What a beautiful morning for the start of the New Year Birdwatching Cruises, the sun was shining with a keen NE wind, but it was dry and visibility was crystal clear – ideal for winter bird watching.
As we sailed along Shelley Beach the first few birds seen were Oystercatchers a few Dark Bellied Brent Geese, plenty of Herring Gulls and an odd Greater Black Backed Gull on Bull Hill sand bank. Several Shag and a few Cormorant were seen as we headed towards Dawlish Warren – the size shape and diving technique were witnessed by everyone throughout the trip.
Several Turnstone were seen foraging on the inside of Dawlish Warren and a Large flock of Widgeon with plenty of DB Brent Geese were feeding on Eel Grass a few Curlew Little Egret were seen within the Wildlife Refuge area on the Shutterton basin. Several Shelduck were seen off Cockwood. Past Starcross 3 Little Egrets and more Oystercatchers were seen upstream near the two wrecks along with Redshank and a Greenshank.
Looking towards Lympstone 3 GC Grebe were seen and good numbers of Shelduck along with dunlin and good numbers of Pintail in flight DB Brent Geese were feeding on the Eel Grass good numbers of Bar-tailed Godwit and plenty of Pintail feeding were also seen in this area. Our first sightings of several Avocet feeding in the Shallows just before the Kenn Confluence which suggested there was plenty of floodwater still in the Estuary as these birds would normally seen further upstream.
More Redshank and Curlew were seen as we headed towards Starcross Yacht club Several Mallard were seen near the Yacht Club slipway. Great numbers of Avocets DB Brent Geese Black Tailed Godwits Little Egret a Grey Heron a few Curlew were seen between Exton and the Clyst confluence.
As we turned for the straight towards Turf several Curlew Common Cormorants with a couple birds showing the breeding white patch on the hip and thigh area. On the other side was the Clyst confluence where good numbers of Black Tailed Godwits and Avocets in the Clyst Confluence. Also along this stretch several Curlew and a nice group of Dunlin on the mudbank above the Clyst confluence.
As we turned Turf corner a lovely group of Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlew were seen in good numbers here with Dunlin in flight and good numbers of Avocets were on the mudflats one both sides of the channel there were birds across this area. Black Headed and Common Gulls were numerous along this stretch. A couple of Grey Plover were seen in flight with a Dunlin flock on the mud flats along with small numbers of Lapwing were seen then took off and circled the mudflats. The highlight was at least 400+ Golden Plover in two flocks were on the mudflats both with their Golden Hue showing in the midday sunlight.
Groups of Avocets were towards the bend near Goat Walk Topsham and several groups were seen along the stretch to Topsham Quay. 5 Red Breasted Merganser were spotted 3 male and 2 female one was fishing with a group of Great Crested Grebe. 2 flocks of Teal were seen off Topsham Quay 30 birds in total as we turned at Topsham.
Several hundred of Canada Geese had been disturbed on Exminster Marsh and were visible flying over the marsh it was suggested a bird of prey was active it was then confirmed a Peregrine Falcon and a Marsh Harrier were seen on Exminster Marsh and a Common Buzzard was spotted above the boat spooking a lot of birds around this area.
As we headed back from Topsham Avocets were again seen in good numbers near and far with an estimate of 400+ birds on the Estuary. Lapwing was spotted towards Exminster Marsh and a flyby from Canada Geese. As we headed back to Exmouth several large flocks of Brent Geese Dunlin and Black tailed Godwits were seen flying. Two Seals were seen fishing in the Exton area of the Estuary. Birds were now gathering on the Sandbanks at Lympstone, Bull Hill and Dawlish Warren nature reserves with very good numbers of Oystercatchers, DB Brent Geese in their respected groups, 5 Sanderling were seen with another two were spotted as we approached Bull Hill Sandbar. Another couple of Sanderling along with a large group of Oystercatchers was seen at Dawlish Warren.
What a start to 2024 and another great cruise was enjoyed by all!
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