Sunday 17 December 2023

WeBS, Purple Sandpiper

It was heartening to hear a couple of Song Thrushes singing around the patch today; on the estuary itself it was still very much mid-winter in terms of numbers and variety. Totals included 371 Oystercatchers, 64 Curlew, 53 Turnstones, 40 Redshanks, 10 Greenshanks, 27 Dunlin, nine Ringed Plovers, one Common Sandpiper, 28 Red-breasted Mergansers (good to see them back in numbers), 22 Shelducks, 12 Cormorants, eight Mute Swans, two Little Grebes, eight Little Egrets, one Great Northern Diver (by Shaldon Bridge), 16 Common Gulls, one Lesser Black-backed Gull and one Kingfisher

Purple Sandpiper was photographed below the Point car park in Teignmouth on Thursday, but there was no sign of it today.

Turnstones (Alan Ford)

Pied Wagtail (Alan Ford)

Tuesday 21 November 2023

WeBS, Spotted Redshank

Blustery, drizzly weather and a low spring tide did not make for ideal counting conditions on Sunday morning, but the Spotted Redshank was picked up off Passage House as it came to roost with c.50 Redshanks. At the other end of the estuary 45 Turnstones were split between the Shaldon bridge (21) and the pontoon off Teignmouth back beach (24). Other totals included 205 Oystercatchers, 74 Curlew, 27 Dunlin, 13 Greenshanks, three Ringed Plovers, 12 Shelducks, five Little Grebes, nine Cormorants, eight Shags and one Great Crested Grebe.


Thursday 16 November 2023

Marsh Tits

Rackerhayes was good value for passerines on Wednesday morning, the highlight being three Marsh Tits - my best count for the site. Also one Firecrest, one or two Chiffchaffs, 20+ Siskins, two Treecreepers, two Nutchatches and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers among the more common residents. Tufted Ducks have finally started to return with four birds present on the main pond.

Monday 13 November 2023


The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in the frequency of Firecrest sightings around the patch, to the point now where they are almost expected in the right habitat on a late autumn or winter's day, and it is likely that breeding will be proven in the next few years. Over the weekend I came across three separate individuals at Bundle Head, The Ness and Decoy; at the latter site they are often found in the holly understorey of the woodland south and west of the lake. Not a lot else was noted; many thousands of Woodpigeons were picked up distantly from Bundle Head on Saturday morning but most appeared to head inland following the estuary rather than the coast.

Tuesday 31 October 2023

The tide is high

Sunday morning saw one of the highest spring tides in recent years, resulting in the usual estuary roosts becoming almost completely submerged. Consequently many of the waders were flighty and unsettled, especially the Redshanks which prevented an accurate count but a minimum of 100 were scattered about between Salcombe Dip and Passage House. Also noted 208 Oystercatchers, 28 Curlew, seven Ringed Plovers, six Greenshanks, five Dunlin, one Black-tailed Godwit, three Kingfishers, 21 Little Egrets, three Little Grebes, two Wigeon and a Teal. A flock of 16 Shags floating downriver was an odd sight, but the most unusual record of the morning was a Kestrel that flew over Passage House; this species is now very scarce locally away from the coast.

Sunday 22 October 2023

Happy hour

I could only manage 60 minutes on Bundle Head this morning but it proved to be an hour very well spent. In clear, calm conditions passerines were on the move before sunrise, with pigeons joining the party shortly afterwards. From 07:45 - 08:45 I logged 4,150 Woodpigeons, 210 Goldfinches, 169 Meadow Pipits, 95 Chaffinches, 91 Linnets, 53 Siskins, 19 Pied/White Wagtails, 17 Swallows, seven Stock Doves, six Bullfinches, three Song Thrushes and singles of Redpoll, Skylark and Great Spotted Woodpecker all heading south. The Woodpigeons attracted the attention of a couple of Peregrines which succeeded in splitting up several large flocks without reducing any in number. 

Elsewhere this afternoon Kev found a 1cy Caspian Gull on The Salty, and on Thursday a Little Gull showed well to several observers off the Point car park in Teignmouth.

Woodpigeons at Bundle Head (Hope's Nose in the background)

Monday 2 October 2023

Cattle Egret

Mild, murky conditions at Bundle Head first thing on Sunday morning were not conducive to overhead passage, but two Grey Wagtails and 11 Siskins went south along with c.150 hirundines (mainly House Martins). The bushes weren't much better although four Firecrests was a decent total, and a pair of Kestrels was lurking along the cliffs. 

Onto Flow Point, where a very high spring tide had submerged most of the saltmarsh and concentrated roosting birds on the far ridge. Quality was provided by a Cattle Egret in with the Little Egrets, the first patch Grey Plover for a couple of years, and a Spotted Redshank (possibly the returning bird from last winter). Also present 61 Curlew, 17 Redshanks, five Greenshanks, a Black-tailed Godwit and a Turnstone.

Cattle Egret

Sunday 24 September 2023

Great Shearwater

An evening seawatch off Teignmouth in the wake of ex-hurricane Nigel saw a single Great Shearwater head south along with five more distant large shearwater sp. Also passing six Balearic Shearwater, eight Sandwich and a Common Tern and an Arctic Skua with a Great Northern Diver on the sea.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Cory's Shearwater

With news of large shearwaters off Budleigh Salterton first thing (thanks Laurie for the text) I headed to Teignmouth after the nursery run for a 1hr 20 minute pre-work seawatch. Despite the stormy conditions visibility was pretty good (at least initially) and I immediately picked up on a steady stream of Balearic Shearwaters heading south - 142 were logged in total, including a couple of groups of 20+. No sign of any large shearwaters for over half an hour when I eventually picked up a Cory's Shearwater in the middle distance at 09:00, an extremely satisfying patch tick for me having missed out on the epic seawatch of July 2017! Four Storm Petrels also went through, with one only a few hundred metres offshore, along with five Arctic Skuas, three Sandwich Terns, numerous Gannets and Kittiwakes and just a handful of Manx Shearwaters.

Monday 18 September 2023


Ten species of wader on the estuary on Sunday morning but nothing unusual noted. Totals were 341 Oystercatchers, 40+ Curlew, 17 Dunlin, 10 Ringed Plovers, eight Common Sandpipers, five Greenshanks, two Turnstones, two Whimbrel and singles of Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit. Also noted 36 Canada Geese, 25 Mallards, 10 Mute Swans, 26 Little Egrets, 12 Cormorants, a Kingfisher and a Sandwich Tern.

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Osprey double act

Great to see two Ospreys circling over the upper estuary on Tuesday morning; there were subsequent sightings of at least one bird from Passage House later in the day, and presumably one of the two drifted over Kingsteignton at 10:30 this morning (my second sighting from home this year). Waders between Flow Point and Passage House on Tuesday included 58 Curlew, four Whimbrel, 16 Greenshanks, six Common Sandpipers, four Dunlin, two Ringed Plovers and a Black-tailed Godwit.

Saturday 26 August 2023

Spot Fly

Bundle Head on Friday morning produced one Spotted Flycatcher, three Whitethroats, eight Blackcaps, two Stonechats, c.20 Swallows, c.50 House Martins and one Sand Martin. At Passage House 31 Little Egrets, seven Whimbrel, six Common Sandpipers and the first two Kingfishers of the autumn.

Spotted Flycatcher

House Martins

Sunday 20 August 2023

WeBS, Osprey

I usually manage to catch at least one Osprey on the Teign Estuary each year but it's taken a decade to finally see one succeed in catching a fish. Today's bird (an adult) spent about 20 minutes hunting between Coombe Cellars and Ringmore before finally succeeding and carrying its prey off inland over Bishopsteignton at 10:00. Prior to this the WeBS count revealed good numbers of waders on the estuary, with 317 Oystercatchers, 57+ Curlew, 21 Ringed Plovers, 13 Greenshanks, 11 Dunlin, 10 Common Sandpipers, five Whimbrels and three Turnstones present between Teignmouth and Passage House. Also noted 131 Canada Geese, 31 Mute Swans, 15 Mallards, 38 Little Egrets, seven Cormorants, two Sandwich Terns, c.450 Black-headed Gulls, c.250 Herring Gulls, five Great Black-backed Gulls and a Mediterranean Gull

Sunday 13 August 2023

Tree Pipit

A Tree Pipit was the highlight of a fairly quiet ninety minutes on Bundle Head this morning. It pitched up in a patch of bramble scrub that also held two Whitethroats and a male and juvenile Stonechat. Otherwise just three Blackcaps, one Willow Warbler, 6+ Bullfinches, a juvenile Green Woodpecker and a handful of Chiffchaffs in the hedgerows.

Sunday 6 August 2023

Tern passage

Another fairly productive seawatch (by Teignmouth standards) from 06:15 - 08:00 on Saturday morning. Small groups of terns were heading south, with totals of 54 Sandwich Terns and 18 Common Terns logged; some of these may have roosted at Dawlish Warren on Friday evening. Gannet and Kittiwake were also moving in good numbers especially during breaks in the rain, estimated at 300+ and 400+ respectively. Also noted 30 Manx Shearwaters, six Common Scoters, five Mediterranean Gulls (four adults and a juvenile), two Arctic Skuas, two Turnstones, a Guillemot and a Fulmar.

Saturday 15 July 2023

Pomarine Skua

A short Teignmouth seawatch from 16:40 - 17:40 on Friday after the worst of the rain had cleared was productive, with a dark Pomarine Skua at 17:35 the highlight. There were also four Arctic Skuas, three of which were hassling Kittiwakes, and a flock of c.40 Common Scoters on the sea. Heading south were 29 Manx Shearwaters, six Sandwich Terns, a juvenile Common Tern, four Mediterranean Gulls, a Great Black-backed Gull and a Fulmar.

This evening a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull on the Salty, with it or another also around the estuary mouth on Thursday. 

Sunday 9 July 2023

WeBS, Med Gull influx

July is the best month for Mediterranean Gulls on the Teign Estuary as birds disperse from breeding colonies, and a total of 14 at Passage House over high tide this morning was a good count although there were no juveniles amongst them. There was a reasonable mix of waders on the estuary including 42 Curlew, 29 Oystercatchers, three Greenshanks, three Common Sandpipers, one Black-tailed Godwit and one Whimbrel. Other totals included 132 Canada Geese, 40 Mute Swans, 30 Mallards, four adult Shelducks plus four recently fledged young, 31 Little Egrets, three Grey Herons, 240 Black-headed Gulls (five juveniles) and five Cormorants.

Two adult Mediterranean Gulls and a second-summer bird among Black-headed Gulls

Sunday 18 June 2023

Osprey, WeBS

Thanks to the local gulls sounding the alarm I was able to pick up an Osprey over my house heading towards the estuary at 13:45 yesterday. This is the second June Osprey on the patch in three years, with another bird following almost the same flight path in 2021. 

Typical mid-June fare around the estuary this morning: 134 Canada Geese, 49 Mute Swans, 14 Mallards, 12 adult Shelducks plus two juveniles, 18 Black-headed Gulls, 16 Little Egrets, 16 Oystercatchers, 15 Curlew and six Cormorants. A Coot was heard over Teignmouth last night with a Green Sandpiper on Wednesday night.

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Honk Honk, patch tick

...of sorts! A single Bar-headed Goose was heard calling over Teignmouth on the night of the 4th June, heading west amongst Canada Geese. Presumably the long-stayer from the Exe.

A Bar-tailed Godwit flew over early morning on the 2nd June, with a second calendar year Herring x Lesser Black-backed Gull hybrid on the Salty the next day. 

Saturday 3 June 2023

More rare herons

26th May saw the appearance of another two rare herons on the patch. Lee Collins had a Great White Egret at Passage House during the morning, last seen flying off in the direction of Flow Point. Having been absent prior to 2021, this species has now been recorded annually since. In the evening a Purple Heron flew in off the sea at Teignmouth and continued up the estuary (per Birdguides) but wasn't seen again unfortunately.

Late raptor news - a Red Kite was over Kingsteignton on 19th May.

Monday 8 May 2023

Whimbrels, Yellow Wagtail

Five Whimbrels were at Flow Point over high tide on Sunday morning. Few other waders present; just one Curlew and 41 Oystercatchers. As I was walking back to the car an unseen Yellow Wagtail called overhead.

Monday 1 May 2023

Firecrest, Wheatear

After missing out on yesterday's action I was keen to get to the coast this morning, but a strengthening north-westerly breeze and clear conditions no doubt contributed to Bundle Head being virtually devoid of migrants, except for a flighty male Wheatear and a skulking Firecrest. I was hoping for a Whinchat on the racecourse but it too was disappointing, with just two male Stonechats and 25 Linnets of note.

Monday 24 April 2023


Thick fog first thing on Sunday morning thwarted early attempts to cover Passage House, although a Whimbrel was heard and a male Mandarin was an unexpected flyover. Once visibility improved it was clear most birds were roosting at Flow Point, where totals included 41 Oystercatchers, 10 Curlew, 13 Shelducks, six Little Egrets and one Common Sandpiper. Another Common Sandpiper was at Polly Steps in Teignmouth, and six Turnstones were along the Back Beach. 

Tuesday 18 April 2023

Black Redstart

A smart male Black Redstart was the pick of the migrants on the racecourse this morning, viewed distantly from outside the Leisure Lounge Cafe. Also noted one Wheatear, one Whitethroat, two Swallows and 4+ Stonechats. Next door at Hackney Marshes two Reed Warblers and two Willow Warblers.

Saturday 15 April 2023

Night Heron

Reports of a Night Heron at Jetty Marsh on Thursday were confirmed on Friday lunchtime when an adult bird was located in willows behind B&Q. Luckily for me it stayed put until I finished work and was able to get there, although by the evening it wasn't showing as well as earlier in the afternoon (Mark Bailey has posted some decent pictures and a video on Twitter - thanks Mark for the updates). It was still present first thing this morning but flew off north at 08:00; there is plenty of suitable habitat in the area but unfortunately not all of it is accessible.

It has been an excellent spring so far for rarities around the Teign, and I've got a feeling we're not done yet!

Sunday 9 April 2023

Bonaparte's Gull

Really pleased to find an adult Bonaparte's Gull in near-full breeding plumage at Passage House today. I initially picked up the bird from the southern side of the estuary, where it was relatively distant but good light meant I was able to confirm the key ID features - black hood with no hint of brown, a fairly thin black bill, short bubblegum-pink legs, noticeably smaller - and with slightly darker grey upperparts - than nearby Black-headed Gulls. I waited until I'd driven round to Passage House and relocated it before I put the news out, since access to the southern side is limited at best. Unfortunately it was now dipping in and out of sight, and facing south the hazy sunshine bleached the colours, therefore it took a little while before everybody was able to get satisfactory views. Nice to bump into some familiar faces who managed to arrive quickly. It flew off down the estuary at 1pm but was relocated shortly before 6pm on the rising tide.

There have been quite a few records of Bonaparte's Gull on the Teign Estuary over the last decade, although most (if not all) sightings related to the same returning individual seen at several South Devon sites between 2011 and 2018. The last patch record was in March 2018

Tuesday 4 April 2023


On Newton Abbot Racecourse this morning one male Wheatear, four Stonechats (two pairs) and several singing Skylarks. The central barrier, much loved by passage Wheatears and Whinchats, has unfortunately been removed but the hedge along the cycle path has been cut, enabling better views of the racecourse.

The two Alpine Swift continue to roost each night at St Michael's Church, Teignmouth, now present for 16 days!

Yesterday the first Swallow over the year flew over Kingsteignton, whilst overnight a flock of Common Scoter were heard flying over Teignmouth.

Wednesday 29 March 2023

The swifts that keep on giving

It has been over a week now since the Alpine Swifts first appeared, and as of last night at least one was still roosting at St Michael's Church (picked up on thermal imaging scope). This has given the opportunity for birders from across Devon and further afield the opportunity to catch up with them as they return each evening to roost. The swifts have been harder to track as they emerge each day, but John Walters has posted a couple of excellent slow-motion videos on his Youtube channel showing one bird leaving the church tower on Sunday morning. With the unsettled weather continuing there is every chance the swifts will remain at least until the end of the week and perhaps for longer.

The swifts haven't appeared over the north side of Shaldon since their arrival, but the first two Sand Martin of the year were present this afternoon. 

Wednesday 22 March 2023

Alpine Swifts - day two

Up to three Alpine Swifts continued to grace the patch on Tuesday. There was no sign of any emerging from St Michael's Church at dawn, but shortly after one appeared around the top fields at Shaldon where it continued to show well on and off until mid-afternoon. I managed to get to Shaldon after work and quickly located one bird over fields behind the holiday park at 5pm, joined for a short while by a second before they flew off east at 5.30pm. Half an hour later three birds again appeared around St Michael's Church where they presumably went to roost. The consensus seems to be that the Teignmouth/Shaldon birds are different to the four Dawlish birds, and there may be up to 13 Alpine Swifts across Devon at present - what a time to be alive!

Record shot of one of the Shaldon birds

Monday 20 March 2023

Like buses...

The first Alpine Swift for the patch was found hawking over Shaldon and The Ness at midday, viewed distantly from Teignmouth, part a major national influx. More surprisingly a second bird was found alongside minutes later! Both remained for about 30 minutes, but one lingered over the Botanical Gardens, showing well to many happy observers. 

Later in the day they joined up again over fields south of Shaldon, with one just outside the patch over north Teignmouth soon after assumed the same...until three were together over the town.

The three birds were sweeping low around St Michael's Church, nr the station, occasionally landing and seemingly looking to roost but all left just after 6pm. before two returned and settled to roost mostly hidden above the clock-face on the north side. 

Monday 13 March 2023

Just a year tick...

There was a time when this dismissive moniker might have been applied to Ring-billed Gull. Back in the 1990s this species was virtually annual on patch, and in Mar 1994 at least seven different individuals were present. After 2002 there was an unexpected three year gap, with a single in Mar 2005 then none until Boxing Day 2014

Therefore seeing a smart adult Ring-billed Gull with Herring Gull on the Salty was like being a time warp, date and location as expected 30 years ago, but the first in Devon for eight years - a perfect example of shifting baseline syndrome!

Sadly it soon flew upriver as the tide receded and as yet no further sign.

Sunday 12 March 2023

WeBS, Spotted Redshank, Glaucous Gull

 A Spotted Redshank was roosting on the south side of the estuary just west of Arch Brook this morning. This is an under-watched area of the patch so this bird could be the same individual seen in November that has remained undetected over the winter. Counts from across the estuary this morning included 119 Oystercatchers, 46 Redshanks, 35 Curlew, five Greenshanks, 58 Shelducks, 18 Mute Swans, 17 Red-breasted Mergansers, eight Lesser Black-backed Gulls, seven Little Egrets, six Cormorants and one Great Crested Grebe.

On Thursday afternoon Tony Blunden had a first-winter Glaucous Gull on Teignmouth Pier briefly, a bird seen previously on the Exe and earlier that day in Torbay.

Sunday 26 February 2023


Spring felt a long way off this morning with a cold north-easterly wind tempering any warmth from the sun. Two Black-tailed Godwits at Passage House were new for the year, but there was not a lot else of note (some species may have already begun their migration towards breeding grounds). Totals included 186 Oystercatchers, 58 Curlew, 53 Redshanks, five Ringed Plovers, three Greenshanks, one Common Sandpiper, 50 Shelducks, 21 Mute Swans, nine Teal, just six Red-breasted Mergansers, 17 Little Egrets, seven Cormorants, six Shags (including one at Passage House) and three Little Grebes.

Monday 20 February 2023


 A Sunday morning stroll from The Ness to Bundle Head, then back inland behind Coast View holiday park, in glorious weather produced one Firecrest, 5+ Bullfinches, two singing Skylarks and, most unexpectedly, two Greylag Geese flying north. A handful of Chaffinches and Goldfinches also moving north perhaps hinted at some very early spring passage. 

On Wednesday Alan had two Rock Pipits along Teignmouth seafront.

Rock Pipit (Alan Ford)

Babbacombe Bay from Bundle Head

Sunday 5 February 2023

Water voles?

I was intrigued to see this sign by the reedbed at Coombe Cellars yesterday. If anyone knows anything about it I'd be interested to learn more!

A family walk around Decoy CP on Saturday morning produced a female Mandarin, 11 Tufted Ducks, two Great Crested Grebes on the lake with three Stock Doves, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker in the woods. Despite a completely flat sea just two Great Northern Divers were all that was noted off Teignmouth, but the Hooded Crow was seen again on the Salty.

Sunday 29 January 2023

Hooded Crow, Black-throated Diver

The discovery of a Hooded Crow on The Salty this morning by Rob Murphy was an unexpected but welcome addition to the patch list. It had the courtesy to stick around until mid-afternoon giving me a chance to catch up with it (and let Kev add it to his house list). Unfortunately it remained distant from Polly Steps; hopefully somebody on the Back Beach or elsewhere managed to get better shots than those below. 

Yesterday a Black-throated Diver was on the sea between Teignmouth and Holcombe from 11:30 - 12:00 at least; this was even more distant than the crow but the calm sea enabled reasonably good views. Also one Red-throated Diver, five Great Northern Divers, three Great Crested Grebes and eight Razorbills. Prior to this a visit to Wear Farm produced three Chiffchaffs, two Ravens and c.50 Redwings, and elsewhere a female Mandarin was on the river at Teigngrace.

Hooded Crow

Black-throated Diver

Sunday 22 January 2023


A high tide well before sunrise on core count day didn't make for ideal counting conditions, and numbers of some species (larger waders in particular) were down this morning compared with what are expected for January, although there was a reasonable variety on show. Totals included 297 Oystercatchers, 24 Curlew, 23 Turnstones, 22 Avocets, c.50 Redshanks, three Greenshanks, 16 Dunlin, 10 Snipe, two Ringed Plovers, two Lapwings, one Common Sandpiper, 33 Shelducks, 17 Red-breasted Mergansers, eight Teal, four Mute Swans, 22 Little Egrets, two Grey Herons, two Great Crested Grebes, four Little Grebes, 12 Common Gulls, one Lesser Black-backed Gulls and one Kingfisher. A very brief look off Teignmouth seafront revealed four Razorbills and another Great Crested Grebe offshore with six Fulmars back on the cliffs at Holcombe.

Monday 2 January 2023

New Year's Day

A 3.5hr morning walk taking in various Kingsteignton sites, plus a lunchtime scan from Teignmouth seafront, produced a healthy 71 species to start the year. Hackney Marshes provided a Firecrest, two Buzzards, a female Bullfinch and close views of a Water Rail. Three Kingfishers were present in the Passage House area, where 17 Avocets were feeding and a Chiffchaff called from the reeds. Rackerhayes was quieter than expected but did hold three Mandarins, 26 Tufted Ducks and various woodland species including Sparrowhawk, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Off Teignmouth, 6+ Great Northern Divers (with a probable Black-throated Diver reported), several Gannets, Razorbills and single Kittiwake and Fulmar. Twelve Turnstones were roosting on a boat off Polly Steps.