Devon Bird Sightings from 8th–14th March 2017

Recent Winter Weather

I should like to include a piece on the effects on birds of the recent severe cold snap (26 February to 3 March) in the next 'Devon Birds'. Please send any accounts, observations and anecdotes to me ( and I will try and compile a single account (with of course, full acknowledgement of all contributors). Please include some weather notes - for instance, here in East Devon it was the glazed frost on the morning of 2 March that did the most damage, covering everything with a layer of ice and forming an icy crust on the lying snow. Many thanks.

Mike Lock

Posted March 9th at 11:52 am by Mike Daniels in General Birding

Devon Birds Records Committee

After serving as a member of the Committee for five years, Chris Townend will be standing down at the end of June 2018. Chris, who leads wildlife watching holidays through his own company 'Wise Birding', has been an active member of the Committee, and his consistently pragmatic approach to assessing records has proved invaluable. The Society would like to thank him for his contribution over the past five years and wish him well in the future.

A formal application to fill the vacancy has been received from Andrew Smith, from Buckfastleigh, which is supported by members of the Committee. Andy has been birding for over forty years and moving to Devon in 2015, Andy has since explored the County, regularly visiting Soar and South Huish during migration, whilst more locally he spends his time and surveying at Hembury and Holne Woods.

Over the last 20 years Andy has led over 130 bird and natural history tours, mainly for Naturetrek. His experience and knowledge from birdwatching in over 50 countries including much of the Western Palearctic will be especially useful to Devon Birds and the Records Committee.

Unless the County Recorder receives any other applications before 15th April 2018, Andy will be formally elected to fill the vacancy for a five year period.

For more information and/or an application form please contact: Kevin Rylands, County Recorder. Email:

Posted February 21st at 11:01 am by Mike Daniels in General Birding


If you follow our Blog but are not currently a member of Devon Birds please consider joining Devon Birds to help us with the upkeep of running the website and this service as well as our valuable conservation work .

Posted October 10th, 2016 at 9:14 am by George & Julia Harris in General Birding

Sightings Page Changes

Acting on comments to Devon Birds some changes have been made to this page. To the right of this header post you'll see there are now several subjects for you to choose to read and post on. Just click your chosen subject and use as previously.

Please be careful not to post under the wrong subject. If you do, you can still easily go back to edit and change the subject yourself so it appears on the right page.

Please try and keep posts short, particularly in the Scarce / Rare Birds & Passage Counts page. Photographs are still very welcome.  

For help with ID email photos to

Posted June 30th, 2016 at 9:24 pm by George & Julia Harris in General Birding

Sunday 12th March 2017

Additions to Perry's Slapton post

Great Northern Diver and male Commom Scoter at Torcross. Red-throated Diver off Memorial car park. Male Scaup on Ley. Lots of Harbour Porpoise throughout Start Bay - never seen so many in the Bay before. 

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 10:17 pm by George and Lesley Carr in General Birding

Woodpeckers, Waxwings but No Whale

Started the day at Yarner Wood where  Siskins, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker, but no Redpolls at the feeders. 

At Heathfield at least 10 Waxwings still finding berries in the A38 central reservation.

At Slapton Ley a flock of 20+ Sand Martin contained at least two House Martins.  On the ley a male and female Scaup.  In the bay a Great Northern Diver and a 2nd summer Mediterranean Gull, but no sign of the Little Gull (or of the whale).  100+ Pied Wagtails on the beach came into roost at the reeds at the 'duckpond' where a Water Rail also showed.

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 10:12 pm by Chris Marcol in General Birding


Good numbers of Sand Martins through today with c 60 over Bowling Green Marshes late pm. In the morning there was a Green Sandpiper on the marsh. The Long-tailed duck was on the river south of St Margaret's Church. Two Goldeneye from the viewing platform and one at the Rec.

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 8:18 pm by Martin Elcoate in General Birding

Plym Estuary & Saltram

Highlights this afternoon were 3 Jack Snipe, a drake Red-breasted Merganser and an all white male Pheasant! Also: Stonechat and 12 Little Egrets.

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 8:00 pm by Pete Aley in General Birding

Fremington & Home Farm Marsh, Taw Estuary

Single Chiffchaffs along the Tarka Trail (singing) and along the seawall at Home Farm Mash. On the estuary from Home Farm Marsh (mainly on Chivenor side): 240 Wigeon, 3 Gadwall, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 120 Black-tailed Godwit (incl 48 feeding earlier in Fremington Pill), 2 Greenshank, 10 Turnstone and 80 Common Gulls (steady passage downstream). 4 Spoonbills at the mouth of Fremington Pill (including the older of the two colour-ringed birds present at Wrafton earlier in the day). Then later at Fremington Pill pre-roost: 7 Cattle Egrets, 20 Little Egrets and 1 Glossy Ibis. A touch of the Med in North Devon...

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 7:58 pm by Tim Jones in General Birding


From the Island Hide at Seaton wetlands this Godwit flew in with all its jewellery, if I've read it correctly it was rung in 2008 in Devon by Pete Potts.

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 6:44 pm by Simon Thurgood in General Birding

Wrafton Pond

Now 40 - 50 Sand Martins + 1 Swallow flying low over the pond late aft.

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 6:43 pm by Rob Jutsum in General Birding

Humpback Whale - Torbay

Thanks to George Walls update mid pm saying that the Humpback Whale was in Torbay - viewed from Three Beaches headland from 5.10-6.10pm where the Whale was just about in constant view in the middle of Torbay- making its way towards Torquay before returning to the middle of the bay. On arrival huge towers of water were visible as the Whale breached several times and then countless tail flukes visible as it travelled across the bay

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 6:42 pm by Mark Bailey in General Birding

Man Sands

The scoter flock was back off Man Sands. The imm male Surf Scoter is still present (now showing more developed plumage, white nape etc), 2 Velvet Scoter, c300 Common Scoter & 7 Eider. Also noticeable passage of  Black-headed Gulls contained one ad Mediterranen Gull.

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 5:51 pm by Mark Darlaston in General Birding

Topsham Rec.

No Long-tailed Duck, Yellow-browed Warbler at Topsham Rec today.

Other birds that we saw include: Black-headed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, Red-breasted Mergansers, Shanks, Cormorants, Teal, Mallards and Starlings.

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 5:49 pm by Samuel Gray in General Birding

Water spray off Torquay

At Roundham Head this afternoon (~1600) and saw water spray just above the sea off Torquay.  Repeated several times, moving about and by eye could occasionally see "black shapes". Had no binoculars with us or camera.  Obviously I hadnt read about the whale at Berry Head at the time but I thought it might be useful to post this, especially as jet skis were in use in a separate  part of the bay.

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 5:28 pm by Philip Strange in Other Wildlife

Seaton Tern

Forgive lack of expertise: solitary tern close to beach on Seaton seafront today around 14.30. Think arctic but maybe common? Either way, is this early?

Eds: Sandwich Tern is the most likely at this time of year. 

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 5:26 pm by Dave Walters in General Birding

Teign Estuary

Two Cattle Egrets were roosting with the gulls at Passage House this morning before flying south at 09:40, appearing to drop into fields south of Buckland sewage works. These were almost certainly not members of the usual Teigngrace five which were still present in trees at Blatchford Farm forty minutes later. Also on the estuary a male Gadwall, 38 Shelducks, 17 Red-breasted Mergansers, 12 Snipe, four Common Sandpipers and a good local count of 144 Common Gulls.

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 4:16 pm by Will Salmon in General Birding

15 cattle egrets Tamerton Foliot

I believe there are 15 cattle egrets in the photo, and a little egret.  Photos are not too great but was just trying to capture the number of cattle egrets. Somebody stated the record for a flock of cattle egrets in Devon is 12, does this mean more are joining this flock? 


Posted March 12th, 2017 at 3:59 pm by Shane Willson in General Birding


Finally caught up with the long-staying Black Redstart at 12.15....

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 3:28 pm by Jon Turner in General Birding

Wheatear at Berry Head

After all the whale watching I finally managed to find my first 2017 Wheatear, perched on the wall around the Guardhouse cafe, around 9.15am.

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 1:50 pm by Stephanie Murphy in Scarce / Rare Birds & Passage Counts

Humpback Whale at Berry Head

Whilst out looking for wheatear early today at Berry Head, I noticed a rather large black object in the sea. On closer inspection I realised it was  a whale, spouting and diving. After sending OH running back to the car to fetch my camera I photographed it for about an hour. It turned out to be the humpback from Slapton. The news spread quickly but by around 9.30am it had vanished. Is this a first for Berry Head?

Same markings at Slapton whale  
Same markings at Slapton whale



Posted March 12th, 2017 at 1:48 pm by Stephanie Murphy in Other Wildlife

Slapton Ley

Female Goosander and female Scaup north of Stokeley Hide this morning. Also at least 2 Pochards, 150+ Tufted Ducks and 4 Goldeneyes ( 3 males )

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 1:07 pm by Perry Sanders in General Birding


Walk around Occombe this morning produced the following: House Sparrow, 7 Robin, 3 Blackbirds, 6 BlueTits, Greenfinch, 2 Song Thrush, Buzzard, Pheasnat (m&f), Jay, 3 Goldcrest, 3 Wren, Kestrel mobbed by a Carrion Crow, Bullfinch, 3 Great Tit, Dunnock and 3 Chaffinch.

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 11:05 am by Stephen Huggins in General Birding

Wrafton Pond

8 Spoonbills on the scrape this morning but gone by 09.15.

25 Sand Martins & 1 Swallow present for 30 minutes but gone by 09.15 They may come back again later on like they did yesterday.


Posted March 12th, 2017 at 10:10 am by Rob Jutsum in General Birding

Saturday 11th March 2017

Slapton 11 March

On the Ley 2 separate pairs of Great Crested Grebe performing various stages of courtship. A pair of Pochard. Also the Little Gull still present. The Humpback Whale showed with the high tide and was very close to beach at Strete Gate beach.

Great Crested GrebeGreat Crested Grebe

Little Gull


Posted March 11th, 2017 at 9:50 pm by Bob Telford in General Birding

Seaton/Axe valley

A Short eared owl spent all of the day roosting in a tree at Seaton marshes by the tramway south of the hide, yesterday there were 4 Sand Martins around the marsh, near by at Black Hole Marsh today was a Avocet & the Grey Plover still remains. 

Posted March 11th, 2017 at 9:25 pm by Kevin Hale in General Birding


Humpback still between Slapton Monument Car Pk & Blackpool Sands, c.17:15 - 17:45, apparently feeding around high tide.

Posted March 11th, 2017 at 7:45 pm by David Holloway in Other Wildlife


Watched and then photographed the nine Spoonbills at Wrafton this morning, and as I left the reserve at gone 12.30, noticed that they were still there! Closer inspection revealed that some of them had started feeding too! Had to go back and get some video,,,,,

Posted March 11th, 2017 at 7:07 pm by Jon Turner in General Birding

Topsham Rec

Further to my earlier post, I was surprised to find 7 Cattle egrets on the estuary at Topsham Rec at midday.  They soon flew off E towards the Clyst.  I assume that the 4 I saw flying up river earlier that morning connected with another 3 and returned to the Rec. But given the numbers around there could have been 11 in the area.  The Long-tailed duck was still on the river.

Posted March 11th, 2017 at 7:02 pm by Martin Elcoate in Scarce / Rare Birds & Passage Counts

Trentishoe this morning.

2 Wheatear, 4 Sand Martins, many Stonechats and at one time there were 9 perched within a few yards of each other. Skylarks singing and Meadow Pipits everywhere.

Posted March 11th, 2017 at 6:17 pm by Margaret Phillips in General Birding

Lower Tamar Lake

12 Goosander (5m 7f), about 30 Snipe and 6+ Willow Tit

Posted March 11th, 2017 at 5:08 pm by Dick Andrews in General Birding

Dartford Warbler

Dartford Warbler showing well today - more than the usual Stonechats & Skylarks

Posted March 11th, 2017 at 4:35 pm by Greg Bradbury in Scarce / Rare Birds & Passage Counts

Cattle Egret - Tamerton Foliot - 11-03-17

Cattle Egret - Tamerton Foliot - 11-03-17 - about 12 showing well until we decided to take photo's, except for the one photo'd the rest flew away


Posted March 11th, 2017 at 4:09 pm by Greg Bradbury in General Birding

Slapton Ley

Second calendar year Little Gull still at Torcross (near where the ducks get fed )

Posted March 11th, 2017 at 1:12 pm by Perry Sanders in General Birding

Exmoor walk.

A 9am walk across the moors this morning provided, 6 Dartford warblers in 2 separate colonies(edit if  necessary, more for your records really) , 2 kestrel, meadow pipits, skylarks, wrens, stonechat, a small cluster of 7 house martin, and flocks of smaller birds Inc wagtails of sorts all coming in from the NNE., sadly silhouetted against the sky and unable to identify and finally 2 flocks of golden plover. The Moor seems alive again. 

11/03/17 housemartin
11/03/17 housemartin  Eds: it appears to be a Sand Martin..

Posted March 11th, 2017 at 12:51 pm by Philip Worth in General Birding


4 Cattle egrets flew down river over Exminster Marshes, circled around over Topsham Rec and flew back up river at 10:15. Long-tailed duck still present.

Posted March 11th, 2017 at 11:05 am by Martin Elcoate in Scarce / Rare Birds & Passage Counts

Wrafton Pond

Cycled down to the Pond & Sue Bruce announced there were now 10 Sand Martins overhead. On close examination I found 1 Swallow in amongst them. Also 9 Spoonbills on the scrape.

Posted March 11th, 2017 at 9:36 am by Rob Jutsum in General Birding

Friday 10th March 2017

South Huish Marsh

1 female Northern Wheatear and 1 male White Wagtail, late afternoon.

Posted March 10th, 2017 at 11:59 pm by Andy Smith in General Birding

Start Bay

Went out to the Memorial Car Park late afternoon and the Humpback Whale was on show towards Strete Gate till dusk

Posted March 10th, 2017 at 10:05 pm by Perry Sanders in General Birding


First of the year - Spring is here. Although you wouldn't know it - a mostly very gloomy weather day at Dawlish Warren (did brighten up on the high tide). Also good numbers of Knot, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, hunderds of Dunlin and Oyks, Turnstone, Barwits and a few Skylark. Goldcrest in the entrance bushes the only small bird of note seen at the worst of the gloom.


Posted March 10th, 2017 at 7:57 pm by Martin Rooney in General Birding

Plym Estuary

A number of waders still around, using the pool tonight, including 63 Dunlins, 23 Curlews, 118 Redshanks, 4 Greenshanks, and 6 Oystercatchers.

Earlier a Chiffchaff singing in Plymouth city centre.

Posted March 10th, 2017 at 7:45 pm by Pete Aley in General Birding

Wrafton Pond


5 Sand Martins over Wrafton Pond.

Posted March 10th, 2017 at 6:11 pm by Rob Jutsum in General Birding

Exminster Marshes

19 members of DB attended the morning fieldtrip (East Devon Branch) led by Ian Pullan.  We had intended to get to Turf but the weather deteriorated with mist coming from the coast and we turned back at the viewing platform.  Small numbers of Chiffchaff were active including one singing (incoming summer visitors?).  Numbers of ducks and geese were much reduced although Wigeon were still present in their hundreds.  A Cettis Warbler gave a brief call and 2 Buzzards and a Kestrel were seen at a distance, plus 3 Snipe, 2 Pintail and c10 Shoveler. Overhead 2 Skylark were singing.  A Mink was seen twice near the canal/fisherman's car park and crossed our path within feet.

Posted March 10th, 2017 at 5:59 pm by Jonathan Ruscoe in General Birding


Tim Smith and I coming back from working at Home Farm Marsh  came down Fremington Pill ,at the road end in the trees 8 cattle egret 6 little egret and the glossy ibis ,most flew across into the field opposit with the sheep,good end to a busy day.

Posted March 10th, 2017 at 5:40 pm by Geoff Taylor in General Birding

Slapton Sands

Great View of Bonxie just offshore harassing the gulls. Also several Harbour Porpoises but no sign of Humpback although there was a report mid pm.

Posted March 10th, 2017 at 4:56 pm by Rob Macklin in Scarce / Rare Birds & Passage Counts

Brixham, Battery Gardens

1 Black-throated Diver at distance in Torbay today only Diver noted.

Posted March 10th, 2017 at 4:17 pm by Mike Langman in General Birding

Skylarks return to Cranbrook

The skylarks are back and singing in Cranbrook. Same week as 2015 and 2016.

Posted March 10th, 2017 at 3:15 pm by Stephen Lawrence in General Birding

Brixham Breakwater

An hour and a half on the breakwater this am: the 10 Purple Sands still on the old jetty; a swan of some description way off towards Goodrington; no divers of any description.

Posted March 10th, 2017 at 1:31 pm by Dave Holloway in General Birding

Tarka trail - Pottington

1 Chiffchaff in full song for at least 30 minutes this am in the scrub at the side of the trail, possibly a new spring arrival.

Posted March 10th, 2017 at 12:42 pm by Rob Jutsum in General Birding

Yellow Browed Warbler

Cornworthy, 11.00 am today

Posted March 10th, 2017 at 11:43 am by Alun Sherwood in General Birding


3 wheatear on rocks by redrock cafe Langstone rock.1 male 2 female Dawlish Warren

Posted March 10th, 2017 at 11:19 am by Nick Workman in General Birding

Thursday 9th March 2017

Start Bay

In calm conditions the Humpback Whale showed well in Start Bay for most of day, covering most of the area. Breaching twice (completely leaving the water), showing the long white pectoral flippers and body earlier on; and a Bonxie hovered over the whale at one point! Also 10+ Harbour Porpoise, Red-throated and Great Northern Divers.

Humpback close in off memorial car park 18:10

Posted March 9th, 2017 at 10:58 pm by Mark Darlaston in Other Wildlife

Female Black Redstart, Plymouth

Female black redstart, In Stonehouse Creek in a boatyard not far from the Cremyll ferry landing. It has been there consistently from November.

Posted March 9th, 2017 at 10:30 pm by Tom in General Birding

Cattle egrets Tamerton Foliot

Flock of 12 cattle egrets, field adjacent Allern Lane SX474620.  Took flight in easterly direction, located them 300m East of Lukes Fruit Farm  in field adjacent Luke's Lane Soper's Hill  SX484624.

Posted March 9th, 2017 at 8:04 pm by Shane Willson in General Birding

Firecrest in Berrynarbor

Firecrest spotted by Rosie at around 10am this morning in the Oak tree opposite our house on Barton Lane.  Watched for around 15 mins.  Reappeared briefly at about 3pm this afternoon.



Posted March 9th, 2017 at 6:31 pm by Kim Beaver and Rosie Arnold in General Birding

Wrafton Spoonbills

8 present this morning early. Gone by 8.35

Still including the two colour-ringed birds.
Still including the two colour-ringed birds.

Posted March 9th, 2017 at 6:22 pm by jon turner in General Birding

Bowling Green Marsh - Cattle Egrets

When I arrived at the hide this lunchtime there were 2 Cattle Egrets towards the back of the marsh along with 1 Little Egret. Unfortunately, they flew off towards the estuary when a Buzzard spooked them at about 1.55.

Posted March 9th, 2017 at 2:19 pm by Nick Potter in Scarce / Rare Birds & Passage Counts


Arriving at the reserve this morning at about 08.20, I could see a few Spoonbills over on the scrape. Sneaked through and took a few pics of 8 of them! Will post pic later.

Ist Chiffchaff I've seen in the reserve for several weeks today.

Posted March 9th, 2017 at 1:54 pm by Jon Turner in General Birding

Wednesday 8th March 2017

Black redstart

Seen in S Bideford at about 13.30 today

Black redstart, Bideford 8.3.17
Black redstart, Bideford 8.3.17

Posted March 8th, 2017 at 5:42 pm by JOHN WARD in General Birding

Cattle Egrets ~ Totnes

Twenty two Egrets in the kale/cattle field opposite Bowden Pillars, hard to pick out the three Cattle Egrets present as they were feeding in the standing kale crop, the Little Egrets (19) were spread across the field and in with the cattle.

Nine Linnet overhead.

Posted March 8th, 2017 at 5:13 pm by Steve Hopper in General Birding


Another winter visitor still hanging on - the Black Redstart which has been regular around Instow Quay was still there early pm.

Posted March 8th, 2017 at 2:05 pm by Roger Doble in General Birding


A rather pale, grey-and-white Chiffchaff briefly in the garden this morning. Anyone care to ID to race?

'Grey' Chiffchaff (tristis/abietinus/fulvescens)
'Grey' Chiffchaff (tristis/abietinus/fulvescens)

Eds: Shows characteristics of 'Siberian' Chiffchaff 'tristis'

Posted March 8th, 2017 at 8:47 am by Jason Smart in Scarce / Rare Birds & Passage Counts

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