Sunday 14 February 2021

Gelid Plymouth

It's been a chilly week off work so far with a gelid Easterly wind cutting through you like a knife. Unusually cold for Plymouth in these days of climate change and a warming world and also unusual for the length of time it has been so cold, cold snaps generally come and go very quickly these days.

Thursday 11th February and I had arranged to meet my work colleague Sue and her dog Daisy for a walk around Saltram. It was grey and cold with that nasty wind blowing through but out of the wind it wasn't too bad. However it wasn't meant to be as Sue's car broke down on the drive to Saltram to meet me and so I ended up having a birdy walk on my own. 

The highlight were 5 Shoveler on a flooded Blaxton Meadow, a male and 4 female and my first for Plymouth. A female Teal was also my first for the Plym as it busily fed amongst the 16 Wigeon present (8 males).

Shoveler and Wigeon, Blaxton Meadow 

The duck-fest continued with the female Red-crested Pochard and 7 Mandarin Ducks (4 male) present on the duck pond along with assorted Mallards. A pair of Goosander were seen out on the River and Shelduck were seen feeding out on the mudflats.

Red-crested Pochard, Saltram Duck Pond

Mandarin Duck, Saltram Duck Pond

Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew and Oystercatcher were also feeding out on the mud and 11 Lapwing flying over towards Dartmoor were also another first for the Plym.

A Raven, Stock Doves, Ring-necked Parakeets, 4 Little Grebe, a female Great Spotted Woodpecker, Common Gulls, Chaffinch and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were also noted.

I had arranged to meet my work colleague Monica in the afternoon for a walk around Plymouth Hoe and we had a good natter and catch up outside of the confines of the workplace. I took my camera and binoculars with me but the wind had strengthened and it was too strong and too gelid to look out for any birds this time.

Friday 12th February was another very cold and very windy day and a walk around Plymouth Hoe was very bracing to say the least. The tide was low and only a single Turnstone was seen down on the rocks while a Great Northern Diver was living up to its name in the choppy seas off Fisherman's Nose.

Great Northern Diver

With the low tide the walls of the Sutton Harbour lock gates were very exposed and amongst the Limpets and Barnacles on the walls were some large shells which I think are Pacific Oysters, an introduced species now beginning to expand its range and cause environmental problems. Originally brought to Cornish estuaries for aquaculture (human consumption), UK waters were considered to be too cold for them to successfully breed in the wild but guess what, they're not, and now they are found all along the South Coast of England. 

Pacific Oysters

Saturday 13th February was yet another grey and freezing cold day with a strong easterly wind but I headed off (relatively) early for the high tide roost at Blaxton Meadow on the River Plym, arriving on site at around 9am. The Meadow was flooded and bird packed with 6 Greenshank and a Bar-tailed Godwit found amongst the Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin and Oystercatcher but there was no sign of the reported Grey Plover although other birders on site had seen it earlier. Teal numbers had increased to 8 birds (1 male) and there were also 21 Wigeon (11 males) present along with Mallard and Shelduck and the Barnacle Goose was in amongst the Canada Goose flock.

Bar-tailed Godwit with Curlew

Bar-tailed Godwit with Curlew


Out on the river there were 8 Goosanders (4 male), 3 Red-breasted Mergansers (2 male) and 6 Little Grebe and eventually I found the Grey Plover feeding out on the mudflats, my first for Plymouth. 


Red-breasted Mergansers

Grey Plover

Grey Plover 



A Coot was a big surprise bobbing around on the river and looking quite unsettled, it came ashore onto the mudflats briefly before flying upriver and landing on the water again but it looked nervous and unhappy.


The usual birds were also noted - Lesser Black-backed, Greater Black-backed, Common, Herring and Black-headed Gulls, a Little Egret, Cormorant, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Ring-necked Parakeets ( including a Blue one), Stock Dove, a Buzzard and a Moorhen - and I also found a single Roe Deer and some Violets in flower.


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