Devon Birding Weekend 30th of May – 1st of June 2014.

Species seen 83.

Steve & Gary looking
for Stonechats

Last weekend I went with two of my birding friends Gary and Steve (both Brandon Marsh regulars) to North Devon to explore and enjoy the birds and wildlife of the West Country.

Friday.
Early Friday night we arrived at our hotel in Ilfracombe, we quickly dropped off some of our gear then we headed off to Braunton village. Taking the single track road that runs to the sand dunes we used the small private toll road to make our way to Crow Point. The weather was still sunny and as such later produced a superb sunset over Braunton Burrows.

Using my local knowledge of the area soon had us catching sight of a juvenile Common Crane that has been in the area for over a week know. Seen also were, Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Canada Goose (with chicks) Moorhen, Gadwall, Mallard, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Buzzard, Curlew, whimbrel, Black-Tailed Godwit, Black headed gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Swift, Rook, Carrion Crow, Skylark, Swallow, House Martin, Wren, Whitethroat, Wheatear, Pied Wagtail, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Linnet, Mute Swan (with chicks) and House Sparrow. This was a good start to our birding weekend, which was then finished with fish and chips.

Saturday.

Looking for Cetaceans
Today’s birding destination was Lundy Island. Gary and Steve have heard many of my stories of the visits to the Island and therefore were looking forward to seeing it for themselves. Arriving in Bideford at 07.15am it already felt warm and I was optimistic for a fabulous day of weather and the day didn’t disappoint as the sun shone all day with the temperature in the 70’s. After we boarded the MS Oldenburg I left them to enjoy the crossing, as today I was MARINElife’s Lundy Wildlife Officer on board to assist the passengers with cetacean and bird sightings. I made my way up on to the bridge to meet Jerry the ship’s captain and after collecting the essential items for the trip (MARINElife leaflets, binoculars and my camera) I proceeded to start my tour around the upper and lower decks introducing myself to the passengers. Many of them were very interested in MARINElife and the work that the charity does.

The outward passage gave me an opportunity to point out three Harbour Porpoise off the starboard side, quickly followed by four common Dolphin off the port side; these were followed later by a pod of a further twelve Dolphin. Birds of note were Manx Shearwater gliding effortlessly over the water, a diving Gannet and many Guillemot and Razorbill rafting as the ship passed them by. The usual gulls were seen along with Kittiwake and Fulmar.
Common Dolphin in the distance
As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay I had sight of a distant black and white bird resting on the rocks, the binoculars soon confirmed it was a Black Guillemot and a great start to the island’s bird list. Soon everyone disembarked and began to make their way up to the higher levels. With the MARINElife duties complete until the return journey I caught up with my two friends on the jetty. Our planned route was to take in the southern coastal footpaths along and past the old battery and then on towards halfway wall and lunch overlooking Jenny’s cove. Here I met assistant warden Chloe who was helping many of the visitors with locating the Puffins. After lunch; we made my way back to the jetty in time for a round the island trip aboard the Oldenburg.


Puffin & Razorbill © Steve Nikols 
Birds of note were Woodchat Shrike, Water Pipit, Rock Pipit, Raven, Black Guillemot, Puffin and a possible yet to be confirmed sighting of a Short Toed Lark in amongst the Skylarks?



Woodchat Shrike © Steve Nikols 

Wheatear © Steve Nikols 
Whilst walking back the island’s Sika Deer were running around in many directions. Other animals observed were the usual sheep, also seen were Lundy ponies and wild goats.
Razorbill & Guillemot
The around the island tour was made even more interesting as we had a commentary by local guide Simon. Many of the ledges were covered in Guillemot, Razorbill and a few Puffin, the rocks had Kittiwake and Shag and all the usual gulls were observed. Grey Seals were sighted both in the water and on the rocks, as we approached Jenny’s Cove the whole area had a good number of Guillemot and Razorbill rafting and to everyone’s delight I soon had some of the passengers along with some of the ships company on to Lundy’s famous Puffins. These small birds are always a pleasure to see either on the water or on land. Sadly all my photos were either too far away or blurred!




Grey Seal
 

The crossing back to Bideford was calm again with the same birds being seen along the way.

Upon leaving the ship we made our way to Woolacombe for some dinner and a few alcoholic beverages.
Sunday.

An early hearty cooked breakfast is always a great way to start any days birding, we left the hotel and made our way to Woolacombe bay in search of Stonechat. These are seen every time I visit the area and normally present good opportunities for close up photographs. Sadly there were none to be seen (Probably nesting) and we left after seeing just a handful of common birds!

Moving on through Barnstaple to the small village of Yelland we spent three hours exploring the RSPB Isley Marsh area. This has different types of habitat, marshland, meadow, trees and bushes and the estuary which always ensures a good mix of birds. We proceeded to make our way around this diverse area that offers on one, side the usual meadow and woodland birds and on the other waders and sea birds. The morning provided a few good year ticks for my friends before we set off to Exeter in the south of Devon.

Birds seen at Isley Marsh were, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Kestrel, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Curlew, Sanderling, Dunlin, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Raven, Skylark, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Wren, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet and Buzzard.


Skylark at Yelland
After an hour of travelling we arrived at Topsham to begin the walk down to the RSPB’s Bowling Green Marsh reserve. The place was very busy with birders and twitchers looking for a reported Ross’s Gull, upon arriving in the hide we chatted with a few people and found out that it was around however over by the Exeter station. A quick drive to the station provided our trio with life ticks! Imagine this, a row of birders all looking through scopes at the Ross’s Gull from the stations platform, then slowly a train approached and stopped at the platform blocking the view, we all thought it was highly amusing. The train soon left and we were able to view the distant bird again for some time.

In the early evening we left Devon for our return journey back to Rugby, the in-car conversation was about, nothing other than birds and birding. Steve had his lists and created a full list for everyone so we can all look back on a truly great weekend which included a quite a few years’ ticks and one life tick for us all.