Guided Bird Watching – 21st Feb 2024

Passengers were given three pieces of good news as we set off in the rain this morning: Exmouth is statistically the driest place in Devon; Dartmoor was due to get three times more rain than us; and the rain was expected to clear in an hour or two. Thankfully, the Met Office got it right and we enjoyed some welcome brightness for much of the cruise.

Having not seen any Eiders yesterday because they chose to be on the seaward side of Dawlish Warren, today they were present just off the end of the sand spit: five or six on a distant island and two diving in the channel nearer to us. Birds were hard to pinpoint at first, but there was a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers in a channel near Exmouth and two unidentifiable egrets with cattle in a field at Eastdon. A couple of Great Crested Grebes were near Cockwood, but rather few Shags to compare with the Cormorants.

Shag resting on Bouy

A Greenshank was beside a favorite feeding spot beside the River Kenn outlet channel and the first Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits were nearby. Looking over the railway into Powderham Park, we could see dozens of Shelduck and a pair of Egyptian Geese among the Fallow Deer, plus Grey Heron nests behind the sailing club.


Unusually, a Turnstone was along the narrowing channel as we approached Turf, as well as many Brent Geese, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks and Dunlin, plus a few Grey Plovers. Lots more of these were past Turf, with nice close views of them and Red-breasted Mergansers as we approached Topsham. A drake Merganser had caught a small flatfish, which it spent some time trying to eat – giving us great views in the process. A mass of gulls contained all five common species.

Red-breasted Mergansers

Returning to Exmouth we found some of the Eiders had come into the estuary around Bull Hill sandbank: a female out of the water joined another female and an immature male, the latter fending off a Herring Gulls to secure the mussel it had brought to the surface.

Dave Smallshire

Posted in

Stuart Line Cruises


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