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A Devonian & Kingfisher Go Birding!

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Old Sunday 10th August 2003, 19:46   #1
Andrew
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Talking A Devonian & Kingfisher Go Birding!

09-08-03
Location : Dawlish Warren & Bowling Green Marsh, Devon. SX987795 & SX973875.

I watched an EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK being chased by some crows in on my walk to the bus station early in the morning. On the bus to Exeter to meet Kingfisher for a day’s birding, I saw plenty of birds from the upper deck including a COMMON KINGFISHER and a WHITE THROATED DIPPER on the River Exe. There was also a pair of COMMON BUZZARDS attacking a third one in a field that was spread out on the grass in submission. Along the ride to Exeter I struggled to read my book ‘The Snow Geese’ and look for new day birds but managed a good list at the end. These included COLLARED DOVE, HOUSE SPARROW, FERAL PIGEON, ROOK, CARRION CROW, COMMON CHAFFINCH, COMMON BLACKBIRD, COMMON STARLING, COMMON PHEASANT, MALLARD, COMMON MOORHEN, BARN SWALLOW, COMMON HOUSE MARTIN, a fourth COMMON BUZZARD and a few WESTERN JACKDAWS.

Kingfisher was waiting at Exeter and we set off for Dawlish Warren first where we were faced with an early morning mass dash to the beach by the tourists. As we anticipated we clocked some COMMON WHITETHROATS and COMMON STONECHATS in the scrub before entering the reserve proper. On top of some trees was an EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH and some EUROPEAN GREENFINCHES. Small flocks of COMMON LINNETS passed over us just as we came to the main pond and saw a huge blue dragonfly and some medium red ones too. There was a sideshow of birds in the trees surrounding the pond including a superb SEDGE WARBLER and a LONG TAILED TIT.

We passed the far edge of the woods and joined Greenland Lake without so much as a peep out of a bird but did watch a dazzling Jersey Tiger Moth and many butterflies including Painted Ladies, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Large Whites, a few Spotted Woods and some Common Blues. Greenland Lake provided very little and we reached the dunes seeing the sea for the first time.

It was very hot with a moderate breeze coming in off the sea and the distant horizon was masked by a humid sea mist. At first we thought there was no point doing a scan of the sea but we were very wrong there. Looking through our scopes we found a pair of GREAT CRESTED GREBES, a lonely RAZORBILL and a flock of 100+ COMMON SCOTERS that settled on the sea. During this a dark ‘gull’ flew past us in line with the shore. I looked twice before raising my bins and seeing a dark brown ‘gull’ with faint whites on the outer halves of the wings and shouted out “GREAT SKUA”. I was delighted with this as it was a lifer for me and it may have been for Kingfisher too. I was surprised how close the bird was to the shore. It was flying along about twenty to thirty metres off the shoreline with a purpose to the west. Soon after this a shadow on the beach made me look up to see a COMMON KESTREL quartering the beach which we found quite odd.

At noon we reached the cooler shade of the hide on the edge of the Bight. The tide was well out but there were birds to be found. At first we spotted the obvious which were 148 EURASIAN OYSTERCATCHERS, 150+ EURASIAN CURLEWS, 100+ SANDWICH TERNS and 40+ RINGED PLOVERS mixed in with 100+ DUNLIN. We then began to scan more studiously for other species picking up 4 COMMON REDSHANKS, 5 WHIMBRELS, a LITTLE EGRET and a COMMON GREENSHANK.

The Greenshank gave us a real headache as the distance and the haze made it appear to be something else. I could see some faint tramlines down the back and Kingfisher agreed. We found this odd in conjunction with the legs that appeared quite yellow. There was only one bird possible and that was a Pectoral Sandpiper. After watching it for a long while at a poorly zoomed up limit and finally seeing it run it’s bill through the water after some fish we concluded it could only be a Common Greenshank. Imagine the shame we would have had if we had claimed it as a Pectoral! This still did not explain the appearance of the thin broken tramlines on the back, not a feature I associate with Greenshanks.

I was just about to count the Sandwich Terns and spotted a trio of COMMON TERNS on the edge of the roost. The heat was building up in the hide and we wanted to get to Bowling Green Marsh in time for the high tide roost so we made our way back to the bus stop slogging through the awful sand dunes. Other birds recorded here at the Warren included HERRING GULL, BLACK-HEADED GULL, GREAT CORMORANT, EUROPEAN SHAG, LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL and a BLUE TIT.

At Cockwood harbour there were eight MUTE SWANS and the fifth Common Buzzard of the day. The bus stopped at the north of Topsham and seeing as we were a bit early, we decided to look at the Exe from the Recreation Ground. It was a good move as we found an adult winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL among a lot of Black-headed Gulls as well as 84 BLACK TAILED GODWITS and 6 COMMON GULLS.

We had a brief pause at the Goat Walk before reaching the Viewing Platform at Bowling Green Marsh over an hour before high tide. From this excellent vantage over the estuary we saw three amazing summer plumaged GREY PLOVERS on the far side, standing in the rising water. They had wonderful black faces and breasts that went down parallel with their legs separated from the grey upperparts by a narrow white border. The underparts were clean white beyond the black termination. Only one other new bird was seen here, thirteen COMMON SHELDUCKS. Many of the other birds would move onto the marsh when the water came in so I did not really attempt to count them all.

We settled into the hide a good hour ahead of high tide so there was a good selection of birds to be seen. First to be noticed were 82 CANADA GEESE, 2 GREYLAG GEESE, 15+ LITTLE EGRETS, 15 NORTHERN LAPWINGS, 44 COMMON GREENSHANKS, 150+ BLACK TAILED GODWITS, 100+ COMMON REDSHANKS, 5 WHIMBRELS, 100+ DUNLINS, 20+ EURASIAN CURLEWS, several EURASIAN COOTS and 3 GREY HERONS.

Looking beyond the obvious we could pick out some nice specialities and one was 5 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS among the Dunlins and Ringed Plovers. Kingfisher found these for me and said he could see eleven! There were 3 RUFF foraging all over the marsh with one leaving during our watch. Two COMMON SANDPIPERS could be seen too as well as 5 EURASIAN TEAL and a single LITTLE GREBE.

Izzy the GLOSSY IBIS put in an appearance in style, flying in and perching in a distant tree before swooping down to feed in the far right of the pool. I have never before seen Izzy perch in a tree and he did not look too good at it either, rocking backwards and forwards all the time. The resident young EURASIAN SPOONBILL flew in unnoticed by me and it took Kingfisher to point it out to me. My sixth Common Buzzard today soared over the railway line and a Common Kestrel passed over in front of the hide.

We called it a day and headed off home seeing a DUNNOCK in the lane. Kingfisher left for the railway station while I caught a bus home. I walked home from the bus station under many COMMON SWIFTS darting in the skies to finish off a great day’s birding. The highlights were numerous but the best had to be the Great Skua at Dawlish Warren.
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Old Sunday 10th August 2003, 20:37   #2
Charles Harper
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A tale well-told again, thank you, Andrew, and omedetou gozaimasu (congrats) on your Skua. ...And my avatar is me, in 1990.
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Old Sunday 10th August 2003, 20:42   #3
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Hi Andrew, what a really great day’s birding and as Charles said well told. You see the grass isn't always greener LOL
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Old Sunday 10th August 2003, 21:09   #4
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Andrew,

I have to say you were great company for the days birding, on a very hot and steamy day, the list of birds we saw was amazing, the simply stunning, and to see those Grey Plovers dressed for summer was superb, if only a single Golden had turned up, but they wont be long before they do. I have to say, Andrews passion for birds is amazing, and i look forward to sharing a day with you again soon. Thank you Andrew.
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Old Sunday 10th August 2003, 21:48   #5
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It was good to go birding with you too, we shall do it again soon.
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Old Sunday 10th August 2003, 22:27   #6
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PS : Do the Americans call it a Great Skua or a Great Jaeger?
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Old Sunday 10th August 2003, 22:34   #7
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Great read, all those reports bring back many happy memories of holidays spent at Dawlish Warren as child. Will get back down there again with my own little-un someday.
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Old Sunday 10th August 2003, 22:37   #8
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Were you lucky enough to be a birder at the time?
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Old Sunday 10th August 2003, 22:42   #9
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No, I was only about 8-12 years old, but I just loved walking all the way up the eastury and just taking in everything around me.
I wonder if I will feel the same when I do finally return?
Will I even reconise the place?, as I last visited in early 70's.
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Old Sunday 10th August 2003, 22:43   #10
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I think it should be the same but the shape of the mudbanks have shifted I think. And there's a new visitor centre.
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 06:33   #11
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My daughter said she isn't going at the moment because of all the summer visitors. She thought there wouldn't be much to see, so I shall send her a copy of your report Andrew.
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 09:56   #12
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Daft daughter, the birds will always be about even when the place is overrun with people, all you have to do is move along until the humans finish, then the birds begin, all year round this applies, and all over the world!
Nice one Andrew, sounds like I'm gonna need a thick wad of paper to write down all the birds I see next month, and on my return have to post them here, Nina.
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 10:07   #13
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Really enjoyed your report, Andrew. It's a while since I have been to Dawlish.

I have always found you can get away from crowds - even in a place like Dawlish. I have a theory (being a mathematician) that the number of people in a place like that is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the car park- so you don't have to go far to be on your own.
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 15:48   #14
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At Dawlish there are limits to how far the sunworshippers can venture on the beach. They only have a comparatively small part of the beach but here are one or two who flout this rule. Generally you will not see anyone in the proper birding section which is the Bight and it's hide, just too ugly and muddy for bathing. The centre of the reserve can be quiet with small families having a walk now and then but you can by pass them by using the northern edge along the back (or through) of the woods. It is no worse than say Slimbridge or any popular commercialised reserve.
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 16:15   #15
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An excellent report Andrew and a very good read. You certainly had a grand day out.
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 17:12   #16
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Just wanted to thank everyone for their kind comments, it was indeed a grand day out, Dawlish has been one of my favourite places to watch birds, even in the dead of winter for the high tide roost with its biting cold wind in your face it is a wonderful place. Am looking forward to further sea watching trips their in the coming months.
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 17:14   #17
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Kingfisher, would you believe it? My target bird, a Wood Sandpiper, was at the Warren today!
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 17:24   #18
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Andrew, i think you know what i have been saying as soon as i heard this, my head was in my hands, why do Wood Sandpipers always turn up a few days after we have visited.......it is turning out to be my Jinxed bird.......
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 18:17   #19
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Colyford Common has a good record for these in recent years and I am going to give it a go.
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 18:17   #20
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I think it is a National problem,I recently just missed Wood S. at Slimbridge,Oare Marshes and Titchwell!
p.s. Great report,as usual,Andrew.
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 18:22   #21
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Seems to be a bird you can't go after. I haven't tried to twitch one yet. I get the feeling you need to cover a spot well for a few days to stand a chance as they don't hang about long.
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 18:38   #22
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I think you are right,just need to be patient and be in the right place at the right time.
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 18:40   #23
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Sorry about 3 'right's' in one short sentence!
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 19:05   #24
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andrew
great read as usual, sounded a great day despite the heat.
bert
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Old Monday 11th August 2003, 19:37   #25
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In American we call it Great Skua. The three we call Jaegers are: Long-tailed, Pomarine and Parasitic. Enjoyed your report!
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