A lovely male Black Redstart was seen by some lucky people on the marina buildings before we had even boarded this morning’s cruise. Alas, it didn’t show afterwards, but lots of other birds did. After glimpses of Red-breasted Mergansers and the expected Brent Geese, Curlews and Oystercatchers, we turned the boat to look at a Grey Seal hauled out on the back of a boat. We saw the first half-dozen Great Crested Grebes as we approached Starcross and a flock of Turnstones flew past. We stopped to look at a Kingfisher perched on one of the wrecks near Powderham, where a few Greenshanks and the first Black-tailed Godwits were seen. As we approached Starcross Yacht Club, our attention was diverted from the Grey Herons already at their nests in the large Turkey Oaks to an immature Spoonbill standing at the ending of the slipway.
More Great Crested Grebes were near Lympstone Marines Base, with a supporting cast of many Pintails along the shoreline. We then turned our attention to two Harbour Seals hauled out on a sandbank: one of them was clearly a youngster with an attractive rufous pelage – pups of this species are born in mid-summer and we wondered whether this was locally bred; could the accompanying larger individual be its mother? Avocets started to appear as we approached Turf Lock and soon several hundred were visible across the mudflats and along the river bank. A large flock of Golden Plovers landed on the mud, perhaps having been spooked by a raptor.
At Topsham we were treated to large numbers of waders, including flocks of both Black- and Bar-tailed Godwits and groups of Teal. The regular wintering Spotted Redshank flew across our bows before we turned and headed back down the river. We finally saw some Knot on the way to Turf, where 400+ Brent Geese included a pale, leucistic bird. The Harbour Seals were still out on the sandbank, affording us better views. Later, while I was on the lower deck pointing out the Spoonbill at Powderham, others on the upper deck watched a Peregrine interacting with a Goshawk over the Park; the latter was surely a first for the birdwatching cruises. Finally, about 30 Sanderlings ran feverishly along the shoreline near Dawlish Warren: a nice finale to a great cruise!
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