Wednesday, 17 January 2018


The Long-tailed Duck was again present off the seafront late this afternoon. I took this awful photo from the Quay.
Just a brief whiz round late this afternoon. All the usual stuff still present with 3 Eider, 6+ Purple Sandpiper and 13 Common Scoter off Maer Rocks, and 2 Great Northern Diver and the Long-tailed Duck off the Quay.

Great Northern Divers

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Devon Flashback 14 - Black Duck

Male Black Duck - Slapton Ley 31/3/01
On the morning of October 29th 1999 I birded Start, Beesands and Slapton. I didn't see very much but at Start I bumped in to Adam Davidson who was back home in the South Hams for a while. Later that afternoon Adam found Devon's first Black Duck, from his house near Bowcombe Creek on the Kingsbridge estuary. I had a message from Tom Whiley at 4pm and shot all the way back down there, from Exeter, to twitch it. The bird was out of sight at first but soon appeared with a group of Mallard on one of the bends in the creek. We had friends coming down from Bristol that evening so I couldn't stay long. In the short time I was there I saw Pat Mayer, Perry, Mark Bailey, Dave Stone and Paul Clack.
The bird went on to put in a protracted stay in the area and was last seen on April 20th 2002. I caught up with it again on March 31st 2001, where I had more time to sketch and photograph it.
There hasn't been a Devon record since, of this north American species, but it's a bird that could show up again and it's one of the reasons I always scrutinise the Mallard flocks off Mudbank.
The only other Black Duck I've seen was just a year prior to that in 1998. Kev and I twitched an individual down at Stithians reservoir, Cornwall on October 30th. The same day we added to our 'Yank' duck tally with Ring-necked Duck at Stithians, American Wigeon on the Hayle estuary and Surf Scoter at Helston.
Field notes for the Slapton bird.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Exmouth Latest

This pair of Chiffies were the first I've seen in Exmouth for ages. Both were feeding in gardens, and around boats, in the Shelly Beach area yesterday.
I had my usual look off Maer Rocks at first light this morning - 3 immature drake Eider, 2 Common Scoter, 2 Purple Sandpiper, 6 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 1 Little Egret and 3 Turnstone.
A quick look off the Grove revealed the wintering Long-tailed Duck, 6 Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Great Northern Diver.
Shelly Beach failed to produce the hoped-for Black Redstart or Bonaparte's Gull but the Slavonian Grebe was scoped, along with a further 2 Great Northern Diver.
Other odds and ends today included a surprise Jay along the seafront, Treecreeper in Manor Gardens and a flock of c30+ Meadow Pipits in fields around West Lodge. Mudbank produced just 5 or 6 Goldeneye and a Mediterranean Gull. The Sowden Lane finch flock included c10/20+ Brambling, an estimated 200+ Linnet, several Chaffinch, a few Greenfinch and a Reed Bunting.
Yesterday the 3 Eider were off Maer Rocks, 2 Chiffchaff were in the Shelly Beach area and off Mudbank were c50+ Dunlin, 5 Goldeneye, 2 Mediterranean Gull and 10+ Great Crested Grebe.
On the 11th there was a female Blackcap in scrub around Warren View playing fields and on the 10th there were exceptional (at this stage in the winter) numbers of wildfowl off Mudbank. Birds had presumably been displaced from marshes at the north end of the river. They included c50+ Teal, 6+ Shoveler and c7/800+ Wigeon.

c10/20+ Brambling were showing superbly in the Sowden Lane area. The birds are feeding on the seed-heads of sunflowers.

Treecreeper - Manor Gardens
One of the two regular adult Mediterranean Gulls - this one is red-ringed PPJ1. The other is a green-ringed bird. At some point I'll get round to finding out where they're from.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Ye Olde Devon List Update

Elegant Tern - copy of field notes.

Thanks to the BOU adding Elegant Tern to the British list, I can finally add this species to my Devon list, and so can all the Devon birders who haven't done so already! I twitched the Dawlish Warren bird on May 18th 2002. It becomes my 340th Devon species, which is respectable I suppose, but well below the boys at the top, that must be nudging 370 species (please correct me if I'm wrong Mark).
I thought I'd lost Common Redpoll but the IOC has kept it on, so the bird I found in Topsham in February 2001 still stands.
As of January 1st 2018 I've been able to count Eastern Yellow Wagtail (thank you Phil Abbot) but my Fea's/Zino's Petrel (Prawle August 1999) has presumably become Fea's/Deserta's/Zino's, or do I have to lose it altogether? Thoughts welcome! Actually stuff that - I'm keeping it on.
I've only seen one Devon 'Isabelline' Shrike - the 1987 Wembury bird, which I suspect was Isabelline (Daurian) rather than Red-tailed (Turkestan) Shrike, but I'd appreciate clarification on that if anyone knows otherwise. I'm keeping it on my list as Isabelline/Red-tailed Shrike for the time being. I'm annoyed at myself for not twitching the subsequent Devon birds and will be making the effort to go and see the next one!
Finally there's a chance I'll be able to add Taiga Bean Goose soon. Two birds present on Exminster Marshes, back in January 1997, showed pro-Taiga features but Dave Land's video footage will need to be analysed by the Devon Birds rarities committee to be sure. The results are eagerly-awaited.
For anyone interested, my Devon list can be viewed by clicking on the tab on the menu bar at the top of this page.

Common (Mealy) Redpoll - Topsham Rec Feb 2001 - photo Pete and Carol Leigh

Eastern Yellow Wagtail field sketches - Colyford 12/12/10
Eastern Yellow Wagtail - Colyford 12/12/10
Likely 'Daurian' or Isabelline Shrike - Wembury 14/11/87. I did these field sketches when I was a kid but will have to count it as either Daurian or Turkestan Shrike on my Devon list.
Field sketches of 2 Bean Geese (possibly Taigas?) - Exminster Marshes 4/1/97 - this pair was present with 33 Mute Swan, 1 Whooper Swan and 6 Bewick's Swan! Nice.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Lapwing and Firecrests

Lapwing is a scarce and irregular visitor to Exmouth so today's, off Mudbank, was a real treat.
Counts off Mudbank today included 1 Peregrine, 1 Lapwing, 55 Mallard, 18 Pintail, 5 Teal, 5+ Red-breasted Merganser, c300+ Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 2 Pale-bellied Brent Goose, 1 Great Northern Diver, 14 Wigeon, 10+ Grey Plover, 17 Little Egret and a decent count of c60+ Common Gull.
The 3 Eider were off Maer Rocks first thing, along with 11 Common Scoter, and 2 Great Northern Diver off the Grove.
Two Firecrest were watched, down to a few feet, in the usual spot behind the cricket club.
Curlew - Mudbank
Red-breasted Merganser - Mudbank

Firecrest - one of 2 wintering behind the cricket club.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte's Gull - Shelly Beach
The long-staying Bonaparte's Gull was showing well off Shelly Beach late this afternoon. I think it's the first time I've seen it since February. Also off Shelly Beach  - 2 Great Northern Divers.
Off Maer Rocks this morning - the 3 immature drake Eider and off Mudbank - 34 Pintail, 30+ Common Gull, 60+ Grey Plover, 8 Wigeon, 1 Goldeneye, c50+ Knot and c25+ Sanderling.


One of two Great Northern Divers off Shelly Beach.
This Guillemot shows down to a few feet in the marina. It has been around for ages now.

Monday, 1 January 2018

New Year's Day

Three immature drake Eider - Maer Rocks - click to enlarge.
Nick and I had a look off the seafront first thing this morning, and I popped out again late afternoon to grill a large flock of c300+ Gannet. Totals included 3 Eider, 9 Common Scoter, 3 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Long-tailed Duck, 3 Great Northern Diver, 2 Red-throated Diver, 6 Purple Sandpiper and 3 Turnstone. Large numbers of auks seemed to be mostly Guillemot and there were a number of Kittiwake knocking around. Best bird was a Great Skua that was sniffing around the periphery of the Gannet flock this afternoon.