Thursday 31 December 2020

2020 - Bumper Review

Well I'm sure many 'reviews of the year' will be of a similar tone but 2020 really was a truly horrible year. Both my work life and personal life have been extremely challenging, but this is neither the time nor the place to go into details, and many people across the country have endured far worse.
Birding has afforded me some degree of sanity in these mental times but, if I'm honest, Exmouth has not been anywhere near as good as it can be. I personally recorded 173 species within the Exmouth boundary, but only feral Bar-headed Goose, feral Snow Goose and Marsh Tit were species I'd not recorded before, although the latter species did put a big smile on my face! 

The year's Exmouth highlights included at least 43 Cattle Egrets, Red-necked Grebe, Spoonbill, Blue-headed Wagtail, Cuckoo, Marsh Harrier, Little Gull, Barnacle Goose, 5 Pomarine Skuas, 1 Roseate Tern, 5 Yellow-legged Gulls, Ruff, 2 Garganey, Caspian Gull, Curlew Sandpiper, Ring Ouzel, Lapland Bunting, Merlin, 2 Short-eared Owls, Woodlark, American Wigeon and 3 Richard's Pipits.

Thank you to everybody who has read this blog (or more likely just scrolled through the photos) and thank you to everybody who has texted me with info (you know who you are). Thank you also to those lovely individuals who helped me identify a myriad of plant and/or insect species. I truly appreciate your time and energy, and am in awe of your knowledge and skills!

As always you can easily find previous reviews by clicking on the year in the right-hand margin of this page.
2019 'hangers-on' recorded on January 1st included the wintering female Cirl Bunting around the dung heap (last seen on 19/1) and the Liverton Copse Firecrest, which was to be the first of at least 13 wintering, Exmouth birds recorded in January 2020. The Slavonian Grebe was also seen and the Maer Rocks Purple Sandpiper count was nine, having never got higher than seven in the whole of 2019.
On the 2nd eight Cattle Egrets were scoped (from Mudbank) between Starcross and Cockwood - part of a sizeable flock that had been knocking around the Starcross area since the latter part of 2019. Thirteen or fourteen birds were perched on a wreck, north of Starcross, on the 4th and nearby the wintering male Black Redstart was in the Shelly Beach area.
On the 5th I was chuffed to find at least 7 wintering Firecrests in the Bystock Reserve/St John's Road area and the female Eider was on Pole Sands, off the seafront. 
On the 12th eleven Red-throated Divers flew in to the bay past Orcombe Point and 30 Snipe were flushed from a Littleham stubble field. Nearby the year's first Kestrel was hunting at the tip of Straight Point.
On the 13th a Blackcap was seen at the end of our road and it or another was seen on 31/1.
On the 17th at least 20 Cattle Egrets were on a mud-spit just north of Starcross and my first Kingfisher of 2020 was watched fishing in Exmouth marina.
Some high pressure on the weekend of 18th/19th produced some cold, still and clear weather and the birding improved; at least 15 Lesser Redpolls were watched in the Bystock reserve, at least three Firecrests were along Madeira Walk and the two Black Redstarts (male and female) were fly-catching off apartment rooves in the Shelly Beach area. Wader counts from Mudbank/Imperial included 98 Grey Plover, 500/1000 Dunlin, 6 Ringed Plover, 16+ Sanderling and the year's first Lapwing.
It was good to see 12 Greylag Geese off Mudbank on the evening of the 23rd, having not recorded any at all in Exmouth in 2019.
On the 26th I counted 32 Cattle Egrets north of Starcross. A count of at least 25 the following day was totally eclipsed by my first Red-necked Grebe in Exmouth for six years! The grebe continued to fish off shelly Beach, amongst the buoys, until February 9th.

Kingfisher - Exmouth marina 17/1/20 - the first of 2020. Two birds were seen regularly in the Mudbank/Duckpond area in the latter part of the year and a single bird, at the Littleham end of Maer Valley, was seen in December. I can't recall seeing one there before.

Black Redstart - Shelly Beach 19/1/20 - this male and a female were wintering at the start of the year. Sunny, still days encouraged them out to fly-catch from the apartment roof-tops. The first of the autumn was an adult male (possibly the male above returning) in gardens around Shelly Beach on 14/11, followed the next day by a female-type. Perhaps both were returning birds? Lastly, on the 28th of November, a female-type was found on the roof of the United Reformed church, near the town centre.

Red-breasted Merganser - Shelly Beach 25/1/20. An apparently declining species on the Exe, probably best described as being in 'free-fall'. No more than nine were counted in the second winter period of 2020. I used to see flocks of 90+

A check of a few sites on February 1st produced both the Red-necked Grebe and Slavonian Grebe along with the female Eider sitting off the Warren, and a flock of c40+ Redwing in Maer Valley.
On the 2nd both grebes were seen again but the highlight was a Woodcock flushed from woodland along Castle Lane.
On the 5th three Razorbills and two Guillemots were feeding off Orcombe Point and at least 130 Kittiwakes were back on their Straight Point ledges. A count of 65 Pied Wagtails was made from cattle fields along Gore Lane but the wintering Skylark flock numbered just c20.
Storm Ciara hit on the weekend of the 8/9th and the following weekend storm Dennis, but neither delivered anything of note. On the 8th the most noteworthy sighting was 21 of the Starcross Cattle Egrets, viewed from Mudbank.
On the 19th a good late winter count of c600 Brent Geese was made from Mudbank and the female Eider was again seen off the Warren. The following day 48 Fieldfares flew over Withycombe Raleigh Common and on the 21st a juvenile Pale-bellied Brent Goose was with Dark-bellied birds off Mudbank.
On the 23rd fourteen Fulmar flew south past Orcombe Point and a male Gadwall was displaying to a female just north of West Lodge. Overall it was an incredibly wet and windy month.

Red-necked Grebe - Shelly Beach 1/2/20 - my first in Exmouth since Jan 18th 2014! This bird was present from 27/1 to 9/2/20, but never close, hence the ropey shot.
Birding was hard work during the first week of March, prompting me to vacate Exmouth for the likes of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers and Goshawks.
On the 7th there were still 5 Goldeneye (2 males) off Mudbank and the Curlew flock numbered 155+ birds.
The 8th got a bit more exciting with 19 early, migrant Pale-bellied Brent Geese and an adult Spoonbill off Mudbank. The Spoonbill was again present on the 10th when 95 Turnstones were counted.
My first Yellowhammer of the year in Exmouth was a male on Withycombe Raleigh Common on the 14th. In the afternoon I couldn't resist travelling down to a Plymouth for a gorgeous adult Ross's Gull.
On the 15th the first 2 Wheatears of the year were on Orcombe Point and 4 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were off Mudbank. For the second day in a row I left Exmouth to twitch! Drake Surf Scoter, Velvet Scoter and Long-tailed Duck in Labrador Bay proved too big a draw, and the long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher was seen again at Bowling Green.
On the 17th a flock of 60+ Pale-bellied Brent Geese was off Mudbank and the following day I went for the drake Green-winged Teal on Powderham Marsh. A single Wheatear was on the dung heap along Gore Lane.
Four Pale-bellied Brent Geese were off Mudbank on the 19th and the following day a flock of 197 Curlew contained a single Whimbrel.
A flock of 30 Linnet was in Littleham stubble fields on the 21st.
The 23rd produced 6 Eider off the Lifeboat Station, my first Sandwich Tern off Mudbank, a Red Kite over the river and a Little Grebe on Bystock Pond.
On the 24th, the first day of Corona virus 'lockdown', my first Osprey of the spring was hunting the lower Exe for 40 minutes, mid-morning. Viewed from the back garden. Garden highlights in the last week of March included 7 Red Kites, 1 Whimbrel, 1 Redwing, 3 Teal and maximum counts of 12 Red-breasted Mergansers, 4 Sandwich Terns, 31 Cattle Egrets and 79 Dark-bellied Brent Geese.
Spoonbill - Mudbank 8/3/20. This bird was on Exminster Marshes the day before and it flew back across the river after it had fed for a while between Mudbank and West Lodge. Seen again on 10/3.

Little Egret - Mudbank 14/3/20.

Ross's Gull - Plymouth 14/3/20.

Red Kite - 26/3/20 - 24 birds in total, mostly singles, were watched from the garden during spring. The majority tracked eastwards.

April in its entirety was spent in Covid-19 lockdown, which meant many hours stuck in the house and birding from the garden (which wasn't too bad as high pressure produced a gloriously sunny month) with regular shifts in work (supervising key workers' children), lots of home-working (setting and marking work for about 120 kids) along with online 'Microsoft Teams' meetings, weekly supermarket shops for us and for my parents, exercising with the family (and dog) on the playing fields at the back of our house (before a knee injury) and the odd cycle ride to Orcombe Point. I normally do Orcombe routinely in April but this year I just did it when conditions looked promising, which, given the fine weather, wasn't very often!
Totals from the garden included 10 Meadow Pipit, 32 Cattle Egret, 5 Knot, c170 Pale-bellied Brent Goose, 120+ Lesser Black-backed Gull (migrating north or east with a peak of 65 on 5/4), 8+ Ringed Plover, 2+ Osprey, 9 Red Kite, c45 Linnet, c65 Swallow, 3 Wheatear, 4 Siskin, 3 Tufted Duck, up to 80 Whimbrel, pretty much daily sightings of Sandwich Tern (with peak of 30 on 7/4), 1 Avocet, 1+ Common Tern, 5 Willow Warbler, 3 Sand Martin, 34 House Martin, 3+ Mediterranean Gull, 1 Fulmar, 9 Sanderling, 7 Grey Plover, c200 Dunlin, 4 Yellow Wagtail, up to 80 Bar-tailed Godwit, 5 Hobby, 5 Swift, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Little Tern, 4 Greylag Geese and 1 Bar-headed Goose.
Very limited coverage of Orcombe Point produced 12 Willow Warbler, 3 Yellow Wagtail, 3 Garden Warbler, 1 Cuckoo (18/4), 6 Wheatear, 1 Blue-headed Wagtail (18/4), c50+ Swallow, 2 White Wagtail, 1 House Martin, 1 Tree Pipit, 2 Sedge Warbler, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Lesser Whitethroat (27/4), 2 Great Northern Diver and decent numbers of Whitethroat and Blackcap.

Wheatear - Orcombe Point 18/4/20.

Blue-headed Wagtail - Orcombe Point 18/4/20. This bird was part of a small fall that included Cuckoo and Garden Warbler. All really good Exmouth birds.

White Wagtail - Orcombe Point 19/4/20 - one of a pair present. None were recorded in the autumn.

May continued in Covid-19 lockdown, though restrictions were moderated slightly on the 13th, allowing car journeys and unlimited exercise.  My birding habits remained pretty much as they were in April - lots of scanning from the back garden and occasional early morning sorties up to Orcombe. From mid-month onwards, with lockdown easing, the East Devon Commons were visited more frequently and a few local twitches were made!
Both Little Tern and Great Northern Diver were seen from the back garden on the 1st. The following day 2 Great Northern Divers and a Hobby were observed on a visit to Orcombe Point, but a singing male Garden Warbler in scrub at the back of our garden was a bigger surprise.
A Fulmar flew downriver on the 3rd and on the 4th Orcombe produced both Garden Warbler and Arctic Skua. Two Little Tern, 10 Sanderling and 40+ Sandwich Tern were seen from the back garden.
Orcombe Point on the fifth produced 1 Eider, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 5 Manx Shearwater, 50+ Sandwich Tern, 1 Common Tern and 4 Arctic Skua.
Garden watching on the 7th produced Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, 8 Pale-bellied Brent Goose and the long-staying 5 Dark-bellied Brent Goose. The following day - 1 Hobby, a first-summer Little Gull, 1 Red Kite and 2 Ring-necked Parakeet.
Orcombe Point on the 10th delivered a singing Reed Warbler and 3 Great Northern Diver. Back home I recorded my first Arctic Tern of 2020 along with 2 Red Kite.
Birding in a cold north-easterly on the 11th wasn't pleasant but 3 Tufted Duck, 1 Great Northern Diver and an Arctic Skua were recorded. A Gannet circling the lower estuary was the day's garden highlight.
On the 12th my 3rd Exmouth Barnacle Goose was watched from the garden, along with 4 Red Kite. In the evening at least 2 churring Nightjar were enjoyed on Exmouth territories.
A flock of at least 40 Sanderling were scoped from the garden on the 13th and on the 16th I twitched a flock of 13 Bee-eaters on the river Otter. Back on Orcombe a single Spotted Flycatcher and Great Northern Diver were the only birds of note.
On the 17th 50+ Sanderling were on Cockle Sands and another Spotted Flycatcher was recorded on Orcombe Point.
On the 21st a Red Kite and 50+ Black-headed Gull were recorded from the garden.
The 29th was the day a Marsh Warbler was discovered singing beside the river at Tipton St John. I spent the afternoon listening to its incredible song but getting just brief glimpses, but returned on the 31st to enjoy much better views. Later that afternoon Kevin Hale discovered a singing Blyth's Reed Warbler on Beer Head which resulted in me abandoning the patch once again!

Marsh Harrier - this bird headed slowly east, mid-morning, on 7/5. A rarely seen and even more rarely photographed species in Exmouth.

Blackcap - Orcombe Point 12/5. This male held territory along the coast path, not far before Sandy Bay caravan park. Not only was its song surprisingly varied, with short repeated Song Thrush-like phrases, but it habitually sang from exposed perches, allowing close approach. Good numbers on Orcombe this spring.

Bee-eater - one of thirteen that were briefly (and very grippingly) in an Exmouth garden on the 15th. Chris Townend relocated them, later that evening, on the river Otter and I saw them early on the 16th, shortly before they flew off high to the south.

Marsh Warbler - Tipton St John 31/5/20. Being in suitable breeding habitat, news of this Devon 'biggie' was kept local although details of its presence somehow leaked out nationally  for a short while. Probably my 'bird of the spring'.

A lot of rare birds arrived in the country throughout June but Exmouth remained resolutely quiet.
A Spotted Flycatcher was on Orcombe Point on the 1st and singing male Reed Warblers were discovered on the 8th, 13th and 15th. A late Wheatear was also on Orcombe on the 8th and the same day my highest Black-headed Gull count of the month was made, with 210+ on the river.
The resident Slavonian Grebe was scoped from Shelly Beach on the 10th and on the 11th tern numbers picked up with 1 Little Tern, 2 Common Tern and 25 Sandwich Tern on Cockle Sands.
On the 13th a count of 34+ Sandwich Tern was made off the Imperial and nearby, in the rugby ground hedgerow, a male Reed Warbler was singing. On the 14th a Greenshank was off Mudbank and 2 juvenile Stonechat were on Orcombe Point.
On the 20th I was tempted out of Exmouth for a beautiful first-summer male Red-footed Falcon that had taken up temporary residence on Cothlestone Hill in the Quantocks.

One of my non-avian highlights of 2020 was discovering a colony of Red-veined Darters, just up the road on the East Devon Commons.

Red-footed Falcon - Cothlestone, Somerset 20/6/20.
July was largely spent looking downwards, working on trying to learn my wild flowers. About time.
Dawlish Warren's first-summer Arctic Tern was seen from Mudbank on July 3rd.
On the 4th some sea-watching from the raised beach huts produced 6 Arctic Skua and c20/30+ Balearic Shearwater.
The 5th was a productive day with 5 Pomarine Skua and a Roseate  Tern (one of four found at the Warren) recorded, along with the lingering Arctic Tern.
Single Great Northern Diver and Great Skua were off the seafront on the 6th, and the following day 2 Goosander and a Common Sandpiper were recorded from Maer Rocks.
On the 8th a Little Tern was off Mudbank along with 6 Common Tern.
Twenty-eight Mediterranean Gulls were on the beach on the 9th - just a fraction of the totals recorded elsewhere on the Exe but lovely to see all the same.
The 16th was another good day - the highlight being a flock of 10 Cattle Egret that flew past the Quay and continued upriver. My first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of the season joined an estimated 2000+ Herring Gull in a river-mouth feeding frenzy and a male Tufted Duck flew upriver.
Further juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls were recorded on the 18th and 19th and, on the 19th, an Arctic Skua was lured into the bay by the feeding gulls.
The 21st produced a surprise on Orcombe Point in the shape of a very early juvenile Whinchat.
On the 24th Forty-five Swift flew west over Orcombe Point and on the 26th 2 juvenile Willow Warblers were recorded there.

This flock of ten Cattle Egrets (nine pictured) flew upriver past Exmouth Quay on 16/7.

Lunar Hornet Moth - news of a pheromone lure for this species rocked the mothing world! I wasted no time in getting hold of it and discovered that willows alongside the river Otter were to its liking.

Juvenile Willow Warbler - Orcombe Point 26/7/20.

A pet project during the lockdown period was to start learning to identify plants. A highlight was discovering 17 spikes of Broad-leaved Helleborine, just up the road. In total I must have photographed around 4oo (mostly flowering) plant species. You can see the fruits of my labor here.
On August 2nd my first Sedge Warbler of the autumn was recorded on Orcombe along with a Tree Pipit and at least 5 Willow Warbler. Off Mudbank - 120 Mallard and 20 Whimbrel.
I'm fairly sure Dartford Warblers didn't breed within the Exmouth boundary this year so one on local heathland on 2nd was presumably a dispersing juvenile. A juvenile Spotted Flycatcher at Bystock the following day was thought to be the progeny of Exmouth breeders - let's hope so.
The 5th produced my smartest and most approachable Yellow-legged Gull of the year - a juvenile loafing on the cricket pitch.
The first returning Wigeon was off Mudbank on the 8th and the next day both Whinchat  and Green Sandpiper were recorded on Orcombe Point.
On the 11th a juvenile Ruff was lovely surprise on the slurry pit. A Tree Pipit was also recorded on Orcombe, and 2 Common Sandpipers were off Mudbank.
My first and only Redstart of the autumn (a brief female-type) was on Orcombe Point on the 12th, along with 3 Tree Pipit.
On the 13th a Green Sandpiper was off Mudbank along with 2 Common Sandpiper and 3 Wigeon.
The 14th was a good day with the year's first Garganey and 2 Shoveler joining 265+ Mallard and 6 Teal off Mudbank. Two Greenshank were also present.
On the 17th my first Yellow Wagtail of the autumn was on Orcombe, and on the 19th the Mute Swan flock off Mudbank numbered 45 individuals - all adults though. Twenty-two Teal were off Mudbank on this date, along with 3 Common Tern.
On the 20th I recorded 8 Grey Plover off Mudbank and a Kestrel was patrolling the area. Twenty-two Whimbrel were counted off Mudbank on the 21st.
On the 22nd the Kestrel was again present, along with 2 fishing Osprey, my first Snipe of the autumn and the feral Snow Goose that's been accompanying Canada Geese on the upper Exe estuary for some considerable time.
I finally got Black-tailed Godwit on the Exmouth year list on the 23rd, with two birds on Cockle Sands. A Common Scoter was well upriver from there the same day.
On the 25th a Great Skua touched down briefly on Maer Rocks, sheltering from the ferocity of Storm Francis, Later in the day both Osprey and Caspian Gull were recorded off Mudbank.
On the 28th juveniles of both Black-tailed Godwit and Bar-tailed Godwit were off Mudbank. The following day an Osprey was fishing not far off Mudbank and the Wigeon count had risen to eleven. More surprising however was a count of 81 Mute Swan off there, with juveniles again being absent, along with a good count of 240 Oystercatcher. Nearby on Orcombe Point at least 30 Yellow Wagtails were in with cattle on Orcombe Point.
On the 30th a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper was off Mudbank. A single Swift and the autumn's first Meadow Pipit were recorded on Orcombe, along with c30/40+ Yellow Wagtail.
Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull - Exmouth cricket pitch 5/8/20.

Dark Crimson Underwing - one of my 2020 moth highlights. Other new species for me included Small Yellow Underwing, Grey Birch, Lunar Hornet Moth, Fen Wainscot, Brown-veined Wainscot, Straw Underwing, Pied Smudge and Radford's Flame Shoulder. Additionally 2 Bedstraw Hawkmoths and a Bird's Wing were very special. Huge thanks as always to Martin and Nick. I'd have seen a lot less moths without them!

Tree Pipit - Orcombe Point 14/8/20.

Garganey - Mudbank 14/8/20. The first of two autumn records.

Storm Francis didn't deliver a deluge of seabirds, as hoped, but I was thrilled to find this juvenile Caspian Gull, keeping its head down in the strong westerly wind, off Mudbank.

Black-tailed Godwit - Mudbank 29/8/20. It took until 23/8 to record Black-tailed Godwit (2 birds) in Exmouth this year. This individual was the third.

Osprey - Mudbank 29/8/20.

The lacklustre birding continued throughout September with a busy work schedule and fine weather conditions both contributory factors. On the 1st my first Pale-bellied Brent Goose was off Mudbank alongside 97 Wigeon and 16 Pintail. The following day the Wigeon and Pintail flocks had leapt to 175 and 125 respectively.
On the 3rd a Hobby swept low over Orcombe Point and the following day my third Whinchat of the autumn was discovered.
The second Garganey of the autumn was amongst 240+ Wigeon on the 5th.
On the 6th at least 1 Osprey and 26 Pale-bellied Brent Goose were recorded off Mudbank, but more significant was the autumn's first 2 Dark-bellied Brent Goose and a single Shoveler.
On the 8th 21 Pale-bellied Brent Goose were off Mudbank and a dozen were on Maer Rocks.
On the 10th a juvenile Whinchat was on Orcombe Point and on the 11th nine Yellow Wagtail were moving between cattle fields.
On the 12th my first Reed Bunting of the autumn flew over Orcombe Point and 40+ Siskin were recorded, though the true number was likely to be far higher.
The following day a bare minimum of 177 Siskin were recorded flying west over Orcombe, along with 12+ Grey Wagtail. A single Whinchat and at least 1 Spotted Flycatcher were also recorded.
The Whinchat was still present on the 14th and on the 15th both Pochard and Tufted Duck were off Mudbank - the former a real scarcity in Exmouth.
On the 16th there were 2 Whinchat on Orcombe and the Pale-bellied Brent Goose count was 31.
The 19th was notable for a drake Eider that was floating off Mudbank along with the first returning Red-breasted Merganser.
On the 20th at least 600 Wigeon were off Mudbank and on Orcombe the first Redpoll of the autumn flew over, with the Whinchat lingering there along with 6 Yellow Wagtail.
On the 26th a Nuthatch moved through scrub at Mudbank and c8/900+ Wigeon were on the river. A Tree Pipit was flushed from long grass on Orcombe but more unusual was a fly-over Yellowhammer.
A first-winter Yellow-legged Gull was off Mudbank on the 27th and nearby, on Orcombe, 4 Coal Tits dropped out of the sky into cliff-top scrub. Overhead there - 95+ Pied Wagtail and a late Yellow Wagtail.
A Cattle Egret in with the Mudbank Little Egret flock was a highlight on the 29th. The same short spell of birding also produced 210+ Pintail, 248 Brent Geese and 2 Shoveler.
The final day of the month saw at least 300 Teal off Mudbank as well as 3 Shoveler and the feral Snow Goose. The Whinchat lingered in the Orcombe turnip field with 11 Stonechat - a good count for Orcombe.

Sand Martin - Mudbank 6/9/20.

Yellow Wagtail - Orcombe Point 13/9/20.

First-winter Yellow-legged Gull - Mudbank 27/9/20.

This Cattle Egret was off Mudbank with the Little Egret flock on the 29th. Before long it took off and flew downriver towards the Warren.

On October 1st, a quick late afternoon whiz round Orcombe, before rain set in, produced the long-staying Whinchat with 12 Stonechat and 2 Swallow.
The follwing day at least 160 House Martin were on Orcombe Point with the year's first Golden Plover, a late Whitethroat and the Whinchat still.
On the 3rd, in wet conditions off the back of storm Alex, I discovered  a male Ring Ouzel in the Bystock reserve whilst waiting for Joel's football to kick-off.
The 4th was a good day for House Martins with at least 475 logged on Orcombe, once I'd realised a passage was underway.
Seventeen Stonechat, the most I think I've ever recorded, were on Orcombe on the 7th and the following day the Snow Goose was again off Mudbank.
On the 15th a Lapland Bunting flew low west, calling, and 15 Coal Tit, a Merlin, Mistle Thrush and Firecrest were also logged on Orcombe Point.
A 'new' and late Whinchat was on Orcombe on the 12th and the Snow Goose was again off Mudbank.
A Merlin and 3 Reed Bunting were logged on a pre-work visit to Orcombe on the 13th and on the 14th a Yellowhammer moved between trees bordering the Bristol Schools camp.
Highlight of the 16th was the year's first Short-eared Owl on Orcombe and on the 17th a flyover Woodlark and briefly settled (and singing) male Cirl Bunting took top billing on what was an unusually 'birdy' morning.
The 23rd provided another Short-eared Owl and my first 2 Brambling of the year, along with a Fieldfare and 90+ Chaffinch over Orcombe Point.
The 26th was a day for waders with 4 Greenshank, 22 Redshank, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Bar-tailed Godwit and a Whimbrel providing good views off Mudbank.
A day away from Exmouth on the 28th, for Aveton Gifford's Lesser Yellowlegs, was good fun. The Slapton Ring-necked Duck was also seen along with Little Stint, Eider and Merlin at Dawlish Warren.
On the 29th I discovered an adult drake American Wigeon, emerging from dowdy eclipse plumage, off Mudbank. It helped brighten up a grey, wet and windy day amidst a prolonged spell of south-westerlies, that had all but snuffed out hopes of finding something good.
The American Wigeon was again picked out amongst the Wigeon on the 31st when the first returning Purple Sandpiper was on Maer Rocks and a storm-blown Great Skua was offshore.

Ring Ouzel - Bystock 3/10/20.

Short-eared Owl - Orcombe Point. Two SEOs were recorded on Orcombe in October. The first on the 16th and this one on the 23rd.

Turnstone - Exmouth Quay 30/10/20.

The first returning Purple Sandpiper was on Maer Rocks on October 31st. My highest count of the year was made on 26/12, with 11 individuals creeping around the rocks.

The drake American Wigeon showed really well in the corner of the estuary known as the 'Duckpond' on November 1st, and 105 Redwing flew over.
The only Woodpigeon flocks witnessed were some big groups moving west, viewed from the back garden, on the 3rd, 4th and 5th. The weather was poor from then on, finally brightening a bit on the 19th when some big flocks moved west, over the town, as I walked to work.
The 5th produced a tremendous surprise in the form of a trio of Richard's Pipits that were flushed from the top fields, late in the afternoon, after work. They quickly disappeared towards Maer Valley/Littleham and continued a remarkable series of sightings on this same date (in 2017 and 2019).
Oddities off Mudbank on the 7th were the autumn's first GoldneyeGreat Northern Diver, 2 drake Tufted Ducks, 3 Shoveler and a Lapwing.
Two Lapwings were recorded on Orcombe on the 8th, along with 8 Snipe, and 2 Avocet were off Mudbank with 60 Redshank, 1 Great Northern Diver (still present on the 13th) and 8 Pale-bellied Brent Geese.
On the 14th a male Black Redstart (perhaps last winter's bird) was in gardens bordering the 'Gut' and the following day it was in the same spot with a female-type bird close-by. Seven Purple Sandpipers were on Maer Rocks and flocks of 300+ Dunlin and 90+ Turnstone were off Mudbank.
Some time spent birding along Wright's Lane on the 21st produced a long-awaited Exmouth tick in the shape of a Marsh Tit, along with both Firecrest and Treecreeper.
A day birding various Exmouth sites on the 22nd produced 2 Red-throated Diver and 7 Purple Sandpiper (Maer Rocks), 5 Ring-necked Parakeet (Maer Long-stay carpark), drake Eider (long-staying male off seafront), Slavonian Grebe and the two Black Redstarts (Shelly Beach). Thirteen Black-tailed Godwit, 365+ Pintail, 90+ Redshank and 17 Great Crested Grebe were off Mudbank.
On the 28th 4 Shoveler, 9 Red-breasted Mergansers and 15 Ringed Plovers were off Mudbank, and 2 Firecrests were in the hedgerow below Maer Farm. A 'new' female-type Black Redstart was discovered along Exeter Road, near the town centre. The following day, wintering male Blackcaps were seen in Manor Gardens and along Madeira Walk.

Eclipse drake American Wigeon - 'Duckpond' 1/11/20.

Three Richard's Pipits were on Orcombe late in the afternoon on 5/11/20.

It took many, many years but Marsh Tit finally found its way on to my Exmouth list - this bird photographed on Wright's Lane on 21/11.

It was a good year for Kestrels in Exmouth. This female was regularly seen from the kitchen window, as it hunted the edges of Warren View playing fields from the third week of November (still present on 19/12) - the first time one has frequented the area since we moved in 11 years ago. Two birds were regularly seen on Orcombe throughout the autumn.

On December 1st four Firecrests were found in Maer Valley with 2 again on the 3rd, along with about half a dozen Chiffchaffs.
A Shoveler was off Mudbank on the 8th and the drake Eider was off there on the 10th and 11th.
A trip to Curry Moor,  for a herd of 13 Whooper Swans, was a damp but enjoyable Somerset excursion on the 13th.
On the 19th the female-type Goldeneye was again off Mudbank and the drake Eider was off the seafront.
A quick twitch on the 20th, for a Dusky Warbler, saw me stood on the banks of the Exe in Exwick. Good to catch up with this species after unprecedented numbers in Britain during the autumn. Later, in the afternoon, a Great Northern Diver was off Mudbank with at least 16 Teal. The male Black Redstart was on apartment roof-tops at Shelly Beach.
The Great Northern Diver was again off Mudbank on the 21st along with a tired-looking Guillemot.
I saw the Slavonian Grebe from Shelly Beach on the 22nd and the following day five Red-throated Divers flew past Orcombe Point during a brief sea-watch. The drake Eider was on Bull Hill just before dark.
On the 24th a decent count of 31 Great Crested Grebes was made off Mudbank, along with the female-type Goldeneye.
On Boxing Day 11 Purple Sandpipers were on Maer Rocks and later, in the afternoon, I travelled up to Bude for my first ever Sociable Lapwing.
On the 28th a drake and female Goldeneye were off Mudbank.

Goldeneye - 'Duckpond' 19/12/20. This bird was first seen on 7/11. On the 28/12 a male and female were together off Mudbank. My neighbour Neil saw two males and a female so a minimum of three were present at the end of the year.

Great Crested Grebe - Exmouth marina 31/12/20. Good numbers of this species were on the river at the end of the year with 31 counted off Mudbank on Christmas Eve.

A Boxing Day twitch, for this Sociable Lapwing in Bude, was a nice way to end the year. HAPPY NEW YEAR to all readers of this blog!

Monday 28 December 2020


A male and female Goldeneye were off Mudbank this morning before they flew upriver (my neighbour Neil saw two males and a female together today). That means a minimum of three birds are on the river at the moment. A single female bird has been present since November 7th.

Little else to report. A stroll through Maer Valley produced just 3 Chiffchaffs and a handful of Redwings. Nearby on Orcombe - 4 Rock Pipits, 18 Stock Doves, 1 Snipe, 4 Meadow Pipits, 8+ Skylarks and 2 Stonechats.

Yesterday I had a quick look at Maer Rocks early on. At least 8 Purple Sandpipers seen with Great Northern Diver, 4 Common Scoters and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers offshore.

 Drake Red-breasted Merganser - one of at least half a dozen off Mudbank today. Numbers are still very low.

Saturday 26 December 2020

Sociable Lapwing

A brief window of opportunity this afternoon so I tootled up to Bude Marshes for this beauty - a new bird for me. It showed really well despite the poor weather conditions. Thank you for the text Mark. Weird to be watching this bird on my own, though I was joined by another couple shortly before I left.

Eleven Purple Sandpipers on Maer Rocks this morning - my highest count this winter. On the 24th I had nine. Also on the 24th, off Shelly Beach, 1 Mediterranean Gull, the Slavonian Grebe (off Cockwood), 7 Red-breasted Mergansers, 6 Sanderling and 1 Peregrine. Nearby, off Mudbank, 31 Great Crested Grebes and the female-type Goldeneye.
On the 23rd a brief morning sea-watch from the raised beach huts produced 5 Red-throated Divers flying south. In the evening the drake Eider was on Bull Hill.
On the 22nd the Slavonian Grebe was scoped from Shelly beach and off Mudbank - 1 Goldeneye, 45 Mallard, 40+ Turnstone, c200+ Dunlin and 3 Grey Plover.
Finally, on the 21st, 10 Teal, 1 Great Northern Diver and a Guillemot were off Mudbank.

Gorse Flat-body Agnopterix umbellana - East Budleigh Common. Surprised to find this on this morning's dog-walk. It should be hibernating at the moment but evidently it's a little mild.