Sunday, 16 April 2017

Whimbrels, Whitethroat and a few Moths

Monday 10th April and a walk along the coast path between Thurlestone and Hope Cove with a look at South Huish Marsh along the way was very pleasent in the sunshine and not too busy with Easter holiday makers. A good selection of birds have been reported recently from South Huish Marsh - cattle egret, glaucous gull, Iceland gull, garganey, house martin - but I saw none of them! Annoyingly both the gulls and garganey were reported that afternoon but that is birdwatching for you.

I did see a good selection of birds on the marsh though - 2 shelduck, a male shoveler, 2 mute swan, teal, mallard, Canada geese, 2 swallow, 3 male and 2 female wheatear, a 1st summer Mediterranean gull, an adult summer black headed gull, a flyover raven, 2 buzzard and herring and great black backed gulls.

The toilet block at Thurlestone golf course had a few moths inside which were nice to see - 3 water carpet, an early thorn, a dotted border and 2 v pug.

 Water Carpet

Dotted Border

Thursday 13th April and it was off to Wembury for a walk on a mostly sunny morning. As I got off the bus a whimbrel flew over heading inland giving its lovely call, a good start to the walk. Again it wasn't too busy but it was high tide and disturbance by dog walkers on the beach at Wembury Point meant the 6 whimbrel I found trying to roost on the rocks were constantly on the move until the tide receeded and they could settle down further out on the reef. The roosting oystercatchers sat tight, I guess they are more used to humans, but 2 dunlin disturbed from the beach flew off east, never to be seen again. It was interesting to read an article in Devon Birds which had arrived in the post the previous day concerning the waders at Wembury over the years and the decrease in numbers reported and the increase in disturbance, something I have noticed too in the years that I have been birding at Wembury.




Cirl buntings were much more showy again on this visit with 3 males and a female seen and a male heard. No sign of the Dartford warbler in the new place but I did see a male whitethroat songflighting in the area and from experience the Wembury Dartford warblers do not tolerate whitethroats in their spot.

Chiffchaffs were seen and heard, 6 shelduck were together on the cliff tops at The Point, 9 male and a female mallard were along the beach, 2 swallows flew over, blackcaps were heard singing and a male white wagtail was singing and feeding on the rocks but otherwise it was fairly quiet.




White Wagtail

A lone speckled wood was seen along with a red admiral feeding on the sloe blossoms.

Red Admiral

Scorpion Fly

Heading home and I stopped off at Laira Bridge for a look at what has been done at Billacombe Railway "nature" reserve, owned by Plymouth City Council. As suspected the cycle path has been extended from the old railway bridge and through the nature reserve with a total loss of the habitat that was once there - so no more bee orchids, pyramidal orchids, southern marsh orchids, common lizard, slow worms, common blue or burnet companions, very sad. The path is not yet complete with the final stretch yet to be built but I guess that is the end of Billacombe Railway nature reserve - RIP.

Billacombe Railway "Nature" Reserve

I walked over to nearby Blagdons Meadow nature reserve where everything was fortunately as normal and I found some early purple orchids and cuckoo flowers in bloom along with a speckled wood butterfly. Out on the mudflats at low tide were a Canada goose, 6 little egret, shelducks and gulls. A brimstone moth was found on the wall by the lights in the nearby underpass and a chiffchaff flitted about in the hedgerow but remained silent.

 Early Purple Orchid

Brimstone Moth

A quick walk again at Wembury on Saturday 15th April and on the high tide there were now  12 whimbrel trying to roost on the rocks at The Point and constantly being disturbed by walkers along the beach. Swallows were flitting about overhead with no more than 3 seen together at any one time and 1 seen flying in off the sea, 2 shelduck were flying around and then resting on the rocks, a grey heron flew over, 3 Sandwich tern flew west towards Plymouth Sound and 4 little egrets were roosting at The Point. Most frustrating though was what I think was a lesser whitethroat briefly singing in the sewage farm hedge, a brief whitethroat like warble followed by a distinctive cirl bunting like rattle. I could just make out the bird in the undergrowth before a jogger ran by and it disappeared into deeper cover but then I noticed a male cirl bunting sat in the top of the hedgerow - was it only a whitethroat quietly singing with the cirl bunting providing the second part of the duet? I don't think it was but I will never know for sure.


I also finally found a bloody nose beetle larva in the area where I saw the adult beetles last year constantly bonking - I haven't found any adults here so far this year and one larva seems a poor show for the continuous amorous activities that I witnessed last year.

Bloody Nose Beetle Larva

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