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.