Tuesday 31 December 2019

2019 Bumper Review

Another year, another Bumper Review. Again, probably way too long and of little interest for most, but useful for me to have a summary. For past reviews simply click on the year in the right-hand margin of this page.
 
The general feeling, shared by most I think, is one of an unrelenting decline in numbers of birds - particularly noticeable in summer visitors like Swallow, House Martin and Swift, but also in wintering species such as Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye. Even common species like Shag and Mallard are present in lower numbers than they used to be. I can recall struggling to count large feeding flocks of  two to three hundred Shag. I'm lucky if I see double figures these days. 
It was a huge relief to record Roseate Terns again after a couple blank years, but they seemed to stick to the river rather than fish the bay, suggesting the food that used to be there just isn't any more. The construction of a large water sports centre on the seafront will no-doubt make the bay even less attractive to wildlife than it already is. 
All farming on Orcombe and the surroundings is distinctly 'wildlife unfriendly' with hedges ripped bare every autumn and cattle on a constant rotation. You don't see stubble fields anymore so we've lost our 200-strong wintering Skylark flock, and the finch flocks are also a thing of the past.
On a more positive note - it seems Cirl Buntings are continuing to thrive and some species like Firecrest are becoming easier and easier to find, although I don't think they bred in Exmouth this year.  Finally, Ring-necked Parakeets had a good year, but whether that's a good thing or not remains to be seen...
 
I recorded 163 species in Exmouth in 2019, my lowest total since starting the blog in 2013. I missed Little Grebe for the second year running and seabird 'no shows' included Pomarine Skua and Storm Petrel. Not one Greylag Goose made it down to Exmouth and I somehow failed to find a Pied Flycatcher, when good numbers were turning up elsewhere. Despite the low total the year didn't feel low on quality, with three BBRC species found in under three months, over the summer, and a couple new additions to my Exmouth list.
2019 Exmouth highlights were: Velvet Scoter, Barnacle Goose, 2 Serin, Nightingale, Wood Warbler, Bonaparte's Gull, Caspian Tern, 3 Little Gull, 6 Roseate Terns, 6 Yellow-legged Gulls, Black Tern, Tawny Pipit, 2 or 3 Garganey, Yellow-browed Warbler, Merlin, 2 Short-eared Owls, Ring Ouzel, Great White Egret, Long-eared Owl, Water Pipit, Scaup, Richard's Pipit, Cetti's Warbler and 21+ Cattle Egret.
 
Before detailing the birds I'd like to thank everyone who reads this blog and particularly those who take time to comment. A big 'thank you' to anyone who has texted me with info, especially Mark Bailey and Lee Collins, who really do keep me in the loop, and thank you to Dave Boult and Lee (again) for the use of their fabulous photos in this summary.
 
 
For the first time ever, just out of curiosity really, I decided to see how many species I could see within the Exmouth parish boundary on New Year's Day. I recorded a fairly respectable eighty species, which included the trio of wintering Cirl Buntings on Gore Lane, two Eider, Slavonian Grebe and male Black Redstart at Shelly Beach, plus the Maer Farm Ring-necked Parakeet. A single Purple Sandpiper and 4 Red-throated Diver were recorded from Maer Rocks. The most unexpected sighting was a drake Tufted Duck off Mudbank, but perhaps most surprising of all was the failure to see a Kingfisher - a species that has traditionally been easy to see in Exmouth. They were absent in Exmouth for the whole early 2019 winter period and not recorded off Mudbank until September 8th, although the first was at Bystock at the end of August.
On the 2nd I made my highest Purple Sandpiper count of the winter, with seven birds present on Maer Rocks. It looks like this species is falling out of favour with this site - perhaps due to the increasing number of visitors to Exmouth and their propensity to scramble all over Maer Rocks in pretty much all weather.
I scoped the Warren's wintering Velvet Scoter off the seafront on the 11th and on the 12th I was pleased to locate a Firecrest along Madeira walk.
On the 15th a decent mid-winter Brent Goose count of 430+ birds was made off the leisure centre and the following day the Velvet Scoter was much closer to Exmouth, where it afforded reasonably good views. Three Pale-bellied Brent Geese were on the Imperial rugby ground on the 18th.
On the 20th I noted 7 Goldeneye off the leisure centre and on the 22nd I counted the wintering passerines on Orcombe which included c100+ Linnet, 70+ Pied Wagtail, c70/80+ Skylark and 5 Meadow Pipit.
 I didn't see my first Great Northern Diver in Exmouth until the 27th, when counts of 3 Chiffchaff and c30+ Redwing were in Maer Valley.
 

Firecrest - Madeira Walk 12/1/19. It was another good year for this species with several passage birds on Orcombe and a new wintering site discovered just off Dinan Way. I looked for signs of breeding at the usual spot but failed to locate a pair this year. I'm hopeful they'll be back though, and I've found a number of potentially suitable sites elsewhere within the Exmouth boundary. Mixed woodland with large Holly trees!
 

One of three immature drake Eider off Shelly Beach on 23/1/19. Small numbers of this species were seen on and of throughout the year.


Purple Sandpiper - Maer Rocks 26/1/19. The flock peaked at seven birds  - the maximum in both 2019 winter periods.

February is never a great month but this year it started with some cold weather movement, thanks to some snowfall elsewhere in the country. Exmouth stayed snow-free but on the 1st I recorded 8+ Golden Plover, 200+ Lapwing and hundreds of Fieldfare and Redwing on Orcombe. The following day saw the Golden Plover number rise to 125+ and Lapwing to c4/500+.
The Velvet Scoter was again seen off the seafront on the 3rd and on the 4th the male Black Redstart showed well at the sailing club. I last saw it on the 17th.
On the 9th a brief sea-watch off Maer Rocks produced 6 Great Northern Diver and 8 Red-throated Diver, but more significant was a Razorbill - my first in Exmouth in a long while, following a blank year last year.
The 17th wasn't a bad day, producing a surprise in the form of a flock of 5 Crossbill west-bound over Orcombe, along with 8 Golden Plover. A female Cirl Bunting by the dung heap was presumed to have been one of the three wintering birds, though I hadn't actually seen them for about a month. Four Shoveler were off Mudbank and counts of 85+ Common Gull and 20 Great Crested Grebe were made.
Nineteen Red-throated Diver were counted past Maer Rocks on the 18th and on the 19th I counted a 'winter-high' 8 Goldeneye off Mudbank. A single Cirl Bunting flew out of the hedge by the dung heap and headed high towards Exmouth.
Highlight on the 20th was a fly-by redhead Goosander off Mudbank, but I was also pleased with a count of c300+ Common Gull. The three Eider were viewable distantly off there and 18 Red-throated Diver went past Maer Rocks.
On the 22nd I discovered a pair of Firecrest wintering in Liverton Copse and unusually high numbers of waders on Cockle Sands included hundreds of Dunlin alongside 80+ Grey Plover and 40+ Knot.
 
 
Some cold weather movement on February 2nd delivered at least 125 Golden Plovers to the top fields of Orcombe Point.
 
 
Displaying Goldeneye off the Imperial recreation ground on 10/2/19. The peak winter count was eight birds on 19/2. My first of the autumn was off Mudbank on November 9th.


Juvenile Peregrine on Black-headed Gull kill - Warren View playing fields 22/2/19. We are very fortunate to have a year-round presence of Peregrines in Exmouth. The adult pair are frequently seen sitting together on Cockle Sands. Whether this juvenile is Exmouth-bred is unknown. It could just as easily be a wandering bird from further afield.
 

Glossy Ibis - Exton 23/2/19 - just outside of Exmouth but a very worthwhile early morning twitch to see this stunning species, that has yet to make an appearance in Exmouth.

On March 2nd I recorded my first migrant Stonechat on Orcombe and on the 5th there was a good count of 179 Turnstone off Mudbank.
On the 17th a male Cirl Bunting sang briefly on Orcombe Point before flying a short distance to the Maer, where it continued singing in the sunshine. A female was present briefly on the 19th.
Orcombe really sprang to life on the 23rd when I recorded a fly-over Serin, 5+ Wheatear, 13+ Chiffchaff, 2 White Wagtail and 1 Redwing amongst a few other bits and pieces.
On the 26th a gorgeous Barnacle Goose consorted with 36 Dark-bellied Brent Geese on the beach between Maer Rocks and Orcombe Point.
On the 31st my first Osprey of the spring flew upriver and on Orcombe I recorded two good candidate 'Icelandic' Redwings, my first Swallow of the year and my first two or three Willow Warblers.
 

Cirl Bunting - the Maer 16/3/18 - one of at least eight birds recorded within the Exmouth parish boundary in 2019.


Barnacle Goose - Exmouth Seafront 26/3/19 - only my second record in Exmouth following a single bird off Mudbank on 29/10/17.


Presumed 'Icelandic' Redwing - Orcombe Point 31/3/19. The extensive 'tear-drop' streaking on the underparts and dark legs point strongly towards this being of Icelandic origin.

April was a thoroughly enjoyable, bird-filled month which provided a fairly constant trickle of the more common spring migrants locally, and a sprinkle of scarcities and rarities - most unlike  recent Aprils that have tended to fly by, leaving me largely disappointed.
The year's first Red Kite was seen from the house, during a lunch break, on the 1st. The following day my second Osprey of the spring headed upriver and on the 5th I recorded 28 Sandwich Tern, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and an Arctic Skua.
A male Firecrest was in song on Orcombe Point on the 6th and at least 1 White Wagtail was recorded. The year's first Little Tern was off the seafront and an Osprey was again observed off Mudbank.
The 7th sprung a massive surprise in the shape of a remarkably early and painfully brief Nightingale. It popped in to view for just seconds in the corner of the Bristol Schools camp, and is the first I've ever seen in Exmouth. The year's first Redstart was in the top fields  and first 3 House Martins were over Maer Farm.
A presumed different male Redstart was on Orcombe on the 8th along with my first Yellow Wagtail of 2019. A flock of c35 Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew upriver off Mudbank and a wayward Red-legged Partridge was on Orcombe.
I was tempted out of Exmouth for a Dartmoor Great Grey Shrike on the 9th and once back in Exmouth I found my first Grasshopper Warbler of the year, on Orcombe. Three smart White Wagtails were in the top fields.
A flock of 17 Black-tailed Godwit were off Mudbank on the 10th, along with 8 Whimbrel.
Grasshopper Warbler number two actually showed between 'reels' on Orcombe on the 12th and on the 13th both Great Skua and Arctic Tern were off Maer Rocks. A drake Shoveler off Mudbank was more unusual than the 77+ Pale-bellied Brent Goose off there, way out in the middle of the river.
My third ever Orcombe Nuthatch was the highlight on the 18th, and on the 20th Paul Gosling and I watched a  Serin head east, trilling all the way!
Up to six Great Northern Diver were off Maer Rocks on the 25th and on the 27th I was again lured out of Exmouth, this time for a truly stunning first for Devon - Dark-eyed Junco in Westward Ho!
A Yellow Wagtail flew east over Orcombe on the 29th and on the 30th another flew west, whilst the year's first Common Sandpiper appeared off Mudbank.
 

Field notes  - Nightingale - Orcombe Point 7/4/19.


  Camera-shy Redstart - Orcombe Point 7/4/19 - the first of the spring. Another, presumed different bird, was present the following day.
 

Willow Warbler - Maer Valley. Really good numbers were seen daily from the 6th - 8th as a cool easterly kicked in. The total number of Willow Warblers recorded in April, assuming all moved through quickly, was 98+.


A trip up to Dartmoor on April 9th, for this Great Grey Shrike, was made even more worthwhile when it burst in to song.


Mistle Thrush - St John's Road 12/4/19.

 
Common Scoter - close off-shore between Maer Rocks and Orcombe Point 26/4/19. This unusually confiding drake lingered from 20/4 to 17/5 at least.
 

A rare 'trans-county' twitch for a rare transatlantic vagrant - Dark-eyed Junco - Westward Ho! 27/4/19.


This Red-throated Diver afforded fantastic views off Maer Rocks on 28/4/19. It was still present on the 11/5 at least. Early morning sea-watches from the beach huts, throughout December in particular, reliably produced records of this species. My best counts were of 19 on February 18th and 20 on December 15th.
 
May started a little chilly but both Sedge Warbler and Garden Warbler in song on the morning of the 3rd provided some warmth.
The following day three more Garden Warblers arrived and with them a real treat in the shape of my first ever Exmouth Wood Warbler. It sang and showed beautifully at the entrance to the Bristol Schools camp, on a freezing cold and grey Saturday morning. It was to be May's best bird!
The 5th provided the year's first Swift flying downriver, viewed from the back garden and on the 6th a Sedge Warbler and 2 more Garden Warblers were on Orcombe.
My first Ringed Plovers of 2019 were off Mudbank on the 7th - 3 birds along with 1 Greenshank, 13 Dunlin, 10 Bar-tailed Godwit, 6 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a single Dark-bellied Brent Goose. At least 30 Sandwich Tern, 2 Common Tern and the female Eider were off the seafront.
Six Common Tern were off Maer Rocks on the 8th but it was to be an extremely disappointing month for terns in the bay.
On the 11th, nine migrant Turnstone were on Maer Rocks and off there the long-staying Common Scoter and Red-throated Diver. At least 21 Bar-tailed Godwit were off Mudbank and my first Exmouth Spotted Flycatcher of the year was at Bystock, courtesy of Liz Hamling.
On the 12th a beautiful Arctic Skua raced in to the bay, sat on the sea off the Warren for a few minutes, and then raced back out. Five Ringed Plover rested on the beach and eight Brent Geese remained off Mudbank, alongside 18 Bar-tailed Godwit.
Seven Black-tailed Godwit were off Mudbank on the 13th, down to four birds the following day when a smart summer-plumaged Grey Plover lingered a while on Maer Rocks.
On the 16th a high count of 300+ Black-headed Gulls was made off Mudbank and 21 Common Scoter were off Maer Rocks along with 4 Great Northern Diver.
The following day 40+ Sanderling were on Cockle Sands.
On the 19th singles of Spotted Flycatcher and Reed Warbler were on Orcombe Point. Eight Black-tailed Godwit were with nine Brent Geese off Mudbank.
The Brent Goose count had risen to ten by the 20th (6 Pale and 4 Dark-bellied birds) and the following day further singles of Spotted Flycatcher and Reed Warbler were on Orcombe. At least 2 churring male Nightjars were on Exmouth territories.
On the 24th I clapped eyes, for the first time, on the additional Maer Farm Ring-necked Parakeets with three birds showing. Up to seven birds were reportedly present, rising to nine a few days later!
With things getting really quiet in Exmouth, Derek and I made a trip up to Somerset, chiefly for dragonflies, but managed to see a good selection of birds, which included a pair of Black-winged Stilts.
The month 'fizzled' to an end with very little to report, and attention turning increasingly to dragonflies and moths.
 
 
My first ever Exmouth Wood Warbler - Orcombe Point 4/5/19.


Ringed Plovers - Exmouth beach 12/5/19. At no time of year, and in no location, can you guarantee seeing this species in Exmouth. I saw very few this year.


Grey Plover - Maer Rocks 13/5/19.

 
A couple singing males were on Exmouth territories this year. Otherwise Yellowhammer is a scarce bird in Exmouth, with one or two recorded most years on Orcombe Point, although this year I didn't get any!
 

A day-roosting male Nightjar not far outside the Exmouth boundary - 30/5/19. Birds were again on territory at the regular Exmouth site in 2019, though I've never established exactly how many pairs are present (at least two pairs seems likely). At least one male Dartford Warbler had a territory inside the Exmouth boundary as well, but I didn't establish whether or not it bred successfully.

The first of June saw 8 Brent Geese still off Mudbank and four Great Northern Divers off Maer Rocks, though the latter represented just a small portion of the 11 recorded off the Warren.
On the 3rd I discovered a first-summer Bonaparte's Gull feeding with the Black-headed Gull flock off Shelly Beach, and a Common Tern was feeding off Maer Rocks, alongside another Great Northern Diver.
The Bonaparte's Gull was still present on the 6th, when two dark phase Arctic Skuas wheeled over the Warren before flying high north upriver - a peculiar sight indeed.
On the 7th some bad weather persuaded 3 Common Tern and 9 Sandwich Tern to rest up on Cockle Sands, and on the 9th Orcombe's fourth Nuthatch would have been the highlight were it not for two Little Terns fishing on the river before disappearing high south.
The Sandwich Tern count had risen to seventeen on the 11th. The following day - 200 Oystercatchers were roosting off Mudbank and 200 Black-headed Gulls were off there too.
A single Black-tailed Godwit on Cockle Sands was the highlight on the 19th and 27 Sandwich Tern were present.
On the 21st I twitched a summer-plumaged Spotted Redshank at Bowling Green and a Rosy Starling in Exminster.
The 23rd saw at least 36 Sandwich Tern in the estuary alongside 2 Common Tern.
The 27th was a special day. I found a Swedish-ringed Caspian Tern off Mudbank, which later performed really well off the viewing platform at Bowling Green. It was present the following day, touring the estuary and making its way on to many Devon lists. The first two returning Redshank were also off there on the 27th.
Early on the 29th three Common Tern were accompanied by a first-summer Little Gull on Cockle Sands, and the month drew to a close with a Little Tern and the Slavonian Grebe off the Imperial on the 30th.


First-summer Bonaparte's Gull - Shelly Beach 3/6/19. This individual was present over the high tides until 6/6/19.
 

Another trip out of Exmouth on the 21st for this Rosy Starling in Exminster.
 
 
Caspian Tern (4th cal yr)  - found off Mudbank but photographed on the River Clyst on 27/6/19. It was present all day on the river on the 28th but gone on the 29th. This bird sported a red darvic ring on its left leg (K7T), and a metal ring on its right. It was soon established, thanks to Dave Boult's fabulous photos, that this bird was ringed in Yttre Benskären, near Oxelösund, southern Sweden, as a chick on 4th June 2016 by Ulrik Lötberg. It was seen in Tunisia on 18/9/2016, Gambia on 17/11/2017, (the Exe on 27-28/6/2019) and then in France on 7/7/2019. Many thanks to Dave Boult for the detective work and for the use of his beautiful photograph.
 
 
Caspian Tern - from Bowling Green viewing platform - photo Dave Boult.

July got off to a quiet start but a Little Tern was off the Imperial on the 4th.
On the 7th there were c150+ Curlew off Mudbank, along with12+ Whimbrel, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 11 Mediterranean Gull and, most surprisingly, 30+ Sand Martin.
On the 13th I recorded my first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of the summer off Mudbank, along with a single Black-tailed Godwit and a further 8 Sand Martins. Nearby, off Maer Rocks, 2 Common Terns.
On the 14th - two Ospreys were hunting together off the Imperial, with a single Knot on Cockle Sands and 9 Mallard off Mudbank, signalling the start of the late summer wildfowl build-up.
After a complete blank year last year I was relieved, as well as delighted, to clap eyes on an adult Roseate Tern. It was sat on Bull Hill early morning on the 20th, along with 110+ Sandwich Tern and 10+ Common Tern. The ring read from Lee Collins showed that this bird had been ringed as a pullus at Rockabill, Ireland on July 4th 2017.
On the 21st I was a bit taken aback to find a further four Roseate Terns on Bull Hill. Thanks to Lee's expertise he was able to read three more rings (the fourth bird was un-ringed) from the Warren hide. All three birds were Irish - two form Rockabill and one from Lady's Island Lake. The Sandwich Tern count was 120+. The following day just two Rosys were present early morning on Bull Hill and later at the Warren.
The final week in the month was spent on a family holiday in Kefalonia, western Greece.
 
 
The first of six Roseate Terns found on Bull Hill in July/August. This one was photographed by Lee Collins at Dawlish Warren. It had been ringed in Rockabill, Ireland. Three of the next five were also wearing Irish rings - a further two from Rockabill and one from Lady's Island Lake.
 
A 'redhead' Goosander joined 57 Mallard off Mudbank on August 3rd and a flock of 6 Ring-necked Parakeets flew over the lifeboat station towards Maer Valley.
On the 4th I caught up with a juvenile Black Tern on Bull Hill, sat amongst a tern flock that consisted of 200+ Sandwich Tern, 20+ Common Tern and a 'new' un-ringed adult Roseate Tern. A juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was in a feeding melee of several hundred Black-headed and Herring Gulls.
On the 5th an adult and juvenile Little Tern were sat on Bull Hill amongst reduced numbers of terns. Nearby, flocks of 5 and 4 Ring-necked Parakeets performed high, noisy circuits over Orcombe Point.
The juvenile Black Tern was again on Bull Hill on the 7th, when both Arctic Skua and Great Skua edged in to the bay to inspect the gull flocks.
Some rough weather on the 9th and 10th failed to produce much of note, but my first Balearic Shearwater flew south on the 9th (with many more missed) along with up to 8 Arctic Skua. Off Mudbank - 3 juvenile Shoveler and 9 Redshank were noteworthy. The Mallard count had risen to 160 birds (peaking at 285+ on the 13th). A Black-tailed Godwit was off Mudbank on the 10th.
A juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was on the beach by Maer Rocks on the 14th with an Arctic Skua lingering offshore there.
The following day there were three Arctic Skuas lingering but more excitingly - a French-ringed Yellow-legged Gull rested on the beach - the fourth of the summer. It was again present on the 16th when sea-watching produced at least two, possibly up to four Great Skuas. Later that same evening, sheltering on Cockle Sands - 15 Knot, 1 juvenile Little Tern, 1 Arctic Tern and a couple Kittiwakes.
Two Black-tailed Godwits were off Mudbank on the 20th and on the 21st a Snipe performed a few laps before heading off east.
Swifts were the order of the day on the 24th with 9 hawking around the house in the morning and half a dozen over Orcombe in the afternoon.
My second Tawny Pipit for Orcombe flew north-west over Derek and I on the 25th, when there was a big movement of House Martins occurring. Many were too high up and invisible to count but the tail-end of one flock contained at least 175 birds.
On the 26th a mini-fall on Orcombe included 6 Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Whinchat and a couple Redstarts.
My first Kingfisher of the year was on Bystock Pond on the 30th.
 
 
Goosander - Mudbank 3/8/19 - my second of two in Exmouth in 2019. This species is a less than annual visitor to this part of the Exe.


Turnstone - Exmouth Beach 3/8/19.


 This juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was sporting a white, darvic ring (R:0F5) on its left leg. It was present early in the morning, on the beach, on August 15th and again the following day. Interestingly it was noted again at Dawlish Warren on the 19th. It was ringed (presumably as a pullus, when its identity was apparently 'indeterminate') at Les Portes-en-Ré on the Atlantic coast of France on June 11th 2019. This year was a poor one for Yellow-legged Gulls in Exmouth with a paltry six juveniles logged - 1 in July, 3 in August, 1 in September and 1 in October.


Kittiwake - August 16th. It's unusual to encounter Kittiwakes on Exmouth beach but there's a good-sized breeding colony round the corner, on Straight Point (160 nests counted on June 6th 2017 - Devon Bird Report 2017), and birds are regularly seen offshore during sea-watches.


A count of six Spotted Flycatchers together on Orcombe on the 26th was exceptional. Three were recorded in May and  further singles in August, September and October, taking the year's total number of passage Exmouth birds recorded to twelve. At least one pair was on territory on the Exmouth boundary in the spring.

 
 One of a dozen Yellow Wagtails in Maer Valley on 27/8/19.
 
The first half of September was disappointingly quiet. A Hobby circling over Maer Valley drifted westwards on the 2nd - my first of the year in Exmouth.
On the 10th the first of the Pale-bellied Brent Geese arrived with 35 birds distantly off Mudbank having been noted moving north over Torbay earlier in the day.
The following day forty birds were present and included 22 juvenile birds. Birds were then present daily off Mudbank with 56 close in on the 15th and still at least 30 present at the end of the month. The same day both Osprey and Hobby were seen from the back garden, and a Spotted Flycatcher was the best of a reasonable selection of migrants on Orcombe.
A decent gathering of wildfowl on the evening of the 16th consisted of 360+ Wigeon, 40+ Pintail, 14 Teal, 3 Shoveler, 1 Tufted Duck and, best of all, a juvenile Garganey.
The 17th was notable for my first self-found Dotterel - a vocal 'fly-over' on Woodbury Common late in the evening.
Keeping with the plover theme, the following evening the autumn's first Golden Plover was over Orcombe, with it or another on the deck in the top fields on the 19th and 22nd.
The first Dark-bellied Brent Geese were amongst a mixed flock of 75 Dark and Light-bellied birds on the 20th with the flock leaping to 148 birds the following day.
On the 24th a drake Garganey, my second of the autumn, was with 35 Teal off Mudbank.
On the 25th I 'mini-twitched' the juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher on Bowling Green Marsh.
The Mute Swan flock numbered 76 birds off Mudbank on the 27th, eight of which were juveniles. Nearby a Yellow Wagtail was on the cricket pitch and an Arctic Skua was off the seafront, though I'd missed some good sea-watching the previous couple of days due to work.
A different Arctic Skua was off the seafront on the 28th and a Garganey was off Mudbank along with 2 Black-tailed Godwit.
Overnight heavy rain and a strong southerly meant some improved sea-watching on the 29th - at least 10 Arctic Skua, 6 Great Skua and 2 Balearic Shearwaters went south past Orcombe in the first hour or so of daylight before the wind switched. Nearby a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull was on Orcombe Point and the Mudbank Mute Swan flock numbered 77 birds (4 juveniles).
 
 
Adult Pale-bellied Brent Goose - Mudbank 15/9/19.


Golden Plover - Orcombe Point 19/9/19.


Garganey - Mudbank 28/9/19 - third autumn record following singles on 16/9 and 24/9 - at least two birds involved.

A Hobby was high over Orcombe Point on October 2nd but it was a deadly dull first half of the month with a succession of weather systems from the west limiting what was out there to be found whilst, as per usual, all the good birding was on offshore islands around the UK and Ireland, and not Exmouth.
On the 5th I recorded my first two Red-breasted Mergansers off Mudbank and first autumn Reed Bunting on Orcombe.
My first Redwing was recorded on the 7th, as I went through the moth trap, and a decent total of 90+ Sandwich Terns were off the seafront, accompanied by a couple Arctic Skuas.
On the 10th a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull rested on Orcombe Point and on the 12th 106 Shelduck were counted off Mudbank, along with the year's first Gadwall.
On the 13th some heavy, overnight rain dropped both Yellow-browed Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher on Orcombe Point.
My first Firecrest of the autumn was on Orcombe on the 16th.
On the 19th the Spotted Flycatcher was still on Orcombe Point along with a Jay, Golden Plover and Merlin. A late Reed Warbler was lurking in sallows on the edge of Warren View playing fields.
On the 20th I recorded my first two Short-eared Owls of the autumn along with the first Brambling and Mistle Thrush. A male Cirl Bunting was singing on Warren View playing fields.
The following day I recorded my first Fieldfare of the autumn on Orcombe and Woodpigeon movement got underway with c1500+ birds moving north-west. Best bird however was discovered later in the afternoon - my first Ring Ouzel on Orcombe in over four years.
The following day saw a Great White Egret heading east shortly after dawn, and masses of common stuff overhead including c4000+ Woodpigeon and at least 92 Stock Dove.
Three Firecrest on Orcombe were new in on the 23rd when my first autumn Redpoll was recorded and a Black Redstart was on a neighbours' roof.
Another Black Redstart, this time a smart male, was on Orcombe Point the next day but it was totally trumped by a beautiful Long-eared Owl that Paul Gosling and I discovered in the top fields. It settled and roosted for the remainder of the day, attracting a steady stream of admirers.
On the 25th a Water Pipit was on the dung heap and 2 Arctic Skuas lingered off Orcombe Point.
Singles of Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Great Northern Diver and Red-throated Diver passed Orcombe Point on the 26th when 2 Eider were off the Warren and the Water Pipit remained on the dung heap. It was last seen on the 31st.
 
 
Yellow-browed Warbler - Orcombe Point 13/10/19. The only one of the year and only my ninth ever in Exmouth. Must have missed a heap more.


It was a reasonably good year for Stonechats in Exmouth. This was one of three birds on Orcombe on the 19th, and one on Warren View playing fields, on December 11th, was a new bird for the house list.


This late Reed Warbler was in bushes bordering Warren View playing fields on October 19th. It was one of just three recorded in Exmouth during the year. Both common 'acros' are highly prized in this tiny, reed-starved corner of east Devon!


Wigeon and Pintail - Mudbank  20/10/19. Two species synonymous with Exmouth. Good numbers of both were present off Mudbank in the autumn, but as usual the numbers plummeted once birds relocated to the north of the estuary. Having said that, my highest Pintail count (320 birds) was made on December 8th. I never properly counted the Wigeon once their numbers got high but my sense is that there were fewer than in recent years.


Male Ring Ouzel - Orcombe Point 21/10/19. Ring Ouzel records are few and far between in Exmouth. My last one was in October 2015.


Great White Egret - Orcombe Point 22/10/19. This is my third Exmouth record which still seems too few, given Exmouth's geographical position at the south end of the river.


Long-eared Owl - Orcombe Point 24/10/19. One of the highlights of 2019 - a magical moment, shared with Paul Gosling, and a brand new bird for my Exmouth list.


Water Pipit - Orcombe Point 25/10/19 - only my second Exmouth Water Pipit following one last year in November. Both were frequenting the dung heap and both were incredibly difficult to photograph. The last one stayed just two days, this one a week, being last seen on the 31st.
 
A big storm on November 2nd produced 2 Little Gulls and the year's first Scaup - a female-type with at least 16 Common Scoter and a drake Eider off Maer Rocks. A summer-plumaged Great Northern Diver was sheltering in the Duck Pond and a Firecrest was in the Maer carpark sallows.
On the 5th I found a Richard's Pipit in with a small flock of Skylark, late after work, on Orcombe Point - a lovely birthday present!
A Cirl Bunting was lurking in hedgerows along Gore Lane on the 13th and on the 17th a Cetti's Warbler was discovered in the West Lodge reedbed.
My first Exmouth Avovets of 2019 were distantly off Mudbank on the evening of the 19th - five birds in total.
On the 23rd 150+ Shelduck were counted off Mudbank and 2 Firecrest were on Orcombe Point. The following day a fly-over Cirl Bunting was recorded between Mudbank and West Lodge whilst walking the dog, and 40 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were counted off Mudbank.
A Great Northern Diver was upriver from Mudbank on the 25th and on the 27th a count of 7 Purple Sandpipers was made on Maer Rocks.
 
 
First-winter Mediterranean Gull  - 2/11/19. We never get big numbers of Mediterranean Gull in Exmouth but it's a species encountered regularly throughout the year. I never tire of them and have a strange compulsion to photograph them, whenever I get the chance.
 
 
Richard's Pipit - Orcombe Point 5/11/19 - my third on Orcombe Point. All three have been seen in flight only and all three were picked up on call. My last one was in 2017 and was, interestingly, on the same date.

The first day of December saw two Black Redstarts in the Shelly Beach area. They followed an early morning twitch to Chard, in Somerset, for my first Smew in nearly a decade.
On the 7th the wintering female Cirl Bunting showed well around the dung heap. Earlier a lone Knot accompanied 5+ Purple Sandpipers on Maer Rocks, and three Red-throated Divers flew past there.
A high count of 320 Pintail was made off Mudbank on the 8th, following another twitch, this time to Mansands, with Nick, for the long-staying Blue-winged Teal.
A decent count of 20 Red-throated Divers flew south past Orcombe Point on the 15th, along with 2 Great Northern Divers. At Liverton Copse a wintering Firecrest was again located in Holly bushes.
On the 23rd a Cattle Egret was scoped across the river in Starcross, pushing the boundaries of what constitutes an Exmouth record, but seeing as I could see it from home it counts! On the 25th a 'scope' from back garden, to see if the Cattle Egret was still present revealed not one but 21! A Ring-necked Parakeet was also watched as it zoomed around the Lower Halsdon Farm area.
On the 28th six Ring-necked Parakeets were watched in Maer Valley and 118 Black-tailed Godwit fed off Mudbank.
The Common Gull flock on Bull Hill consisted of 110 birds on the 29th and a Great Northern Diver was off there. The following day the two Shelly Beach Black Redstarts performed in the sunshine and on New Year's Eve - a drake Goldeneye was off Mudbank, bringing 2019 to a close.


Black Redstart - Shelly Beach 1/12/19. One of two present on this date and the last of six individuals seen in Exmouth in 2019, although it's not possible to rule out this stunner of a male being a returning bird from last winter.


First-winter male Blue-winged Teal - Mansands 8/12/19. My first in Devon since 1997.


Female Ring-necked Parakeet - Maer Valley 28/12/19. One of six birds feeding together on this date. A single female was present at the start of the year but reports of three birds began surfacing as the year progressed, and by the end of May at least seven individuals were reportedly present. Young birds were presumably fledging in the summer, and birds were being reported right across Exmouth, with a maximum of 9 reported in August. The source of all these birds is still unknown - a colony seeded from escapes (accidental or intentional) or from dispersing birds from strongholds further east? The epicentre of this burgeoning colony is Douglas Avenue, with its large, wooded, private gardens. They're not too difficult to find if you know the call!


Mallards - Mudbank 31/12/19. Mallards are a regular feature off Mudbank from late summer onwards. The year's highest count was 285+ birds on August 13th but good numbers remained in December, with 77 present on the 28th.

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone and good birding in 2020...

10 comments:

  1. Happy New Year, Matt! You certainly had some wonderful birds in 2019! Good account. Hope 2020 is at least as successful & will enjoy your blogs on birds + other wildlife.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Neil - Happy New Year to you too! Really chuffed you read my blog and thank you for all your comments. All the best. Matt

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Matt a happy New Year to you to. I enjoyed reading the review for this 2019 the first paragraph is slightly depressing with the gradual loss of habit all around us and with disturbance another factor. Unfortunately this gradual chipping away at nature takes it toll and has been borne out by your observations around our patch.In the RSPB spring 2020 mag Jo Knight’s article proves loss of a small bits of habit is happening everywhere in this country and is having an impact on these important ecosystems locally.
    It’s always a great privilege to spend time with you out in the field looking for something different. Keep up the great work and look forward to having a few birding days out with you before we’re off on our travels again. All the best Derek

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comments Derek - always appreciated. Agree - the constant chipping away is terrible and so visible on a daily basis. Give us a shout when you've got a bit of time free. Happy New Year to you and Julie. All the best. Matt

      Delete
  4. Hi Matt, a great roundup and some great birds. Due to the recent issues I have been having with my blog I have deleted it but replaced it with another one which will be the same sort of thing. It can be viewed here: https://insidethemothpot.blogspot.com/?m=1

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks Sam - will swap the links round. Look forward to seeing how you get on in 2020. Have a Happy New Year. All the best. Matt

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great to read such a thorough write up from an adjacent patch! These notes become so more importnat after the depressing declines and habitat loss - Keep up the great work Matt. Hope to see you more on the patch in 2020 as I am trying to travel a little less!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Chris - many thanks. Thoroughly enjoyed your write-up too! Which got the blood pumping more - Snow Leopard or Grosbeak?! Very gripped!Hope to see you soon. All the best. Matt.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Fantastic birding Matt, will share this on Exmouth Wildlife Group's Facebook Page. Happy new year, Simon

    ReplyDelete
  9. Many thanks Simon - good to see you the other day. Happy New Year to you too! All the best. Matt

    ReplyDelete