Guided Bird Watching with Dave Smallshire, 4th March 2015

Another lovely sunny morning with fabulous light showing up the glossy green of the Shags and drake Red-breasted Mergansers to best effect. Rather few of the former are in the estuary now, most of them being back on their breeding cliffs, but there are still lots of Mergansers.

Groups of five then six Great Crested Grebes were all in breeding plumage, but the resident Slavonian Grebe – today seen well off Powderham – still looks very black and white. The Spotted Redshanks was again with Greenshanks and Redshanks at Powderham.

Most of the waders were at the top of the estuary: crowds of Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit with smaller numbers of Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Grey Plover and Sanderling. Dozens of Shelduck and Teal dabbled in the mud at Topsham, where a pair of Goldeneye gave a great fly-past. And of course the Avocet flock, now down to 70, still managed to thrill us as they swirled around in the sun.

Best wishes


Guided Bird Watching with Dave Smallshire on Sunday 1st March

Another lovely sunny morning for the cruise, with a fresh westerly wind. Shag numbers have declined as the breeding season approaches, but there were still some nice adults sporting crests in the outer part of the estuary.

The Spotted Redshank was with half a dozen Greenshanks off Powderham and several groups of Sanderlings fed along the sandbank edges in mid-estuary. Ten or more Great Crested Grebes were still around. Most of the area’s Brent Geese were on the mud and river near Turf Lock, taking flight in spectacular fashion as we approached; there must have been a thousand or more. Someone spotted the Snow Bunting on the sea wall near the new bridge over the railway (this confiding bird has been there for almost two months).

The mudbanks held large numbers of Dunlin and smaller numbers of Grey Plover, Knot and Shelducks. At Topsham, a pair of Goldeneye and stunning Red-breasted Mergansers swam close to the boat, while hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits, 100 Bar-tails and over 200 Avocets milled around us: a fantastic sight. There were a few dozen Teal feeding as well, while an immature gull with Black-headeds had the demeanor of a Caspian Gull.

As we returned to Exmouth, the resident Harbour Seal was in her favourite position, hauled out on Bull Hill sandbank.

Best wishes


Reviews of 17th, 18th and 19th February Bird Watching Cruises with Ian Waite
Three consecutive trips with some sightings common to them all, particularly the Avocets.
It has been a privilege to experience the aerial ballet performed by these magnificent birds as they flew alongside
both sides of the boat, in front and behind the boat and overhead.  One of nature’s wonders on our doorstep.
It was a real spectacle and there were lots of smiling faces amongst the passengers.
Dunlin were in large flocks.  There were many Black-tailed Godwits and Bar-tailed Godwits were seen, on one occasion
in flight with Knot.   Grey Plovers showed well and up to three Greenshank were spotted.
Shelduck were very noticeable in large numbers feeding on the mud and I estimated 100 plus in total.
Brent Geese were seen in varying numbers, often in flight, in and out of Exminster Marshes and a pair of
Goldeneye featured every day.
Up to 40 Sanderling were noted and I thought Redshank numbers were up on previous trips.
Great Crested Grebes – up to 30 were starting to show summer plumage and the Slavonian Grebe featured on
each trip but on Thursday there were two, possibly three seen.
There were some unique sightings for each day.
On Tuesday as we went out to the sandbars a female Long-tailed Duck appeared accompanied by three Shags.
Also on that day we had two Shoveler on the river towards Topsham.  Very unusual habitat for this dabbling duck.
Wednesday was the only day we saw a Spotted Redshank, but the big surprise was on our return when we saw a Fox
walking across the mud on the Warren very close to flocks of unperturbed Oystercatchers.
A crow mobbed it as it crossed westwards negotiating a long journey to terra firma.
The surprise on Thursday was a Black-necked Grebe at Powderham.  Not a usual bird for the river but much appreciated.
Seals both Common and Grey were seen every day with one providing amusement as it tackled a large flatfish.
Ian Waite
Guided Bird Watching

This week we had three guided bird watching cruises on the beautiful River Exe. We were very lucky with the weather on both Tuesday and Wednesday, but despite the poor conditions of yesterday’s trip there was still plenty to see. With these trips lasting approximately 3 hours there is lots of chance to spot the huge variety of birds that spend the winter on the Exe.

Each trip has commentary from a leading ornithologist, identifying and talking about habitat and behaviour of each bird they see. This week’s trips have all had commentary by Ian Waite, an enthusiastic bird watcher in the local area. With over 20 years’ experience you can be sure that he won’t miss a thing.

These trips have proved to be hugely popular this season, we’ve even had to add in two extra trips!
We are now taking bookings for the 2015/16 winter. Book now to avoid missing out:

Call us on 01395 279693 or book online:


Wednesday 4th February Bird Watching Cruise with Ian Waite
Before we left our mooring a Kingfisher flew past into the Marina reflecting the sunshine that
stayed with us throughout.
The Avocets were again impressive but more spread out.  There were hundreds on the mudflats
interspersed with many Shelduck, Dunlin, Curlew and Grey Plovers, a good demonstration of the
large number of birds we have on the Exe and the size of their ‘larder’.
Despite the very low water Ian managed to get us close enough to the mud at Powderham to
distinguish the Spotted Redshank from the Greenshank.
As we returned a Slavonian Grebe drifted past the boat at Turf whilst a small flock of Golden Plovers flew overhead.
Certainly more Sanderling today.  One flock of twenty plus other smaller groups.
Several Turnstones were on the mussel boats and amongst the Great Crested Grebes were two showing signs of spring plumage.
Guided Bird Watching Cruise, Saturday 31st January with Dave Smallshire

A strong northerly wind seemed to keep most of the birds at the sheltered northern end of the estuary today, but the rain missed us and we sailed in lovely sunshine. A Sanderling and some Turnstones were notable as we passed the dunes at Dawlish Warren, though a distant group of Knot on the mud were harder to appreciate.


At Powderham a Spotted Redshank was feeding near Greenshank and the first Avocet was seen. Four Great Crested Grebes were off Lympstone Camp and as we approached Turf a large flock of Brent Geese landed to give us close views. The first group of Black-tailed Godwits also gave us good views, as did two drake Goldeneye and Red-breasted Mergansers as we approached Topsham. Grey Plovers and Shelducks were with the hordes of Dunlin on the mud.


The highlight of the cruise was undoubtedly the sight of over 500 Avocets around the boat at Topsham, providing a spectacular flight display as they wheeled around in the wind. Not to be totally outdone, a flock of Bar-tailed Godwits and some 50 Teal were also on the river’s edge here.


Dave Smallshire

Bird Watching trip report – Sunday 1st February
A lovely cold but sunny day with good light ideal for the several photographers on board.
A Seal was beside the boat as we left and a second one seen at Topsham.
Avocets in their hundreds in flight glistening in the sunlight at Topsham were probably everybody’s highlight.
although there were many other birds to be noted.
A solitary Knot was seen with a small group of Black-tailed Godwits with the main flock once again at Turf.
A flock of Bar-tailed Godwits flew around with the Avocets and a Spotted Redshank was with a  Greenshank at Powderham.
One male Goldeneye flew past and many Red-breasted Mergansers impressed, especially the males catching
the sunlight.
Great Crested Grebes were well into double figures.  Grey Plovers amongst the Dunlin were easily spotted.
Large numbers of Brent Geese on the river today, and having seen a few Sanderling earlier on the trip, three
were close by on the shore line as we returned to the docks.
Ian Waite