Guided Bird Watching – Thursday 11th January

Just before setting sail from Exmouth quay, visitors upstairs witnessed an excellent ‘fly past’ by around 12 Dark bellied Brent geese which flew low right over the boat.

In stunning sunshine we cruised along the edge of Pole sands where we had good views of at least 20 Dark bellied Brent geese swimming along the edge of the sands, with several Curlew, Oyster Catchers and Herring gulls feeding on the gravelly sand bank.

As we started sailing up the estuary we had views of a few Shags and Cormorants giving visitors the chance to see the difference between these two similar birds.

A Little Egret was feeding in a channel on Cockle sands and further Oyster catchers and Brent geese were
feeding all along these sandbanks.

In the Dawlish wildlife refuge we had views of Black headed gulls, more Dark bellied Brent geese, Oystercatchers, Curlew, Grey Plover and good numbers of Shelducks which continued to appear all along the mudbank to Cockwood steps.

A Common seal was spotted briefly swimming in the middle of the channel but we only had views of its head before it dived and disappeared.

As we continued north past Cockwood we had views of Common gulls, Black-headed gulls, Herring gulls and Greater black backed gulls on the sandbanks with more Oystercatchers. A Grey Heron was seen in the distance as we passed Cockwood harbour entrance. And a Great Crested Grebe played hide and seek with us in the middle of the channel, further up the estuary we had better more of these birds. We had some challenging views of around 8 Turnstones feeding amongst the ‘debris’ washed up on a sandbank off Starcross, demonstrating their excellent camoflauge!

A few Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks and Avocets were feeding along the shoreline around Starcross and as we sailed North we continued to see good numbers of Avocets scattered over the mudflats and along the shoreline of the channel up to Topsham.

A Little egret was feeding around one of the wrecks and a single Greenshank was feeding at the River Kenn outlet by Powderham estate with a Redshank, giving visitors the chance to compare these two waders.

Around 20 Mallard ducks were seen around Starcross Yacht club.

A mix of Black-tailed and Bar-tailed godwits; Avocets, Black-headed gulls and more Grey Plover were feeding along the mudflats as we approached Turf hotel and looking towards Exton we had lovely views of a large flock of Black-tailed godwits swirling around in the glorious sunshine as they took to the air with a flock of around 100 Dunlin.

A large flock of Dark bellied Brent geese flew off Exminster marshes behind the Powderham sea wall and settled out into the estuary near the boat, giving us good views and enabling visitors to see the different plumage of the juveniles with white edged feathers along their folded wings.

As we sailed past Turf towards Topsham the mudflats were littered with tiny Dunlin, more Grey Plovers, Avocets and Black-tailed godwits. 13 Red-breasted mergansers showed well on both sides of the boat at times and we had good views of a few Pintail ducks. A few Redshank and around 30 Teal ducks were at Topsham.

Many Black headed gulls were noted throughout the trip. Visitors enjoyed the challenge of hunting for Great Northern divers, and after a few false alarms and some uncertain distant views, we finally got good views of one close to the boat as it caught and eventually devoured a crab.

On the return journey to Exmouth along the edge of Cockle sands we had distant views of 7 Sanderling and very close views of a further 3 along the North shoreline of Dawlish warren. We also saw groups of Oystercatchers gathering on both Bull hill and Dawlish warren for their pre-high tide roost.

Jo King

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Stuart Line Cruises


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