Tuesday 31 December 2019


On the last day of 2019 a male Scaup on Decoy Lake was a welcome late addition to the year list. A relatively small individual with a roundish head, it was clearly a different bird that returned for several consecutive winters up to 2015/16. Also present a Kingfisher and a good total of 29 Tufted Ducks, and in the woods a Firecrest and a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Monday 23 December 2019

Passage House

There was a nice mix of birds off Passage House this afternoon on the rising tide, viewed from below the sewage works. The Avocet flock had increased to 11, the first double-figure count on the estuary for several years; other waders included 35 Redshanks, six Greenshanks, nine Lapwings and two Common Sandpipers. Also noted were 19 Common Gulls, six Red-breasted Mergansers, five Little Grebes, two Water Rails and a Kingfisher.

Saturday 21 December 2019


A walk down through Kingsteignton, around Hackney Marshes and back again this morning produced two Firecrests; one in holly bushes in the churchyard, and the other in the woods at the back of the Marshes. Both birds allowed prolonged, close-up views. It's amazing to think that barely a decade ago this species was a relatively scarce winter visitor in Devon; now it can almost be expected in suitable habitat near the south coast. With confirmed breeding in the Dart Valley and Torbay in the last few years, a breeding territory on patch in the near future seems a distinct possibility.

Also noted around Hackney Marshes: Chiffchaff, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, a singing Song Thrush and a couple of squealing Water Rails.

Sunday 15 December 2019

WeBS, Avocets

This morning's count produced some very similar totals to last month's survey, although six Avocets at Passage House (present since 22 November at least) were the first to be recorded during WeBS counts this year. Other totals included 325 Oystercatchers, 63 Curlew, 13 Dunlin, 13 Turnstones, eight Greenshanks, seven Ringed Plovers, two Common Sandpipers, 28 Shelducks, 15 Red-breasted Mergansers, 12 Mute Swans, eight Mallards, seven Canada Geese, two Little Grebes and a Grey Seal. The conspicuous absentee was Redshank with just five noted at Passage House; presumably many were roosting on the inaccessible pools behind the railway due to the high spring tide.

Tuesday 19 November 2019


Nothing outstanding to report on the estuary on Monday morning, though there were some good counts with 109 Redshanks and 74 Great Black-backed Gulls being most notable. Other totals between Passage House and Salcombe Dip included 320 Oystercatchers, 62 Curlew, 14 Dunlin, seven Greenshanks, seven Lapwings, six Ringed Plovers, four Common Sandpipers, two Turnstones, two Snipe, 21 Shelducks, 15 Red-breasted Mergansers, 10 Mute Swans, four Little Grebes, 12 Shags, eight Cormorants and singles of Kingfisher and Water Rail. A further 11 Turnstones were at Teignmouth on Sunday.

A check of other sites around the patch turned up a few bits and pieces. Off Teignmouth a Brent Goose on the sea towards Holcombe was a belated first for the year; also present four Common Scoters, a Red-throated Diver and a Mediterranean Gull. A vocal Firecrest was in the woods at Decoy Country Park, with 16 Tufted Ducks on the lake. Finally two Green Sandpipers were still hanging about at Teigngrace along with eight Lapwings.

Tuesday 5 November 2019


First reported yesterday, this Spoonbill was on the estuary a few hundred metres east of Passage House first thing this morning, although it wasn't seen during the afternoon. Yesterday while scanning for the Spoonbill Kev had a Firecrest opposite the Salcombe Dip layby.

Sunday 3 November 2019

Green Sandpipers

Three Green Sandpipers were in one of the flooded fields at Teigngrace this afternoon; this is my first record of multiple individuals of this species on patch. Also noted were six Little Egrets, three Lapwings, two Mute Swans, two Grey Wagtails and a Stonechat. Earlier a walk around the edges of Teignmouth port failed to produce any Black Redstarts but a Firecrest was heard calling from vegetation on the opposite side of the railway.

Sunday 27 October 2019

Cold and quiet

The first morning of the autumn where the de-icer was required. I was expecting a fair bit of viz mig along the coast after two consecutive days of heavy rain and gales, but in fact overhead migration was almost non-existent with just a trickle of alba Wagtails, Goldfinches, Meadow Pipits and a Stock Dove moving south, and three Siskins heading north. A saunter around Bundle Head and The Ness produced 12 Linnets, 12 Goldcrests, six Jays, two Chiffchaffs and singles of Blackcap, Stonechat, Sparrowhawk, Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Thursday 24 October 2019

Ring Ouzel

A band of light rain cleared to the east early this morning, and there were more birds in the bushes than on Tuesday. The highlight was a first-winter Ring Ouzel in clifftop scrub at Bundle Head; it called three or four times and showed its tail-end briefly before disappearing into dense blackthorn. Also noted were 20+ Robins, 18 Goldcrests, nine Song Thrushes, six Redwings, six Chiffchaffs, four Bullfinches and a Green Woodpecker. Long-tailed Tits seemed to follow me everywhere, with at least three parties of birds roaming between The Ness and Bundle Head. Overhead passage was limited to just 12 Meadow Pipits, 10 Goldfinches (plus 45 in trees by Shaldon Zoo), 10 alba Wagtails, four Linnets, four Chaffinches and a Skylark.

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Big Woodpigeon movement

Plenty of birds on the move this morning between The Ness and Bundle Head. From 08:00 - 09:00 some 4,500 Woodpigeons flew south, the majority about 500m inland but some (including the largest flock of 1,000) following the coastline. In amongst them were an absolute minimum of seven Stock Doves although I'm certain I overlooked many while frenetically counting dots in the sky. Six Golden Plovers circling to the north over Teignmouth were also noteworthy. Other birds overhead included 20 Redwings, 24 Meadow Pipits, 43 Goldfinches, four Linnets and a handful of Chaffinches and Pied Wagtails, while the bushes held nine Song Thrushes, eight Goldcrests, three Chiffchaffs, three Bullfinches and a Stonechat.

Sunday 20 October 2019

WeBS & probable Otter

The almost-highlight of Friday morning's count was a probable Otter that swam around some reeds and into a hidden channel at Passage House, disappearing before I could get my scope set up. I'm sure they occur in the area but I've yet to see one in almost seven years of watching the estuary on a regular basis.

After that the rest of the survey was somewhat of an anticlimax. Totals included 326 Oystercatchers, 83 Curlew, 36 Redshanks, nine Ringed Plovers, seven Common Sandpipers, seven Little Egrets, eight Shags, six Cormorants, 15 Teal, 12 Mallards, eight Mute Swans, four Little Grebes and singles of Greenshank, Shelduck, Moorhen, Water Rail and Kingfisher. The lack of Shelducks and Red-breasted Mergansers suggests that a significant proportion of wintering waterfowl is yet to arrive.

Elsewhere, at Teigngrace there were 13 Little Egrets and a good count of 31 Pheasants, and last Sunday at least 22 Turnstones were roosting on the harbour master's boat at Teignmouth.

Thursday 19 September 2019

WeBS & White Stork

Totals from Saturday morning's count included a Green Sandpiper, five Common Sandpipers, 315 Oystercatchers, 75 Curlew, 11 Redshanks, 10 Turnstones, six Ringed Plovers, five Greenshanks, two Dunlin, 31 Little Egrets, 16 Mute Swans, eight Cormorants and three Shags. Migrant passerines included single Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail at Flow Point and another White Wagtail on the spit at Passage House.

Remarkably a White Stork was seen perched on buildings in Teignmouth yesterday lunchtime!

Sunday 8 September 2019

White Wagtail

The birds were keeping a low profile on the racecourse this afternoon, possibly on account of the model aircraft being flown overhead, but a bit of perseverance eventually yielded a smart male White Wagtail along with eight or nine Pied Wagtails, two Wheatears, two Stonechats and a Mistle Thrush. 

Saturday 31 August 2019

Double Osprey Madness

Will and I watched at Flow Point this morning, where three juvenile Black-tailed Godwits and a flyover Yellow Wagtail were the picks of the bunch. There was no sign of any small wader flock, however, two Common Sandpipers fed on the marsh, and a couple of Redshank were amongst the usual flock of Curlew and Oystercatcher.

Just as we were contemplating leaving around 10am, the gulls and waders took to the air and two Ospreys flew in high from the north-east. They both circled for about 10 minutes, seemingly investigating the estuary, before gaining height again and flying off independantly of each other to the west.

Osprey (adult)
Osprey (juvenile)

Monday 26 August 2019

Coastal migrants

Bundle Head from 07:30 - 09:30 this morning produced a reasonable mix of migrants (but no White Storks unfortunately): two Spotted Flycatchers (flycatching in ash tree by road), two Tree Pipits, a Yellow Wagtail (heard only), a Wheatear, 10+ Blackcaps, two Whitethroats, two Willow Warblers, 6+ Chiffchaffs, 1+ Swift (heard only), a Grey Wagtail and three Great Spotted Woodpeckers south. A slow but steady passage of Swallow and House Martin was also a feature of the morning though most were passing at height and heard only.

Saturday 17 August 2019

Yellow-legged Gull

This juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was at Passage House as the tide was falling late morning. Whilst the bill appears on the small side it showed most of the other typical features.

The dark greater coverts and plain tertials stood out

Nice white rump and contrasting black tail band

Elsewhere, waders at Flow Point included a Turnstone, five Whimbrels and three each of Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper. Despite the disturbance from the country show a Wheatear and a Stonechat were on the racecourse.

Friday 16 August 2019

Common Terns

Again, despite promising weather conditions, with a strong southerly wind and rain, the birds didn't match up to expectations. Eight Common Terns flew south with another 10 "commic" terns and 50+ Sandwich Terns. A small pale skua sp. was distantly offshore before being lost to the mist, with other counts including 10 Manx Shearwater, 55+ Kittiwakes (about 20% juveniles), 20+ Fulmar and two juvenile Mediterranean Gulls.

Common Terns

Sunday 11 August 2019

Tern passage but no shearwaters

Seawatching from the yacht club from 06:30 - 08:30 on Saturday morning (joined by Adam for the last hour or so) was underwhelming to say the least given the conditions, with a big fat zero shearwaters noted. There was however a decent movement of 90+ Sandwich Terns heading south along with six Common Terns, a light phase Arctic Skua, 12 Mediterranean Gulls (three adults and nine juveniles), c.30 Kittiwakes, c.15 Fulmars and singles of Little Egret and Dunlin.

Sunday 4 August 2019


Nothing out of the ordinary on the estuary this morning but there was a good variety nonetheless. A mix of waders gathered on and around Flow Point at high tide included 223 Oystercatchers, 66 Curlew, 11 Whimbrels, ten Redshanks, five Common Sandpipers (plus another three at Passage House) and two each of Dunlin and Ringed Plover. Other totals included three Greenshanks (Passage House), 36 Little Egrets, 32 Mute Swans, eight Canada Geese, seven Shelducks (including four well-grown young), four Mallards, four Sandwich Terns, ten Cormorants and five Shags.

Ringed Plover

Tuesday 30 July 2019

Balearic, Great Skua, Med Gulls

A short pre-work seawatch with Laurie and Adam this morning from 06:50 - 08:00 produced singles of Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Common Scoter, WhimbrelBalearic Shearwater and Manx Shearwater all heading south, with a further 30-40 shearwaters much further out are likely to have been a mix of the latter two. Also noted were at least 14 Mediterranean Gulls (mostly juveniles), two distant skua sp. (probable Greats), 20+ Fulmars, 30+ Kittiwakes and four Sandwich Terns.

Monday 29 July 2019

Arctic Skuas

Seawatching from the yacht club from 15:50 - 17:20 was pretty dire (as was the case at other sites nearby) but did produce two dark phase Arctic Skuas, one of which lingered and harassed a couple of Herring Gulls. Several loose groups of small shearwaters were moving back and forth on the horizon; those close enough to identify were all Manx Shearwaters. An adult Mediterranean Gull flew south; heading in the opposite direction were two Fulmars and a commic tern.

Sunday 21 July 2019

Belated WeBS

An adult Black-tailed Godwit at Passage House was the pick of the waders on the estuary this weekend. Other totals included 107 Oystercatchers, 54 Curlew, nine Greenshanks, eight Whimbrels, five Common Sandpipers, 30 Little Egrets, 12 Cormorants, 57 Canada Geese, 38 Mute Swans, 600+ Black-headed Gulls, a Sandwich Tern and two pairs of Shelducks with three and five young,

Monday 17 June 2019

Gadwalls, Med Gull, WeBS

A better than average June survey today, undertaken during the evening for a change. A pair of Gadwalls that flew down the estuary and landed close to Flow Point was a surprise for mid-summer; somewhat more seasonal was a first-summer Mediterranean Gull in with about 30 Black-headed Gulls at Passage House. Curlew numbers have begun to increase with nine at Flow Point, surely failed breeders this early. Three pairs of Shelducks were seen with two, eight and 14 young, with a further ten adults noted at Flow Point. Other totals included 29 Oystercatchers, 15 Little Egrets, 27 Mute Swans, 51 Canada Geese and three Cormorants.

A brief look off Teignmouth seafront revealed little other than a close-in Grey Seal and a few distant Gannets.

Sunday 19 May 2019


A Whimbrel and five Ringed Plovers between Flow Point and Salcombe Dip hinted at some ongoing wader passage on the estuary this morning. Other counts included 31 Oystercatchers, one Curlew, 24 Shelducks, 21 Mute Swans, 14 Little Egrets, two Grey Herons, three Shags, 50 Herring Gulls and one Black-headed Gull.

Monday 6 May 2019

Reed Warbler influx

At least 10 Reed Warblers were scattered about Hackney Marshes this morning; several were foraging in scrub away from wetland areas, suggesting they were probable migrants rather than local breeders. Just one Sedge Warbler was noted with them. Overhead a Whimbrel flew north and small numbers of Swifts and House Martins were foraging over the racecourse.

Tuesday 30 April 2019

Swifts but no hirundines

On the last evening of the month two Swifts were back in Kingsteignton, circling over the church, but still no sign of any House Martins around their usual haunts. Also in Kingsteignton but just outside the patch, three Crossbills flew north over Tarrs Avenue on Sunday.

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Whimbrels and WeBS

A flock of nine Whimbrels on Flow Point yesterday morning was a good spring count on an otherwise quiet morning around the estuary. Other totals included 42 Oystercatchers, four Common Sandpipers, three Curlew, 19 Shelducks, 15 Mute Swans, 10 Mallards, two Teal, nine Little Egrets and two Sandwich Terns. On Friday Alan Ford counted 10 Turnstones still present on the quay at Teignmouth port.

Saturday 13 April 2019

Wheatears at last

After several fruitless checks of the racecourse over the past few weeks, today finally paid of with a couple of smart male Wheatears together on the northern side; also present were two Sand Martins and a Swallow. A probable Reed Warbler gave a burst of song on the other side of the railway but couldn't be confirmed in the brisk, cold easterly wind.

Friday 12 April 2019


Bundle Head looked glorious in the sunshine on Thursday morning, though the clear skies meant a drop-off in the number of migrants, with just one Willow Warbler and a handful of territorial Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. A surprise came in the form of a Firecrest creeping around some ivy in a hedgerow, rare in spring here. A female Kestrel was hunting the rough grassland by the cliff edge.

Monday 8 April 2019

Yellow Wagtail

Thick fog descended on Bundle Head soon after my arrival this morning, and the birding was unsurprisingly hard going. The bushes held four Willow Warblers, eight Chiffchaffs and 10 Blackcaps but not one of the male Redstarts that seem to be popping up at most other south coast locations. After an hour I was heading back to the car when a Yellow Wagtail came calling out of the mist and plonked down in the middle of Shaldon Golf Course for five minutes, before continuing its journey north.

Wednesday 27 March 2019


Totals from Passage House to Salcombe Dip yesterday morning comprised 77 Oystercatchers, 33 Curlew, five Redshanks, three Greenshanks,16 Mute Swans, 39 Shelducks, 11 Red-breasted Mergansers, three Mallards, two Cormorants, two Shags, 12 Little Egrets, 205 Herring Gulls, six Black-headed Gulls and singles of Common Sandpiper and Great Crested Grebe.

On Sunday afternoon the first Osprey of the year was reported fishing between Shaldon Bridge and Coombe Cellars.

Sunday 17 March 2019

Sand Martins

It was heartening to see three Sand Martins over the fields at Teigngrace this morning, battling against the hail showers. Five Little Egrets, eight Mute Swans and 85 Canada Geese were also present. Hackney Marshes produced two singing Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap in sub-song and overhead a Buzzard so pale that it had me briefly dreaming of light-morph Booted Eagle. Lastly an Eider, a Razorbill, three Great Northern Divers and 15 Common Scoters were off Teignmouth yacht club around midday.

Yesterday two Sandwich Terns flew south past Teignmouth and on Friday Laurie had another Green Sandpiper at Teigngrace.

Monday 25 February 2019


Still good numbers of wintering birds around the estuary yesterday morning. Totals included 215 Oystercatchers, 77 Curlew, 54 Redshanks, 27 Dunlin, 10 Turnstones, eight Ringed Plovers, eight Greenshanks, two Common Sandpipers, 15 Little Egrets, 14 Mute Swans, 13 Cormorants, 64 Shelducks, 21 Red-breasted Mergansers and a pair of Wigeon.

Sunday 17 February 2019

First migrants

Plenty of signs of spring around this morning including the start of Lesser Black-backed Gull passage, with 10 present between Passage House and Coombe Cellars. Normally only one or two are present on the estuary through the winter. Also noted during low tide the female Goldeneye, c.55 Common Gulls, two Wigeon, two Greenshanks and two Common Sandpipers.

Goldeneye - Passage House

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Velvet Scoters

Two Velvet Scoters were with a small group of six Common Scoter off Spray Point this afternoon in fairly choppy seas. It looked as if there was one female and one 1st winter male, although it was hard to tell due to the distance and conditions.

Also on the sea were 12 Red-throated Divers, one each of Great Northern Diver, Eider, Guillemot and Razorbill, and two Great Crested Grebe.

Sunday 3 February 2019

Racecourse birding

There was little evidence of any cold weather movement around the racecourse and Hackney Marshes on Saturday morning, with the former producing 14 Lapwings, a dozen or so Fieldfares, three Skylarks and a female Stonechat, and the latter 13 Reed Buntings. The best news of the morning was the cutting of the hedge alongside the foot/cycle path, allowing clear views across the racecourse once more.

Thursday 31 January 2019

Turnstones in a row

Alan Ford captured these 13 Turnstones roosting off Polly Steps, Teignmouth last weekend.

Thursday 24 January 2019


A fairly unremarkable count this morning with some wader numbers lower than average. Totals included 346 Oystercatchers, 70 Curlew, 41 Redshanks, 11 Turnstones, nine Dunlin, eight Ringed Plovers, five Greenshanks, three Common Sandpipers, the female Goldeneye, 20 Red-breasted Mergansers, 44 Shelducks and four Little Grebes. A look off Teignmouth seafront revealed the five Eiders, a couple of Razorbills and a pod of 6-7 Common Dolphins.

Sunday 20 January 2019

Firecrest, Goldeneye, Eiders and divers

A few bits and pieces from various sites today included a Firecrest and 16 Tufted Ducks at Decoy Country Park, the wintering female Goldeneye at Passage House, a Peregrine over Coombe Cellars and close views of a Water Rail at Hackney Marshes. A look at the sea off Teignmouth yacht club around noon was quite productive with the five Eiders, 13 Common Scoters, 14+ Guillemots, three Great Northern Divers and a good total of 13 Red-throated Divers, eight of which arrived in a single flock.

Decoy Country Park

Sunday 13 January 2019

Velvet Scoter

A Velvet Scoter was with 10 Common Scoter off Sprey Point this morning with singles of Great Northern Diver and Guillemot, with a distant feeding flock of Gannets and Kittiwakes far offshore.

On the estuary, 270+ Oystercatcher were roosting at Flow Point with eight Dunlin and a lone Red-breasted Merganser out on the water. At least 37 Curlew were at Passage House.

On Decoy Lake, the Tufted Duck count has increased to 15 with the Great Northern Diver having seemingly departed.

The Green Sandpiper was still present at Teigngrace in the exact same spot.

Green Sandpiper

Tuesday 8 January 2019

Green Sandpiper

A Green Sandpiper was present on the flooded field at Teigngrace late this afternoon with 11 Teal and a Stonechat.

Teal with Green Sandpiper (right)

Friday 4 January 2019

Welcome to 2019

Happy New Year to all. There are few observers around the patch as we start off 2019 but still a few good birds to be found. Lingering scarcities from 2018 include five Eider off Teignmouth, the Great Northern Diver on Decoy Lake and the Goldeneye on the upper estuary.

A morning around the patch on the 2nd saw four Mistle Thrush on the racecourse, 10 Golden Plover over Hackney Marshes where two Water Rail and a Cetti's Warbler showed well, 10 Tufted Duck with the diver at Decoy and on the estuary from Lower Netherton four Avocet with 84 Curlew, 56 Redshank, 11 Lapwing and six Greenshank.

A colour-ringed Black-headed Gull (yellow TJ3A) seen by Dave Smallshire at Decoy Lake coming to bread on 1 January was ringed as a chick at a lake in SW Poland, Zalew Mietkowski (SW of Wroclaw) on 11 June 2017, and was seen by Nick Potter at Bowling Green Marsh on 19 June 2018.