Sunday 6 January 2019

New Years Day Waxwing in Plymouth

Christmas is done and dusted for another year (thank goodness) and with New Years Day to myself I decided to actually go birding, something I've never really done before due to work, weather or hangover! There were no bus services but trains were running and so I decided to head off to Dawlish Warren for a walk.

It was cloudy on leaving Plymouth on a later train than I had originally planned but it was all clear skies and sunshine on arriving at Dawlish Warren. A quick look off the sea wall revealed a few distant gannets diving offshore with a few scattered great crested grebes dotted around the bay and a brief view of a red throated diver quite close in before it dived and disappeared.

Onwards into the reserve and the usual woodland species were found - chaffinch, greenfinch, long tailed tit, etc, - along with a nice chiffchaff calling in the tree tops before moving off. The water level at the main pond was very high but another birder had found a very nice snipe sleeping at the waters edge and easily overlooked.

The path along the dune ridge has suffered a lot of erosion due to recent storms and is currently fenced off and so access to the hide is now along the beach but with it being low tide I decided to give the hide a miss and scanned the estuary and the sea from the dunes instead. The estuary revealed a male red breasted merganser, a greenshank, brent geese, shelduck and a lone lapwing amongst the usual birds while offshore a female teal and a small flock of around 30 wigeon were an odd sight sat on the sea.

It started to get very busy with lots of walkers, dogs and children and so I decided to leave earlier than I had planned and head back to Plymouth, walking along the sea wall to Dawlish to catch the train home. The train journey back to Plymouth went as smoothly as the mornings journey - trains on time and virtually empty, if only they were always like this - and from the train I managed to see mallard, jackdaw, sparrowhawk and little grebe for my year list.

A waxwing had been found in Central Park in Plymouth the previous day and as it is only a 10 minute walk to the park from the railway station I decided to have a quick look for it on arriving back in Plymouth despite the fading light. I soon found the cotoneaster tree full of berries that the lone 1st winter bird was frequenting with a few birders below watching it including local birder Russ who had texted me the news on New Years Eve. It gave some very nice views, being very confiding and allowing very close approach, but the light was fading and photography was a little difficult, not helped by picking up David's camera that morning as I left the house rather than my more advanced camera.




I watched it for a short while before heading home, only my second ever waxwing in Plymouth, and on tallying up the days birds later that evening my day list was an ok 49, 1 short of my target of 50, but the waxwing had been a cracking bird to end the day.

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