Category: Mid Devon

6 Jun
12:13 pm
2024

Mid-Devon Branch visit to Dunnabridge, Dartmoor, 5th June 2024

There was just a small group of 6 of us, ably led by Hellen Allin, to explore this part of Dartmoor, walking down as far as the DWT Bellever Farm reserve. The weather was dry and bright, but a cold northerly breeze was blowing and this was keeping birds very low in the moorland vegetation (presumably as that was where the insects were hiding!). The common moorland culprits of Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Linnet and Stonechat were all in evidence, and there was a large number of Herring Gulls in a field across the valley and continually flying past. We waited by the first wall in a spot where Grasshopper Warbler had been seen a few days previously, but apart from a couple of possible glimpses and being heard by one or two of the group they were not performing for us today! As we moved on, we did see a few Whitethroats, a lot of Willow Warblers and heard a couple of distant Cuckoo. A possible Dartford Warbler was also glimpsed, but again was keeping frustratingly hidden.

We moved into the woodland and down the track to the DWT reserve, where we picked up Siskin, Bullfinch, Blackcap and some Swallows as the sun began to bring some of the insects out. A Great Tit was doing a good impression of a flycatcher from high up in a tree, but neither Redstart, Pied or Spotted Flycatcher were to be seen today. So we stopped for a coffee in this very tranquil spot and then returned up the track back to the open moorland.

It was here that things suddenly started to get very exciting! As we were scanning the heather and gorse again for the hoped-for Grasshopper Warblers, a ‘not quite right’ Buzzard glided past us, very low to the ground and then perched on a fencepost not to far away. It was definitely not a Buzzard and we immediately began to work our way through potential raptors – Hen Harrier and Goshawk were soon ruled out and Honey Buzzard quickly became the favourite. We had great views through binoculars and the one telescope among us. The smallish head was very evident and at times the bird did look a bit like a very large Cuckoo. A very yellow eye, darkly barred chest and flanks, with no pale crescent as is normally obvious on a Buzzard, and barring on the tail; all looking good for female Honey Buzzard. As the bird flew on again, the drooped wings as it glided were diagnostic. It then circled very high and drifted off to the SE. Presumably a migrant bird, as a breeding female would be on the nest at this time of year. This was a first for nearly all (if not all) of the group! And such great views!

Adult female Honey Buzzard

Almost rivalling this, but not quite because of the rarity of the Honey Buzzard, were some stunning views of a Lesser Redpoll as we were almost back to the car park. The bird was feeding on the ground about 10 feet from us, and then perched up on a gorse bush even closer! Appreciating the beauty of this bird from such close range was a real bonus – the intricate face pattern, red ‘poll’ and yellow lower mandible combining beautifully!

Total birds seen/heard at this site was 34 (not including the Grasshopper Warbler and Dartford Warbler seen/heard by only some of the group):
Blackbird, Blackcap, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Cuckoo, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Herring Gull, Honey Buzzard, Jackdaw, Jay, Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Mistle Thrush, Pied Wagtail, Raven, Robin, Rook, Siskin, Skylark, Song Thrush, Stonechat, Swallow, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Wren.

Following the excitement of Dunnabridge, most of the group then went on to Venford Reservoir and the woods along Venford Brook. Here we had Swallows and House Martins as we ate our picnic lunch in the car park. Herring Gulls seemed to be the only birds on the water, so we continued on into the woodland. A Jay flew up from the ground with something in its beak, being harassed by a couple of Willow Warblers. It had evidently taken a fledgling Willow Warbler, which it then proceeded to pluck in front of us – very Springwatch! In the woodland along the river we picked up the hoped-for Pied Flycatcher and Redstart, and on the way back had Tree Pipit, Yellowhammer, Sparrowhawk and Crossbill by the car park.

Total number of species seen/heard at this site was 25:

Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Chaffinch, Crossbill, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Herring Gull, House Martin, Jay, Meadow Pipit, Nuthatch, Pied Flycatcher, Pied Wagtail, Raven, Redstart, Robin, Siskin, Sparrowhawk, Swallow, Treecreeper, Tree Pipit, Willow Warbler, Wren, Yellowhammer

Report by Tom Misselbrook

25 May
8:58 pm
2024

Mid Devon branch field visit to Challacombe, Dartmoor – 23rd May

This is obviously peak season for birding group visits to Challacombe as there had been visits by others the previous week, the day before, the same afternoon as our visit and then again on the following day! And not really surprising, as this bird oasis on Dartmoor does guarantee an abundance of good birds, not to mention plants, insects and other natural history. We just hope we are not testing the patience of the local residents!

A group of ten of us, led by Roger Jewell, met in the car park and were immediately rewarded with singing Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, numerous Willow Warblers and abundant Swallows (although not seeming to make any inroads on the clouds of midges beneath the trees). House Martins and House Sparrows (often missing from our field visit lists!) were around the farm buildings as well as nesting Nuthatch. As we headed out across the moorland we saw Linnet and Meadow and Tree Pipit demonstrating their parachuting song flights. Stonechat with young were around Golden Dagger and Vitifer, as well as the hoped-for Whinchat with a very obliging pair giving great views. Heading back, we stopped for a picnic lunch at Golden Dagger and it was only then that we heard a Cuckoo. A very persistent male, calling endlessly on the edge of the forestry in Soussons Down, and we had fine views of that too as we set off again. Siskins and Crossbill, an unexpected bonus for some, were in the forest, and Whitethroat singing around the edge.

Back near the car park we had excellent views of a male Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher and heard a more distant Green Woodpecker. A total of 48 species seen or heard, not counting the Wheatear or Skylark seen on the way in or out by some. Perhaps al that was missing was a Grasshopper Warbler!

Birds seen or heard:
Blackbird, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Crossbill, Cuckoo, Dunnock, Garden Warbler, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, GreenWoodpecker, Grey Heron, House Martin, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Jay, Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Meadow Pipit, Nuthatch, Pied Flycatcher, Pied Wagtail, Raven, Redstart, Reed Bunting, Robin, Rook, Siskin, Song Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Starling, Stonechat, Swallow, Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Wren.

25 May
8:17 pm
2024

Mid Devon branch field visit to East Anstey Common – 20th May

A group of seven including leader Paul Pratley met on the fringes of Exmoor on this rather fine and sunny morning. Almost immediately on exiting the cars, Cuckoos were heard calling with a female bubbling and then three seen (two males and a female) flying. A Redstart was heard singing along with many Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers, and a singing Tree Pipit parachuted down onto a gorse bush. As we walked across Whiterocks Down we had great views of Lesser Redpoll and another singing Tree Pipit. A Red Kite drifted overhead and a pair of Marsh Tit were busy attending to their brood. Into the woodland and we caught up with the hoped-for Wood Warbler (at least two) as well as Pied and Spotted Flycatcher.

A total of 37 species were seen or heard:
Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Cuckoo, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Green Woodpecker, Jay, Kestrel, Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, Long-tailed Tit, March Tit, Nuthatch, Pheasant, Pied Flycatcher, Red Kite, Redstart, Robin, Siskin, Skylark, Song Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Swallow, Swift, Tree Pipit, Treecreeper, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Wren

19 Apr
5:54 pm
2024

Mid Devon and Exeter Field Trip 17th April 2024

A day without rain in April 2024 was a bit of a luxury for 13 Devon Birds members at Hawkerland Valley and Aylesbeare Common – part of the Pebblebed Heaths SSSI. Never mind the temperature and the wind, the group was able to lo ate at least 29 species, and have a good view of most of them. The “at least” because a couple of others were (probably) seen by some of the group – a sparrowhawk and a peregrine.

The stars of the show were arguably the crossbills; certainly 8 of them, and maybe a few more – though some of the group were more delighted by the Dartford Warblers. A bit of a toss up! Also, some excellent views of Yellowhammers. Most numerous (audibly, anyway) were Chiffchaffs with a bit of competition from Blackcaps. A couple of Willow Warblers were also singing.

The walk was limited tot he drier paths because the recent wet weather, of several months, had made some of the routes less suitable for everyone. But there was a range f habitats nevertheless. The heathy areas provided the group with Stonechat, Linnets and a Dunnock or two in addition to the species listed above. And the woodland provided Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, along with Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Coal Tit and Treecreeper. Add in the usual suspects and it was a very pleasant session.

Report by Richard Hudson

List of birds seen/heard:
Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Crossbill, Dartford Warbler, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Green Woodpecker, Herring Gull, Linnet, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Raven, Robin, Siskin, Stonechat, Treecreeper, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Wren, Yellowhammer

6 Apr
4:26 pm
2024

Mid Devon Branch visit to Meeth Quarry Reserve

6th April 2024

Weather was looking suspect for our visit to the DWT Meeth Quarry Reserve, but despite some strong winds and a few showers, a group of 10 members met to explore this large and promising reserve. It was obvious that spring was well underway, with Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler singing from all around, and a good group of Sand Martin and Swallow, with a single House Martin, were over a more sheltered part of the lake. A pair of Great Crested Grebe put on a very good display of head shaking and parallel swimming, and a Little Grebe was also seen. Willow Tit were heard and glimpsed by some of the group, but it wasn’t until we were back at the car park that one decided to give us some perfect views while calling! A total of 39 species seen or heard (see below).

A few butterflies were braving the strong wind, including some very bright Brimstone and a Peacock. Some good displays of fungi were also on view, including the unusual Bog Beacon (Mitrula paludosa).

Many thanks to Helen and Martin for leading the group.

Species seen or heard:
Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Coot, Cormorant, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Crested Grebe, Great Tit, Green Woodpecker, Grey Heron, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Jay, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Linnet, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Nuthatch, Pheasant, Raven, Robin, Sand Martin, Siskin, Swallow, Tufted Duck, Willow Tit, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Wren.

Report by Tom Misselbrook

Bog Beacon (Mitrula paludosa)

18 Mar
12:14 pm
2024

Devon Birds Indoor Meeting

Join fellow members for an inspirational evening’s indoor speaker engagement on Saturday 13th April at the United Reformed Church Hall, Southernhay, Exeter, 7:30-9:00 p. The meeting is organised by Devon Birds Mid Devon Branch and is open to all Devon Birds members and friends.

We have two speakers:

Martin Overy ‘The Devon Birds Annual Report – how it is put together and how important your records are’

Martin leads on the compilation of the annual Devon Birds report and he will cover a brief history of the report, what goes in and what doesn’t, how it is compiled and how records are used, and the importance and accuracy of records. General observations and suggestions for improvement from the audience will be welcome.

 

Andy Gray ‘Changing farming practices – divert to diversity, a discussion’

Andy is a farmer from the Crediton area with a commitment to innovative and sustainable farming practices that benefit the environment, promote accessibility to quality food and inspire future farmers. Andy was a finalist in the prestigious 2023 BBC Food and farming Awards in the Farming and the Future category.

 

Suggested donation of £2.50 for those attending. Tea and coffee available.

Please let Tom Misselbrook (tom.misselbrook@devonbirds.org) know if you plan to attend. We look forward to seeing you there.

 

Southernhay United Reformed Church, Dix’s Field, Exeter EX1 1QA. Car parking at Magdalen Road Carpark, a short walk from the United Reformed Church on Southernhay.

3 Feb
5:51 pm
2024

Mid Devon Branch visit to Molland Common

1st February 2024

Ten adventurous birders negotiated the narrow lanes of mid and north Devon to meet at the car park at Anstey Gate on Molland Common at 9:30am. The weather was looking good, with plenty of sun and good clear views. A few Red Deer had already been seen close to the car park and a group of about 30 were in one of the grass fields of the farm across the valley. A distant flock of about 50 Golden Plover were seen. Surely this was going to be a great day for the sought after raptors!

However, as there morning progressed, the birding was slow. After searching east of the car park on both sides of the ridge, with nothing more than a few Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Skylark, we headed back to the cars for a coffee stop. A couple of Raven were around and the odd Crow kept popping up just to keep everyone on their toes. Scanning in the distance produced one or two raptors in tree tops, with some debate about identity but eventually settling on Common Buzzard.

We then headed west and explored the southern side of the ridge. Again, not very much happening, although a group of 4 Common Buzzards were circling at some distance and then a Sparrowhawk drifted lazily overhead. A decision was made to go back to the cars and reconvene at White Post, so the group set off back up the hill. At this point, the first unfortunate event occurred; three of our group were progressing more slowly, but were rewarded with views of a Hen Harrier making its way along the valley. The main group were completely unaware of this, and couldn’t hear the frantic cries of the three lucky birders, and so missed out on this special bird.

Over to White Post, and here the action did begin to pick up. Several Golden Plover were spotted on the ground, very difficult to pick out among the brown grass and heather. A Kestrel put in an appearance, and another distant raptor perched in the top of a small tree sparked more identification debate, but again was concluded to be a Common Buzzard. We walked down the lane to Dane’s Brook and then east along the river. Just visible above the brow of the hill were two more raptors perched in a small tree – another Kestrel and a very much appreciated Short-Eared Owl. We approached a bit closer for some fantastic views through binoculars and scopes, with the owl very alert, turning its head almost the full 360 degrees and showing those very yellow eyes. On the return to the cars a flock of 500+ Golden Plovers flew over us. And then the second unfortunate event – the first two back to the cars saw a Red Kite flying away, but it was gone by the time the rest of the group caught up! No Merlin today, despite some initially Merlin-like Kestrels, but six raptor species and perfect weather made for some happy birders.

Full species list (23):
Blackbird, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Fieldfare, Golden Plover, Great Tit, Hen Harrier, Herring Gull, Kestrel, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Magpie, Meadow Pipit, Pheasant, Raven, Red Kite, Short-eared Owl, Skylark, Sparrowhawk, Starling, Stock Dove, Stonechat, Woodpigeon.

Report – Tom Misselbrook

Merlin? No, another Kestrel!
18 Jan
4:55 pm
2024

Mid Devon Branch walk up the Exe – Powderham to Turf

18th January 2024

Most participants had to follow a flock of sheep being moved down Church Lane, which meant we arrived late and missed two of our party who set out alone! We were also joined by another latecomer, making a total of 9 for this visit (although there were many other birdwatchers along the route) on what was a cold, but beautifully clear morning. We took a couple of hours to walk from the Church to Turf, with most of the activity being in the fields to the left as it was high tide. Several hundred Brent Geese were present, often taking to the air and making a wonderful noise. Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank and Lapwing were also plentiful, and some Snipe were showing exceptionally well in the winter sun. Raptors included a Marsh Harrier perched in a bush at some distance (excellent spot by one of our members!), Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and a Peregrine which twice put all the geese and waders into the air.

During our picnic lunch at Turf Lock we were entertained by a very obliging Kingfisher, also looking beautiful in the sun, perching and fishing very close by. On the return walk to Powderham the tide was receding, and waders were dropping into the muddy shores, giving us excellent close views of Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Grey Plover, and a Kestrel hovering over the bridge to welcome us back. A total of 47 species seen:

Avocet, Black-headed Gull, Black-tailed Godwit, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Brent Goose, Buzzard, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunlin, Dunnock, Great-crested Grebe, Great Tit, Grey Plover, Grey Wagtail, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Little Egret, Magpie, Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Meadow Pipit, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Peregrine, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Pintail, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Robin, Rook, Shelduck, Snipe, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Starling, Stonechat, Teal, Woodpigeon, Wren.

 

Tom Misselbrook

20 Nov
7:15 pm
2023

Mid Devon Field Meet at Dawlish Warren

Continuous rain and floods on the road can be daunting at the best of times, offering little hope for the prospect of a bird filled morning amongst the dunes and heathland of Dawlish Warren for November’s Mid Devon fieldmeet.  Nevertheless, on Thursday 16th Nov, six members converged at the carpark close to the tunnel to park on the crown of the camber, the only area remaining free of deep standing water.  Good views of Rock Pipit, Sanderling and Turnstones.  A Great Skua passed offshore above the breakers.  Flocks of Goldfinches and Linnets punctuated the sky with Bullfinches among the brambles, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits in the grass and Teal in the open water amongst the reeds.  With Spoonbills in the distance, Curlew calling and a persistent Kestrel, the most notable event was the appearance of a Shorteared Owl that flew up when disturbed by the golf course maintenance truck, alighting on the gorse and offering 30 minutes of close viewing, always alert even when dozing, happily sharing the same spot with a Magpie before being roused by a golf cart for a flight across the sea to the shore in the far distance.

21 Jul
2:28 pm
2023

Mid Devon Branch Wildlife Recording Workshop Brampford Speke 13th July 2023

On Thursday 13th July 2023, Paul Pratley, former Chairman of the Wildlife Recording Society, gave 7 Members of Devon Birds a full understanding of the equipment and techniques needed to capture the sounds of wildlife.   It was a day of interesting facts and tips delivered by an expert.  The group took some of the recording equipment to the fields alongside the river Exe at Brampford Speke and recorded bird song and other sounds for later analysis in the workshop.  A practical demonstration of the techniques needed to edit and modify the recordings was demonstrated in the classroom.  Members benefited from a rare opportunity to learn and understand the skills necessary in making clear sound recordings of the calls of birds and the sounds of wildlife generally.

The Second Workshop originally scheduled for Saturday 23rd July 2023 is cancelled.