Wednesday 28 February 2018

Exe Estuary Tours with Derek Carter

Sparrowhawk by Derek Carter
This blog is a plug for my very good friend Derek Carter, who is running guided trips around the Exe estuary and east Devon. The trips are around 4 hours long and are tailored for birding beginners, budding nature lovers and photographers. The trips cost £25 or £20 each when there are two or more people, with a maximum of four people possible. Derek can be contacted on 07717170784.
Having known and birded with Derek for a long time I can not recommend him highly enough, as a birding companion and experienced guide. Derek has lived and worked in the area for many yeas. He works voluntarily for the RSPB and will be a familiar face to visitors to the hide at Bowling Green Marsh.
The tours are ideal for anyone with a burgeoning interest in wildlife and/or photography, and are an ideal opportunity to learn more about the Exe estuary and east Devon, from someone who knows it very well!

“Derek is an excellent guide for the  wonderful winter wildlife of the Exe Estuary, generous with his time and expertise.  I’ve booked a repeat”
 John Hankin  (President, Cirencester Camera Club).

"I had the pleasure of accompanying Derek on a birdwatching trip recently, who took me to see a Glossy Ibis which was reported to have been spotted in Seaton. Saw the Ibis and many other interesting ones, from Sparrowhawk to Peregrine Falcon and a myriad of wading birds. Derek was keen-eyed and knowledgeable, highlighting so many birds which I had difficulty spotting, even with my binoculars, until he pointed them out. He has a wonderful, enthusiastic personality that makes him a joy to be alongside".

Andrew Stoneman, keen birder.
All images below - by Derek Carter




Little Egrets

Black-tailed Godwits

Golden House Tick

Five Golden Plover on Warren View playing fields late this afternoon. Species number 158 for the house list and a sure sign, as if any was needed, of cold weather! It was very uncomfortably cold, watching from Mudbank, but a first-winter Mediterranean Gull, 13 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Lapwing and c130+ Common Gull made it into the notebook, with good numbers of Dunlin, Grey Plover, Redshank, Turnstone and two or three Sanderling present.
Good to see Liz and Chris Lee (Happy Birthday Chris!). They'd seen several Lapwing and winter thrushes from the new stretch of cycle path that runs past Lympstone Manor.

Tuesday 27 February 2018

Cold Stuff

An immature drake Eider rests on Warren Point, apparently unperturbed by some people nearby - 25/2.

Only minor signs of cold weather movement in Exmouth over the last couple of days. Late this afternoon there were four Golden Plover and 2 Snipe in fields at the top of Gore Lane.
Off Mudbank - 1 Long-tailed Duck and a female Goldeneye.
It's a long time since I last saw the Ring-necked Parakeet, but this afternoon it was in trees on the edge of the Maer Long Stay carpark. It wasn't there for long before flying off towards Douglas Avenue. It's been popping up all over Exmouth over the last few weeks.
Yesterday the highlight was a small party of four Tufted Ducks off Mudbank, at times huddled up alongside a Slavonian Grebe. Also off there - 4 Pintail, 27 Wigeon, 3 Goldeneye, 3+ Ringed Plover, 7 Sanderling and 50+ Grey Plover.

Four Golden Plovers in fields at the top of Gore Lane this afternoon.

Ring-necked Parakeet - Maer Long Stay Carpark

Saturday 24 February 2018

Pink-foot and Iceland

Second-winter Iceland Gull - Teignmouth
This winter will probably be remembered as a good one for Glaucs and Icelands, but if you live in Exmouth you'd never know it. So far just a couple of juvenile Glaucous Gulls have graced us with their presence, so this afternoon I crumbled, and headed over to see this gorgeous second-winter Iceland Gull off Teignmouth seafront. Mark had said it was showing well and he wasn't wrong. The only shame was that I had so little time with it, because I'd already squeezed in a quick look off Lower Netherton, in a bid to reconnect with my beloved old patch.
Earlier, Paul Gosling and I had relocated the Pink-footed Goose, from Powderham Corner, whilst our sons were warming up for their football match near Countess Wear. The bird was miles away but worth the little excursion, if only to prevent getting frozen whilst waiting for the game to start! The two Snow Geese were also distantly on view, along with a couple Greylag Geese.
My usual early look off the seafront produced the Long-tailed Duck off the Grove and my highest count, so far this winter, of 12+ Purple Sandpipers on Maer Rocks. A Great Northern Diver was sat on the sea off there, and two immature drake Eider were off there too.
Off Mudbank were 2 Peregrines, 2 Grey Wagtails and 90+ Redshank, along with a few other bits and pieces.

 Notice how dark the iris appears when the head is slightly angled away.

What a beautiful bird! Note the pale grey mantle and limited patterning in the wing coverts.

The iris is actually a subtle buff-grey and the bill base is an insipid buffy colour with a greenish tinge. The pale tip to the bill can be seen at this angle.
Pink-footed Goose - in my defence it was about a mile off. I've included this photo simply because the chances of one turning up in Exmouth are, at best, remote. You might see a tiny bit more detail if you click on the photo to enlarge.
Six of the twelve (or possibly even 13) Purple Sandpipers on Maer Rocks this morning. My highest count this winter.

Tuesday 20 February 2018


Bonaparte's Gull - feeding off the Grove at 5pm this evening. The only other birds off there were the regular immature drake Eider and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers.

Brent Goose feeding off the beach this evening.

Saturday 17 February 2018


Ruff - Bowling Green.
A 'bitty' day today. The morning was spent watching Joel's team beat arch rivals Alphington Allstars. Great to see Joel back in action after a prolonged injury-induced break. A quick look at Bowling Green produced the long-staying Ruff, with c1/200+ Avocet, and a lightning stop at Ludwell Valley produced 2/3 Green Sandpiper and 2 Chiffchaff.
This afternoon the gulls on the Otter disappointed, but it was nice to watch a roosting Tawny Owl. Just a couple Ringed Plovers, 2 Rock Pipit and a Meadow Pipit were the only other species to make the notebook.
A quick look at Hayes Barton on the way home produced 4+ Brambling among c100+ Chaffinch. Also noted - 2 Mistle Thrush, c10+ Redwing, 1 Chiffchaff, c5+ Meadow Pipit and 3 Red-legged Partridge.
Last thing this afternoon - both the Long-tailed Duck and the Slavonian Grebe were scoped from Exmouth Quay.

Avocets - Bowling Green

Green Sandpiper - Ludwell Valley - one of two or three birds present.

Tawny Owl - Otter Estuary

Meadow Pipit - Hayes Barton

Thursday 15 February 2018

Somerset Levels

Four of six Bewick's Swans - Nythe. It's so nice to catch up with species that you haven't seen for many years, and Bewick's Swans kind of epitomise winter birding. Beautiful birds that are very sadly declining.
Derek and I popped up to the Levels today. I was particularly keen to have a break  from the winter 'stalemate' of Exmouth birding. I'm pretty loyal to my patch but every now and again I just want to see species that I don't normally see. Exmouth has no fresh water so the Levels provide a perfect opportunity for a change of scenery, and a variety of unfamiliar species. Ham Wall and Greylake are both new reserves for me and Derek, who is more familiar with the area than I am, was the perfect guide and companion for some late winter Somerset birding.
I was particularly keen to see Bewick's Swan, so we started at Nythe, where a wintering party of six birds was easily located. They provided great scope views but were never close enough to photograph satisfactorily.
Next we moved on to Ham Wall. I'm not used to birding large RSPB reserves, with birders milling around everywhere, but the shear number of birds present was ample compensation, and our time there was thoroughly enjoyable. I didn't count Teal, Shoveler or Wigeon but did log c100+ Tufted Duck, 100+ Gadwall, 40+ Pochard, 2+ Pintail, 9 Snipe, 28 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Glossy Ibis, 2/3 Great White Egret, 1 Little Egret, 9+ Little Grebe, 3+ Bittern, 4+ Marsh Harrier, 2/3+ Cetti's Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, c10+ Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 3 Reed Bunting, 1 Redpoll and a small number of Redwing.
A closed road prevented us from looking for the Sharpham Pink-footed Goose so we headed home via Greylake - another RSPB reserve, on the A361 back towards Taunton. Nothing out of the ordinary here but astonishing, close views of Teal, Shoveler and Snipe with 2 Great White Egret, 1 Little Egret, 2 Water Rail, 1 Stonechat, 1 Kestrel, c10+ Dunlin and c1100+ Golden Plover thrown in for good measure. A wonderful day's birding, in great company. Many thanks Derek.

Glossy Ibis - Ham Wall - might want to click on some of these photos.

Little and Great White Egrets - Ham Wall

Drake Pochard - Ham Wall - one of c40+ of this species seen.

Male Marsh Harrier - Ham Wall - viewed from the Avalon Hide - by far the best vantage point for this species today. Prolonged views of at least 4 birds were enjoyed, with some interaction between this bird and a female, though no full courtship today.

Above and below - 'Cream-crowned' Marsh Harriers - Ham Wall.

Great White Egret - Ham Wall - one of two or three seen here, with a further two birds seen at Greylake.

View from Avalon Hide - Ham Wall

Above and below - Snipe -  Greylake

Female Teal - Greylake - photographed from a hide. Views here are better than any I've had anywhere before. A photographer's dream!

Male Teal - Greylake

Golden Plover - Greylake - part of a flock of an estimated 1100 plus. Dunlin and Lapwing in with them but nothing rarer.