Happy New Year everyone! 2022 was like every year in that there were plenty of nice surprises along with some worrying 'no-shows' and disappointments. As predicted, Red-breasted Mergansers have continued to decline (13 back this winter, down from flocks of 90+ not that many years ago), just 2 Goldeneyes back and, like many birders, I failed to record a Great Skua, despite a good few hours staring at the sea. 'Common' migrants, in both migration periods, were in ever shorter supply and try as I might, I just couldn't find a Brambling or Short-eared Owl this autumn. Sadly it was no surprise to not see a Slavonian Grebe, Water Rail or Jack Snipe. Whooper Swan and Olive-backed Pipit were wonderful and very welcome additions to my Exmouth list and a few species, such as Firecrest, Cirl Bunting, Goshawk, Glossy Ibis and Cattle Egret continue on an apparently upward trajectory. I'm sure it won't be too long before White-tailed Eagle becomes a regular fixture on the Exe.
This year I reached the landmark '250 species' within the Exmouth parish - the majority since we moved to Exmouth in 2009. The number of species seen in 2022 was a personal record (I think) 178 species. I'm not sure quite how, as both migration periods were very poor. I guess I'm just getting better at knowing where to look and when. The beauty of knowing your local area. Noteworthy Exmouth sightings included 3 Spoonbills, 10+ Cirl Buntings, 3 Black-necked Grebes, 7 Egyptian Geese, up to 120 Cattle Egrets, 3 Velvet Scoters, 10 Glossy Ibis, 4+ Goshawks, 5 Little Gulls, 2 Garganey, [2 White-tailed Eagles], Marsh Harrier, Cuckoo, 3 Yellow-legged Gulls, 2 Serins, Roseate Tern, Bonaparte's Gull, 5 Goosanders, [25+ White Storks], 2 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Caspian Gulls, 1 Black Tern, 20 Avocet, 1 Spotted Redshank, Whooper Swan, Barnacle Goose, Merlin, Curlew Sandpiper, 2 Yellow-browed Warblers, 2 Cetti's Warblers, Great White Egret, Eastern Lesser Whitethroat, Olive-backed Pipit, Coot and Scaup.
For years now I've been a patch birder, and aimed to keep twitching to an absolute minimum, but like many birders I tried to further reduce my carbon footprint this year. I sold my car and now have both summer and winter bikes. I still drive Maisie's car though, and borrow Mum's hybrid Yaris for longer work journeys. I'm still nowhere near where I'd like to be, but my aim for 2023 is to cycle and walk as much as possible.
Many thanks to everyone who reads the blog and especially to those who take time to comment. It's hugely appreciated.
Bumper reviews, dating back as far as 2014, can easily be accessed by clicking on the year in question, located in the right-hand margin of this page.
January started damp and very mild. A check of some sites, on the 1st, revealed the long-staying juvenile Spoonbill (it was present most days until the 27/1) with 250+ Dunlin off Mudbank, and a wintering female Cirl Bunting (and single Lapwing) on Orcombe.
On the 2nd, a fabulous morning's birding was had in the South Hams with Great Skua, Devon's first Buff-bellied Pipit, Water Pipit and Lesser Scaup, all affording great views.
On the third, the 2 Black-necked Grebes and a Great Northern Diver were scoped distantly from Shelly Beach, and the male Black Redstart was dashing around the apartment blocks. A Common Gull count revealed 127+ birds on Cockle Sands.
Five Egyptian Geese flew east past Orcombe Point on the 4th, and a flock of 55+ Cattle Egrets was scoped from Shelly Beach, flying north over Starcross. A switch in wind direction, to a northerly, caused temperatures to drop.
On the 6th there were 5 adult Mediterranean Gulls in with a flock of 650+ Black-headed Gulls, off Mudbank.
Saturday the 8th was another wet and miserable day, so I popped up to Somerset for my first ever Baikal Teal.
On the 10th, a couple flocks totaling 50+ Lesser Redpolls were buzzing around Bystock - the highest number I've ever seen within the Exmouth parish boundary.
On the 15th there were 12 Purple Sandpipers on Maer Rocks - my highest count in January. Later in the day 1 Woodcock and 3 Crossbills were seen on Withycombe Raleigh Common.
My highest Greenfinch count of the winter was made on the 16th, with a flock of 22 in scrub between Carter Park and the river.
A Pale-bellied Brent Goose was with c70 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, on the Imperial pitch, on the 20th.
The Black-necked Grebes were still distantly off Shelly beach on the 21st and at least 80 Cattle Egrets were watched flying into the roost, north of Starcross, from Mudbank.
On the 23rd, three Goldeneyes (male and 2 females) were again off Mudbank, along with a flock of 22 Red-breasted Mergansers - my highest winter count. Good numbers of waders on Cockle Sands included 125+ Grey Plovers and c90 Knot.
On the 26th a mobile Chiffchaff was in the Shelly Beach area (wintering Chiffchaffs were very thin on the ground in January, with just a single bird noted on Orcombe and 3+ found in Maer valley).
The Spoonbill was still off Mudbank on the 27th and on the 30th I scoped the Warren's Velvet Scoter, from the seafront. The Shelly Black Redstart and Orcombe Cirl Bunting were both still in residence and a flock of 7 Ring-necked Parakeets was on Douglas Avenue. A flock of 37+ Fieldfares was on the archery club playing fields and at least 3 Dartford Warblers were active in sunshine, on Withycombe Raleigh Common. The Mudbank Mallard count reached a January high of 85 birds.
Devon's first American Buff-bellied Pipit, at Prawle, was twitched on 2/1/22. Nice one Pat! This, the Somerset Baikal Teal and Axe Isabelline Wheatear were my only twitches beyond the Exe this year. Spotted Crake (Exminster), Tundra Bean Goose (Dart's Farm) and Glaucous Gull (Exeter) were my only local (beyond Exmouth) twitches. I cycled for the Glauc and my intention for next year is to use the bike more.
Spoonbill - Mudbank 4/2/22. This juvenile was first seen off Mudbank, on 1/12/21. Another juvenile was off Mudbank on 4/9/22, and it or another was present on 22/9. The third and final bird was off Mudbank on the 23/12.
The wintering male Black Redstart at Shelly Beach. Photographed on 11/1/22 and still present on 30/1 at least. Up to eight Black Reds were noted in the autumn period, one of which could well have been the above, Shelly Beach male, returning for another winter. Either way it was a good year for this gorgeous species in Exmouth!
A big surprise on 13/1 was this Egyptian Locust - discovered in the garden, a few doors up the road, by our neighbour, John.
I rarely get the chance to photograph Crossbills on Exmouth soil. This was one of three birds on Withycombe Raleigh Common on 15/1/22.
February can so often be quite a poor month for birding, but 2022 bucked the trend with plenty of interest throughout the month. An evening dog-walk with Lu, on February 2nd, sprung a lovely surprise when a flock of 10 Glossy Ibis flew over Mudbank and upriver. The following evening they flew over the house and upriver (to Exminster Marshes), following much the same line as the day before. They were subsequently seen regularly, up to and including the 11th. Up to 120+ Cattle Egrets were scoped on the far side of the river on the 3rd.
On the 4th the 2 Black-necked Grebes were scoped from Shelly Beach and on the 5th a Woodcock was flushed from Withycombe Raleigh Common.
On the 7th, the Velvet Scoter performed off the seafront, flying around a bit and wing-flapping to show off its white secondaries. The 2 Black-necked Grebes were again scoped off Shelly Beach. A flock of c80 Cattle Egrets flew into roost north of Starcross, and 16+ Sanderlings were on Cockle Sands.
The Velvet Scoter was again seen off the seafront on the 8th and on the 9th I finally discovered the day-time feeding site of the Glossy Ibis flock, at Green Farm in Maer Valley. I saw nine, the following day, alongside the water treatment works, and the following day just four, at Maer Farm. None were seen after that. The 2 Black-necked Grebes were again scoped from Shelly beach and the juvenile Spoonbill reappeared off Mudbank.
Two female Cirl Buntings were in the hedgerow next to the Orcombe dung heap on the 11th and 54+ Snipe were flushed from the field opposite.
On the 12th a flock of 500+ Black-headed Gulls was off Mudbank and c60+ Bar-tailed Godwits were on Cockle Sands. Three Dartford Warblers were together on Withycombe Raleigh Common and c40+ Redwings were in Maer Valley.
On the 15th, 10 Lesser Black-backed Gulls off Mudbank signalled some early passage, and on the 16th, as storm Dudley rolled in, 13+ Purple Sandpipers were on Maer Rocks and 115+ Common Gulls were off Mudbank. Storm Dudley was closely followed by Eunice on the 18th. Eunice, said to be the worst storm in 30 years, brought damaging winds but apparently no birds!
A drake and female Goldeneye made one of their very infrequent appearances, off Mudbank, on the 19th (and again on the 23rd) and the Spoonbill reappeared once again.
On the 20th, as storm number three, Franklin, moved in the Velvet Scoter was off Maer Rocks and 5 Red-throated Divers passed, along with 3 Great Northern Divers. Later in the morning I discovered two drake Ring-necked Ducks on Blackhill Quarry pool, whilst walking the dog with Lu and Maisie. So near to the Exmouth patch yet so far...
On the 21st, 90 Pintail were off Mudbank and the Velvet Scoter was again off Maer Rocks. It seemed to favour this side of the bay in strong westerlies as it was again feeding off Maer Rocks on the 24th.
Three singing male Yellowhammers, on Withycombe Raleigh Common, were full of the joys of spring on the 25th and a Goshawk showed well within the Exmouth parish boundary. Birding fizzled out a bit at the month's end but at least 1 female Cirl Bunting remained by the dung heap on the 27th.
Glossy Ibis - Mudbank 5/2/22. Photographed from the back garden as they headed downriver in the morning. The same flock flew back upriver in the evening. I'd first seen them fly over on the 2/2, whilst Lu and I walked the dog, after work. On the 3rd they were added to the garden list and on the 9th I discovered the entire flock at Green Farm, in Maer Valley. Nine were further along the lane the next day, feeding with gulls and crows in a freshly slurry-covered field, and four were at Maer Farm the day after, but that was the last I saw of them.
Purple Sandpiper - Maer Rocks 8/2/22. On the 16/2 at least 13, probably 14, birds were counted. This is the highest count for a long time. The maximum in the second winter period was 10 - a count made on the 20/11.
Cirl Bunting - one of two seen in the hedge beside the dung heap on 11/2. At least ten were recorded in 2022 - my best year yet for this 'on the up' species.
Grey Plover in black and white - Mudbank 13/2/22.
Velvet Scoter - off Maer Rocks on the 20/2 - the first of three recorded in 2022.
These drake Ring-necked Ducks were discovered on Blackhill Quarry pool on the 20/2, whilst walking Coco with Lu and Maisie. One was present the next day (see below) and remained until the 24th. In the autumn, a juvenile bird was on the same pool, having first been sighted at the Warren.
Oystercatcher - Maer Rocks 21/2/22.
Dartford Warbler - Withycombe Raleigh Common 25/2/22. One of three regularly seen together during February. By the end of the month they became much more active, with a male bird in frequent song.
The first two weeks of March were pretty lacklustre, though counts of 400 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 16 Sanderling and 67 Bar-tailed Godwits, off Mudbank on the 12th, were perhaps noteworthy.
On the 13th, two Little Gulls were in the estuary - a beautiful pink-flushed adult and accompanying first-winter. Goshawk finally made it on to the house list.
On the 14th the immature Spoonbill put in another appearance off Mudbank, and on the 19th a Red Kite flew upriver off Mudbank. A flock of 7 Black-tailed Godwits off there were my first of 2022 in Exmouth.
The 21st sprung a lovely surprise in the form of 2 drake Garganey off Mudbank. My first (belated) Wheatear of the year was in the top fields on Orcombe Point. It proved to be the only one I saw in March.
One of the Isle of Wight, White-tailed Eagles (2nd yr female - G801) was seen from the back garden on the 22nd, and on the 25th my first Sandwich Tern of the year was off Maer Rocks. The Spoonbill was again off Mudbank later in the day.
Another White-tailed Eagle (2nd year female - G542) was seen on the 27th, circling between Mudbank and Lympstone.
I was tempted out of Exmouth, on the 29th, for a Spotted Crake on Exminster Marshes. A rare spring record. Three Sandwich Terns were off the seafront.
On the 30th, 150+ Curlew and 50 Bar-tailed Godwits were off Mudbank. The month ended dry and with a cold north-easterly.
Adder - Withycombe Raleigh Common 20/3/22.
Two Garganey - Mudbank - this pair of amorous drakes was busy displaying to a female Mallard, in the early morning gloom, on the 21/3/22. One drake disappeared but one remained until later in the day.
White-tailed Eagle - soaring between Mudbank and Lympstone on 27/3/22. My second in five days. Photographed from Halsdon Avenue, on the way to watch Joel play football. This was apparently a 2nd year female (G542) - released on the IOW last year.
The start of April continued cold and clear with little evidence of migration, though 2 Wheatears had made it as far as Orcombe on the 1st. Only my 2nd and third of the year.
A male Cirl Bunting was in song, right on the parish boundary, at West Down on the 2nd.
On the 3rd, a female-type Marsh Harrier flew upriver and then headed high east. A sizeable flock of 63+ Fieldfares was on the archery club playing fields and 21 drake Mallards were on Bystock Pool. Winds from the north scuppered migration for the next week but on the 10th it switched to the east and migration picked up immediately. Pale-bellied Brent Geese featured with c100+ arriving. First records for the year, on the 10th, included my first 2 Swallows and a House Martin, a single Whimbrel and 2 Ringed Plovers. A flock of c30+ Sandwich Terns was roosting on Cockle Sands.
Six Manx Shearwaters past Orcombe Point, on the 11th, were my first of the year and on the 12th, a switch to southerly winds and light rain, overnight, dropped 'first of the year' reeling Grasshopper Warbler, 2+ Tree Pipits, male Redstart and 2 Whitethroats.
On the 14th my first Arctic Skua of the year was off Maer Rocks, sitting for a long time on a piece of floating debris.
We went away to south-west Turkey for a week, from the 15th, but shortly after returning, on the 24th, I recorded 'year first' Yellow Wagtail and Reed Warbler on Orcombe Point, and a singing Sedge Warbler at West Lodge. A pair of Eiders off the seafront were also new for the year.
A pair of Tufted Ducks was on Bystock Pool on the 25th - my first in Exmouth for well over a year. The drake was displaying to the female and both remained into May.
Off Mudbank, on the 28th, a count of 84+ Whimbrel and c40 Bar-tailed Godwits was made and a surprise was in store when last autumn's long-staying Yellow-legged Gull popped up off Mudbank. It was to put in a protracted stay and was still present (frequenting the recycling centre) in the middle of August!
Counts of c90+ Whimbrel were made on the last two days of the month and, on the 30th, 3 Common Sandpipers were off Mudbank, and a single Common Tern was off the seafront.
Dark-bellied Brent Goose - Mudbank 2/4/22.
Sedge Warbler - West Lodge 24/4/22. This bird was still singing from the same spot on 26/6/22 at least. I recorded five Sedge Warblers in spring 2022. A good total for Exmouth.
I was surprised to see last autumn's Yellow-legged Gull back off Mudbank on 28/4, and even more surprised that it lingered throughout April and May, before reappearing in July! Its last appearance was made on August 14th 2022. Had it hung on another four days it would have completed a year's (semi) residence.
On May 1st my hope was for spring migrants, so it was a bit surprising for 'bird of the day' to be Gadwall. Six birds were sat on Cockle Sands. Four Sedge Warblers was a great day-total for Exmouth, especially in spring. Two were on Orcombe Point and 2 were at West Lodge.
On the 2nd, a Cuckoo was singing on Bystock (it was still around on the 24th at least), along with 3 Firecrests. My first Swift of the year was on Orcombe Point, where a count of 8 Wheatears was noteworthy in such a poor spring for the species.
On the 4/5 the year's first Whinchat was on Orcombe Point, along with a mini-fall of 14 Wheatears.
A Red Kite was watched distantly from Withycombe Raleigh Common on 5/5, with a Crossbill over too.
Another Red Kite crossed the river north of Mudbank on 7/5 but a Serin flying west, over Orcombe, was a far more exciting record.
Ten Great Northern Divers flew into the bay (viewed from the raised beach huts) on the 11th and on the 14th my first Spotted Flycatcher of the year was on Orcombe Point.
A good sea-watch on the 15th produced an unexpected Balearic Shearwater, heading east, and a very welcome Roseate Tern. Additionally a dark Arctic Skua and c50 Common Scoters were of note.
A first-summer Bonaparte's Gull was found off Mudbank on the evening of the 17th. A fly-past from 2 redhead Goosanders was almost as big a surprise.
The Bonaparte's Gull was off the leisure centre, first thing on the 18th, and in the evening my first Little Tern of 2022 was off the Imperial recreation ground. Additionally, a Red Kite flew lover over Withycombe Raleigh Common and my second Spotted Flycatcher of the spring was at Bystock Pool.
The Bonaparte's Gull was again in the estuary on the 19th, along with 3 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and 1 Pale-bellied Brent Goose (all four geese were still present on at the month's end).
The final week of May was exceptionally quiet, enlivened only by a pair of Egyptian Geese, off Mudbank, on the 29/5. On the last day of the month 100+ Black-headed Gulls were off Mudbank and a Grey Wagtail flew over.
Skylark - Orcombe Point 2/5/22. With intensive farming on Orcombe Point, it's a wonder that Skylarks even attempt to breed there, but they're pretty resilient and persistent, and the presence of a little flock of at least 11 on 3/9 indicates they had some success. Gone are the days when we used to get a flock of 200+ wintering in stubbles but this winter has so far seen in excess of 70 birds frequenting the top fields - sustained by some cattle feed crop, a little stubble and some un-grazed pasture.
First-summer Bonaparte's Gull - Duckpond 18/5/22. Found on the 17/5 from Mudbank, and still present on 19/5. My only BBRC find of 2022 but my fourth in Exmouth.
Egyptian Geese - Mudbank 29/5/22.
This Pale-bellied Brent Goose was with three Dark-bellied Brent Geese towards the end of May. All four birds lingered into June.
The three Dark-bellied Brent Geese were still accompanying the Pale-bellied Brent Goose on June 1st, but the Pale-bellied and a single Dark-bellied soon disappeared, leaving the remaining two Dark-bellied birds to sit out the rest of the month. On the 4th, a single Greenshank and Grey Plover were off Mudbank, and a Reed Warbler was singing from beside the cricket pitch.
The first 'returning' Redshank was off Mudbank on the 24th, when 10 Sandwich Terns were also noted.
Counts off Mudbank on the 26th included 21 Shelduck, 38 Curlew, 5 Whimbrel, 1 Grey Wagtail and the 2 Dark-bellied Brent Geese still. The male Sedge Warbler was still singing from the West Lodge reedbed but I couldn't establish whether or not breeding had taken place. A Reed Bunting was a bit of a surprise there on the same date.
On the 27th I popped in to see an unseasonal Tundra Bean Goose, at Dart's Farm.
I caught up with some great insects in June. This Thrift Clearwing on 11/6 was the star for me but I was also thrilled to finally see Red-tipped Clearwing and Ochreous Pug.
Norfolk Hawker was a new one for me. Two performed brilliantly, down at Slapton Ley, on 22/6.
July was another quiet month, not helped by a record-breaking heatwave in the second half of the month, which wasn't conducive for getting out in the field. A count of 90+ Curlew, off Mudbank, was made on the 2nd and the Dark-bellied Brent Goose continued its lengthy residence (still present on 22/8). A Siskin flew over Mudbank on the 3rd and on the 9th my highest ever count of Mediterranean Gulls was made - a total of 67+ birds was off Mudbank. The 9th was also notable for the discovery of a new Moorhen site - at least two birds were in an overgrown pond off Castle Lane.
I was a bit surprised to find the returning Yellow-legged Gull (now in first-summer plumage) off Mudbank on the 22nd. It was subsequently seen in the recycling centre and was still present, up until the 14/8.
Splendid Brocade - this rare immigrant species turned up during the July heatwave. A new one for me.
Irish Lady's-tresses - Lu and I spent a couple of days up in Wales, towards the end of July, in order to see these rare and wonderful orchids. Fifteen spikes in total. Additionally, both Dune and Green-flowered Helleborines were seen in numbers, near Wrexham.
Common Tern - Imperial recreation ground 29/7/22.
The long dry spell continued into August and the birding barely changed too, with the resident Yellow-legged Gull providing pretty much the only interest. It was last seen on the 14th.
Sedge Warblers were found on Orcombe on the 7th and 8th, with at least two birds present, favouring vegetation around the slurry pit.
On the 10th there were 2 Black-tailed Godwits off Mudbank and the following day a flock of 25+ (almost certainly 28) Knepp White Storks flew east across the river, seen from the back garden. Thanks to the 'heads up' from Mark that they'd earlier flown north from Torbay.
On the 12th I found my first Garden Warbler of the year, on Orcombe Point.
On the 15th the first four returning Wigeon were off Mudbank and migrants on Orcombe Point included 5 Tree Pipits and 2 Yellow Wagtails. The next day a flock of 27 Black-tailed Godwits was on Cockle Sands. Three Swifts on Orcombe Point were the first I'd seen in a while.
On the 17th a flock of 22 juvenile Mediterranean Gulls was on the beach beside the lifeboat station, with just a single adult.
Orcombe migrants picked up on the 18th with Pied Flycatcher, 25 Swallows, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Grasshopper Warbler and 8 Tree Pipits amongst the species recorded. A flock of 33 Black-tailed Godwits was off Mudbank, along with 24+ Ringed Plovers, 3 Dunlin and 11 Sanderling.
Reed Warbler was the best migrant on Orcombe, on the 19th and the following morning at least 3 Balearic Shearwaters lingered off Orcombe Point.
On the 21st I was chuffed to find another, more obliging Pied Flycatcher on Orcombe Point. Off Mudbank, 3 Gadwall were with c230 Mallard and 9 Wigeon.
Yellow Wagtail numbers picked up on the 22nd with 12 on Orcombe Point and at least 7 close by, with cattle, along Maer Lane.
A fabulous juvenile Caspian Gull was off Mudbank on the 23rd and on the 24th a juvenile Black Tern accompanied c50+ Common Terns on Cockle Sands. Nearby 13 juvenile Mediterranean Gulls were on Maer Rocks and at least 16 Yellow Wagtails were on Orcombe Point. A juvenile Hobby hunted Swallows, over the house, late in the afternoon.
The fruitful spell continued on the 25th with 3 redhead Goosanders and a Cattle Egret off Mudbank. The 26th saw 17 Avocet flying upriver and the year's first Shoveler, with 1 female Gadwall, 1 Tufted Duck and 20 Wigeon present too. At last, my first Osprey of the year put in an appearance, lingering to the 30/8 at least, and often seen from the back garden.
The 27th brought the first returning Pintail and a Lapwing off Mudbank, and the following day I recorded my first White Wagtail of the autumn (plus 40+ Yellow Wagtails) on Orcombe Point. An adult Gannet was well upriver the same day.
The 30th was notable for the arrival of a Spotted Redshank off Mudbank.
The long-staying first-summer Yellow-legged Gull - Imperial rugby ground 4/8/22.
The hot, dry and, at times, humid weather over the summer produced some fantastic moths. Immigrant species, trapped in the garden, included 1 Striped Hawkmoth, 1 Ni Moth, 1 Splendid Brocade, 1 Scarce Bordered Straw, 3 Bordered Straw, 8 Delicate, 13 Pearly Underwing, 1 Small Mottled Willow, double-figure counts of Turnip, White-point, Silver Y and Dark Sword-grass, as well as a few Rush Veneer, Diamond-back and masses of Rusty Dot Pearl. Additionally, Portland Ribbon Wave was caught almost every time the trap was out, with 10 in the trap one evening, and several new species for the garden were recorded, including, Mocha, Jersey Mocha and Lesser-spotted Pinion. More good mothing occurred in the latter half of October, with prolonged southerlies originating from Africa, when White-speck, Vestal and Crimson Speckled (found on the Maer) were added to the tally of immigrant species.
Pied Flycatcher - my second Exmouth bird of the autumn, found on 21/8/22.
Juvenile Caspian Gull - Mudbank 23/8/22. My fourth in Exmouth following a juvenile, in the same spot, on 25/8/20. Remarkably this bird was relocated on Slapton Beach, by Perry, on the 28/8.
First-summer Great Black-backed Gull and juvenile Caspian Gull.
Osprey - this juvenile was present at the end of August/start of September - photographed here, from Mudbank on 28/8/22.
Sanderling - Exmouth Beach 30/8/22.
On September 1st there was a notable jump in duck numbers. Counts included 20 Pintail and 100+ Wigeon. The Osprey was still patrolling the river.
The Pintail count leapt to 50 the following day and the autumn's first three Meadow Pipits were on Orcombe Pont. A roost of c7/800+ Oystercatchers, on Cockle Sands, was presumably due to some disturbance at the Warren.
On the 3rd the first Stonechat of the autumn was on Orcombe Point and on the 4th a juvenile Spoonbill was off Mudbank, along with a Little Tern, 7 Gadwall and an Osprey.
Two Ospreys were off Mudbank on the 6th, and my first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of the year was on Cockle Sands. Two Common Sandpipers was also a notable record.
A Little Tern was off Mudbank on the 7th, and the 8th was a good day with a first-winter Caspian Gull, 104 Pintail, 17+ Greenshank, c6/700+ Teal, 2 Gadwall and 2 Shoveler.
I finally caught up with Arctic Tern on the 10th. A juvenile was in the estuary, along with 70+ Sandwich Terns and an Osprey. My first Whinchat of the autumn was on Orcombe and some first, proper overhead movement included 7 Grey Wagtails, 20+ Meadow Pipits and 2 or 3 Tree Pipits.
The first six, returning Dark-bellied Brent Geese were back on the 11th, joining the long-staying, summering individual. A juvenile Little Gull roosted on Cockle Sands, as did a juvenile Arctic Tern, and on Orcombe Point, the autumn's first Goldcrest appeared, along with 2 Whinchats. The Little Gull was again present on the 12th.
On the 15th a Red Kite was watched, from the back garden, heading west across the river - an unusual autumn record for me. Additionally, a flock of c60+ Cattle Egrets were across the other side of the river.
A Spotted Flycatcher, on Orcombe, was my first and only autumn record on the 17th, and a Great White Egret, in Blackhill Quarry, was a great local record, albeit just outside the Exmouth boundary.
On the 18th I watched 2 Ospreys and 3 Goshawks from the back garden, and c250 Meadow Pipits headed west, over Orcombe Point.
The 19th saw the autumn's first migrant Firecrest on Orcombe, along with 4 Goldcrests. Eight Yellow Wagtails were in with cattle.
The 22nd was about 'plastic' wildfowl with 3 Black Swans and the Snow Goose off Mudbank. Additionally 101 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and an immature Spoonbill were present.
A count of 200+ Pintail, off Mudbank, was made on the 24th, and the following day, 'autumn first' singles of Reed Bunting, Redpoll and Snipe were recorded on Orcombe, whilst a rough count of c1000 Wigeon was made off Mudbank.
On the 26th, at least 8 Yellow Wagtails were in with cattle on Orcombe Point and 2 fly-over Golden Plovers were my first of the autumn. Nearby a Firecrest was in Maer Valley along with a flock of 150+ Jackdaws. A single Greylag Goose was with a Canada Goose flock off Mudbank and a single Pale-bellied Brent Goose, in with 190 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, was my first of the autumn.
The most notable sighting on the 28th was a flock of 54+ Balearic Shearwaters that joined hundreds of gulls, feeding off the seafront and the next day this flock had grown to an estimated 200+ - difficult to count as they swirled around the bay en masse. Nearby 25+ Chiffchaffs were on Orcombe Point and a flock of 20 Ravens flew west. The Dark-bellied Brent Goose count had reached 287 and 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were in with them.
First-winter Caspian Gull - Mudbank 8/9/22. My second of the year, following a juvenile on the 23/8.
At least 50 Sandwich Terns roosted off Mudbank on 10/9.
Yellow Wagtail - Orcombe Point 25/9/22. Lower numbers than usual made a pit-stop amongst Orcombe cattle this year.
Juvenile Stock Dove- Orcombe Point 28/9/22.
October 1st got the month off to a good start, when an adult Whooper Swan flew north, over Orcombe Point, towards the town - my first ever Exmouth record. Nearby I relocated Kev's juvenile Ring-necked Duck, on Blackhill Quarry, and an Osprey was again off Mudbank. At West Lodge - a single Whinchat was feeding along the edge of the reedbed. It lingered and was last seen on the 9th.
On the 2nd, a quick walk around Bystock yielded 5 Firecrests along with several Goldcrests. Four Pale-bellied Brent Geese were in with the burgeoning Dark-bellied flock which had reached 430+ birds the following day.
On the 4th, a Barnacle Goose was the stand-out bird amongst large numbers of wildfowl, off Mudbank.
On the 6th, 600+ Kittiwakes were counted off the seafront and one or two Arctic Skuas passed through, along with at least 5 Balearic Shearwaters. Best bird on Orcombe was a Firecrest.
Singles of Dartford Warbler and Snipe were on Orcombe on the 8th and a Ruff was in with 150+ Black-tailed Godwits, off Mudbank. Similar time, same place and likely the same bird as last year!
On the 9th, 45 Balearic Shearwaters and 440+ Kittiwakes were counted from the raised beach huts and a late Wheatear was on Orcombe Point. Off Mudbank - 320 Pintail was a high count.
Dartford Warblers were noted at both Orcombe Point and West Lodge, in the reedbed, on the 10th and the Ruff was again with the Black-tailed Godwit flock, that comprised 200+ birds.
A Dartford Warbler was on Orcombe, with 5 Stonechats, on the 11th. All birds finding food in the turnip field.
A late afternoon visit to Orcombe Point, on the 14th, produced 1 Cirl Bunting and a/the Dartford Warbler.
The 15th saw 765+ Dark-bellied Brent Geese and 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese off Mudbank, along with a late juvenile Common Tern, and 4 Bullfinches headed high north on Orcombe.
Highlights on the 17th were an Osprey off Mudbank and 2 Moorhens in the West Lodge reedbed. A count of 21+ Siskins over Orcombe was notable in a very lean autumn for the species.
An easterly blast on the 19th saw the arrival of several flock of Redwings, swirling over the town as I walked to work. A flock of c2/300+ Teal was off Mudbank, along with 4 Lapwings, and a Firecrest was on Orcombe Point.
Some good birds were noted on Orcombe on the 20th, with 1 Merlin, 1 Black Redstart, 1 Dartford Warbler, 2 Firecrests, 30 Redwings, 1 Fieldfare and a late Whinchat all logged.
A juvenile Curlew Sandpiper was off Mudbank on the 21st and 5 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were in with the Dark-bellied flock. The following day a Yellow-browed Warbler was discovered in Maer Valley, along with a Black Redstart. Off Mudbank - a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull and my first returning Red-breasted Merganser.
Another Cirl Bunting was on Orcombe Point on the 24th (and again the following day) and 3 Swallows flew west.
Nine Swallows and 2 Firecrests were the best of it on Orcombe on the 25th.
On the 28th I discovered a Serin in the top fields and c4000 Woodpigeons flew west.
Another late Whinchat was on Orcombe on the 29th and a juvenile Arctic Tern showed well off Mudbank.
On the 31st, 2 Velvet Scoters flew east past Orcombe Point and the Ruff was again off Mudbank.
Whooper Swan - Orcombe Point 1/10/22.
Juvenile Whinchat - West Lodge. In a lean autumn for Whinchats, this was only my fourth in Exmouth. Present on the 1/10/22 and remaining until the 9th. Another bird was on Orcombe Point on the 20th and yet another on the 29th.
Barnacle Goose - Mudbank 4/10/22. This bird looked quite wild on this date, in with the Brent Geese. The following day it had somewhat lost its shine, preferring the company of the Canadas!
Curlew Sandpiper - Mudbank 21/10/22. Several Curlew Sands had been noted on the Exe, earlier in the autumn, so I thought I'd missed the boat, here in Exmouth, making this late juvenile all the more pleasing.
Black-tailed Godwit - Mudbank 21/10/22.
Yellow-browed Warbler - Maer Valley 22/10/22. A second bird was discovered in the Maer long-stay carpark on 3/11.
Juvenile Arctic Tern - Mudbank 29/10/22.
Crimson Speckled - found on the Maer 29/10/22.
November 3rd was a frustrating day with 2 probable Red-rumped Swallows over the quay and a probable Tree sparrow over Orcombe Point. A 'definite' Yellow-browed Warbler in the Maer long-stay carpark went a little way to alleviate the pain though, as did a smart , male Black Redstart in the Shelly Beach area. On Orcombe Point - a Yellowhammer and 2 Dartford Warblers. Off Mudbank - high counts of 52 Redshank and c200 Black-tailed Godwits.
Two Black Redstarts on the dung heap, on the 4th, were 'new in' and the Stonechat count had risen to 18 birds.
On the 5th, an immature male Eider was in Sandy Bay (still present on 7/11) and 25 Fieldfares were feeding in Rowans at the back of our house, on Warren View football pitch.
The following day a Cirl Bunting was in the top fields, on Orcombe, with c50 Redwings over, and 2 Cirl Buntings were along the cycle track, at West Lodge.
Sea-watching early on the 7th produced hundreds of Gannets, 1 Arctic Skua and a Pomarine Skua, along with 2 each of Red-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver. One Black Redstart was still on the dung heap and was last there on the 10th.
On the 12th I cycled into Exeter to see the juvenile Glaucous Gull and on the 13th I counted c7500+ Woodpigeons as they headed west, over Orcombe, early in the morning. Additional records on this date included 4 Reed Buntings, 2 or 3 Cirl Buntings, 3+ Redpolls, 1 Golden Plover and the 'turnip' Dartford Warbler.
Four Black Redstarts (1 Orcombe Point, 3 Shelly Beach) were noteworthy on the 14th (Maisie's birthday) but not as noteworthy as the Cetti's Warbler that I discovered below the railway line, opposite Lower Halsdon Farm. Five Red-breasted Mergansers was a slight increase off Mudbank and 125 Pintail was the highest count for some weeks. Three Shoveler off there were also of note.
A Great White Egret was distantly off Mudbank, late in the evening, on the 15th when counts of 50+ Little Egret and 38 Cattle Egrets was also made.
Two Eiders were off Maer Rocks on the 17th - presumably the Sandy Bay immature male joined by a 'new' female. Both birds were still present on the 21st at least.
On the 20th there were 10 Purple Sandpipers on Maer Rocks and the following day, 6 Ring-necked Parakeets were sat in a tree opposite the Maer long-stay carpark. The 2 Eiders were still off Maer Rocks and at least 16 Common Scoters were off Orcombe Point. An adult Little Gull flew south past Orcombe Point, along with hundreds of close-in Kittiwakes.
Another strong southerly blow, on the 26th, produced another adult Little Gull past Maer Rocks, along with a Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Red-throated Divers.
Eiders - Maer Rocks 20/11/22. A pair of Eiders was seen off the seafront on April 24th and this pair was present off Maer Rocks from November 17th - 21st at least. The right-hand bird, a presumed immature male (with a pale breast) was presumably the bird that was in Sandy Bay from November 5th-7th. An immature male was still knocking around at the year's end.
December was arguably my best month of the year, with over 100 species recorded in the parish and a long-awaited lifer, a few miles to the east, on Colyford Marsh.
A walk from home on December 1st produced one of the Shelly Beach Black Redstarts, a Pale-bellied Brent Goose on the Imperial rugby ground and 2 Blackcaps, along with a Firecrest, along Madeira Walk.
On the 3rd, a drake Common Scoter was mid-river, from Mudbank with 11+ Red-breasted Mergansers. A count of 25 Grey Plovers was made and the Cetti's Warbler was in the West Lodge reedbed, after having earlier been seen along the cycle track.
The following day 2 Cetti's Warblers were along the cycle track (Mudbank and West Lodge) and 2 Knot were on Maer Rocks. The juvenile Cirl Bunting was still on Orcombe Point, along with a single Lapwing.
The 10th saw some cold weather movement with 15 Lapwing and 4 Golden Plovers on Orcombe Point, along with a Black Redstart. I finally caught up with an Eastern Lesser Whitethroat at the end of our road. It had probably been present for at least 2 weeks.
The Lapwings were still on Orcombe on the 11th and the Golden Plover count had risen to 7 birds. The wintering Dartford Warbler was seen again and 8 Ring-necked Parakeets were roosting beside Maer long-stay carpark. Blackcaps figured heavily with 5 along Madeira Walk (along with the Firecrest) and at least 4 on Belle Vue Road.
Bird of the year was seen on the 12th - a beautiful Olive-backed Pipit, creeping furtively beneath an Oak tree in Phear Park - a sensational find by John Walters who was out, searching for aphids of all things! I went to see it again on the 16th, when 39+ Great Crested Grebes and my first Goldeneye of the year were off Mudbank.
I covered a number of sites on the 17th, last day of the really cold snap. A Cattle Egret was on Orcombe with 34 Golden Plovers, c70/80+ Skylarks and the Black Redstart still. An immature drake Eider was offshore there. Counts from Mudbank included 3 Avocets and 4 Gadwall. A Firecrest was along the cycle track between Littleham and Castle Lane.
Heavy rain and warmer weather on the 18th made birding very unpleasant but counts from Mudbank included 13 Red-breasted Mergansers, 118 Mallard, 108 Shelduck and 3 Shoveler. An Eider (presumed immature male) was off the seafront.
The 19th brought a surprise in the form of my second Exmouth Coot. It was trying to find shelter beneath a pontoon. Another visit was made to the Olive-backed Pipit.
I broke my 'no twitching' rule on the 20th, for Devon's second Isabelline Wheatear. Well worth the effort!
The purple patch continued on the 21st with the discovery of a Black-necked Grebe off Mudbank and, the following day, my first Exmouth Scaup in over three years was feeding off Mudbank, along with a drake Goldeneye. One of the wintering Cetti's Warblers was in full song below Lower Halsdon Farm.
The Scaup and 2 Goldeneye were still present on the 23rd but the highlight was another Spoonbill, quietly having a knap off Mudbank.
On the 24th the adult female Scaup was briefly close-in off Mudbank and a Common Sandpiper was in the brook, close to the end of Exeter Road. Both these birds were again seen after Christmas, on the 27th and the Scaup was still present on New Year's Eve.
Cetti's Warbler - West Lodge 3/12/22. This bird or another was first found in the tiny patch of reeds below Lower Halsdon Farm on 14/11. On the 3/12 it (or another) was along the cycle track between Lower Halsdon Farm and later in the day, in the West Lodge reedbed. On the 4th, two birds were confirmed as being present - one at Mudbank and one at West Lodge.
These two Knot were feeding on Maer Rocks on 4/12.
Eastern Lesser Whitethroat - Belle Vue Road 10/12/22. This little cracker was reported a week before, on Halsdon Avenue, and I'd probably seen it a week prior. Remarkably, this was my only Exmouth Lesser Whitethroat in 2022.
Olive-backed Pipit - Phear Park 16/12/22. Bird of the year for me by a long stretch. Discovered by John Walters on a cold, grey December afternoon. Unearthed on the 12th and last seen on the 20th.
The Oaks, either side of the white shelter, were the OBP's favored spots. Who'd have thought that Exmouth's 'bird of the year' would turn up in an urban park?
One of three Avocets off Mudbank on 17/12. Only the second record of the year following a freshly-arrived flock of 17 on the 26/8.
Coot - Exmouth marina 19/12/22. My second Exmouth record.
Isabelline Wheatear - Colyford Common 20/12/21. Well, it seems December is the new October. What a bird to round the year off!
Black-necked Grebe - Mudbank 21/12/22. My third in Exmouth in 2022.
The year's third Spoonbill was off Mudbank on the 23rd.
Adult female Scaup - Mudbank 24/12/22. My first Scaup in Exmouth in over three years. Another diving duck getting rarer...
Common Sandpiper - Phear Park 27/12/22. I've probably been looking in the wrong places but, as far as I can remember, this is my first ever wintering Common Sand within the confines of Exmouth.
I always enjoy your annual write- up Matt, thanks. Many of the trends you see are mirrored in Exminster, although I still haven't seen an Exminster WTE! And great to see the ranks of Exe Estuary biking birders growing- it's the future. My longest twitch this year was the OBP, pretty much door-2-bird on cycle path. We invested in an e-cargo bike this year and it has been a bit of a revelation. I know there is a e-cargo hire scheme in Exmouth, if you were looking for more options to drop the car.....https://m.facebook.com/100067015172675/ReplyDelete
Best of luck for 2023, James
Hi James - great to hear from you and thank you for your kind comments. The e-cargo bike sounds wonderful - will look further into it. Am shopping at Topsham Aldi at the moment so the thought of possibly doing it by bike is very appealing! Am certain that you'll get WTE before too long - have a lovely New Year and hopefully I'll bump into you soon - hopefully I'll be on me bike! Best wishes. Matt.ReplyDelete
Hi Matt. Great Bumper-read as always. Thanks for keeping such a great record of the birds in your parish. I have to admit that my birding hasn't picked up again since it fell off a cliff when I got into moths ... which was your fault of course! :)ReplyDelete
Maybe 2023 will get me out again ... otherwise let's catch up over tea 'n' moths once the weather picks up.
Hi Nick - many thanks. Moths do have have a habit of disrupting birding! Please pop in for a cuppa any time you're in the area. There doesn't have to be moths involved! I'm hoping to cycle over to your neck of the woods more often this year, anticipating some good stuff turning up on the new wetlands. Fingers crossed! Hope you and the family are all well. Have a very Happy New Year! Matt.ReplyDelete