Saturday, 9 May 2015

Warblers and Damselflys at Exminster Marsh

Despite the bad weather forecast on May 8th I headed off to Exminster Marshes anyway - the forecast kept changing and so I just decided to go for it and take my chances. It was cool and overcast and breezey but the rain didn't arrive until I got on the train back to Plymouth.

Arriving at the RSPB car park at Exminster Marsh at 9:30 and it was surprisingly quiet with very little bird song. Swifts, swallows, house martins and sand martins were very active over the marsh, flying low over the ground trying to find food, and Canada geese and shelducks were roosting amongst the cows.

I walked along the back path towards the Turf Hotel and began to hear bird song - a few very quiet reed warblers and 2 noisey reed buntings. Sedge warblers were much more vocal and showy and Cettis warblers were explosive but secretive amongst the vegetation. A lone willow warbler was heard along with chiffchaffs and blackcaps but there were no whitethroats or lesser whitethroats.

 Reed Warbler in a tree!

 Reed Warbler

 Sedge Warbler

Sedge Warbler
Sedge Warbler

A peregrine was perched on the usual pylon, taking short flight sorties around the marsh causing complete panic amongst the nesting lapwings. A small falcon high overhead turned out to be a hobby, it was joined by a second bird and both flew off north, while a female kestrel flew low along a hedgerow.

 Nervous looking Grey Heron

Oh Dear!

A male gadwall, a pair of tufted duck, 8 whimbrel, 11 summer plumaged dunlin and a great spotted woodpecker were also seen but the best surprise was a yellow wagtail which flew over calling, gaining height and flying off east. I rarely see a springtime yellow wagtail and was pleased with my brief and distant view although I keep hoping that they will start breeding on the marshes soon.

Despite the cool conditions I found a few damselflys perched on vegetation by the footpath in more sheltered areas. They were small and easily overlooked but nice to find.

 Large Red Damselfly - male

Damselfly sp.

 Large Red Damselfly - female

Damselfly sp.

Walking back to the bus stop and a hobby circled overhead, a much better view as it flashed its red thighs before dashing off and out of sight. I headed on to Dawlish Warren with a common sandpiper, around 18 turnstones and 2 whimbrel flying over calling seen at Starcross along the way. At Dawlish Warren I hoped for some birds offshore in the windy conditions but it was fairly quiet - 2 great crested grebes, distant Sandwich terns, a few adult gannets and a flock of around 40 common scoters were the best of it. The scoters flew across the Bay from Berry Head in a loose, strung out flock before landing on the sea and totally disappearing from sight.

At least 3 reed warblers were singing in the reeds at the main pond with 1 bird seen, the birds were keeping low down in the strong breeze. A blackcap, a chiffchaff and 4 whitethroats were more showy. A green woodpecker, a great spotted woodpecker, a female stonechat and 8 whimbrel feeding on the grass in Greenland Lake were the other avian highlights and a brief sunny spell brought out a female orange tip, green veined whites and my first small copper of the year.

 Female Orange Tip on Cuckoo Flower

 Flower sp.

Small Copper

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