Saturday 2nd December 2017
The light was lovely for today’s cruise, which saw very large numbers of birds, right from the hordes of gulls and Brent Geese around Pole Sands up to the large flocks of Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits at Topsham. Wigeon, Brents and Oystercatchers all seemed to be in larger numbers than usual – thousands of each.
The immature Great Northern Diver and the ‘resident’ Slavonian Grebe were both off Cockwood, while at least 21 Great Crested Grebes (more than I’ve ever seen on the estuary) were scattered between Lympstone and the Clyst. Around 100 Pintail were in the same area, while c50 Golden Plover flew in to roost on the mud to join the hundreds of Lapwings already present. A dozen or more Greenshanks were in the central areas, while 30 or more Knot were among large numbers of Dunlin towards Topsham. A Black Swan was with Mutes near Powderham
Before and after the cruise started, a Kingfisher and Guillemot, respectively, were seen from the boat at Exmouth.
A pair of Peregrines were very active off Exmouth, later sitting together on a sandbank; there may have been a third bird later, disturbing Starlings near Turf. We had three brief sightings of seal heads, perhaps relating to two Common (Harbour) Seals, while a Grey Seal hauled out on a floating platform off Dawlish Warren had as good a look at us as we did of it!
Sunday 28th February, 2017
A fine though windy afternoon’s cruise, during which notable sightings included the 2 Slavonian Grebes as usual off Cockwood, later with 6 Goldeneye. There were also 7 Great Crested Grebes, including a group of 5 together. Two Greenshanks were off Powderham, one of them by a sandbank in mid-estuary where Sanderlings were also feeding. At least 130 Pintail were off the Lympstone Marines camp.
Amongst the hordes of Dunlin spread over the mudbanks at the northern end of the estuary were a few Ringed Plover, 100+ Grey Plover, 50+ Knot and a roosting group of 3-400 Golden Plover. Plenty of Avocets and both godwits were in the relatively sheltered channel at Topsham, where lots of Teal were feeding.
Common Gulls were present in good numbers, along with a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
Guided Bird Watching Review – Sunday 26th February
There were plenty of kite-surfers off Pole Sands this afternoon, taking advantage of the fresh westerly wind. The rain held off as we headed up to Topsham. A large flock of Brent Geese flew up from Starcross and landed on the mud. Ten Sanderlings had returned to feed on the central sandbank after being absent in previous days, the Greenshank was still in its favoured Kenn channel and four Great Crested Grebes were also in the central parts of the estuary.
A sizeable flock of Pintail off Exton totalled about 200 birds. As the river channel narrowed at Turf, we had close encounters with Red-breasted Mergansers and saw our first Avocets feeding in the shallows; hundreds more of the latter were scattered over the lovely oozy mud towards Topsham. Dunlin were also widely scattered here, seething across the mud like little clockwork toys. Bar-tailed Godwits and Grey Plovers were also much in evidence today, though Black-tailed Godwits were present in relatively small numbers. After 30 Teal near Turf, over 100 more were feeding close to habitation at Topsham.
On the return back to Exmouth, another large flock of Brent Geese flew up from Exminster Marshes. Checking carefully between Starcross and Cockwood, we saw first a Little Grebe, and then two Slavonian Grebes, plus a female Goldeneye.
Guided Bird Watching Review – Sunday 12th February
The cold easterly wind persisted for this afternoon’s cruise. There were many gulls off Dawlish Warren again as well as inside the estuary. Photographs confirmed that the blob on Exmouth church tower was indeed a Peregrine!
The 2 Slavonian Grebes were off Cockwood, as usual, with 3 Goldeneye nearby (another 2 were on the opposite side of the estuary, though very distant). A Greenshank was feeding in its regular haunt in the outflow of the River Kenn, while about 150 Pintail were around the mouth of the Clyst.
The mudbanks at the north end of the estuary supported large numbers of Avocets, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwits, plus over 100 Grey Plover and a small group of roosting Golden Plovers. Two Greylag Geese that flew up from the riverbank as we approached Topsham were unusual for the intertidal area. The female Long-tailed Duck was seen distantly by Topsham Ferry as we turned around for the return journey.
Saturday 11th February, 2017
There was a raw easterly wind blowing this afternoon, but at least the morning’s snow flurries had ceased.
The afternoon’s birdwatching began with a splendid male Black Redstart that appeared on scaffolding as passengers were waiting to board the boat. Apparently there was also a Peregrine nearby, having caught a pigeon earlier.
There were hundreds of gulls, mainly Herring Gulls, feeding and roosting off Dawlish Warren, taking advantage of the lowest tide for several years; we failed to spot anything rare amongst them though. A Harbour (Common) Seal popped up briefly near Exmouth. The two Slavonian Grebes and a pair of Goldeneye were off Cockwood, and a few Great Crested Grebes further up the estuary. A Greenshank was in the Kenn outflow as usual.
Hundreds of Avocets, Dunlins and both godwits were scattered over the mudbanks at the northern end of the estuary, and a flock of Golden Plover flew over. Flocks of Brent Geese flew up and down from the fields over the sea wall and some were resting along the river channel. Lots of Common Gulls were amongst even larger numbers of Black-headed Gulls as we approached Topsham, where again the female Long-tailed Duck was with Red-breasted Mergansers. The Long-tailed Duck behaved very well and actually flew right around the boat giving us lovely views – a definite highlight! A further pair of Goldeneye were also at Topsham.
Sunday 29th January, 2017
We had to contend with rain for the trip upriver, though it was dry for the return and some blue sky even appeared!
Shags were well in evidence in outer part of the estuary, as usual, as were the first of several dozen Great Black-backed Gulls. The two Slavonian Grebes were reasonably close to us as we approached Cockwood, and two single Great Crested Grebes were seen further on.
We had distant views of the Pintail flock (maybe as many as 50?) and about 20 Knot. Apart from these, waders, Shelduck and Teal were very scattered across the mudflats at the head of the estuary, again with no concentrated flocks. Grey Plovers and Bar-tailed Godwits were present in good numbers, but we only found a handful of Black-tailed Godwits and no Greenshank. Very unusual, although the godwits were no doubt feeding in the wet fields over the sea wall.
A Kingfisher was seen sitting next to a sluice near Turf, and on the return journey we had the briefest of glimpses of Harbour (Common) and Grey Seals surfacing near Bull Hill sandbank.