Sunday 12 January – River Exe and Dawlish Warren

 Leaving Bristol on a bright but cold Sunday morning 37 members were looking forward to a day’s birding on the Exe and at Dawlish Warren. Our first stop was at Exminster Marshes where the extensive flooding precluded a planned walk to Powderham Church; it was, however, a bonus for the wildfowl. From the bridge and road, good numbers of Wigeon were seen, along with Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Shelduck. Small flocks of Canada and Greylag Geese flew across the flooded fields along with many Lapwings and gulls. Redshanks fed along pool edges and the occasional Grey Heron appeared from deeper ditches. In the distance a small group of Black-tailed Godwits was spotted. Starlings and Redwings were a welcome sight but the good views of a Chiffchaff captured the group’s interest.
Leaving Exminster for Dawlish Warren, Little Egrets were spotted from the coach, along with a sizeable flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese on Starcross Golf Course. Upon arrival at Dawlish Warren Jane outlined the identification features of Bonaparte’s Gull and so the group set out for Langstone Rock with high hopes. Sadly, sea conditions were not conducive to comfortable sea-watching with a strong onshore wind and heavy swell. Several Shags, a few auks, gulls and a doughty Kestrel battling into the winds appeared to be our lot, until some Common Scoters were spotted. As luck would have it, some white wing patches confirmed the presence of at least one Velvet Scoter. After lunch the group headed for the hide and, despite some serious “sand-blasting”, a Long-tailed Duck was spotted close to one of the groynes. The relatively sheltered river held Red-breasted Mergansers, a Little Grebe, Shelduck and Cormorants with some members spotting a Slavonian Grebe. From the crowded hide the group enjoyed excellent views of waders as the tide continued to rise: Oystercatchers, Knot, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, Redshanks and some Bar-tailed Godwits – identification niceties were aired and debated. Just before we left, ten, very wet, richly-coloured Skylarks and a Meadow Pipit flew in front of the hide prompting further discussion. Despite a wet walk back to the coach all agreed that it had been a wonderful finale. Many thanks to Judy for organizing and looking after us, and to Jane for leading in challenging circumstances – your pre-trip checking and research was much appreciated – we’re only sorry that the Bonaparte’s Gull did not oblige!