A Mediterranean Gull and seven Avocets provided the highlights on a chilly but calm morning of counting. The Med Gull - an adult with a partially developed black hood - was loafing about at Passage House, where the Avocets flew to forage after roosting at Flow Point. Other totals as far as Salcombe Dip included 65 Shelducks, four Teal, three Wigeon, 27 Red-breasted Mergansers, two Great Crested Grebes, 15 Mute Swans, 278 Oystercatchers, 64 Curlew, 42 Redshanks, nine Dunlin, seven Greenshanks, seven Ringed Plovers, six Snipe and singles of Common Sandpiper and Lapwing.
Despite the record influx into Devon and the UK, this species has been conspicuous by its absence on patch. So news of one visiting a feeder somewhere in Newton Abbot recently is welcome despite not being available for others to see or indeed knowing if it is within the patch boundary!
Today however news on Devon Birds reveals a Hawfinch was near the entrance to Jetty Marsh this morning, perhaps giving a second chance to fill in the gap on the patch list.
Elsewhere the Bonaparte's Gull was reported again off Teignmouth with at least six Great Northern Diver.
A Water Pipitshowed well at Flow Point this morning at high tide; I'd suspected there was one a few weeks ago but failed to get decent enough views. Also between there and Salcombe Dip were 387 Oystercatchers, 45 Shelducks, 31 Dunlin and seven Ringed Plovers. A further 14 Shelducks were at Passage House along with eight Greenshanks, six Little Grebes, 400 Black-headed Gulls, 30 Common Gulls and the lone male Wigeon.
A watch in Teignmouth produced no unexpected surprises but four Blackcap was the winter peak so far alongside a few Long-tailed Tit. Outside the garden the 'usual' species were visible on the Salty but still no white-wingers.
Elsewhere three Avocet were at Flow Point and two Common Sandpiper and a Wigeon were at Passage House.
The Bonaparte's Gull made a brief return to the patch this morning feeding in the mouth of the estuary with other gulls. There was no sign later but it was refound mid-afternoon back on the Exe Estuary at Shelly beach, Exmouth. Also in Teignmouth at least five Great Northern Diver were offshore but still no sign of any white wingers in the 5-600 Herring Gull on the Salty.
A Black-throated Diver on the estuary between Flow Point and Coombe Cellars was a surprise during this morning's WeBS count. Foraging constantly, it was mobile under the water and only surfaced for a matter of seconds between dives but the glass-like surface allowed for good views. It's over a month since Kev saw one off Shaldon so this was quite possibly a different bird.
Elsewhere five Avocets at Passage House were the first of the year and there was a welcome increase in Red-breasted Mergansers to 29. Other totals included 38 Shelducks, 353 Oystercatchers, 91 Curlew, 50+ Redshanks, 42 Dunlin, 14+ Turnstones, eight Ringed Plovers, four Common Sandpipers, two Greenshanks and a Kingfisher.
Three Firecrestsput in appearances this weekend - two in the woods at Decoy Country Park this morning, and the Kingsteignton Homebase bird again yesterday afternoon (per Cilla Ingram). Now this species is breeding in Devon one assumes that sightings will continue to increase. Also at Decoy Stock Dove and Lesser Redpoll were new for the year with a couple of each around the fringes of Wolborough Fen, and early signs of spring included a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker and a pair of Sparrowhawks in full display flight.
On Thursday three Cattle Egrets were reported in the solar panel field at Teigngrace although there was no sign of them yesterday or today.
An adult Mediterranean Gull came in to Decoy during a well timed scan of the lake but avoided the bread chasing Black-headed Gull flock, also there 17 Tufted Duck and a vocal Nuthatch. Again no sign of the Cattle Egret at Teigngrace but eight Little Egret, 60 Redwing and two Mistle Thrush were in the fields.
Elsewhere an early morning look around Passage House produced ten Little Grebes, two Greenshanks, two Wigeon, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a good count of 92 Great Black-backed Gulls. Fourteen Teal and 17 Shelducks were on the pond at Luxton's Steps, and eight Ringed Plovers and 59 Dunlin were among the waders roosting between Flow Point and Salcombe Dip.
A vocal Raven and two Stonechats were at Teigngrace this morning along with a pair of Sparrowhawks in display flight. There was no sign of the Cattle Egret though it was apparently still present (but elusive) yesterday. On Thursday Mark Bailey had a storm-driven Kittiwake on a flooded pool on the racecourse, and Cilla Ingram saw another Firecrestin vegetation surrounding Homebase in Kingsteignton on Tuesday.
A dull, wet morning was brightened by the discovery of a Cattle Egret by Mark Bailey at the now regular haunt of Teigngrace. It was in the large field west of the level crossing with four Little Egrets and a gang of Black-headed Gulls. The road north of the junction to Twelve Oaks is closed for several days, allowing a rare and enjoyable opportunity to view from the road bridge completely devoid of traffic.
Decoy Country Park held the usual assortment of waterfowl and woodland birds athough single Wigeon and Little Grebe were semi-noteworthy. A male Stonechat was on Newton Abbot racecourse along with a mixed flock of thrushes that included 10 Fieldfares (scarce here) and c.15 Mistle Thrushes. A short seawatch from Teignmouth yacht club at lunchtime produced c.40 Common Scoters, seven Great Northern Divers and a handful of Kittiwakes heading south. To the north several hundred Gannets were gathered off Dawlish seafront.