Sunday 01 Feb – Exe Estuary

Twenty-seven members met at the Water Tower and travelled down to the Exe estuary. By the time we had got to Exeter the sun had come out. Almost as soon as we got off the coach and started to walk towards the Exminster Marshes area we all observed a Barn Owl which was sitting out in the open on a bough of a tree sunning itself. Along the lane we observed hundreds of Canada Geese and in the distance by the motorway flyover were a small flock of Brent Geese. Large numbers of Wigeon were feeding in the field either side of the lane and they were accompanied by a small groups of Shoveler, Teal and Shelduck. Two Grey Herons were flushed from a water filled dyke and there were numerous Mute Swans and Greylag Geese feeding close to the lane. Two Common Snipe were observed along with a large number of Curlew feeding in a distant field. As we arrived at the end of the lane near the RSPB car park a man with a large dog flushed a flock of approx. 400 Brent Geese from a field near the Canal Path. I had been told that a Black Brant had been seen in this flock but, unfortunately, that was the one that got away. Walking along the Canal Path towards the Turf Hotel we had both Pied and Grey Wagtail, as well as more flocks of Wigeon along with a small number of Tufted Ducks in the fields around. A pleasure ferry which was travelling from Topsham disturbed a flock of c500 Avocets. At the Turf Hotel viewpoint we had Dunlin, Redshank in good numbers, two Red-breasted Mergansers, numerous Cormorants and large flock of Black-tailed Godwits who were huddled together sheltering from the very cold breeze. A large flock of Oystercatcher was out on the large mud flats in front of us. Two Long-tailed Duck were observed flying up the estuary and a Common Buzzard was seen just as we moved off. Walking towards Powderham we saw Meadow Pipit and what was to be a lifer for a number of our group was a very obliging Snow Bunting which rounded off the walk before lunch. After rejoining the coach we travelled to Dawlish Warren where the tide was still way out of the Estuary so we concentrated on a short sea watch which produced a small number of Common Scoters, numerous Great Crested Grebes, some Razorbills and many Gannets could be seen feeding far out but viewable with a scope. By this time we were a bit fragmented as some members had gone off to the Dawlish Warren hide and a small number of us had decided to walk along the sea wall a bit further. We had Shag and a few Guillemots viewed close in and also a Lesser Redpoll on a Gorse Bush by the Golf Course. (Well spotted, Nick Hawkridge). By the time my small group had got down near the Hide the other breakaway group were on their way back. They said that the tide was just on its way in but the only birds they had seen were Sanderling, Turnstone, more Oystercatcher and a few said they had Knot as well. Just before finishing off a number of us did manage to observe the Bonaparte’s Gull which was flying along from the direction of Langstone Rock towards the beach area – another lifer for a few. All in all, not a bad days birding at all. Total number species seen was 47. (Many thanks to Charles who tried hard to keep the group together at times)        Charles Stapleton