Sunday, 14 May 2017

Exminster Marsh and Dawlish Warren

Monday 8th May and a glorious sunny day but I was stuck indoors all day due to the windows being replaced, Tuesday 9th May and another glorious day but I was working all day, but Wednesday 10th May and I finished work early at 3pm and as it was yet again a glorious sunny day I headed off to Blagdons Meadow by the River Plym with my day bus ticket for a quick look around. Despite the sun there was a cool easterly breeze which was blowing right across the river and the meadow and other than a lone male orange tip flying past I didn't see any other butterflies. A singing skylark and a flyover swallow were the avian highlights but it was good to see the early purple orchids still in flower along with my first southern marsh orchid of the year.

Southern Marsh Orchid, Blagdons Meadow

Thursday 11th May and my plan to visit Dunsford Woods to look for fritillary butterflies was abandoned with cloud and heavy showers forecast and so I headed off to Exminster Marshes instead to look for a reported lesser whitethroat. It was cloudy but dry on leaving Plymouth but as the train sped along towards Starcross it turned increasingly wet and mizzly and was still mizzly on getting off the bus at Exminster. It did dry up soon after I arrived but it remained cloudy although this didn't hamper my birding too much.

I headed off along the back path to look for the lesser whitethroat and soon heard it singing in the area where I have seen birds previously and it remained very vocal but very skulky and very flighty and I only managed brief flight views and obscured views in the foliage in the 45 minutes I spent trying to get a good view of it. A singing male whitethroat and sedge warbler nearby gave much better views and I also heard blackcap, chiffchaff and reed warbler singing while 2 swifts flew around overhead with swallows and house martins.

I carried on with my walk, noting a peregrine perched on the pylon along with shelduck, coot, mallard, lapwing, 3 male and a female wigeon and Canada goose out on the marsh and a black tailed godwit feeding with a whimbrel. Along the canal there were more showy sedge warblers and a Cettis warbler and skulky reed warblers were heard.

 Sedge Warbler, Exminster

Sedge Warbler

At the canal car park around 10 curlew were roosting before suddenly flying off to the estuary as the tide receded while 5 whimbrel remained and began to feed. The small pool by the roadside held a flock of around 50 variously plumaged black tailed godwits busily feeding and amongst them was a dark plumaged male ruff hopping around on one leg with the other leg held horizontally behind it. The waders were spooked by a man pushing a noisy baby buggy and flew off including the lame ruff and so I continued to the larger roadside pool where I could find nothing more exciting than black headed gulls. However a nearby birder pointed out 2 little ringed plover on the mud very close to the road which I had completely overlooked and I had some very nice views of them as they unobtrusively fed. While watching them a male ruff flew in to feed, a different bird to the one seen previously and looking like a minature summer plumaged spotted redshank with very black and spangly plumage.

 Ruff with a damaged leg

 Ruff, Black Tailed Godwit and Black Headed Gull

Black Tailed Godwit

 Little Ringed Plover

 Little Ringed Plover

 Little Ringed Plover

 Little Ringed Plover

 Little Ringed Plovers

 Ruff with Black Headed Gulls



I had another look for the lesser whitethroat which continued to be very vocal but again very skulky and mobile and again I only managed to get brief views of it before it was time to leave to catch the bus to Starcross where I watched 26 turnstone feeding along the shoreline while waiting for the train to Dawlish Warren. Arriving at Dawlish Warren and it was wet and misty and murky and offshore I managed to pick out at least 5 Sandwich tern with a few gannets and a single fulmar.

A quick walk around the main pond gave me a very good view of a reed warbler with at least 3 males heard singing and in Greenland Lake I found around 20 southern marsh orchids beginning to flower. The weather was worsening and so it was time to catch the train back to Plymouth and as the train pulled away from the station the heavens opened but at least my time birding had been mostly dry.

 Southern Marsh Orchid, Dawlish Warren

Southern Marsh Orchid

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