GUIDED BIRDWATCHING – Friday 9th February

Like the previous two days, the weather was showery to start our birdwatching cruise on the Exe Estuary with great company.

We left Exmouth Marina and cruised straight up the estuary where couple of Shag Cormorants and Greater Black Backed Gulls on Bull Hill sand bar. We sailed on up the estuary where we had more 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, 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 three Red Breasted Merganser was seen being the first of at least ten 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. Up to thirteen Turnstones were foraging on seaweed and other debris along the shoreline north of Starcross. At least two Greenshank were seen around the two wrecks. Curlew, plenty of Gulls, Black Headed Herring and Common were in good numbers seen bathing.  Another Greenshank was seen at the River Kenn outlet by Powderham Estate; Redshanks and a couple of Bar-tailed Godwit were also seen nearby. With the Heronry close to the Yacht club four Grey Herons were seen at their nest with another flying high heading upstream. On the Lympstone side of the estuary several Pintail in two small groups were seen feeding on the remains of the Eel Grass beds off Lympstone village.

At the start of Turf Lock straight two Common Seals an adult and her pup was seen at close quarters on the mudbank. Several Hundred of Black-tailed Godwits were feeding along the shoreline of the mudflats and many more were seen across the mudflats towards the River Clyst 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 too.

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 six Red Breasted Mergansers seen here too. Two Spoonbill were spotted at a distance feeding in the River Clyst. Redshank and around thirty 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 150+ Lapwing. Avocets and Black tailed Godwit were numerous all the way to Topsham. Black Headed Gulls were also in good numbers with two Lesser Black Backed Gulls, one showing its yellow legs on the mud, and Common Gulls were seen towards the River Clyst.

On our return, a few Canada Geese were spotted close to the Turf Lock. Then Hundreds of Dark Bellied Brent Geese took to the air from Exminster Marsh. Fabulous views of this spectacle was seen by all from the Pride of Exmouth. 

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. Captain Jake spotted a Grey Seal on one of the pontoons in mid channel. Then someone spotted the Great Northern Diver in this area and Captain Jake manoeuvred the boat to see this rare visitor to the estuary; great close-up views were had by all. At least eleven Sanderling were together and along the edge foraging for food in the wavelets and foam.

On Bull hill sandbar we enjoyed another two Sanderling dashing along the shoreline like little clock-work toys dashing here and there. Five Eider were seen off Bull hill sand bar along the North shoreline of Dawlish Warren; at least one was a juvenile male.

Oystercatchers and several flocks of Dunlin were flying past the boat heading for the Wildlife Refuge at Dawlish Warren. As we passed Dawlish Warren, we had great close-up views of a couple of Turnstones which finished off another wonderful day on the Exe Estuary, and enjoyed by all.

Derek Carter, Ornithologist

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Stuart Line Cruises


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