Saturday, 3 September 2016

A Quartet of Sandpipers

Sunday August 28th and a day off to myself and I had planned to visit Preston Down in Torbay for the Devon Butterfly Groups walk to look for brown hairstreaks but on opening the bedroom curtains it was grey and misty and drizzly so I decided to head off to Bowling Green Marsh at Topsham instead. The weather did improve and it stayed mostly dry but was cloudy and humid.

I started off in the hide and quickly found the spoonbill which had been present for a few days but it was doing what spoonbills always do - sleep! It occassionally awoke and showed its bill but would quickly tuck its bill under its wing again and return to sleep.

Sleeping Spoonbill

The usual birds were on show across the Marsh including black tailed godwit, teal, little egret and lapwing but a winter plumaged spotted redshank was a nice find busily feeding in the water along with a common sandpiper feeding along the muddy shoreline, my first sandpiper of the day.

I headed off to the viewing platform overlooking the River Clyst and scanned around where the highlights were a spotted redshank roosting with redshanks on the mudflats, presumably a second bird to the one seen feeding on the marsh, a Sandwich tern resting on a buoy down river on the Exe, 2 juvenile curlew sandpipers feeding along the shoreline (sandpiper species number 2) and greenshanks and black tailed godwits feeding and flying around.

A holly blue was flitting about along the hedgerow as I headed back to the hide and it was a surprise to find the hide totally packed out after being virtually empty earlier but I managed to find a standing place at the back. Birds were flying in from the estuary as the tide came in and I added ringed plover, dunlin, a bar tailed godwit, 3 knot, curlew and a calling whimbrel to the wader list.

I eventually found the bird I had come to see, a very smart wood sandpiper which had been around for a few days. At first it was tucked away to the left of the hide but eventually flew in right in front of the hide giving some great views, the best I have had of this species and sandpiper number 3 for the day.

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Later a green sandpiper also flew in to the channel in front of the hide but quickly flew off again back towards Goosemoor, sandpiper number 4. Birds were coming and going and the spotted redshank was still feeding in the water, the spoonbill was still asleep at the back of the marsh and presumably the 2 curlew sandpipers from the viewing platform were busily feeding away along the muddy shoreline. Lots to watch but there was no sign of the osprey that had been reported over the previous few days.

Slightly Awake Spoonbill

It started to rain as I headed home on the train but I managed to see the resident Slavonian grebe on the River Exe at Cockwood from the train on the journey back to Plymouth.

Duchess of Sutherland at Plymouth Station on my return

Monday 29th August and a hot and sunny Bank Holiday Monday for a change and so we headed off to Wembury for a walk. I was hoping to see some yellow wagtails and wasn't disappointed with 3 found feeding around the feet of the cattle in the field by the footpath. However they were very skittish and soon flew off inland but on the walk back I found a single bird in the field which gave some nice views before flying off inland also.

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

Also seen were a noisy adult and even noisier juvenile Sandwich tern flying along the shoreline, a male whitethroat at Wembury Point,, stonechats, chiffchaffs, swallows and a female sparrowhawk flying low over the stubble field spooking the roosting gulls which included an adult lesser black backed.

Common blue, speckled wood, large white, meadow brown, small tortoiseshell, red admiral  and holly blue were on the wing but there were no moths again in the toilet block.

We enjoyed a coffee and a pasty for lunch from the cafe on the beach before heading off home to cool down and prepare for dreaded night shifts, bringing to an end some excellent days of wildlife watching with 2 lifers added to my British list.

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