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.