Guided Bird Watching – 8 March 2024

The fresh ESE wind persisted, but the cloudy start ended in pleasant sunshine. The cruise started well, with a Red-breasted Mergansers and a loose group of Eiders, the latter diving over the mussel beds. A dozen or more Shags were seen in the outer part of the estuary, including nice views of breeding plumage adults on buoys; later, with perfect lighting, we could see the green gloss on birds close to the boat.


Several Great Crested Grebes, including some in breeding plumage, were seen, but a pair of Tufted Ducks off Lympstone Barracks was the most unusual sighting of the day. A distant Spoonbill with a Little Egret was feeding along the Clyst channel, although so distant it had to be confirmed by photos. Something panicked waders over the top end of the estuary, with tight flocks of both Godwits and maybe Golden Plovers up high – but no raptor could be found!


A few Golden Plovers, Grey Plovers, and Knot were picked out among the wader flocks near Turf Locks. Around the river bends towards Topsham, there were Common Gulls, both Godwit species, including hundreds of Black-tailed, getting on for a hundred Avocets and hundreds of Dunlins, Curlews, and Redshanks scattered across the mud. A solitary Turnstone was next to rocks exposed by wave action at Topsham, where we had nice views of Red-breasted Mergansers and Teal.

Black Tailed Godwit and Avocet

On the return to Exmouth, we eventually made out a flock of Cattle Egrets sheltering with cattle near Powderham. Just one Sanderling was spotted scurrying along one of the sandbanks and, as a great finale, six Eiders plus a solitary one walked out onto Bull Hill sandbank.

All in all, a great cruise was had with a wide and rich selection of birds seen on the river.

Dave Smallshire

Stuart Line Cruises


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