Thursday 30 April 2020

River Plym and Saltram Walk

Thursday 30th April and despite the heavy showers and cool temperatures I decided to take my usual walk along the River Plym and around Saltram Park. It's been nearly 2 weeks since my last visit and the trees were noticeably in fuller leaf and the grass greener and longer but in the cool and wet weather conditions there was little noticeable insect activity.

The tide was high when I arrived at Laira Bridge but I found a lone Whimbrel roosting on the pontoon opposite The Green House where I had seen one on my last visit. At Blaxton Meadow the Black-tailed Godwit was still present busily searching for food in the soft mud and there were 7 Oystercatchers, 2 Curlew and at least 8 noisy and mobile Whimbrels present too. The only other wader species seen on my walk was as I began my journey back home, a summer plumaged Dunlin which called as it flew under Laira Bridge on its way upriver.


Black-tailed Godwit

2 Willow Warblers were heard singing along with Chiffchaff and Blackcap and I was very pleased to find around 20 Swallow feeding over the cow fields and resting on the fences. Even better were at least 20 House Martins, my first of the year, which briefly joined the Swallow before moving on.


Singing Skylarks, a male Mandarin Duck, Ring-necked Parakeets, 3 Little Egrets, Stock Dove, Canada Geese, a pair of Mallard and a male Pheasent were also seen with May (Hawthorn) in flower along with some colourful Spurge which I think is Sun Spurge.



Sun Spurge

And so April comes to an end, Lock Down continues and life carries on and I have been very pleased and very surprised at the wildlife I have been finding so close to home although I'm missing my visits to Dartmoor and Wembury.

Monopsis obviella - Back Yard

Tuesday 28 April 2020

The Edge of Dartmoor

I have had the moth box out in the back yard again and on the morning of Wednesday 22nd April I had a grand total of 4 moths - 3 Tachystola acroxantha and a smart Shuttle-shaped Dart. It's always slim pickings with the back yard moth box in spring (and autumn) but it does throw up some good stuff, quality if not quantity.

Shuttle-shaped Dart

I also found a moth flitting about in the living room on Thursday 23rd April, presumably one from the previous days moth boxing, I wasn't sure at first what it was but I've ID'd it as a Common Marbled Carpet.

Common Marbled Carpet

With the ongoing lock down situation I have been looking longingly at the limited internet reports of spring birding and trying to plan trips out to places within walking distance to try and see some of the usual spring migrants I usually go looking for. Wednesday 22nd April was another sunny day with little wind and high temperatures and I decided to take a long walk to Plymbridge and Cann Woods with a plan to walk up to Wotter on the edge of Dartmoor where Cuckoos have been reported. However it was hotter than I expected and further than I expected and I only managed to get to the northern edge of Cann Woods but I did hear briefly what I think was a calling Cuckoo although it was very distant.

Wotter and Dartmoor - so close!

It has been a while since I last visited Plymbridge Woods and I have only visited Cann Woods a few times before but I was very surprised at the birding and wildlife I saw on my walk despite the large number of cyclists whizzing along the trails.

I regularly scanned the clear blue skies and found quite a few Buzzards soaring on the developing thermals along with a Raven and a chittering Swallow but eventually I managed to arrive at the Red Kite party with 2 birds seen, 1 gaining height and drifting east and another heading east being mobbed by a Carrion Crow but at a much lower altitude than the previous bird and it was quickly lost behind the trees.

Red Kite

The warm temperatures meant there was plenty of insect activity and I finally managed to see my first Green-veined Whites of the year along with a female Holly Blue, a Peacock, male and female Brimstones, a male Orange Tip, Large Whites and Speckled Woods.

Green-veined White

Holly Blue

Large White

Large White

Speckled Wood

2 Speckled Yellow moths were too quick for the camera along with a Green Tiger Beetle which quickly flew away but there were lots of Grey Gorse Piercers ( Cydia ulicetana) flitting about the gorse bushes and I also found a smart looking Green Longhorn (Adela reaumurella).

Grey Gorse Piercer

Green Longhorn

Green Longhorn

Bird song was very noticeable on my walk and I was surprised at how many Willow Warblers were seen and heard in Cann Woods, making full use of the young stands of silver birch planted when the conifer trees were felled a few years ago. Chiffchaff and Blackcap were seen and heard but I was really pleased to see and hear Garden Warblers, a bird I wasn't expecting to see this year  - a male singing in the undergrowth with a few brief and obscured views had only, another male singing nearby in the undergrowth giving some better if still brief views with a female in attendance and another male heard only. Even better, and equally unexpected, were 3 singing Tree Pipits with 1 bird heard only, 1 giving brief views only and 1 showing very well.

Willow Warbler

Tree Pipit

Tree Pipit 

Tree Pipit 

Tree Pipit 

Other birds of note were a yaffling Green Woodpecker (unseen as usual), a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 flyover Canada Geese, Jay, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Mistle Thrush and Pheasent.

Plenty of flowers were in bloom with Bluebells, Ransoms and Wild Garlic all seen along with Violets and Primroses.



Wild Garlic

A hot, long and tiring walk but well worth it, no Cuckoo but very pleased to connect with 2 birds I wasn't expecting to see this lock down year - Garden Warbler and Tree Pipit - and I will certainly be visiting the area again soon.

Thursday 23rd April and while sitting in the sunshine in the back yard eating a pasty for lunch and trying to get into the right frame of mind for another looming night shift a nice surprise was my first Red Admiral of the year which dashed around the plants before disappearing off out of sight.

Sunday 26th April was warm and sunny (again) and so I decided to visit Boringdon Golf Course near Marsh Mills in Plymouth, somewhere I haven't visited before as it is usually closed to the public but currently accessible in the ongoing lock down. I had planned to visit in the early morning but after 2 night shifts and some very sad news from work I didn't get out of bed until gone 8am.

Cuckoos have been reported from the golf course but as expected there was no sight or sound of any on my walk but I did see and hear 2 male Whitethroat singing and song flighting, my first of the year. 2 Whimbrel were a surprise too resting out on the greens and looking quite tired, presumably newly arrived in the UK. 9 Wheatear were also feeding out on the greens but all had disappeared by the time I began the walk back home.




A male Kestrel, 2 Raven and Swallows were seen flying overhead and Blackcap and Chiffchaff were heard singing along with good numbers of Skylarks.



A Peacock, Large White, Green-veined White, a Small Tortoiseshell and plenty of Orange Tips were flitting about - it's been a very good spring this year for Orange Tip, I've never seen so many before. I also found a Common Carpet and a female Muslin Moth.

 Common Carpet

Muslin Moth

2 Large Red Damselfly were also found in the grass surrounding a large pond, presumably recently emerged and yet to develop the red colouring of mature adulthood.

 Large Red Damselfly

 Large Red Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly 

A lovely walk close to home, somewhere new for me and with stunning views across Plymbridge and Cann Woods towards Wotter and Dartmoor - essential for my mental health on a sad day for me in these stressful and difficult times.

 Dartmoor Views

Dartmoor - again so close but yet so far! 

Double Striped Pug in the Marsh Mills Underpass

Monday 20 April 2020


After only just complaining about the sunny and dry weather things were about to change and with some rain forecast for the morning of Friday 17th April I decided to put the moth box out in the back yard again with the plan being to get up early in the morning before the forecasted rain arrived. However I overslept, the rain arrived and the moth box was very soggy when I eventually awoke to empty it.

There were a few moths in the trap though despite it being a bit waterlogged - a Garden Carpet, a Common Quaker (a darker toned individual than those previously caught), 2 Tachystola acroxantha and 3 Light Brown Apple Moths along with a faded Double-striped Pug, a Brown House Moth and a pale form of Diamond-back Moth (which I didn't know existed), helpfully ID'd by @UKMoths on Twitter.

 Common Quaker, Back Yard

 Light Brown Apple Moth

 Double-striped Pug

 Brown House Moth

Diamond-back Moth (Pale form) 

With the change in weather I decided to take another walk from home to Saltram, having read that migrating waders will pitch down in wet weather and I was curious to see if anything might have dropped in to the Plym. I also wanted to get out for a walk in the damp air for a change and to smell damp soil and damp vegetation (because I am a bit weird!).

The rain while heavy did pass over quickly and while it remained damp and murky for a while it did clear into another mostly sunny but breezy day. The tides were neap so despite being a few hours away from high tide when I arrived at Laira Bridge there was very little mud on show. I wandered along The Ride and noted a few Shelduck, Little Egrets, Canada Geese and a Grey Heron and eventually heard the delightful whistling of a Whimbrel although I couldn't locate it in the misty conditions. I did find the smart summer plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit from the previous day feeding with Curlews but it was distant out on the mud on the opposite side of the river.

At Blaxton Meadow I found a pair of Wheatear feeding out on the grass and I finally got some decent views for the first time this spring. Even better was a skulky and mobile male Whinchat feeding along the embankment of the meadow, a complete surprise and a bird I wasn't expecting to see this spring.

 Wheatear, Blaxton Meadow


A pair of black and white birds flew up from the estuary and along the embankment of the Meadow before landing again and at first I dismissed them as Shelduck but something about them was off and on checking them out with my binoculars I was very pleased to see they were Avocet, only my second sighting for the Plym.

Avocets, River Plym

With the tide slowly rising the Bar-tailed Godwit arrived to roost on Blaxton Meadow along with 5 Curlew, a Whimbrel and a winter plumaged Black-tailed Godwit. A Greenshank and 6 Redshank were feeding together along the river on the last patches of mud and another 3 Whimbrel were also seen flying downriver while a Swallow chittered over the meadow, presumably the bird I saw yesterday collecting mud.

Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel, Blaxton Meadow

Black-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel

Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew and Whimbrel

Black-tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed Godwit

Greenshank and Redshank

I walked back through the woods and saw the usual birds - Stock Dove, Ring-necked Parakeet, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Jay, Blackcap, etc. - while a Willow Warbler was heard quietly singing away. I sat awhile on the bench above The Folly while admiring the view over the river and across to Dartmoor and was surprised to see a Swift flying over, I think my earliest ever sighting in the UK, and it was quickly followed by 2 more.

Skylarks were noisily songflighting over the fields and 13 Roe Deer were sitting together chewing the cud but with more rain clouds approaching I decided it was time to walk back home as Ghost Trains continued their empty timetables along The Embankment and Ghost Buses did the same along the roads in these weird times. And before I crossed over Laira Bridge towards Plymouth I had some very nice views of a Whimbrel resting on a pontoon and then feeding on crabs along the tide line, a nice end to my wildlife walk.





It seems that Saturday 18th April was a good day for passerine migrants moving through but I was stuck at work all day and with another night shift on Sunday 19th April I didn't leave the house all day except to buy a newspaper from Tesco across the road but I did find and ID a micro moth flitting about in the house - a Sulphur Tubic (Esperia sulphurella) and a new moth for me.

Esperia sulphurella