GUIDED BIRD WATCHING – Thursday 25th January

A beautiful sunny winter’s day again, perfect for a birdwatching cruise on the Exe Estuary with great company.

We left Exmouth Marina and cruised along the edge of Pole sands where we had splendid views of Curlew, Oystercatchers Herring Gulls and DB Brent Geese with a glimpse of a few Eider Ducks in the distance off Dawlish Warren seafront. A couple of Shag and Greater Black Baked Gulls were also seen on Pole Sands. As we entered the mouth of the Exe, a Great Northern Diver was spotted fishing amongst the buoys off Shelley. Captain Rich manoeuvred the boat to ensure everyone saw this beautiful bird which set the scene for a great day. We sailed on up the estuary where we had views of a few Shags and Cormorants giving visitors the chance to see the difference between these two similar birds.

Along the shoreline of the North side of Dawlish Warren we had views of a few Turnstone wandering along the shoreline. In the Dawlish Warren wildlife refuge we had views of Dark bellied Brent geese, Oystercatchers, Curlew, several Shelduck and a couple of Little Egret were seen fishing.  

As we continued north past Cockwood we had good views of Greater black backed gulls on the sandbanks with many more Oystercatchers. Cormorants and Shags were roosting on the sandbanks. A few Great Crested Grebes were diving near the shoreline from Cockwood to Starcross. A distant at least 5 Red Breasted Merganser was seen being the first of at least 12 seen throughout the trip and always nice to see these saw-billed ducks on the Estuary Also off Cockwood a few Dark Bellied Brent Geese were resting. Again, like yesterday up to 13 Turnstones were foraging on seaweed along the shoreline north of Starcross. At least 3 Greenshank were seen around the two wrecks, Shelduck Curlew and plenty of Gulls, Black Headed Herring and Common were in good numbers were bathing at the River Kenn outlet by Powderham estate;  Redshanks and a couple of Bar-tailed Godwit were also seen nearby.

Around 20 Mallard and a few Teal were seen around Starcross Yacht club. With the Heronry close to the Yacht club 3 Grey Herons were seen here with two seen later at their nest on the return trip home. On the Lympstone side of the estuary several Pintail and two groups of Wigeon with Dunlin plus good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Shelduck were seen feeding on the remains of the Eel Grass beds off Lympstone village.

At the start of Turf Lock straight one Common Seal was seen at close quarters on the mudbank. Several Hundred of Black-tailed Godwits were feeding along the mudflats towards and on the bend to Turf locks and hotel. Large numbers of Dunlin and Curlew were also seen along this stretch with 30+ Knot in flight and several were seen with the Black Tailed Godwits. Several Avocets were spotted here to.

As we sailed past Turf towards Topsham both mudflats had plenty of Avocets with groups feeding on the edge of the channel. Hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits and a few Bar-tailed Godwits were feeding along the edge of the channel with at least 6 Red Breasted Mergansers were seen here to. Redshank and around 30 Teal ducks were at Topsham. Looking across the left-hand mud flats 450+ Golden Plover were resting and beyond this flock was a flock of 200+ Lapwing. Avocets and Black tailed Godwit were numerous all the way to Topsham. Black Headed Gulls were also in good numbers with Lesser Black Backed Gulls and Common Gulls towards the River Clyst.

On our return Canada Geese were spotted close to the Turf Lock. Hundreds of Black Tailed Godwits were in this area where someone saw the overwintering Ruff and a few Knot within the large flock. 

On our way back plenty of Cormorants were viewed gathering on the sandbanks off Starcross with large flocks of roosting Oystercatchers and around the edge on the sandbanks several Sanderling were scurrying along the edge foraging for food in the wavelets. Off Cockle sands we enjoyed 4 Sanderling dashing along the shoreline like little clock-work toys darting here and there; one female Eider were seen off Bullhill sand bar along the North shoreline of Dawlish Warren again Oystercatchers 7 Eider ducks were off Bull Hill Sandbar with two showing a bit of white markings indicating a couple of Juvenile Males amongst the group. As usual the couple of Pied Wagtails followed the boat into the Dock ready to enjoy the Devon Pasty crumbs left by the visitors!!

Another great Cruising was had by all.

Derek Carter, Ornithologist

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Stuart Line Cruises


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