Despite being August Bank Holiday Sunday and the hide at Bowling Green Marsh being closed for refurbishment I headed off to Topsham anyway as some good birds have been sighted there recently. The train was packed and 15 minutes late but I still arrived on time at Topsham at 10:30, the earliest I could get there, and was greeted with the sight of birders and their assorted optics crowded around the gaps in the hedge overlooking the Marsh. Two of my target birds were on show but by the time I got my scope out and managed to find a viewing gap in the throng the Temminck's stint had disappeared from view and I had a brief view of a spotted crake running off across the mud and out of sight - not a great start!
Eventually the spotted crake reappeared but for short periods only and it was distant, the light was crap and there was quite a heat haze so I couldn't make out any real plumage detail or bill colouration but its size and distinctive jizz gave it away. I was surprised how small it was, being around the size of a green sandpiper which was feeding nearby and being dwarfed by a nearby moorhen.
The stint didn't reappear but I managed to see 4 lapwing and a ruff amongst the black tailed godwit, curlew, redshank and dunlin feeding on the Marsh, and so I headed off to the viewing platform which has reopened. The tide was low and there was little on show other than 2 greenshanks feeding along the River Clyst and so I then headed off to the recreation ground where yellow legged gulls (target bird number 3) are often reported (as per Tim Worfolks excellent blog the Two Bird Theory) but despite searching amongst the roosting, preening and bathing gulls I couldn't find anything unusual except a few very smart looking adult lesser black backed gulls.
Heading back to the Marsh and a second ruff and a peachy/pink knot where new and there were quite a few pied wagtails flitting about but no yellow wagtails. Scanning through a flock of around 16 dunlin feeding on the mud at the back of the Marsh and there was what I thought was a pied wagtail feeding behind them but as the dunlins moved it revealed itself to be the Temminck's stint, a tiny bird with white underparts, brown/grey, plain looking upperparts and a crouched posture, and reminiscent of a small common sandpiper. It flew a little closer but was often obscured by clods of mud and vegetation along the waters edge before it disappeared again but at least I had had some distant views of what is my first British lifer of the year.
While watching the stint some birders arrived who had been watching 2 ospreys (target bird number 4) over the Exe and so I headed off to the viewing platform again but there was no sign of them. I then headed off to the The Goatwalk for a better view and settled down on some rocks to scan the river while having something to eat and drink but there was still no sign. I was just about to leave when on my last scan of the river I saw a large raptor flying over the trees at Powderham heading towards the river which turned out to be an osprey (and not a buzzard). I watched it for around 10 minutes as it hovered and swooped down to the water trying to catch fish but it was unsuccessful, eventually giving up and flying off over Exminster Marsh. I have seen ospreys a few times but never fishing, I've only seen them perched on posts or flying over so it was a real treat to watch and I was totally spellbound. It was a juvenile bird with light patterning on its brown upperparts and obviously not having mastered the art of fishing yet - it was low tide and it never fully dived in to the water, only snatching at the surface, hopefully it will get better with practice.
I then headed back to the Marsh where the Temminck's stint had disappeared again but another spotted crake had been showing in a different part of reed bed at the back of the Marsh and eventually I managed some nice but distant views as it fed out in the open. This time I could make out the red and yellow bill and the delicate plumage patterning and I was again struck by how small it was when stood near a juvenile moorhen. At least I have now had some better views of spotted crake after my very brief sightings of a bird at Marazion Marsh a few years ago.
I headed home just as a smart winter plumaged spotted redshank flew in with some redshank and the forecasted rain began, having had a fantastic day birding and with a lifer in the bag and a year list now on 187.