Sunday 31 March 2019


Redwing - one of two late birds that were heavily streaked below - candidates for Icelandic race?
Today's best bird was my first Osprey of the year. I was sat in the back garden, enjoying a cuppa with mum, dad and Lu, when it powered upriver leaving a trail of Oystercatchers and gulls in its wake. It flew through at 1620.
A dawn visit to Orcombe was followed up with a brief afternoon 'whiz round' which produced just a handful of sightings - c20/30+ Linnet, 1+ Blackcap, 1+ Bullfinch, 4+ Chiffchaff, 2 or 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Wheatear, 2+ Meadow Pipit, 1 Curlew, 2 Redwing and my first Swallow of the year.
On the 29th - 1 Snipe and 1 Goldcrest seen on a late afternoon visit to Orcombe with 1 Pale-bellied Brent Goose and 6 Dark-bellied Brent Geese off the Imperial.

A notable increase in Linnet numbers today.

This male Blackcap is singing on territory on Orcombe.

Always good to see the first Willow Warblers arriving on Orcombe - difficult to photograph though as they kept their heads down in the cold conditions.

Note the heavily-marked underparts with 'tear-drop' streaking extending down the flanks and strongly-marked under-tail coverts. 


 This last shot is of the second bird - another fairly swarthy individual.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Barnacle Goose

The Barnacle Goose, that has been seen a couple of times of the Warren, was with Brent Geese shortly after dawn. The birds were on the beach between Maer Rocks and Orcombe Point. This is only my second Exmouth record following one off Mudbank in October 2017.
An early look at Orcombe Point produced 36 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 1 Barnacle Goose, 5+ Chiffchaff, 1 Curlew, 2 Goldcrest, 7+ Meadow Pipit, 8 Canada Goose, 1 Siskin and just 1 'alba' Wagtail. The weather was beautiful but the sky too clear to ground migrants, and I had to scrape ice of the windscreen following a chilly night. Such conditions rarely produce the goods!

One of two Goldcrests seen on Orcombe today.

Saturday 23 March 2019


This was my first Wheatear of 2019. It was by the Geo-needle shortly after first light. Ironically, in a year when migrants have been turning up unusually early, I believe this is my latest  'first Wheatear' for many years!
A really good morning on Orcombe this morning with the highlight being a Serin which flew west over the top of Gore Lane at 0714. Other notable sightings included 5+ Wheatear, at least 13 Chiffchaff, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 15+ Meadow Pipit, 1+ Redwing, 1 Goldcrest, 1 or 2 Siskin, 2 or 3 Bullfinch, 2 Linnet, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Kestrel, 4+ 'alba' Wagtail, 2 White Wagtail, 3+ Goldfinch and 1+ Chaffinch over. Great to be birding with Derek again.
Nearby, in Maer Valley, another 4+ Chiffchaff, 1 Jay and a male Blackcap.
Some news from earlier in the week - on 19/3 a female Cirl Bunting on Orcombe Point and off Mudbank - 6 Wigeon, 2 Goldeneye (male + female), 12 Teal, 6 Red-breasted Merganser and the three Eider.
On the 21st - Orcombe Point - 2 Chiffchaff and 2 Pale-bellied Brent Goose with 11 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Goldeneye, 1 Greenshank and 1 Eider off Mudbank.

Three male Wheatears (all shown above) have spent the day on the dung heap.

This Red-legged Partridge was a surprise sighting on 19/3. It was in the Straight Point military firing range complex which ironically is probably a lot safer than being on whichever farm it was released from!

Pale and Dark-bellied Brent Geese - Orcombe Point - 21/3.

Monday 18 March 2019

Ring-necked Parakeet

I bumped into Derek and Rupert this afternoon. We decided to have a look for the female Ring-necked Parakeet that has been present in Exmouth for a long time now. We found it almost immediately, in its favourite line of dead trees behind Maer Farm. Derek speculated that the hole in the right of this picture might be a potential nest site, and I suspect he's right, however without a mate it's not going to be terribly useful.
The resident Green Woodpecker pair may also have plans for this potential residence - see below.

Redshank - the 'Gut'.

Sunday 17 March 2019

Cirl Bunting

Greenshank - off Mudbank yesterday and struggling to stay upright in the wind!
Minimal movement on Orcombe Point this morning but a singing male Cirl Bunting was the highlight. I relocated it, still singing, on the Maer a bit later on. Otherwise 1 Chiffchaff, c15+ Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 18+ Brent Goose and a Curlew.
Off Mudbank - 2 Pintail, 11 Wigeon, just 3 Brent Goose and my first 2 Sandwich Tern of the year.

Struggling a bit with this one - too much black in the rump for White Wag though, I think.

About half a dozen of this morning's Meadow Pipits were around the dung heap. The rest were heading west, into the wind.

Singing male Cirl Bunting - the Maer, having earlier been singing on Orcombe Point.

Exmouth Lifeboat on Exmouth Beach, whilst we were walking the dog this morning.

Two of three Egyptian Geese on Exminster Marshes this afternoon. A quick look for migrants was largely unsuccessful, though 15 distant hirundine sp were almost certainly Sand Martins. Otherwise c70/80+ Golden Plover and Peregrine were noted. Good to see James Diamond - the first time in a long while.

Cattle Egret behind the farm on Matford  roundabout. Don't know where the other one was but visibility was limited where I was standing.

A particularly showy Grey Heron - Exminster Marshes.

Saturday 16 March 2019

Scops Owl 1995

Horrible weather today so a little reminiscing, and for no particular reason a look back at the Morewenstow Scops Owl that I twitched with the legendary Pete Dennis, back in April 1995. A Devon Scops Owl would be very much appreciated! My logbook entry for April 9th 1995 reads:
Pete Dennis phoned up last night and we arranged to have a day's birding down in the South Hams.
I was up very early and was picked up by Pete at just after 0630. We decided on Prawle and gave the reserve, bunkers, the point and Pig's Nose Valley a thorough search.
Shortly after we'd left the car, and were walking down the field, I spotted a diver flying overhead, over the reserve behind us. It was clearly either Red or Black-throated and we were both pretty sure it was a Black-throat, but we didn't get enough on it to be sure.
Along the bunkers I spotted a tail quivering in a bush - a superb male Redstart but very 'darting' so only brief views obtained before we left it in peace.
The rest of the morning was uneventful and at about lunchtime we returned to the car for some food, and sat up in the reserve for a while. Pete had a ten minute kip and at around 1430 - 1445'ish we decided to push on to Slapton.
We stopped off at the phone box just before Torcross to phone the line. To my astonishment they put out the regional news before the national news - "In north Cornwall, a Scops Owl at Morewenstow until 1230 at least." I made a follow-on call and called Pete in to the phone box where we took directions, jumped in the car and went!
I navigated us up towards Plymouth, over the Tamar Bridge to Launceston, Bude (nearly), Kilkhampton and finally Morewenstow. Some 'nutter' twitchers overtook us on the lanes at outrageous speed and at around 5pm we found Morewenstow Church (with about 40-50 cars already in the carpark) and headed out along the footpath towards the throng of twitchers already gathered below.
The scenery was incredible - huge rugged cliffs and shoreline and deep valleys. The twitchers passing us on their way back gave us the good news that the bird was showing well - relief! We eventually got down to the bottom and were looking from a bramble-covered bank, across and below to the other side of a stream, where the bird was perched at the bottom of a bramble hedge/thicket - a round 'bundle' - motionless.
I sat down to attempt to sketch it but my attempts were very poor. We waited until gone 7pm and after two hours of it sitting motionless, with its eyes shut, it woke up and clambered further up the hedge to rest in a hollow - in the process showing us its back, wings and most importantly, in my view, its yellow eyes - a gorgeous bird and one which I never thought I'd see in this country, let alone see well and at close range!
I was absolutely shattered by the end of the day and we returned home via Holsworthy, Okehampton and Moretonhampstead to arrive home at 10pm - a superb day!
Apparently the finder had been watching Peregrines at the top of the valley on the other side and had flushed this bird which had flown down the valley and landed on a bush. He'd then pursued it before it flew into the thicket it was in. He knew it wasn't a Little Owl, which are also in the valley, so he phoned another birder who came down and identified it as Scops Owl. The bloke had then legged it back up the valley and made a phone call to the line. Luckily he had the line number with him and enough change to make the call!


Sunday 10 March 2019

Black Red Green Wood

Orcombe Point being battered by a ferocious north-westerly at dawn this morning.
A quick look off the seafront this morning produced 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Red-throated Diver and a Common Scoter, with a fair few Gannets and a least 1 Fulmar passing way out along the horizon. Nearby on the dung heap - 1 Snipe, 2 Rock Pipit and c5/6+ Meadow Pipit.
With little shelter from the gale-force winds in Exmouth, I ended up wandering around Sandy Bay for a short while this afternoon, where a Black Redstart was trumped by a surprisingly cooperative Green Woodpecker. Otherwise - the three Eider off Shelly Beach and two Raven over the house.

Black Redstart - Sandy Bay

Collared Dove - Sandy Bay

Green Woodpecker - Sandy Bay - one of four regular sites in Exmouth for this species, although I've had them elsewhere within the parish boundary too. At some point I must get round to establishing exactly how many birds are present.