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 136 Curlew, 74 Dunlin, 72 Bar-tailed Godwit, 41 Teal, 38 Redshank, 35 Turnstone 19 Grey and 13 Ringed Plover, 11 Sanderling, seven Knot, six Greenshank, six Shelduck and five Wigeon.

Elsewhere six Tufted Duck were offshore late afternoon, with earlier counts of 21 Great Crested Grebe, 11 Red-breasted Merganser, three Sandwich Tern and two Red-throated Diver, two Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Langstone Rock, 108 Linnet on the Golf Course and across the site three Wheatear, seven Chiffchaff and three Goldcrest.

Wildlife News: Two Common Dolphin were feeding distantly offshore, with Marmalade Hoverfly on the Alexanders, along with feeding signs of the rare micromoth Aethes deaurana. Cut-leaved Dead-nettle Lamium hybridum was rediscovered somewhere on site, the first record for over a decade when a patch along the Back Path was lost. 

Saturday 18 March 2023

Saturday 18th March

The warm, sunny weather promised some spring migrants, with six Chiffchaff singing in the woods the most obvious arrivals, although a count of six Song Thrush probably included birds on the move. Also on site a single Goldcrest, and around the Main Pond four Little Grebe, two Shoveler and the Mallard x Wigeon hybrid. Overhead two Rook and single Jackdaw and Buzzard.

Pale-bellied Brent Goose - Alan Keatley

Along the beach the first two Pale-bellied Brent Geese of the year were feeding with 74 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, whilst seven Sandwich Tern were offshore with 21 Great Crested Grebe. Counts from the estuary on a low high tide included 54 Turnstone, 38 Teal, 10 Sanderling, nine Wigeon and four Red-breasted Merganser.

Wildlife News: It promised to be a good day for insects, but a heavy downpour literally put a dampener on proceedings. There was an increase in hoverflies with several Tapered Dronefly Eristalis tenax and Stripe-faced Dronefly E. pertinax along with the first Common Spotted Field Syrph Eupeodes luniger of the year. Also on the wing two Peacock and a Red Admiral.

Common Spotted Field Syrph - Alan Keatley

Thursday 16 March 2023

Thursday 16th March

If any new migrants were on site they remained hidden during a damp late afternoon visit. In the estuary there were 86 Dark-bellied Brent Geese on the mudflats along with 32 Teal, including a male with white blaze on it's forehead, seven Wigeon, four displaying Little Egret and two Greenshank with two Red-breasted Merganser in Shutterton Creek and a Scandinavian Rock Pipit in the saltmarsh. 

Wednesday 15 March 2023

Wednesday 15th March

The first Wheatear of the year was a welcome sight, watched arriving over the sea, one of six that made landfall today. Also offshore six Great Northern and three Red-throated Diver, 25 Great Crested Grebe and the two immature drake Eider.

Wheatear - Lee Collins

Counts from the estuary included 350 Oystercatcher, 175 Dunlin, 77 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 42 Teal, 42 Redshank, nine Knot, five Sanderling, five Greenshank and two Sandwich Tern. 

Greenshank - Lee Collins

Tuesday 14 March 2023

Tuesday 14th March

Out of the cold north westerly, it felt quite pleasant in the early spring sunshine. With the high tide only 3 metres, waders were thin on the ground with most on Finger Point, although 170 Curlew were in the Railway Saltmarsh. Also present a Spoonbill was again on Finger Point with counts including 150 Dunlin, 117 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 36 Grey Plover and five Bar-tailed Godwit.

Elsewhere just six Great Crested Grebe were offshore with a female Eider a new arrival off groyne 12, four Shoveler remain on the Main Pond, a flock of 43 Linnet were feeding on the Golf Course and a Buzzard was over the Entrance Bushes.

Cirl Bunting - Dean Hall

Wildlife News: Insect numbers are slowly starting to increase, mainly showing on Alexanders as little esle is yet in flower, with a female Buffish Mining Bee Andrena nigroaena alongside a black and red squash bug Corizus hyoscyami and a female Bibio johannis. A Common Pollen Beetle Meligethes aeneus agg. had found one of the few open dandelions.

Common Pollen Beetle - Alan Keatley

Hoverflies were represented by several Stripe-faced Dronefly Eristalis tenax, a few Tapered Dronefly Eristalis pertinax and more Marmalade Hoverfly. A Peacock was the only butterfly to venture out, with just single Buff-tailed Bumblebee and Honey Bee on the willows. 

Sunday 12 March 2023

Sunday 12th March

The Firecrest remained in Dead Dolphin Wood, with three Goldcrest, three first winter Song Thrush and a Redwing also likely migrants. Offshore 12 Red-breasted Merganser and eight Red-throated Diver with counts from the estuary including 625 Dunlin, 415 Oystercatcher, 296 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 70 Bar-tailed Godwit, 65 Curlew, 53 Grey and two Ringed Plover, 10 Knot, seven Wigeon, three Greenshank and a Mediterranean Gull.

Wildlife News: A dog Fox by the Tractor Compound was the first sighting of the year. Elsewhere a dung beetle Aphodious prodromus was on the dune ridge and despite the worsening weather a few flies were around the Alexanders, with Humming Syrphus S. ribesii, Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus and a Suillia variegata. Another hoverfly and a muscid fly fell victim to the predatory Yellow Dung Fly Scathophaga stercoraria.

Aphodious prodromus - Alan Keatley

Humming Syrphus - Alan Keatley

Yellow Dung Fly - Alan Keatley

As well as the wildlife a radiosonde (usually attached to the end of weather balloons to make measurements of temperature, humidity, and wind) was found washed up on the tideline. Investigations revealed that it had originally been launched from Camborne at approximately 23:30 on 7 March, before dropping into the sea around Sidmouth just under two hours later, at about 01:20 on 8 March.

Saturday 11 March 2023

Saturday 11th March

The Red-necked Grebe was still present off groyne 12 with a Great Northern Diver also offshore. In the estuary the first migrant Sandwich Tern of the year, a Scandinavian Rock Pipit and counts including 760 Dunlin, 339 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 98 Curlew, 97 Grey Plover, 68 Bar-tailed Godwit, 32 Teal, 25 Redshank, 15 Shelduck, 11 Sanderling, nine Wigeon and three Knot. The first Tawny Owl of the year called from the Entrance Bushes with a Firecrest in Dead Dolphin Wood. and a Pheasant foraging below Langstone Rock on the exposed reefs at low tide!

Wildlife News: A Shores of South Devon event explored the exposed rockpools below Langstone Rock, a habitat much neglected by the Recording Group, unless searching for a Purple Sandpiper! In addition to the Pheasant finds included a dead Plaice dropped by a Herring Gull, numerous species of seaweed including Bunny Ears (or more boringly Jointed Pod Weed) Lomentaria articulata and the tasty Pepper Dulse Osmundea pinnatifida, the soft rock boring mollusc Piddock Pholas dactylus and three species of anemone, Beadlet, Snakelocks and Strawberry

Honeycomb Worm Sabellaria alveolata reefs - Kevin Rylands

Snakelocks Anemone - Kevin Rylands

Strawberry Anemone - Kevin Rylands

Pepper Dulse - Kevin Rylands

Plaice - Kevin Rylands

Thursday 9 March 2023

Thursday 9th March

A few subtle signs of spring despite the weather with a group of 16 Black-tailed Godwit perhaps new arrivals, along with two sinensis Cormorant and overhead two Rook and a Lesser Black-backed Gull.

In the estuary 458 Dark-bellied Brent Geese arrived  after being flushed from Starcross GC, with other counts including 452 Dunlin and 38 Grey Plover, but hunting Peregrine and Sparrowhawk kept the flocks wary. Offshore in choppy conditions, 10 Great Crested Grebe and three Red-breasted Merganser, with four Shoveler, two Goldcrest and a Water Rail around the Main Pond.

Tuesday 7 March 2023

Tuesday 7th March

The Red-necked Grebe remains offshore, usually off groyne 12 towards Warren Point, also offshore 24 Great Crested Grebe, two Red-throated Diver, a Cormorant carrying nesting material, heading towards Dawlish and a single flock of Black-headed Gull that came in from south and headed into the estuary.

Elsewhere 78 Dark-bellied Brent Geese were in the estuary, the Glaucous Gull was reported, and despite having deserted the estuary, eight Teal remain around the Main Pond, with five Shoveler and a Goldcrest.

Wildlife News: Despite the cold, sunny spells in the afternoon encouraged several Buff-tailed Bumblebee out to collect willow pollen and the first Buffish Mining Bee Andrena nigroaenea to nectar on emerging Alexanders flowers near Langstone Rock.

Buffish Mining Bee - Alan Keatley

The highlight of the day was the rediscovery of the ground beetle Bemidion iricolor, the first record for over 40 years for this coastal specialist.

Bemidion iricolor - Alan Keatley

Monday 6 March 2023

Monday 6th March

The highlight came late in the day with a first winter Glaucous Gull found on Bull Hill, having been last (& first) seen at Topsham on 26 February. Also present in the estuary, 76 Turnstone, a decent count of 41 Great Black-backed Gull, 10 Wigeon and two Red-breasted Merganser.

Counts from the estuary early morning included 331 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 171 Curlew, 130 Bar-tailed Godwit, 54 Grey and 16 Ringed Plover, 25 Sanderling and two Greenshank. Elsewhere 26 Magpie left their roost and headed towards the mainland first thing, with the Red-necked Grebe still present offshore as well as 32 Great Crested Grebe and two Red-throated Diver.

Sunday 5 March 2023

Sunday 5th March

The Red-necked Grebe remained offshore but no other news was reported. 

Saturday 4 March 2023

Saturday 4th March

A short, morning visit saw little off the seawall first thing, but a flock of 20 Cirl Bunting were feeding in the car park, may be obtaining grit at the same time. They flew off towards the golf course, when disturbed by cars. Also on site a Sparrowhawk and around the Main Pond two prs of Little Grebe, three Shoveler and a Snipe

Cirl Bunting - Alan Keatley

Elsewhere 118 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and two Shelduck were in the estuary, five Turnstone were at Langstone Rock and offshore from groyne 12, the Red-necked Grebe, 25 Great Crested Grebe and nine Common Scoter.

Wednesday 1 March 2023

Wednesday 1st March

At meeting at the golf course allowed for a short visit early afternoon, with the first Firecrest of the year a welcome surprise along the railway line. Also present on site the Dartford Warbler, with 98 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 26 Wigeon, 12 Shelduck and two Greenshank in the estuary at low tide.