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.