Society News

Annual Draw 2018

Posted November 23rd at 11:41 am in Prize winners by Mike Daniels

The following people won prizes in the 2018 Annual Draw

1st Prize £200 - Mrs C Reevell

2nd Prize £75 - Ms S Smith

3rd Prize 2 tickets to Lundy - Mr & Mrs Rhodes

4th Prize 2 tickets for the Devon Birds trip to Lundy - Mr & Mrs Lockyear

5th Prize £50 - Mr M Steer

Field Meeting at Saltram Park on 15th November

Posted November 20th at 6:25 pm in Plymouth Branch Field Meeting by Inga Page

Sixteen members met at the Laira Bridge end of the ‘Ride’ for a riverside walk through to Blaxton Meadow and then returning via the NT café to take in wooded walks and pasture.

Though the tide was quite full we were rewarded with a good selection of finches, tits and other species that frequent the trees and bushes that line the Ride pathway. On the river we saw a few gulls, Grey Heron, Cormorant, a Curlew and a skein of Canada Geese.

We walked through toward Blaxton Meadow and had good sightings of several jays with one showing well. Also seen on route were three Grey Heron perched in a tree along the riverside walk. As one might expect there were Great Tit, Robin, Wren and Blackbird as well as plenty of corvids.

Blaxton Meadow proved to be the main event with plentiful numbers of waders, wildfowl and wagtails.

Photographs by Dave Easter

On our return to the car park through Saltram Park we had several Mistle Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Full species list (in order of appearance):-

Great Tit, Robin, Goldfinch, BH Gull, H Gull, C Crow, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Canada Goose, Curlew, Wren, Chaffinch, Jay, Blackbird, Greenfinch, B Tit, Turnstone, W Pigeon, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Starling, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Mallard, Little Grebe, Shelduck, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Greenshank, Dunlin, Black Tailed Godwit, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Moorhen, Coalt Tit, Song Thrush, Jackdaw, Buzzard, Rook, Pheasant [43]

John Lloyd

Devon Birds Plymouth Branch


Woodpeckers, Warblers and other Wildlife Highlights

Posted November 20th at 6:17 pm in Plymouth Branch Indoor Meeting by Inga Page

Any talk by John Walters is eagerly anticipated by many who are interested in wildlife. This presentation took us on a whistle-stop tour of our region with aerial shots of some of our key wildlife locations. We learnt how our geography and weather systems governed our wildlife and how events presented opportunities for wildlife but also challenges like ‘The Beast from the East’.

The short and eventful lives of bees, wasps and hornets as well as butterflies, moths and other insects  were covered and their importance emphasised in the ecology of our region.  John supported his presentation with some great photographs and evocative illustrations.

Many of us were familiar with John’s work with BBC wildlife programmes and we were treated to the film of ‘his’ family of Long Tailed Tits that he had recorded roosting in a Holly bush in a wood near to his Devonshire home. This footage was the result of many hours of patient and painstaking work and had captured the imagination of a nationwide audience, when it featured on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s  ‘Wild West’ series.

John is a busy ecologist and has carried out many scientific studies and projects. One example is the re-wilding of Devon roadside verges. These have been stripped back to soil so that they can be seeded with naturally occurring herbaceous plants that will benefit insect life and ultimately support the wider foodchain.

John’s interest goes back to his very early life in Hampshire, where his exposure to the natural world led him toward a career in nature conservation with great passion, energy and enthusiasm.

He communicates this in a relaxed but well informed style that captivates his audiences. For more in depth information about John Walter’s work visit:

John Lloyd Devon Birds Plymouth Branch

Tips and Techniques for Bird Photography on 29th November 2018

Posted November 4th at 1:27 pm in Mid Devon Branch Indoor Meeting by Inga Page

Learn the techniques to better bird photography with Tom Wallis.  The workshop will be held in the skittle room, upstairs at the popular Lamb Inn in Sandford, near Crediton EX17 4LW, a traditional pub with great atmosphere and fine food.   Come earlier for the Mid Devon branch AGM which will be held at 06.30pm before the start of the Camera Workshop at 07.00pm.  Everyone is welcome."

Visit to Dawlish Warren on 30th October 2018

Posted November 1st at 6:06 pm in Mid Devon Branch Field Meeting by Inga Page

20 members met at Dawlish Warren for our field meeting walk around the reserve visiting the hide and walking the dunes route path.  49 different species were seen/heard including Cirl Bunting, Kestrel, Sparrow hawk, Skylark, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Guillemot, Eider, Red-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Ringed Plover, Barnacle Geese, Brent Geese, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone, Wigeon, Stonechat and a probable Yellow-legged Gull. It was a good day in the sunshine with enjoyable like-minded bird watchers’ company.  Many thanks to Digby Greenhill for leading the walk supported by John Whitlock a local, extremely knowledgeable birder.

Next Field Meeting – Roadford, Tuesday 13 November at 0930

Mid Devon visit to Shipley Bridge/Avon Dam - Tuesday 16 October 2018

Posted October 17th at 11:33 am in Mid Devon Branch Field Meeting by Mike Daniels

11 members, including a couple of 'always welcome' new members, met at Shipley Bridge for our field meeting walk to Avon Dam. 28 different species were seen/heard including: Hobby, Snipe, juv Ring Ouzel (2), Kestrel (3-4), Buzzard, Peregrine, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Golden Plover (flock 200+), Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Blackcap and Meadow Pipit. Everyone enjoyed the day with good company and many thanks to Roger Jewell for leading the walk.

Next Field Meeting - Dawlish Warren, Tuesday 30 October at 9.30am

Annabelle Strickland

Plymouth Branch Field Meeting at Soar on 13th October 2018

Posted October 16th at 3:40 pm in Plymouth Branch Field Meeting by Inga Page

The presence of storm Callum meant the turn out met all expectations: few attendees and few birds.  The absence of rain meant that the two of us decided to see if any “goodies” were to be found in Starehole Valley.  There were plenty of Herring Gulls and some Great Black Backed Gulls to view as we walked to the farm.  Approaching the valley, a Raven was heard and seen but smaller birds were only heard, until a Snipe was put up by two National Trust workers.   Later a Kestrel and a Peregrine were seen along with a few Blue Tits.

Thinking Thurlestone would be more sheltered, we made our way there.  Certainly more birds were seen including 3 small tern, which on close examination were probably Common Tern. Identification was not easy when standing or keeping the scope still in the wind.  Many Black Headed Gulls were riding the waves but the only waders were Oystercatchers.   

As the rain arrived it was time to make our way home.

Lesley Goonesekera

Visit to Dawlish Warren on 16th September

Posted September 22nd at 12:12 pm in Plymouth Branch Field Meeting by Inga Page

High tide at Dawlish Warren was at 11.20, so an early start was necessary.   Birders, who were awake early enough for the start, had an enjoyable morning.  Large flocks of Linnets and Goldfinch entertained us as we made our way to the hide.  The field had not been grazed so there were plenty of seed heads to provide food for them.   A flock of Long Tailed Tits were also seen regularly and the odd summer migrant such as a Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and Blackcap and a couple of Swallows were found.

At the hide, there were good numbers of Oystercatcher, and Ringed Plover and some Godwit-both Bar-tailed and Black-tailed.  We had some expert tuition on the best way to identify them and also how to pick out the couple of Whimbrel.  Regular displays by Sandwich Terns were a delight to watch.  Expert eyes and a good scope were necessary to pick out other waders on the bank by the railway.  The Flying Scotsman was much easer to see!  Winter visitors are beginning to arrive and a flock of Widgeon were just visible. 

As we slowly returned to the cars, along the seaward path, 12+ Common Scoter flew past and 12+ Sanderling landed on the beach nearby and a Gannet was seen  fishing out to sea. 

Sanderling and Ringed Plover (Bob Barrows)

Oystercatchers (Bob Barrows)

Visiting Dawlish warren is always worthwhile. We saw over 40 different species in the various different habitats and had excellent views of most.   

Species seen – Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Common Scoter, Slavonian Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kesterel, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Ring Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed godwit, Curlew, Whimbrel, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Sandwich Tern, Wood Pigeon, Meadow Pippit, Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Blackcap, Whitethroat Chiffcahff, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Wren, Great Spotted Woodpecker.

(52 species)

Lesley Goonesekera

The Dartmoor Moorland Birds Project

Posted September 20th at 11:48 am in Plymouth Branch Indoor Meeting by Inga Page

Fiona explained the nature, scope and complexity of the Project. It became clear that managing this wide ranging project to benefit the declining population of Dartmoor moorland birds, with its many stakeholders, is a demanding and critical role.

The project relies on a large number of partners who Fiona has to keep informed and to negotiate a balanced approach to bird positive land management to maximise the potential of habitat for moorland species. This involves study and appreciation of habitat ecology and how soil, atmospheric conditions, land usage by livestock and geology all feed into this multi-faceted challenge. It is a complex problem with a nuanced, thoughtful  and smart solution needed to move forward.

Fiona explained how her role has a strong outreach element and the information is disseminated through presentations, website and leaflets. There are also many volunteers involved in surveys and observations adding to the plethora of data that the project is gathering. Anyone wishing to volunteer can contact Fiona.

The conservation of Ring Ouzel typifies the work of the project. A study of the bird behaviour, its preferred habitat ecology and the land usage through paid researchers, volunteers and stakeholder negotiation has shaped the approach to conservation techniques. Several sites have been identified and some habitat adaption has been made with some ringed birds showing fidelity to the site and limited success in breeding being witnessed.

The plight of breeding Curlew was also discussed and though there is evidence of one pair returning annually to a particular site their breeding success is very poor. It is thought that many factors have impinged on their breeding including the increasing disturbance from free roaming dogs. This situation is again typical of the problems facing moorland birds with increasing leisure usage of Dartmoor; another factor acting on what needs to be a pragmatic and realistic action plan for the preservation of iconic species of Dartmoor moorland birds.

John Lloyd     Devon Birds Plymouth Branch

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