Sunday 28 January – Exe Leader Gordon Youdale

Leaving Bristol on a damp morning the skies brightened as we approached Devon. On leaving the coach at Exminster we made our way down towards the canal and to greet us were Devon’s iconic bird, a pair of Cirl Buntings sitting at the top of a hedge near the Swans Nest pub giving some of us brief views before they flew off. As we made our way along the lane the fields held good numbers of Wigeon on the floods with Shoveler, Teal, Lapwing and Curlew and along the canal tow path skeins of Brent Geese were flying over us heading for the fields as the tide was coming in. We stopped at the Turf’s Lock to view the river across towards Topsham. Here we had good views of Dunlin, Grey Plover, and large numbers of Golden Plover with smaller groups of Redshank, Sanderling, Knot, Black and Bar-tailed Godwits. Avocets were in good numbers here, with about 200 birds, and the river channels produced Red-breasted Mergansers. We walked down the river to Powderham to meet up with the coach. We found a few Stonechats on the way and moved on to Dawlish Warren. Birding from the sea wall on the Warren we could see about 60 Great Crested Grebe on the water, our first view of Great Northern Diver, Red-throated Diver, Shag, Gannet, and a single Common Scoter, Turnstone and Rock Pipit. As we walked along the sand dunes towards Warren Point we stopped to look out at sea, once again finding more Great Northern Diver, Long-tailed Duck and a single Eider. At the hide on Warren Point the waders were coming into roost on the high tide, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Knot, Sanderling and Oystercatchers. The sight of these waders flying around calling as they attempted to settle on the gravel islands was a spectacle. Here we also found more Red-breasted Mergansers, Great Northern Divers, and distantly a single Slavonian Grebe. Smaller birds were very few with Linnet and Goldfinch noted. Also some of the group managed to find Siskin and Goldcrests around the woodland near the visitors centre, but, unfortunately, not the reported Firecrest. After an enjoyable day, weather dry and warm, we left Dawlish heading home with a day’s species list of 72. Many thanks to all who joined me on the coach supporting the BOC. (Thanks to Gordon for leading) Gordon Youdale