Great Northern Diver
Three late swallows flew over heading East, a lone sanderling fed along the beach and a very noisey and showy green woodpecker was feeding on the grassy area by the main pond. A red admiral was still on the wing and a common seal was sleeping in the water quite close to the shore - its head looked like a piece of floating plastic until it raised itself out of the water, yawned and then went back to sleep!
I then headed off on the bus to Exminster Marsh to look for the recently reported whooper swan (a Devon tick) but again I dipped it. I only had an hour at the Marsh which was just enough time to walk to the viewing platform and back and I managed to see a male blackcap, redwings, a male stonechat and 2 greylag geese amongst the Canadas. A water rail squealed in the reeds and the whistling of the returning wigeon was delightful to hear.
Surprise birds were a pair of red crested pochard feeding on the reservoir, having been reported the previous day on Bowling Green Marsh. But are the real or are they plastic? There has been quite marked migration of birds from the East over the past few days and Autumn is the best time for wild birds to appear - or are they feral birds from the Cotswold Water Park colony, not far from Devon as the red crested pochard flies? Or are they wildfowl collection escapees? Who knows? I have only ever seen red crested pochard once before, a wary female on the River Plym in October 2008 with mallards, but I chose not to add it to my British list. Can I tick these two birds?
Saturday 3rd November and further reports of the Bonaparte's gull at Dawlish Warren and 2 adult and 2 juvenile whooper swans at Exminster Marsh tempted me back to the River Exe for another go. And again I dipped both!
Dawlish Warren provided some excitement with the pinging call of a bearded tit (a male first reported a few days ago) heard from the reeds at the main pond but despite watching and waiting I couldn't see it. It was lovely to hear it, a sound I used to hear regularly when I was growing up in Suffolk and cutting my birdwatching teeth but it has been a while since I last saw or heard one and this is my first Devon record.
A water rail was also heard from the reeds but not seen and 2 little grebes were skulking around the reed edges. A jay and a great spotted woodpecker were seen flying over.
Offshore gannets were spectacularly diving for fish quite close to the beach, creating quite a large splash. A great crested grebe, 2 razorbills, 6 female red breasted mergansers, a great northern diver and a red throated diver were also seen.
I headed off by bus to Exminster Marsh where despite checking all the mute swans I failed to find the whoopers. A sparrowhawk was on the hunt along the lane hedgerows where redwings and long tailed tits were seen. A small flock of around 20 golden plovers flew over calling and there were more lapwings on the Marsh than when I visited last week. A male shoveler was roosting among the teal and wigeon on the Marsh and gadwall were seen feeding on the reservoir but there was no sign of the red crested pochards. A red admiral was on the wing despite the chilly weather.
And so I had double dipped twice but I did get a (half) Devon tick and a potential life tick out of my 2 trips and I had had a good time with some good sightings.