Sunday, 1 November 2015

South Devon Coast Day and a Trip to Dawlish Warren

A sunny but breezey day on October 28th and despite it being half term holiday hell we headed off to Prawle Point for a walk.

I have only been to Prawle Point once before, many years ago, and was struck at how isolated and unexplored it felt. The drive down to the car park at the Point followed an increasingly overgrown and narrowing pot-holed lane but we finally got there and I was rewarded with a firecrest feeding in the trees as soon as I got out of the car.The isolated location meant it wasn't too busy with people but a large walking group appeared on the footpath as we were leaving.

A male kestrel and a male stonechat along with a red admiral butterfly were seen on the walk to the Coastguards lookout and scanning the sea from the lookout there were a few gannets circling around. Closer inspection revealed at least 3 harbour porpoise beneath them and despite the choppy sea they showed very well as they surfaced at the top of a swell and then surfed just under the water as the swell rolled, the bright sunlight helping to highlight them very well under the water.

We had lunch at The Pigs Nose pub in Prawle village before heading off to Beesands. It was much busier here than at Prawle Point but we found a car parking space and walked off along the beach towards Slapton Ley, seeing a swallow around the houses and a large peregrine overhead. A quick look at the hedgerow near the hide at Beesands Ley revealed just 1 goldcrest but at least 4 chiffchaff feeding in with grest, blue and long tailed tits along with another red admiral.

At Slapton Ley a surprise were 2 male red crested pochard in front of the hide at Torcross, my first sighting here. They were found earlier in the autumn when they were in eclipse plumage but haven't been reported for a while. I have always thought of them as dabbling ducks despite their pochard name and so was surprised to see them both diving underwater for brief periods.

Record shot of the 2 male Red Crested Pochard

There were lots of variously plumaged and aged gulls bathing on the Ley and amongst the herring, black headed, lesser black backed and greater black backed gulls were a 1st winter Mediterranean gull and a first winter common gull. I also saw what I think was a 1st winter yellow legged gull but it was too distant in the fading light for me to be sure - why do I torture myself?

Saturday October 31st and another sunny but breezey day and I headed off to Dawlish Warren on the train, a bargain at £7.30 for a return. It was quiet on arrival at 9 o'clock but got busier with half term holiday makers as the day went on although it was nice and peaceful on the nature reserve itself.

A quick look off the seawall for a reported black redstart drew a blank and there was little offshore apart from gulls, shags and cormorants. I headed off to the hide as it was a very high tide and settled down to watch the wader roost. A surprise was the reported purple sandpiper, a first here for me, with the dunlin, knot, ringed plover, turnstone, curlew, oystercatcher, sanderling and grey plover but the birds were all very flighty and eventually the purple sandpiper was lost from sight. It was strange to see some of the waders roosting on the posts in front of the hide and even weirder to see a dunlin resting on the back of a knot on a post! In the estuary were a male and 2 female red breasted merganser and in The Bight were wigeon, 2 female teal, shelduck and (dark bellied) brent geese along with a very black brant looking pale bellied brent goose.

Turnstone on the Seawall

 Roosting Grey Plover, Dunlin and Knot from the hide

 Pale Bellied Brent Goose (left) with Dark Bellied Brent Geese and a Shelduck

 Pale Bellied (left) and Dark Bellied Brent Geese

Left to Right - Shelduck, 2 Dark Bellied Brent geese and a Pale Bellied Brent Goose

I headed off to Warren Point for a look around and had some nice views of a female Dartford warbler feeding in the gorse, a first for me here, but I dipped on the 2 short eared owls reported earlier.

A walk around the meadow and woods on the way back to the train station to look for the reported firecrest and yellow browed warbler also drew a blank and I didn't find the Pallas's warbler seen yesterday either. I did find a male great spotted woodpecker, 2 male and a female bullfinch, a singing chiffchaff and at least 5 goldcrests. A red admiral, a small tortoiseshell and a few common darter were also seen on the wing in the warm sunshine.

Common Darter

With the mild weather I decided to have the (repaired) moth box out in the back yard for probably the last time this year. I wasn't expecting much but this morning I had a large yellow underwing, a light brown apple moth, a rusty dot pearl and a Tachystola acroxantha, a nice end to my mothing year.

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