Sunday 24 February 2013

River Exe - 23rd February 2013

I decided to blitz the River Exe to try and catch up on some good birds that have been seen recently and despite a long and cold day and poor light I had a great time with some fantastic sightings.

Starting off at Starcross I walked along the road by the railway line to the crossing place across the tracks near the mouth of the River Kenn to look for the spotted redshank that has been wintering here. I searched the shoreline with my telescope as the tide was low but with no luck so I packed up the scope ready to return to Starcross village. One last scan with my binoculars before I headed off back across the railway track and there it was! By the time I had gotten my telescope out again it had flown along the shoreline and out of sight but at least I had a nice if brief flight view. Other birds seen from here were a few red breatsed mergansers on the river, and a greenshank, around 7 ringed plovers and small groups of bar-tailed godwits feeding on the mud.

Waiting for the bus at Starcross I noticed a small bird flitting through a hedge on the opposite side of the road and I had a scan with my binoculars, expecting it to be a goldcrest or wren but was pleasently surprised to see a very smart firecrest. It did it usual trick of showing well for a few seconds before disappearing into cover before reappearing nearby for a few seconds more. Very nice to see before it flew off into some gardens and out of sight.

Arriving by bus in Exminster I wandered around the Millbury Lane area along with various assorted birders looking for the overwintering rose coloured starling. 3 siskins flew over and at the end of the Lane 6 snipe were flushed form a boggy field  where redwings were also feeding. After staking out the allotments by the churchyard eventually the bird showed well preening in some trees with some starlings before flying off. It was looking a bit tatty as it moults from juvenile to adult plumage, with a very slight pinky flush to its buffy underparts and black feathering appearing on its head and upperwings. It also had a dark streaked vent area and its pale rump was noted when it flew off.

 Rose Coloured Starling with a Starling -  a distant shot with my new camera!
 Rose Coloured Starling
Rose Coloured Starling

I then headed off to Topsham and Darts Farm where the male American wigeon showed distantly amongst a feeding flock of wigeon, presumably the returning bird from last winter. A pair of reed buntings were on the bird feeders and around 20 fieldfares were feeding in a nearby grassy field with starlings. The nervous and flighty brent goose flock feeding in front of the hide held a pale bellied type and a bird with a white speckled head which I saw last year on Exminster Marsh.

Heading back to Topsham I found 2 water pipits feeding on the Marsh near the new footbridge across the river and walking along a ditch I flushed 2 snipe and a Jack snipe, a brief view as they flew off but the smaller size of the Jack snipe compared to the snipe was obvious and only my second ever Jack snipe sighting!
One of the Water Pipits on the Marsh near the new footbridge at Topsham

On arriving at the viewing platform by the River Clyst I soon found the curlew sandpiper that is overwintering here as it flew over the mudflats with some dunlin, showing its white square rump. I watched it for a while through the scope although it was distant, its larger build, longer, more curved bill and longer legs when compared to nearby dunlins were quite noticeable - it looked like the dunlins legs had sunk in to the mud when compared to the legs of the curlew sandpiper! It eventually flew off with the dunlin towards Exminster Marsh as the tide came in, showing its white square rump again - quite a strange sighting in February on the River Exe!

A quick look off The Goatwalk and waders were busily feeding - avocets, redshanks, dunlin, bar tailed godwits and a few black tailed godwits and 4 knot, but there was no sign of the long tailed duck.

 Avocet from The Goatwalk
 Bar-Tailed Godwits off The Goatwalk
 Bar-Tailed Godwits and a Knot off The Goatwalk
A quick look in the hide at Bowling Green Marsh and a spotted redshank flew in with some redshank to roost and I finally managed some nice scope views -  a perfect end to a great days birding!

 Wigeon at Bowling Green Marsh
Spotted Redshank roosting with 2 Redshank at Bowling Green Marsh

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