Bittern on Plymouth branch visit to West Charlton Marsh on 4 Feb

Five intrepid birders from the Plymouth branch braved a somewhat coolish overcast day, on a rather damp West Charleton Marsh, near Kingsbridge.

Before we got muddy, the area close to the sewage works revealed a fine total of 21 birds. Arguably the best were 15 Fieldfares, which try as we might, we were unable to convert any of them into Redwings. Also a smattering of Goldcrests flashed their yellow crowns at us from nearby bare trees, and a beautiful male Bullfinch looked truly magnificent.

Even summer walks across the marsh can be quite muddy, but after three very wet months, ‘wellies’ were the order of the day.  A further 12 bird species were added to our tally as we crossed the marsh, chief amongst them being a beautifully marked Buzzard, and a group of 9 Cirl Bunting were busily showing themselves from the shrubs at the end of the marsh.

From the hide a further 17 birds were recorded.  On the water two aggressive Red-Breasted Mergansers were busy stretching their necks in courtship display to their potential partners.  The bird of the day however was fortunately viewed from the back of the hide. If you were quick the reward was a 2.5 second view of a large brown bird, flying low towards us before it dropped into the reeds.  Much excitement as a Bittern was immediately and excitedly identified!

A fine group of approximately 200 Dunlin, followed by a lone Snipe took our final count to 50.  A rather cold but happy group slithered back across the marsh; a wan sun giving comfort to our departing backs.  Good birding in convivial company.

Ash Crawford