Devon Birds News

30 Mar
12:32 pm

Managing the Exe Estuary Nature Reserves – Natalie Holt-RSPB 17th April 7.30pm Indoor Meeting at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot TQ12 2QA

Natalie Holt manages the Exe Estuary and Darts Farm, Labrador Bay, Ashill and North Devon nature reserves for the RSPB. In this talk she will focus on the Exe Estuary Reserves and will give an insight into how they are managed to benefit their wildlife.

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

Devon Birds Poster April 2023


29 Mar
9:52 am

Bird Behaviour an Illustrated Talk by Ian Gasper

What is a bird? To understand this more fully, Ian used his extensive experience as a much travelled birder to try to unpick this question.

Birds are unique in the wildlife of our planet – warm blooded, egg laying, vertebrates with feathers covering their bodies. But what do we know of their behaviours and their evolution? Ian looked at various aspects of their behaviour related to physiology, movement, feeding, intelligence, breeding and migration. These are all large topics in their own rights but provide a good way to try to more fully understand these amazing creatures.

We learnt how the behaviours of birds are related to their positioning in our planet’s ecology and how the structure of birds is uniquely adapted to (in most species) allow flight with honeycombed skeletons, specially developed hearts and lungs and with up to 25% of the bird’s mass made up of flight muscles.

Feeding too shows many adaptations of beak, legs and associated feeding methods; all playing a part in the evolution of birds – think of Darwin’s finch studies as an example of evolutionary process.

Ian also exploded the ‘bird-brain’ mythology and showed us examples of the intelligence and learning capabilities of many species. Interestingly he compared the Macaw to the Chimpanzee in terms of brain size to body ratio – the same! This is reflected in the abilities of the Macaw such as being able to mimic speech.

Birds also sing.  Who hasn’t been inspired by the soaring song of the Skylark or the melodious dawn chorus of the Blackbird? How does a bird sing for long periods of time and fly at the same time? Again, bird physiology has developed to make this possible. Why do birds sing? In short, ‘love and war’, signalling territories and attracting mates and there will be differences in timing due to breeding constraints also connected to feeding needs and prey availability when raising their broods.

Migration, both international and intra-national, has fascinated us and we continue to learn more as technology, such as electronic tracking devices, aids our understanding. We know that birds respond to changing light levels and that spurs them to migrate and some epic journeys are made. Migration within countries also happens, e.g. mountain breeding birds moving toward the warmer coastal areas where food is more plentiful. It is more often lack of food sources rather than low temperature that can decimate bird populations in winter months.

We learnt much from this presentation but we also realised that there is still much that we don’t fully understand – but maybe that’s part of the magic of bird watching.

John Lloyd                    Committee member Devon Birds Plymouth Branch

27 Mar
9:01 pm

Devon Birds AGM

The  Devon Birds AGM will, take place at the Exeter Court Hotel, Kennford, Exeter, EX6 7UX, on Tuesday 18th April, commencing at 7.00pm.

The agenda has now been finalised and is as follow

  1. Apologies
  2. Minutes of the 2022 Annual General Meeting
  3. Matters arising from the Minutes
  4. Chairman’s Report
  5. Secretary’s Report
  6. Treasurer’s Report
  7. Election of Officers:

                                                                                               Proposed                      Seconded

            Chairman                                      G Burton         N Armstrong                   M Daniels

            Vice Chairman                             C Randall         L Harris                          G Burton

            Treasurer                                      S Churchley     G Burton                         M Daniels

            Communications Officer           T Utting           A Colston                         R Sims

            Publications Officer                    M Lock             T Utting                           N Armstrong

            Taw & Torridge Branch Rep    R Turner            K Sims                             M Daniels

  1. Election of Auditor/Independent Examiner – Thomas Westcott

There will be a break for tea/coffee followed by a talk by John Walters titled “30 years Wildlife Watching in Devon”


Copies of the 2022 Annual report are available to members on the website via the Society Documents page, or from the secretary. Email:


27 Mar
8:46 pm

Devon Birds Day Trip to Lundy 2023

The annual Devon Birds day trip to Lundy is scheduled for Sunday 21st May 2023. Boarding the MV Oldenberg at Bideford from 7.30am, sailing at 8.00am. Planned arrival back in Bideford will be approximately 6.30pm. Everyone is welcome, birdwatchers or those who would just like a peaceful day on this beautiful island.

It is planned to include a sail around the island to see the seabirds and seals.

Tickets are available from the Shop on the Website. Adults £40, Children (under 16) £18.

When booking please provide full name and gender of all passengers, this is a Lundy Steamship Company requirement. Refunds will only be available in the event of the trip being cancelled.

Further details are available from the Secretary, Mike Daniels, email:

23 Mar
10:43 pm

Newsletter March 2023

The latest edition of the newsletter can be found by following the link below

newsletter mar 23

In this issue there is a reminder about the AGM, the booking details for the trip to Lundy and another reminder about visiting the new website. We also have an interesting article for the new “Devon Culm” charity and another from Peter Reay about Stonechats on farmland.
And hot off the press, some exciting news about a species not often associated with the British Isles
As always we are continually looking for interesting material for the newsletter, so if you have been anywhere, or seen anything worth telling people about, please let us know at

18 Mar
9:13 pm


Nineteen members of Devon Birds enjoyed a good day out organised by the Plymouth Branch. The weather was a bit chilly at times and quite windy in places, but it never downed the spirits of the group. Most of the day was dry with light rain coming in as we approached the Bowling Green Marsh bird hide.

We started with a walk through Topsham from the car park to the main quayside, where we had excellent views of Red-breasted Mergansers and Teal. We were able to compare Redshank and Spotted Redshank which were wading through the mud together on the opposite river/estuary bank.

Then we walked down to the ‘Goat Walk’ where we had good views of Turnstones feeding amongst the seaweeds just below the Walk. On the mudbanks opposite we had clear views of Avocet, Dunlin and Curlew. A large flock of Brent Geese flew overhead to say hello.

Next, we walked round the corner to the viewing platform by the edge of the estuary. On the way we saw Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Song Thrush and Goldfinch. From the platform, we saw Grey Plover and Black-tailed Godwits.

Then it was on to the main hide and an opportunity to escape the wind just as light rain began to fall. Sustenance in the form of food and drink was consumed as we watched Snipe, Greylag Geese, Pintail, Wigeon, Reed Bunting together with large numbers of Black-tailed Godwit and four Bar-tailed Godwit, allowing comparisons to be made.

Finally, we visited the viewing area across Goosemoor. Here we saw Goldcrest, Stonechat and Greenshank.

A total of 58 species of bird were seen:

Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Avocet, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker , Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Redwing, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Reed Bunting, Goldcrest, Stonechat.

Report from event leaders Kev and Jacki Solman

3 Mar
9:58 am

Obituary – Bob Burridge

Bob Burridge died suddenly on 24th January. Bob was instrumental in establishing the South Milton and South Huish Reserves. He was involved from the outset, recognizing their importance, establishing relationships with landowners, and pressing Devon Birds to acquire or lease land when the opportunity arose. He also ringed in South Milton from the 60’s until less than 10 years ago. He was quite a character and well known in the birding community.

The funeral service will take place at Efford Crematorium on Monday 13th March at 12.15pm. Family flowers only. Donations if so desired for Devon Birds by retiring collection or c/o Kingsbridge Funeral Directors, Devon Square View, Lower Union Road, Kingsbridge. Tel: 0154885634_

23 Feb
7:07 pm

Section Writers required to help with the Devon Bird Report

The production of the Devon Bird Report is one of the primary Objects of the Society and takes a lot of work to get it completed to the required standard and in good time.

We are starting work on the Devon Birds Report for 2022, the various sections and species accounts for which are written by volunteers from the membership of the society.

Quite a number of our current contributors have indicated that they are not going to be able to help with the next report; mostly because they have been writing sections for a considerable number of years! As editor, I would like to express, on behalf of the society, my thanks to them all for their dedication, professionalism and hard work.

We are therefore in need of new section writers! The usual process is to assign a group of species to each writer; the format is basically the same every year, working with records submitted and stored on the society database – the normal timescale is that this data is available from late April, with draft reports completed and returned to myself by the end of July, or thereabouts. If you would like more details about what is involved, or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

If you think that you can help please let Martin Overy, the Editor know as soon as possible – email address:

17 Feb
5:23 pm

Bird Books looking for interested readers

We have been approached by someone who has a sister who recently died. This person was a member of the RSPB and a very keen traveller to see and photograph wildlife, particularly birds.  She had an extensive collection of bird books relating to those from many countries, from Antarctica, Falklands and Australia, to specific regions of Africa and India, as well as books on particular species and bird behaviour and migration.

The idea is that a local keen birder or society might have a similarly interested person who would like the collection or at least some of it as a gift.

The books have been collected and I will and have them for the March indoor meeting. If anyone would like to see them please attend on 14th March. If not able to do so and would be interested in what might be there please let us know. I will catalogue them and let you have the list. There must be over £2000.00 worth here so some bargain’s to be had. Donations to Devon Birds or RSPB as you choose.

Karen Sims Treasurer Taw & Torridge Branch

15 Feb
3:22 pm

Report on Walmsley Reserve and Wadebridge Field Trip on 14 February 2023

With the first hint of the approach of Spring, on a day of wall to wall sunshine, 19 birdwatchers from the Plymouth branch visited one of the jewels in the Cornwall Birds’ crown, Walmsley Reserve.  We are grateful to the warden Adrian Langdon for facilitating our trip, which was such an enjoyable experience.

With the approaching high tide, Curlew, Mute Swan and Lapwing took to the fields around the Burniere hide from which we first viewed birds at the upper end of the estuary.  From the two reserve hides we had excellent views of a wide variety of duck species, from elegant Pintail to whistling Wigeon.  Other highlights included a Spoonbill, Green Sandpiper and Marsh Harrier.

Moving on to Chapel Amble we watched numerous Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits actively foraging in the shallow water on the scrape.  The group were entertained by an array of frogs poking their heads above water and the brief appearance of a fox.

The day will be remembered not just for the wide variety of species seen, but also for the number of some individual species, notably over 2000 Golden Plover.  Catching the light they appeared like glitter in a snow globe and close up views of birds on the mud banks created another spectacle, as the beautiful detail in their plumage could be appreciated.

Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Spoonbill, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Snipe, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch

Total 63 species

Spoonbill (Photo by Dave Batten)
Golden Plover (Photo by Dave Easter)
Curlew (Photo by Dave Batten)
Snipe (Photo by Chris Marcol)
Common Frog (Photo by Chris Marcol)