Saturday 26 March 2016

Cirl Buntings and Sand Martins at Slapton Ley

A trip to Gatwick Airport on Sunday 20th March with an overnight stay in order to pick up the Outlaws on March 21st and as usual there was the familiar and sad sight of dead badgers, foxes and pheasents by the roadside on the journey there and back. More pleasent were the sightings of 3 roe deer (M3), fieldfares in a bare field (A303) and 7 red kites (M3/A303 area and M25).

A walk at Wembury on March 23rd and it was still quiet with a chiffchaff singing and busily catching flies in the valley to the beach being the only summer migrant. A pair of shelduck on the beach and yet more mating bloody nosed beetles were more hints of Spring along with a singing cirl bunting. A male yellowhammer seen in the HMS Cambridge hedgerow was my first of the year and my first at Wembury for some time. A nice summer plumaged great crested grebe close to shore was my first at Wembury for some time too.

 Great Crested Grebe

Sloe Blossom

A stop at Laira Bridge over the River Plym on the way home and a chiffchaff was heard singing in the pine trees by the bus depot. 8 little egrets and a curlew were along the river at a very low tide and a female goosander was feeding in the river channel with a cormorant.

David had bought a gooseberry plant from Wilkinsons and on getting it home an angle shades moth was found in the plastic wrapping which I photographed and released outside in the backyard - most bizarre.

Angle Shades

March 24th and I headed off to Slapton Ley for a walk on a grey and cold morning  and I managed to see a few birds before the rain arrived at 11:30. Amongst the coot, gadwall, tufted duck, mallard and great crested grebes were 3 male and a female pochard, 2 male and a female wigeon and 3 male and 2 female goldeneye. There were 64+ mute swans around the Ley, quite mobile birds with a mix of adults and immatures and with 2 birds on nests in the reedbeds.

There were 6+ sand martins buzzing over the Ley looking out of place on what was a cold and dreary day, I bet they wished they were still in Africa. They were very mobile too and it was difficult to assess numbers accurately.

Along the Leyside were a very confiding pair of cirl buntings along with a male reed bunting.

 Cirl Buntings

 Cirl Buntings

Cirl Buntings

From the bridge a chiffchaff was heard singing along with Cettis warblers and I managed to get brief and obscured views of at least 3 Cettis as they skulked in the vegetation. 2 water rails were heard squealing in the reeds but I couldn't catch a view of them.

A large peregrine flew down the Ley spooking the ducks and gulls, it had pale grey/brown upperparts and based on size was probably a female bird.

Offshore a great northern diver was busily diving and an adult gannet flew west but then the rain arrived and it was time for a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea in the Seabreeze Cafe before heading off home.

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