Guided Bird Watching – Thursday 19th January 2023

We enjoyed calm, sunny and clear conditions for this morning’s cruise.  A few Dark-bellied Brent geese and Oystercatchers were seen feeding on the edge of the sandbanks as we left Exmouth.  Mixed waders including a Greenshank, some Curlew and a few Sanderling were feeding along the estuary edge of Dawlish warren and a Grey seal was hauled up on a pontoon basking in the sun. 

Good numbers of Shag seen resting on various buoys at the Southern end of the estuary and Cormorants sunning themselves on the mudbanks gave visitors plenty of opportunity to appreciate the differences between these two similar birds. The sunshine showed up the glorious green iridescent plumage of the Shag and with wings outstretched in the sun, some of the Cormorants were displaying their breeding plumage – white patches around their hips, a sure sign that Spring is on its way. 

As we sailed North we had views of around 20 Great Crested Grebes towards the middle of the estuary on both sides of the boat; and a Little Grebe was spotted diving just off Starcross.  Several more Greenshank were feeding along the edge of the water between Cockwood and the outlet of the River Kenn, as were a few Shelduck.  A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were feeding just off Starcross and four more flew past the boat.  A group of 15 Widgeon were on the estuary just off Exton.

Avocets were scattered liberally in the shallows along the Western shoreline between the River Kenn and Powderham corner, all looking stunning in the sunshine.  Larger groups of Avocets were then seen on both sides of the channel as we approached the River Clyst and Topsham Goatwalk, as were a scattering of mixed waders including Grey Plover, Redshank and Dunlin.  A large group of Godwits, mostly Black-tailed with a few Bar-tailed amongst them were feeding around the River Clyst confluence.

As we approached Turf we had views of large numbers of Golden Plover glistening in the sunshine in the field beyond the sea wall.  Also other waders including Lapwing, Curlew and Black-tailed Godwits were feeding in the same area.  Some of the Lapwing were giving us good aerial displays.

North of Turf around 30 Curlew were roosting along the edge of the reedbed on West muds and as we approached Topsham there was a Snipe tucked into the edge of the cut reeds, trying very hard to blend in!  We had distant views of what we believed might be a Spotted Redshank on the muds at Topsham but couldn’t be certain at the time, looking closer at photos I can now see it was indeed the Spotted Redshank and a nice bird to see on the estuary.

On the return trip a Common seal was basking on a sandbank and two Grey seals were now on the pontoon off Dawlish Warren. The wonderful bright sunshine helped give us excellent views of 8 tiny Sanderling feeding along the edge of the Dawlish warren estuary shoreline amongst the flotsam and a Raven was on the beach tucking into the remains of what looked like a Herring gull which had met its demise.

Jo King

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Stuart Line Cruises


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