Thursday 31 December 2015

2015 review

One final visit to Decoy Country Park this morning turned up a showy Marsh Tit, bringing the final year list up to 150 (one more than in 2014). Personally it's been a memorable year; three 'self-found' patch ticks stand out - July's Gull-billed Tern, August's Spotted Sandpiper and October's Yellow-browed-Warbler - whilst other rarities included the three Cattle Egrets at Teigngrace, a flyover Black Stork and several visits by the returning Bonaparte's Gull. The supporting cast of scarcities included Osprey, Little Stint, Ruff, Water Pipit, Scaup and Black-throated Diver. Notable absentees from the year list include Avocet, Goldeneye (again), Pochard and Spotted Flycatcher.

The year began with the male Scaup still on Decoy Lake and at least seven Great Northern Divers off Teignmouth on the 4th. A decent count of 65 Teal was made at Flow Point on the 11th; this was followed by a Purple Sandpiper seen just outside the patch boundary on the 12th when a Black Redstart appeared in Teignmouth. A second Black Redstart and three Blackcaps were seen in Teignmouth on the 24th, but the highlight of the month was a Black-throated Diver offshore there the following day.

At least three, possibly as many as five Black Redstarts were present in Teignmouth at the start of the month along with a Firecrest, whilst the Scaup remained on Decoy Lake. The rest of February was quiet although the Teignmouth Firecrest was joined by a second bird mid-month.

Three Black-tailed Godwits wintered on the estuary, increasing to four on the 15th. Four Sandwich Terns on the Salty on the 29th marked the start of spring.

The first Swallows and Sand Martins appeared in the first couple of days of the month, with more Sandwich Terns and the first Manx Shearwaters off Teignmouth on the 6th. Reed Warblers were back in the Hackney Marshes reedbeds by the 15th, with Whimbrel and Willow Warbler first recorded on the 16th and 18th respectively. Fine conditions on the 19th resulted in at least three Red Kites appearing in patch airspace along with the first Swift, and Sedge Warbler made it onto the year list on the 24th.

I attempted a 'big day' on the patch on the 2rd, and despite persistent rain managed to record 75 species including two Little Ringed Plovers and the year's first Wheatear, Whitethroat, House Martin and Bar-tailed Godwit. A first-summer Mediterranean Gull was at Passage House on the 7th, another Red Kite flew over Teignmouth on the 16th and a Dark-bellied Brent Goose on the estuary the following day was unseasonal. Spring migrants trickled through into the last week of the month when a Wheatear, a Black-tailed Godwit and the same Brent Goose were still around.

Seawatching on the 2nd revealed a Great Northern Diver and 17 Manx Shearwaters off Teignmouth. Out of the blue came a Black Stork that flew over Newton Abbot on the 5th, seen only by one observer. A first-summer Mediterranean Gull was present along with the first few returning waders on the 13th. The second half of June was typically quiet, only a small party of Crossbills heard over Kingsteignton being noteworthy.

A Gull-billed Tern at Passage House from 12th-17th gave outstanding views for much of its stay and was bird of the year (in my wholly unbiased opinion). Gull numbers began to build from early in the month with five Mediterranean Gulls on the 12th and single juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls on the 15th and 18th. Waders also began to increase with peak counts of eight Whimbrel and 14 Common Sandpipers, with a lone Sanderling appearing on the Salty on the 20th.

A busy month began with decent counts of 75 Sandwich Terns and a dozen Whimbrel in the estuary on the 1st, and a juvenile Ruff at Passage House on the 4th. The hedgerows at Bundle Head were busy with warblers mid-month including a Garden Warbler on the 15th, when 12 Ringed Plovers roosted at Flow Point. The 17th brought a stunning adult Spotted Sandpiper to Flow Point; unfortunately by the time access arrangements had been agreed it had departed and wasn't seen again. A flyover Green Sandpiper and the first Wheatear and Whinchat of the autumn were recorded the same day. Seawatching on the 19th produced five Balearic Shearwaters, 17 Common Terns and four Mediterranean Gulls past Teignmouth; a juvenile Arctic Tern flew south a few days later on the 22nd. An Osprey flew north along Teignmouth seafront on the 23rd when the returning Bonaparte's Gull made its first appearance of the year, and the following day a Knot was on the Salty. Some quality seawatching on the 26th with an adult Arctic Tern, a Black Tern, 10 Balearic Shearwaters and Great, Arctic and Pomarine Skuas all recorded. Three Yellow Wagtails flew south over Netherton on the 30th, and the month ended with five Knot flying north past Teignmouth, a Green Sandpiper on the racecourse, another Garden Warbler at Bundle Head and a juvenile Little Stint at Flow Point.

A juvenile Little Ringed Plover was on the spit off Passage House on the 6th, with it or another present in the same place on the 12th. The latter date also produced two second-winter Mediterranean Gulls amongst the Black-headed Gulls and two Wheatears on the racecourse. Notable wader counts from the WeBS on the 15th included 15 Greenshanks, 18 Turnstones, eight Common Sandpipers and a Bar-tailed Godwit. A juvenile Arctic Tern at Flow Point on the 20th gave great views, and breeding success was confirmed for Great Crested Grebe with three juveniles seen with parents at Decoy Lake on the 22nd.

Two Pintails and the returning male Scaup were on Decoy Lake on the 3rd, with a Shoveler there the following day. An elusive Yellow-browed Warbler was in The Ness on the 11th along with at least three Firecrests. The Bonaparte's Gull made a brief appearance at Passage House on the 23rd, and two Cattle Egrets were on the floods at Teigngrace from the 29th onwards.

A third Cattle Egret had arrived at Teigngrace on the 1st, with two staying until at least the 14th. The rest of the month was quiet although up to three Black Redstarts were seen in Newton Abbot mid-month and at least eight Great Northern Divers were off Teignmouth on the 29th.

The 2nd was a good day with two redhead Goosanders at Passage House and two Black Redstarts and a Firecrest in Newton Abbot. Six Common Sandpipers was a good winter count on the 6th when a male Gadwall was seen at Decoy Lake. One, possibly two Water Pipits were at Flow Point on the 19th. Finally on the 29th the male Scaup reappeared at Decoy Lake after over a month's absence and a Green Sandpiper was on the Teigngrace floods.

Lastly, my thoughtful wife bought me a smartphone scope adapter for Christmas, meaning the photos I post in 2016 should be of (slightly) better quality; below are a couple I took at Decoy today. Happy New Year!

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Scaup returns and Green Sandpiper

I braved the hordes at Decoy Country Park this afternoon and was rewarded with the male Scaup making its first appearance since October. Other waterfowl included 17 Tufted Ducks, a male Gadwall and a male Teal.

The Teigngrace floods were virtually birdless but this Green Sandpiper provided the quality that made up for the lack of quantity.

Saturday 19 December 2015

Water Pipit

Yet another dull, wet, windy, very mild day. A Water Pipit at Flow Point was the highlight; there was possibly a second bird hiding in the saltmarsh. The absence of cold weather is probably at least partly responsible for generally low numbers of wildfowl and waders; there appear to be just two Red-breasted Mergansers on the estuary (compared with 38 in late December last year) and I've yet to record more than 50 Redshanks or any Greenshanks so far this 'winter'. The only noteworthy counts from the WeBS were 200 Great Black-backed Gulls, 15 Lapwings, 7 Common Sandpipers, 34 Shelducks and 10 Little Grebes.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Around the patch

Yesterday afternoon I counted 13 Tufted Ducks on Decoy Lake, a welcome increase from a month ago but still only around half of the number this time last year. Accompanying them was a male Gadwall. At Teigngrace 14 Little Egrets were in the field by the solar panels along with a large flock of Chaffinches but the Cattle Egrets appear to have left the area.

Today I had a look at Flow Point over the neap high tide and recorded five Common Sandpipers (a sixth was at Passage House later on), 25+ Shags, two Red-breasted Mergansers, two Great Crested Grebes, a Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail.

First-winter Shags, Flow Point 
A third Great-crested Grebe and another Red-breasted Merganser were in the estuary at Teignmouth with six Great Northern Diver offshore (Kev).

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Goosanders and Firecrest

On receiving a text from Kev this morning telling me about two Goosanders at Passage House, I stuck my scope out the window, and after a few minutes picked them both up in flight, circling around a couple of times before appearing to fly down river.

My second house tick of the day came in the form of a Firecrest, flitting about in a sycamore tree and giving great sustained views. Other birds included a Chiffchaff, a flyover Siskin and a Black Redstart.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Tardy Seawatch

An hour long seawatch off the Yacht club in Teignmouth would have been more rewarding if it had started before 11.30am, however despite the late start totals heading south included c130 Kittiwake, 35 Gannet, 30+ Razorbill and a Great Northern Diver. Further out in the bay many more birds were passing/feeding in the murky conditions whilst on the sea there were at least eight Great Northern and a Red-throated Diver.

Sunday 15 November 2015


Totals from around the estuary this morning included 445 Oystercatchers, 97 Curlew, 40 Redshanks, 12 Turnstones, six Lapwings, five Ringed Plovers, two Common Sandpipers, 35 Teal, 38 Mallards, 11 Shelducks, seven Little Grebes, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a Kingfisher.

Yesterday afternoon two Cattle Egrets were still at Teigngrace, just outside the patch boundary in a muddy field next to some solar panels. A brief look at Decoy Lake yielded just three Tufted Ducks and the Shoveler.

Friday 13 November 2015

Black Reds on my roof

On the way out of the house (Wolborough Hill, Newton Abbot) today I noticed two female-type Black Redstarts on my roof. I've never seen them here before so seeing two was a bit unexpected.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Cattle Egrets remain

A Chiffchaff spent a couple of days singing in a tree outside my house last week; it could be forgiven for thinking it's late spring given the recent mild temperatures. There have however been signs of winter including good numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares moving overhead on several mornings.

The three Cattle Egrets were still on the floods at Teigngrace this afternoon alongside 20 Little Egrets.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Black Redstart

An adult male Black Redstart was on one of the burnt out factory buildings near the car park at Baker's Park in Newton Abbot this afternoon, just within the patch boundary.

Sunday 1 November 2015

Now 3 Cattle Egrets

The Teigngrace 'flock' of Cattle Egrets has increased to three birds, present in the field west of the level crossing to 4pm at least.

A couple of other bits and pieces from my notebook over the past week:

31 Oct - Male Shoveler still at Decoy Lake but no sign of the Scaup or any Tufted Ducks.

29 Oct - Red-throated Diver, adult Mediterranean Gull, Common Scoter and 4 Red-breasted Mergansers south past Teignmouth yacht club between 07:20 and 08:50.

28 Oct - Firecrest still with c15 Goldcrests in The Ness, Shaldon.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Cattle Egrets

After a report of a Cattle Egret at Teigngrace at 12:30, I got down at around mid afternoon to find Mark Bailey watching two Cattle Egrets! They were in the fields west of the Exeter Road and north of the Teigngrace junction with two Little Egrets, a small flock of gulls and a herd of cows. At times they were fairly mobile, taking off and flying around before landing back down again. At one point, one of the birds attempted to land on the back of a cow right in front of me and gave great close views. They were still present at 15:30 at least.

Monday 26 October 2015

Bonaparte's Gull returns

Apologies for the late posting - Bob and Mark Bailey had the Bonaparte's Gull on the spit off Passage House on Friday afternoon. It was seen earlier in the day off Dawlish Warren. There was no sign of it however at Passage House leading up to high tide on Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

WeBS count

Totals from around the estuary on Friday morning included 439 Oystercatchers, 94 Curlew, eight Ringed Plovers, 33 Redshanks, two Common Sandpipers, three Lapwings, 15 Teal, seven Little Grebes, 26 Cormorants, 27 Little Egrets and six Rock Pipits.

In Shaldon two Firecrests were still in the holm oaks at The Ness.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Yellow-browed Warbler

I birded The Ness in Shaldon for an hour this morning and was chuffed to find a Yellow-browed Warbler flitting amongst the sycamores on the south side. There has been a large influx of this species into the country in recent weeks so its appearance perhaps wasn't entirely unexpected but still a very good bird for the patch. It was still present this afternoon but instead frequented the trees to the west of the new scout hut and was much more elusive. At least three Firecrests, 15+ Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff were also in the area.

Sunday 4 October 2015


An eclipse male Shoveler visited Decoy this morning, where it associated with the Mallards before swimming over the far side of the lake and wasn't seen subsequently. Also present the male Scaup, two flighty and vocal Kingfishers and three Swallows. No sign of the Pintails today.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Pintails on Decoy

I paid a late afternoon visit to Decoy today and on my initial scan with binoculars picked out a duck on the far side that looked like a Pintail. I quickly set the scope up and sure enough it was one. Quite a rarity for the lake and a patch first for me. I walked around to the other side to get a bit closer, and while watching it, a second Pintail which must have been hiding at the edge of the lake swam into the field of view!

Near the slipway, the male Scaup had returned for another winter and 12 Tufted Ducks were scattered around the lake - there were six on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Will found a Firecrest at The Ness, Shaldon. This is seemingly becoming a very reliable place to see this species at this time of year.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Great Crested Grebe family

This family of Great Crested Grebe with three juveniles were showing close to the slipway at Decoy yesterday. Good to see that they've bred successfully.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Arctic Tern

A cracking juvenile Arctic Tern was a surprise discovery at Flow Point this morning. It spent most of the time roosting but gave some excellent flight views in the hour I was there.

A quick look at Passage House revealed a Bar-tailed Godwit amongst the Curlew flock, and at Newton Abbot racecourse there were three Wheatears, a Whinchat and 175+ Linnets.

Tuesday 15 September 2015

WeBS count

Not much to shout about on the estuary yesterday morning although there were a few noteworthy counts including 15 Greenshanks, eight Common Sandpipers, a Bar-tailed Godwit, 30+ Sandwich Terns, seven Little Grebes, 10 Teal, 93 Curlew and 371 Oystercatchers. On Sunday Alan Ford recorded 18 Turnstones on a pontoon off Teignmouth back beach.

Saturday 12 September 2015

LRP still

Last week's or another juvenile Little Ringed Plover was still at Passage House this morning at high tide joined by three Common Sandpipers and four juvenile Dunlin. Among the Black-headed Gulls were two 2nd winter Mediterranean Gulls, while on the racecourse, two Wheatears were perched up on the fences.

Little Ringed Plover

Sunday 6 September 2015


A juvenile Little Ringed Plover was on the spit at Passage House this morning on the rising tide until it took off and flew high over the estuary for a few minutes before loosing it from view. Amongst 100 Curlew were three Dunlin and the ringed Curlew from Germany returning for it's third year in a row, showing just how site-loyal Curlews are. A Wheatear was on the roost islands and a Water Rail and Kingfisher both called from the reeds. The ringed Black-headed Gull, white 27J1 was also present, returning for it's second summer/autumn having spent the breeding season at it's natal colony at Lee Farm Gravel Pits, Berkshire.

A Dipper was on the River Lemon running through Newton Abbot.

Monday 31 August 2015

Little Stint

This morning began with a short seawatch from Teignmouth from 06:45-08:00 which yielded a Balearic Shearwater, five Knot and a Wigeon all heading north. Next I tried my luck at Newton Abbot Racecourse where a vocal Green Sandpiper was seen in flight briefly before dropping into a ditch. Moving on to Flow Point, a fresh juvenile Little Stint was roosting with the Dunlin flock; other waders included 12 Ringed Plovers, 5 Black-tailed Godwits and 3 Common Sandpipers. Finally I spent an hour at Bundle Head where my second Garden Warbler of the autumn there showed well and even sang a few phrases.

Little Stint
Jellyfish washed up at Flow Point

Sunday 30 August 2015

Yellow Wags

Not had time for any proper patch birding this weekend but three calling Yellow Wagtails flew south over Netherton Park as I finished playing cricket there this afternoon.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Black Tern and Pom

I arrived at Teignmouth at 6:30 full of anticipation after the overnight wind and rain. The first scan over the sea showed a strong passage of Sandwich Terns (150+ for the whole 2 hours 30 mins), with these were four Common Terns. An adult Arctic Tern lingered fairly close in to shore landing on the sea for a while, and a Black Tern flew south fairly distantly at 7:30. Later on, 15 'commic' tern and 25 distant tern species flew south.

Skuas seen included four Great Skua, one Pomarine Skua, one Arctic Skua and two other small skua sp., one of which was mobbing one of the distant Great Skuas.

I had to wait almost an hour until I saw my first shearwaters - totals included 10 Balearics and 11 Manx with a further 20+ which were too far away to identify. One flock of six Balearics passed fairly close at 8:45, swiftly followed by another single.

Other birds included 140+ Gannet, 41 Fulmar, 62+ Kittiwake, 13 Common Scoter and another probable juvenile Yellow-legged Gull. A Harbour Porpoise surfaced once but there was still no sign of the Bonaparte's Gull.

Arctic Tern

Monday 24 August 2015

Knot a BB rarity

Despite several efforts I failed to find a BB rarity on patch today, must try harder. A moulting adult Knot on The Salty was the first record of the year for this less than annual visitor, also there on the rising tide a couple of Turnstone, a Whimbrel and an unseasonal Lapwing.

Elsewhere on patch there were five Common Sandpiper and a Greenshank at Passage House but back in Teignmouth there was no sign of the Bonaparte's Gull and very little passing offshore

Sunday 23 August 2015

Yet another BB rarity for the Teign

After what turned into a failed seawatching attempt by myself and Will at Teignmouth this morning, things took a turn for the better as I looked down to find that the Bonaparte's Gull had returned for another winter, perching on the same pipe as I first found it in 2013. It remained in the area for the couple of hours we were there, ranging between the Yacht Club and the groynes north of the pier giving stunningly close views.

Out to sea, the best bits were three Common Terns which flew south, five Common Scoter, a flock of c.20 Whimbrel, and about a dozen each of Gannet and Sandwich Tern.

The next bit of excitement came when Will called an Osprey making it's way north over the pier, circling it's way slowly over our heads and off towards the Exe where it was later picked up at the Warren 15 minutes later.

Earlier at Flow Point there were c.10 Dunlin and two each of Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Whimbrel.

Adult Bonaparte's Gull and juvenile Osprey

Saturday 22 August 2015

Evening Seawatch

An hour watch from the yacht club where a small feeding group of Gannet and Sandwich Tern just offshore revealed the presence of a couple of Bottle-nosed Dolphin. Over the next hour a couple of Balearic Shearwater and at least 15 Common Tern flew south, with some of the Common was a single juvenile Arctic Tern, a good patch bird, joining the 20+ lingering Sandwich Tern.

Wednesday 19 August 2015


Seawatching from Teignmouth Yacht Club from 10:45 - 15:15 produced two new birds for the year. Five Balearic Shearwaters passed south; a close flock of three briefly landing near a fishing boat at the beginning of my watch, the other two passing just before 3pm.

Other birds included 124 Manx Shearwater (majority passing as the drizzle cleared around midday), 17 Common Tern, 125 Gannet, 145 Kittiwake, 130 Sandwich Tern, 13 Fulmar, four Common Scoter, five Whimbrel, a Curlew and five small wader sp.

Four juvenile Mediterranean Gulls lingered offshore, and a probable juvenile Yellow-legged Gull followed a fishing boat in from the sea but remained too distant for me to be absolutely sure.

Monday 17 August 2015

Spotted Sandpiper

A stunning adult Spotted Sandpiper was at Flow Point from 11:25 this morning until at least 11:50 when I lost it over the back of the point. Initially I chose not to release full details of its location as Flow Point is privately owned and the landowner requested that the bird's whereabouts was not disclosed, but access was agreed this evening on the condition that birders stick to the path and do not stray on to the saltmarsh; access instructions are here. Unfortunately there was no sign of it this evening but hopefully it's still around. Other counts from a belated WeBS included 283 Oystercatchers, 71 Curlew, 20 Dunlin, 11 Ringed Plovers, 4 Whimbrel, 5 Redshanks, 8 Common Sandpipers, 4 Turnstones, 42 Little Egrets, 2 Kingfishers and 2 Little Grebes.

While attempting to relocate the Spot Sand at Passage House this evening Kev and Laurie had a flyover Green Sandpiper; Laurie also saw a Whinchat and a Wheatear on the racecourse.

Saturday 15 August 2015

Garden Warbler

Today comprised of two fairly short visits to the patch followed by successful twitches for the White-winged Black Tern and Baird's Sandpiper elsewhere in Devon. I began up on Bundle Head shortly after 6am where perseverance working the hedgerows was rewarded with a Garden Warbler, a long overdue patch tick for me. Also present between here and The Ness were 14+ Blackcaps, 9+ Chiffchaffs, 6+ Willow Warblers and a Green Woodpecker. Later on in the morning I called in at Flow Point where 14 Dunlin and 12 Ringed Plovers represented a modest but welcome increase in small wader numbers, 50+ Sandwich Terns were roosting and a Wheatear was on the saltmarsh.

Tuesday 4 August 2015


This juvenile Ruff was at Passage House on the rising tide this morning, generally showing well from 08:50 until 09:20 when it flew behind some reeds.



Saturday 1 August 2015

Good tern-out

At least 75 Sandwich Terns were in the middle part of the estuary this morning; 60+ were roosting on Flow Point with another 15 or so fishing or sat on buoys. Around half were juveniles, several of which were still being fed by their parents. Waders present included 12 Whimbrel, 2 Common Sandpipers and this Dunlin.

Sunday 26 July 2015

Annual Common Sandpiper influx

Fourteen Common Sandpipers were at Passage House this lunchtime, with more probably hiding in the channels. Late July appears to be the peak time for numbers of this species on the estuary, with 15 counted at Passage House exactly a year ago and 17 on 25th July 2013.

Seawatching from Teignmouth Yacht Club from 15:20-16:20 produced 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls and an adult Common Gull heading south, and around 30 each of Manx Shearwater and Sandwich Tern.

Monday 20 July 2015

More waders...

...well just two to be precise but one was new for the year. The rising tide flushed a Sanderling and a Dunlin off the Salty this morning, both flying off up river. Sanderling is barely annual at the east end of the patch and a major rarity further west.

Saturday 18 July 2015

WeBS count

There was no sign of the Gull-billed Tern on the estuary this morning, leaving the assembled group of 20+ birders at Passage House disappointed thus far. A juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was the highlight of the WeBS count, supported by reasonable numbers of waders including 70 Oystercatchers, 63 Curlew, 8 Whimbrel, 6 Common Sandpipers, 4 Greenshanks and a Black-tailed Godwit. Also present were 9 Sandwich Terns, 25 Little Egrets, 41 Mute Swans, 2 Little Grebes, 550+ Black-headed Gulls (no Meds amongst them) and a Kingfisher.

Thursday 16 July 2015

More waders appearing

A brief look off Passage House after work this evening produced the first Dunlin and Greenshank of the autumn, both adults in summer plumage, along with four Common Sandpipers and eight Redshanks.

The Gull-billed Tern has continued to entertain visitors to Passage House over the past few days. I saw it again yesterday early morning, although it appears to have been performing best during the middle part of the day when the tide has been low allowing it to forage over the exposed mud. Some excellent pictures have appeared on Devon Bird Sightings along with a video.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

East vs West

A brute of a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull that was on the Salty yesterday evening and again this morning is the best the east end of the estuary has had to offer of late along with an adult Mediterranean Gull on Tuesday and up to eight Sandwich Tern.

A quick look off Passage House on this evening's high tide drew a blank with regard the Gull-billed Tern (it was still present until 14.30 at least) but a single Black-tailed Godwit and four Common Sandpiper were present.

Sunday 12 July 2015

Gull-billed Tern

Well that was unexpected! A fairly laid back late afternoon scan for gulls and waders off Passage House took a dramatic twist when I found this Gull-billed Tern at 17:30 roosting on the spit with Black-headed Gulls. Initially I wasn't 100% certain as the bird was asleep and only very briefly lifted its head, but by the time I'd sent a few texts and made some calls it had stood up and showed its short, chunky bill.

The tern subsequently showed very well foraging over the saltmarsh from 18:45, catching a crab before flying down the estuary at 19:10. It was still present at 20:20 although further downriver towards Coombe Cellars. I think most people who were local and wanted to see the bird caught up with it; thanks to Mark Bailey for contacting those whose numbers I don't have.

Somewhat overshadowed but also present off Passage House were 5 Mediterranean Gulls (including 4 juveniles), 2 Sandwich Terns, 2 Common Sandpipers, 40+ Curlew and a Whimbrel.

Sunday 5 July 2015

Passage House

Half an hour watching from the Passage House car park with Robin late morning yesterday produced an adult summer Mediterranean Gull flying upriver, 1 Common Sandpiper, 35+ Curlew and 100+ Black-headed Gulls including 4 juveniles.

Tuesday 30 June 2015


Yesterday morning I heard at least two Crossbills fly over my garden in Kingsteignton. I couldn't pick them out against the blue sky but it sounded like they were heading south.

Saturday 13 June 2015

WeBS count

The highlight of this afternoon's count was a first-summer Mediterranean Gull foraging off Passage House with 18 Black-headed Gulls before flying down the estuary. The first returning waders have begun to appear with 9 Curlew and a Redshank at Passage House and 14 Oystercatchers a Flow Point. Other totals included 40 Mute Swans, 45 Shelducks, 13 Little Egrets and 10 Cormorants.

Saturday 6 June 2015

Black Stork

Just when you think things have settled down for the summer, a Black Stork is photographed over Newton Abbot on Friday lunchtime (pictures here). A great record; top marks to the finder!

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Summer-plumaged GND

A brief seawatch after work this evening revealed a Great Northern Diver on the sea off Teignmouth yacht club, looking smart in full breeding plumage. Also 17 Manx Shearwaters flew south between 18:35-19:05. Yesterday an unseasonal Lapwing was at Passage House over the evening high tide.

Monday 25 May 2015

Spring's not over yet

A couple of visits to the patch over the past few days haven't yielded a great deal although there was enough to suggest that spring migration isn't quite over yet. On Friday a summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit had joined the 3 Curlew at Passage House, and 37 Oystercatchers were at Flow Point. Yesterday 25 Common Scoters flew south past Shaldon, a male Wheatear was on the rocks beneath The Ness and a Willow Warbler was singing at Coombe Cellars. Mute Swan numbers have begun to increase with 34 at Passage House where there was also a Lesser Black-backed Gull. The Dark-bellied Brent Goose has remained in the upper estuary, generally present between Netherton Point and Passage House.

Sunday 17 May 2015

Unseasonal Brent Goose

I watched Passage House over the falling tide this morning and again on the rising tide late afternoon/ early evening. The most unexpected sighting was a Dark-bellied Brent Goose that flew in from the lower estuary at around 9am and was still present off Wear Farm at 5.30pm. Two Little Ringed Plovers were again on the spit off Passage House but the only other waders were four Oystercatchers and two Curlew. Breeding success was confirmed for Shelduck, Mallard and Moorhen.

Recent Easterly Highlights

It has been quiet of late at the Teignmouth end of the patch, with a peak of 12 Sandwich Tern the best the Salty has had to offer, but a few random flyovers have just about kept it ticking over, two of them welcome house ticks.

Overnight on 8th May at least two Common Sandpiper were attempting to migrate through the low mist- more expected here in autumn. Early(ish) morning on the 11th May a couple of Siskin west over Bitton Park were unseasonal, totally unexpected though was a vocal Moorhen calling overhead on the night of 12th May. Finally, and a long awaited house tick, a single Red Kite flew North over the town at roof height late morning on the 16th May.

Thursday 7 May 2015

Med Gull

This first-summer Mediterranean Gull was off Passage House this morning with c30 Black-headed Gulls. Also present were two singing Sedge Warblers and a Little Grebe.

Sunday 3 May 2015

The Big (Wet) Day

Yesterday I had a go at trying to see/hear as many species as possible on the Teign patch i.e. within 1km of the tidal limit, despite the forecast for rain for much of the day. I began just before 5am at Hackney Marshes, where all the anticipated species joined in the dawn chorus and a flyover Kestrel was an unexpected bonus - they've been scarce here this year. Nearby a lone female Wheatear and two Stock Doves were on the racecourse.

On to Teignmouth for the first seawatch of the day, and despite the moderate easterly and rain it was pretty dire with just a Great Northern Diver being the highlight although Gannet, Kittiwake, Sandwich Tern, Fulmar, Shag and Guillemot wee all added to the day list. I gave it an hour before heading to Flow Point, where three Teal were on the lagoon behind the railway and a male Red-breasted Merganser was still present. Two Swifts were picked up high over Bishopsteignton, three Linnets showed well on the saltmarsh and a Whimbrel flew down the estuary.

Decoy Country Park was the next stop, where around 30 Swallows were foraging low over the lake, joined by a couple of House Martins. On the water were 5 Tufted Ducks alongside an ever increasing selection of hybrid waterfowl. The surrounding woodland produced Coal Tit, Jay and Green Woodpecker though I was unable to locate Nuthatch or Treecreeper. By now the rain was getting quite heavy so I went home for an hour's rest and a chance to dry out.

After lunch the rain had begun to clear and I headed out to the farmland surrounding Bishopsteignton, where a singing male Cirl Bunting was quickly located and a Whitethroat gave its scratchy song from a bramble patch. A second seawatch off Teignmouth followed, and although conditions had improved nothing better than three Manx Shearwaters were seen in over an hour. Afterwards three Turnstones and a Lesser Black-backed Gull were added to the day list at nearby Polly Steps.

The final port of call was Passage House, where on the rising tide a reasonable (for the Teign) selection of waders were present including three Whimbrel, two Common Sandpipers, the year's first Bar-tailed Godwit and best of all a pair of Little Ringed Plovers. I ended the day with a decent total of 75 species; the full list is below.

Mute SwanGreat Crested GrebeBlack-headed GullGoldcrestBlackbird
Canada GooseBuzzardLesser Black-backed GullBlue TitSong Thrush
ShelduckKestrelHerring GullGreat TitMistle Thrush
TealMoorhenGreat Black-backed GullCoal TitRobin
MallardCootFeral PigeonSkylarkWheatear
Tufted DuckOystercatcherStock DoveSwallowDunnock
Red-breasted MerganserLittle Ringed PloverWoodpigeonHouse MartinHouse Sparrow
Great Northern DiverWhimbrelCollared DoveCetti's WarblerPied Wagtail
FulmarCurlewSwiftLong-tailed TitChaffinch
Manx ShearwaterBar-tailed GodwitGreen WoodpeckerChiffchaffGreenfinch
CormorantCommon SandpiperJayWhitethroatLinnet
ShagGuillemotJackdawReed WarblerBullfinch
Little EgretSandwich TernRookWrenCirl Bunting
Grey HeronKittiwakeCarrion CrowStarlingReed Bunting

Sunday 19 April 2015

Red Kites

There have been several sightings of Red Kites around the patch today. I had one over Netherton Park this afternoon at the same time two were seen from Teignmouth, so at least three birds were around. The first Swift of 2015 also flew over, and Green Woodpecker and Pheasant were finally added to the year list.

Saturday 18 April 2015

WeBS count

Totals from around the estuary on a blustery morning included 3 Whimbrel, 2 Curlew, 13 Turnstones, 23 Oystercatchers, 31 Shelducks, 12 Teal, 10 Little Egrets and singles of Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebe.

A brief lunchtime visit to Jetty Marsh produced the first patch Willow Warbler of the year along with a Reed Warbler, 2 Treecreepers and several Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Whimbrel arrival

The first three Whimbrel of the year were off Passage House this afternoon. Wintering waders were just about hanging on, with eight Oystercatchers and singles of Curlew, Redshank and Common Sandpiper noted.

Whimbrel (r) with Curlew

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Reed Warblers return

Three Reed Warblers were back singing at Hackney Marshes this morning. Other warblers included 4 Blackcaps and 7 Chiffchaffs.

Monday 6 April 2015

Jetty Marsh Pool

On a wonderfully bright, crisp spring morning there was once again very little of note around Newton Abbot Racecourse and Hackney Marshes, so I spent more time exploring an area just to the north of nearby Jetty Marsh, behind the hospital. Largely inaccessible and obscured by vegetation is a pool of water, possibly a former clay pit, surrounded by wet woodland and reedbeds that doesn't appear to have a title on any maps, so I named it Jetty Marsh Pool. Apart from a pair of Coots, 2 Mute Swans and 3 Teal there was little to see today but it does have potential for warblers and other waterfowl.

Jetty Marsh Pool

Seawatching from Teignmouth from 16:45-17:45 this afternoon was reasonably productive with two Sandwich Terns, a Red-throated Diver, a Great Crested Grebe, 5 Razorbills, 8 Guillemots and the first 7 Manx Shearwaters of the year.

Saturday 4 April 2015

Light scattering of migrants

An early morning visit to Decoy Country Park produced five Chiffchaffs and two Blackcaps in song around the lake, a male Sparrowhawk by the visitor centre and a Swallow overhead. Seventeen Tufted Ducks were still present, the male Scaup now long gone, along with a pair of Great Crested Grebes.

I anticipated my first Wheatear of the year on the racecourse, but there was almost nothing to be seen there where preparations were underway for a race meeting. Rackerhayes provided some consolation with half a dozen Sand Martins and a Greylag Goose; the latter looked like a different individual to the one that regularly associates with the local hybrids, and was presumed to be a naturalised bird.

On the estuary two Sandwich Terns were on buoys at the Passage House end and 15 Red-breasted Mergansers were actively displaying and flying about, suggesting they won't be around for much longer.

Thursday 2 April 2015

First Swallow of spring

I got back to Devon this afternoon after my trip to Australia and SE Asia, and whilst I was stuck in traffic entering Kingsteignton a lone Swallow flew north. Hopefully a sign of things to come this Easter weekend.

Sunday 29 March 2015

Spring at last...

Four Sandwich Tern on the Salty were the first recorded migrants on patch this year, although Wheatear and Sand Martin must have been on the racecourse and over Decoy or Rackerhayes respectively.

Sunday 15 March 2015

An hour's dipping

A look from Salcombe Dip layby this evening showed four Black-tailed Godwit on the estuary with 40+ Common Gull on the mudflats, but none of the hoped for Ring-billed. Mid March in the mid/late 1990's used to see a good spring passage of this species with up to seven birds on a couple of dates.

Monday 9 March 2015

BHG from Germany

A Black-headed Gull that I saw last year on the 20th July at Passage House was ringed at Zwillbrocker Venn - a nature reserve in north west Germany. It was ringed as a chick in 2006 and has been seen at the same site during the breeding period pretty much every year since. My sighting is it's first away from the breeding grounds.

Black-headed Gull - black A3S3

Saturday 14 February 2015

Estuary WeBS count

A full estuary count today (from various locations including Passage House, Flow Point and Polly Steps) revealed nothing unexpected with three Black-tailed Godwit, a Teal and one of the wintering Common Sandpiper the highlights.Other wildfowl and wader counts included 48 Shelduck, 23 Red-breasted Merganser, 360 Oystercatcher, 97 Redshank, 86 Curlew, 26 Lapwing, 10 Greenshank and 10 Ringed Plover

Elsewhere the Scaup remains at Decoy after a gap of a couple weeks and several failed attempts the Firecrest was seen again in Teignmouth at Milford Park pumping station, Bitton Park Road. This time however there were two birds. 

Monday 9 February 2015

Black-headed Gull recoveries

I've had emails back for all four ringed Black-headed Gulls I saw on patch around Christmas time last year.

The first was white J1P4 seen at Decoy on the 19th December. This bird was ringed near Oslo, Norway on the 17th April 2011 as an adult. It was first seen at Decoy in the winter of 2012, when it was then seen back in Oslo in April. It has repeated this pattern up to my sighting.

Black-headed Gull White J1P4
I also saw a metal ringed bird on the same day which I was able to read after several minutes of skirting around to get different angles. This bird ( EL00862) was ringed at Poole Park on the 19th February 2007 as an adult. My sighting was it's first.

The third (White 22P7) was seen on the 24th December also at Decoy. It was ringed as a chick at a breeding site at Lee Farm GP on the 15th June 2014 and my sighting was also it's first. This it the second ringed gull I've seen from this breeding site.

Black-headed Gull White 22P7
The fourth (Yellow 2DKL) was seen at Passage House on the same date as the above. It was ringed at Pitsea Landfill in Essex in the 30th August 2014 as an adult and my sighting is it's first.

Black-headed Gull Yellow 2DKL

Sunday 1 February 2015

Weekly round up

In addition to the long staying male Black Redstart by Teignmouth Rugby club, the female was seen again at Gloucester Rd, Teignmouth during the week. Based on recent sightings there are at least three probably as many as five wintering around the town this January.

Another good wintering passerine  in Teignmouth is a Firecrest which has been present at the South West Water pumping works at Milford Park pumping station, Bitton Park Rd since Friday.

Elsewhere the drake Scaup was still at Decoy on Thursday with a Kingfisher at the Back Beach, Teignmouth.

Sunday 25 January 2015

Diver triple bill

Half an hour from the yacht club revealed plenty of activity offshore the highlight being a single Black-throated Diver, along with four Great Northern and at least three Red-throated Diver, getting all three divers is a rare event on patch.  Also present five Common Scoter and 50+ auks, mostly Razorbill but also the first Guillemot of the year. 

Elsewhere in Teignmouth a female type Black Redstart was on the roof of the Thornhill Hotel on Maer Road with the male still in gardens near the rugby club.

Late news from the western end of the patch includes the continuing presence of the Scaup at Decoy with a Firecrest in the surrounding woodland last Friday. 

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Big Garden Birdwatch Recce

The tac tac of a Blackcap drew my attention to the garden over breakfast. At least three birds were again present chasing each other around neighbouring gardens. However the star bird kept out of the affray - a Black Redstart - this one a smart male, so a second bird in just four days and perhaps a returning individual. 

Monday 19 January 2015

A brief Passage of time

Twenty minutes on a rising tide at Passage House late afternoon showed two wintering Common Sandpiper, a Greenshank, 50+ Redshank, with five Oystercatcher and a couple of Lapwing and Curlew

Sunday 18 January 2015

Teignmouth Garden Birding

Saturday morning the resident male Blackcap was being particularly vocal, watching over the next half hour it was defending the Torbay Palm from two other Blackcap (male & female). It also chased off a surprise fem/imm Black Redstart on a couple of occasions, although ignored the Song Thrush feeding on the berries.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Stretching the boundaries

Yesterday a Purple Sandpiper was reported on Devon Birds between Sprey Point and Holcombe. It's chosen rocks are just outside the northern boundary of the recording area, and as it is a very rare bird on patch, hopefully it will venture south in the coming weeks. There was no sign however in a quick look from the yacht club this morning. Offshore there were 10-15 Gannet along with the usual Shag and Cormorant. Two or three Harbour Porpoise heading south close in were unexpected.

Elsewhere a Black Redstart was on the roofs of houses at the junction of Exeter and Gloucester Road. If you time the traffic lights you may be able to see it whilst queueing!

Sunday 11 January 2015

Early WeBS

Counts from the estuary on Wednesday morning included 414 Oystercatchers, 80 Curlew, 71 Redshanks, 10 Greenshanks, 17 Lapwings, 3 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Dunlin, 1 Common Sandpiper and 10 Little Grebes. Duck numbers varied with 65 Teal and 36 Shelducks at Flow Point but I could only locate 4 Red-breasted Mergansers and 25 Mallards. Still no Goldeneyes or Avocets.

I did the WeBS early as I'm going to Australia next week on a work exchange for a couple of months, followed by a holiday in SE Asia, and won't be back until Easter. This and Laurie returning to his placement in Wales (link to blog on right) means Teign Birds will be quieter over the next couple of months, so apologies in advance for the lack of updates from us!

Monday 5 January 2015

Year ticking

An early morning walk around Hackney Marshes provided a number of year ticks including a Mistle Thrush, a Nuthatch, two Treecreepers and three Reed Buntings. A Water Rail gave excellent views in the wet woodland, nine Bullfinches was a good count and single Chiffchaff and Blackcap were noted in bushes by the car park. Nearby a pair of Stonechats were on the racecourse along with a flock of 35 Skylarks.

A look at the estuary off Coombe Cellars at low tide revealed 36 Common Gulls and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. Elsewhere around the patch three Fieldfares were with Redwings at the top of Hackney Lane and two Stock Doves flew from a field near Bishopsteignton.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Afternoon around patch

An hour at the Teignmouth Yacht Club showed at least seven Great Northern and a Red-throated Diver on the sea along with three distant diver sp, one of which was probably a Black-throat. Also offshore five Common Scoter and a pair of Wigeon.

A couple of quick stops further up patch revealed the Common Sandpiper at Passage House and the drake Scaup still at Decoy.

Thursday 1 January 2015

New Years Day

I didn't make the best of starts to the New Year, mainly because I was with my family, but also because I was lazy and didn't get up early. I managed a 15 minute seawatch off Teignmouth which got me Red-throated Diver and two Great Northern Divers on the sea. About 20 Kittiwakes passed south but sadly weren't accompanied by the Pomarine Skua seen off the Warren earlier in the day.

Next I went to Coombe Cellars and where there was a Kingfisher in front of the pub and a Kestrel hunting the reed bed.

I finished off with a walk around Decoy where I saw most of the common species plus the Scaup.

A calling Tawny Owl made it on to the day list with five minutes to spare to give a total of 46 species.

Great Northern Diver