As the year hurtles to an end and Christmas madness envelops the Nation a few hours birding at Topsham on (Friday) 13th December despite the grey skies, flat light and heavy rain showers was very restorative despite not adding any new birds to my year list.
On arriving at Topsham it was actually not raining and as the tide was low I headed off to the recreation ground for a look around. I checked through the gulls bathing in the river but despite searching could find nothing more exciting than an adult lesser black backed gull amongst the herring, common, black headed and great black backs. 3 male and a female red breasted merganser gave some great close up views along with teal but despite looking and listening I failed to find any of the recently reported bearded tits.
A passing local birder put me on to a water pipit feeding on a stoney island in the middle of the river, easily overlooked in the dull light and against the stones, and it showed well before flying off and out of sight. A female type black redstart was an unexpected find in some nearby trees, giving a flash of summer colour as it quivered its tail.
Heading towards Bowling Green Marsh I stopped at Topsham Quay where I had some nice views of an adult and juvenile spotted redshank feeding , both birds almost submerging in the water before running to the shore to eat what looked like small crabs that they had caught. Later I saw (presumably) the same 2 birds from the viewing platform as they roosted along the River Clyst.
Bowling Green Marsh was packed with birds but they were very nervous and flighty. A fly by sparrowhawk was seen but no peregrines. Black tailed godwits and wigeon gave close views along with pintail, teal, shoveler, tufted duck, pochard, lapwing and snipe, and brent geese flew over from Darts Farm to Exminster Marsh in noisey flocks. A surprise sight were a pair of red breasted merganser bathing and preening on the water before roosting amongst the assorted wildfowl, my first on the Marsh.
I had had an enjoyable few hours birding despite getting a bit wet with the rain before heading back to Exeter to meet David and Julie for lunch and enduring some Christmas shopping hell.