To say I'm glad to see the back of 2021 is an understatement. We lost Dad on February 5th. He meant the world to me, and there's not a day goes by when I don't miss him terribly. It's a sad irony that, as a vicar, he devoted his life to helping the sick, dying and bereaved, and yet in his final six months was unable to receive visits from from friends, or anyone other than closest family and carers. Covid has a lot to answer for.
Lu and I are immensely proud of the resilience shown by Maisie and Joel, who have lost two dearly-loved grandparents in just over two years, and endured all the crap heaped upon their social lives and education by the pandemic. Maisie has secured a place at Cardiff University, starting next September, and has chosen to spend her gap year doing something worthwhile, rather than just polluting the atmosphere with travel. She works long shifts in a dementia home and is saving up for when she moves out. Joel works at 'Ocean' and is studying 'A' levels. They're great kids.
Covid-19 continued to make work more unpleasant and challenging, and the birding never really lived up to any sort of expectation, although September was probably a better than average month for me. Both spring and autumn passage were poor, and low numbers of many common species continued to highlight their inexorable decline. For the first time in a long time I failed to see a Tufted Duck in Exmouth, but the absence of (or at least my failure to see) species like Storm Petrel, Green Sandpiper, Water Rail and Goosander weren't terribly surprising. In contrast to previous years, I only saw one Red Kite and one Balearic Shearwater in Exmouth, but four species (Northern Mockingbird, Goshawk, Coot and Glossy Ibis) were new to my beloved Exmouth list.
In total, I personally recorded 171 species within Exmouth, which, I reckon, is about average. Highlights included Black Brant, Siberian Chiffchaff, 40+ Cattle Egrets, at least 10 Yellow-legged Gulls, Northern Mockingbird, Goshawk, 2 Cirl Buntings, 2 Cuckoos, 3 Roseate Terns, 8 Spoonbills, Marsh Harrier, Little Stint, Spotted Redshank, Coot, Black Tern, Glossy Ibis, Great White Egret, 2 Woodlarks, Short-eared Owl, 2 Merlins, 4 Little Gulls, Ruff, 2 Black-necked Grebes, Iceland Gull and Pochard.
I continued with my endeavour to learn about flowers, and a special effort was made to see Britain's wonderful orchids. I travelled to several new places and enjoyed some fabulous mini-adventures in their pursuit. In all, thirty-two orchid species were photographed, and a heap of other plant and insect life was seen. Thank you so much to Kev, Mike, Lesley and Bill for your company and all your help.
As always, I'd like to thank everybody who contacted me with bird info (especially Mark, who forever keeps me in the loop) and everyone who reads this blog. All comments are genuinely appreciated. I'd also like to thank Lu, who puts up with my frequent 'just popping down the river' shouts, followed by a total lack of communication as I sit in front of a screen, stone-faced, writing this blog!
I don't quite know what I expected when I started this blog, at the end of 2013, but I certainly didn't think it would still be going today.
So here's what birding in Exmouth was like in 2021...
January started back in Covid-19 lockdown, so it was back to working from home and teaching online lessons all day, but with a bit more flexibility than is afforded in school. Despite the short daylight hours the birding was surprisingly good, with a succession of scarce Exmouth birds, many of which are by no means guaranteed in any given year.
Highlights on New year's Day included 2 Gadwall and 2 Shovelers off Mudbank, Firecrest and Marsh Tit at Bystock, 11 Purple Sandpipers on Maer Rocks, 2 Firecrests in Maer Valley and a Little Grebe alongside the Slavonian Grebe from Shelly Beach.
On the 2nd I popped in to see the Matford Green-winged Teal and on the 3rd I recorded 2-300 Razorbills, as well as 2 or 3 Great Northern Divers off Orcombe Point. A good count of 130+ Grey Plovers was off Mudbank - the entire Exe, wintering population I think.
The 6th sprung a surprise in the shape of my third Exmouth Black Brant - a smart adult in with the Dark-bellied Brents off Mudbank. A count of 130+ Knot was a winter peak and 84 Shelducks were counted. The following day a good mid-winter count of 410+ Dark-bellied Brent Geese was made off Mudbank.
On the 8th, Bystock produced a wintering Dartford Warbler, 7 or 8 Lesser Redpolls, c30+ Redwing and a fly-over Yellowhammer.
On the 10th the male Black Redstart re-surfaced in the Shelly Beach area and 70+ Mallard, along with c3/400+ Dunlin, were off Mudbank.
Five Ring-necked Parakeets and 2 Firecrests were in Maer Valley on the 12th and on the 15th a surprisingly productive spell of Orcombe birding revealed a Siberian Chiffchaff, 7+ Stonechats, 29 Snipe, 30+ Meadow Pipits, 14+ Linnets and 15+ Skylarks.
A Pomarine Skua was the highlight off Orcombe on the 16th when 9 Red-throated Divers flew past, along with 1 or 2 Great Northern Divers.
The steady 'drip' of good Exmouth birds continued on the 17th when 2 immature drake Eiders were off the lifeboat station and 15 Red-throated Divers flew past. On Withycombe Raleigh Common the playing fields thrush flock comprised 4+ Fieldfares, 50+ Redwings and 2 or 3 Mistle Thrushes. A Woodcock flushed from nearby and flew a couple circles around me before ditching in the Dalditch plantation.
On the 18th, eight Greylag Geese were resting on the mud off Lympstone, viewed distantly from Shelly.
On the 19th, 23 Red-throated Divers flew past Orcombe Point and on the 21st a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull was on Maer Rocks. My first Fulmar of 2021 was off there and off Mudbank - an adult Mediterranean Gull.
On the 24th, 3 Golden Plovers flew over Orcombe Point and on the 27th the Black Brant was on Cockle Sands, with 5 Cattle Egrets scoped distantly, standing in a field somewhere behind Starcross. The flock of 11 Purple Sandpipers was again on Maer Rocks.
On the last day of the month a Firecrest was again noted along Wright's Lane.
Black Brant - this adult was a surprise find off Mudbank on January 6th. I relocated it three days later at Darts Farm, from where it moved to Exminster Marshes. I saw it again at Darts Farm on the 23/1.
Greenshank - Shelly Beach 7/1/21. This species is very regular off Mudbank, with one or two usually present.
Dartford Warbler - Bystock 10/1/21. This wintering, immature bird (first seen on the 8th) was ringed across the road in the Dalditch plantation, by Peter Bennet, on August 7th 2020. A second individual was located on Withycombe Raleigh Common on 10/1.
Siberian Chiffchaff - Gore Lane, Orcombe Point 15/1/21. I was really chuffed to discover this beauty, feeding in the hedgerow and adjacent turnip field . It was present until at least the 2/2 and is the first I've seen in Exmouth since 2016.
First-winter Yellow-legged Gull - Maer Rocks 21/1/21.
Goldeneye - this drake was in the Duckpond on 22/1. One of only three (2males, 1 female) recorded in Exmouth in January. Four birds were back (1 male and 3 females) towards the end of the year.
The adult Black Brant showed well at Darts Farm on 23/1.
On February 2nd a count of c50 Common Gulls, off Mudbank (with just a single Mediterranean Gull), indicated some movement. A flock of c30+ Cattle Egrets flew over Starcross and inland, and the Siberian Chiffchaff was again along Gore Lane.
Jaws hit the floor when news of a Northern Mockingbird broke on 6/2. I watched this 'mega' within a few hundred yards of my front door, but with Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in place its appearance was never going to be without controversy...
On the 7th, six Shovelers were off Mudbank and on the 9th - a drake Teal along with 70+ Knot.
On the 10th the first real sign of some cold weather movement, following a period of bitterly cold weather from the east, was a Lapwing and 5 Golden Plovers on Orcombe Point. Nearby, off Mudbank, a drake and female Gadwall. The following day the Slavonian Grebe gave close views off Shelly Beach, as it tried to avoid the worst of a bitterly cold south-easterly, and an adult Mediterranean Gull flew over Maer Rocks.
From the 13th a group of interesting-looking Redpolls, on Woodbury Common, drew me away from the parish, and on the 18th, 3 Great Northern Divers were close in off Maer Rocks, in rough weather, with two the following day and a single the day after.
On the 23rd 3 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were presumed new arrivals and 35+ migrant Lesser Black-backed Gulls rested on Cockle Sands.
The male Black Redstart was fly-catching from Shelly Beach roof-tops, in fine weather, on the 26th.
A local Goshawk was seen on the last two days of the month, in beautiful warm and sunny weather.
To have a 'third for Britain' turn up virtually on the doorstep on the 6th was a bit of a shock. It frequented a garden along Iona Avenue. Having lost Dad on the 5th I wasn't as excited about it as I might otherwise have been. The behavior of the twitching fraternity, during its 'lockdown' stay, made me quite ashamed to be a birder, and for the first time in my life I seriously considered suppressing news of rare finds.
Gadwall - this drake and a female were off Mudbank early on the 10th, during a period of freezing weather from the east.
Slavonian Grebe - Shelly Beach 11/2/21 - it's likely that strong south-easterlies forced this bird across the river from its favored Starcross side. I didn't realise it at the time but this was one of the last known, if not the last known, sightings of this long-term resident bird, alive.
A group of 8 Redpolls on Woodbury Common on 13/2 looked 'frosty' enough for Mealies, but after further consultation, with some east cost aficionados, it seems more than likely they were all just Lessers.
Stock Dove - Bystock 28/2/21.
A White Wagtail heralded some spring movement, on Orcombe, on March 2nd, along with one or two Golden Plovers and a Goldcrest.
On the 4th I counted at least 40 Kittiwakes back on Straight Point ledges, and nearby on Orcombe Point 5 Golden Plovers headed west, and the White Wagtail was still present with a flock of Pied Wagtails, that had increased in number to c30 birds (similar numbers were still present on the 7th, along with one or two White Wagtails). Six Purple Sandpipers were on Maer Rocks.
The first Sandwich Tern of the year was off Mudbank on the 6th, and my highest winter count of Red-breasted Mergansers was made, with a displaying flock of 12 birds present. On the same date a flock of 21 Cattle Egrets was scoped across the river, behind Starcross.
The 7th delivered my first Exmouth Cirl Bunting of the year , with a skulking female on Orcombe Point. Off Mudbank two female Pintail were the first for some time.
On the 12th my second Yellow-legged Gull of the year, a second-winter bird, was off Mudbank and a Sandwich Tern was off the seafront.
Two migrant Fieldfares were on Orcombe on the 16th and 12 Teal were on the river. The following day the Orcombe Red-legged Partridge put in one of its rare appearances (with 2 birds present on 27/3).
The spring's first Wheatear was on Orcombe on the 20th and 4 Pale-bellied Brent Geese paused on Maer Rocks. Both species were somewhat eclipsed, later in the day, by a young female White-tailed Eagle from the Isle of Wight release scheme, which flew north-west as I birded Blackhill Quarry, just beyond the parish boundary.
On the 21st a single Purple Sandpiper was on Maer Rocks and 2 or 3 Great Northern Divers were offshore with at least 14 Great Crested Grebes.
The 22nd delivered the spring's second Wheatear on Orcombe with a White Wagtail and a Redwing. Another Sandwich Tern was off the seafront and 21 Wigeon were off Mudbank.
A Yellowhammer over-flew Orcombe on the 23rd and at least 20 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were with Dark-bellied birds on Cockle Sands.
A very quick look off Mudbank on the 24th produced 39 Wigeon, 4 Teal and 4 Sandwich Terns.
A fresh south-westerly on the 26th delivered 14 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Sandwich Terns and a Great Northern Diver off Orcombe Point. Best bird though was the spring's first Osprey, which was hunting early morning off Mudbank.
Two Golden Plovers, low across the sea, off Maer Rocks was a surprise sighting on the 28th (9 Sandwich Terns and six Fulmars past there was quite good too), with a further bird in flight off Mudbank. A flock of 40+ Cattle Egret was also scoped from Mudbank, in the usual cow field, behind Starcross.
On the 29th there were 3 White Wagtails on Orcombe and the following day a Yellowhammer flew over there.
Three 'firsts for the year' on the 31st with Willow Warbler, 5 Swallows and 3 Sand Martins on Orcombe Point. Four Pale-bellied Brent Geese were with 9 Dark-bellied birds off Shelly Beach.
Female Cirl Bunting - Orcombe Point 7/3/21. Not such a good year for Cirls in Exmouth this year with my only other record being an Orcombe fly-over on November 13th.
This single Red-legged Partridge was photographed on Orcombe on 17/3/21. Later in the year three birds were regularly seen in the top fields.
Immature female White-tailed Eagle - Blackhill Quarry 20/3/21. Female G466 - one of the released Isle of Wight birds. It spent the night just north-west of Blackhill and crossed the river the following morning, stopping for a while at Dawlish Warren and Eastdon.
White Wagtail - Orcombe Point 31/3/21.
April was pretty disastrous as far as migrants were concerned, with cold northerlies or easterlies, hard early morning frosts and even snow on occasions! The skies were invariably clear and my morning walks on Orcombe point repeatedly disappointing.
My first Whimbrel of the year was off Mudbank on the 2nd, along with an Osprey and 9 Sand Martins. At least 40 Cattle Egrets were on the opposite side of the river and a Firecrest was along Wright's Lane.
On the 4th I was lured over to Exminster Marshes for a Ruddy Shelduck of all things! I was annoyed I hadn't seen it in Exmouth.
With the persistent northerlies scuppering the the chances of migrants on Orcombe, I nipped down to the South Hams for Slapton's Night Heron, with a Red-necked Grebe thrown in for good measure (11/4).
The 13th saw the largest arrival of passerine migrants on Orcombe, with at least 20 Willow Warblers and 10 Wheatears logged, but frustratingly I couldn't unearth anything more unusual.
The following day saw a further 8 Willow Warblers, a Yellowhammer and a White Wagtail, with 14 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and 8 Whimbrel off Mudbank.
A male Redstart was on Orcombe on the 17th, with 2 Snipe and a Siskin also noted.
I didn't record my first Orcombe Whitethroat until the 19th and, on the 21st, an evening trip to the other side of the river resulted in five 'Knepp' White Storks (Matford) and two Short-eared Owls (Exminster Marshes).
On the 23rd there was a flock of 64 Bar-tailed Godwits off Mudbank, along with 10 Dunlin.
On the 24th, a bit of sea-watching from the raised beach huts produced an east-bound Pomarine Skua and my first Arctic Skua of the year. Twelve Manx Shearwaters were also noted, with a White Wagtail nearby on Orcombe. Off Mudbank - 90+ Whimbrel, c30 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a first-summer Mediterranean Gull.
In a dreadful spring for terns my first Common Tern, off the seafront, on the 25th was noteworthy for all the wrong reasons. Three Great Northern Divers were also offshore, and my first House Martin of the spring was on Orcombe, with 9 seen later, flying across the river, from Mudbank. Three Red-breasted Mergansers were still off Mudbank on this date.
The 27th was noteworthy for my first Yellow Wagtail of the spring - a fly-over on Orcombe Point. My first two Swifts were seen from the back garden and 9 Great Crested Grebes were off Mudbank.
On the 28th, 65+ Sandwich Terns were off Mudbank, with 45+ off Maer Rocks the following day.
On the 30th I inadvertently flushed a Grasshopper Warbler from the edge of one of the top fields, on Orcombe Point. It showed briefly before dropping into deep cover.
Firecrest - Bystock 2/4/21. Three singing males were recorded on Exmouth territories in the spring. The autumn produced a grand total of zero passage migrants, and Goldcrests numbers were the lowest I've ever witnessed. Thankfully birds were again present in the second winter period of 2021, at the traditional sites of Madeira Walk and Bystock.
Night Heron - Slapton Ley 11/4/21. This first-summer bird remained hidden whilst I was there.
My best Willow Warbler count of the spring occurred on Orcombe on the 13th.
May 1st saw the arrival of two 'firsts for the year' on Orcombe - a single Spotted Flycatcher and Sedge Warbler. Another, or possibly the same, Sedge Warbler was singing on Orcombe the following morning.
A sea-watch on the 3rd produced a Hobby, low over the waves towards the Warren, along with 60+ Manx Shearwaters. At least 20 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were off Mudbank, along with a first-summer Mediterranean Gull.
Five Dark-bellied Brent Geese and c20+ Sanderling were on Cockle Sands on the 8th, along with c3/400+ Dunlin and 3 Bar-tailed Godwits.
The 9th was by far the most productive day of the spring on Orcombe, with singing Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Whinchat recorded. Small numbers but better than nothing!
A pale-phase Arctic Skua was off the seafront on the 13th, and on the 15th a day-roosting Nightjar on local heathland stole the show. Earlier, Orcombe had produced at least two Spotted Flycatchers and a Ringed Plover, and waders off Mudbank included 2 Greenshank.
Single Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart (female) and Yellow Wagtail were recorded on Orcombe on the 16th, and a late Osprey was fishing upriver from Mudbank on the 18th.
A trip over to Exminster Marshes on the 28th, for an adult American Golden Plover, was good, but my head was more into learning wild flowers...
Nightjar - Bystock 15/5/21. Thank you Paul!
On June 3rd I was delighted to watch, and listen to, a singing male Cuckoo, on Bystock - only my fourth Exmouth record, and the first time I've managed to snatch a photo.
On the 7th my only Red Kite of the year flew over the community college, and on the 8th I headed up to Somerset, after work, to see the Ham Wall River Warbler.
On the 19th, counts from Mudbank included 60+ Black-headed Gulls, a first-summer Mediterranean Gull and my first returning Redshank.
On the 22nd a Siskin was singing from a seafront conifer and on the 23rd a flock of 73 Black-headed Gulls was on the Imperial recreation ground. At least 40 Sandwich Terns were off Mudbank.
On the 27th two Little Terns were sat on Cockle Sands with 24 Sandwich Terns.
Singing male Cuckoo - Bystock 3/6/21.
River Warbler - Ham Wall 8/6/21. An evening, post-work twitch for this and Lizard Orchids at Berrow.
Morris's Wainscot - near Culverhole Point - 28/6/21. This super-localised rarity was my 2021 moth highlight. Less trapping was carried out in 2021.
Four Grey Plovers on Cockle Sands, on July 3rd, were early migrants. A couple Mediterranean Gulls were knocking around.
On the 5th, waders off Mudbank included 160+ Curlew, 8 Whimbrel, 6 Turnstone, 1 Grey Plover, and 1 Bar-tailed Godwit. Additionally 36 Shelduck and 15 Sandwich Terns were counted.
On the 11th I scoped two Roseate Terns on Cockle Sands. At least 30 Sandwich Terns were in the estuary.
A Roseate Tern was again present in the estuary on the 12th along with 30+ Sandwich Terns and 22 Dunlin.
On the 16th four Common Terns were off the seafront and on the 21st my first two juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls were off the seafront, along with an Arctic Skua. On the 24th a very approachable juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was on the beach with 21 Sanderling and 2 Dunlin. Seven Common Terns were offshore.
The juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was again present on the 25th along with 8+ Mediterranean Gulls, 4 Common Terns, 8 Common Scoters and, most surprisingly, a migrant Cuckoo which flew out to sea before turning and heading back towards Orcombe Point. Nearby, off Mudbank, a Dark-bellied Brent Goose was very unexpected. It hung around for a day or two and was presumably the individual which subsequently popped up on the Scillies.
Another juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, this time off Mudbank, was recorded on the 30th and it was still present the following day along with 34 Whimbrel, 36 Mallard, a Teal and a Stock Dove.
Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull - Exmouth Beach 24/7/21.
Dunlin - Exmouth Beach 24/7/21.
On August 2nd at least one Grasshopper Warbler was feeding around the edges of the Bristol Schools camp. Off Mudbank - counts of 42 Whimbrel and 52 Mallard.
On the 3rd my first Wheatear of the autumn was on Orcombe with 4 Willow Warblers also noted. Additionally 3 Red-legged Partridges were in the top fields and a Roseate Tern was feeding with three Common Terns just off the beach, below Orcombe Point itself.
A single Balearic Shearwater, past Orcombe Point, on the 5th was my first (and last) of the year. Nearby a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was on the cricket pitch.
On the 7th an Arctic Skua was off the seafront, sniffing around 20+ Sandwich Terns and 8 Common Terns.
A Teal was off Mudbank on the the 13th with at least 7 Common Terns and 140 Mallard.
On the 18th a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was off Mudbank. Unusually it stayed for three days.
On the 20th my first Wigeon was off Mudbank with 240+ Mallard and nearby, on Bull Hill, 100+ Sandwich Terns were counted, along with a Common Tern and 35+ Great Black-backed Gulls.
My first Osprey of the autumn was off Mudbank on the 22nd and on the 23rd a Yellow Wagtail was with 4 Wheatears on Orcombe Point. Later in the day another Osprey flew over the town towards the river.
Back garden birding on the 25th, whilst isolating with Covid-19, produced 4 Teal, 5 Sand Martin and and Osprey.
An Osprey was again hunting the river on the 26th and on the 27th both Tree Pipit and Pintail were autumn firsts from the back garden, though a Fulmar over the lower end of the river was a bigger surprise.
The 28th saw the arrival of 58 Pintail and 5 Yellow Wagtails with a/the Osprey again seen. Difficult to know how many birds were seen during that period of isolation.
I was back out and at it on the 30th with c40/50 Yellow Wagtails on Orcombe the highlight along with one or two Tree Pipits. Highlight off Mudbank was a flock of 31 Common Terns with 8 Knot and a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull also present.
The last day of the month and finally I could year-tick Black-tailed Godwit with three birds present off Mudbank. Also 13 Knot, 22 Common Tern, 7 Teal, 1 Shoveler and the first Greenshank for some time. The Snow Goose was with Canadas behind Starcross. The 40/50+ strong Yellow Wagtail flock was still buzzing around Orcombe top fields and a Reed Warbler was a pleasing record.
Osprey - off Mudbank 22/8/21. My first of the autumn - closely followed by one or two others.
Presumed female Blue-headed Wagtail - Orcombe Point 31/8/21.
Yellow Wagtail - Orcombe Point 31/8/21. Once out of isolation I wasted no time getting up to Orcombe where a mobile flock of c40/50+ Yellow Wags kept me entertained. At least 25 were still present on the 8/9.
September started with some quality birding and the month pretty much continued in that vane... Sixty Common Terns off Mudbank on the 1st were a fraction of the number recorded off the Warren, and 245 Wigeon represented a big jump in numbers. The first-winter Yellow-legged Gull was again present along with 57 Pintail and an Osprey. Around 200 House Martins were on Orcombe Point.
On the 2nd, 280 Common Terns were photographed heading out of the estuary, to sea. Late in the afternoon a further 150 were off Mudbank. Also in the estuary on the 2nd - 400+ Teal, at least 8 Black-tailed Godwits, 95+ Sandwich Terns, c25 Knot and the Osprey. A Whinchat, 3 Swifts, 8 Chiffchaffs and 2 Tree Pipits were amongst the migrants recorded on Orcombe. At least three juvenile White Wagtails were on the cricket pitch.
The 3rd was a real red letter day with juvenile Spoonbill, Little Stint, Marsh Harrier and Osprey all off Mudbank.
A huge highlight on the 4th was a Spotted Redshank which flew over Orcombe Point, calling all the way. It appeared to be a juvenile on the brief views I had. The flock of c30/40 Yellow Wagtails was still present and other migrant species included 1 Greenshank, 2 Willow Warblers and 2 Tree Pipits. One or two Kestrels were also present. The juvenile Spoonbill spent most of the day, with an adult off Mudbank and the first-winter Yellow-legged Gull put in yet another appearance.
September 5th will always be remembered for the day that Coot finally made it on to my Exmouth list. An individual was in with the ducks, off Mudbank, shortly after dawn. Also recorded were 85+ Common Terns, my first Black Tern (a juvenile) since August 2019, Snow Goose and Osprey. Swift, 1 or 2 Redstarts and 4 Whinchats were part of a small migrant fall on Orcombe.
On the 8th two Spotted Flycatchers and a Redstart were found in a hedgerow at West Lodge, whilst walking the dog.
On the 9th a juvenile Little Tern and 120+ Common Terns were off the Imperial and 2 Spotted Flycatchers were on Orcombe.
Three Willow Warblers were new in on Orcombe on the 11th and a juvenile Arctic Tern was picked out amongst a big gull gathering on the river. Counts of 57 Mute Swans and 162 Curlew were made off Mudbank, and a Hobby was over Courtlands.
On the 12th I finally found my first Sedge Warbler of the autumn, on Orcombe, and 7 Tree Pipits were counted along with 7 Meadow Pipits.
Mudbank again came into its own on the 14th with the year's first Common Sandpiper, a juvenile Spotted Redshank and the juvenile Marsh Harrier all creeping into the notebook. A flock of 30+ Meadow Pipits on Orcombe was a notable increase but that number had jumped to c200+ grounded birds the following day. Also on the 15th - a hugely appreciated Glossy Ibis off Mudbank.
On the 17th, 1 Whinchat and 1 Redstart were noted on Orcombe. The next day my first three Dark-bellied Brent Geese appeared, a little earlier than expected, off Mudbank where there was also a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull, c500 Wigeon and the Spotted Redshank.
On the 21st, 20 Yellow Wagtails were on Orcombe and 5 'new' Spoonbills were off Mudbank.
On the 22nd a single Spoonbill was again off Mudbank and on the 24th it was another large white bird that stole the show - my fourth Exmouth Great White Egret, distantly off Mudbank. Up the road, on Orcombe, my second Lesser Whitethroat of the year was with a roving tit flock and 2 Sedge Warblers were in the top fields.
My first Snipe of the autumn was flushed from the top fields on the 25th but a far more exciting discovery was my first Exmouth Red-veined Darter. The Dark-bellied Brent Goose count off Mudbank was 285.
The 26th was good, with counts off Mudbank that included 305 Canada Geese and 25 Black-tailed Godwits. The Snow Goose, Spotted Redshank, Yellow-legged Gull, immature Spoonbill and Glossy Ibis all put in appearances! Spotted Flycatcher and the autumn's first Reed Bunting and Siskin were logged on Orcombe.
I twitched a Pectoral Sandpiper on Bowling Green on the 27th and on the 29th my first three Pale-bellied Brent Geese were in with their dark-bellied cousins, off Mudbank, and the autumn's first Golden Plover flew over Orcombe, late in the afternoon.
A Great Northern Diver was off the seafront, in rough weather, on the 30th and a lone Shoveler was off Mudbank.
Marsh Harrier - 3/9/21. This juvenile was off Mudbank before heading upriver. Only my fifth in Exmouth. What was presumably the same bird was hunting over a mud spit for at least 15 minutes on the 14th.
My first ever Exmouth Coot was a lovely surprise on 5/9.
Tree Pipit - Orcombe Point 5/9/21.
This Clifden Nonpareil on the 8/9 was a garden first.
Glossy Ibis - Mudbank 15/9/21. A long-awaited addition to my Exmouth list.
My first Exmouth Radford's Flame Shoulder. 15/9/21.
Five more Spoonbills were off Mudbank on the 21st.
Red-veined Darter - Orcombe Point 25/9/21.
Two first-winter Yellow-legged Gulls were on the Imperial rugby ground on October 1st - the long- staying bird (which continued its residence throughout the month) plus a new one. The Spotted Redshank was still off Mudbank along with 33+ Black-tailed Godwits.
On the 2nd at least 5 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were with c300+ Dark-bellied birds off Mudbank and a Whinchat was on Orcombe.
On the 6th there were 12 Pale-bellied Brent Geese off Mudbank and a dozen Cattle Egrets were in with cattle the other side of the river. The following day there was an influx of 12 Stonechats on Orcombe and with them a single Whinchat. On the 9th, 410+ Dark-bellied Brent Geese were counted off Mudbank.
Some good 'vis mig' on the 10th included 274+ Pied Wagtails, 5 Reed Buntings, 150+ Woodpigeons and my first Redpoll of the autumn. Two Woodlarks flew upriver, over Mudbank, a little later in the morning.
A Short-eared Owl was on Orcombe on the 11th along with 16+ Chiffchaffs, 3 Jays and a Golden Plover. The following day a count of 800+ Dark-bellied Brent Geese was made off Mudbank.
On the 13th at least 13 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were off Mudbank and on the 14th Fourteen Mediterranean Gulls were off there, presumably attracted in by shoals of Whitebait in the estuary.
My first Redwing of the autumn was heard on my walk to work on the 15th and later in the afternoon my first Brambling of the year called as it passed over Orcombe Point, and three Arctic Skuas were in the estuary, watched flying downriver from Mudbank.
On the 16th a Golden Plover, 22 Blackbirds, 11 Song Thrushes and 11 Redwings were part of a mini-arrival on Orcombe and on the 17th some 'vis mig' included a Yellowhammer, 6 Reed Buntings, 1500+ Woodpigeons, 14 Jays, 12+ Stock Doves, c180 Jackdaws and at least 2 Redpolls.
On the 18th 74+ Teal were off Mudbank along with 65 Dunlin and c60 Turnstones. A flock of at least 180 Starlings was on rooves along Camperdown Terrace.
A Red-breasted Merganser was off Mudbank on the 23rd and 3 Crossbills and 2 Firecrests were watched on the Bystock reserve.
Sea-watching on the 24th produced 2 Merlins and 2 first-winter Little Gulls. Both species were new for the year.
A Ruff and c300 Black-tailed Godwits dropped in off Mudbank on the 25th and overhead passage on Orcombe included 5000+ Woodpigeons, 14+ Stock Doves, 210+ Jackdaws, 100+ Chaffinches, 5 Bramblings and 85+ Redwings.
Kittiwakes were the order of the day on the 28th with 460+ south past Orcombe early on (with much higher numbers recorded elsewhere) along with an Arctic Skua and Red-throated Diver.
On the 29th thirty Great Crested Grebes were off Mudbank and on the 31st the Spotted Redshank was again off there, along with 18 Redshanks, 222 Shelducks, 4 Greenshanks, 200+ Pintail and a first-winter Kittiwake. A Great Skua passing Orcombe Point would have been unremarkable were it not my first of the year!
This dinky, weak-billed and long-winged Lesser Black-backed Gull was on the Imperial rugby ground on 2/10. It ticked a few 'fuscus' boxes.
Ring-necked Parakeets were seen throughout the year in Exmouth. Birds were regularly observed in Maer Valley, with favored spots being around Prattshayes Farm and the adjacent water treatment works. Additionally, birds were seen on the Maer itself, in gardens bordering Douglas Avenue and at West Lodge. The half-expected population 'explosion' has, however, yet to happen...
This long-staying Yellow-legged Gull was first seen off Mudbank on August 18th. It divided its time between the Imperial rugby ground (and council skips behind the rugby ground) and Mudbank, and was still present up to November 24th. A remarkably lengthy stay for this species!
Spotted Redshank - Mudbank 31/10/21. First seen off Mudbank on 14/9 and then regularly throughout the remainder of September, and occasionally in October. This is very likely the juvenile bird that flew over Orcombe Point on 4/9 too.
On November 2nd a Brambling was noted over Orcombe and on the 5th, 2 Lapwings and a Snipe were recorded. At least 2 more Bramblings were noted on the 6th, when 2 Purple Sandpipers were back on Maer Rocks and a Black Redstart was in the Shelly Beach area.
My first Fieldfare of the autumn was on Orcombe on the 7th and 2 male Black Redstarts were around Shelly Beach apartments on the 8th.
The 10th saw 4 Purple Sandpipers back on Maer Rocks and on the 13th I had time to check a number of Exmouth sites, with a Cirl Bunting west over Orcombe, 5 Ring-necked Parakeets around the Maer and c350/400 Black-tailed Godwits, 9+ Bar-tailed Godwits, 29 Redshank, 3 Greenshank, 105+ Turnstones, 6 Grey Plovers, 230+ Pintail, 270+ Teal, 6 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Brambling at Mudbank. Thirteen Bar-tailed Godwits and 33 Common Gulls were in the Duckpond and the first-winter Yellow-legged Gull remained faithful to the Imperial rugby ground and adjacent coastal waste recycling depot. Finally a Firecrest was back, wintering in bushes behind the cricket club.
Seven Purple Sandpipers were on Maer Rocks on the 20th and a Lapwing was on Orcombe. A flock of 100+ Black-tailed Godwits was off Mudbank.
On the 24th singles of both Great Northern Diver and Red-throated Divers were off Maer Rocks and the Yellow-legged Gull was in the coastal waste recycling centre.
On the 27th, 8 Purple Sandpipers were on rocks below Orcombe Point and c200+ Pintail were off Mudbank, and the following day similar numbers were joined by 110+ Teal, along with c40 Redshank and a single Knot. Additionally the first returning Goldeneye was off there. Two Great Northern Divers and a Red-throated Diver were off Maer Rocks, but the day's highlight was the discovery of 2 Cattle Egrets in Maer Valley.
On the 29th I caught up with a pair of Black-necked Grebes off Shelly Beach. They'd been first reported the previous day. Off Mudbank - 17+ Red-breasted Mergansers and 2 female-type Goldeneyes.
This male Teal was one of 270+ present off Mudbank on 13/11.
One of seven Purple Sandpipers on Maer Rocks on 20/11/21. Maximum counts of 11 birds was made over both winter periods.
Cattle Egret - one of two in a cattle field along Gore Lane on 28/11.
On December 1st a juvenile Spoonbill was off Mudbank, along with a possible 'Scandanavian' Herring Gull.
The Spoonbill was still showing well off Mudbank on the 4th and a single Cattle Egret was again present with cattle, along Maer Lane, along with an adult Mediterranean Gull.
On the 5th there were 3 Red-throated Divers off the seafront and 9 Rock Pipits were counted on the beach at Sandy Bay - my highest count ever there. Four Mistle Thrushes were flying around Sandy Bay caravan park.
The juvenile Spoonbill was still off Mudbank on the 8th when 11 Purple Sandpipers were on Maer Rocks.
Counts from Mudbank on the 11th included 200+ Pintail, 55+ Grey Plover, 60+ Redshank, 6 Knot and 142 Shelduck. A male Black Redstart was again in the Shelly Beach area.
The following day 3 Goldeneyes (all female-types) and 230+ Teal were off Mudbank and both Dartford Warbler and Firecrest were recorded in the Bystock reserve. Two Great Northern Divers and a Red-throated Diver were on the sea off Maer Rocks.
Highlight after work on the 13th was a first or second-winter Iceland Gull roosting on Cockle Sands. The Spoonbill was still off Mudbank and a flock of 40+ Meadow Pipits was in fields around West Lodge.
On the 18th a grey goose species (very likely a Russian White-front) flew east past Orcombe Point and a female Pochard turned up off Mudbank. Also off there - 6 Shoveler, 165+ Pintail and 78 Mallard.
On the 19th the two Black-necked Grebes were again off Shelly Beach. The Shoveler count off Mudbank rose to eight birds and at least 70 Redwing were in Maer Valley.
Three Goldeneye were again off Mudbank on the 20th and on the 22nd a first-winter Little Gull dip-fed mid-river. The Spoonbill continued its lengthy sojourn and a male Stonechat was at the Imperial rec.
A trip was made out of Exmouth, on the 23rd, for Tundra Bean, Pink-footed and Russian White-fronted Geese, along with 3 Whooper Swans.
Strong westerlies on the 28th produced a first-winter Little Gull off the seafront and a Great Northern Diver in the estuary, off Shelly Beach.
On the 29th, four Sanderling were with a flock of 275+ Dunlin off Mudbank, along with 2 Mediterranean Gulls, 3 Shoveler and a male Goldeneye.
A day out in the South Hams on the 30th was very enjoyable, with long-staying Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck and Snow Bunting the highlights.
Spoonbill - Mudbank 4/12/21. First seen off Mudbank on December 1st, this juvenile had presumably relocated from the river Teign. It was a joy to watch it close-up almost daily. Still present on December 31st. On the 19th it bizarrely chose to roost in the Imperial rugby club, on a shed roof (see below). This was the last of eight birds, in total, to grace Exmouth in 2021.
Pochard - Mudbank 18/12/21. This female arrived on a day when the wind switched to the east and the temperature dropped - my first in Exmouth since two drakes off Mudbank on 31/10/17.
Black-necked Grebes - Shelly Beach 19/12/21. I'd last seen this pair on the 29/11, the day after they'd first been reported. They spent most of their time over the other side of the river.
Turnstone - Shelly Beach 29/12/21.
Not for the first time, the year ended with an excursion beyond the confines of Exmouth, to catch up with some long-staying rarities. Both Ring-necked Duck and Lesser Scaup were seen on Beesands Ley on 30/12.