It was only £7.30 for a day return, a complete bargain, but visiting Dawlish Warren on a Sunday in August is probably not a great idea. It was grey and breezey with occasional glimpses of sunshine as I arrived at The Warren at 10:30 and the beach and entertainment complex were packed with people. However as I entered the nature reserve it was very quiet with just a few people around and I had a very enjoyable and peaceful time.
Despite the weather a few butterflies were on the wing and so I decided to do another 15 minute Big Butterfly Count in the Greenland Lake area, seeing a red admiral, a wall, a small copper, a very faded small skipper, 2 large white, gatekeepers, meadow browns and common blues. Best of all was a nice male brown argus, smaller than female common blues, smarter looking and with no hint of blue on the upperwings - as it flitted around it was occasionally briefly investigated by passing male common blues.
Female Common Blue
Male Brown Argus
Male Brown Argus
A common darter , a blue tailed damselfly, six-spot burnet moths and a cinnabar moth caterpillar feeding on ragwort were also seen.
Blue Tailed Damselfly
Offshore a few adult gannets were flying around with Sandwich terns and there were 2 large rafts of shags which eventually dispersed across the Bay. At least 7 common scoters were seen amongst the wave troughs but were difficult to observe as they dived regularly and 2 Mediterranean gulls flew past (a juvenile and a moulting 2nd summer bird). Best of all was a pod of bottle nose dolphins first seen leaping out of the water around a tourist fishing trip boat. At least 7 individuals were seen including a small calf but unfortunately they attracted the attentions of 2 jet skiers who chased after them and they eventually became more unobtrusive before moving away further offshore towards Berry Head.
Heading off to the hide as high tide approached and there was quite a nice selection of waders seen feeding and coming in to roost - oystercatcher (including a distinctive piebald individual), curlew, whimbrel, ringed plover, dunlin, redshank, bar-tailed godwit and sanderling. A flock of Sandwich terns were also roosting on the mudflats, a mix of adults and juveniles, with adult birds flying over The Warren from offshore with beakfulls of sand eels to feed to their noisey young. Amongst the Sarnies were 6 common terns - 3 adults in summer plumage, an adult moulting in to winter plumage and 2 juveniles. A male peregrine was seen feeding on a small wader out on the saltmarsh and was presumably the cause of the general skittishness amongst the terns.
A juvenile Mediterranean gull landed briefly on the mud with some black headed gulls, it had a green plastic leg ring which unfortunately I couldn't read. I saw it before Warren Birder Lee arrived in the hide but we had an interesting chat about reading bird rings at The Warren and the information this had provided (details of ring reads are often reported on the Dawlish Warren bird site www.dawlishwarren.co.uk) - he then found a metal ringed juvenile great black backed gull but had difficulty trying to get a read of the numbers, having to eventually give up.
I also found a distinctive looking juvenile gull out on the mudflats - pale looking with noticeably darker upperparts, and unlike nearby juvenile herring gulls. It preened briefly before settling down on the mud to sleep and I hoped to catch a flight view of it at some point but I got distracted by the common terns and when I looked back it had disappeared! It looked quite pale but not when compared to a juvenile great black backed gull which landed nearby - another juvenile yellow legged gull looking juvenile herring gull.
Juvenile Herring Gull - appeared pale with dark upperparts
Juvenile Herring Gull
Juvenile Herring Gull
Juvenile Herring Gull (left) looking less white when near a juvenile Great Black Backed Gull
And so a very enjoyable day out and one that helped to lift my mood, ready for the rigours of another week at work.