Birding and Wildlife weekend - 17th to 20th of September 2015.

What has now turned out to be an annual event my mate Gary and I made our way early on Thursday morning to North Devon for four days of birds, beer and wildlife.

Our first location was the old station area at Torrington where the possibility of Dipper made it a good place to start our weekend list. Within a few minutes "Hawkeye Hobbs" had our first Dipper of the weekend. Also of note were four Kingfishers, a pair of Grey Wagtails and two Raven. A short walk along the Tarka trail gave us the usual common birds and many butterflies before we headed off to Bideford to check in at the Royal Hotel.

Singing Robin

The afternoon was spent exploring the RSPB Isley Marsh area, here an Osprey was seen perched on a post with its catch of mullet. A short walk towards the Welland Quay revealed a single Spoonbill feeding in the company of a Little Egret. Looking towards the banks of exposed kelp revealed a Peregrine that sat there of over an hour. Also seen were Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Sanderling, Black Tailed Godwit, Curlew, Whimbrel and the usual estuary birds. Over the many years that I have visited this reserve there has always been large numbers of Shelduck, looking back at my journal shows that these have not been seen here since early in 2014!

Crow Point on the Taw Estuary

Friday the 18th of September 2015.

Having checked the local tide times our first destination of the day was Northam Burrows in Appledore. Arriving at high tide there were hundreds of birds very close to the rocks. Birds of note were Ring Plover, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Little Egret, Bar Tailed and Black Tailed Godwit, Peregrine, Kestrel, Turnstone, Stonechat and many Swallows.


After a very enjoyable morning we made our way to Braunton which is on the other side of the estuary. The toll road to Crow Point always gives up a few birds of prey and today was no different to other vists. Peregrine, Kestrel, Buzzard, Osprey and Marsh Harrier were all seen here. Also of note were Kingfisher, Wheatear and Greenshank.


Saturday the 19th of September 2015.

Today was my last trip of the year to Lundy Island as Wildlife Officer for MARINElife. The trip started with collecting my ticket from the Bideford Landmark office, upon boarding MS Oldenburg I met up with Charles and Nick, fellow surveyors who were on board for this month’s Lundy survey. The ship left the quay in warm sunshine and looking across the estuary the sight of low white mist made for an impressive view.

As the Oldenburg navigated its way past Northam Burrows, great numbers of wading birds were observed, Dunlin, Curlew, Black Tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher and Ring Plover. Starting my tour around the upper and lower decks I introduced myself to some of the passengers and as usual I had numerous conversations with many people. One in particular was with two gentlemen from Vermont in the USA who were over from the U.S. Landmark Trust. 
Leaving the estuary behind I soon had the opportunity to point out four Common Dolphin which had most of the passengers on the starboard side looking out to see them breaching, not too long after the Dolphins, we also had sight of two Porpoise. Birds were very scarce and it was not until we were within a few miles of Lundy the bird numbers increased. Gannet, Shag and Kittiwake were seen and as the ship came alongside the jetty a Peregrine Falcon was circling the cliff tops.

Upon disembarking the Oldenburg a great many of the passengers stopped on the jetty to watch the Grey Seals that are often swimming around Rat Island. Following this I began to make their way up to the higher levels. Whilst walking along the central track I was surprised to find a Dunlin feeding in and around a huge puddle. This little bird seemed very tame and didn’t seem to mind me stopping to take a few photos!


Spotted Flycatcher
The return journey aboard the Oldenburg gave further sightings of more Common Dolphin and Porpoise and as before, many of the passengers were delighted to see these graceful animals.

Common Dolphins

The crossing back to Bideford was a calm affair and as we approached the estuary the sun was going down behind the ships stern, by the time we returned to the quay it was dark. Before leaving the ship, I thanked Jerry and the crew for supporting MARINElife and I look forward to more trips in 2016.

Sunday the 20th of September 2015.

Following a hearty breakfast in our hotel we set off for Exeter and a morning at RSPB Bowling Green Marsh. As we arrived the re was a high which meant the reserve was full of waders. Birds of note seen were Spoonbill, Shelduck, Black Tailed Godwit, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Snipe, Peregrine, Little Egret, Pintail, Avocet and Kingfisher. Hundreds of Wigeon filled the area in front of the hide and amongst them were a few Shoveler and Teal.

As the tide started to turn we checked out the viewing platform where much of the same birds were seen again, a solitary Common Sandpiper dropped in and as the water reseeded more birds started to drop in. The Peregrine shot past putting everything up for a few moments, then everything returned to feed.

After ten minutes it was decided to take a walk along "Goats Path Walk" here we had excellent views of the estuary as the tide continued to drop. Local birder Dave Boult who I often meet when visiting here soon has us on to four Terns all perched on separate buoys out on the mud flats. Common, Arctic, Sandwich and Black Tern topped a final days birding in the West Country.

Total birds species seen this trip was 102.