Cirl Buntings– male and pair
20 December 2014
We left Whitminster at 0700 and headed to South Devon stopping at Exeter services for a short break. A calm and sunny start to the day was ideal for watching passerines, Broadsands in Torbay is well known for Cirl Buntings along with other species that shelter in the valley. The buntings were showing well around the car park with 20+ present, Reed Buntings were also found among them. A range of common species were basking or fly-catching with Chiffchaff being obvious but the real star was a vocal and very showy little Yellow-browed Warbler that we all got to see very well.
A look on the sea revealed a Great Northern Diver fishing off the rocks, a few Shag loafed among the gull flock with the Great Black-backed Gulls dwarfing all around them. Further out a few Guillemot and distant Razorbill flew by on the horizon, a few of the former were diving a little closer in. Colin counted 36 Great Crested Grebe and among them two Black-necked Grebe were found. A small number of Gannet fished offshore.
A short drive away was Dawlish Warren with the promise of more birds but an immediate distraction for some was the seaside chippy. This sorted out the sea-watchers from the lunch takers, Colin was off to set up his scope for a scan. We all joined him for a look over the sea. Grey Seal, c 4 Common Scoter and a number of Great Crested Grebe were present, a few Red-throated Diver were picked up in flight or distantly floating. A flock of Shag were also fishing the beach. The biggest surprise was watching a flock of very distant white birds flying in from the east, it took a while to see that they were 11 Avocet. This group of waders eventually landed on the sea off the mouth of the Exe for a while. The eventually took flight and continued westward, perhaps to the Teign or a Cornish estuary, maybe beyond to the continent. Wherever they were going it was great to see migration of this species in action. We headed along the dune path heading toward the point scanning at various spots along the way, we picked up Stonechats, flocks of Dark-bellied Brent Geese and in the estuary a selection of waders, 4 Greenshank being the most notable. Red-breasted Merganser were in the low tide creeks but sadly we did not pick up the wintering Bonaparte’s Gull that was seen off Finger Point. Back on the sea a single Slavonian Grebe was in the mouth of the Exe.
Everyone was keen to get to Bowling Green Marsh RSPB at Topsham not least because 2-3 Penduline Tits had been seen again in the morning so we spent the rest of the day in that area. They did not show whilst we were present but the usual wildfowl and Black-tailed Godwits were on the marsh. From the viewing platform over the R. Clyst a full suite of estuary waders were feeding on the mud. The tide was just turning and the sun setting so the Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Avocets, Dunlin and Knot were all busy gleaning food. A search from the new viewing screens over the low tide creeks gave us Water Rail, Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank among the more numerous Redshank. The sun had now gone a it was time to return home, we got back at 6pm.
Thank you to all four of you that joined me for the day.