It's very rare that I venture out of Exmouth and very rare that I don't have to take Joel to football on a Saturday morning. I've been yearning to get down to the South Hams for some time so, with Lu and the kids busy doing other things, I headed down to Start Point under the cover of early morning blackness. It was a very chilly dawn and far windier than I'd expected, but it felt good to be back, birding in an area that I used to visit quite a bit.
The highlight of the morning was bumping in to Perry and spending some time catching up, whilst waiting for Yellow-browed Warblers to show in the farm. I can't remember the last time I saw him but I swear he hasn't aged!
There were a few birds around but nothing spectacular. Two Yellow-browed Warblers in the farm were the best but I was pleased to see my first 2 Fieldfares of the autumn too. Other species seen included c600+ Woodpigeons, 3+ Stock Doves, 11+ Stonechats, 1+ Siskin, 1+ Reed Bunting, 1+ Redwing, 4 or 5 Swallows and a few Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs. Overhead, small numbers of Meadow Pipit, Goldfinch, Linnet, Pied Wagtail and Chaffinch headed east into a stiff breeze. I missed Perry's Merlin but Peregrines were a constant presence throughout the morning and I had at least one Cirl Bunting.
After Start I walked from North Hallsands to Beesands Ley. I had good views of a non-calling Yellow-browed Warbler on the east side of North Hallsands reed bed and didn't notice any rings on it, so it was possibly not one of the two ringed by Alan Searle earlier in the morning. It was with a handful of Chiffchaffs and a single Blackcap. At least 1 Cetti's Warbler was heard and a male Cirl Bunting perched up in a nearby hedgerow.
Beesands Ley held 84+ Gadwall, a pair of Little Grebes and a single Tufted Duck.
All in all a very pleasant morning and a nostalgic one too. I have a lot of fond memories of birding in that neck of the woods and it was a pleasure to be walking alongside hedges that haven't been hacked to death and fields that haven't been over-farmed. It's still very unspoilt and is packed with birding potential. The only problem is that there is just too much good cover, so lots of stuff must inevitably get missed.