Saturday 15 December 2012

Water Pipit at Wembury, 13th December 2012

A grey and cold day with a brisk, cold South Easterly wind and I headed off to Wembury to see the damage to the cliff top footpath after all the recent rain and flooding, today being the first chance I had had to visit Wembury.

The footpath had collapsed in three places by the wheat field - 2 of the collapses are relatively small and have been fenced off but the third collapse is quite large and has resulted in the fencing and the footpath being moved back in to the wheat field. Unfortunately the new fencing lacks the cross supports of the old fencing which is where I regularly saw common lizards basking in the sunshine.

 Cliff path collapse at Wembury resulting in the foot path being moved inland
Smaller cliff path collapse at Wembury

Also of note is the intentional removal of a small hedgerow by the small wheat field in the old HMS Cambridge site, I don't know why it has been removed as it was a good spot to see cirl buntings, whitethroats and stonechats.

Hedgerow removed by HMS Cambridge wheat field

Despite the cold weather I found a slightly moribund fox moth caterpillar slowly trundling across the footpath which I picked up and placed in some vegetation by the side of the path in case it got squashed by less observant walkers, but with the cold weather I saw only 3 walkers along the whole walk.

Fox Moth Caterpillar

Gulls were roosting on the rocks as the tide receded and amongst the usual herring, black headed and great black backed gulls were 2 Mediterranean gulls ( an adult Winter and a second Winter) and a very smart looking adult lesser black backed gull.

Lesser Black Backed Gull

Oystercatchers were very noisy and mobile as were curlews, and a redshank was found feeding on a sandy piece of beach amongst the rocks. Mallards were evident amongst the rocks but were difficult to count as they moved around, appearing and disappearing, but there were at least 40 plus.

A lapwing flew in from the East and landed in the wheat field where rooks, jackdaws and herring gulls were feeding. It searched for food for around 5 minutes before being hassled by a rook when it flew off North inland and out of sight. 8 skylark flew up from the stubble calling before landing again and disappearing from view and at least 4 pairs of cirl buntings fed amongst the stubble by the sewage farm hedge.


A water pipit has been reported from the beach by the sewage pipe recently and after a bit of searching it eventually gave some very good views. It was very aggressive towards any rock pipits that entered what appeared to be its small feeding territory, chasing them off and showing its white outer tail feathers in flight. It seemed more tolerant of nearby meadow pipits and pied wagtails but would eventually chase them off too.

Water Pipit
Water Pipit

 Water Pipit
Water Pipit

A green woodpecker was also seen feeding along the beach before flying off calling, a bizarre sight and unexpected, and a grey wagtail was heard flying over calling. A pair of kestrels hovered over the fields at Wembury Point and a raven flew over croaking noisily. A pheasent was also heard and offshore gannets were flying East, mostly adults but with a few dark plumaged immatures.

A surprise find was a brief view of a very smart firecrest feeding in the hedgerow by the footpath. it showed very well for around 10 seconds before disappearing amongst the tangle of branches.

All in all it was a productive walk with the water pipit being new for the year and bringing my year list up to 181 , but after 3 hours out in the field I was freezing cold and was glad to head off home to warm up.

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