Guided Bird Watching – 22nd Feb 2024

Slightly inclement conditions today but visibility was perfect for a birdwatching cruise on the Exe Estuary with great company. We left Exmouth Marina and cruised along the edge of Dawlish Warren where we had great views of Curlew, Oystercatchers Herring gulls and a few DB Brent Geese feeding in the Shutterton area of the Wildlife refuge. A couple of Shag and Greater Black Backed Gulls were also seen on Bull Hill Sandbank.  We sailed on up the estuary where we had views of a few Shags and Cormorants giving visitors the chance to see the difference between these two similar birds.  

Warm & Dry with uninterrupted views

As we continued north past Cockwood we had good views of Little Egret and our first pair of Red Breasted Merganser. A  few Great Crested Grebes were diving near the shoreline from Cockwood to Starcross. A distant at least another pair of Red Breasted Merganser making it 12 seen throughout the trip and always nice to see these saw-billed ducks on the Estuary. Also off Cockwood a few Dark Bellied Brent Geese were resting. Two Bar-tailed Godwit were seen at a distance. At least 2 Greenshank were seen around the two wrecks, Shelduck Curlew and plenty of Gulls, Black Headed Herring and Common were seen in good numbers bathing with another Greenshank a Grey Heron and Curlew at the River Kenn outlet by Powderham estate; over the wall in the Estate at least 10 pairs of Shelduck were seen along with a few Fallow Deer.  Redshank and a couple of Bar-tailed Godwit were also seen nearby. Around 20 Mallard and 20 Teal were seen near Starcross Yacht Club. On the Lympstone side, Dunlin plus a few Black-tailed Godwits and Shelduck were seen feeding on the remains of the Eel Grass beds off Lympstone village.

Red Breasted Mergansers

At the start of Turf Lock straight Several Hundred Black-tailed Godwits Dunlin Curlew were feeding along the mudflats towards Turf Lock. Large numbers of Dunlin Black Tailed Godwit with a few Bar-Tailed Godwit and Curlew were also seen along this stretch with 20+ Knot. Several Avocets were spotted here too.

Black-Tailed Godwits & Bar-Tailed

As we sailed past Turf towards Topsham both mudflats had plenty of Avocets with groups feeding on the edge of the channel however numbers have started to drop as the mild weather continues and they head back to their breeding grounds. Hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits and a few Bar-tailed Godwits were feeding along the edge of the channel with Redshank and around 30 Teal ducks were at Topsham. Looking across the left-hand mud flats 400+ Golden Plover were resting after we saw them in flight at a distance towards Topsham. Great views were also had of a Marsh Harrier being mobbed by a crow over the reed beds lining the Exeter Ship Canal. Avocets, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit were in good numbers all the way to Topsham. Black Headed Gulls were also in good numbers with a few Common Gulls and an odd Sanderling towards the River Clyst. 

Golden Plover

On our way back plenty of Cormorants were viewed gathering on the sandbanks off Starcross with large flocks of roosting Oystercatchers and around the edge on the sandbanks several Sanderling were scurrying along the edge foraging for food in the wavelets. Off Cockle sands we enjoyed 2 Sanderling dashing along the shoreline like little clock-work toys dashing here and there; One juvenile Male Eider and another 6 were seen off Bull Hill sand bar and a couple more Sanderling were seen along the shoreline close enough for good views of these beautiful waders. Again more Oystercatchers were gathering on Dawlish Warren. As we turned towards the Marina, the long-staying Great Northern Diver was spotted, Captain Jake maneuvered the boat so everyone could see this very rare visitor to the estuary. 


Another great Birding Cruise was had by all.

Derek Carter – Onocologist

Stuart Line Cruises


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