Sunday, 15 January 2017

Stuff

 
One of two or three Meadow Pipits wintering on Warren View playing fields. Also on there this afternoon - 2 Mistle Thrushes and a Chiffchaff.
 
More of the same this weekend. The first-winter male Scaup reappeared off Mudbank yesterday and was still present over the high tide this morning. What was almost certainly a Long-tailed Duck followed 2 Red-breasted Mergansers towards the river mouth early on this morning. A check of the lower estuary subsequently revealed c20+ Red-breasted Mergansers and a probable Slavonian Grebe. This afternoon there were good numbers of Herring Gulls off the seafront, along with c25+ Common Scoters and a couple Red-throated Divers. Yesterday the 2 Firecrests showed well behind the cricket club and that's about it. Glaucous Gull must be on the cards any minute now.
 
 
Moorhen - Bystock Pond

Friday, 13 January 2017

Not a Lot!

 
Lovely but cold down the seafront this evening. The Bonaparte's Gull was watched offshore with Black-headed Gulls, until 1610 at least, from the Octagon. Little else to report this week as I've had so little time out, but my brief checks of known Rose Hip sites produced just a single Bullfinch. I'm struggling to find berries or apples in Exmouth full stop. A few Hawthorn berries remain along the cycle track between Littleham and Budleigh.
Also of minor note this evening - a very dark first-winter Herring Gull that gave the initial impression of a bonxie. Intriguingly its rump appeared very dark brown  and its tail extensively dark too. Unfortunately it was roosting a long way off on Bull Hill so there is nothing I can do with it, but I'd like to have seen it close-up. It was nothing special size-wise and although the underparts were dark its head appeared no paler (not that that's a problem this early in the winter). I couldn't work out what was going on with the undertail coverts. Worth keeping an eye out for but large gulls rarely play ball on the Exe.
 

I've noticed a few wheezy trumpet-like notes emanating from Bullfinches recently - from both Castle Lane and Littleham sites. I'm not suggesting for a moment that they're anything other than local birds but I'm a bit miffed as to why I've never noticed these calls before.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Devon Flashback 13 - 2004 Lesser Scaup


Exactly thirteen years ago today, on January 10th 2004, I discovered Devon's first Lesser Scaup, a first-winter male, on Exminster Marshes. There is an account of the find in the 2004 Devon Bird Report and the above sketches were shown on the back page of the report. I kind of thought that it would open the floodgates for more Devon records and indeed Kev Rylands discovered the second, a female, on Beesands Ley just a year later on March 4th 2005. A third bird, another first-winter male, was found on Roadford Reservoir on November 19th. It remained in to 2006 and, as far as I'm aware that was the last accepted record in the county (The Birds of Devon - Michael Tyler). Not exactly the opening of the floodgates despite a very promising start! Of course the recent 'probable' first-winter female at Slapton may well get re-found and prove to be Devon's 4th. Let's wait and see.....
Since Britain's first Lesser Scaup, at Chasewater in Staffordshire in 1987, numbers have increased nationally to the point where it is now no longer a BBRC rarity. It was removed from the list of species considered by the BBRC at the end of 2014, although apparently numbers in North America have been in decline (British Birds October 2015 Vol 108).
The Exminster bird stayed on the marshes until April 23rd 2004. It was often out of sight in one of the wide drainage ditches and on at least one occasion it popped over to Bowling Green Marsh.


This is one of the few photographs taken of the Exminster bird. It was taken by Dave Stone and quite nicely shows the size and structural differences compared with a Tufted Duck. Many thanks for letting me use the photo Dave!


Some of my original field sketches, drawn just after finding the bird. It was on the main lagoon on the marshes, so a long way off.


Mike Langman managed to get these digi-scoped shots of the bird on the day of its discovery. Mike's doing a talk in north Devon tonight so I haven't managed to get hold of him to check if he minds me using them. Hope it's ok Mike. Note the rather dirty-looking plumage which shows it's moulting from first-winter into adult-type plumage.


Head shape is important when it comes to identifying Lesser Scaup. The photos show the classic shape with the peak of the crown at the rear. The shape changed considerably though when the bird was diving - it could look quite flat-crowned. I tried to capture this in the above sketches.



This shot of Mike's was very helpful in getting the record accepted by the BBRC. It shows the all-important truncated wing-bar - nice and bright across the secondaries, abruptly fading to grey across the primaries. Anyone re-locating the Slapton bird should check for this feature, as well as the small black nail at the bill tip.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Weekend Stuff


Stonechat - Orcombe Point
 
First thing this morning there was a female-type Long-tailed Duck off the seafront. It looked restless, flying around, ditching down and then flying off again. There were at least 100 Brent Geese off Maer Rocks and the sallows below Foxholes held a male Blackcap, a Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest.
The two wintering Firecrests were quickly located in their usual spot behind the cricket club and at least one Goldcrest was close by.
I checked the 'Gut' and found the Black Redstart still present along with the two regular Meadow Pipits.
I couldn't find the Scaup off Mudbank today though it was still present on Friday evening. The only things of note were 3 female Goldeneye, 14 Great Crested Grebes, 6+ Sanderling and a Ringed Plover along with the usual stuff.
Finally there were 8 Purple Sandpipers on Maer Rocks late on Friday afternoon.
 
 
This is the small inlet known as the 'Gut'. Not a nice name but a lovely little area that's currently home to a wintering Black Redstart. It lies between the Imperial recreation ground and Shelly Beach. The wooden construction is the River Exe café that's normally moored out on the river during the summer months - a great place to enjoy fish 'n' chips.
 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Close-in Scaup


The light was beautiful today so I attempted more photos of the Mudbank Scaup. It was really close-in this morning, often out of sight below the railway line. Not sure where it's getting when it's not off Mudbank. Also 100+ Redshank and 200+ Dunlin off there over the high tide. The Kingfisher showed well too.
Yesterday there was a male Blackcap in the Foxholes sallows and off Maer Rocks there were two small grebes. They were almost certainly Black-necked Grebes but the light wasn't great and they were just too far off for me to be sure. The fact that they kept disappearing in the swell didn't help either. Off Mudbank yesterday - 82+ Pintail, a male Teal and a pair of Peregrines attempting to chase down a Redshank that somehow managed to stay alive. A Mistle Thrush was on Warren View playing fields and a single Chiffchaff was in the Maer long-stay carpark.









Sunday, 1 January 2017

Usual Suspects


First-winter male Scaup - back off Mudbank after a short trip to Exminster Marshes.

It was good to get out for a bit today after a late one last night, despite the horrible weather. I checked the usual sites and all the regular stuff was still loitering. The adult Bonaparte's Gull was in the river mouth off Warren Point at 1525 before flying into the estuary. There was also a Greenshank off Shelly Beach and the Little Grebe was in the marina.  The regular Black Redstart was in the 'Gut' between the Imperial recreation ground and Shelly Beach.
It was good to have the first-winter drake Scaup back off Mudbank today. First thing this morning it was really close in with Mallards. Also a couple male Teal off there with all the other usual stuff.
I could only find one Chiffchaff in the rain-soaked Foxholes sallows but the two Firecrests showed well in brambles behind the cricket club, alongside two Goldcrests.
This afternoon Lu and I walked the dog on the beach in heavy rain. We managed to avoid two horses that broke loose from their irresponsible owners before galloping full-tilt, first along the beach and then along the road. I also managed a quick check of Maer Rocks and was pleased to find 8 Purple Sandpipers. Numbers are still a little lower than we've been used to over the last couple of years but there's plenty of time this winter to get a higher count.

 
Interesting to see that in the week or so since it was last off Mudank it has attained more grey in the mantle, scaps and flanks. Nice bird.
 

One of 8 Purple Sandpipers on Maer Rocks this afternoon.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 Bumper Review

2016 was another slightly odd year, although I'm not entirely sure what a normal year is anymore. 
It was miserable to see the spring-time destruction of my favourite little spot on Orcombe - the dung field, and wildfowl disturbance in Exmouth's little corner of the estuary showed no sign of abating, although there is some hope for the future following the appointment of two estuary wardens.
Up until October it felt as if the birding was pretty flat and uneventful. A few minor morsels of interest were unearthed but nothing to really get the pulse racing. It's fair to say however, that the final quarter of 2016 rescued the year. Tawny Pipit, American Wigeon and Great Grey Shrike were all new and exciting additions to my 'self-found' list in the autumn period - the duck and the shrike representing the culmination of many years worth of targeted searches for those species.
Otherwise the year can be summed up as 'a reasonable late winter, dreadfully quiet spring, slow summer, sluggish start to the autumn and then a really rather decent October and November, followed by a 'better than average' December.'
It was a very lean year for terns, skuas and seabirds in general, but autumn wildfowl numbers were both spirit-lifting and heart-warming. There was perhaps a greater variety of spring migrants recorded than last year but numbers were again on the low side. The autumn was low on variety and numbers too. For example just four Willow Warblers were recorded on Orcombe throughout the whole of September! It wasn't a complete whitewash however - the discovery of some scarcities and rarities painted a gloss on an otherwise pretty bleak picture.
 

2016's star bird - Tawny Pipit
 
In a year that saw 166 (my personal tally) species recorded within the Exmouth Parish boundary (cf 164 in 2015 and 170 in 2014), noteworthy sightings included, as well as Tawny Pipit and American Wigeon, 2 Black-necked Grebes, Bonaparte's Gull, Glaucous Gull, 2 Iceland Gulls, 4 Short-eared Owls, 2 Pied Flycatchers, Marsh Harrier, Kentish Plover, 2 Little Stints, 4 Yellow-browed Warblers, 3 Siberian Chiffchaffs, Woodlark, Black Brant, Garganey, 12 Yellow-legged Gulls, Spoonbill, Long-tailed Duck, 3 Scaup, 2 Velvet Scoters and a Honey Buzzard. Notable absences included the likes of Reed Warbler, Black Tern, Jack Snipe, Avocet, Crossbill and Goosander.
Once again, many thanks to Derek and Nick for their fantastic company, thanks to Lee and Kev for their news from the Warren, thanks to Mark for all the texts and thank you to everyone that reads my blog and takes the time to comment. It is genuinely very much appreciated. Here we go.............
 

 Black-necked Grebes - 2 birds were found off Shelly Beach on January 2nd. Black-necked Grebes are very infrequent in Exmouth.
 
It's always satisfying to start the year with some good birds so an adult Little Gull on January 1st was very welcome. The following day there were 2 adults off Mudbank and, better still, 2 Black-necked Grebes off Shelly Beach. They were being whisked downriver on the receding tide and didn't hang around.
A Little Gull was seen off the seafront on the 9th as were at least 4 Great Northern Divers. Four Shovelers off Mudbank was noteworthy.
The Siberian Chiffchaff that I'd found in scrub surrounding Warren View back in December was still present and photographed on the 10th, and 9 Red-throated Divers flew south past Orcombe the same day. The regular adult Bonaparte's Gull was off Shelly Beach later in the day and was seen on and off throughout the month, often showing down to a few feet.
I caught up with a Black Redstart that had been hanging around the entrance to Warren View on the 11th and saw it again on the 13th. Also on the 13th I was pleased to find a first-winter Glaucous Gull roosting on Bull Hill. It was seen again the following evening roosting offshore on Pole Sands. 
On the 17th there were 8 Purple Sandpipers on Maer Rocks and a Blackcap was found in Warren View scrub, noteworthy because I just don't tend to see wintering Blackcaps very often these days.
On the 21st there were 4 Gadwall off Mudbank and a Black Redstart was on Shelly Beach apartment buildings on the 24th. The month concluded with a good count of 12 Purple sandpipers on Maer Rocks on the 28th.
 

The Bonaparte's Gull made sporadic appearances off Shelly Beach in January, February and March, often showing very well. It reappeared again towards the end of the year.


Red-breasted Mergansers - Shelly Beach - February 18th.


This delightful Great Northern Diver found sanctuary within the confines of the marina on February12th but was sadly found dead the following day. The suspicion is that the inclement winter weather had made finding food too difficult. Otherwise February was very slow-going with just the odd appearance of the Bonaparte's Gull to enliven proceedings. A Black Redstart on Carter Avenue on the 27th was a minor oddity.

March was busier than expected. It kicked off with a Woodlark on Orcombe Point on the 6th - a rare bird in Exmouth and, unsurprisingly, my first spring record. It coincided with a movement of birds elsewhere along the south coast.
An intriguing-looking Jackdaw in Mudbank sheep fields on the 8th showed the pale collar more often associated with Russian birds, but ruling out a Scandanavian or even a local bird is probably beyond the realms of possibility.
The 12th was notable for a little bit of early movement on Orcombe that included 1 or 2 Firecrests, at least 3 Chiffchaffs, 4 Stonechats, 6+ Pied Wagtails and a Goldcrest. Best of all though was my second Orcombe Siberian Chiffchaff that had been discovered a few days before by Terry Smith. The Firecrest was the first of up to 9 recorded on Orcombe in March.
A Dartford Warbler was found on Orcombe Point on the 14th, concealing itself in a  nice spiky little stretch of gorse between Gore Lane and the coast path.
The 19th was a good day. An early morning Maer Rocks vigil produced a fine juvenile Iceland Gull and the Bonaparte's Gull was off the Imperial. A pair of garden Blackcaps was a pleasant surprise.
Three Gadwall off Mudbank on the 20th were followed, on the 21st, by the spring's first Wheatear, predictably on Orcombe.
Two Greylag Geese flew over Orcombe on the 22nd and on the 25th, 40 Red-breasted Mergansers and the spring's first Sandwich Tern were off Mudbank.
The 27th produced the first Manx Shearwaters of the year with c20+ past Orcombe, followed the next day by the first Swallow. A couple Pintail  flew south past Orcombe.
Another Greylag Goose flew upriver on the 30th and the month ended with a drake Gadwall on Maer Rocks, my first Orcombe record, and the year's first Fieldfare.


This Jackdaw was feeding in sheep fields just up from Mudbank on March 3rd. Its pale collar raised the possibility of a more easterly origin. It was certainly a striking bird.


This migrant Dartford Warbler, my sixth on Orcombe, was discovered on on March 14th. There were no autumn records in 2016.


Juvenile Iceland Gull - Exmouth seafront - March 19th. Last year was a blank one for 'white-wingers' in Exmouth. A second Iceland was seen off Maer Rocks on April 6th and a Glaucous Gull was found roosting on Bull Hill on the evening of January 13th (and was present on Pole Sands the following afternoon).
 
The first Willow Warbler was singing  on Orcombe on April 1st and Pale-bellied Brent Geese started moving on the 2nd, with 4 on Maer Rocks in the morning, followed by 11 off Mudbank in the afternoon.
The spring's first Osprey panicked gulls and Oystercatchers off Mudbank on the 3rd and was followed later in the day by the first passage Whimbrel.
On the 4th a Short-eared Owl was watched circling over Warren Point from Shelly Beach. The first of four spring birds in Exmouth.
On the 6th the year's second Iceland Gull, a presumed juvenile, was off Maer Rocks before drifting south.
Two Great Skuas and a Pomarine Skua headed south in a biting cold south-easterly, early in the morning on the 10th, but the star bird was unearthed later in the morning on Dawlish Warren, by Lee Collins - a Kentish Plover. It fed along the very tip of Warren Point and was duly added to my Exmouth list as my feet were firmly planted on Exmouth soil!
A first-summer Little Gull flew upriver on the 14th and the 15th produced a nice little arrival of migrants with 4 Little Terns on the river and Redstart and Yellow Wagtail on Orcombe.
Three Red Kites were scoped from the house on the 16th and both White and Yellow Wagtails were on a dung heap on Orcombe Point on the 17th.
On the 20th an interesting-looking Pied Flycatcher graced a small copse on Orcombe, and a nice spring Black Redstart arrived and remained faithful to the dung field for 3 days. The 22nd provided the first and only spring Grasshopper Warbler on Orcombe and the following day saw the arrival of the first Lesser Whitethroat.
The first Spotted Flycatcher was in Maer Valley on the 24th and the first Whinchat was on Orcombe the next day. The 27th saw the first Garden Warbler and second Lesser Whitethroat.
One hundred Pale-bellied Brent Geese were on the river on the 28th and my first Swift of the spring tracked north over the house on the 29th. The real star however was a Short-eared Owl on Orcombe Point that remained for five days, indulging  us with prolonged and often very close views. The first Roseate Terns were off the seafront on the 29th but it was to prove a disappointing year for this species in Exmouth, and the same can be said for all other tern species.


Pale-bellied Brent Goose - Maer Rocks 1st April 2016


Redstart - Orcombe Point


White Wagtail - Orcombe Point

 
Black Redstart - Dung Field (before it was obliterated).


Pied Flycatcher - always a tricky species to find in Exmouth, this lovely female was present on the evening of April 20th. It sported a large white, club-shaped  'splodge' at the base of its primaries, so Collared Flycatcher had to be considered. Other pro 'Collared' features however were absent..............perhaps another day. Yeah right!


The highlight of the spring was this Short-eared Owl that hunted over rough fields on Orcombe from April 29th to May 3rd. A second individual was located roosting in the field behind the Bristol Schools Camp on May 8th. Further Short-eared Owls were recorded from Shelly Beach on April 4th and over the Imperial on May 20th. A great spring for this species, especially when you consider that I haven't seen one in Exmouth since November 2011!

The Short-eared Owl continued to delight in to May, being last seen on the 3rd. Fifty-six Pale-bellied Brent Geese were off Exmouth seafront on the 2nd, with 54 of them ending up off Mudbank later in the day. A Yellow Wagtail flew over as I was attempting to get details of the colour rings that two of them were sporting. I failed.
Orcombe Point produced 2 male Whinchats on the 3rd and on the 5th, a Roseate Tern. The following day 2 Roseate Terns were present off the seafront and 5 Grey Plovers flew north up the river.
A Short-eared Owl found roosting on Orcombe on the 8th was a new bird and a singing male Lesser Whitethroat on Orcombe on the 11th sadly didn't linger. The days of this species breeding on Orcombe are all but a faded memory.
Yet another Short-eared Owl flew over the Imperial on the 20th and 3 Great Northern Divers flew high inland over Orcombe on the 23rd, though the spring's total number of 'GNDs' reached just 17 compared with last year's 123! Caution is always required with statistics though because I haven't sat down and compared the numbers of hours I actually spent looking out to sea. I think it's fair to say however that last year was a better year.
An Arctic Tern was off Maer Rocks on the 24th and on the 28th the month's rarest bird - a Honey Buzzard flew across the river and continued eastwards - the third one that I've seen from our house.
So once again no May rarities in this little corner of Devon, and numbers of common species predictably low.


Outside the Exmouth boundary but this day-roosting Nightjar was one of the year's highlights for me. I've never got so 'up close and personal' with this species before.

 
A Honey Buzzard that drifted east across the river, north of Mudbank, provided a moment of excitement in an otherwise quiet spring.
 
June failed to spring any surprises but the long-staying Slavonian Grebe, resplendant in summer plumage, was off Mudbank on the 18th and two dark phase Arctic Skuas were off Maer Rocks on the 24th. Just outside the Exmouth boundary, a flock, of 18+ Crossbills were seen on Bicton Common on the 17th.
As expected, July was a very quiet month. On the 5th I recorded 18+ Sand Martins off Maer Rocks, presumably early migrants, heading towards the river mouth. On the 25th a single Balearic Shearwater was off Maer Rocks, along with c150+ Manx Shearwaters. Otherwise it was juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls that once again enlivened the quiet times. At the end of the month we headed off to the south of France for a week's family holiday.


Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull - the first of the summer was present, frequenting a tiny boating lake, on the seafront on July 14th. Two weeks later than my earliest ever, the 'Michs' were slow to come through this year, but the numbers were on a par with previous years. I recorded a dozen in Exmouth between July 14th and September 3rd, nine of which I managed to photograph (see above and below).









August began with 3 Little Terns (2 juv and 1 ad) on the 10th and 11th. They were with c150+ Sandwich Terns and 11+ Common Terns. Sadly, tern numbers never reached the dizzy heights of recent years. It's amazing how quickly, and dramatically, trends in numbers of species can change. After a good year last year, I failed to record a single Black Tern in Exmouth, and both Sandwich and Common Tern numbers were massively down. Also on the 10th there were 117 Mallard off Mudbank and my first Wheatear of the autumn was on Orcombe Point.
My first Wigeon of the autumn was off Mudbank on the 16th.
Five Common Sandpipers were on Exmouth beach on the 18th and the autumn's first 2 Whinchats were recorded on Orcombe Point. Better still, also on the 18th, a Marsh Harrier was picked up heading east off Maer Rocks, having passed over the Warren just moments before - only my third ever in Exmouth.
Wet weather on the 19th persuaded me to leave Exmouth for the dry confines of the hide at Bowling Green Marsh. A Wood Sandpiper dropped in but I never managed to get one in Exmouth this year. The first Pintail of the autumn and 6 Wigeon were off Mudbank the same day.
On the 20th, 4 Balearic Shearwaters and 1 Great Skua flew past Orcombe and on the 23rd there were 4 Black Swans off Mudbank.
My second Pied Flycatcher of the year was discovered by the entrance to the Bristol Schools camp on the 24th and I had my best day for migrants on the 25th, logging c35+ Yellow Wagtails, 17+ Tree Pipits, c20+ Wheatears, 1+ Sedge Warbler, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, the Pied Flycatcher still, 9+ Willow Warblers, 1 Green Sandpiper, an early Reed Bunting, 1 Snipe and 1 Whinchat.
Fifty-six Teal were off Mudbank on the 29th and my only Redstart and Lesser Whitethroat of the autumn were recorded on Orcombe the same day.
The 30th produced a reasonable count of 15 Grey Wagtails on Orcombe Point.

 
Pied Flycatcher - the second on Orcombe this year. Some years we get none! This bird spent a couple days (August 24th - 25th) feeding in the trees that line the track down to the Bristol Schools Camp. Occasionally it would fly-catch from the fence-line.
 
September never really got out of first gear. Migrant numbers were yet again depressingly low. My totals on Orcombe for September included, for example, just 53+ Yellow Wagtails,  22+ Grey Wagtails, 64+ Wheatears, 3 Whinchats, 1 Sedge Warbler, 14+ Tree Pipits, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 1 Reed Bunting, 5+ Siskins, 1+ Goldcrest and a Snipe. That's a poor day out on Portland! Scary to think that I recorded just 4 Willow Warblers up there in the whole of September!
A first-winter Yellow-legged Gull was an unusual record for the fields on Orcombe Point on the 3rd. More unusual was a smart juvenile Curlew Sandpiper, later the same morning, on Exmouth Beach. It was with 135+ Dunlin, 20 Sanderling and 88+ Ringed Plovers. Also the same day, 9 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were off Mudbank and 2+ Balearic Shearwaters flew south off Maer Rocks.
On the 4th there were 2 juvenile Little Stints on the beach - even rarer than Curlew Sandpipers in Exmouth. They showed down to a few feet, in the company of c200+ Dunlin, c200+ Ringed Plovers, several Sanderling and a Curlew Sandpiper,  but were subject to repeated disturbance by people walking on the beach. Also on the 4th a flock of 36 Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew over the beach, from the estuary, heading eastwards.
The 6th provided an isolated Great Northern Diver record off Maer Rocks and at least one Osprey was seen on the river on the 7th and 8th.
A Pomarine Skua, that lingered off Orcombe Point on the 12th before heading south, was noteworthy and the first 2 Dark-bellied Brent Geese were with 14 Pale-bellied birds off Mudbank.
An Osprey was off Mudbank on the 17th, and there were two on the 24th, but we missed out on the Osprey 'extravaganza' that was taking place at the north end of the estuary. No prizes for guessing where all the fish were!
A flock of 31 Ravens on Orcombe on the 18th was noteworthy and counts of c800+ Wigeon, 85+ Pintail, 112 Dark-bellied and 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese on the 24th signalled the early onset of a big autumn build-up of wildfowl.
 

You'd have thought, given its estuarine location, that Little Stints would be frequent in Exmouth but they're actually very scarce. The bulk of all waders on the Exe tend to get picked up at roost sites - that's Dawlish Warren at the south end or Bowling Green Marsh at the north end. Prior to these two juveniles turning up, I'd only ever seen 1 or 2! I photographed this 'dynamic duo'on September 4th, feeding on Exmouth Beach. They were part of a large flock of small waders that frequented the beach over the high tide for just a couple of days. One or possibly two Curlew Sandpipers were also recorded.


White Wagtail - unlike last year, when I located just one White Wagtail in Exmouth, this subspecies was a regular sight on the short-cropped grass of the cricket pitch and the adjacent seaweed-strewn beach. Birds were present on most visits to the cricket pitch during September.
 
October started quietly on Orcombe but the estuary was positively groaning under the weight of wildfowl. At least 3000 Wigeon (quite possibly more) and 1000+ Brent Geese provided a cacophonous spectacle throughout the month. The Warren was recording some big Wigeon numbers too so it would be fascinating to know exactly how many birds were present on the river in total.
The first Redpoll of the autumn headed north-west over Orcombe on the 2nd, and the first three Stonechats popped up,  but the month didn't really spark into life until the 8th, when I found three species that hadn't featured at all in 2015. Firstly a Yellow-browed Warbler was discovered 'early doors' on Orcombe and was to stay three days in its chosen little corner of 'Bristol Schools' foliage. Later in the day a female-type Garganey was picked out amongst at least 2000 Wigeon off Mudbank, and finally two dark female-type Eiders were found just off Orcombe Point - the first I've seen in Exmouth for over two years!
The 10th was a really magical day when a post-work dash around the top fields resulted in the discovery of a pale and rather charismatic Tawny Pipit - the first I've seen in Devon. It was only present for the one evening, allowing just a small group of birders to catch up with it.
Paul Gosling and I discovered another Yellow-browed Warbler on the 15th, up at the archery club whilst watching our sons play football. Later the same day at least 375 Teal were off Mudbank - the most I can ever recall seeing in Exmouth.
The 16th brought a petit, black-backed 'candidate Baltic Gull' roosting on Bull Hill, courtesy of Lee Collins. Sadly too far away for good views but a very interesting looking bird all the same.
My first Exmouth Redwings, a flock of 17+, flew north as I walked to work on the 17th and my last Wheatear was on Orcombe on the 21st.
The half-term week at the end of the month afforded me some more time out in the field. After some serious searching I finally clapped eyes on the retuning adult Black Brant, off Mudbank on the 23rd, and the autumn's first Firecrest was 'pished' out of cover in the Maer Long Stay carpark. I also recorded the first couple of Fieldfares and the last House Martin on Orcombe on the 23rd.
A couple trips down to the South Hams, on the 22nd and 24th, produced trios of Yellow-browed Warbler, Firecrest and Black Redstart but Orcombe's first  Black Redstart popped up on a Foxholes roof on the 25th, the same day that a late Garden Warbler was discovered in the Bristol Schools camp.
The 26th was another special day with my first autumn Brambling on Orcombe, a high-flying Great Northern Diver and an American Wigeon amongst about 2000 of its Eurasion cousins, off Mudbank. Chris Townend picked it up again, off the Leisure Centre, on the 28th where it afforded better views, allowing us to age it as a juvenile, moulting into adult-type plumage. After that it relocated to the north end of the Exe and my appetite for searching through hundreds of Wigeon deserted me!
Back to work on the 31st but a Black Redstart was found just before dark, at the back of our house, on Warren View playing fields.
 
 
Large numbers of Wigeon were present off Mudbank in the autumn. They faced frequent disturbance from the likes of kayakers, paddle-boarders and kite-surfers.


Female-type Garganey off Mudbank on October 8th. A very difficult species to see in Exmouth. Found on the same date as a Yellow-browed Warbler and 2 Eiders - a red letter day with all three species unrecorded in Exmouth in 2015.


Two Eiders off Orcombe Point - found on October 8th and photographed on the 9th. This pair attracted a fair bit of interest, not least because they were the first recorded in Dawlish Bay since June 2014, and there was just a single record of this species in Devon in 2015! On Christmas Eve there were eight together feeding distantly off Mudbank.


Tawny Pipit is once again a BBRC species due to the paucity of British records in recent years. This bird was a big surprise find, after work, on the afternoon of October 10th. It performed beautifully in the late afternoon sunshine and was successfully twitched by around half a dozen local birders. It was easy to track in the field due to its light plumage tones and habit of calling a loud, sparrow-like 'chup' as it scurried through the grass. Sadly there was no sign of it the following day.
 
 

This Garden Warbler was found on Orcombe on the late date of October 25th. It was the first (and last) one of the autumn for me, but I did have a couple in the spring.

 
 
 I've been doggedly checking the autumn Wigeon flock off Mudbank for years, so it was a special moment to finally find this first-winter drake American Wigeon on the 26th. Bottom photo taken by Chris Townend.

November started well with a Yellow-browed Warbler on Orcombe Point on the 1st.  It was only the 3rd record for Orcombe and was followed by the 4th just two days later, discovered by Nick in the top fields. Nearby, two Mistle Thrushes in the Maer long-stay carpark were noteworthy - only my second Exmouth record of this species in 2016 although a couple birds frequented Warren View playing fields for a short while later in the year.
On the 2nd a Firecrest was in the Bristol Schools field and late on the 4th the first three returning Purple Sandpipers were noted on Maer Rocks.
We didn't witness the mass Woodpigeon movement this autumn - the best day being the 6th when an estimated 3000 passed over Orcombe, along with c130+ Chaffinches and 4 Redpolls.
The 12th was a good day with a Firecrest on Withycombe Raleigh Common, several hundred Redwings over the archery club and, best of all, my first ever self-found Great Grey Shrike, just outside Exmouth, on Woodbury Common. On the 13th there was another Firecrest in the Maer Long Stay carpark and on the 16th there was a single flock of 212 Pintail off Mudbank.
A drake Tufted Duck off Mudbank on the 19th was trumped by a Spoonbill roosting on Bull Hill later in the day.
The latter part of the months featured some duck movement. On the 20th I caught up with a Long-tailed Duck off the seafront and on the 23rd there was a Shoveler off Mudbank, followed the next day by a pair.
A drake Pochard with C50+ Common Scoters off the seafront, and a female-type Scaup off Cockwood (viewed from Shelly Beach) on the 26th, both came courtesy of eagle-eyed Lee Collins at the Warren. I discovered a second female-type Scaup off West Lodge later the same day, along with a Firecrest in scrub near the viewing screen. The West Lodge Scaup was still present on the 30th when I finally caught up with Water Rail for the year - a noisy bird late in the afternoon at West Lodge.
 
 
Great Grey Shrike - High up and mobbed by Meadow Pipits before fast descent and low 'swoop' into cover.

On December the 3rd I caught up with 2 Velvet Scoters off the seafront and bumped in to the Bonaparte's Gull off Shelly Beach.
The following day a rarely-checked clump of sallows, at the end of the seafront, revealed a Yellow-browed Warbler, Siberian Chiffchaff, Firecrest and at least 3 Chiffchaffs. Second helpings of the two Velvet Scoters and Bonaparte's Gull, along with a Black Redstart behind Shelly Beach capped a great day of winter birding.
The Yellow-browed Warbler was still playing hide and seek below Foxholes on the 6th and the area was positively jumping with Chiffchaffs. About a dozen birds was possibly a conservative estimate. A Stonechat there was an unusual winter record. It was seen again later in the month.
On the 11th I found 3 Black Redstarts - 2 in the Shelly Beach area and 1 on Halsdon Avenue.
A first-winter drake Scaup was new-in off Mudbank on the 17th (and still present on the 23rd) and 9+ Red-throated Divers off the seafront was the highest count for a long while, though the Warren had considerably more the same day.
On the 20th I finally made it down for the Thurlestone Desert Wheatear - my only twitch of the year!
On Christmas Eve there were 8 Eiders distantly off Mudbank along with 2 presumed Scandanavian Herring Gulls (both juveniles).  It would be interesting to know the origins of 13 Greylag Geese off Mudbank on Christmas Day - the largest number I've ever seen in Exmouth.
Thirty-three Redwings flew over the house at dawn on the 27th and two Firecrests were together behind the cricket club, and later in the day the Bonaparte's Gull was again off Shelly Beach.
The two Firecrests were seen again on the 28th and a female Blackcap was behind the Imperial Hotel. At least one Blackcap was seen fairly regularly throughout December a few doors up from us on Belle Vue Road.
Finally - a Firecrest was again in the Foxholes sallows on the 30th and at least one bird was still present on the final day of the year behind the cricket club. December 31st also produced a drake Eider off the seafront, the Black Redstart still in the Shelly Beach area and 9 Shoveler and 2 Gadwall off Mudbank.
 
 
This lovely male Black Redstart was found on Halsdon avenue on the 11th.
 
 
This first-winter drake Scaup spent 7 days off Mudbank (17th - 23rd) - one of three recorded in
Exmouth in 2016.


Presumed 'Scandanavian' Herring Gull - one of two present off Mudbank on Christmas Eve.


This male Desert Wheatear in Thurlestone, and the Tawny Pipit were the only new additions to my Devon list in 2016 . I never tried for the Lammergeier, Dalmation Pelican or Blyth's Reed Warbler but I would have probably gone for the latter had it stayed until the weekend.

So that was 2016. Previous Bumper Reviews can be read by clicking on the 2015 and 2014 sightings in the margin. I always publish them on December 31st so it's relatively simple to draw comparisons. Have a happy new year!