Guided Bird Watching – 23rd February 2024

Slightly better conditions today with visibility perfectly ideal for a birdwatching cruise on the Exe Estuary with again great company. As we left Exmouth Marina several people saw the Great Northern Diver at a distance off Pole Sands we continued along the edge of Dawlish Warren where we had great views of Curlew, Oystercatchers Herring gulls and few DB Brent Geese feeding in the shutterton area of the Wildlife refuge. At this point we had to turn and return to the Marina to drop of a gentleman who became very unwell where the emergency services attended this incident. Following this emergency we headed back up the estuary to resume the cruise. 

Great Northern Diver

As we continued north past Cockwood we had good views of several Little Egret fishing in the shallows. 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 at least 12 seen throughout the trip and always nice to see these saw-billed ducks on the Estuary. Also off Starcross a couple of Grey Herons were loafing in the shallows. Two Bar-tailed Godwit were seen at a distance. Close ups of Greater Black Backed Gulls were resting close to the boat where it was easy to see the size of these large Gulls at close quarters. A couple of Turnstone were seen amongst the flotsam on the sand bar close to the boat. 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 on the rough grassland along with a few Fallow Deer.  Redshank and a couple of Bar-tailed Godwit were also seen nearby. 5 Teal were seen near Starcross Yacht Club. With the Heronry close to the Yacht Club 1 Grey Heron was seen here with these early breeders activity here will increase.

Great Black Backed Gull

 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. Looking across to the Clyst Confluence 2 Spoonbills were spotted at a distance several people could pick them out feeding in their scything like fashion trying to catch fish and crustaceans.

Black-Tailed Godwits & Oystercatchers

As we approached Turf Lock we witnessed well over 150 Dark Bellied Brent Geese feeding in the field beyond the flood wall as like magic the whole flock took off and headed towards the boat giving fantastic views as they flew over and headed downstream, a real winter spectacle was witnessed by all.

Dark Bellied Brent Geese Flyover

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 back as the mild weather continues and they start to head back to their breeding grounds. 55+ Knot were flying across the mud flat and pitching on the mudflat not far from the boat. Several Avocets were spotted here to. Hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits and a few Bar-tailed Godwits were feeding along the edge of the channel with Redshank and around 15 Teal ducks were at Topsham. Looking across the left-hand mud flats 400+ Golden Plover were resting good views of these beautiful birds were witnessed as we got closer to Topsham. Avocets Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwits 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 Topsham. 


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 Female Eider and another 6 were seen later off Pole Sands and a couple more Sanderling were seen along the shoreline close enough for good views of these beautiful waders. Again more Oystercatchers were seen gathering on Dawlish Warren as we headed to the Marina. 


Another great Birding Cruise was had by all.

Derek Carter

Stuart Line Cruises


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