Saturday 9 February 2013

River Tamar Boat Trip, 9th February 2013

Today I headed off to Saltash for my annual River Tamar boat trip organised by Tamar Wildlife. Before meeting my mate Mavis at the Quayside I had my usual quick look in the small copse by the Tamar Bridge, hoping to see a blackcap, but today I was out of luck. The copse has been cleared of a lot of the scrubby understorey and paths have been put in through the trees but despite this there were quite a few birds around and I had great views of goldcrests and a female great spotted woodpecker along with lots of chaffinch, a song thrush, wren, robin, dunnock, blackbird, woodpigeon, magpie, goldfinch and blue, great and long tailed tits.

With the undergrowth cleared away I had a clear unobstructed view of the estuary and on checking out the River Tavy mouth in the distance I found a spoonbill busily feeding with 4 little egrets, a distant view but easily identified due to its feeding manner and size and build when seen alongside the egrets.

The boat first headed off down river to view another 2 spoonbills that had been seen by the crew before arriving at Saltash and we had good views as they fed at the waters edge just North of Devonport Dockyard.


Heading back upriver towards Weir Quay and Cargreen we saw the usual birds - great crested grebe, Canada goose, little egret, curlew, redshank, black tailed godwit, avocet, mallard, teal. wigeon, cormorant, shelduck, lapwing and grey heron. Amongst the herring, black headed and great black backed gulls we found a very smart adult Mediterranean gull developing its black summer plumaged head and a common gull. 3 common sandpipers were seen, 1 at Weir Quay and 2 near to the spoonbills at Devonport Dockyard. A pair of red breasted mergansers were seen flying upriver and a raven flew over croaking. The spoonbill I had seen from the Saltash copse was seen feeding in the mouth of the River Tavy but distantly. A good find was a spotted redshank in the usual place just North of Cargreen, it flew along the shoreline showing its white oval rump, and on the way back downriver it was busily feeding in the water amongst a small flock of avocet as they all upended in the water.


We then headed up the River Lynher, adding 5 little grebes, a lone greenshank and 2 flyover buzzards to the days list of birds. Best bird of the trip and a complete surprise was a merlin, first seen briefly by Bruce the tour guide before reappearing and perching in a tree top for a good 5 minutes before flying off and out of sight. Unfortunately it was a little distant and silhouetted against the grey sky but very good to see nonetheless.

Distant view of a Merlin

And so it had been an excellent trip as always, not too cold for a change and capped off by excellent flight views of the 3 spoonbills together as they flew over the boat and up the River Lynher to roost, 2 adults and a juvenile. I can't wait for next years trip!

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