Guided Bird Watching – Tuesday 20th February

A very pleasant cruise with nice light to see all the birds.  Before we left the dock we saw a distant Great Northern Diver off Dawlish Warren – a nice start.

Around Shelly Beach we saw the first of only 11 Red-breasted Mergansers and Shags standing on the buoys (I turned a blind eye to the Cormorant on a buoy – it obviously hadn’t read the rule books!). Some of the Shags and Cormorants were looking very smart in their breeding plumage.

On the mud and gravel beds off Dawlish Warren, Cockwood and Exmouth were good numbers of Brent Geese and a few Shelduck, but no sign of the Eider group that have been around in recent weeks.  A Great Crested Grebe was off Cockwood, as were a few Little Egrets and Greenshanks.

More Greenshanks and another Great Crested Grebe were between Starcross and Powderham, where Grey Herons were visible at their nests in the tops of the oaks behind the Yacht Club. The first distant Avocets were seen beyond Powderham Church, while on the other side of the estuary, towards Lympstone, was a feeding mass of Black-tailed Godwits and Black-headed Gulls.

After brief glimpses of a Harbour Seal, we had great views of hundreds of Brent Geese resting near Turf. Soon after, on the approach to Topsham, we could see Avocets sweep-feeding along the edge of the channel and hundreds of Dunlins feeding across the mudflats on either side of the river.

A large flock of Golden Plovers, probably more than 500, swirled around high and then came down as if to land – which they did later, as we had reasonable views of the flock on our return.

Lots of Common Gulls and a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls were along the river channel, where just a few Bar-tailed Godwits were seen amongst the hundreds of Black-tails. Redshanks and Dunlins gave good views along the shoreline, as did a solitary Sanderling. Teal were just beyond our turning point, where one of the cruise’s highlights lurked: a tin can doing a good impression of a sick Guillemot (honestly!).

Returning back, we saw 40 or more Egrets, most likely Cattle but possibly also some Little, feeding with cattle in a distant hillside field near Powderham; a small group of confirmed Cattle Egrets were perched on one of the wrecks near the wood that they roost in overnight.

Still no sign of any Eiders, but 10 or so Sanderlings were feeding along the edges of the sandbanks and packs of Oystercatchers dozed in their pre-roost gatherings.

Dave Smallshire

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Stuart Line Cruises


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