Monday 27 November 2023

Goosanders and Grebes

A quick walk around Plymouth Hoe on Thursday 23rd November was Purple Sandpiper-less but there were 15 Turnstones feeding together on the rocks below the Pier One cafe, I think the highest count I have had here before. Even better was a smart male Black Redstart feeding on the rooftops at nearby Rusty Anchor but unfortunately mobile and distant.

Saturday 25th November was cold, still and mostly sunny as I headed out to the River Plym for a walk. I started at Laira Bridge on the low tide and finished at Marsh Mills on the incoming tide and despite the cool temperatures I managed to see 2 Red Admirals and a Common Darter which was a surprise.

Common Darter

There were 26 Turnstone and a Common Sandpiper feeding on the seaweed along the shoreline at Laira Bridge, later there was a Turnstone on Blaxton Meadow and a Common Sandpiper along the river nearby. Other waders were seen feeding out on the mudflats but by the time I reached Blaxton Meadow they were heading in to roost on the incoming tide with 26 Curlew, 17 Oystercatcher, 3 Snipe, 8 Greenshank and a Black-tailed Godwit noted amongst the Redshank and Dunlins. The Wigeon flock was also present on the Meadow but before I could count them they all flew off, never to return, but there must have been 30+ present.

There were also Goosanders busily diving for fish along the river on the low tide, spread out and difficult to count as they spent very little time at the surface but by the time I reached Marsh Mills they had flocked together at the gas pipe to rest on the small piece of beach not covered by the tide and there were a total of 4 males and 5 females present.

Goosanders (6 of 9 present)

A Great Crested Grebe, Mallards, Shelducks and 6 Little Grebe were also seen along the river and around the Park 2 Coal Tit, 4 Song Thrush and 3+ Ring-necked Parakeets were of note. 

Great Crested Grebe (as seen from above The Amphitheatre)


Chelson Meadow was actually a bit more productive than usual with a Buzzard, a Kestrel and a female Sparrowhawk seen along with a pair of Stonechat, 3 Stock Dove over heading east, a Mistle Thrush, a Chiffchaff (heard), 2 Green Woodpecker, 2 Snipe and 8 Roe Deer.

Roe Deer (1 of 8 present)

Thursday 23 November 2023

Wembury Water Pipit

After more wet and windy weather overnight I headed out to the River Plym on Saturday 18th November for a quick look about on the morning high tide before heading down to Truro for the night to celebrate our friend Julie's birthday. It was grey and claggy but dry and it wasn't too windy either and Blaxton Meadow was back to being a lake again.

Blaxton Meadow/Lake

The usual birds were present on the Meadow despite the high water level and included a 2nd winter Mediterranean Gull, 2 adult Common Gull, 40 Wigeon, a female Teal, 26 Curlew and 10 Greenshank. There were 2 redhead Goosander present too, unusual here but obviously making  the most of the high water levels while on the river nearby a male Goosander and 3 redheads were also present.



Tuesday 21st November was all blue sky and sunshine and with repairs to the living room fireplace and redecorating completed we headed out to Burrator Reservoir for a walk. It was very quiet on the bird front with a flyover Siskin, an unseen singing Mistle Thrush, the resident white farmyard Goose and a Cormorant the highlights. There was a lot of felling of the coniferous trees going on while we were there and the road was a complete mudbath in places, the recent weather has not been ideal for logging work. There was no sight or sound of any Crossbills on our walk but I hope that some of the pine trees which are covered in cones are left standing for them.

I headed out to Wembury on Wednesday 22nd November, it was dry and calm for a change but mostly overcast and I had a very enjoyable walk despite the very muddy footpath!

The Water Pipit was still present along the beach near the sewage pipe, it was very active and mobile and regularly chasing off any other Pipits that came too close.

Water Pipit

Water Pipit

Water Pipit 

Water Pipit

A Reed Bunting was in amongst the Cirl Buntings perched up in the sewage farm hedge although it was chasing off any that came too close before it had had enough and flew off east.

Offshore a Great Northern Diver flew west and 3 Common Scoters (a male and 2 female) were also seen flying west before they landed on the sea. There were feeding flocks of Gulls further out but an adult Kittiwake passed by closer to shore as it headed west too.

A flock of 21 Turnstone were feeding along the beach with 2 Curlew, 3 Little Egrets, 2 pairs of Mallard and Oystercatchers also present.


Great Black-backed Gull 

A light passage of Woodpigeon passed overhead heading west, around 300 birds in total in small, irregular flocks and with them were 3 Stock Doves. Also of note were a Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest, a male Bullfinch, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Green Woodpecker.



Tuesday 14 November 2023

Storm Debi

Monday 6th November saw us heading off in the car for a few days away in Suffolk to attend the funeral of my lovely Godfather Uncle Kevin. It was unfortunately to be a birding-less visit but on the car journey there and back it was nice to see good numbers of Kestrels, Buzzards and Red Kites and a few Sparrowhawks too in what were very pleasant weather conditions for a change (and the journey there and back went very smoothly too, only 6 hours each way and with no delays although the usual bad driving was still very much on display).

Saturday 11th November was sunny and calm too, a change from the mostly wet and windy weather we have had of late and so I decided to head out to the River Plym for a walk to make the most of it. It had clouded over by the time I arrived off the bus at Marsh Mills but it remained dry and I was just glad to be out birding for the first time in a week.

Things started off well with 3 Dipper seen at Long Bridge, they were very vocal as they sang, called, displayed and chased each other back and forth along the river before they all flew off upstream. Downstream a pair of Common Sandpiper were much more aminable as they rested and preened together along the waters edge and 6 Little Grebe were diving for fish nearby. Later a Great Crested Grebe was seen out on the river as the tide came in, no doubt pushed upriver by the water skiers, paddle boarders and rowers present.

It was low tide when I began my walk and Blaxton Meadow was no longer a lake, no birds were present as I passed by but on my return walk the tide was heading in and birds were coming in to roost with 21 Curlew, 11 Oystercatcher, 8 Greenshank, 8 Wigeon and a Snipe all seen amongst the usual Redshank and Dunlin.

Blaxton Meadow on the incoming tide

It was quiet around the Park with the usual birds seen and included 2 Goldcrest, 2 Chiffchaff (1 seen, 1 heard), 4 Jay, a pair of Stonechat, a Raven, 2 Song Thrush and around 20 Redwing. Both Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard too but kept well hidden as did a noisy Buzzard.

There were at least 20 Moorhen on the duck pond but again no sign of any Mandarin nor the Red Crested Pochard.

Muscovy Duck, Saltram Duck Pond

A face only a Mother could love

It was also quiet on Chelson Meadow with Skylark, Meadow Pipit, a male Stonechat, a Red Admiral and a pair of Roe Deer the highlights but the best sighting was of 3 Snipe and 2 Jack Snipe flying high overhead, they came over from the direction of Laira and then flew towards Saltram House before being lost from view. The smaller size of the Jack Snipe was very noticeable and at first I thought they were Dunlin until they came close enough to properly ID.

I headed out to Wembury again on Monday 13th November after another wet and windy night as Storm Debi rattled through, it was still very windy when I arrived off the 7am bus although the rain had cleared through and the footpaths were as expected a complete mud bath but I still enjoyed my walk.

I had hoped for some sea watching excitement but all I saw offshore in the choppy seas were 4 Gannet (3 adults and 1 immature bird),  a Fulmar, a few Shag and around 10 adult Kittiwakes along with the usual Gulls.

The Mewstone - and not many birds

The usual Gulls were also loafing about along the beach and some Black-headed Gulls were also feeding in the surf along with 2 adult and 2 2nd winter Mediterranean Gulls. Only 3 Little Egret were present this time after the recent high of 12 birds and the usual Oystercatchers were present with a Curlew and a Grey Heron.

Black-headed and Mediterranean Gull

Most small birds were keeping hunkered down in the strong wind but the usual Stonechat, Cirl Buntings, Chaffinch, Robins and Goldfinch were seen along with a pair of Kestrels, a Song Thrush, a Goldcrest and 3 Pheasants. The Cettis Warbler was heard calling in the usual place but there was no sign of the Water Pipit along the beach although the Rock and Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails present were being blown about like leaves in the strong wind.

The beach has taken more of a battering in the recent rough weather, I'm not sure if the Sea Kale has survived but the Phragmites is still hanging on. A single Portuguese Man O'War was found washed up on the beach and amongst the seaweed mass were Edible Crab and Spider Crab shells.

Portuguese Man O'War 

Edible Crab shell

Spider Crab shell

Friday 3 November 2023

Storm Ciaran

With some wet, wild and windy weather on its way courtesy of Storm Ciaran I decided to head out to Wembury again on Wednesday 1st November for a walk. I caught the 7am bus and on arriving at Wembury it was very windy with choppy seas and the surf was pounding the beach on another very high tide.

Wembury Beach

Wembury Beach

The Mewstone


The Oystercatchers were again trying to roost on the tiny bit of beach left uncovered near the sewage pipe and with them were 12 Little Egret, 2 more than yesterday. As the tide began to drop 3 Curlew flew in to try and roost but gave up and flew off and also present were 4 Turnstone and a Ringed Plover. A flock of Black-headed Gulls were feeding in the surf with others roosting on the beach and amongst them briefly was a 1st winter Common Gull, an uncommon Gull at Wembury but the second one I've seen in 2 days!

Little Egret


Ringed Plover

Black-headed Gulls

I had a vague hope that the windy weather may have brought in something interesting seabird wise despite the late date but it wasn't meant to be with just the usual Gannets noted offshore along with Shags and Gulls including 3 Mediterranean Gulls (2 adults and a 2nd winter). However I did find a Great Northern Diver just off the beach, an adult bird moulting into winter plumage, busily diving away for food and the best views of one I've had at Wembury before.

The usual birds were also seen along the walk despite the windy weather with a male Blackcap found in the bushes at The Point and a Chiffchaff found in a village garden where 2 late Speckled Wood were also flitting about in a sheltered spot. A few Common Wasps were flitting about too around the remaining Ivy flowers.

Common Wasp

The beach is taking a bit of a battering at the moment with worse to come, the Sea Kale is looking precarious and the Phragmites is getting eroded away, hopefully they will survive to bounce back in the spring. The Common Dolphin corpse is still present too and being enjoyed by the Great Black-backed Gulls and at least 8 Portuguese Man O'War were washed up at the top of the beach amongst all the flotsam and jetsum.

Portuguese Man O'War

Portuguese Man O'War 

Thursday 2nd November was the morning after the night before as Storm Ciaran rattled through during the early hours and so I headed up to Plymouth Hoe to have a look and see if anything interesting had been blown in. The wind was noticeably easing down and the rain had stopped but there was very little to see other than a few Shags and the usual Gulls including a Great Black-backed Gull busily devouring the drowned remains of a Feral Pigeon.

Plymouth Hoe after the storm

Great Black-backed Gull with Feral Pigeon Snack

However a surprise was a Sandwich Tern patrolling back and forth along the shoreline and regularly diving into the water in search of food.

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

A Razorbill did a big lap of The Sound before finally splashing down off Rusty Anchor and just 2 Gannets were seen, an adult and a juvenile bird out by The Breakwater. Also seen were a total of 11 Turnstones feeding amongst the rocks on the dropping tide but there was no sign of any Purple Sandpipers.

The highlight though were 4 Little Gulls flying west out near The Breakwater before disappearing off towards Penlee, an adult and 3 1st winter birds and unfortunately distant but a very nice find. Their tern-like flight and small size compared to nearby Black-headed Gulls was very noticeable and the black underwings contrasting with the white upperwings of the adult bird and the distinctive upperwing markings of the 1st winter birds were very striking.

1st winter Herring Gull with a gammy leg at Rusty Anchor - maybe Birdy from our roof this year?

Herring Gull (Birdy?)

It was all dry, sunny and calm first thing on Friday 3rd November as I headed out to The Plym for a walk but the breeze did eventually pick up and some very heavy showers rattled through before I headed back home. It was high tide and again a very high tide, not helped by the large volume of water flowing down The Plym following all the recent heavy rain.

Blaxton Meadow was very flooded but the water level wasn't as high as on my last visit and waders were trying to roost on what little space was available after presumably being flushed off The Embankment wall by a water skier and a paddle boarder. There was a sprinkling of Dunlin amongst the numerous Redshank present along with a Turnstone, 10 Greenshank, 11 Snipe and 21 Curlew. A female Goosander was preening on the sluice gate and out on the water were 15 Shelduck and 24 Wigeon along with Mallard and Canada Geese. A bit of variety was provided by my first Common Gull of the winter here, an adult bird hidden in plain sight as it roosted amongst the Black-headed Gulls.

Blaxton Meadow (Lake)

Common Gull with Black-headed Gulls

Around the Park it was business as usual too with 3 Buzzards, Redwings over (flocks of 6 and 20), a Goldcrest, at least 4 Jays, a flock of 20+Pied Wagtails and 20+Meadow Pipits feeding in amongst the grazing cattle and a Red Admiral the highlights. To round off another pleasant walk a Common Sandpiper and a Grey Wagtail were seen along the river near the gas pipe but again it was all very Groundhog Day.