Thursday, 11 January 2018

Hawfinches in Exeter, Devon

Wednesday 10th January and I decided to head to Exwick Cemetery in Exeter to look for hawfinches which have been showing here for a couple of weeks following the eruption into the UK from The Continent last autumn. It was a bright and sunny but chilly day with little breeze and the train journey to Exeter went smoothly with views from the train of fulmars flying around the cliffs near Teignmouth and Herbert the Slavonian grebe off Cockwood on the River Exe.

I arrived at the cemetery just before 11am and wandering around I managed to find a pair of great spotted woodpeckers, goldcrests, greenfinch, chaffinch, long tailed tits and a male pheasent with a green woodpecker heard yaffling.

Eventually I managed to track down the hawfinches feeding in the tree tops at the top end of the cemetery, at least 3 birds but probably more as they were wary and mobile and difficult to keep track of amongst the branches of the trees. I watched them for around 90 minutes and at times had some great views of them as they fed on various seeds in the tree tops, very charismatic and distinctive looking birds and lovely to obseve here in Devon.

 Hawfinch - another "quality" record shot





I walked back to Exeter St.Davids train station and caught the train to Dawlish Warren for a quick loook around, bumping into  Warren Watcher Lee near the train station who informed me that a long tailed duck was showing well at the mouth of the Exe and so I decided to head off there first. I eventually found the bird diving close offshore along with 3 great northern divers, a presumed immature male bird with pink markings on its bill.

Back at the main pond a female shoveler, a little grebe and 2 snipe were showing well but there was no sign of the recent Jack snipe although water levels were much higher than on my visit in December.



A quick look offshore from the lifeguard hut and a red throated diver was busily diving quite close in while further offshore great crested grebes were spread across the bay and a distant auk species was seen resting amongst the waves.

Heading back to Plymouth and the trains ran smoothly again and it had been a very enjoyable day out indeed.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

River Plym Walks

Sunday 7th January and a sunny and bright morning saw me heading out to Marsh Mills for a walk along the River Plym and around Saltram Park despite the frost and bitingly cold north easterly wind.

Along the upper reaches of the Plym a grey wagtail, a kingfisher, a common sandpiper and 3+ little grebes were seen while on Blaxton Meadow on the high tide there were 3 greenshank, 2 common gull, 2 lesser black backed gulls and 13 wigeon amongst the usual mallard, redshank, curlew, dunlin, shelduck, herring gulls, black headed gulls and great black backed gulls.

Saltram Park was fairly quiet with a displaying stock dove, a jay, a chiffchaff, a mistle thrush, a redwing, a fieldfare (my first sighting of one at Saltram) and 2 goldcrest all seen but I failed to find any firecrest and a yaffling green woodpecker remained hidden from sight.

I had another look for the lesser whitethroat at West Hoe Park on the way home but had no luck again and there was no sign of any great northern divers offshore.

Tuesday 9th January and a grey and dull morning saw us heading out to Marsh Mills for another walk along the Plym and around the Park in still but cold conditions.

Blaxton Meadow held the usual birds again on the high tide but this time I could only find a single greenshank and the wigeon flock had grown by 1 to 14. The highlight was a black tailed godwit roosting amongst the curlew, an infrequent sight on the River Plym for me. Scanning down river and 5 goosander (1 male, 4 redheads) and 5 red breasted merganser (3 male, 2 redheads) were found out on the water, the male mergansers busily displaying to the redheads between dives and the goosanders frequently diving to avoid the attentions of marauding herring gulls.

 Blaxton Meadow - high tide roost

Violet, Saltram

Redwings were more noticeable in the Park as they flew between trees with blackbirds and a song thrush and while enjoying lunch in the cafe (courtesy of a gift card given to me by my sister for my birthday last year) we watched the antics of the displaying mandarin ducks on the pond with at least 10 males and 6 females being present along with moorhens and mallards.

Mandarins, Saltram