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Three Devonians' Birding Marathon! (GDBR)

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Old Saturday 7th February 2004, 20:15   #1
Andrew
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Talking Three Devonians' Birding Marathon! (GDBR)

06-02-04
Location : Stover CP, Dawlish Warren, Powderham, Exminster, Budleigh Salterton, Topsham Recreation Ground & Bowling Green Marsh. Devon. SX835752, SX987795, SX963860, SX936878, SX075825, SX962884 & SX973875.


This morning Padraig and I left Exmouth in the dark hours of the morning to pick up ideboy to begin our ‘Great Devon Bird Race‘. We had planned this day for ages, an attempt to record as many birds as we could on a winter's day. The journey was a cathartic moment as we had been looking forward to it for quite a while and we were raring to go. There was one problem, it was coming down like stair rods meaning we expected to lose some of our guaranteed target birds.

Our first venue was Stover Country Park with the hope of a Water Rail. On the walk round the lake we started off well with Common Pochard, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Great Cormorant, Common Snipe, Common Coot and Common Moorhen. A quick look for the finch roost was fruitless so we went to the raised woodland walkway and watched the feeders. The sun was still struggling to come up and the birds had not yet woken up, this was a disaster for our timing. We had hoped to be away from here earlier than planned. A single Blue Tit provided scant faith in this spot until about eight o'clock when the woods seemed to wake up and birds came from everywhere to the feeder and overhead. We ticked Common Blackbird, Herring Gull, Coal Tit, Common Starling, Marsh Tit, Great Tit, European Robin, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch and Black-headed Gull. The Woodpecker was a bonus bird as we did not have it down as a fail-safe bird for the day, the Marsh Tit was an essential from here. We also had this spot earmarked for Nuthatch and wasted too much time waiting for one until I remembered the other feeder station behind the Ranger's Office. We dashed there and saw Wood Nuthatch within seconds and got back in the car to make our way to Dawlish Warren. We were now three birds ahead of schedule on twenty one birds from Stover but we were leaving when we should have been at Dawlish. The Woodpecker had made up for missing out on Bullfinch.

The traffic in Newton Abbot was a standstill so we diverted into the country lanes. Fortunately for us, on the way the rain dried up we ticked Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Common Pheasant, Winter Wren and Collared Dove. Looking in some back gardens near the parked car we pushed the number up with Magpie, European Greenfinch, Goldcrest, Dunnock and House Sparrow. Going straight out to the sea front was good for ticking off Northern Gannet, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Crested Grebe, Eurasian Oystercatcher, European Shag, Red-throated Diver, Common Guillemot, Pied Wagtail, Common Scoter, Slavonian Grebe, Great Northern Diver and Red-necked Grebe. It was sharp eyes and experience that paid off here as we knew the importance of looking for blobs on the sea and zooming in on every one of them. Sometimes they turned out to be flotsam and jetsam floating on the sea! I later learned the Red-throated Diver was a lifer for ideboy so that was a good bonus. Out of those twelve birds, three were bonus birds which put us in good stead for the day. We now walked along the top of the dunes to view the reserve and the sea. It paid off as we added Great Black-backed Gull, Common Eider, Common Kestrel, Black-necked Grebe and at least two very valuable Velvet Scoters.

We were disappointed to find the tide had gone out considerably so some birds we expected from the hide would be impossible. Giving it a good shot was good for some anyway such as Little Egret, Eurasian Curlew, Common Linnet, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Eurasian Teal, Common Redshank, Common Shelduck, Brent Goose, Grey Heron and Eurasian Wigeon. Just outside the hide we clawed back Rock Pipit and spied a distant Stonechat that we soon passed right by. Near the visitor's centre there were Meadow Pipits galore. We were now leaving for Powderham Church forty minutes late at twenty five past eleven but nineteen birds ahead of schedule on sixty four.

As anticipated, we picked up Canada Goose and Greylag Goose at Cockwood on the way without getting out of the car. We stopped by the mouth of the River Kenn at Powderham for five minutes hoping to score Greenshank and failed but added Black-tailed Godwit and Redwing. Visiting the Powderham to Turf footpath to view the fields and estuary was as good as expected with a few important birds showing well. This was to be our only realistic chance of European Golden Plovers and we got them on the estuary. On a reconnoitre from the Goatwalk on the other side of the river yesterday I spotted a Common Buzzard here in a dead tree and it was still there, it had paid off. Other birds quickly ticked here were Eurasian Jackdaw, Rook and Pied Avocet. We were now eighteen birds ahead of schedule on seventy three but had clawed back twenty minutes which could prove important later in the day.

Our fifth stop of the day was in a field outside Exminster for some valuable ticks that were not possible at our other spots, these were Cirl Bunting and Woodlark. Walking to the usual Woodlark spot failed to flush any from the ground with Feral Pigeon, European Goldfinch, Brambling recorded before returning to the opposite end where ideboy heard and spotted Woodlark which was a huge relief. Now our attentions turned to Cirl Bunting. There were none on the tree tops but we got Reed Bunting, Skylark and Song Thrush. We made an effort to find a Cirl Bunting but having clawed back some time we did not want to lose it again and left to have a quick lunch then head over to White Bridge at Budleigh Salterton. Exminster had been penned down to give us five birds but provided six, despite no Cirl Bunting, to put us on eighty.

We were really pleased to arrive at White Bridge only five minutes late and made a bee line for the cliffs with a brief look from the small hide. In some wet fields just before the bridge was a small party of Northern Lapwings. There was now glorious warm summer sunshine so we hoped for some more raptors. With the River Otter flooded the only bird added from the hide was Little Grebe. From the cliffs we clocked Common Raven, Northern Fulmar, Peregrine Falcon and Black-throated Diver. The Diver meant that White-billed Diver apart we had completed all the possible Divers and Grebes which we thought an amazing feat. On the walk back to the car a White Poplar catkin dropped onto the ground in front of me and I shouted for all of us to look up. This was a real stroke of luck as we got two completely unexpected bonuses, Lesser Redpoll and Eurasian Siskin. This was a real boost to our tally. We had a quick look from White Bridge but the chocolate brown river was too high and fast, thereby abolishing our chance of Kingfisher and Dipper. We were not too despondent knowing we were ahead of our target of sixty eight at this stage with eighty eight birds and leaving for the home straight in the Topsham area on time. It was nice to have the timing going to plan.

Our seventh and eighth venues were the Recreation Ground at Topsham and the Bowling Green Marsh reserve with at least five birds to be guaranteed. Luxuriously, two of those were Izzy, the Glossy Ibis and a Spoonbill! For once we arrived somewhere early and raced to the northernmost end of the path at the Recreation Ground and worked our way back picking up only two birds, Grey Wagtail and Common Gull. Sadly, the Common Sandpiper did not prove as reliable as it had done on all my previous research trips. The number and variety of gulls were disappointingly low as well. I was actually a bit disgusted that one of my favourite and reliable stamping grounds did not play fair today of all days.

We cut our losses short and drove round to Bowling Green Marsh well ahead of time and got within ten feet of Izzy the Glossy Ibis before retiring to the hide. The water had shockingly risen well over a foot during the night and there were only two Black-tailed Godwits to represent the waders! All was not lost as we ticked the dependable Northern Shovelers and Northern Pintails. The Spoonbill's absence was hurting us but ideboy remained optimistic and assured us to wait for it to come to roost. I felt drained and rested my head on my scope for forty winks until half past four when the ninety fourth and last bird of the day sailed in, an angelic vision of whiteness circling the reserve for a good spot for the night. There can be no better way to end the day with an Eurasian Spoonbill. We all gave each other the thumbs up with quiet expressions of acknowledgement on what we had achieved today, conveyed through massive grins and gentle nodding. It was a wonderful team effort that shone through the day to attain such a high total with luck playing a gargantuan factor. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and will remember it well until the next attempt!

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Last edited by Andrew : Sunday 8th February 2004 at 22:04.
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Old Saturday 7th February 2004, 20:52   #2
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What a day ! .... some darn good sightings there and not a bad total either
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Old Saturday 7th February 2004, 21:01   #3
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Phew! I'm shattered now...

Great day, great report, and congrats to you Andrew, ideboy and Padraig.

OK... so have you had time to reflect? What will you do differently next year?
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Old Saturday 7th February 2004, 21:06   #4
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So am I Birdman,what an eventful day,everyone had,considering the awful weather you all did really well.
Congrats
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Old Saturday 7th February 2004, 21:14   #5
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Left me breathless too. I enjoyed reading the report Andrew. Shame about the weather, but you certainly made the best of the conditions.
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Old Saturday 7th February 2004, 21:22   #6
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Hugely enjoyable reading, Andrew. Well done, all three of you.

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Old Saturday 7th February 2004, 21:26   #7
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Another good read, Andrew and a good day list.
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Old Saturday 7th February 2004, 21:43   #8
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We have not really talked about what we would do differently next time.

I have since learnt a Water Pipit was showing well on the cricket field at Budleigh Salterton and would have only taken five minutes!

Considering the time we had spare at the end I reckon a ten minute look at Aylesbeare Common might have got us Dartford Warbler. Or even spent more time looking for a Chiffchaff.

If the weather at the beginning had been better we may have fared better by three birds, Treecreeper, Long-tailed Tit and Bullfinch.

Going to Dawlish from Stover earlier and by a different route may have got us there closer to high tide for Ringed Plover and Sanderling which are guaranteed there.

Actually I would do the same run again next time with hope that we get even jammier! Each venue played it's part with birds not possible at other sites.
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Old Sunday 8th February 2004, 20:04   #9
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Having difficulty with the numbers Andrew. My notebook says 91. wonder if I left any out.
You forgot to mention the Snipe we saw at Stover. If you remember I missed them but got them later in the reeds at Topsham.

To add to Andrews account:
I missed the Guillemot at Dawlish Warren (Andrew was ticking too fast and furious for me at this stage) but got one later at Budleigh.
I missed the flock of Redwings at Powderham altogether, which left me one bird behind. But at the end when we were looking at Izzie the Ibis, a Chiffchaff alighted next to me and then flew over a wall before Andrew or Ideboy could get to it. So our numbers should tally. Never mind. Either I've left two out or you've double counted-twice, Andrew.

Once again Andrew's hawk-like vision added many species that would otherwise have been lost.
I swear that when we were ontop the cliff at Budleigh Salterton that he instantly ID'ed a Black Throated Diver from almost a mile away.
After finally locating it and waiting until it turned sideways to reveal white along the flank I was finally able to mutter that I could see what he was on about all right.
I suppose it's only fair Andrew that if you're stone deaf that you should be blessed with amazing vision. Only wish I could see that well- ok and keep my hearing too.
Maybe that's asking too much.

An enjoyable day out.

Regards,

Padraig.

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Old Sunday 8th February 2004, 22:05   #10
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No unscrupulous double counting involved. Maybe you need to keep up at an English pace?
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Old Sunday 8th February 2004, 22:14   #11
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Ah, so you double-counted scrupulously then, Andrew?

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Old Sunday 8th February 2004, 22:16   #12
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Shhh!
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Old Sunday 8th February 2004, 23:11   #13
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Wow ! you have almost matched my current year list in one day !!! Plus you had 8 life tick's for me in that day and 15 for my year list . Well done .... I'm having a mini bird day on Thursday into Worcestershire , hope to get Firecrest @ Trimpley ... anything else will be a bonus ! Smew @ Dudmaston , but I already have it ( my Dad hasn't though ) . But our day will not compare with yours ... still , it's a day out birding !
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Old Sunday 8th February 2004, 23:38   #14
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Jada,
You sound like a younger chap than us geezers. Yet you're after birds like Firecrests and have Smew under your belt already. Birds I would have only dreamed of until very recently.

Now that's not bad either.

Cheers,

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Old Sunday 8th February 2004, 23:59   #15
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Cheer's Padraig ! I know what you mean , I just really want to get out of the nineties ( I was on 94 species on Jan 15th !! ) , and I'm still stuck on 97 !!! I've been to about eight local ( ish ) site's and have been out birding on twenty odd day's in 2004 so far ... which aint bad considering I have recently become a Dad for the first time and I dont want to stoke the ' ever-burning ' fire's of my wife's wrath !! . I just seem to keep missing stuff ... Night Heron at my local patch ( Venus Pool ) , Great Grey Shrike on Brown Clee ( been up there twice now ) and still cant find Stonechat , Corn Bunting , Pink-foot's and Whooper's , all of which are being seen locally .
I know I'm trying to rush it just annoy's me abit when there are really great thing's around and I keep on putting in the effort to see them and , most of the time , draw a blank ! But , rest assured I aint gonna give up ... I'm off birding next week and who know's , maybe my luck will change ? ... Cheer's , again !

P.S. I'm 32 ! was I as young as you thought ?
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Old Monday 9th February 2004, 00:35   #16
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You had me confused Jado.
I thought 97 was your ever list rather than your 2004 list and when you mentioned your Dad I reckoned you were about 16.

Never mind. What a show of beauts you have up there: Night Heron, Gt. Grey Shrike, Corn Bunting, Pink-footeds.
We would be wild with excitement down here with a few of those.
Keep on going. You' ll catch them soon I presume.

Makes a change from Smelly nappies too I presume.

Congrats on being a Dad. I'll drink to that.

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Old Monday 9th February 2004, 00:49   #17
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I think my list will take off slightly more when I get to go further afield ... we were hoping to come to Devon on holiday this year ... but it now depend's on the house sale of course . Will have to get some advice off you if we should make it ... where a good place to stop is , place's to see ... good birding haunt's of course !
Thank's for your vote of confidence Padraig , I know I'm rushing it too much , but it is nice to get a vote of confidence off people .
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Old Monday 9th February 2004, 09:38   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jada dulo
I'm 32 ! was I as young as you thought ?
I am only a year older so we are spring chickens!
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Old Monday 9th February 2004, 09:39   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jada dulo
Wow ! you have almost matched my current year list in one day !!! Plus you had 8 life tick's for me in that day and 15 for my year list . Well done .... I'm having a mini bird day on Thursday into Worcestershire , hope to get Firecrest @ Trimpley ... anything else will be a bonus ! Smew @ Dudmaston , but I already have it ( my Dad hasn't though ) . But our day will not compare with yours ... still , it's a day out birding !
I hope you nab the birds you are planning to get.
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Old Monday 9th February 2004, 13:51   #20
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Nice one you guys, you certainly saw plenty of birds that day. Do you ever just sit and watch, and get enjoyment from the watching?
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Old Monday 9th February 2004, 15:35   #21
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Originally Posted by jayhunter
Nice one you guys, you certainly saw plenty of birds that day. Do you ever just sit and watch, and get enjoyment from the watching?
We did just that by going on a leisurely cruise up the Exe the following Sunday and sat back watching the beautiful spectacles of various birds. There was a large flock of Pied Avocets close to the boat that took off and flew alongside for a while. Also had a Long-tailed Duck which was a county first for me.
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Old Monday 9th February 2004, 16:50   #22
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Phew !!!!! I have been left breathless at your pace and the number of birds in one day, well done all three of you...Shame i had to miss the boat on Sunday and the LT Duck, next time i will be there. Bet your feel are blistered !!!
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Old Monday 9th February 2004, 19:28   #23
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...Shame i had to miss the boat on Sunday and the LT Duck, next time i will be there....
It was a pity you did not join us on the boat, that would have been good. I hope you get your L T Duck soon.
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Old Monday 9th February 2004, 22:50   #24
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To Jayhunter.

Do we just sit and watch, and just get enjoyment from the watching?

All the time! that's what birdwatching is all about:
Enjoying birds eating, flying, standing on one leg, preening, yawning (yes they do), copulating, fighting, nesting, showing off, attacking, fleeing, sleeping.

Whatever they do that's what I'm interested in.

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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 09:00   #25
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That is a good attempt at a high number. I probably saw you somewhere along your way as I was birding in that immediate area.
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