Sunday 30 July 2017

Wood Sandpipers at Bowling Green Marsh

Thursday 27th July and with the day to myself I headed off to Bowling Green Marsh, hoping that the 2 wood sandpipers reported the day before would still be there. I had planned to catch a train after 9am when it would be cheaper but as I was up and awake early as usual I caught the 8:09am train and paid a whooping £20.10 for a return ticket - what!

The RSPB have landscaped the area in front of the hide at Bowling Green Marsh and have created some scrapes which have proved very controversial amongst the Exeter bird fraternity and have attracted a lot of negative comments, but this is where the wood sandpipers have decided to pitch up and so I was very interested to see what it was like. Arriving at Topsham I headed off straight away to the hide on a grey and dull morning, noting various Exeter birder illuminati along the way so I was hoping the sandpipers would still be there.

Arriving in the hide and I scanned around the scrapes but there was no sign of any wood sandpipers with a dunlin and a common sandpiper being the only waders to be seen. The scrape area was looking very interesting though, when it settles in and the water levels are a little lower it should prove to be a very good magnet for waders and will allow for some excellent views of them.

New Scrapes, Bowling green Marsh

I scanned around the Marsh and amongst the roosting curlew, whimbrel, black tailed godwit and redshank were 2 lapwing and 2 dunlin, while on the new large island were shelduck and cormorants amongst the roosting black headed gulls along with an adult great black backed gull, an adult lesser black backed gull and an adult winter plumaged Mediterranean gull.

The great black backed gull eventually flew off and spooked the roosting birds and I then heard the distinctive calls of wood sandpiper before picking up 2 small waders flying across the Marsh which landed right in front of the hide on the new scrapes - result! 2 delicious looking wood sandpipers which fed along the water line giving some great views.

 Wood Sandpiper, Bowling Green Marsh

 Wood Sandpiper

 Wood Sandpiper

 Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Also seen on the marsh were 2 stock dove and various eclipse plumaged ducks - mallard, a teal, 2 gadwall and 4 wigeon - and a green woodpecker was heard yaffling nearby. Sand martins were flitting about over the water with a house martin and a few swallows but I decided to move on from Topsham and caught the train back to Dawlish Warren for a look around.

From the train I saw 2 common sandpipers (1 at Powderham and 1 at Cockwood), turnstones roosting on the harbour wall at Starcross and Herbert the resident Slavonian grebe still in summer plumage off Cockwood. Dawlish Warren was very busy with holidaymakers as expected and so I headed off to the sea wall for a look where Sandwich terns were very successfully diving for fish close to the shore. Further out were around 40 common scoters spread out across the bay while further out still were a few gannet and some very distant Manx shearwaters. A mute swan sat on the sea off Langstone Rock looked very out of place before it flew off up the estuary.

Mute Swan, Dawlish Warren

The reserve was much less busy and around the main pond I saw a reed warbler, a singing cirl bunting, a flyover bullfinch, a blue tailed damselfly and a very nice small red-eyed damselfly. 

 Small Red-eyed Damselfly, Dawlish Warren - maximum zoom

Small Red-eyed Damselfly - cropped shot

A few butterflies were on the wing in Greenland Lake despite the grey skies - common blue, meadow brown, large white, small copper and gatekeeper - along with quite a few 6 spot burnet moths, and I thought I found a brown argus but it turned out to be a very small and a very brown looking female common blue.

 Male Common Blue

 Female Common Blue

Female Common Blue

Blue Eyed Grass - still a few in flower

Saturday 29th July and it was grey, misty and raining, and with some interesting birds being seen off the south coast following some recent unseasonal weather conditions I decided to go to Rame Head for a sea watch - only problem being there was hardly any breeze and so I got cold and wet and saw very little! But it was all good practice and experience and I had nothing better to do and I did manage a few interesting sightings.

Land sightings consisted of 2 raven, a female kestrel, yellowhammers, a male cirl bunting, stonechats, linnets and whitethroats along with a speckled wood, a wall, meadow browns and gatekeepers (despite the rain). Sea sightings consisted of 2 harbour porpoise very close to the rocks just off the headland giving brief, blink and you miss it views as they surfaced a few times before never being seen again, and there were gannets, herring gulls, great black backed gulls and shags offshore.

The rain stopped for around an hour between 11 and 12 and this proved to be the best period of sea watching with a whimbrel, an oystercatcher and a dunlin in with 5 turnstone seen flying west and around 70 Manx shearwaters moving offshore in a strung out, straggly pulse, all heading west except for 3 heading east.

The rain returned and so I decided to call it day and headed off home to dry out and warm up but it had been an enjoyable morning all the same.

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