Sunday 20 November 2022

Waders, Water Pipit and Whinchat

With a night shift looming again on Tuesday 15th November we had a lunchtime walk around Plymouth Hoe to get some fresh air. I kept an eye out for any Grey Phalaropes with no luck but a Kingfisher was a nice surprise on the rocks near the Sutton Harbour lock gates and 10 Turnstones feeding below the Pier One cafe was a good count. 

Thursday 17th November and we had another lunchtime walk around Plymouth Hoe, there still were no Grey Phalaropes to be found and this time there were 8 Turnstone feeding on the rocks but with them was a Purple Sandpiper, the first of this winter.

Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper

Friday 18th November was dry and sunny but surprisingly cool in the breeze and I decided to have a quick River Plym and Saltram walk. The tide was heading in but it was to be a low high tide and Blaxton Meadow remained water free with no water coming in through the sluice gates at all. However waders were roosting on the Meadow with the best find being a Grey Plover asleep amongst the assembled Curlew, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Greenshank and Redshank. 

Out on the River a Great Crested Grebe and 3 Little Grebe were seen along with 2 Shag, 2 male and 3 female Goosander, 2 female Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Common Sandpiper and 2 Kingfisher. A Dipper was a nice find as it dived into the water just above Long Bridge and the female Red-crested Pochard was back in residence on the duck pond.

Red-crested Pochard

There was no sign of any Reed Buntings on a quick look around The Tip but a Whinchat was still present along with a pair of Stonechat. Another male and 2 female Stonechat were also seen near the dipping pond. A skulky Chiffchaff was calling deep in cover near the railway bridge and 5 Ring-necked Parakeets screeched around the tree tops when a Buzzard passed overhead.

Saturday 19th November was bitingly cold as I stood in the dark waiting for the 7am bus to Wembury. It was even colder when I arrived at Wembury and my fingerless gloves were not the best fashion choice of the day as my fingertips were painfully numb within just a few minutes but as the sun rose and did its thing it began to warm up nicely. It was a beautiful day with sunny skies and no wind and the sea was totally flat calm but after all the recent rain the footpath was back to its usual winter mud bath state as I headed off towards The Point.

The Cetti's Warbler was again singing away in the valley to the beach, louder and more confident sounding than a few weeks ago when it first arrived. On a quick scan of the fields above the horse stable I found 2 Mistle Thrush chasing each other around, surprisingly my first for Wembury this year. A male Cirl Bunting showed exceptionally well in the lovely sunlight as it sang quietly in a tree while a noisy Green Woodpecker flew across the hillside.

Cirl Bunting

A Grey Wagtail was briefly seen along the beach before flying off and amongst the Pied Wagtails, Rock Pipits and Meadow Pipits I was really pleased to find a Water Pipit. November seems to be a good month to see Water Pipit at Wembury, not the usual habitat for Water Pipit but maybe they are just passing through although they sometimes overwinter here. It wasn't as striking as the bird I found last year but it was very distinctive and as usual was flitty and mobile and regularly chasing off any other Pipits that came near. 

Water Pipit

Water Pipit

Water Pipit

Water Pipit

Water Pipit

I had a look for the reported Black Redstarts in Wembury village with no luck but I did find a male Blackcap before catching the bus back to Plymouth, alighting off the bus at Laira Bridge for another River Plym/Saltram walk.

It had clouded over and had cooled down somewhat but the Whinchat was still present on The Tip along with 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Green Woodpecker, 2 Snipe, a pair of Stonechat, 2 Redwing and 8 Roe Deer. 



It was a higher tide than the previous day and water was coming through the sluice gates into Blaxton Meadow. The Grey Plover was still present amongst the Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Greenshank along with a Bar-tailed Godwit, a Turnstone and at least 3 Snipe while out on the river the Great Crested Grebe and the female Red-breasted Merganser were still present along with a Little Grebe, 2 Mute Swan, a female Wigeon and a male Goosander. 

Tuesday 15 November 2022

A November Whimbrel

Sunday 6th November was a day of blustery showers and sunny spells and I hadn't really planned to go out birding. However by lunchtime I felt the need to get out for a walk and so headed out to Marsh Mills for a quick look around The Plym on the incoming tide. 

It was very windy and the showers were really heavy but the tide was higher than I expected with the estuary covered by water and waders feeding and roosting on Blaxton Meadow as the tide gushed in through the sluice gates. By the time I left the wind was blowing the tide over the top of the sluice wall into the Meadow, the first time I have seen this happen. 

I scanned around for the Curlew Sandpiper which has been present now for the past week but couldn't find it amongst the Dunlin although the birds were mobile and flighty at times and often obscured amongst the vegetation as the fed or roosted. Redshank were also present and equally mobile along with 17 Oystercatcher and 9 Greenshank and amongst the Curlew I found a vocal Whimbrel, my first for November on The Plym. 

A 1st winter Common Gull was the first on The Plym for me this winter period and a Kingfisher, 21 Wigeon, 14 Grey Heron and a Little Egret were also seen.

Out on the river a Common Sandpiper, 2 Grey Wagtail, a redhead Goosander and 4 Mute Swan were present with sadly a corpse of a Mute Swan seen floating in on the tide, possibly an Avian flu victim.

It was quite chilly in the wind and with viewing increasingly difficult and the light fading I headed home to warm up but it had been a short and enjoyable visit. 

Rainbow over Blaxton Meadow

Another duo of night shifts starting on Monday 7th November saw me asleep in bed on Tuesday 8th while a storm battered the South Devon coast. The bad weather saw a smattering of scarce seabirds being reported including 2 Leach's Petrels in Plymouth! Yet another example of my days off not matching up with good sea watching conditions!

With news of a Black Redstart near Laira Bridge on The Plym on Friday 11th November we took a lunchtime walk to have a look for it. Needless to say I didn't see it but we had an enjoyable walk anyway with the female Red-crested Pochard asleep amongst the Mallard on Blaxton Meadow and 3 Black-tailed Godwit feeding together on the incoming tide off Blagdons Meadow the highlights.

Saturday 12th November and with sunny skies and no rain forecast I was up and out early, catching the 7am bus to Wembury for a walk. It was a beautiful morning and as I walked down the valley to the beach the Cettis Warbler was again calling along the stream. There was a strong onshore breeze and with the tide high there was some nice surf breaking onto the beach and a few surfers were already out on their boards and catching the waves. 

As I walked along the footpath towards The Point a Bunting flew up into the bushes by the stubble field, I expected it to be a Cirl but on checking it out I was very pleased to find it was in fact a Reed Bunting, my first at Wembury. 

Reed Bunting

Oystercatchers, a Curlew and 4 Little Egret were roosting on the beach by the sewage pipe as the surf crashed into the shore and assorted gulls were swirling around and feeding in the turbulence along the tide line, mostly Black- headed Gulls with a few Herring Gulls and at least 2 adult Kittiwakes.


A small pale bird was picked out amongst the gulls further out from the beach and I thought it may have been a Little Gull but on checking it out I was very pleased to see it was in fact a Grey Phalarope, another first for Wembury for me. It was busily feeding and gradually came in closer to the beach on the swell where it gave some great views through my scope. I watched it for a while as the gulls began to disperse until the Phalarope was left all alone and later on my walk back it too had disappeared.

Grey Phalarope

A scan offshore didn't reveal much, just a few Gannets, more Kittiwakes, 1 first winter and 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls and 3 Common Scoter flying east - unfortunately no Leach's Petrels or Sabine's Gulls! 

Woodpigeon were on the move again with around 500 noted moving west in flocks of 10-50 over the course of my walk and with a single Stock Dove amongst them. 

I caught the bus back to Plymouth and got off at Laira Bridge to have a Plym/Saltram walk and by this time it was quite warm in the sunshine despite the continuing strong breeze.

Another look for the Black Redstart drew a blank as did a look for the reported Reed Bunting but I did see one of the two reported Whinchat, a very strange sighting for November! A Large White flying past was also a little incongruous for the time of year.


A pair of Stonechats, a very showy Green Woodpecker, a Sparrowhawk, 2 Chiffchaff and 6 Roe Deer were the best of the rest in the Park while out on the estuary on the low tide a Lapwing feeding along the water line and a Great Crested Grebe busily diving away just north of Laira Bridge were nice surprises.

Lapwing with Shelduck

Little Egret

Mute Swan

A great day out in lovely weather, very soul soothing before I begin a 3 day stint at work. 

Saturday 5 November 2022

River Plym Curlew Sandpiper

Sunday 30th October was meant to be a day of chores but with the news coming through of a Curlew Sandpiper in amongst the waders on the high tide roost at Blaxton Meadow I headed out for a quick look.

It was another mild but breezy day with occasional sunny spells and the odd shower and with the clocks having gone back overnight it was surprisingly relatively people free at 10:30 when I arrived on site.

Local Birders Pete and Martin were both present at the viewing platform and I quickly found the bird amongst the assorted waders all huddled up out of the wind along the river wall. It showed well at times as it busily fed amongst the grass but was often obscured amongst the roosting Redshank and Dunlin until it finally went to sleep with its head tucked under its wing - my first River Plym Curlew Sandpiper! And very nice that it didn't give me the run around like some birds on the Plym have done this year! 

Other highlights seen on my hour long visit before I had to head home to continue chores were a Common Sandpiper, a Grey Wagtail, 2 Little Grebe (1 on the Plym, 1 bizarrely on Blaxton Meadow), a redhead Goosander, 12 Grey Heron, a 1st winter Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Kingfisher and 10 Greenshank.

My 2 night shifts starting on Monday 31st October were wet and windy affairs with Storm Claudio rattling through and as a result there were Cory's Shearwaters and Leach's Storm Petrels seen off Berry Head while I was sleeping in bed! Never mind, my work shifts really haven't worked out very well with the best sea watching weather this autumn.

Thursday 3rd November was sunny and calmer and so I took a walk around Plymouth Hoe to see if any Grey Phalarope or Leach's Storm Petrel had been blown in but there was no sign of either as expected. A lone Turnstone was seen on the rocks below the Pier One Cafe and in Sutton Harbour 2 Little Egret and 8 Canada Geese were seen along with 21 Mute Swan.


Friday 4th November was calm and sunny but with the first proper feel of winter in the air. I headed out to Wembury for a walk but didn't arrive there until after 10am due to an accident holding up the traffic on Laira Bridge.

Birds were on the move in the calm and sunny conditions with 100+ Woodpigeon noted over in small flocks (with a lone Stock Dove) along with 50+ Skylark and 450+ Starling (3 large flocks and 2 small). A surprise were 8 Golden Plover high overhead moving west before appearing to head off out to sea.

Offshore was quiet with a couple of Gannet and a few Mediterranean Gulls noted while along the beach a Grey Wagtail, 3 Little Egret, a Grey Heron, a Curlew, a Turnstone, Oystercatchers and a male Mallard were seen.

A Firecrest in the gardens by the road leading down to the beach showed very well along with 2 Goldcrest and the Cetti's Warbler was still present in the bushes by the stream, vocal at times with a brief view finally obtained.

A Red Admiral flitted past and 2 Painted Lady showed well as they basked in the warmth of the sunshine.

Painted Lady

The usual Stonechat, Cirl Bunting, Meadow Pipit and Linnet were also seen with Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard all noted overhead. 


With a Cetti's Warbler having been found at Blagdon's Meadow on the River Plym at the beginning of the week I decided to have a look for it on the way home from Wembury. Needless to say there was no sight or sound of it after an hour of staking out the large expanse of bushes where it has been seen but there is always another day.