Devon Birds News

6 Apr
4:26 pm

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

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 ( 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.

16 Mar
2:59 pm


A warm welcome was provided to the RSPB Bowling Green Marsh hide from event leader John O’Connell-Davidson for the 13 other members of Devon Birds taking part in Plymouth branch’s visit on Friday 16 March 2024 on what was to be a day of hellos and goodbyes.

With the high tide at 10:00 the advantage of meeting at the hide meant that there was plenty to do and see whilst people assembled with a couple of hundred Black-tailed Godwits, many changing in to summer plumage, actively feeding right in front of the windows. Interestingly the nearest ducks were just in front of the them, a pair of Pintail, giving superb views, with another seven species around the reserve. In the distance Reed Bunting and a Kingfisher were seen in the far reed bed. Two Spoonbill were active allowing really good views to distinguish them as juveniles. The waders were occasionally spooked either by a Sparrowhawk or Peregrine, seen earlier in the morning, or the infamous Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Looking on to the marsh at Goosemoor, and following up on high pitched squeals, the group were fortunate to see two Water Rail in the open. The fleeting glimpses of a Sand Martin and a Swallow were not repeated but plenty of Chiffchaff were viewed, tails dipping and beaks moving in time to the unmistakable rhythmic call that has just burst back into our soundscape this week.

From the Goat Walk and Topsham area what might be final views of wintering waders, notably about 50 Avocet, were enjoyed. Rounding off the day, and with grateful thanks to the posts on the sightings page of the website, some ventured the five miles or so to Cranbrook to bid farewell to our Scandinavian-bound bird, Bombycilla garrulus aka Waxwing. (Not included in the day’s tally as this was after the visit).

Total species (72):
Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Brent Goose (dark bellied), Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Cattle Egret (probable – at a great distance), Little Egret, Grey Heron, Spoonbill, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Pheasant, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Lapwing, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker (H), Sand Martin, Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Blackcap, Cetti’s Warbler (H), Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Jay (H), Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting

Report by Mary Johnson

Black-tailed Godwit (Mike Longhurst)


Curlew (Chris Marcol)


Spoonbill (Mike Longhurst)


Waxwing (Chris Marcol)



15 Mar
3:42 pm

Devon Birds AGM

Devon Birds AGM 2024

The 2024 Devon Birds Annual General Meeting will be held on Saturday 23rd March 2024, in the Devon Suite at the Exeter Court Hotel, Kennford, Exeter EX6 7UX. Starting at 3pm

We are looking for members (or non-members) who are willing and able to offer their time and energy to the work of Devon Birds, contributing to the conservation and protection of the county’s wildlife.

The membership covers a very broad spectrum of enthusiasts, from simply feeding birds in the garden to more organised record keeping of sightings and identification of rare birds. Our Council similarly represents this range of interest and we do not all need to be expert birders to contribute.

The meeting will be followed by a talk by Kevin Cox, Chair of the RSPB

15 Mar
2:42 pm

The Annual Report Is Now Published

The Devon Birds Annual Report has been completed and is now published. Follow the link below to find it.


Devon Bird Annual Report




28 Feb
10:11 am

PiedFly.Net 2024 members meeting

PiedFly.Net is a science based network co-ordinating community participation in monitoring Pied Flycatchers and other hole-nesting woodland birds to contribute to science and monitoring research

The network co-ordinates monitoring of nest box schemes with breeding populations of Pied Flycatchers across southwest England. Since 2011 the network has brought all this information together to share with national schemes and the scientific community.

This is our Annual Meeting where monitors come together for talks and a home-cooked lunch. This year Malcolm Burgess will summarise the 2023 monitoring results from the 45+ network sites and how network data has been used in scientific and monitoring projects. Guest speaker is Ilaria Lonero, PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. Ilaria is studying UK Redstart phenology and will present some of her results to date. Finally Malcolm Burgess will present some new results from tracking Pied flycatchers over the annual cycle from tags that record air pressure – enabling us to follow flight and location altitude over the year.

The meeting takes place on Saturday 9 March, Teign Valley Community Hall, Christow.

Cost is £18 including lunch.

To find out more information and to book tickets please use the link below.

20 Feb
5:42 pm

East Devon Branch. Walk to Steps Bridge/Dunsford Cancelled

The weather forecast for Thursday 22nd February is for persistenet heavy rain.

As a result the planned walk is cancelled.

Sorry for any disappointment.

17 Feb
9:26 pm


A warm, sunny day, if you can remember such a thing, and 71 species, delighted the 21 birders who came together for Plymouth branch’s visit to Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society’s fabulous reserve at Walmsley. There were some slightly more unexpected birds to be seen; the half group visiting the Burniere hide first were treated to a Tawny Owl over the marsh, whilst those at the Tower hide had good views of a perched Merlin. Everyone was pleased to see an adult and juvenile Spoonbill and to add these to their year list. The eight species of duck and three species of geese gave birders opportunities to look at different plumages, behaviours and feeding strategies. A good range of Waders were seen including a sizeable group of Grey Plover which were easily identifiable from their run and stop action and their black axillaries (aka dirty ‘armpits’). It was like a section from Collins laid out in front of us!

Lunching in Chapel Amble allowed us to explore some very flooded fields and whereas the Water Pipit remained elusive, the group settled for a Meadow Pipit and had at least 3 Green Sandpiper by way of consolation.

The stroll along the cycle trail in Wadebridge gave closer views of 2000+ Golden Plover which had been a backdrop to most of the day’s birding. The sparkling aerial displays being provoked by a Peregrine, rather than the bonanza of Buzzards seen during the visit.

Grateful thanks to Adrian Langdon (warden) and the Trewornan Manor for providing parking for this event.

Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Spoonbill, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Buzzard, Merlin, Peregrine, Pheasant, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Snipe, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Tawny Owl, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker (H), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing, Cetti’s Warbler (H), Chiffchaff, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin                (71 species)

Red Fox, Rabbit

Write up by Mary Johnson


Buzzard (Mike Longhurst)

Pintail (Chris Marcol)
Curlew (Mike Longhurst)
Golden Plover flock (Jasmine Willson)
Chiffchaff (Jasmine Willson)
3 Feb
5:51 pm

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!
23 Jan
10:05 pm


An elusive mustelid, the Pine Marten is mostly found in the north of the UK, particularly Scotland. It prefers woodland habitats, climbing very well and living in tree holes – old squirrel dreys or old bird nests. It feeds on small rodents, birds, eggs, insects and fruit, and can even be encouraged to visit bird tables laden with peanuts and raisins. During the summer mating season, they make shrill, cat-like calls. The following spring, the female will have a litter of between one to five kits, which are independent by autumn.

The decline in numbers is attributed to loss of habitat, persecution and historical extermination on sporting estates.  In the South West peninsula Pine Marten are functionally extinct. A recovery project which aims to reintroduce this species to two areas on Exmoor and Dartmoor respectively is now being considered.

Emily Cuff, a nature recovery officer for Devon Wildlife Trust, outlined the back story and motivation for reintroduction of Pine Marten, stating that primarily this native species contributes much to the ecosystem of the habitats it thrives in. As a mesopredator it occupies a mid-ranking level in food chains and as an omnivore it competes with the likes of Grey Squirrel and there is evidence that it may help to control the Grey Squirrel population. However, it does not affect Red Squirrel, another native species that has evolved alongside the Pine Marten, and can coexist effectively – this could help with Red Squirrel recovery.

Recovery projects in Wales have resulted in an increase in the population in this region, which is the closest to SW England.  Natural recovery can’t be relied upon as it would take too long for this slow breeding mammal to expand its range into our region.  The project would therefore involve the translocation from Scottish populations, of 15 to 20 animals of two years and older.

The all-important habitat for Pine Marten is also in need of help, with the South West having a low density of suitable woodlands.  More promisingly the extensive and established networks of native hedgerow in our geographical location does bode well for the Pine Marten who use them as corridors, for security as well as food sources. Interestingly the development of native woodlands also benefits woodland bird populations, a statistically proven fact from data collected in Scotland where reforestation that benefits Pine Marten has also seen woodland bird populations significantly increase alongside the Pine Marten numbers.

The project is gathering the opinions and tapping in to the knowledge of many varied stakeholders.  Work that is being undertaken includes a disease risk analysis, habitat regulation assessment, with detailed consideration of the effects of reintroduction on all existing species in the relocation areas. Drawing on data and evidence from qualified agencies has also shown that Pine Marten offer little or no threat to ground nesting birds such as Curlew (as nesting habitat is not impacted by the areas of the relocation project) and similarly with Nightjar. There has been little impact on woodland nesting raptors in areas where Pine Marten live, indeed raptors have predated on Pine Marten in some woodland locations.

Mitigation methods such as nest box design and adaptations to discourage predation were described.  As work on the project progresses there will be continued monitoring and management and an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders and wildlife agencies.  Maybe in the future we may glimpse this mammal as it scurries through a tree or along the woodland floor when we’re out birding. Only time will tell.

Report by John Lloyd (Plymouth Branch Committee Member)