We headed up the estuary in the aftermath of Storm Isha, which passed through overnight leaving a sunny day but still a strong north-westerly winds blowing down the estuary. Making for the ornithological pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, saw a Shag sitting on a buoy (of course) and the first of 15-20 each of Red-breasted Mergansers and Great Crested Grebes. Dozens of Brent Geese and Shelducks were feeding in the Dawlish Warren Wildlife Refuge at ‘Cockwood Corner’.
A few Greenshanks were scattered around Starcross and then excitement built as we approached Powderham: first a sprinkling of Avocets were feeding in the shallow water and the the day’s star turn, a Spoonbill. This immature bird continued feeding as we turned the boat around so all on board could watch it sweeping its bill from side to side.
More Avocets followed: clearly the rains earlier in the month had scoured the soft sediments off the surface mud further up the estuary and the birds were more spread out.
A few Pintail and a Guillemot were near Lympstone, the latter no doubt a casualty of the storm – it should have been out to sea!
As usual, most of the waders were concentrated between Turf and Topsham. Hundreds each of Avocets, both Black- and Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlews, Redshanks and Dunlins were along the river banks and scattered over the food-rich mudflats; smaller numbers of Knot and Grey Plovers were amongst them.
We had some nice views of Mergansers around Turf and some excellent flight displays by the waders. There was a distant flock of Golden Plovers over Exminster Marshes, but no sign of Marsh Harrier – only a Buzzard!
Returning back towards Exmouth there were a few groups of Sanderlings running along the sandbank edges and an Eider duck swam away from us.
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