A bright and sunny but very cold morning with a sharp frost and it was that time of year for my annual bird watching boat trip along the River Tamar and Lynher, this year without Mavis.
I checked out the small patch of woodland by the Tamar Bridge as I had a bit of time to fill before the trip started. The wood is being tidied up as part of a conservation scheme and where the woodland floor has been cleared around 10 very nervous and flighty redwings were feeding with blackbirds before they all flew off into the tree tops and out of sight. Also heard were 2 male blackcaps sub-singing deep inside adjacent bushes but I didn't see them.
On boarding the boat we headed up the River Tamar, passing the white feral goose that hangs out with the mute swans at the quayside. As we headed past Kingsmill Creek the most unusual bird of the day was seen, a male common scoter busily diving along the shoreline and a surprise so far up river. It was still there on the return downriver where the knob on its bill and the yellow bill marking were very obvious. I have seen a female common scoter on the trip before, back in 1998, but it was an unexpected sight.
Also seen were around 100 avocets, the usual peregrine perched on the electricity pylons, a common sandpiper, a little grebe, a bar tailed godwit with some black tailed godwits, around 200 lapwings on the mudflats at Cargreen, a greenshank and the usual waders and wildfowl.
The boat managed to get upriver to Pentille House, the furthest upriver I have ever been on this trip. However I didn't see any spotted redshanks which I had hoped for. I missed out on seeing them last year as the boat was unable to sail upriver to where they are usually seen, but this year there were none to be seen in their usual place along the shoreline just North of Cargreen.
Heading up the River Lynher we soon found the spoonbill roosting on the saltmarsh near Trematon. It had its head tucked under its wing and its back to us but it eventually woke up. It looked over its shoulder at the boat where it showed its distinctive black spoon bill with its yellow tip before flying off up the creek and out of sight, never to be seen again.
Also seen were 2 greenshanks, around 4 little grebes, 2 male and 3 female red breasted mergansers, a female pintail flying over with some wigeon, around 30 avocets, a sparrowhawk, lesser black backed gulls amongst the gulls roosting on the mudflats and the usual waders and wildfowl.
Getting back to Saltash I was glad to get off the boat as I was freezing cold but it had been a very enjoyable trip.