Wednesday 26 January 2011

River Exe Hike 24th January

Today I caught the train from Plymouth to Starcross for my January walk along the Exe estuary, arriving in Starcross at 09:00hrs. A look at the small flooded field by the road just outside Starcross allowed good views of 1 greenshank, 3 common gulls, black tailed godwit, 1 mistle thrush and redwings along with wigeon, teal, mallard, redshank and curlew.

I then veered off to the small road that runs along the railway line past Powderham Park. A quick walk across the railway line to view the river provided a good view of a slavonian grebe preening, its neck looking quite dusky as I assume it starts to moult into summer plumage. I wonder if it is the resident bird that has been seen year round on the estuary for the last few years.

The park was full of fallow deer as usual. More greenshank were seen roosting by the side of a drainage channel but were too obscured to count exact numbers, on the return walk 4 were seen feeding on the mud on the river as the tide receeded. A female reed bunting called from the top of some reeds and 1 snipe was seen crouched amongst some rushes.

I usually walk to Powderham Church and then back to Starcross but this time I decided to carry on to Exminster Marshes as there have been quite a few interesting birds there recently. I have only ever walked up to the Turf Hotel before, many years ago now. The Marshes were full of birds, lots of wildfowl and waders roosting with the high tide. Best bird were the White-fronted geese feeding distantly on the marsh, the views were poor as the fed with heads down amongst the grass, occassionally raising their heads to scan around before returning to feed. The white blaze around the bill of an adult bird was noted. I only counted 7, there are reportedly 8 but with the restricted views I must have missed the 8th bird. These are my first Devon white fronts. No sign of the smew, hen harrier or bittern though as I headed back to Starcross.

A treecreeper was a nice find in some trees near Powderham Church on the return walk and avocets were seen flying down river to feed as the tide went out.

A mistake with train times meant I had to catch the bus to Dawlish Warren for a quick hour long walk. Offshore a flock of around 20 common scoter were seen distantly, taking flight when a great black backed gull flew low overhead. I couldn't see any white flashes of velvet scoter amongst them. No sign of the surf scoter either. 3 slavonian grebes were feeding looseley together just offshore allowing quite good views along with a great crested grebe. A huge feeding frenzy of gulls was noted out in the bay off Dawlish with a few gannets seen amongst them before they all dispersed after around 20 minutes.

The train back to Plymouth was uneventful, livened up by a good view of a fox sat in a field with magpies and carrion crows stood watching it, it was quite large, presumably a male, with a beautiful orangey coat.

Not a bad day but my feet were sore by the time I got home and the year total now stands at 103, I always like to see 100 species by the end of January so I'm doing very well this year.

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