A lovely mild and fairly calm start turned rather dull and damp towards the upper part of the estuary, but nevertheless the birds were excellent. A male Black Redstart was seen by a few people as it perched by the sailing club boats at Exmouth – one of whom around the Marina area, but almost impossible to see from the boat! A Raven flew over us and landed in the dunes of Dawlish Warren, where the first large flocks of wildfowl and waders were seen feeding. A Grey Seal was hauled out on a pontoon and another was seen briefly off Exmouth seafront, while a Harbour (Common) Seal was also hauled out on a sandbank off the Royal Marines Training Centre. Jake turned the boat around at Powderham so we could all get a chance to see a Kingfisher sitting on a wreck, while the first godwits and Greenshanks were here too. A fine adult Mediterranean Gull was among the gulls at the River Kenn outflow. Off the Marines Centre was an amazing group 37 Great Crested Grebes, giving an estuary record total of at least 38 today. A pair of feral Black Swans was also here close to several dozen Pintail and the first flocks of Avocets. Towards Topsham another feral pair stood by the river, this time Egyptian Geese, while large flock of Golden Plovers and Lapwings were roosting on the mudflats. The mudbank off the Goat Walk held a Spotted Redshank with Redshanks and large numbers of godwits (mainly Black-tailed) and Avocets. As we turned round at Topsham, someone spotted a Marsh Harrier over Exminster Marshes, but even more surprising was a Short-eared Owl that flew high over us heading towards Exton. A dozen or so Sanderlings were on the shoreline as we returned to Dawlish Warren, completing a full set of the typical wintering waders and a final tick on an exceptionally varied bird list for the cruise!
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