Sunday 27 January 2019

Maer Valley

I had a stroll around Maer Valley this afternoon, hoping to find some shelter from the ferocious and freezing northerly that's making birding very difficult. I enjoyed looking though a large corvid flock, consisting almost entirely of Jackdaws and Rooks, but could find nothing unusual amongst them. Three Chiffchaffs were noted along with c30+ Redwing and a couple Goldcrests.
Off the seafront, in very difficult conditions, I managed to find a Great Northern Diver which is remarkably my first of 2019 in Exmouth. They're usually an easy species to get. Otherwise three Eider were in the estuary, with two of them sat up on Bull Hill late afternoon.

Chiffchaff - Maer Valley - until today I'd only managed to locate a single wintering Chiffchaff in Exmouth - a bird on the Maer. This afternoon's trio prove that I've been looking in the wrong place! I'll give it another look on a calmer day.

Saturday 26 January 2019

Purple Sands

I think the poor Purple Sandpiper showing this winter has in part been due to the lack of rough weather. This afternoon, with waves crashing over and soaking the rocks, a least six birds were present but yesterday, in flat-calm conditions, there were none. Ten Red-throated Divers and 3+ Kittiwake went past early this morning but birding has generally been quite hard work, although two Ravens were raiding the bins beside the lifeboat station.
Two Mediterranean Gulls (adult and second-winter) were in with cattle on Orcombe Point this afternoon and the Linnet flock has grown considerably to c280+ birds.
Mudbank counts included 16 Wigeon, 7 Pintail, c200+ Brent Goose, 28+ Sanderling, 6 Goldeneye, 6 Grey Plover, 2 Knot and 15 Great Crested Grebe.
A Peregrine was hunting along the seafront late afternoon and yesterday, in much calmer conditions, the Velvet Scoter was off there.

Wednesday 23 January 2019


Three immature drake Eider off Shelly Beach late this afternoon, but only one of them close enough to photograph. Good to see it relatively close though. Off the seafront the Velvet Scoter was again present. Definitely closer to Exmouth than the Warren this evening but still not as close as I'd like it.

Tuesday 22 January 2019


Plenty of birds in cattle fields on Orcombe Point this afternoon. A late visit, after work, revealed flocks of c100+ Linnet, 70+ Pied Wagtail, 5+ Meadow Pipit and c70/80+ Skylark. Additionally a couple adult Mediterranean Gulls were in with c100+ Black-headed Gulls. Off Shelly Beach - an immature drake Eider and a Peregrine.
Early morning off the seafront - the Velvet Scoter again visible distantly with c3+ Red-throated Divers past.
On Sunday, a check off Mudbank produced my highest Goldeneye count for some time with 7 birds present, including two drakes. Off the Leisure Centre I counted 300+ Dark-belied Brent Geese and on the cricket pitch were 27+ Pied Wagtails, 1 Grey Wagtail and 14 Meadow Pipits. A Kestrel there was my first in Exmouth this year.

Skylarks - part of a wintering flock estimated to be at least 70 birds strong.

On Sunday, a quick visit to Hayes Barton pig farm produced counts of c200+ Chaffinch, 2 Brambling, 2+ Chiffchaff, 4+ Reed Bunting and 2+ Yellowhammer. Also a few Redwings and Meadow Pipits, but no sign of any Cirl Buntings and no sign of the Firecrest.
One of at least 4 Reed Buntings at Hayes Barton.

Saturday 19 January 2019

Velvet Scoter

Rock Pipit - dung heap. A Grey Wagtail was also present and a flock of c30/40+ Linnet were knocking around the area.
The Velvet Scoter was again off the seafront late this afternoon. I've included the appalling shot below simply because a photo of this species has never featured on this blog before.
Otherwise today - 1 Eider, 4 Goldeneye, 22+ Great Crested Grebes and 12+ Red-breasted Merganser off Mudbank, along with an adult Mediterranean Gull.

Velvet Scoter - Exmouth seafront.
View from Gore Lane.

The moon was impressive this evening - lighting up an early evening dog-walk along the estuary.

Friday 18 January 2019

Pale-bellied Brents

Few birding options this afternoon, with just an hour to spare after work and heavy rain. I opted for driving around the local sports pitches and viewing from the car. Exmouth rugby club produced three Pale-bellied Brent Geese and the cricket club produced a flock of 33 Pied Wagtails and at least 3 Meadow Pipits.
On the 16th, late in the afternoon, the Velvet Scoter was much nearer Exmouth and showed pretty well from the seafront.
On the 15th there were higher than usual numbers of Brent Geese off Mudbank with 430+ counted, along with 115+ Mallard, 14+ Wigeon, and few Pintail, 1 Peregrine and a Greenshank. Off Maer Rocks - 5 Red-throated Diver and 42 Brent Geese.

Dunlin - off the Leisure Centre this afternoon.

Saturday 12 January 2019

Firecrest and Velvet

Exe Reed Beds this morning - I had a mooch around Countess Wear again before kick-off at King George V playing fields.
Little to report today. Countess Wear produced a handful of Cetti's Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Redwings before football but little else, and in Exmouth a Firecrest at the cricket pitch was the highlight. Nearby, off the seafront, an adult Mediterranean Gull.
Yesterday, after work, I managed to scope the Velvet Scoter from the seafront, which helpfully did lots of neck-stretching and a wing-flap. Six Common Scoter were further out in the bay and at least 5 Great Crested Grebes were dotted around.

Pintail - Mudbank

One of seven Meadow Pipits on the cricket pitch this afternoon - feeding with at least 17 Pied Wagtails.

Good to find at least one Firecrest wintering at the cricket pitch. This bird remained faithful to bushes right beside the clubhouse all the time I was there this afternoon.

Tuesday 8 January 2019


The last few minutes of daylight, following a busy day at work, were spent looking off Sowden Lane in Lympstone. The regular Peregrine pair was sat out on the estuary and fairly quick and crude counts included 200+ Common Gull roosting on a sandbar, c1000+ Dunlin and 25+ Great Crested Grebe. Nearby the Chaffinch flock numbered c70/80+ birds but no Brambling were noted, unlike last winter. At least 4 Reed Buntings were mixed in, along with one or two Greenfinch and a handful of Linnets.

 Female and male Peregrine with Starcross in the background.

Sunday 6 January 2019

New Cirl Site

Redwing - Hayes Barton
I popped back up to Hayes Barton pig farm this morning, in the hope of going through the Chaffinch flock. The flock was split, and although I recorded c1/200+ they were difficult to observe. At least one female Brambling was present but, more excitingly, I found three more Cirl Buntings (male and 2 females). They're clearly properly establishing themselves in east Devon now with at least five sites (this side of the Exe) that I'm personally aware of. Surely not long now before they edge in to Dorset if they're not already there. Also at the pig farm - a second-winter Mediterranean Gull, one or two Chiffchaff, 1 Yellowhammer, 7+ Skylark, 1 Reed Bunting, 1+ Meadow Pipit, 1 Treecreeper, 1 Jay, c10+ Redwing and rough counts of c1000+ Woodpigeon and c230+ Jackdaw amongst the masses of corvids. A quick look for yesterday's Firecrest proved fruitless but Goldcrests weren't too difficult to find.

It's very difficult to get a handle on the number of Chaffinches around the pig farm but there are masses present in the wooded margins and game-cover strips.

Saturday 5 January 2019

Pig Farm

A dog-walk around the lower edge of the commons took me through Hayes Barton pig farm where good numbers of birds included 3+ Mediterranean Gull, Firecrest, 2 Reed Bunting, c2/300+ Chaffinch, 1+ Brambling, 8+ Redwing, 4+ Song Thrush, 2/3 Chiffchaff, 2+ Grey Wagtail and 11 Stock Dove.
A frosty early morning look at the dung heap, on Gore Lane, revealed the continuing presence of 3 Cirl Bunting and off Maer Rocks - 2+ Red-throated Diver and 15 Brent Goose.

Chaffinch and Brambling. The large flock of Chaffinch dispersed before I had the chance to go through them properly.
Firecrest - believe it or not, this bird showed well in roadside Holly bushes but could I get a decent photo? I've recorded wintering Firecrest in this exact same area before. Great birds.

Cirl Bunting - one of the three winterers beside the dung heap.

Thursday 3 January 2019

Countess Wear and the Sawmills

Little Egret - Maer Rocks
Good to see an improvement in Purple Sandpiper numbers yesterday morning, with seven present on Maer Rocks early on. Also 2 Turnstone, 1 Little Egret, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 11+ Brent Goose and 3+ Red-throated Diver.
Today I did Countess Wear and Powderham Sawmills. A number of species recorded at the sludge beds included at least 6 Cetti's Warbler, 5+ (probably more) Chiffchaff, 1 Stonechat, 2 Common Sandpiper, 18+ Teal, 17+ Gadwall and 2 Water Rail.
The Yellow-browed Warbler was hard work at Powderham Sawmills, but eventually gave reasonable views in the large sallow clump alongside the lane. A Marsh Tit was a lovely surprise sighting there, otherwise a couple Bullfinch,  Kingfisher, 2 Siskin, 1 Raven and a couple Great Spotted Woodpeckers were all that was logged. Great to see Mark, Bob and Chris there too.
A quick look off Mudbank late afternoon produced 35 Grey Plover, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 8 Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Goldeneye (including a 'new' drake, first noted yesterday).

One of a pair of Bullfinch seen at the sludge beds. Two more were in the sallow clump at Powderham Sawmills.

Looking north from the tow path, with Exeter Canal on the left and the Exe Reed Beds (and Topsham) on the right. Countess Wear sludge beds run beneath the M5 road bridge just a few hundred yards north of where I was stood to take this photo. At least 3 Cetti's Warblers showed well in this area but were way too fidgety for a photo.

One of two Common Sandpipers on the Exe beside the sewage works.

Tuesday 1 January 2019

Exmouth - New Year's Day

Eighty species without leaving Exmouth today. Only one Purple Sandpiper on Maer Rocks is perhaps a sign that they're falling out of favour with this site. I've struggled to see them at all on there for the last month. I logged four Red-throated Divers offshore but little else.
The three Cirl Buntings were sat on the dung heap this morning and nearby the long-staying female Ring-necked Parakeet was in her favourite area behind Maer Farm. Good to see Martin there.
Shelly Beach was quite productive with the male Black Redstart in his favoured 'Leeward Court' and 2 Eider viewable towards Starcross, along with the Slavonian Grebe. A Peregrine was sat on the mudflats.
Mudbank wasn't great but two drake Tufted Duck were noteworthy. Other species included adult Mediterranean Gull, female-type Goldeneye, 1 Greenshank, 1 Teal, 24 Pintail, 23 Great Crested Grebe and 75+ Common Gull.

Exmouth Beach from Orcombe Point. It's fair to say Exmouth was heaving today. Masses of people out walking that never normally go out. Nice new Christmas shoes getting dirty.