Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Waders, Warblers and Wandering around in the Mist

Back to Plymouth and back to reality after a nice time away - the stress of work, family illness's and Christmas all back with a vengence - and with Sunday 4th December being the last day of my week off from work my plan had been to visit Exminster Marshes. However I was a bit disorganised and my heart wasn't really in it and so I had a quick walk along the River Plym and around Saltram Park instead.

It was sunny and cold but not too busy and from The Ride I saw the usual birds along the estuary although there was no sign of any little grebes or greenshanks along the stretch of river I could view. A nice surprise were a flock of around 20 dunlin feeding on the mudflats on the outgoing tide, a rare sight these days on the Plym (a total of 52 birds were reported on the DBWPS website that evening).

The grassy fields in Saltram Park held a large flock of Canada geese, a goose species I didn't see in Suffolk or Scotland, and 2 redwing with 10 song thrush were a nice find feeding together in the grass.

 Canada Geese, Saltram Park

Redwing with Woodpigeon, Saltram Park

With a bit of deduction and some info from a local birder I finally managed to find a Jack snipe. I flushed 2 snipe which both careered off calling noisely but a third snipe flew off silently and landed not far away - birds don't always follow the text books! A 4th snipe flushed appropriately and finally a Jack snipe took off, silent and flying off low for a short distance only and noticeably smaller and shorter billed than the snipe. It landed ahead of me and as I continued walking it flushed again, this time flying higher and further and giving me some nice views before landing out of sight.

Friday 9th December and there was a report of a yellow browed warbler in Beaumont Park, right on my doorstep, and having missed the bird found in the park last November I decided to have a look for it the next morning. It was grey and damp with heavy rain forecasted for later but within 10 minutes of wandering around the park I found the yellow browed warbler feeding in the lower branches of a tree before it moved up higher until I lost sight of it. It was loosely associating with a group of long tailed tits which moved on too and as I carried on walking around the park to refind them I saw a nuthatch, a goldcrest, a coal tit, goldfinches, blue and great tits, robins, wrens and blackbirds and a chiffchaff.

I heard the yellow browed warbler calling and refound it in the low branches of a tree where it gave some nice views and then I seemed to hear it in stereo - a second bird had begun calling nearby which eventually I found in a different tree. Both birds called noisily before the first bird I saw moved off and then both became silent again although the second bird gave some very good views before also moving away. The rain then duly arrived and so I decided to call it a day, hopefully I'll get a chance for another look at them soon.

Sunday 11th December and I headed off to Exminster Marsh for the day but on the train journey I was a little concerned at the dense fog patches that were dotted here and there despite the sunny weather. Dawlish was bathed in sunshine but The Warren and the mouth of the Exe were shrouded in fog and when I arrived by bus at Exminster Marsh it was totally enveloped in fog too.

Black Swan with Cygnets at Dawlish, doing well since I saw them 3 weeks ago

I made the most of the conditions but viewing was quite difficult in the gloom - at one point it started to lift but quickly returned even foggier than before but it did mean that the large numbers of Canada geese, brent geese and wigeon were quite close to the road. A few teal, mallard, shoveler and pintail were also seen along with moorhens and 3 coot and waders were represented by a curlew, a redshank, 2 snipe, lapwings and black tailed godwits.

 Brent Geese in the Gloom, Exminster Marsh

 Dark Bellied Brent Goose

Brent Geese in a brief respite from the mist

Amongst the geese flocks I found 2 barnacle geese, presumably the resident feral birds, but there was no sign of the small flock of up to 24 birds that has been present for a short while which could potentially be wild birds (or birds from the feral flock at Slimbridge?). 4 greylag geese and a pale bellied brent goose amongst the dark bellies were also seen.

Pale Bellied Brent Goose

Pale Bellied Brent Goose with Dark Bellied

I had a look across the River Exe to the Topsham Recreation Ground from the canal path, hoping to see the long tailed duck that has been seen along this stretch of water recently but it was way too gloomy in the fog to see much at all. I did manage to find a little grebe and 7 male and 2 female red breasted mergansers on the river, a flyby adult common gull and a dunlin and 10+ reed buntings feeding on the reed seed heads by the footpath.

 Topsham Ferry before the mist returned

Topsham Rec - the best view I got

Heading back to the bus stop and I also managed to pick out a male stonechat, a male kestrel and a goldcrest in the mist and heading back to Dawlish on the bus we drove out of the fog near Starcross to be met with sunny skies - typical! - and I saw a covey of 10 red legged partridges in a field with pheasents as we drove along.

Long Tailed Tit, Exminster Marsh

I enjoyed some chips for lunch from a chippy in Dawlish (much better than those from Dawlish Warren) and while scanning the sea from the raised railway station platform I managed to find a razorbill diving for fish, a red throated diver preening quite close to shore before moving further out, a second red throated diver flying by towards Brixham along with 2 male and 4 female common scoter, and 2 very smart adult winter plumaged Mediterranean gulls feeding amongst a flock of black headed gulls and herring gulls - not a bad end to the day after a 4 hour wander around Exminster Marsh in the total mist!

Mediterranean Gull, Dawlish

1 comment:

  1. Hi Stuart, nice sightings. Do u have a Twitter account - where I can direct message you on - or an email address - where I can ask u a few Qs about the birds you've seen pls? Thanks Chris