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A Devonian Plays Around the Exe!

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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 12:08   #1
Andrew
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Talking A Devonian Plays Around the Exe!

Yesterday was the Devon Bash and only a few people turned up but it proved to be a great day out. The members were Peter Hayes, John J, Kingfisher, TonyH, Myself and one guest. Here is my diary entry for the day, apologies if you find it too long . . . .

15-02-03
Location : Bowling Green Marsh, Devon. SX973875

The day started off well with Peter running up the road telling me of the Glossy Ibis in a field just past the hide and I was delighted to find the friendly bird no more than five or six metres away probing into a soft sodden patch of grass with so many people watching from behind the railings. Even passing cars did not flush the bird away! Peter, John and Kingfisher were snapping away with their Nikons like there was no tomorrow. Prior to this I spotted some other birds on the short walk to the Glossy and they were 4 Blue Tits, one of 2 Dunnocks, 6 Moorhen, 3 Canada Geese, 2 Greylag Geese, four of 12 Wood Pigeons, six of 15 Carrion Crows, a single Jackdaw, 2 Blackbirds, a Robin and a solitary Long Tailed Tit at the bowl by the hide. Whilst everyone watched the Glossy I scrutinized the trees lining the field and picked out a Magpie, 2 Redwings, 2 Greenfinches and six of 18 Coots in the grass. Above us a Grey Heron and a Cormorant flew over and looking at the lake over the gate I could see the resident 4 Spoonbills. Finally after about forty five minutes we left the Glossy and settled in the hide to scan the birds and found lots of wildfowl with many waders too. The birds obvious to us in numbers were at least 600+ Lapwings, 500+ Wigeon, exactly 97 Black Tailed Godwits, 130+ Teal and 40 Pochard. The tide was low so this obviously reduced the number of waders we were seeing but the supporting cast was first-class and the pick of the bunch were 16 Shoveler courting, with pairs going round in circles. The star birds for me were 3 Ruff scurrying around speedily showing their mottled scaly plumage and reddish orange legs well. I had my first ones last week but these gave me more satisfaction as they were on home soil. Tony had to bid farewell as this early point. Whilst panning from the left I caught a brief glimpse of a Snipe which I tried my best to show to the others but it did not come out again. The catalogue was complemented by a sole Shelduck, 40 Pochard, 6 Curlew and a lonely Oystercatcher. There was a Redshank in the northern edge of the field which I wrongly suspected of being a Spotted Redshank but dismissed it after it turned round to face us revealing a less than white front. We refuelled with a cuppa and set off to Topsham’s Recreation Ground. Being a Saturday we struggled for parking and managed to obtain two uncertain spots in a residential area just past the park and set off to my favoured viewpoint near the benches. The scopes soon came out and we surveyed the exposed mudflats and shingle finding 11 Redshanks, one Curlew, 500+ Black Headed Gulls, 32 Common Gulls and a single Black Tailed Godwit. I found some of 8 Snipe feeding in the mud along the edge of the reed bed point and shouted out every time I got another until I had four then a moment later Peter upstaged me by claiming eight birds! I looked over the area again and indeed there were eight glorious Snipe there well hidden just in the edge of the reeds with only one feeding brazenly out in the open. A little stroll further up the river and we searched a shingle patch finding two of 6 Pied Wagtails bathing in the shallow water, Kingfisher heard what he suspected to be a Reed Bunting and we explored in vain for it. A little brown job flew past us along the edge of the river and I followed it without finding it again leaving me a trifle miffed. John found 4 Goldeneyes up river, all females. The final bird here was a tiny tail bobbing Common Sandpiper along the east bank. I was quite disappointed in the lack of any unusual gulls such as Ring Billed, Med or Yellow Legged from this reliable stretch of river.

15-02-03
Location : Exminster Marshes and Turf Lock, Devon. SX958875 & SX965862

After a short drive from Topsham we arrived at the RSPB car park just outside Exminster behind the Swan’s Nest pub for the next stage of our birding day. John hardly got out of the car and he spotted a pair of Kestrels on a tall pylon. They soon performed an aerial courtship display of hovering together tails spread and skilfully flapping their wings rapidly to remain in one spot in the sky. Occasionally one would fly into the other trying to grab the talons, I could not see whether it was the male doing this but I would suspect it was. As soon as we were kitted up we delayed our walk with views of the Kestrels for nearly fifteen minutes and just after going through the gate a male Reed Bunting flashed in front of me towards some phragmites. We then set off up the western path towards the Turf Lock hotel and it proved to be a muddy path at various parts. The list was built up on the way to the Turf bit by bit with this side of the marshes not being the best side for birding in winter. The additions were 2 Grey Herons, 4 Mute Swans, 2 Robins, a lone Moorhen, a Dunnock and 2 Blue Tits. On the edge of a field halfway twenty three of 73 Curlews were feeding with the other fifty flying in a short while later. We soon reached the home straight to the Turf on the edge of a field and a Kingfisher hurriedly flashed over up a chocolate coloured stream and a distant Song Thrush moved through some trees. A flock of birds captured all our attentions and they alighted in a small tree near the Turf and these were a much appreciated 17 Meadow Pipits that flew off as we tried inching closer to them. As we crossed the lock holding up the Exeter Canal three of us were surprised to witness a Small Tortoiseshell flitting about landing a few feet away from us before going back up onto the slate clad pub wall basking in the warm sunshine. We soon occupied some tables and consumed our lunches before looking out on to the estuarine mudflats where I counted 197 Avocets for as far as I could see over the large estuary view. It was not so easy telling the difference between the Godwits when they were a fair way off but I managed to count a plain grey 37 Black Tailed Godwits and a scalier 56 Bar Tailed Godwits. I was studying one of 22 Redshanks close by on the west bank to the left with a lot of interest in the white eye ring as this is a feature not discernable at a distance. I also counted 15 Curlew, 1000+ Dunlin, 100+ Black Headed Gulls, 33 Shelducks and 16 Oystercatchers spread out all over the mudflats. The star birds here for me were 71 Golden Plovers, 23 Grey Plovers, 2 Red Breasted Mergansers and 2 Sanderling courtesy of Kingfisher. There were probably more Sanderling but I could only glimpse two. The rising tide prompted us to begin the return to the cars to catch the returning waders at Bowling Green. We went back along the sturdier canal towpath with higher views over the marshes and we soon added a Buzzard roosting on a fence post overlooking a grazing flock of 12 Pheasants. I was very certain I had glimpsed an orange breasted Brambling with 2 Chaffinches landing on a tip of a tree and flying off to the east but something made me unsure of the Brambling so it will not count as my first. Halfway along the towpath we came across a grand view of a group of flood pools and counted approximately 275 Wigeon, 12 Tufted Ducks, 50+ Teal, a single Cormorant. The star cast of the wildfowl were 2 Gadwalls and 6 Pintails with two resplendent males showing off their long slender tails when upending to feed. Down the end of the track connecting the two car parks three groups of 68 Redwings moved west roosting in a few trees along the way. I had glorious views under directly underneath some before seeing the rest in another tree soon as I caught up with the others. As we arrived back in the car park we found the Kestrels were still hovering near the pylon. Back at Bowling Green the Glossy Ibis showed well again but John wanted to see the Goatwalk. From there I counted 57 Shelducks on the River Exe which was comparatively empty being a high tide and late in the evening but this was more than made up for by a magnificent amber sunset that shimmered across the river. You could make out several waders roosting on the far side in the haze such as Avocets, Godwits and Curlews. Gulls were everywhere but there were no special ones to be seen unfortunately. Kingfisher bid farewell and set off towards Topsham whilst John and I had a last peek from the hide for a short while and he soon left. I stayed on a short while to increase the numbers of birds I counted earlier in the morning with a strong 68 Shoveler courting and other birds going up into the upper hundreds. The day ended with a clean white Little Egret which was a worthy conclusion to a fulfilling day out in the company of nice and polite friends.

The picture attached shows John, Kingfisher and Peter looking out over the estuary from the Turf.
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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 12:10   #2
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Another Turf Piccy.

This is another picture of the Turf
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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 12:11   #3
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Avocet

Here is a poor scoped piccy of an Avocet, the others may have some better pics from the day. Hopefully we will see them in the Gallery.
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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 13:02   #4
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Excellent Andrew, I really wish I had been there. I'm glad peter didn't have to eat humble pie regarding the Glossy too!

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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 14:30   #5
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Thank you for sharing your trip. The tour was not too long,in fact,it was not long enough and the pics were such fun to see. Are you all weraring BF Hats? Can I buy one of these hats? Even if I can't go with you,I could wear my hat when I take the Tour here.
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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 14:39   #6
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Andrew,

What an excellent report, as usual. With the photos added as well, it gives a vivid picture of the day. BTW, how do you count EXACTLY 97 Black-tailed Godwits. If I see a large number of birds, I get to about ten birds, and so many of them have moved by that time I give up!

Please, someone give LuBird a hat!
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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 15:23   #7
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Thanks very much Andrew for that lovely report; well written, and compiled with you usual accuracy. It was good to spend the day with and your guest, and to meet Kingfisher for the first time. We also met BF member Dave, but he went his own way.

Digi birder: I can tell you how Andrew knows there were exactly 97 Black-tailed Godwits. He counts them - every single one. Whereas most people (like me) would give up, he sticks to the task!

Booga: there was absolutely no chance of us not seeing the Glossy Ibis. With John J threatening all sorts (on my person) if it didn't show, I made sure it came within a few feet of the only gap in the tree line!

You'd have thought JohnJ would be a spectacularly happy Bunny, wouldn't you? Not a bit of it! He wanted to record this historic event, and started digiscoping just as the GI was showing brilliantly right in front of us. We then heard a series of expletives, as nothing seemed to go right for poor old John, who had got up at 03.30 to drive down from Birmingham. Here is an edited version (swear words removed of course)

It moved.

It's got its back to me.

It's got its head hidden.

It flew off.

Why won't he look this way?

It's not fair.

I only want one decent shot.

Why won't it stand still?

I think there is potential here for a manual here! John then reviewed his pictures lamenting that all he could see was a series of images of a headless Glossy Ibis!

As for me, I had the scope and the camera, but sadly no adaptor (taht arrives next week). Luckily, the GI was close enough to take shots just using the camera, and when I get back to London and set up my new computer system I'll hope to post some pix on the site for the first time. It'll be appropriate that they will be of the GI, as this was the bird that started me off birding in the first place.

Thanks to everyone for another great BF day out!

Peter
 
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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 18:13   #8
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Lovely account of the Day. I felt almost with you all , I had a lovely birding time in Norfolk and the pubs were good fun too, Norfolk people are chatty and full of charm loved the place ,might buy a little cottage there.
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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 18:40   #9
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Hi Peter et al,
"Here is an edited version (swear words removed of course)"
Have NEVER seen a Glossy Ibis ANYWHERE!!Could launch into a tirade of abuse myself...;-)
Will eventually see one over here,though,and probably a Killdeer as well,but I've given up on the recent Killdeer,it's surely gone by now.
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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 18:52   #10
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What can i say about our day together at the Devon Bash that Andrew and Peter have not said already, the company was simply fantastic and i would go birding with Andrew, Peter and John J any time they were a real great bunch, i look forward to seeing Andrew and Peter at BGM in the weeks and months ahead.

Andrew a great report, and it was good to meet you at last, now about these sneaky photos you took of us at turf lock......i look forward to meeting you again there, thanks for the cap Peter, i can now go birding with both my wolly hat and the BF forum hat on together...what a sight that will be.....i know i speak for all that were present to see the Glossy Ibis up close, we will not forget that experience for a long time to come.........
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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 19:29   #11
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Thanks for all your kind words and I am really glad I managed to put it across so that you could feel you were there.

DigiBirder, As for counting them. I simply pan slowly counting off each bird as I see one. Sometime it is boring but on a great day like that i have enough enthusiasm to motivate me to do it. When they seem numerous as the Dunlins were I conservatively estimate them hence me saying a 1000. There were probably 3000 but I will not bother counting them if there are that many! When they are numerous and packed together I count say ten or twenty and picture how wide the said portion of the flock is then pan and count the portions then multiply them. But when they are spread out over the estuary it is easier to be accurate. At Slimbridge I almost bought a tally counter for twenty quid but my common sense prevented that. Now I wish I had!

To cap it all off I saw a possible Bonaparte's Gull at Shobrooke Lake today! As if it couldn't get better. I have alerted the net about it and written to the county recorder. I do worry about having my neck chopped off but it has to be shouted about or no one will believe me if it is one. All the hallmarks pointed to it being a Bonaparte's.
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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 19:34   #12
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Hi Andrew,
What did you get on the poss.Bonaparte's?They really are quite distinctive if seen any bit well.Not only are they smaller(but larger than Little Gull),but they lack the dark underside to the outer primaries,have pink legs,darker grey mantle(subtle difference),a grey "shawl" on the hindneck and breast sides,more defined black spot on ear coverts,finer black bill and 1st-w birds have a blacker(less brown)carpal bar.
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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 19:45   #13
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Harry,
Thanks for the notes and interest. Here is my field notes summarised, it was slightly smaller than the adjacent Black Headed Gulls but too large for a Little Gull. The head was in full summer plumage and the black head went further down the back of the neck than the Black Headed Gulls'. The wings were a darker grey than the BHG yet still light. The wing tips (primaries) were very similar to the BHG's. The decisive factors were the white eye ring and jet black slim bill that was identical in structure to the BHG's with absolutely no hint of redness at all and seemless continuation of the black head to the black bill. I am open to a possible BHG with an anomaly but I am very confident of it and hope the DBWPS recorder informs someone and they go out looking for it tomorrow. My neck is feeling the strain.

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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 19:48   #14
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Hi Andrew,
Sounds very good to me!As it was in summer plumage,you should have noticed that the head is actually black,not chocolate brown as in BH Gull?Best of luck with it.
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Old Sunday 16th February 2003, 19:51   #15
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That's right, as I said the bill and head are pitch black with no discolouration at all between the bill and head. Just hope I aint stuck my head out too far. I have to say the DBWPS members I have corresponded with so far have been very good though.
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Old Monday 17th February 2003, 00:20   #16
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Er!! Peter

Thanks for the explitive / deletives run down: LOL

I think that the problem is somthing on the settings of the camera. i may have done something incorrectly with setting it up as the problem was that every time I pushed the button it took two seconds for the photo to be taken and as you know, the G.I wasn't staying still for two seconds was he?. Still I have taken one or two that can go into the forum's gallery. One can go here.
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Old Monday 17th February 2003, 00:31   #17
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Nice one John. The frost on the shady bank and the shadow on the GI work really well, so profanities aside you got the shot!
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Old Monday 17th February 2003, 00:51   #18
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Thank You JohnJ!!!!! I thought I was never going to get to see the infamous Glossy Ibis. A very nice bird indeedThe turf is so ,well, Brit. looking
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Old Monday 17th February 2003, 18:53   #19
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Thats a lovely piccy , you should be proud of this one , you caught it just right, i wish i had took it, envy envy,
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Old Tuesday 18th February 2003, 21:22   #20
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Nice shot John. You see, you were simply being pessimistic. I had every faith in you! Nice pic, and a lovely memory of a great day out. Best wishes to Kingfisher, too. I'll definitely see you at BGM again.
 
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Old Tuesday 18th February 2003, 22:21   #21
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This one and the one I put in the gallery was better than I expected. I was fairly happy with them in the end.

I will haver to find another subject to moan about now won't I?
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Old Wednesday 19th February 2003, 19:29   #22
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You'll no doubt manage to think of something John!
 
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Old Wednesday 19th February 2003, 19:39   #23
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I have never felt that JohnJ moans about anything. He, like me, merely points out ways that things could be better arranged.

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Old Wednesday 19th February 2003, 20:00   #24
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You're far too generous T0ny!

Actually, I left off the best excuse. We get JohnJ in position to see the only Glossy Ibis in the UK, a bird most people have never seen, and he actually complains:

"It's too close to digiscope!"

There's just no pleasing some people...........
 
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Old Wednesday 19th February 2003, 20:03   #25
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I like your style Tony, and Peter, just shut up!! LOL
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