October 2013

There must be something special about the fifth Tuesday in the month which is not shared by the fourth Tuesday!

For a start today had far better weather than last Tuesday (when I suspect we would have cancelled the outing)

Secondly, there were ten of us – which was unprecedented

Finally we saw some excellent birds in ideal conditions at Ham Wall. Within seconds of arriving at the second Viewing Platform two Glossy Ibis took off, showed well in flight and then settled down to feed in full view. Everyone saw them really well. We then took to close examination of the various species of Duck which were present – Mallard, Gadwall, Teal and Shoveler mainly. Then a Bittern took it into its head to fly directly overhead at a very easy viewing height. At other places on the reserve, pickings were less outstanding, but we did see three Little Grebe feeding, and as we arrived on the reserve there were a lot of small land birds flying around – especially Chaffinch and Goldfinch, though several other species were present as well.

On our return to the car park, some decided to return to Wells, while the rest went up to the open water on Meare Heath. This turned out to be almost a bird-free zone, with just one Mute Swan and one Teal visible on the water. But our journey was made worthwhile when two female Marsh Harriers flew low over the reedbeds for a minute or two before going down into the reeds.
Altogether a very good morning.

November 2013

Well – we finally made it! After countless false starts, weather cancellations and sundry other ills, we finally managed a full day birdwatching trip yesterday when five of us squeezed into one car and went to the Exe Estuary.
The consensus was that it was well worth the wait! We started off by driving to Exeter M5 Services, which had few birds, but useful facilities! Then on to the picturesque village of Topsham, where RSPB have a reserve called Bowling Green Marsh. The water was partly frozen over and the grass was frost-covered, so when we arrived the birds were a bit somnolent. But there were plenty of them. About 1000 Wigeon woke up and started grazing the grass as the frost burned off. There were also Greylag Geese, overflying Brent Geese, Lapwing, Knot, Dunlin, Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit to admire. Then a scarce Long-tailed Duck caused a bit of a commotion in the Hide until a local said “oh, that’s been here for several days”

After an hour we drove to Powderham, where we parked and walked about a mile and a half up the towpath as the tide slowly went down, exposing mud and attracting thousands of birds to come and feed. We quickly found more Dunlin, several Curlew and a few Grey Plover, plus several Buzzards perched on fence posts waiting for lunch to appear. Shag and Cormorant were everywhere, but we were pleased with the sight of several Shelduck and, later on some pairs of Red-breasted Merganser.
Finally we reached our chosen lunch spot – a closed pub called The Turf, which has picnic tables on an observation platform overlooking the estuary. Here it was that we finally located our main target bird – Avocet – about 300 of them swishing their upturned bills sideways through the water to collect small molluscs. As the tide continued to recede more and more waders appeared, Curlew, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Redshank and many more, until thousands were spread out in front of us.

The only problem was the temperature, which was scarcely above freezing point. Fortunately there was virtually no wind, but even so after an hour or so we were feeling decidedly chilled, so we set of back down towards Powderham disturbing Grey Herons, Little Egret, Teal and a lone Stonechat as we went. When we got back to the car, it was unanimously decided not to go on to Dawlish Warren as originally planned, but to keep warm in the car and return to Wells, where we arrived at about 4.30 pm.

A good day with a species count of 44, but the quality..............!