Wednesday 27 January 2021

Cockle Sands Brant

Rock Pipit - one of two on the dung heap, on Orcombe Point, this afternoon.

A look from the back garden just before 8am, before work, revealed the Black Brant on Cockle Sands with c1/200+ Dark-bellied Brent Geese. In addition I counted 8 Red-breasted Mergansers, at least 18 Great Crested Grebes and 5 Cattle Egrets (stood in a field somewhere behind Starcross, before flying inland). A Chiffchaff was calling from scrub bordering the playing fields.
Late this afternoon 11 Purple Sandpipers were on Maer Rocks and a couple Rock Pipits were on the dung heap.

Sunday 24 January 2021

Golden Plovers

With snow on surrounding hills, I popped up to Orcombe Point in the hope of Golden Plovers and Lapwings. I succeeded with the goldies but no sign of any Lapwings. Otherwise just 17+ Snipe, 8 Linnets, 2 Kestrels and a couple Stonechats of any note.
Nearby, in Maer Valley - one or two Firecrests, 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Grey Wagtails, 25+ Redwings and 5 Ring-necked Parakeets
A drake and female Goldeneye were off Mudbank, along with half a dozen Red-breasted Mergansers. The local Kestrel was hunting along the edge of the estuary, so there are at least 3 birds within the Exmouth parish boundary at the moment.

The rear end of 3 Golden Plovers heading fast west.

One of two Ravens on Orcombe this morning.

One of eight Linnets on Orcombe Point early this morning.

Saturday 23 January 2021

Four Brent ssp?

This Brent Goose (centre) caught the eye in this morning's Darts Farm flock. Unfortunately I didn't get a really clear look at it but I think Grey-bellied Brent is at least a  consideration, albeit an unlikely one. There is striking contrast between a dark-grey belly and whiter flanks but the upperparts are perhaps a shade too dark? As well as Grey-bellied Brent there are hybrid possibilities to consider, as well as the distinct possibility that it's just a very well-marked Dark-bellied bird. Gotta love Brents!

The Black Brant showed really well, in with the big Brent flock (c6-700+ birds) beside the road, this morning.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

One of two Pale-bellied Brent Geese in this morning's flock.

Little else to report today but at least six Crossbills gave me neck-ache on East Budleigh Common this afternoon.

Friday 22 January 2021


Drake Goldeneye - Duckpond. Lovely close views of this stunning duck. I watched it with a sense of melancholy though, as with numbers down to just three or four birds at this end of the river, it's possible it will become a real rarity within the next decade. 

I think this is Sweet Violet (blunt sepals and small hairs on leaves) but I'm not sure. Does anyone know if I can rule out a related garden escape?

 Kestrel - Orcombe Point. A quick look late this afternoon revealed just 4 Stonechat, 1 Chiffchaff, 4 Curlew, 5 Snipe and c20+ Meadow Pipits.

Thursday 21 January 2021


A fairly subtle first-winter Yellow-legged Gull was on Maer Rocks this evening - a product of Storm Christoph perhaps?

A pre-work and post-work look off Maer Rocks today produced 5 Red-throated Divers, 13 Brent Geese, 4 diver sp, 1 male Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Great Northern Diver, at least 9 Purple Sandpipers, 1 Yellow-legged Gull and my first Fulmar of the year, heading distantly south. 

Off Mudbank - 6+ Great Crested Grebes, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Mediterranean Gull, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 5 Pintail and, on Cockle Sands, 111 Grey Plovers, 50 Knot and 5 Sanderling. Really good to meet Phil today.

A 'last knockings' look off Shelly Beach revealed the Slavonian Grebe (off Cockwood), 3 Red-breasted Mergansers and 165+ Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

A couple days ago, on the 19th, a dawn sea-watch from the raised beach huts produced 23+ Red-throated Divers, c100+ Gannet, several Kittiwakes, 3 Great Northern Divers and 2 diver sp. Off Mudbank - 70 Shelducks and 10 Wigeon.

I've struggled to find Mediterranean Gulls this winter so this nice adult, off Mudbank, was most welcome.

Shelly Beach - early evening.

Monday 18 January 2021


Stonechat - this male was showing well on the Maer this evening.

Following a tip-off from Mark this afternoon I put some effort into scanning the estuary from Shelly Beach and was pleased to pick up a flock of 8 Greylag Geese, resting on the mudflats, way upriver and probably somewhere off Lympstone. Always a bit of an Exmouth 'hit or miss' species in any given year. Otherwise - 70 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and 5 Red-breasted Mergansers.

Sunday 17 January 2021

Eiders and Woodcock

Two immature drake Eiders were off the lifeboat station early this morning - good to see after the disappearance of the adult drake, that was around for ages at the tail end of last year.

Much calmer this morning but still a few bits and pieces in the bay. A short dawn-watch from the raised beach huts produced at least 15 Red-throated Divers, 4 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Eiders.
A mooch around Withycombe Raleigh Common, a little while later, was more productive than usual with 1 Woodcock, 4+ Fieldfares, 50+ Redwings and 2 or 3 Mistle Thrushes noted. The thrushes formed one flock on the archery club playing fields and the Woodcock was flushed from close to the footpath that skirts the archery club. Once flushed it circled around me a couple times, presumably hoping to resettle, but in the end it plonked down on the adjacent Dalditch heath.

 Little Egret - lifeboat station.

Saturday 16 January 2021


Pomarine Skua - Orcombe Point - looking a bit shearwater-like in this (awful) photo. It passed slowly west at 0920. Little detail noted apart from a white belly and no spoons. I should think it's possibly one of the birds that has been seen further south, in Torbay.

An early morning sea-watch off Orcombe Point produced a probable Long-tailed Duck (distantly east at 0850), 9 Red-throated Divers, one or two Great Northern Divers, c100+ Gannet, small numbers of auks and Kittiwakes, and a Pomarine Skua. The top fields produced 23 Snipe, 3 Stonechats, 1 Kestrel, 1 Chiffchaff and the Siberian Chiffchaff.
A late afternoon 'scope' off Shelly beach produced the Slavonian Grebe, 9 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Mediterranean Gull and c30/40+ Cattle Egrets (in to roost north of Starcross shortly after 1635).

I couldn't resist a look at the Siberian Chiffchaff in dull, flat light. It was in the same stretch of hedgerow as yesterday but spent long periods of time feeding on the ground beneath the turnips. Once in the turnips it covers ground fast, and can be very difficult to keep track of.