Thursday 29 February 2024

Stover and Wembury

Monday 26th February was dry and sunny and so we decided to head out and make the most of the day despite the strong wind blowing from the north east. With everywhere being waterlogged and muddy we chose to visit Stover Lake where the footpaths were more likely to be passable and we also wanted to see how the improvement works are progressing since our last visit over a year ago.

On arriving at Stover there was some further clearing work going on where a dense stand of conifer trees had been removed previously but not much else seemed to have changed, however there are plans afoot with the lake due to be dredged very soon.

It was very busy around the lake and in the surrounding woods but despite a lot of disturbance I managed to see some good birds, I guess the wildlife is used to all the dogs and people wandering around.

The feeders at the walkway were busy with birds and amongst the Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Nuthatches and Chaffinches was a very confiding Marsh Tit which regularly flew in to snatch seeds put out onto the wooden posts. A further 2 Marsh Tits were also seen on our walk, both quite confiding and again coming in to feed on seeds put out onto wooden posts and fencing.

Marsh Tit

Marsh Tit

Marsh Tit

A Siskin was heard calling overhead and later 4 birds were seen feeding in a stand of short Alders right by the side of the footpath.


Mallards, Coots, Moorhens, Tufted Ducks and Mute Swans were seen out on the lake and with them were 2 summer plumaged Great Crested Grebes, a pair of Mandarin Duck and 7 pairs of Wigeon.

Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck

Mute Swan

Tuesday 27th February was cold and grey but windless and so I headed out to Wembury for a morning walk. The sun did appear from behind the clouds occassionally and when it did it felt noticeably warmer but it still felt quite chilly.

A Great Northern Diver on the sea off The Point was a nice find although it remained distant while 2 Firecrests feeding together in the bushes along the footpath near the sewage pipe showed very nicely. A female Sparrowhawk, 2 Buzzards and 2 Ravens were seen overhead with one of the Ravens briefly settling on the clifftop.

The tide was heading out when I arrived and along the beach the Redshank was still present with 12 Turnstone, 2 Little Egrets, 4 Mallards (1 female) and the usual Oystercatchers. The usual Rock Pipits were present too along with Pied Wagtails, a Grey Wagtail and 4 Chiffchaff.

A Cirl Bunting was singing away in the horsefield hedgerow with a second male at The Point heard only. At least 4 pairs of Stonechat were present along the footpath, Skylarks were singing away overhead and there were 3 Roe Deer feeding out in the open on the hillside above the wheatfield.


Roe Deer

Sunday 25 February 2024

Spoonbill at Hayle

We had a walk around Burrator Reservoir on Monday 19th February, we did a lap of the reservoir and it was very wet and muddy along the road after all the recent heavy rain. The water level in the reservoir was also very high and so there was a good flow of water going over the Dam.

Burrator Reservoir Dam

It was very quiet on the bird front with a singing Mistle Thrush the highlight. A Green Woodpecker, a Buzzard and a Nuthatch were also heard and 2 Grey Wagtail, 3 Cormorant and Siskins were also seen and the White Feral Goose was still hanging out with the Mallards and Canada Geese.

After our walk we stopped off at Mavis and Mike's for a Cream Tea to celebrate Mike's Birthday, sadly there were no Siskins on Mavis's bird feeders but 2 Long-tailed Tits were present and a Raven flew overhead and the scones and cake were delicious.

I headed off to the Hayle Estuary for another Gull torture-fest on Tuesday 20th February, it was overcast, breezy and mild with more heavy rain forecast to arrive in the evening. Unfortunately my train to St.Erth was delayed by 50 minutes so I lost some of my birding time but I get to claim the princely sum of £2.20 under GWR's Delay Repay scheme so silver linings!

I disembarked off the train at St.Erth and walked to Lelant, noting large numbers of roosting Gulls out on the Hayle mudflats along the way. On arriving at Lelant Station I set up my scope and scanned through the Gulls and amongst the throng of Lesser Black-backed, Herring, Black-headed, Common and Great Black-backed Gulls present were a sprinkling of Mediterranean Gulls and best of all a distant 1st winter Iceland Gull hidden amongst them. 

There has been both a 1st winter Iceland Gull and a 1st winter Kumlein's Gull present at Hayle recently but this bird was too distant to confirm exact ID. Kumlein's Gull is considered to be a subspecies of Iceland Gull so it's basically an Iceland Gull anyway although I reckon the bird I saw was indeed the Kumlein's.

Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull 

The tide was heading in quite quickly and the Gulls were slowly flying off upriver to resettle on the remaining exposed mud and so I walked back to Lelant Saltings Station where I had much better but still distant views of the Iceland Gull before it eventually flew off downriver. 

A surprise sight was a juvenile Spoonbill fast asleep amongst the Gulls, it eventually woke up and promptly flew off to Ryan's Field so I hoped to catch up with it a little later.

I scanned and scanned the Gulls present but couldn't find any Caspian Gulls, Yellow-legged Gulls or the Ring-billed Gull but I did find 2 Knot, 25 Bar- tailed Godwit, 4 Greenshank, 12 Goosander (5 male) and 9 Grey Plover amongst the usual Dunlin, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Shelduck, Wigeon and Teal.

Knot, Dunlin and Bar-tailed Godwit 

I then walked over to Ryan's Field where the Spoonbill was still present and as expected fast asleep but fortunately it woke up and began to feed and I had some great views of it as it fed quite unconcernedly right in front of the hide. It is a ringed bird from Denmark and has been present in the area for a few months now, it was a joy to watch it feeding as my usual Spoonbill views are of sleeping birds.

Spoonbill - off white and scruffy looking




Time was marching on and it was soon time to walk back to St.Erth to catch the train home after my shorter than expected day out birding, this train was delayed too but arrived into Plymouth just under 15 minutes late so no Delay Repay to claim this time but the whole trip ended up only costing me £6.60 so I can't complain. Fortunately I also arrived home before the heavy rain arrived too so all in all not a bad day out.

We had a walk around Plymouth Hoe on Friday 23rd February, we dodged the showers as we went but enjoyed the sunshine when it broke out from behind the clouds. There was no sign of any Purple Sandpipers on the low tide but I did find a very smart male Black Redstart at Rusty Anchor, my first of the year and presumably the bird I saw here back in November last year.

Saturday 24th February was noticeably cooler than of late but mostly sunny with occassional showers as I headed out to The Plym for a walk. I arrived off the bus at Marsh Mills to find a pair of Goosander busily diving for fish just below Longbridge and as I walked down river towards Blaxton Meadow they drifted past me on the outgoing tide along with another pair of birds.

The highlight of my walk was finding the female Red-crested Pochard, unusually out on the river near the gas pipe and fresh from her wintering Dartmoor reservoir sojourns. She looked very unsettled and eventually flew onto Blaxton Meadow where she promptly went to sleep amongst the vegetation on one of the small islands.

Red-crested Pochard

Red-crested Pochard 

Otherwise it was fairly quiet on my walk, the usual birds were seen with the highlights being 3 Common Sandpiper, 4 Little Grebe, 3 Greenshank and 2 Grey Wagtail along the river, a male Mandarin and 7 Snipe on Blaxton Meadow and 4 Stock Dove, a Treecreeper, a Great Spotted Woodpecker (heard) and a Goldcrest in the Park. A good count of 13 Roe Deer was notable too with 2 seen in the Park and 11 on Chelson Meadow.

Shelducks, Blaxton Meadow

Bee Orchids, Chelson Meadow

Saturday 17 February 2024

A 3 Egret Day at Slapton Ley

It was a glorious day on Monday 12th February with an overnight frost giving way to blue skies, sunshine and a light breeze and with the forecast for the rest of the week being the usual grey and windy mizzle we decided to make the most of it and head out for the day despite it being Half Term Holiday Hell.

I caught the early bus to Slapton, the road at Modbury has now reopened and the buses are running to the usual timetable again, and I arrived at the Slapton Turn at around 9:20am to begin my birding day by walking along the muddy footpath around Ireland Bay. Cetti's Warblers were very vocal along the way and I managed to get some brief views of them at times as they skulked in the vegetation, Water Rails were equally noisy but remained well hidden.

The male Ring-necked Duck was quickly found out on the water amongst the Tufted Ducks but there was no sign of the recent Lesser or Greater Scaups. All the usual waterfowl were present though - Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Wigeon, Mallard, Gadwall, Moorhen, Canada Goose, Mute Swan and Cormorant - and 2 Little Grebe and 2 pairs of Goldeneye were also found.

Ring-necked Duck

Tufted Duck and Ring-necked Duck 


Gulls were bathing out on the water - Common, Black-headed, Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls - and amongst them were at least 6 Mediterranean Gulls with their delightful laughing calls giving them away as they flew about.

I walked back to the Bridge and then along the Ley side to Torcross, keeping an eye out for the Scaup along the way but with no luck. However a strange sight (for Devon at least) were regular flyovers by Great White Egrets, they were huge looking and very white in the strong sunshine with 2 seen together at one point. There were also 2 Little Egrets roosting in the trees at the back of the Ley, looking very white too but much smaller. Later before heading home I saw 6 Cattle Egrets around the pond at nearby Stokenham Farm, reportedly gorging themselves on the local Frog population coming in to spawn there and completing my Egret trio for the day, the first time I have seen 3 species of Egret on a day out in Devon.

Great White Egret

Cattle Egrets

Offshore was quiet but I did find a Great Northern Diver, a Razorbill and 11 Common Scoter (1 male) out on the flat calm sea with the Scoters showing very well quite close in to the beach.

David duly arrived in the car and we had a fish and chip lunch in The Start Bay Inn at Torcross, we had Megrim which we don't see on menus very often and it was very tasty (and a massive size too!). A post prandial waddle along the sea front promenade in the sunshine was enjoyed afterwards before we headed home, having had an enjoyable day out - blue skies and sunshine make such a difference to mood after all the grey and drecky weather we have been enduring of late.

The next 3 days were wet, grey and windy, but following a rainy and muddy internment of Mother-in-laws ashes into Father-in-laws grave on Thursday 15th February the next day was forecasted to be dry with sunny spells and so I headed out for a birding walk. It was very grey when I awoke in the morning and I nearly changed my plans of going out to look for Goshawks but I decided to carry on anyway. 

On the bus journey to begin my walk the skies darkened and the heavens opened, not what was forecasted at all, but it quickly cleared and remained dry for the rest of the day. The sunny spells were, however, few and far between until later in the day and just as I was heading home but I had a very productive time anyway.

After getting off the bus I walked up to my usual viewpoint to begin my sky scanning. Along the way I had some distant views of 6 Fieldfare perched up in the trees before they flew down into the fields to feed. There were plenty of Pheasants about in the fields too but I never found any Red-legged Partridges this time. A big surprise were 2 Egyptian Geese flushed from a field and flying off out of sight, a bird I don't often see in Devon. A pair of Stonechat feeding along the roadside hedgerow was also unusual.


I set up my scope and began my scanning and quickly found a displaying Goshawk being harangued by 3 Carrion Crows, distant views but a large bird lacking some secondary feathers on its right wing and also lacking white underparts so presumably an immature bird. It eventually lost its Crow entourage and flew off out of sight just as I picked up another bird on the opposite side of the valley, another large bird with very white looking underparts which quickly disappeared into the trees. 

Goshawk Viewpoint

I then regularly saw the bird with the missing secondaries overhead in its distinctive butterfly display flight while another bird with very brown toned upperparts and very white looking underparts passed low over the tree tops scattering Woodpigeons and Corvids in its path. I also saw a pair in display flight too, the female being larger than the male and both birds very pale looking underneath so there were at least 4 birds present. 

Ravens, Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk were also seen overhead, the Buzzards were very vocal with a maximum of 14 seen in the air at any one time and the Ravens were very vocal too. A Goldcrest and 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers (2 seen) were also of note but distant Egrets in the fields amongst the cattle were all Little.

Saturday 17th February was back to being drecky and claggy and with more heavy rain forecast for later in the day I headed out to Wembury on the 9 O'clock bus for a short walk. It was grey and misty when I arrived but at least I could see The Mewstone this time and it felt suprisingly mild.

The beach and cliffs have been getting even more of a battering with all the recent stormy weather and a sad sight was another Common Dolphin corpse washed up on the tide line.

Common Dolphin Corpse

The Redshank and Curlew were both still present along the beach on the high tide along with the usual Oystercatchers, 13 Turnstone, 7 Little Egrets and 10 Mallards (7 males). The usual Rock Pipits and Pied Wagtails were also seen and a Grey Wagtail was a splash of colour in the gloom. A pair of Peregrine were buzzing low over the beach, one even briefly hovered before moving on but I couldn't see what it was investigating.




A Cirl Bunting was heard singing in the mist and 3 Chiffchaff were seen, 1 along the beach, 1 along the stream and 1 in a village garden. A sad sight was the "habitat management" that has been undertaken at The Point by the National Trust, all the Gorse growing along the footpath has been cleared but this is where I find Green Hairstreaks in the spring, hopefully some will have survived. I understand that work has to be undertaken and vegetation cleared but sometimes you need to know what is present and where it is before you clear it all away.

Gorse clearance at The Point

Sunday 11 February 2024

A Plym Guillemot, a Trip to Cornwall & a River Tamar/Lynher Cruise

The start of a new week on Monday 5th February but yet again more claggy weather with grey skies and mizzle. Despite this I headed out for a look about around The Plym, starting at Laira Bridge and walking upriver as the tide headed in. It was a Neap tide so there was no mud on show when I arrived despite the high tide being just over 3 hours away but there was quite a strong flow of water heading in with a Guillemot found out on the river above Laira Bridge and busily paddling away into the flow to keep itself in position. I've never seen a Guillemot on The Plym before so I was very pleased to find one, it may be a bird that isn't too well and is struggling to survive although it looked OK and was paddling quite strongly.

Guillemot in the gloom, River Plym

A Great Northern Diver and a Great Crested Grebe were also seen out on the water, continually diving away and moving downriver against the incoming tide. A Shag was also noted roosting out on one of the boats mid-channel along with some Cormorants and a Kestrel was flying around before heading down towards The Cattewater.

The Park held the usual birds with 10+Ring-necked Parakeets, 6+Redwing, 3 Goldcrest, 4 Nuthatch, a pair of Stonechat and a Jay of note. A look for Water Rail in the Wet Wood was fruitless but excellent views of a flitty Firecrest was some consolation.

Blaxton Meadow was pretty much waterless even at high tide but 24 Curlew, 4 Greenshank, 37 Wigeon (21 males) and at least 22 Snipe were noted here along with 3 adult Common Gull and 3 adult Lesser Black-backed Gull amongst the roosting Gull flock. A pair of Goosander flew in briefly to the small pool by the sluice gates before flying off and a Kingfisher was busily diving for fish in the pool too. A male and 3 female Goosander were then seen on a quick look at the nearby river and 2 Mute Swan, a Common Sandpiper and a Grey Wagtail were also present. 

Tuesday 6th February was grey, claggy and windy as we headed off on the train to West Cornwall. We arrived in Penzance at Midday and while David went off to look around the shops I walked over to Sandy Cove via Newlyn to do a bit of birding.

It was very windy along the seafront but I had some excellent views of at least 31 Purple Sandpipers roosting on the rocks at The Jubilee Pool along with Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Sanderling and Dunlin. A Common Seal was also fishing just offshore here and was attracting a lot of attention from Herring Gulls and a Common Gull as it brought its catch to the surface to eat.

Purple Sandpiper

Ringed Plover



Where's Wally Part I - Sanderling with a Ringed Plover

Where's Wally Part II - Sanderling with a Dunlin

Common Seal

It was calmer at Newlyn out of the wind but it was quiet birdwise too with the usual tame Turnstones around the fish quay and a Lesser Black-backed Gull roosting amongst the Herring Gulls of note. Sandy Cove was also sheltered from the wind but again quiet with a Razorbill on the sea and a Raven overhead the highlights.


I met up with David back in Penzance for a bit of lunch before we caught the train to Carbis Bay for an overnight stay at The Carbis Bay Hotel courtesy of my lovely work colleagues who gifted me a very generous voucher on my retirement to redeem towards a stay here. It was a very nice stay indeed, we had a great time, our room was upgraded to a Junior Suite with a sea view and our evening meal with cocktails and wine was very good.

The view from our room, Carbis Bay Hotel 

The next morning from our room balcony I saw at least 9 Grey Seals dotted around the bay, all poking their heads out of the water before diving out of sight. A group of 6 summer plumaged Great Crested Grebes were also seen fairly close in to the beach while further out a few Gannets were milling around.

Breakfast sadly wasn't the best and a little bit disappointing but after checking out of the hotel we walked along the coast path to St.Ives for a look around the town. It was grey and claggy but the mist did eventually clear and the light was beautiful despite the lack of sunshine, however by the time we were waiting to catch the train back to Plymouth it had started to rain.



With a Humpback Whale having been seen at times out in the Bay recently I kept an eye out for it but without any luck (but it was seen off nearby Newquay that lunchtime!). I did however manage to see a few Common Dolphins but they were mobile and unobtrusive at the surface so were difficult to track. A distant Great Northern Diver was also picked up offshore along with distant Auks and more diving Gannets while a flock of 7 noisy Oystercatchers flying past the Coastguard Lookout included 2 Purple Sandpipers. 

The usual tame Turnstones were scurrying around the Quayside and amongst the Herring Gulls also loitering about here were 2 ringed adult birds from a Cornish Gull ringing scheme. 




It was grey and windy with the odd sunny spell and heavy shower as I headed down to The Barbican on Saturday 10th February to board a boat for a birding cruise on the Rivers Tamar and Lynher. It's been quite a few years now since I last did this trip, while it is never as bird filled as The Exe boat trip and sightings are more distant it always throws up something interesting. Being local is also a bonus, from my house it is just a 10 minute walk down to the quayside to catch the boat and seeing my home city from the water adds an alternative and interesting perspective on the landscape.

Tamar and Brunel Bridges

King Billy, Mutton Cove

Bird numbers did seem to be down compared to previous trips, maybe due to the weather conditions on the day or maybe due to the very mild winter this year. The highlights were a Whimbrel at Wilcove, a Kingfisher at Jupiter Point, an adult Mediterranean Gull roosting amongst a flock of Black-headed Gulls, 50+ Avocet (c.15 on The Lynher, c.35 on The Tamar), at least 10 Great Northern Divers (3 at St.Johns Lake, 3 between Torpoint and Kingsmill Lake and 4 along The Lynher), 200+ Golden Plover wheeling around high in the sky and 11 Cattle Egret flying over at Kingsmill Lake.

Avocets, River Tamar

Only 6 Redshank were seen (1 on The Tamar) and no Dunlin at all, maybe the tides and weather meant they were elsewhere. However Curlew, Oystercatcher, c.20 Black-tailed Godwit and 4 Greenshank were all seen along with Shelduck, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Canada Goose, Grey Heron and Little Egret.

Fortunately the rain held off except for one very brief shower but there were regular rainbows in the sky as the rain fell elsewhere. The 3 hours on the boat just whizzed by and all too soon we were back at The Barbican but it had been a very enjoyable trip. 

Rainbow, River Lynher