Saturday 25 February 2023


My Birding Mojo is currently a bit flat (along with the rest of my life) which is just as well as things are pretty quiet on the birding front at the moment. 

Monday 20th February was cold, grey and claggy but we decided to head out anyway for a coastal walk from Hope Cove to Thurlestone and back. It was quite mizzley over the course of our walk and it came and went in the gentle breeze and as a result not a lot was seen with the highlights being 2 flitty and vocal Chiffchaff (1 at Hope Cove, 1 at South Milton Ley) and a sleepy Black-tailed Godwit with Teal and Wigeon at South Huish Marsh.

Tuesday 21st February was cold and grey again but the mizzle had cleared and there was very little breeze and so I headed out to Wembury for a walk. The footpath was a bit muddy but not too bad and the tide was dropping as I started my walk.

Along the beach there was quite a gathering of Gulls on the rocks, mostly Black-headed Gulls with 200+ present along with Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls, a 1st winter Common Gull and at least 9 Mediterranean Gulls (6 adult, 1 2nd winter and 2 1st winter). A Grey Heron was getting regular hassle from nearby Herring Gulls but the 2 Little Egret present were left alone. There were also 9 Mallard present (4 male, 2 female and 3 domestic male) along with a pair of flighty Shelduck which regularly flew back and forth along the beach. A lone Curlew was seen amongst the noisy Oystercatchers. 

I had a look for the Water Pipit around the seaweed mass by the sewage pipe but there was no sign of it this time amongst the Rock Pipits and Meadow Pipits present. However I did find a very nice Scandinavian Rock Pipit, a bit scruffy as it moults into summer plumage but very distinctive looking. The pinky flush to the breast and blue tones to the head were variably noticeable depending on the angle of the bird and it was quite dominant amongst the other Pipits, regularly chasing off any that came near to it. 

Scandinavian Rock Pipit

Scandinavian Rock Pipit

Scandinavian Rock Pipit

There were at least 3 Chiffchaffs along the beach, all yellowy green toned collybita types with brief and quiet singing heard at times, but there was no sign of the pale and brown toned bird seen on my last visit. 

2 Grey Wagtails were also present along the beach with the Pied Wagtails and in the stubble field there were at least 11 Cirl Buntings but they were skulky and flighty. The hedgerow near the small water treatment works had been cut back and there was some interesting looking bright orange Sap Yeast growing on the cut branches. 

Sap Yeast - Cryptococcus/ Cystofilobasidium macerans? 

Sap Yeast

It was an enjoyable walk but fairly quiet although there is a definite sense of Spring in the air and a feeling that birds are on the move at last. 

It was cold and grey and breezy on our usual Plymouth Hoe walk on Thursday 23rd February, the tide was very low and there was no sign of any Purple Sandpipers but I did find 7 Turnstones. No Black Redstarts were seen either but the Little Grebe was still present on Sutton Harbour and looking very smart in its summer plumage and occasionally heard trilling. 

Friday 24th February was cold and grey again but less windy as I headed out for a River Plym walk. It has been very quiet on The Plym so far this year with the internet sighting reports being very Groundhog Day-like but with news coming through of a Cattle Egret being seen on Blaxton Meadow on Wednesday this week hopefully things are on the up. I wasn't expecting to see any Cattle Egrets on my walk and indeed I didn't but I had a good time anyway. 

It was cold and grey and the tide was high when I arrived at the viewing platform overlooking the Blaxton Meadow roost. The usual birds were present including 6 Snipe, 9 Greenshank, 1 Turnstone, 42 Wigeon, 1 Kingfisher and 19 Common Gull while out on the River there were 8 Goosander (3 male), 1 Mute Swan, 1 Red-breasted Merganser and 4 Little Grebe with 16 Turnstone and 1 Common Sandpiper roosting on The Embankment with Dunlin and Redshank. 


There were 24 Moorhen on the Duck Pond with 2 pairs of Mandarin Duck and a female Red-crested Pochard and a single Moorhen was also seen along the ditch at Longbridge. 

Mandarin Duck

I spent some time in the Wet Wood looking for the Water Rail with no luck but I did see a Treecreeper, my first of the year, along with a bathing Mistle Thrush and a Kingfisher which was a bit of a surprise. A Grey Heron was quietly fishing in the small pond by the wood. 

Grey Heron

A Firecrest and a Goldcrest were seen in the Park with Coal Tit, Nuthatch and Stock Dove while on Chelson Meadow a Snipe, singing Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, around 20 Starlings and 7 Roe Deer were seen. 

Roe Deer

It was an enjoyable if fairly quiet walk but again there is a sense of expectation in the air and hints of Spring being on its way despite the chilly weather. 

Monday 20 February 2023

Back to Work

I had a great week off work, I slept well and felt relaxed, contented and more my usual self by the end of it. Unfortunately it had to come to an end and it was time to get back on the hamster wheel of work and back to being anxious, stressed, snappy and crabby and as time goes by I get to resent it more and more. I have always tried to hope that things at work will get better but it seems to be just an endless downward spiral with no change on the horizon, very sad.

Anyway, I was due back to work for 2 night shifts starting on Tuesday 14th February and so we took our usual Plymouth Hoe walk at lunchtime in bright and sunny conditions. As expected there was no sign of the Purple Sandpipers again but I did find 2 female type Black Redstarts feeding together at Rusty Anchor. They were flitty and mobile as usual but lovely to watch as they flashed their red tails in the sunshine. 

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

I had hoped that they were a good omen for my return to work but it wasn't to be with 2 challenging night shifts subsequently endured.

Hey Ho. 

Tuesday 14 February 2023

Three Purple Sandpipers!

Sunday 12th February was a beautiful sunny day but with it being a Sunday and also the half term holiday we had an early morning walk around Plymouth Hoe before the crowds descended. The tide was dropping and I was very pleased to find a Purple Sandpiper on the rocks below the Pier One Cafe with 5 Turnstone. One Purple Sandpiper quickly became two and then three before they were all flushed by a nearby walker and flew off towards Tinside Pool. Very nice to see 3 together though. 

Purple Sandpiper


Over the past few winters I've seen up to 3 Purple Sandpipers on The Hoe although I rarely see more than 1 at a time. They are possibly the same birds returning each year but they are always so elusive until around February time when they suddenly become much more visible. 

Purple Sandpiper 

Purple Sandpiper 

Purple Sandpiper 

Monday 13th February was the last day of my week off work and with sunny skies forecast I headed out to look for Goshawks. It was cloudy when I left home but the skies did begin to clear gradually although huge traffic delays along the way meant a later than planned arrival at my destination.

It was cool in the breeze when I finally arrived to start my walk and along the path to my usual observation point I saw 7 Red-legged Partridge, 6 Stock Dove, a Firecrest, a pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker, a "chuckling" Fieldfare, good numbers of flitty and skulking Redwings and a distant flock of around 30 Avocet roosting on the high tide along the river. 

The cloud eventually totally disappeared and while it was pleasant in the sunshine out of the breeze it remained quite cool. There were fewer birds seen soaring overhead than usual with a maximum count of 6 Buzzards up in the air at any one time although more than this number were present. A few Ravens flew over as well, performing wonderful acrobatics and calling noisely but again numbers were lower than usual. A single female Sparrowhawk was seen on two occasions, soaring up higher and higher until lost from sight. 

However I did see Goshawks which is what I had hoped for with 2 birds seen. The first bird was an immature male with buffy toned underparts, it soared overhead being harassed by a Carrion Crow before joining a soaring Buzzard with which it also had the odd altercation with. Later I saw it soaring over the trees where a larger and pale looking female flew up to join it, the white undertail coverts were fluffed out and were very noticeable and almost created a white rump look and the underparts were very pale white and appeared virtually unmarked from my distant viewing point. It interacted with the male briefly but didn't seem particularly impressed by it before disappearing back into the trees, never to be seen again. 

The male bird was then seen a few more times soaring overhead but was always distant and eventually it was time to head home with another traffic delayed nightmare journey experienced again, worse than on the journey out. Hopefully I will get another chance in the next few weeks for another visit and the traffic will be better! 

Sunday 12 February 2023

Local Wildlife

With the weather on my week off work continuing to be dry, mostly sunny and with lovely frosty mornings we headed off to St.Ives for the day on the train on Wednesday 8th February. It did eventually cloud over but did stay dry and we had an enjoyable time wandering around the town.

With a Humpback Whale being seen in the area recently I kept a good eye out for it but was out of luck. However there were good numbers of Common Dolphin feeding around the bay in 3 distinct pods, mostly distant but a few did come in closer to shore and quite a few were seen leaping out of the water at times. A few Grey Seal were also seen in the water but were constantly diving and at the surface very briefly.

A single Gannet was seen offshore along with distant Auks with those closer to shore being Guillemots. A single Great Northern Diver was also seen out on the water with 3 Oystercatcher seen feeding on the rocks below the Coastguard Station. Surprisingly only 1 Turnstone was seen around The Harbour. 

Thursday 9th February was cool and mostly cloudy and so we headed to Stover for a walk. Its been over 2 years since we last visited here and it was interesting to see a lot of regeneration work going on to improve the habitat.

Tufted Duck and Mallard were very showy, coming to bread and seed with Coot, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Black-headed Gull and Herring Gull. A female Wigeon feeding on pond weed out on the lake was a surprise and 2 male Goosander showed briefly, flying in for a few minutes of quick preening before flying off. The best ducks though were 2 male Pochard which were constantly diving together out on the lake, something of a Devon rarity these days and a bird I didn't even see last year!

Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck

The feeding station was busy and amongst the usual Chaffinch, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Coal Tit were 2 Stock Dove, a male Siskin, a male Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Nuthatch and 2 Marsh Tit.

Coal Tit


Stock Dove

A Water Rail feeding by the lake shore before dashing into cover, a Jay coming down to seed, Siskins twittering away in the tree tops and at least 8 tame and plump looking Grey Squirrels were also seen and one of the Mute Swans came out of the water and revealed a silver ring on its left leg, presumably a locally ringed bird.

Ringed Mute Swan 

Friday 10th February was sunny and cool again and so we headed out to Stoke Point for a walk. The forecast was for the skies to cloud over and indeed by the time we left The Ship Inn at Moss Mayo after having some lunch it was grey and a little mizzley but we had an enjoyable walk anyway.

It was very quiet bird wise but a Firecrest with 3 Goldcrest in the woods at Moss Mayo was the highlight. Other sightings of note were a pair of Stonechat, 2 Raven, a male Kestrel, 2 Chiffchaff and 3 Linnet along the coast path and a further 2 Chiffchaff in the woods at Stoke Point.

Saturday 11th February was earmarked for Goshawks but on waking up in the morning the skies were overcast and so I switched plans and headed over to Torpoint instead. High tide was at around 9:00 and when I arrived at around 11:00 the tide was heading out. 

I scanned around and only found 4 Little Grebes, 9 Great Crested Grebes and 1 Black-necked Grebe out on the water along with 2 male Red-breasted Mergansers, unfortunately there was no sign of Great Northern Divers nor Red-necked or Slavonian Grebes. Also the Black-necked Grebe was quite distant and very difficult to track between dives but I had an enjoyable couple of hours trying to keep up with it and hoping it might come closer.

The Brent Geese were present again, 17 dark-bellied birds and 2 pale-bellied birds (1 ringed), and there were 8 Ringed Plover with the Turnstones and Dunlins. An adult winter plumaged Mediterranean Gull was roosting out on the mudflats with the Common, Black-headed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls and a lone Greenshank and Black-tailed Godwit were feeding with the Redshank, Curlew and Oystercatcher. Also 14 Grey Plover were roosting on an old barge before flying down to feed on the mud when the tide receded.

Brent Geese


A very pleasant birding morning as my week off work draws to an end and the hell of half term school holiday begins. And again some interesting wildlife sightings not that far from home. 

Wednesday 8 February 2023


February is finally here, I have never known January to seem so long, it seems to have gone on forever! 

However January has seen some great birding and to finish the month off we had a quick walk around Plymouth Hoe on Monday 30th January. It was milder than of late with long sunny spells and it ended up being very productive with the elusive wintering Purple Sandpiper finally giving itself up at Rusty Anchor as it fed and preened unobtrusively amongst the seaweed covered rocks. I've been looking for it on our Plymouth Hoe walks ever since I saw it back in November and this is the first sighting I've had since then.

Purple Sandpiper

Even better was finding a female type Black Redstart also at Rusty Anchor, it was feeding around the buildings and gardens and is my first sighting of it here this winter after reading numerous reports of its presence. It was mobile and elusive, one minute it was there and showing very well and then it would just vanish into thin air. At certain angles it appeared to show a small area of white in its wings so possibly an immature male bird (or possibly just a trick of the light). 

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

An Oystercatcher, 2 Turnstone, 2 Meadow Pipit, a Rock Pipit and a Common Gull were the other highlights of the walk before it was back home to carry on with the usual chores. 

The Purple Sandpiper was still present at Rusty Anchor on another quick Plymouth Hoe walk on Wednesday 1st February but there was no sign of the Black Redstart this time. And on another Plymouth Hoe walk on Saturday 4th February it was both Purple Sandpiper and Black Redstart free but it was good to see a distant Great Northern Diver out by Drakes Island and a surprise find was a Common Sandpiper feeding on the rocks by the old diving boards. 

Common Sandpiper, Plymouth Hoe

With a week's annual leave off work and with no real plans (other than sleeping!) I hoped to get out and about to do some birding. Things started well with Monday 6th February being a beautiful winters morning with a blue sky and a heavy frost as I headed off to Marsh Mills for a walk around Saltram with work friend Sue. I arrived off the bus at around 07:30 and took a slow birding walk up to the car park at Saltram House to meet Sue and her dog Daisy at 08:45. 

It was cold and still and the tide was just beginning to drop as I scanned across Blaxton Meadow, noting the regular Grey Plover, 14 Oystercatcher, 7 Snipe and 5 Greenshank amongst the usual Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew and Oystercatcher. A Redshank with very white and unmarked underparts looked very Spotted Redshanky, possibly the bird reported as such on the Internet sightings pages before Christmas. The wintering flock of Wigeon were also feeding in the frozen white grass and were barely visible above the tops of the vegetation but 8 birds out on the river were more easily seen. 

Snowdrops, Saltram

Also along the river were a Grey Wagtail, a Common Sandpiper, 2 male Red-breasted Merganser, 7 Goosander (2 males) and 2 Little Grebe with a noisy Dipper seen flying downriver under the railway bridge. 

The female Red-crested Pochard was on the duck pond with 9 Mandarin (5 males) and 20 Moorhen and a Stock Dove flew overhead. 

I met up with Sue as planned and we put the world to rights on our walk as we always do while Daisy pretty much ignored us as usual before we headed off to Stonehouse to catch the ferry across to Mount Edgecumbe for another walk and some lunch. It was warm in the sunshine on our walk when out of the chilly breeze and a quick look at the duck pond was Gadwall-less but a Red Admiral dashing past in the sunshine was a nice bonus, my first butterfly of the year. 

Tuesday 7th February was the same weather-wise with blue skies and a heavy frost as I caught the 07:00 bus to Wembury for a walk. The tide was high but beginning to ebb and along the main beach and feeding in the surf were a small flock of Black-headed Gulls including a bird with limited black colouring in its primaries. 

Black-headed Gull

Black-headed Gulls

Black-headed Gull

Out at The Point the usual birds were roosting with a Turnstone still present and surprisingly a Whimbrel with 3 Curlew,  Oystercatchers and 5 Little Egret. 

Whimbrel with Oystercatchers

The Water Pipit was feeding on the seaweed mass by the sewage pipe and showed very well along with a Grey Wagtail, a pair of Stonechat and 4 Chiffchaff, one of which was very pale and brown toned compared to the yellowy green tones of the other 3 in the strong sunlight. There was no sign of the male Black Redstart though. Also there were no Mediterranean Gulls either. 

Water Pipit

Water Pipit

Water Pipit

Water Pipit

Around 10 Cirl Buntings were feeding in the Stubble field, there were at least 5 males present and they looked very smart in the sunshine. A Firecrest was a nice find in a village garden on the walk back to the bus stop but it was a brief view only before it disappeared into cover and while waiting for the bus back to Plymouth a pair of Collared Doves were displaying and calling. 

Cirl Bunting

I stepped off the bus at Laira Bridge for the second part of my birding day out with a walk along The Plym and around Saltram. The tide was low and out on the mudflats were the usual Gulls and Waders with 2 pairs of Goosander diving for fish in the narrow channel of water. 

A Firecrest feeding in the undergrowth by The Amphitheatre was a nice find, it showed very well before moving off although it didn't stay still for a second. A Chiffchaff feeding in the Evergreen Oaks along The Ride was much more skulky but 2 male Bullfinch having a bathe nearby were surprisingly much more confiding. A male Stonechat feeding out in the cow fields was a year first for Saltram but there was no sign of the Water Rail in the Wet Wood. A sighting  of 11 Roe Deer finished off my walk very nicely though. 

Roe Deer