Category: Events News & Writeups

27 Jan
12:01 am

Plymouth Indoor Meeting Report 23 January 2023

Birdlife of the Plym Estuary and Saltram Park; Threats and Opportunities, a talk by Pete Aley

Plym Estuary regular patch birder, volunteer and Devon Birds website editor.

Pete is often found watching ‘his patch’ along the Plym estuary and at Saltram Park where he has closely monitored the development of Blaxton Meadow since its inception. He has long championed the needs of wildlife and has brought his knowledge to bear on ecological issues such as the creation of a solar power plant at the adjacent Chelston Meadow. He galvanized a group of local birders into action to come up with alternative proposals that would mitigate the damage to wildlife, by the plant’s construction, in the most sensitive areas. He has also advised the National Trust on wildlife habitat around Saltram in planning the future of the park.

The presentation outlined the threats posed to wildlife, particularly birds, that rely on specific areas of the estuary and Saltram Park. He illustrated the way in which Chelson Meadow acts as a bolt-hole for disturbed species from Saltram Park and its importance as a migratory stop off for other species, including several red and amber listed birds.  Pete noted an increasing leisure usage in the area and emphasized the need to connect with all parties concerned to reduce disturbance to wildlife caused by groups such as paddle-boarders and canoeists and the growing numbers of dog walkers.

Many of the key species of the area, and where and when to find them, were highlighted.  The area is of growing importance and is actively monitored by Pete, and a number of local birders, who’s data forms a useful part of Devon county and National (BTO) databases.  Over the years his records show both positive and negative trends in population and breeding and even help to define migratory patterns of some species.

Looking to the future what can we expect? The success of the “marmite bird” love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Ring-necked Parakeet, for example, shows how ‘new’ species can, given favourable habitat, establish populations.

He suggests too, that we might realistically look forward to a range of visiting species such as Caspian Gull, Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Yellow Legs, Great White Egret, Glossy ibis, Woodchat Shrike, Little Bunting and, top of his wish list, Red-flanked Bluetail. Much to look forward to!

This presentation was well received, some of the audience already frequented this area, others knew it less well and some had not visited, but all were inspired to visit this Plymouth birding gem following this informative and thought-provoking talk.

John Lloyd

Devon Birds Plymouth Branch Committee Member

17 Jan
11:25 pm

Report on Broadsands and Brixham Breakwater Field Trip on 16 January 2023

For the first 2023 field trip, 24 people from the Plymouth Branch met at Broadsands.  In the hedgerows around the car parks a number of birds were enjoying the winter sun, notably a very mobile Chiffchaff, a Goldcrest and several Cirl Bunting which were regularly flitting down to the seed at their feeding site.  Looking out to sea, from the area above the beach, there were good views of a range of species all actively fishing: 6+ Great Northern Divers, Razorbill and very distant Gannets.  A strong, cold wind made the water very choppy, however a raft of about 25 Common Scoter were unperturbed.  Excellent views of a Black-necked Grebe were to be had from the footpath round to Elberry Cove.

At Brixham Harbour the Grey Seals were loafing on the pontoons and swimming in the bay.  From the breakwater the group enjoyed watching 5 Purple Sandpiper and Rock Pipit.  The species list for the visit was as follows:

Great Northern Diver, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Mallard, Common Scoter, Buzzard, Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake, Razorbill, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock,
Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Cirl Bunting

Total 40 species

Visit Leader Doug Herdson

17 Jan
9:43 am

Curlew, Bewick’s Swan and Spoon-billed Sandpiper- The work of the WWT- Jackie Harris – 20th February 7.30pm The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot TQ12 2QA

Jackie Harris has worked at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust for 7 years and has taken a passionate interest in the Trusts’ work to save both wetland species and the habitats that they depend on for their survival. She now volunteers to give talks about the Trust’s work – including on Bewick’s swans, Madagascar Pochard, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Curlew. These very varied species give an insight into the Trusts’ work at home and around the world.

Members £3 Non-Members £4 Entry fee includes refreshments

WWT Poster for February Talk

2 Jan
12:06 pm

The Return Of The White Tailed Eagle To The South of England

The next meeting of the South Devon Branch, is on 16th January at the Courteney Centre, Newton Abbot and will include an interesting talk about this magnificent Bird and its return to Southern England

11 Dec
1:05 pm

Devon Birds Wetland Birds Conference

The link below will take you to the summary of the recent Wetland Bird Conference, hosted by Devon Birds at the Exeter Court Hotel

Wetland Bird Conference summary

6 Dec
10:04 pm

Saturday 3 December Field Trip Report for St John’s Lake and River Lynher, Torpoint

For the final field trip of the 2022 season 25 people from the Plymouth Branch made a foray across the water, assembling on Marine Drive and moving on to Chapeldown Road.  Four hours before high tide large numbers of duck and geese were visible on the far side of the water.  Much closer views of a party of 5 Little Grebe were enjoyed together with a variety of waders, which included Turnstone, several small flocks of Dunlin together with at least 12 Ringed Plover.  There were distant views of a Great Northern Diver which was actively fishing.

The group moved on to Wacker Quay as the tide came in and pushed waders on to the salt marsh.  Good numbers of Teal and Wigeon were seeking shelter from a bitterly cold wind together with a lone Gadwall.  Waders were hunkered down in the marsh vegetation but the predominantly white plumage of a group of approximately 50 Avocets were showing clearly on the distant shore.

Upon returning to Chapeldown Road for the high tide, the group were rewarded with excellent views of 24 dark-bellied and 4 pale-bellied Brent Geese and up to 3 Great Northern Divers.  Local residents were keen to share their recent sightings too, with a Black Redstart seen daily on roof tops in the area, although none of the group were lucky on this occasion.


Great Northern Diver Dunlin
Great Crested Grebe Avocet
Little Grebe Great Black-backed Gull
Cormorant Herring Gull
Grey Heron Common Gull
Little Egret Black-headed Gull
Mallard Woodpigeon
Teal Feral Pigeon
Gadwall Great Spotted Woodpecker
Wigeon Carrion Crow
Shelduck Jackdaw
Brent Goose (dark-bellied) Magpie
Brent Goose (pale-bellied) Great Tit
Canada Goose Blue Tit
Mute Swan Long-tailed Tit
Buzzard Wren
Kestrel Blackbird
Oystercatcher Robin
Ringed Plover Goldcrest
Turnstone Dunnock
Snipe Rock Pipit
Curlew Pied Wagtail
Black-tailed Godwit Starling
Bar-tailed Godwit Greenfinch
Common Sandpiper Chaffinch
Redshank House Sparrow


Total 53 species

25 Nov
9:56 am

Plymouth Branch – Indoor Meeting Review

On Monday, 14th.November 2022 Plymouth Branch held their first Indoor meeting in nearly three years following the Covid-19 outbreak.

Seasonality – A personal account of nature through the seasons.

Ian Parsons

Author, naturalist and tour guide.

The weather and the Seasons are favourite topics of conversation in Britain, but do we really look carefully and study the changes brought about as the clock ticks and the Seasons progress? What effects are there on our wildlife and how might it affect our senses and experience of our environment?

Ian has a great understanding of these questions and in his presentation, he revealed some answers to them. Drawing on his experiences as a Forestry Commission warden, bird watcher, author and bird tour guide Ian presented a highly personal and enlightening account of nature with which he shares his life. He says in the introduction to his book, namely, “Seasonality – A personal account of nature through the seasons”, “Wildlife makes me tick. Quite simply it makes me happy”.

His passion, underpinned with deep knowledge and understanding, was clearly communicated to us with great photographs, readings from his book, personal anecdotes and fascinating nuggets of information. I am sure that we will remember the story of the Devon endemic “No parking Whitebeam” tree species and the way in which the winter thrushes can discern which berries to eat for breakfast and which ones to eat for supper!

Ian is a great advocate for trees and ably shows how much of wildlife is dependent on trees and pointing out how we often take trees for granted, he phrases this as being, “tree blind”. How many of us know the Spindle Tree or that it was once subject to laws condemning it as a threat to national security in World War 2. This common component to our native hedgerows puts on a spectacular Autumn display with exotic pink fruits that when ripe open to reveal orange seeds but it is also a food plant to Blackfly which can decimate food crops. Hence it became a target for persecution during the testing times of World war when the focus on farming efficiency became paramount.

Ian concludes in this presentation and in his book, “The seasons of the year roll on regardless: an endless cycle that dictates the rhythm of life”

John Lloyd                    Committee member Devon Birds Plymouth Branch.


A personal account of nature through the seasons.

Ian Parsons

Whittles Publishing ISBN 978-1-84995-505-8

24 Nov
3:19 pm

Online petition

Devon Birds have been advised about a petition to ‘Limit the shooting season of Woodcock’. If you would like more information please read the Blog at If you wish to sign the petition please go to

8 Nov
4:06 pm

Annual Draw

Results of the 2022 Annual Draw

1st Prize      £200        Mr J Yeoman

2nd Prize     £75          Mr R Aley

3rd Prize      2 x tickets for Lundy    Mr S Mills

4th Prize      2 x tickets for Devon Birds trip to Lundy 2023   Mr B Coulson

5th Prize      Framed photo of 2 Peregrines     Mrs L Barker

6th Prize      Framed photo of a Black Tailed Godwit   Mrs R Wells

7th Prize      Framed photo of a Nightjar     Mr & Mrs K Murray


5 Nov
4:31 pm


Please see the link below for the latest edition of our newsletter


newsletter issue 6