We set off from Exmouth quay and cruised along the edge of Pole sands where we had good views of Curlew, Oyster Catchers and Herring gulls feeding. 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.
Along the shoreline of the North side of Dawlish warren sand dunes we had views of a few Linnets feeding in the debris at the tideline, a Turnstone wandering along the shoreline and a Sanderling landed with a Dunlin. In the Dawlish wildlife refuge we had views of Dark bellied Brent geese, Oystercatchers, Curlew, Grey Plover and Wigeon.
A Great Northern Diver was seen distantly just South of Bull hill, looking up the estuary from Dawlish warren but it spent much of its time diving making it difficult to get any prolonged views. A Grey seal was spotted briefly swimming in the middle of the channel but we only had views of its head before it dived and disappeared.
A Shag surfaced close to the boat with a flat fish and visitors were able to watch it struggle with the fish before swallowing it whole!
As we continued north past Cockwood we had good views of Common gulls, Black-headed gulls, Herring gulls and Greater black backed gulls on the sandbanks with many more Oystercatchers. Cormorants and Shags were roosting on the sandbanks, some drying their outstretched wings. A Mute swan was swimming in the middle of the channel and a few Great Crested Grebes were diving near the shoreline from Cockwood to Starcross.
A distant male Red Breasted Merganser was seen being the first of at least 9 seen throughout the trip. A few Black-tailed Godwits and a good number of Avocets were feeding along the shoreline around Starcross and as we sailed North we continued to see 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; a Redshank was also seen nearby giving visitors the chance to compare these two waders. Around 20 Mallard ducks were seen around Starcross Yacht club.
Hundreds of Black-tailed godwits were feeding along the mudflats as we approached Turf hotel and a huge flock of Dark bellied geese flew off Exminster marshes behind Turf hotel and out into the estuary, followed by more Black-tailed Godwits. They landed on the mudflats near the boat. It didn’t take long for someone to spot the cause of this disturbance as a male Marsh harrier was seen in the sky over Exminster marshes behind Turf hotel. A second Marsh harrier was then spotted.
As we sailed past Turf towards Topsham the West mudflats were littered with tiny Dunlin, more Grey Plovers, Avocets and a tight flock of around 150 Golden Plover were roosting. Hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits and a few Bar-tailed Godwits were feeding along the edge of the channel, a few Redshank and around 30 Teal ducks were at Topsham.
To everyone’s excitement a male Goldeneye was swimming off Topsham quay, it gave us good close views on the water before flying right over the boat!
Many Black headed gulls were noted throughout the trip, a further 2 Great Northern Divers were seen with visitors getting superb views of one close to the boat off on the return journey as it preened and remained on the surface as we sailed past.
Off Cockle sands we enjoyed 3 Sanderling dashing along the shoreline like little clock-work birds; and we had close views of a further 6 along the North shoreline of Dawlish warren, along with a few Linnets, a couple of Stonechats and a Pied wagtail on the sand.
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