Thursday 30 May 2019


Derek and I were lucky enough to clock this day-roosting male Nightjar this afternoon on the east Devon Commons. A truly beautiful bird which betrayed its presence by a few seconds of churring - presumably getting some practice in for the evening's ritual. A rare opportunity to photograph this stunning species.

Downy Emerald - Bystock. Better but still not the shot I'm after...

Large Red Damselfly

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Odds and Ends

Cream Wave - Squabmoor
Great Northern Diver, just one Sandwich Tern and a Mute Swan off Maer Rocks early this morning. Off Mudbank - 7 Brent Geese. Yesterday off there - eight Brent Geese, 4 Dunlin and 6 Whimbrel.

Garden Warbler - one of two singing males located on the commons in recent days. It has been a good few years since I last had any up there, so let's hope these sightings mark an upturn in fortunes for this species. This one was at Squabmoor, the other is at Blackhill Quarry.

I rescued this Fox Moth from a stream - it's only the second one I've seen, though I've seen masses of the larvae.

This is the first Green Hairstreak I've seen this year. Either I've been over-looking them or numbers are way down.

Female Common Blue next to the foodplant - Bird's Foot Trefoil (I think). Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary is on the wing up there at the moment but numbers of butterflies seem to be generally low still. Hopefully things will pick up with some warmer weather.

Heath Spotted Orchid - not really in to flowers (yet) but these are just gorgeous. I've seen tonnes recently. This one on a roadside verge with masses of others.

Monday 27 May 2019

The Levels

One of at least eight Cattle Egrets at Catcott Lows.
Derek and I popped up to the Somerset Levels this morning, in the hope of some dragonflies and some good birding. It was cool and overcast at first but it warmed up throughout the morning and the stuff we saw surpassed our expectations. The highlight was the famous large roosts of Four-spotted Chasers, but Variable Damselfly and Hairy Dragonfly ran a close second, and a pair of Black-winged Stilts at Catcott was an added bonus.
Catcott Lows - 2 Black-winged Stilt, 2 Marsh Harrier, 8+ Cattle Egret, c60+ Greylag Goose, 1 Barn Owl, 2 Shoveler, 35+ Mute Swan, 2 Little Egret, 8+ Gadwall, 8+ Lapwing, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Kestrel and 2 Great White Egret.
Ham Wall - 7+ Great White Egret, 6+ Garden Warbler, 1 Bittern (with several others booming), 1 Jay, 2 House Martin, c100+ Swift, 10+ Tufted Duck, 7+ Pochard, 7 Cetti's Warbler, 3+ Marsh Harrier, c30/40+ Gadwall, 1+ Shoveler, 1 Hobby, 3 Great Spotted Woodpecker and 1+ Cuckoo.

Great White Egret and the two Black-winged Stilts at Catcott Lows first thing this morning.

One of at least seven Great White Egrets seen at Ham Wall.

c60+ Greylag Geese were counted at Catcott Lows, several being recently-fledged juveniles.

Male Marsh Harrier - Ham Wall.

Variable Damselfly (female) - one of the targets for this morning's trip up to the Somerset Levels, and large numbers seen. The 'goblet' on S2 is what you need to see to confirm id, but they stand out as having more black on their abdomens than the Azures, and the goblet varies in size and shape. I probably sound as if I know what I'm talking about but I'm still on a very steep learning curve with the dragons and damsels! Edit - a big thank you to Dave Smallshire for help with the damsels.

Huge numbers of Four-spotted Chasers filled the skies at Ham Wall this morning.

The huge roosts of Four-spotted Chasers were the absolute highlight of a wonderful morning - worth the trip up to Somerset alone.

Azure (above) or quite possibly another Variable and female Variable Damselfly. We saw masses of damsels - Variable, Azures and Blue-tailed. Edit - thanks again to Dave for putting me straight. I did wonder about the top one.

Female Black-tailed Skimmer.

Hairy Dragonfly - Derek and I found several of these patrolling a wide ditch, thanks to a tip-off from another birder. It was a relief when one finally landed, allowing us to take its photo - a new species for me and a real beauty! A few Emperors were also on the wing.

Saturday 25 May 2019

Downy Emerald

Dawn at survey site - Pinhoe.
The insects are starting to take over but off Mudbank - 4 Whimbrel, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, 5 Pale-bellied Brent Goose and 2 Dark-bellied Brent Goose.

Chuffed to see Downy Emerald again after my first ever yesterday - not so chuffed with the photos....

Target for half term week - to get an acceptable photo of a Downy Emerald...

At least 16 Mallard on Bystock at the moment - mostly males.

My first Small Heath of 2019 - one of half a dozen or so on Woodbury Common...
...and my first Azure Damselfly of 2019 - one of about half a dozen with a couple Blue-tailed Damselflys on Woodbury Common.

Large Red Damselfly

Friday 24 May 2019

Ring-necked Parakeets

At least three Ring-necked Parakeets in Maer Valley tonight. I had two female-types feeding together and the third bird was further along the valley, noisy but unseen. This is the first time I've seen more than just the lone female but reports of three birds have been appearing on 'Devon Birds' for some time now. It looks like we have the makings of a colony in Exmouth!
Not too much to report today - 2 Bar-tailed Godwit and 1 Dark-bellied Brent Goose off Mudbank, and my first Downy Emerald on Bystock.

Common Blue Damselfly - Hogsbrook Lakes.

Blue-tailed Damselfly - Hogsbrook.

Female Beautiful Demoiselle - Bystock.

Large Red Damselfly - Bystock.

Tufted Duck - Hogsbrook Lakes.

Wednesday 22 May 2019


Neil discovered this wonderful female Emperor Dragonfly on his doorstep this afternoon, and very kindly invited me across the road to see it. Many thanks Neil! It has presumably only just emerged - as it stayed put and even allowed me to pick it up.  

Keeping with the dragonfly theme, this Broad-bodied Chase was on Bicton Common this afternoon.
Male Stonechat - Bicton Common. It's quite easy to see why there are a number of historical 'Siberian Stonechat' claims for the pebbled heaths.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Godwits and Nightjars

One Dark and five Pale-bellied Brent Geese - Mudbank - there are ten birds in total lingering off Mudbank at the moment - six pale and four dark. It has been surprisingly challenging to establish the exact make-up of the group as they're normally a long way off in the middle of the river. In fact it's not easy when they're relatively close either!
A pre-work look at Orcombe this morning produced single Spotted Flycatcher and Reed Warbler - the latter in full song.
Off Mudbank - 10 Brent Geese, 5 Sandwich Tern, 3 Whimbrel, 12 Curlew, 6 Dunlin, 2 Sanderling, 5 Bar-tailed Godwit and 1 Black-tailed Godwit. The roosting Oystercatcher flock totalled 180 birds.
Yesterday off there - 10 Brent Geese, 1 fs Mediterranean Gull, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Great Crested Grebe and 2 Sand Martin.

I don't think I can ever remember seeing the two Godwit species side by side in Exmouth. Here a Black-tailed is flanked by two Bar-tailed.

Bar-tailed Godwit

Three Bars and the Black-tail.

Meadow Pipit - Blackhill Quarry.

At least two singing male Yellowhammers on Exmouth heathland this evening. Also at least 2 churring Nightjars, Peregrine and Little Egret. Elsewhere on the commons - 2 hunting Hobby and at least 2 Dartford Warblers this evening.