Wednesday 31 December 2014

2014 Review

2014 was a good birding year for the patch with 149 species seen, comparing to last year's 158.

The highlights of the winter were Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull and Yellow-legged Gull all on the estuary, and the returning male Scaup on Decoy. The Bonaparte's Gull made a few brief visits to Teignmouth, and two Black-necked Grebe on Decoy was an amazing record. There was also a scattering on Black Redstarts around the patch.

Glaucous Gull by Lee Collins
Two Bee-eaters provided the most excitement in Spring with one over Teignmouth and one over the Penn Inn roundabout. Arctic Tern and Balearic Shearwater were seen on seabird passage, an Osprey flew over Teignmouth, and a locally rare brief sighting of a single Sanderling was at Passage House. Again good numbers of Wheatears were on the racecourse.

In Summer, a Chough, probably the same on also seen in east Devon, was seen at Shaldon, a Red Kite was seen over Kingsteignton, and a Great White Egret flew out of the estuary and over Teignmouth, the first record for the patch. A Mandarin and a Goosander were at Newton Abbot town quay and a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was at Passage House. A Green Sandpiper was also seen at the Kingsteignton clay pits.

Yellow-legged Gull
A Curlew Sandpiper at Flow Point provided the wader highlight for the Autumn. Firecrest, Whinchat and Redstart were all seen on return passage with a count of eight Whinchat on the racecourse being a site record. An Osprey was seen on the estuary which perched at Netherton Point. Autumn seabird passage contained large numbers of Pomarine Skuas with the highest day count being 37. Two Little Gulls were also seen offshore along with a Merlin. The Scaup made it's return on the 5th October.

The Ring-billed Gull that was briefly at Passage House provided the highlight to the end of the year with the only other birds of note being two Jack Snipe also at Passage House and two Black Redstarts in Teignmouth.

Ring-billed Gull

Tuesday 30 December 2014


I went for a look for Woodcock late this afternoon, and visited a spot where I've flushed one without fail every time I've tried for the last four years. Once again as soon as I approached to within about five metres, it burst out of the exact same holly bush.

The Scaup was still on Decoy with 32 Tufted Duck and a Great Crested Grebe.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Black Redstarts

Two Black Redstarts were seen in Teignmouth today; I had a male around the docks this morning, whilst Laurie had a female type along the back beach this afternoon. In addition two Great Northern Divers were offshore, a good count of 38 Red-breasted Mergansers was made from the Salcombe Dip viewpoint and two Jack Snipe were flushed from an area with no public access. I had a look through the gulls off Netherton Point late afternoon but only came up with 4 Common Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed Gull.

At Decoy Lake the male Scaup remains with 33 Tufted Ducks, a Little Grebe, a Great Crested Grebe, a Kingfisher and a Chiffchaff.

Friday 26 December 2014

Ring-billed Gull!

Looking at the weather forecast a couple of days ago which predicted constant rain all day today, I couldn't wait to get out in the new waterproofs I got for Christmas and look through the gulls, namely for the Ring-billed Gull!

I arrived at the bottom of Hackney Lane at 14:30 and the tide was very low. A quick look up towards Coombe Cellars showed large amounts of large gulls on the mud flats. I scanned through for any obvious white wingers, and for some reason I didn't decide to walk down to Netherton Point to take a closer look, but instead to walk up river to get a better view of the birds off Passage House. This proved to be a good decision because I soon picked out what looked like an adult Ring-billed Gull in a small flock of Black-headed Gulls.

It had just a shade darker mantle colour than the Black-headed Gulls with no obvious tertial crescent, a chunky bill with a thick black ring across, and I thought I could just about detect a pale iris. I digiscoped a quick record shot and walked closer just to be 100% sure of the ID before putting news out, and sure enough it had an obvious pale iris! A lifer for me! I phoned Will and texted Kev and Mark (thanks for putting the news out Mark). Pretty annoying using a phone when the screen is wet and doesn't respond! Here are some photos of it...

Will quickly arrived at Passage House (other side of the river to me) and I directed him to where it was. Then Kev turned up and also got on the bird. It remained settled in the same place for 30 minutes and then suddenly took off and flew down river showing nice black wing tips with only a short black mirror on P10. I lost it to view, and that was the last I saw of it despite scanning through the gull flocks off Coombe Cellars a few times. Kev's going to be on the look out for it on the Salty so hopefully he'll relocated it, and it would be nice if it stayed on the estuary into the New Year!

Comparing the photos with Mike's bird at Goodrington, it looks as if it's the same individual, so sadly not a self find for me, but just as exciting!

After it had flown off, I had a call from Will to say that there was a Common Seal on the mud bank right in front of the car park at Passage House! Amazingly an even rarer sight than Ring-billed Gull! I think the last record of Ring-billed Gull was around 2005, and before then the Teign was probably the best place to see the species in the country with multiple birds on the estuary every winter. Sadly I wasn't old enough to go birding back then!

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Three Darvic BHGs

I went on a hunt for the Ring-billed Gull today, first taking in Decoy where I soon got distracted by Black-headed Gulls. Out of the 40 odd birds resting by the slipway, two of them had darvic rings, and two had metal rings. One of the darvic ringed birds was from Norway but I haven't had full details back yet. The other was a first winter, ringed on the 15th June at Lea Farm Gravel Pit, just SE of Reading, with my sighting being it's first. This is the second bird I've seen from this breeding site.

White 22P7
The Scaup was still on the lake alongside 29 Tufted Ducks.

Next I went to Passage House and walked along to Netherton Point where there were good numbers of large gulls present but nothing interesting among them. 21 Common Gulls were nice to see which included a first winter bird, but no Ringed-bill. Scanning through the Black-headed Gulls, two had darvic rings, of which one was close enough for me to read - a yellow ringed bird from the Thames, but again I haven't had full details back yet.

Other birds of note were a Common Sandpiper and a Peregrine overhead.

Sunday 21 December 2014

Great Northern Divers

Three Great Northern Divers were on the sea off Teignmouth this afternoon, along with a Razorbill and a female Common Scoter. Laurie visited Hackney Marshes and saw a Chiffchaff, 5 Goldcrests and a Treecreeper.

Yesterday we both watched the Passage House area from Hackney Lane late afternoon, and had 89 Redshanks, 5 Greenshanks, 14 Snipe, 20 Lapwings, 10 Little Grebes, 12 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Dunlin, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Common Sandpiper and a Kingfisher.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Scaup Photos

The male Scaup was still present this morning at Decoy Lake, initially over on the far side tucked under the overhanging trees, however after about ten minutes it swam across with a group of Tufted Duck and gave close views by the slipway.

Also on the lake were 26 Tufted Duck, and singles of Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe and Kingfisher.

See how much wider the Scaup is than a male Tufted Duck in the bottom photo...

Monday 15 December 2014

Pale Chiffchaff

At Hackney Marshes this morning there were two Water Rail, four Reed Bunting, eight Goldcrest, a male Blackcap, two Kingfishers and a Green Woodpecker, however I could only find one Chiffchaff. To my eyes it looked pretty pale and lacked any yellows or greens on the back, head or underparts. It had more brown in the back than you would expect from a classic tristis, but with only brief views and the bird not calling, I wouldn't feel confident assigning it to subspecies.

On the racecourse there were two wintering Stonechat, four Skylark, around a dozen Meadow Pipits, 50 Canada Geese and a lone Curlew.

At Passage House, there was a large flock of 'shanks roosting on one of the grass banks over high tide. This comprised of 12 Greenshank, 95 Redshank and a Black-tailed Godwit, with a further 11 Redshank on the railway embankment opposite Netherton Point making it the biggest count I've ever made on the Teign.

Can you spot the Black-tailed Godwit?

Other counts included 20+ Red-breasted Merganser in a fishing flock off Coombe Cellars, a Shag, two Kingfishers, seven each of Little Grebe and Little Egret, three each of Common Gull and Snipe, two Water Rail, 14 Lapwing, 38 Oystercatcher and 25 Curlew, 17 of which were feeding in a field next to Hackney Lane.

The Bonaparte's Gull was also reported off Teignmouth yesterday.

Saturday 13 December 2014

Wintering Chiffchaffs

There were plenty of birds on show around Hackney Marshes on a cold, crisp Saturday morning (though unfortunately no Penduline Tits in the reeds nor Yellow-browed Warblers in the bushes). Five Chiffchaffs were actively foraging in the vicinity of the car park and footbridge; in comparison Chiffchaffs were quite thin on the ground last winter. Also noted around the marshes were four Goldcrests, two Bullfinches, two Little Egrets, four Reed Buntings, a Kingfisher and a Water Rail, with three vocal Ravens and a Peregrine overhead.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

WeBS totals

Counts from this morning's WeBS included 310 Oystercatchers, 78 Curlew, 74 Redshanks, 8 Greenshanks, 15 Lapwings, 5 Black-tailed Godwits, 5 Dunlin, 3 Common Sandpipers, 40 Teal, 26 Red-breasted Mergansers, 19 Shelducks, 12 Little Egrets, 7 Little Grebes and 2 Kingfishers.

Yesterday morning there were 6 Chiffchaffs at Hackney Marshes and on Saturday the male Scaup was still at Decoy Lake with 34 Tufted Ducks.

Saturday 29 November 2014

Decoy Lake

I only had time for a brief look at Decoy Lake this morning, where the male Scaup remains but more unexpected was a party of 5 Teal, the first time I've seen this species on the lake. Also 30 Tufted Ducks and singles of Great Crested Grebe, Kingfisher and Chiffchaff present.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Black Redstart(s)

A couple of Black Redstart have been around Mere Lane in Teignmouth for a week or so but none from the usual location of the Rugby Club until today. Not the hoped for returning male but a fem/imm type was on boats at Polly Steps before flying over the railway to the playing fields.

Out on the Salty Shelduck, Mute Swan and Red-breasted Merganser have returned to this section of the estuary for the winter with 220+ Oystercatcher and half a dozen Curlew present on the rising tide.

Brent Goose numbers double!

It's too early to tell if they'll spend the winter here, but for now the Teign officially has a flock of Brent Geese - two birds were foraging on the saltmarsh at Flow Point at midday, unperturbed by nearby fishermen. Also on the marsh were a Kingfisher, two Common Sandpipers and two Rock Pipits, whilst a scan of the estuary revealed 24 Red-breasted Mergansers in a single flock near the Shaldon bridge.

Earlier on a visit to Decoy Lake produced the usual male Scaup, a Kingfisher, 31 Tufted Ducks and a Great Crested Grebe. Good numbers of Redwings were on the move overhead, with several large flocks totalling c.500 along with my first Fieldfares of the autumn. Afterwards I had a look at the floods at Teigngrace, where a first-winter Mediterranean Gull was in amongst the masses of Black-headed Gulls and 28 Little Egrets was an impressive sight in a single field; two Teal and a Curlew were also noted there.

Monday 10 November 2014

WeBS totals

A lone Brent Goose at Flow Point was the best bird of this morning's WeBS, only the second patch record of the year following three at Teignmouth way back on New Year's Day.

Other counts included 327 Oystercatchers, 94 Curlew, 43 Redshanks, 6 Black-tailed Godwits, 15 Red-breasted Mergansers (good to see them back), 3 Common Sandpipers, 2 Little Grebes and singles of Great Crested Grebe, Snipe and Kingfisher.

Late news for yesterday: the male Scaup remains at Decoy Lake, now sporting its usual bottle-green head plumage, and a Black Redstart was reported from Teignmouth.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Not bad for November

The recent spell of decent seawatching continued this morning with an impressive 19 Pomarine Skuas heading south past Teignmouth yacht club between 08:10 and 09:50. This included a superb light adult close in at 09:25 closely followed by a group of six dark birds at 09:33. Also noted were 2 Great Skuas, 5 skua sp, 2 Little Gulls, 430+ Kittiwakes, 4 Great Northern Divers and 11 Common Scoters.

As I was leaving I bumped into Robin who was just setting up and he had a further 18 Pomarine Skuas up until 11:45 along with 1 Arctic Skua, 2 Great Skuas, 3 Great Northern Divers and 2 Common Scoters.

Monday 3 November 2014


Seawatching from Teignmouth yacht club from 07:00-08:00 this morning produced at least 6 Pomarine Skuas heading south, associating with small flocks of Kittiwakes. They were too far out to be aged (all were dark and presumed juveniles) but close enough for their bulky shape and broad 'arms' to be evident. Also noted were four very distant skua sp. and an adult winter plumage Mediterranean Gull.

Sunday 2 November 2014

More sofa seawatching

Saturday - With increasing winds a quick look offshore from Teignmouth late afternoon saw 50+ Kittiwake sat on the sea and a probable Pomarine Skua heading south.

Sunday - Another lazy late afternoon look at the sea saw at least two Pomarine Skua chasing Kittiwake offshore with three others too distant to nail but probably also Poms. Another welcome house tick especially as it takes the total to a nice round number  - 100.

Elsewhere a Firecrest was at the Ness, a Kestrel was hunting Shaldon beach and 14 Turnstone and eight Ringed Plover were on the Salty.

Sunday 26 October 2014

Distant skuas and Merlin

After yesterday's skua-fest hopes were high for more of the same this morning and a quick check of the Dawlish Warren Twitter feed prior to seawatching from The Ness suggested large numbers of skuas were still present in the bay. However things were unexpectedly quiet for the first 45 minutes with just a single Arctic Skua through, though Lee Collins at Dawlish Warren informed me that plenty of skuas were still about. I scanned further out across towards Exmouth, and eventually began to pick up some skuas (plus numerous Gannets and Kittiwakes) heading south-eastwards out to sea. Unfortunately this meant that by the time they were passing the Teign they were miles offshore, much further out than yesterday, and most had to be put down as Arctic/Pomarine with the few that came closer looking like Arctics. I counted 30+ in two hours, along with 12 Common Scoters, two Great Northern Divers and best of all a Merlin that flew south at 09:05. A Firecrest was again calling in the holm oaks of The Ness having shown well there yesterday afternoon.

Saturday 25 October 2014

Indoor Seawatching

Spent the late afternoon with the scope set up from the window and as hoped managed to add Arctic Skua to the house list. What was less expected however was seeing at least a dozen of them, most heading south but some also chasing Kittiwake and lingering. There were at least three or four too distant to identify but none of them suggested any different.

Also from the window an adult Mediterranean Gull offshore with 14 Turnstone and five Ringed Plover on the Salty.

Saturday 18 October 2014


Seawatching from Teignmouth yacht club from 08:00-09:20 this morning produced a Great Northern Diver, 3 Arctic Skuas, 2 skua sp, 12 Sandwich Terns, 6 Common Scoters, 150+ Gannets and a dozen Common Gulls all heading south. I followed this up with walk around The Ness where a Firecrest was calling briefly in a holm oak behind Shaldon Zoo.

Sunday 12 October 2014

WeBS totals

Nothing outstanding during this morning's count but a good variety nonetheless. Totals included 415 Oystercatchers, 68 Curlew, 43 Redshanks, 12 Turnstones, 6 Common Sandpipers, 5 Ringed Plovers, 5 Lapwings, 4 Black-tailed Godwits (with a possible flock of 20 high overhead), one Snipe, 32 Cormorants, 3 Sandwich Terns, 46 Little Egrets, 30 Mallards, 6 Teal, 2 Little Grebes and a Coot; the latter at Luxton's Steps pond, my first patch record beyond Decoy Lake. Curiously - or worryingly - no Shelducks or Greenshanks and only one Dunlin could be found.

Sunday 5 October 2014

Scaup returns

The highlight of a visit to Decoy Country Park this morning was a partial eclipse male Scaup, presumably the same bird that is now back for at least its third winter on the lake. Saying that, I'm fairly certain it was a Scaup and didn't have any hybrid elements. My area of doubt relates to the colour of the head - a rich brown, almost chestnut in bright sunlight - and the area of black on the bill tip, which appeared quite large (though not as large as Tufted Duck). Everything else seemed fine for (Greater) Scaup. I'm relatively unfamiliar with this plumage and there seem to be rather few photos online to compare, so I'd appreciate any feedback. Apologies for the quality of the photos.

 Comparison with male Tufted Duck - note smaller black 'nail' on bill...
 ...though is it too large?

Rich brown head in bright sunlight, with hint of green in front of eye

Whilst I was grilling the ducks there was a small overhead passage of 4 Skylarks, 9 Meadow Pipits and a Siskin, with two Grey Wagtails and a Swallow briefly circling the lake and a Marsh Tit calling from adjacent woodland. At Newton Abbot Racecourse late morning were two Wheatears and a Stonechat, with 12 more Skylarks on the move.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Bundle Head

Whilst most inland areas were under a thick veil of mist and low cloud early this morning, there was bright warm sunshine bathing the coast as I walked from the Ness across the golf course to Bundle Head. Several small groups of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were moving quickly along the hedgerows and consequently proved difficult to count, with minimums of 15 and 8 respectively. Tagging along with them were a Whitethroat, 3 Goldcrests, 5 Song Thrushes and 2 Stonechats, with the most unexpected sighting being a male Yellowhammer atop an ash tree. Overhead passage was minimal, just 10 or so Meadow Pipits and a Grey Wagtail south.

Late news: I caught up with the juvenile Curlew Sandpiper at Flow Point on Thursday, although there was no sign of it yesterday afternoon.

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Curlew Sandpiper

A phone call from Robin at lunchtime alerted me to the presence of a Curlew Sandpiper at Flow Point (photos here). I was working at the time and unable to get there until early evening, by which time the tide had dropped and there were no small waders to be found, though 5 Greenshanks, 10 Grey Herons and 17+ Sandwich Terns were noted.

Sunday 14 September 2014


Seawatch at Teignmouth from 06:55-08:45 this morning. Two Balearic Shearwaters flew north including a dark individual that passed fairly close at a leisurely pace, and a distant shearwater sp (probably a Balearic) headed south. Also 4 Wigeon and 9 Common Scoters.

Saturday 13 September 2014


The highlight of the morning was undoubtedly the Osprey that put up all the waders as soon as I arrived at Flow Point at 9am. It was initially circling over the estuary then looked as if it was drifting east towards Teignmouth before doing an about-turn and heading up towards Passage House. I managed to relocate it when scanning the estuary from the top of the track to Wear Farm an hour later, when it was sat in a tree at Netherton Point. Hopefully it will stick around.

Osprey at Netherton Point. It was a long way away...
The composition of roosting waders at Flow Point (once the Osprey had departed) showed little change, with 16 Ringed Plovers, 11 Dunlin, 9 Redshanks, two Bar-tailed Godwits, a Black-tailed Godwit and a Common Sandpiper noted. Earlier a walk around Bundle Head was very unproductive for the time of year with just a handful of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs in the bushes and 5 Grey Wagtails, 6 Meadow Pipits and c40 Swallows overhead.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Flow Point

Had a brief look here this evening on a rapidly rising tide, where 14 Ringed Plovers, 7 Dunlin, 5 Redshanks and singles of Bar-tailed GodwitBlack-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel were the pick of the waders.

Saturday 6 September 2014

Wader variety

An hour's birding mid-morning revealed an impressive minimum of 8 Whinchats on the racecourse, alongside 2 Wheatears and scores of Linnets and Swallows. Most birds were alongside the central track that bisects the racecourse and showed well from the cycle path. Nearby at Hackney Marshes three Water Rails and two Kingfishers gave close views in the main channel from the bridge.

Whinchats, Newton Abbot Racecourse

I spent the latter part of the afternoon doing the WeBS count, and trialled a new, extended survey route that involved working my way eastwards along the northern side of the estuary before travelling back westwards along the southern side, stopping at Passage House, Flow Point, Polly Steps, Arch Brook, Passage House again (from Hackney Lane) and finally Town Quay Bridge. On World Shorebird Day it was probably the best day of the year so far for Teign waders with eleven species recorded and a welcome increase in numbers for some species. Totals were 373 Oystercatchers, 92 Curlew, 12 Dunlin, 11 Ringed Plovers, 15 Greenshanks (all at Passage House), 3 Redshanks, 5 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits (singles at Passage House and Flow Point), 7 Turnstones, 3 Common Sandpipers and a Whimbrel. Other counts included 54 Little Egrets with the majority roosting in trees at Passage House and 3 Little Grebes in the channels.

Wednesday 3 September 2014


A look over the racecourse mid-morning produced my first patch Whinchats of the year - a female and what looked like a juvenile, though views were somewhat distant. Several groups of Linnets were scattered about totalling 95 birds, and a Sand Martin associating with c.50 Swallows was unexpected.

A neap tide was forecast so Flow Point was largely devoid of birds, with the exception of a (the?) Wheatear. Most of the 370 Oystercatchers were instead on the Salty, joined by 2 Dunlin and 10 Sandwich Terns.

Saturday 30 August 2014

New area explored

A tour of several sites around the estuary this morning began with a visit to Decoy Lake, which turned up adult and juvenile Great Crested Grebes and two Tufted Ducks. Next stop was Flow Point for the high tide roost; Oystercatchers (378) and Curlew (90+) were plentiful but numbers of other waders disappointing - 3 Greenshanks, 2 Common Sandpipers, 4 Ringed Plovers and a Dunlin (the latter two species were into double figures this time last year). Nine Turnstones were roosting on a covered boat at Polly Steps, Teignmouth, and single Wheatears were noted here and at Flow Point.

I ended up exploring the back lanes behind Shaldon, namely Commons Lane which rises up steeply from Ringmore and is lined with dense, species-rich hedgerows. No sooner had I parked up that a female/juvenile Redstart flew across the road; an overdue patch tick for me. The area looks good for warblers and other passerines during migration.

Yesterday late afternoon a dozen or so Sandwich Terns and a Mediterranean Gull were off Teignmouth seafront, where six Bottlenose Dolphins passed a short while before I arrived (thanks Ken).

Ringed Plovers, Dunlin and Wheatear - Flow Point

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Arctic Skuas

I managed a fairly short seawatch at Teignmouth this morning from 06:45-08:15. Despite the strengthening onshore breeze most birds were a very long way out, including good numbers of "commic" Terns which attracted the attention of three Arctic Skuas. Seven shearwater sp. bombed their way south, barely dots on the horizon, with only one coming close enough to be ID'd as a Manx. Passing somewhat closer to land were a juvenile Mediterranean Gull, two Common Scoters and four Sandwich Terns.

Saturday 16 August 2014

More waders

Combined totals from Passage House and Flow Point this morning included 386 Oystercatchers, 105 Curlew, 6 Whimbrel, 5 Greenshanks, 7 Dunlin, 6 Ringed Plovers, 4 Common Sandpipers and the first Black-tailed Godwit of the autumn.

Friday 8 August 2014

Big increase in Oystercatchers

Not a great deal of quality around the estuary on a gloriously sunny Thursday afternoon but numbers of certain waders are continuing to increase. A total of 280 Oystercatchers were strung out along the embankment east of Flow Point at high tide, a figure not far off the mid-winter average. The Curlew flock broke three figures with 106 at Passage House before some dispersed to Flow Point as the tide peaked, joined by 3 Whimbrel. Other counts included 8 Dunlin, just 4 Common Sandpipers, 2 Redshanks, 89 Little Egrets, 44 Mute Swans, 27 Shelducks, 25 Cormorants, two Sandwich Terns and singles of Great Crested and Little Grebe.

Earlier in the morning a brief look at the racecourse revealed a mixed flock of c.100 Swallows and House Martins, and two Common Sandpipers were under Town Quay Bridge.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Increase in Common Sandpipers

It's that time of year again when large numbers of Common Sandpipers build up on the estuary. A total of 15 were around the site with the majority on the spit at Passage House. The last couple of times I've been on the train along the estuary I've also seen three or four flushed from the estuary wall between Flow Point and Teignmouth, so the count for the estuary as a whole could be up to 20.

Otherwise, it was much the same, however three juvenile Mediterranean Gulls gave me something nice to look at as they flew in and circled around Passage House before landing amongst the gull flock.

I'm off to Turkey tomorrow and won't be back for two weeks, but I'll leave you with some photos from today...

Common Sandpiper
Little Egret
Holly Blue

Sunday 20 July 2014

More Meds and darvic BHGs

There was horse racing on again today which meant there were high numbers of Black-headed Gulls at Passage House, c400+. With them were just two Mediterranean Gulls, an adult and a juvenile, the adult being a different bird to Friday's.

UPDATE - only just noticed this, but the BHG in front of the Med is also wearing a ring. Top letter looks like an F so could well be another new bird, but hard to tell!

A look through the closer Black-headed Gulls proved worthwhile with two darvic ringed birds, which for a brief while were in the same scope view! One of them was white 27J1 which I first found on the 6th July. This bird was ringed as a chick at a breeding colony just south east of Reading, Berkshire in 2011. It was seen on the Otter Estuary later that year, and was seen back at the breeding site in April 2013.

The other bird was was new in - black A3S3. I very nearly missed this ring. I scanned past it, but then thought, "hang on, did I just see a ring on that bird?!" It seems as if this bird was ringed in Germany, but I'll update when I get a reply.

I find digiscoping invaluable for reading rings. If there's no heat haze I reckon I can get twice as much detail as just looking through the scope. It also allows you to analyze the ring on the computer when you get home in case the ring was at an awkward angle meaning only part of the code was visible, as was the case with the black ringed bird.

White 27J1
Black A3S3

Saturday 19 July 2014

Not an obvious juv YLG

Yesterday there were plenty of gulls to look through at Passage House. After about 10 minutes of scanning I came across a gull that immediately looked a lot different to the juvenile Herring Gulls which where in good numbers...

It was long legged, long winged, had a fairly large angular beak, a dark eye mask, and dark bases to the greater coverts. It was also noticeably larger in overall size than the nearby Herrings. These features all pointed towards it being a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, however there were two things that were bugging me. The tertials had more notching than you'd expect, and there seemed to be a bit too much spotting on the inner greater coverts. Also, the scapulars perhaps aren't as dark as they are on some birds. I got a few glimpses of the tail and the open wings but failed to get a good shot of them.

It eventually took off and gave me good views of the clean white rump and dark inner primaries, although again I couldn't get a good shot.

I would appreciate some more opinions on this bird. My own opinion (not that I'm a gull expert - far from it!) is that it is a Yellow-legged Gull. I just can't see it being a juvenile Herring Gull, but I suppose it's possible that it's a hybrid.

Other birds present were an adult Mediterranean Gull, two Greenshank, 11 Redshank, five Common Sandpipers, two Whimbrel, 88 Curlew and one Dunlin.

In other wildlife news, this Hornet Hoverfly was near Aller Brook.

Volucella zonaria
It even landed on my hand!

Tuesday 15 July 2014


Bird news first - Will saw a female Goosander on Sunday swimming down river from Newton Abbot Town Quay, and yesterday I had a flock of c15 Manx Shearwaters off Shaldon.

On Decoy Lake today there were three juvenile and two adult Great Crested Grebes and a Siskin flew over.

I spent a while at Magazine Pond looking for dragonflies. All photos were digiscoped.

Black-tailed Skimmer
Common Darter
Copulating Common Darters
Ovipositing Emperor Dragonfly

Saturday 12 July 2014

WeBS count and Mandarin

Due to Sunday commitments I did the WeBS count a day early and was joined by Laurie. We started by viewing Passage House from the bottom of Hackney Lane where a couple of noisy Sandwich Terns were flying about, 46 Mute Swans was a good count and the first returning Kingfisher was present. We next moved to Flow Point where a mixed group of waders comprised 80 Curlew, 18 Oystercatchers, two Dunlin and singles of Greenshank and Whimbrel. Four more Sandwich Terns were mixed in with the roosting Black-headed Gulls, although we failed to find any Med Gulls. Other totals from around the estuary included 36 Little Egrets, 22 Canada Geese, 9 Cormorants, 7 Shelducks, 10 Mallards and five Common Sandpipers.

We parted company at Passage House, with Laurie returning home via the new footbridge over the Teign where he found this Mandarin:

Monday 7 July 2014

The first summer Med

There was a good gathering of 200+ Black-headed Gulls roosting at Passage House over high tide today, mainly due to it being race day on the racecourse where they would normally roost. On my third scan through them I found the first Mediterranean Gull of the summer, a 1st summer. Luckily it came close enough for some photos...

This is where I first found it...

Why not test your Med finding skills - zoom in and let me know if you can see it!
And here's a picture of the Green Sandpiper in the quarry - my first for the patch. Looking back at the WeBS records there were a few at Passage House during the 60s and 70s with a maximum count of 13 in August of 1974! After this though, the species has become very rare locally, and the only other recent record is a bird that Kev heard calling over Newton Abbot.

Very slender

Sunday 6 July 2014

Are Water Rails breeding?

Whilst scanning the edges of the reeds this morning, I came across a juvenile Water Rail. It was adult sized so not a black ball of fluff. I think it's probably quite likely that it was born somewhere in the Passage House reed bed, but I suppose it's possible that it's an early migrant.

The highlight was probably an adult Little Ringed Plover on the spit. Other wader counts included 73 Curlew, a Whimbrel, a Redshank and five Common Sandpipers. Elsewhere, Robin found a Green Sandpiper, the first of the year.

Taken from the other side of the estuary, hence the poor photo.
Looking through the Black-headed Gulls, I found a darvic ringed bird which was initially too far away to read. Luckily, after keeping my eyes glued to it for half an hour while it slept, it flew fairly close and I was able to see that it was white 27J1.

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Juvenile BHGs

Again, more birds are building up on the estuary during the start of the Autumn migration. I saw the first Common Sandpiper last Tuesday along with two Dunlin. Today there were six very mobile Common Sandpipers flying around Passage House. Other birds included two Redshank, 68 Curlew, a Little Grebe and 140 Black-headed Gulls, of which seven were juveniles. No Mediterranean Gulls though. Another family of Shelduck has appeared with seven very small ducklings.

Friday 20 June 2014

Darvic Herring Gull

Highlight of this morning at Passage House was a darvic ringed Herring Gull - white 8HP1...

It was ringed on Guernsey on the 24th May 2013 as a 2nd summer, and my recovery is the first one since then.

Other than this, there was slightly more wader action with the first three returning Redshank, an Oystercatcher and 28 Curlew, with 24 Little Egret and 55 Black-headed Gulls. There seems to be two broods (2 and 5) of Shelduck at the moment, so not as successful as last year.

Now, get ready for your daily dose of cuteness...

I wonder how recently it fledged? It's nest is only a few metres away.
And one of the Comb Duck