There were no moths in the toilet block and the only butterfly sighting was a brief view of a small tortoiseshell flying past. Maer Lake was much more productive with 3 common sandpiper, a greenshank and 8 dunlin showing well amongst the teal, mallard and moorhen. Swallows and sand martins were hawking over the water and a chiffchaff was heard singing in the hedgerow. Best of all was a male whinchat perched on top of some brambles, looking very smart in the sunshine as it chased after insects before returning to the bramble tops and my first Bude sighting.
Distant Male Whinchat, Bude
Monday 25th April and it was cool, cloudy and breezey again but with occassional glimpses of sunshine and I decided to cash in my voucher for a trip to Yarner Wood with David. I wouldn't normally go to Yarner quite so early in the spring but with all the target birds being reported on the web pages I thought it was time to pay a visit.
David dropped me off at the car park before heading off to Trago Mills and I walked up through the trees to the heathland and I soon heard and then saw a male redstart feeding in the trees along the heathland edge. A tree pipit was also quickly seen as it songflighted over the heath before perching in a pine tree while a second bird was heard nearby. 2 male stonechats and a singing willow warbler were also seen while overhead swallows and my house martins of the year were trying to hawk for insects in the cool conditions.
Tree Pipit, Yarner Wood
Heading back into the wood and I soon found my first male pied flycatcher singing away and as I walked through the woods quite a few more were seen including 2 females. I am always surprised at how tame pied flycatchers at Yarner Wood can be and I had some lovely views. Also seen were a nuthatch, 2 mistle thrush, a marsh tit, a male blackcap, chiffchaffs and a great spotted woodpecker. Another male redstart was seen with a second bird heard nearby but unfortunately there was no sight nor sound of the bird I really wanted to see - wood warbler - and hearing from other birders wandering around the wood that there had been 5 singing earlier did not help!
Male Pied Flycatcher, Yarner Wood
Female Pied Flycatcher, Yarner Wood
Male Redstart, Yarner Wood
Around the pond by the car park were 4 mandarins (3 male, 1 female) while on the feeders in front of the hide were siskins and coal and great tits but there were no butterflies to be seen again.
Male Mandarin, Yarner Wood
Male Mandarin, Yarner Wood
David duly arrived and it was off to the Brookside Cafe at Bovey Tracy for tea and cake as promised but despite having had a good birding time I was a bit down at having dipped wood warblers, one of my favourite birds and one that is alarmingly declining.
Tuesday 26th April and a sunny day again but with a bitingly stiff breeze from the north and it felt more like the end of February and not the end of April. I had planned to visit the River Exe and nearly changed my mind due to the unseasonal cold wind but I was glad I stuck to my plans as I ended up having a good day.
Arriving at Exminster Marsh and I soon heard my first reed warbler chuntering in the reeds and I eventually managed good views of 5 birds with more heard. I also had brief views of 2 sedge warblers with a third bird heard, quite surprising as sedge warblers are usually quite showy and reed warblers quite skulky.
Reed Warbler, Exminster Marsh
Also seen and heard were a male reed bunting, a male whitethroat, 3 blackcaps (1 female), chiffchaffs and Cettis warblers with a female redstart feeding in the hedgerow along the back footpath a nice surprise. Sand martins, swallows, 2 house martins and 4 swifts were hawking overhead, there must have been slim pickings in the cold wind, and a common sandpiper, 2 male gadwall and a pair of tufted duck were out on the marsh with the usual wildfowl and a female mallard with 12 ducklings.
Female Redstart, Exminster Marsh
Incubating Mute Swan, Exminster Marsh
Heading on to Dawlish Warren and a reed warbler was heard in the reeds by the main pond and 3 little grebes were out on the water with 1 bird carrying 2 small young on its back.
Little Grebe with 1 young on back, Dawlish Warren
6 whimbrel flew in to Greenland Lake and began to feed giving some nice views despite regular disturbance from nearby walkers.
Whimbrels, Dawlish Warren
A pair of treecreepers in the woodland were a surprise, my first at Dawlish Warren, while a singing whitethroat, chiffchaffs and a pair of bullfinch were more expected, and offshore 2 adult gannets, a summer plumaged great crested grebe and Sandwich terns were seen.
Treecreeper, Dawlish Warren
Still no butterflies to be seen, not surprising in the cold wind, and the sand crocus must have all gone over as I couldn't find any flowering in the bright sunshine but it had been a very enjoyable day out despite the cold wind. I really hope it warms up soon.