Thursday, 20 April 2017

River Exe Day Out

Wednesday 19th April and after a busy Easter weekend at work I needed to get out birding on what was a beautiful and sunny and warm day. I wasn't sure where to go and in the end decided to head to Exminster Marshes on the River Exe for a look around.

I arrived at Exminster Marsh at around 9:30 and decided to head along the back path rather than visit Powderham Marsh first, a decision that proved to be very fortuitous. As I walked along the path I heard blackcap, chiffchaff and reed warblers and sedge warblers and with a bit of patience I managed to get some decent views of them. The sedge warblers were easiest to see due to their occassional song flights whereas the reed warblers often kept low down in the reed bases and out of sight.

Reed Warbler, Exminster Marsh

Sedge Warbler, Exminster Marsh

I reached the picnic area and was checking out the corrugated sheets for grass snakes and slow worms when I flushed a large raptor out of the small trees which flew off onto the marsh. At first I thought it was a buzzard but quickly realised it was a short eared owl! I refound it sat on the grass out on the marsh with a most disgruntled look on its face before it flew back to the trees. It then flushed again and this time circled up high before drifting over the railway line towards Powderham Marsh and out of sight but it was a very nice find and my best views ever.

 Short Eared Owl, Exminster Marsh

 Short Eared Owl

 Short Eared Owl

Short Eared Owl

A few ducks were still present around the marsh - a pair of tufted duck, 3 male and a female shoveler, a male and 2 female pintail, teal, mallard and 2 male and 4 female wigeon were seen along with Canada geese, mute swan, coot, moorhen, displaying lapwings, 2 black tailed godwit and 2 pairs of display flighting oystercatchers.

Mute Swan

I carried on along the foot path and then joined the canal towpath where there seemed to be singing and song flighting sedge warblers in every bush. I also found a small dragonfly perched on the path side vegetation and was pleased to ID it as a female hairy dragonfly, a new species for me.

 Hairy Dragonfly, Exminster Marsh

  Hairy Dragonfly

 Hairy Dragonfly

I decided at the last minute to catch the foot ferry across the river to Topsham and to go and have a look around Bowling Green Marsh on the incoming tide. At the viewing platform over the River Clyst I bumped into my mates Mavis and Mike, a very pleasent surprise and good to see them out and about. They were heading off to the hide so after a quick look off the platform I went to join them - the light was harsh and hazy and the tide was not a very high tide so birds were distant and difficult to view but I did see bar tailed godwits, common gulls and redshanks along with 9 greenshank and a summer plumaged spotted redshank. It was a shame the views of the spotted redshank were not that great as they are such stunning birds in summer plumage.

I met Mavis and Mike at the hide but it was fairly quiet on Bowling Green Marsh with 3 whimbrel flying over and a roost of black tailed godwits being seen along with a pair of gadwall, a pair of pintail, teal, mallard, tufted duck and a few remaining wigeon. A very dark backed lesser black backed gull was roosting with the herring gulls which I called as a great black backed until I was corrected, I never have much luck with gulls!

There was no sign of the 3 reported ruff with birders in the hide stating they had flown off towards Goosemoor earlier and so I walked over to the Goosemoor viewing platform to have a look for them. I eventually found them amongst the feeding black tailed godwit flock but again the views were distant and hazy and they were also quite nervous looking and a bit twitchy and flighty, unlike the godwits they were feeding with.

I had another quick look from the hide before saying goodbye to Mavis and Mike and heading back over the river to Exminster Marsh on the foot ferry. Things were much the same at Exminster Marsh but I added a large and brown toned female peregrine, a great spotted woodpecker, 4 house martins, small tortoiseshells and a female brimstone butterfly to the day list.

Hawthorn Blossom, Exminster

I caught the bus back to Starcross and while waiting for the train I watched 2 distant Sandwich terns fishing along the river where around 100 distant pale bellied brent geese were roosting on the water off Lympstone and 12 turnstones were roosting on the pontoons.

I got off the train at Dawlish Warren for a quick 60 minute look around before catching the next train back to Plymouth but it was fairly quiet with just gulls and gannets offshore, a little grebe feeding a chick on the main pond with 2 reed warblers chuntering away in the reeds, a small copper butterfly flitting about and a lone green winged orchid beginning to go over being the highlights.

 Small Copper, Dawlish Warren

 Green Winged Orchid, Dawlish Warren

Green Winged Orchid, Dawlish Warren

Quite a day out with some very good sightings - it should keep me going for a few days!

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