Sunday 28 November 2021

Saltram and The Plym

Thursday 25th November was a glorious day with clear blue skies and a very chilly start and I headed out on the 8:30am bus to Marsh Mills for a walk around Saltram and the River Plym with work friend Sue and her dog Daisy..

I was due to meet Sue at 9:30 but with it being the high tide I left a little earlier than necessary so I could check out Blaxton Meadow first before meeting up with her at Saltram House.

The tide was still flooding into Blaxton Meadow through the sluice gates when I arrived at the viewing platform and there was quite a congregation of birds roosting and feeding out on the flooded meadow, the most I have seen here for some time now. 

Out on the meadow were 8 Greenshank, 8 Oystercatcher, 24 Wigeon, a Black-tailed Godwit, 3 adult Common Gulls, a 3rd winter Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Grey Heron and around 150 Dunlin along with the usual Mallard, Shelduck, Curlew, Gulls and Redshank. 

A Jay, a Grey Wagtail and a Ring-necked Parakeet flew over and a Goldcrest was feeding in the bushes behind the viewing platform with Blue Tits and Great Tits. Out on the River a Little Grebe and a male Goosander were seen. 

I then met up with Sue and we had an enjoyable walk around Saltram Estate putting the world to rights as we went and it was nice to have a catch up outside of work. 

Along the walk a Red Admiral flying by was a surprise in the cold conditions but even more surprising was a male Teal on the duck pond at Saltram House with the usual Mandarin Ducks and Moorhens, presumably a wild bird but very tame and approachable. 



Saturday 27th November was cold and windy with Storm Arwen blowing a hoolie from the North and so we headed out for a walk around Plymouth Hoe. It was very windy but the sun was shining brightly and the walk was quite invigorating. I had taken my travel binoculars out with me but unfortunately I had left my camera at home which was annoying as I found 2 Purple Sandpipers feeding on the rocks below the Pier One Cafe, possibly the 2 birds from last winter returning for this winter and very nice to see. I was also pleased to find a female type Black Redstart on the rocks below Rusty Anchor, they are often reported from here during the winter but I always struggle to find them myself. Hopefully the Black Redstart and the Purple Sandpipers will hang around for a while and I'll catch up with them again soon. 

Thursday 25 November 2021

Water Pipit at Wembury

As often happens at this time of year my Birding Mojo has somewhat waned and I'm happy just sitting on the settee checking out the bird news on the Internet without actually wanting to get out and about for myself (a long staying Little Auk in Weymouth Harbour did pique my interest but it's too far from home for me). 

I've been pottering about and catching up on chores and have been quite happy doing so as the "horrors" of Christmas rapidly approach but after 2 night shifts and a free day off I decided to visit Wembury for a walk on Wednesday 24th November, more for some fresh air and exercise after my night shifts than for a birding fix.

The mild weather has finally given way to a cold snap and it was a grey and chilly day as I headed off on the bus and I wore my winter coat for the first time this winter. The cold weather meant it was quieter at Wembury than usual although there was still quite a bit of the usual disturbance along the beach.

A Chiffchaff, a Goldcrest, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Song Thrush and 10 Long-tailed Tits were seen in the village gardens on the walk down to the main beach while at The Pines another Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 female Blackcap and 4 Song Thrushes were also noted.

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wembury Village

Offshore a few Gannets were seen along with the usual Shag, Cormorant and Gulls including a winter plumaged Mediterranean Gull while along the beach 4 Curlew, a Little Egret, a Common Sandpiper, Oystercatchers and 30 Mallard were seen including the feral type male first seen last week.

Common Sandpiper

At least 3 male Cirl Buntings were singing in the brief sunny spells and a small flock of around 10 Cirl Buntings were feeding along the beach out of the wind along with a group of around 15 Linnet. Stonechats were showing well along the footpath and a male Kestrel and 2 Raven flew overhead. 

I checked out the birds feeding on the rotting seaweed mass along the beach and amongst the Pied Wagtails, Rock Pipits and Meadow Pipits I found a Grey Wagtail, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Wren, Robin and Blackbird but best of all was a very smart looking Water Pipit, my first of the year. 

Water Pipit 

Water Pipit

Water Pipit

It really stood out amongst the other Pipits present and was a pleasure to watch and while flighty and mobile it always returned to the same area which it defended by chasing off any Rock Pipits or Meadow Pipits that came near. Hopefully it will set up a territorial feeding area and stay for the winter. 

Water Pipit

November is often a good month to find Water Pipit at Wembury although last year's November bird was never seen again so hopefully this one will stay. 

Water Pipit

It was soon time to head back home with a Grey Squirrel in the village gardens on the walk up to the bus stop the only other sighting of note but I was glad to have gotten out birding with the Water Pipit getting my pulse racing a little bit and also a little bit of my Birding Mojo back. 

Wednesday 17 November 2021

November Moths

With there being some mild nights lately I have had the actinic lights on overnight in the dining room window and have been pleasently surprised at what has turned up on the window outside in the morning. I hadn't really expected anything but I was pleased to find Silver Y, 2 Double-striped Pugs, Rusty Dot Pearl, 5 Light Brown Apple Moths, Crocidosema plebejana and Monopsis obviella (although no December Moth yet!).

Silver Y

Double-striped Pug

Rusty Dot Pearl

Crocidosema plebejana (with thanks to @MothIDUK) 

Monopsis obviella

Saturday 13th November was overcast, mild and still and the plan had been to visit Thurlestone to have a look for the female Desert Wheatear that had been found on Leasfoot Beach, the exact same place where a male overwintered 5 years ago, but with the bird disappearing on the Friday the lure of a Pectoral Sandpiper and Water Pipit at nearby South Huish Marsh wasn't enough to tempt me there and so I headed to Wembury instead. 

It was a beautiful morning despite the total lack of sunshine with gentle waves lapping against the shore as the tide came in. There was little breeze but instantly noticeable were Woodpigeons moving west in small flocks with birds dropping into the fields to feed or into the trees above the stubble field to rest. Amongst the flocks were also Stock Doves and over 2 hours (10:00 to 12:00) around 600 Woodpigeon and 100 Stock Dove were logged before the movement stopped and the grounded birds disappeared west. 

The beach was quiet but there were 28 Mallard present (18 males) including a farmyard type male along with 28 Oystercatcher, 6 Curlew and 3 Little Egret while offshore 3 Mediterranean Gulls and 4 Gannet were noted. 

Feral-type Mallard

Cirl Buntings and Stonechats were showy as usual along the walk with a few of the Cirl Buntings singing and the Great Spotted Woodpecker was still present feeding in the pines at The Point. A female Kestrel hovering overhead and a Grey Heron briefly perched in a pine tree near the sewage farm were also seen. 

Wednesday 10 November 2021

Chasing SnoB's and A Return to The Plym

Friday 5th November was meant to be a stay at home day with unknown times for a delivery of a radiator and repair men coming to fix some windows but both were done and dusted by 10:15 and with the weather dry and occasionally sunny we headed out to Slapton Ley for a walk.

With up to 4 Snow Buntings being seen along the beach at Slapton I kept a good eye open for them along our walk but unfortunately I was out of luck. However the walk was very enjoyable anyway with the highlights being a large Pike harassing small fish under the bridge, a few Red Admirals flitting about, Cettis Warblers and Water Rails heard in the reeds and Great Crested Grebes out on the Ley with Tufted Ducks.

Saturday 6th November and with a night shift due I decided to head out to Wembury for a morning walk. However with a Bluethroat being seen along The Plym the previous day I switched plans and headed there instead but with Bluethroats being notoriously skulky I wasn't surprised not to find it.

It has been 9 weeks since I last visited The Plym and Saltram and it was nice to be back again and despite dipping the Bluethroat I saw a very nice selection of birds.

The best bird was a Woodcock which must have been flushed by dogs running through the leaf litter under the trees and which then flew right past in front of me, my best views ever and looking surprisingly large and dumpy. A very strong runner up though was a Jack Snipe flushed from some boggy ground before landing in a small thicket and which I then almost stood on when I went over to try and get a better look. A calling fly over Snipe completed the hat trick. 

Jays were very noticeable flying overhead between the trees and the Evergreen Oaks along The Ride where they were busily cramming acorns into their crops. A Raven feeding amongst the Rooks and Carrion Crows out in the grass was my first of the autumn too. 

Blaxton Meadow held 14 Wigeon, a Grey Heron and 2 Mute Swans while out on the Estuary 6 adult Common Gulls, a Common Sandpiper, 4 redhead Goosander and a Kingfisher were noted. 

A male Kestrel, 2 flyover Green Woodpecker, a male Stonechat, a very confiding female Pheasant, a Grey Wagtail around the Recycling Centre, 20 Fieldfare flying high overhead towards Dartmoor and 3 Shag near Laira Bridge were other noteworthy sightings. 

Pheasant, Blaxton Meadow

Shag,  Laira Bridge

4 Grey Squirrels ( 3 busily caching Evergreen Oak acorns), 3 Roe Deer and a battered Red Admiral were also seen. 

Roe Deer

Red Admiral

Monday 8th November and with reports of a Snow Bunting being seen at Wembury Beach the previous day I headed out there on the 2pm bus for a look. I would have gone earlier in the day but I had arranged to meet my friend Monica that morning for a catch up and the weather was wet and misty first thing but by the time I arrived at Wembury it was a glorious afternoon with calm seas, sunny spells and eventually a beautiful sunset. 

As expected there was no sign of the Snow Bunting but a very nice surprise was a very late Wheatear feeding on the huge mass of seaweed washed up on the beach along with Rock Pipits, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails, probably the latest I have ever seen one in the UK. 

Wheatear, Wembury

Also seen were a Grey Wagtail in the Valley to the Beach, 5 adult Gannets offshore heading west, 4 Little Egrets flying up the Yealm to roost at dusk and a single adult Mediterranean Gull flying around the rocky foreshore. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard calling in the pines and while waiting for the bus as it got dark I heard a Green Woodpecker yaffling away in nearby gardens, my first for Wembury this year. 

Tuesday 9th November and with Snow Buntings again being seen at Slapton Ley the previous day I decided to head out there for another look. 

I arrived off the bus at Torcross at around 10:45 and walked along the top of the beach towards the Memorial car park but there was no sign of any Snow Buntings. I then walked back along the beach to Torcross and got quite the workout as I trudged over the shingle but still no Snow Buntings were to be seen.

I then walked back to the Memorial car park along the Ley side path but again there was no sign of them and I was beginning to think yet another dip was imminent. I decided it was time to have a sit down on the beach to eat my lunch but just as I settled down to enjoy my sandwich a Snow Bunting popped up amongst the shingle and was quickly joined by a second bird - result! 

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting 

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

They eventually came closer and closer and then gave some great views, the best I have ever had, and they were an absolute delight to watch especially as they were so totally unfazed by my prescence. 

Snow Bunting

Also seen on a quick scan of the Ley were the usual Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant and Gadwall while offshore Gannet and Shag were noted. Along the Ley side Cettis Warblers were heard and I managed a good view of one individual. At least 3 pairs of Stonechat were also seen.

And so it really was a case of third time's a charm with the Snow Buntings, only the second time I have seen them in Devon, and after constant images of them showing up on my Twitter feed in what has been a bit if an influx of them into the UK this autumn it was nice to finally see some of my own.