A sunny day on todays cruise always helps to show off the birds on the Exe Estuary. What a start to this cruise was great views of the Red Necked Grebe. There was great excitement as visitors new this was a special bird to see as they were told how rare this sighting was for them as the last time a Red Necked Grebe was seen in the Estuary was 6 years ago. The Slavonian Grebe was also visible off Cockwood as we turned the bend at the Warren Wildlife Refuge mudflats. Several Great crested Grebe were seen on the way up stream towards Topsham with several starting to show the breeding plumage developing. Good views of Pintail in flight and at the waters edge. Great views of a young Grey Seal on a sandbank near the Clyst confluence. From this location to Topsham really large numbers of DB Brent Geese were seen at the waters edge and in the air, probably 1200+ were seen producing spectacular views for the visitors. Across the mudbanks both sides of the channel large numbers of Dunlin 500+ Black Tailed Godwits 500+ Golden Plover 500+ Avocets 300+ a sprinkling of Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Bar Tailed Godwits, Redshank, Shelduck, 6 Sanderling  good numbers of Curlew and 30+ Knot. At least 20+ Red Breasted Mergansers were seen throughout the trip. A Peregrine made a distant appearance putting up 200+ Lapwing over Exminster Marsh. This turned out to be an exceptional cruise for the visitors and enjoyed by all.

Derek Carter

To start the Cruise the visitors were treated to a lone Grey Seal fishing off Pier Head. There were plenty of birds on show today for the visitors with good numbers of Brent Geese throughout the Estuary. Oystercatchers were in Good number to. We were hopeful to see the Red-Necked Grebe which has been on the estuary for the last 10 days but were unable to locate it however the Slavonian Grebe was on Show off Cockwood for all to see. Good numbers of Shelduck were seen along with 150+ Pintail off Lympstone. 20+ Red Breasted Mergansers were seen throughout from Dawlish Warren to Topsham. Several Great Crested Grebe were seen and 5 Goldeneye all were flying. The top end of the Estuary were full of birds with 200+ Avocets, 500+ Golden Plover 200+ Lapwing 400+ Black tailed Godwit with a few Bar tailed Godwit in a mixed flock with several hundred Dunlin scattered across the mud around Turf Lock. As usual Curlew and Redshank were in good numbers throughout the upper estuary.

Derek Carter

Welcome to Stuart Line Cruises’ January Newsletter!

This month’s edition will include a round-up of the following highlights as well as details of what to look out for over the next few weeks:

  • British Coach Tourism Awards 2020 FINALISTS!
  • Mother’s Day Cruise Competition LAUNCH!
  • “Oh, the things you can find, if you don’t stay behind” ~ Dr Seuss
  • Happy Birthday, Skipper!
Off to a flying start!

We are thrilled to announce that we have been nominated as finalists in the ‘Inland River Cruise Operator’ category at the prestigious British Coach Tourism Awards 2020 – what a fantastic way to start the year!

The awards ceremony will be held in March at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham and we are delighted to be able to tie this in with the British Tourism and Travel Show 2020 which we are exhibiting at alongside fellow members of Devon’s Top Attractions.

We are extremely proud of all that we have achieved over the past year and whether or not we receive the winner’s trophy on the night, it is a huge honour to be grouped with the best of the best in our industry.

Mother’s Day Cream Tea Cruise Competition Launch!

What better way to show your darling mum how much you love her than by just simply spending time together, on a relaxed cruise of the River Exe?

Not only will this cruise include a delightful locally-produced scone, lovingly made by Claire at the Devon Scone Company, served with lashings of cream and oodles of strawberry jam but also a good mug of tea and an informative and entertaining live commentary from the Skipper, as you meander around the river.

This month, we are launching our Mother’s Day Cream Tea Cruise Competition, the lucky winner of which will be entitled to all of the above PLUS refreshing bubbly prosecco for the adults  – (incidentally, this makes for the most perfect accompaniment to any Devon Cream Tea!) – and the great news is, there are plenty of ways to enter!

Please follow the button below for ALL the juicy details!

For more details and to enter now, click HERE

“Oh, the things you can find, if you don’t stay behind” ~ Dr. Seuss

Wise words my old friend – indeed, the things you can discover if you employ a little sense of adventure – the get up and out mentality, the wrap up warm, get outside, go for a walk, get up ridiculously early to catch that sunrise and watch in wonder as it comes up – type attitude. January is typically a rather ‘blue’ sort of month for one reason or another but life is what you make it, right? Well, that may not be entirely true – clearly some things are entirely out of our control but others can be very much determined by our outlook.

A positive and pro-active perspective can reward us with feelings of joy and sentimental enrichment of life – it’s during these episodes when the unexpected, seemingly small and perhaps insignificant interactions with people you’ve never met before and may never meet again, the momentary sightings of glorious nature and of course the ever-enviable sunsets which majestically command the sky over Exmouth – it’s these episodes which can bring a real sense of fulfillment.

(Of course, I am in part recounting my own experiences but I am sure that many of you can relate).

These moments may be brief but they are huge. They are what can truly determine our happiness and feeling of overall content in life. The great outdoors offers infinite opportunity for pleasure, whether it’s a walk with your family or on your own with your beloved dog, a leisurely cycle ride – or even a gentle cruise of the River Exe in the glorious winter sun(!)

I’ve never been a massive fan of restrictive ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ but I urge you not to be blue. Get up and out and resolve yourself to look for the positives. Because life is beautiful and precious and short.

Happy Birthday, Skipper!

Finally this month, on a more personal note, I would like to wish a very Happy Birthday to Captain Jake. Many of you will have had the pleasure of meeting him and some of you may even have been lucky enough to have been on a cruise for which he was your Skipper.

He’s an incredibly accomplished young chap and I am in awe of all that he has achieved and continues to work for. He has come up with some superb new ideas and concepts over the past few years, steering our family business with confidence and total competence. He truly is a remarkable person – we are so grateful for all of his tireless hard work and unrelenting positivity and are extremely proud of him.

You are a joy to work with and deserve the world, so keep up the hard work and long may it continue!

Now, I probably ought to say good bye at this point folks because he absolutely hates praise, especially in public, loathes photos of himself and hates attention so I may well get the sack tomorrow. It’s been a pleasure!

Despite very grey skies and murky hilltops this afternoon, we were amazed by the spectacular numbers of birds on the estuary. In particular, over 1200 Black-tailed Godwits graced the mudflats around Turf – a nationally significant flock. These backed by hundreds of Avocets, Lapwings, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Curlews and Redshanks, with a few dozen Knot for good measure. A Kingfisher did a complete circuit of the boat at Topsham, where we saw a pair of Black Swans and had our best views of Red-breasted Mergansers. ‘Herbert’, our resident Slavonian Grebe, was eventually found at Cockwood, with a Little Grebe and the first few Great Cested Grebes nearby. As we returned to Exmouth, thousands of gulls (of 5 species) were gathering on the remaining mudbanks and sandbanks: quite a spectacle.

Dave Smallshire

Another great Cruise for the visitor with plenty to see from start to finish. 20+ Red Breasted Mergansers on view from Shelly Beach to Topsham and close to the boat. A bonus Male Black Redstart on the inner side of Dawlish Warren beach showing on the signage board in the dunes. Possibly the Exmouth Marina bird needing a change of scenery! A couple of Turnstones and plenty of Dark Bellied Brent Geese across the mud in front of Dawlish Warren hide to Starcross. Little Grebe was not far away from the Slavonian Grebe off Cockwood and showed well for the visitors to see clearly but at a distance. Again plenty of gulls now on the estuary with Common and Herring Gull comparison easy to be seen. 20+ Great Crested Grebe showing well from Starcross to Turf Locks. First of 200+ Pintail and a few Widgeon off Lympstone. Shag and Cormorant fishing in this area and lower down showing the visitors the comparison on both species. First of the 300+ Avocets were seen at the Kenn confluence with good numbers showing all the way to Topsham. At the waters edge from the Clyst confluence to Turf Lock large numbers Black Tailed Godwits along with Dark Bellied Brent Geese beyond this line and out on the mudflat large numbers of Dunlin were feeding. Towards Topsham a large flock of Golden Plover and Lapwing went airborne putting on a display at a distance. There were another 200+ Golden Plover roosting opposite Turf Lock. A small flock of Knot flew over the boat in the same location. Plenty of Redshank were seen all the way to Topsham. After we turned and left Topsham we were treated to a great display from 400+ Brent Geese flying over the boat from Darts Farm direction. Another flock of Brent Geese took off and joined them making 500+ circling overhead, making a great winter spectacle enjoyed by the visitors. Back on the river a pair of Goldeneye were seen but moved on down stream. A few visitors saw a Kingfisher on the old wreck below Starcross Sailing Club. Good numbers of Oystercatcher were lining the route back to Exmouth.
Derek Carter

Dull and cloudy (but at least clear!) this afternoon. We started with a Peregrine on Exmouth church tower and a Kingfisher near to Exmouth Marina – a good start. However, pride of place today went to the Long-billed Dowitcher feeding with Black-tailed Godwits at Topsham and a roosting group of 30 Cattle Egrets (counts varied from 28 to 32, but I reckoned 30!) on a sandbank at Starcross as we returned. There were at least 22 Great Crested Grebes, plus the usual Slavonian at Cockwood and a Little Grebe and 2 Black Swans at Topsham. 3 Pintail were on Pole Sands (off the tip of Dawlish Warren) and later there were about 130 at Lympstone. 12 distant geese on the mud appeared to be Greylags and 50 Teal were likewise at Topsham. About 30 Red-breasted Mergansers and waders in general were well scattered. Selected estimates include 300+ Avocets (30+ at Powderham), several hundred each of Lapwing and Golden Plover, c100 Bar-tailed and several large flocks of Black-tailed Godwits (there must have been well over 1000 in total). 4 Greenshank were scattered between the Warren and Powderham. A Grey Seal was hauled out onto a buoy and an unidentified seal was seen briefly between Turf and Topsham.

Dave Smallshire

What a difference a day makes! With challenging conditions at the start once in the Estuary the visibility improved and the visitors started to see plenty of birds on show. Curlews were in good numbers across the Estuary and the distinctive evocative calls were drifting around the estuary on a light breeze. Several Turnstones were seen on the mussel vessels off Dawlish Warren and on the shoreline at Starcross. The Slavonian Grebe was spotted with a Little Grebe in the normal place off Cockwood. Dark Bellied Brent Geese were in good numbers in this area with several flying near the boat. Cormorants and Shags were plenty along this stretch with comparisons between the two easy to see. Greenshank were seen towards the River Kenn confluence with Common Gull, Black Headed Gull, and Herring Gull bathing in fresh water. First of the 300+ Avocets were seen at this lower location and good numbers were seen close to the boat all the way to Topsham. A few Bar Tailed Godwit and plenty of Dunlin were off Lympstone and were numerous across the mudflats all the way to Topsham. 300+ Black Tailed Godwits were showing well along the waters edge for visitors to see along with Redshank and two small groups of Golden Plover either side of the main channel near Turf Lock. A raft of 20+ Great Crested Grebe were viewed near the River Clyst confluence this sighting was the most seen all together this winter and a real treat for the visitors. Red Breasted Mergansers stole the show today with at least 20+ on show close to the boat. On our return back to Exmouth 200+ Lapwing took off from Powderham Marsh and showed well from the boat. As we steamed past Dawlish Warren there were very close encounters of 8+ Sanderling were had by the visitors which was a real bonus this finished off a very productive cruise.

Derek Carter

This afternoon’s cruise benefitted from sunshine, admittedly mainly when it came from behind us! Exmouth was busy today, but there were still Shags feeding off the Marina. We had to do an about-turn soon after leaving, when someone spotted a Kingfisher on the rocks there. Our regular Slavonian Grebe was rather silhouetted off Cockwood, but at least it’s still around … in its 14th year with us! A least 4 Greenshanks were off Powderham and the first few Avocets nearby. A Harbour (Common) Seal played with a fish near Lympstone, where Pintails and Wigeon were feeding. Approaching Turf there were large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Dunlin, with fewer Grey Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits and Ringed Plovers. A large flock of Brent Geese flew up from fields just over the sea wall, mostly returning there soon afterwards. Beyond Turf the mudflats were crowded with feeding Avocets, Dunlins, Redshanks and a tight roosting flock of Golden Plovers. Equally impressive were thousands of gulls (all 5 of the regular species) flying in, bathing, preening and settling down to roost on the intertidal areas; Bull Hill sandbank was covered in them as we returned to Exmouth with Venus shining brightly after a lovely sunset.

Dave Smallshire

This afternoon’s birdwatching cruise was excellent, with a Great Northern Diver and a feeding group of 30 Shags near to the Exmouth Marina. The ‘resident’ Slavonian Grebe and the first of about a dozen Great Crested Grebes were off Cockwood, plus a the first of a meagre 30ish Red-breasted Mergansers. A Peregrine flew over the boat at Powderham, where there was a Greenshank (and 3 on the way back). Passing Lympstone we saw small groups of Pintail and there were mixed groups of both Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits. Approaching Turf, large flocks of Brent geese and Golden Plover were seen in flight and a few Ringed Plovers were found amongst the hordes of Dunlins and Black-tailed Godwits; also on the mud were hundreds of Avocets, c140 Knot and good numbers of Grey Plovers, while a few Sanderlings fed along the river channel. We had better views of Mergansers toward Topsham, were a few dozen Teal were feeding and a pair of Black Swans walked out onto the mud.

Pride of place, however, went to a brief sighting of the Long-billed Dowitcher that is spending the winter with us (usually at Bowling Green Marsh though). It was on its own on the river channel between Topsham and Turf – to be honest, it was a bit of a fluke actually finding it amongst the hordes of feeding waders and bathing gulls. Less exciting was a Snow Goose in fields with Canada Geese near Turf. Gull numbers were very impressive as we returned to Exmouth in late afternoon, with hundreds of Common and Great Black-backed, though only half-a-dozen Lesser Black-backed.

Dave Smallshire

Near perfect conditions, sunny mild and light winds the exe estuary looked stunning. Plenty of photo opportunities with good numbers of birds on show with Shags and Cormorants in the mouth of the estuary 200+ Pintail flying and feeding off Lympstone. 50+ Bar Tailed Godwits and a surprise group of Avocets feeding in the same area normally these birds are further up the estuary. Dunlin seen right across the the mudflats from Lympstone up to Topsham with a few Ringed Plover near Turf Lock. 500+ Black Tailed Godwits at the Clyst confluence along with 200+ Avocets further up the Clyst so just to far for the visitors to see these number but plenty of Avocets across the out to Topsham. 1300+ Golden Plover were on the mud off Turf Locks. Gull numbers have increased throughout the Estuary. To finish off the cruise a pair of Peregrines were seen with a kill off Shelly Beach.

Derek Carter