Society News

Visit to Cann Woods on 12th June

Posted June 17th at 5:46 pm in Plymouth Branch Field Meeting by Inga Page

Twenty members and friends of Devon Birds Plymouth Branch met at Cann Woods, Plympton, at 9:00pm, for our now annual Nightjar Walk. 

I, Chris Marcol, again acted as leader for our fourth year to this site, and as an introduction, gave a brief talk on the life history of the Nightjar, Caprimulgus europaeus, and of my personal studies of the Cann Wood colony over the past 17 years, concluding that it has remained fairly stable over this period.

Being overcast the viewing conditions were slightly less than perfect, so given the recent fickle nature of our weather the group was fortunate in having a number of good sightings of these enigmatic birds.

Our first stop was in a location in the middle of the wood where one pair has been showing reliably over recent days.  After a short wait the first churring was heard from the edge of the clearing at around 9:40.  Once he stopped singing, there was a brief pause and then a single bird was spotted flying quickly close past the group.  With only a few catching a glimpse, the cry of “Nightjar” went up from a few.  It wasn’t however a Nightjar but a Cuckoo!  This was the cause of some slight amusement after I had declared in the introduction that, unusually, there were no Cuckoos in the wood this year!

Moving on to one of the ‘hotspots’ the group was treated to at least four more churring males, now accompanied by several flight views of both males and females in the last light of the day.

Due to the lateness of the hour, few other birds were seen, but several Tawny Owls, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Wren and Willow Warbler were all heard.  A few Pipistrelle bats hunting along the woodland edge were the sole mammalian sighting of the evening.

Chris Marcol

Trip to Challacombe Farm on 24 May 2019

Posted June 11th at 4:33 pm in Plymouth Branch Field Meeting by Inga Page

Eighteen members of Devon Birds enjoyed a good day out organised by the Plymouth Branch. The weather started off a tad chilly but soon warmed up and although cloudy it remained dry and bright, though the sun failed to make an appearance.

 From the start of the route at Bennett’s Cross we walked downhill towards the old Birch Tor & Vitifer Mines. Willow Warbler and Garden Warbler were seen in the low woodland area after giving us fine renditions of their songs. A distant Whinchat was seen and good views were had through telescopes.  Further sightings of Whinchat were had later in the day. A few members heard a Curlew, though it was not seen.

 Several Cuckoo were seen and heard as we continued the walk. Reed Bunting and Redpoll were observed in the valley bottom. The walk continued to Soussons Wood. Here the path coincided with a small watercourse, providing good views of tadpoles. A fine sighting of a Green Woodpecker and a Red Kite signalled the need for a lunch stop. Goldcrest and Coal Tits entertained us as lunch was consumed. When everyone was fed up (well fed, not the other meaning) we continued the walk around Challacombe Down, where Small White and Green-Veined White butterflies were seen flying and a large hairy caterpillar of the Drinker Moth joined us on the path.  Swallows, Tree  Pipit and Linnet were amongst the birds seen in this area. A profusion of bluebells added great colour to the hillside here.

 Amongst the many birds seen at Challacombe Farm good views were had of Redstart, Tree Creeper and Mistle Thrush. A few members, who had joined us from the South Devon Group, enjoyed a good sighting of a Spotted Flycatcher.


Redstart - Dave Batten

Mistle Thrush - Dave Easter

We continued our walk northwards to Headland Warren Farm. On the way we passed a spectacular hillside of bluebells. Here a Small Heath and fritillary butterfly were seen (the latter probably a Small-Pearl Bordered Fritillary). A Cuckoo was heard calling whilst another one was seen low down.


Challacombe Down Bluebells - Roy Harris

A refreshment stop near Headland Warren was a welcome break, before we continued over the moors back to Birch Tor & Vitifer Mines. On the way back we saw an adult Fox Moth and heard more Cuckoo. The debate over the numbers of Cuckoo seen/heard during the day continues, but the concensus seems to be  3 or 4 individuals.

A total of 42 species of bird were seen and one curlew was heard calling, making 43 species recorded;

Skylark, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Blackbird, Meadow Pipit, Cuckoo, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Robin, Whinchat, Mallard, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Redpoll, Jay, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Red Kite, Green Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Swallow, Tree Pipit, Raven, Linnet, Jackdaw, Mistle Thrush, House Martin, Pied Wagtail, House Sparrow, Redstart, Blue Tit, Grey Wagtail, Spotted Flycatcher, Chiffchaff, Wren, Tree Creeper, Herring Gull, Dunnock.

Kevin & Jacki Solman


Trip to Venford Reservoir on 15th May

Posted May 23rd at 9:38 pm in Plymouth Branch Field Meeting by Inga Page

The route started by crossing Venford Dam and travelling down a steep path by the side of the waterworks buildings to the gate at the bottom. For a short distance we followed alongside the stream from the reservoir outfall and then onto the pipeline pathway. This then contoured for 1.5 miles around Bench Tor, when we finally crossed the moor back to the dam.

Below Venford Dam birdsong resounded.  This area of pines and mature deciduous trees was fenced off and provided a sheltered haven, particularly for several hirundines, making use of the buildings for nest sites.

 From the pathway looking down through the tree trunks of this delightful deciduous woodland into the Dart Valley, it felt like traversing a tree canopy trail. In the woodland predominantly of oak, rowan and holly, many summer migrants were found. We heard and saw a pair of Pied Flycatcher calling, as they returned to their nest site. A Redstart sang loudly from a treetop just into the wood. A Spotted Flycatcher fleetingly showed between the tree trunks below and a busy Wood Warbler gave vibrant trills, while shaking vigorously and sporting four colourful rings.

Both Tree Pipit and Yellowhammer were identified on the moorland area and several Cuckoo were heard calling from a distance.

The birds appeared to be finding food but the ground and moss on the tree trunks were both very dry for this time of year.

Thirteen members of Devon Birds were able to enjoy such a special site. 

Species list

Buzzard, Wood Pigeon, Cuckoo, Swift, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Swallow, House Martin, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Wren, Robin, Redstart, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Wood Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Long Tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Tree Creeper, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Raven, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Linnet, Yellowhammer.     40 species.

Liz Harris

Dawn Chorus at Bedford Bridge - 4th May 2019

Posted May 21st at 5:48 pm in Plymouth Branch Field Meeting by Inga Page

It was still an hour before sunrise when 7 of the Plymouth group met at Bedford Bridge Car Park. But as we were getting ready there was already the beginning of bird song around us.

 As we walked slowly into the woods by the River Walkham this built to a crescendo as more and more birds joined in. Early contributors were Robin, Song Thrush, Pheasant, Blackbird and a distant Tawny Owl. 

On the way up to the Down as dawn broke we spotted a Roe Deer in a glade, which stood still for several minutes watching us watching it. Up on the Down Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Yellowhammer were performing.

Back on to Gem Bridge one highlight was looking down onto the Oak canopy and hearing and seeing two Song Thrushes with their backs to each other but within 10 metres on two separate Oaks. They seem to have agreed that the Bridge was the dividing line for their two territories.

By the river a Grey Wagtail was patrolling and a pair of Marsh Tits were very busy.

After 3 hours, breakfast at Drake’s Cafe was most welcome.

A full list of species seen or heard:

Pheasant, Buzzard, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Tawny Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Marsh Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer (31)

Phil Stevens

Trip to Yarner Wood

Posted May 7th at 6:28 pm in Plymouth Branch Field Meeting by Inga Page

15 members braved the heavy early downpours to explore the reserve. Most of the migrant species were in except for Wood Warblers. Local residents were also showing well.

Species seen or heard:

Mallard, Wood Pigeon, Cuckoo, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, Tree Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Redstart, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wren, Pied Flycatcher (pictured above), Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Marsh Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Carrion Crow, Raven, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Siskin, Yellowhammer

Phil Stevens

Presentation on Walmsley Sanctuary, the Cornish reserve on the Camel.

Posted April 7th at 5:39 pm in Plymouth Branch Indoor Meeting by Inga Page

Presentation to Devon Birds Plymouth Branch 1st. April, 2019

by Adrian Langdon, warden of Walmsley Sanctuary

 Cornwall was at the forefront of conservation when, in 1939, the land that became Walmsley Sanctuary was bought by Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society to provide a safe haven for waterfowl and waders that were often ‘under-the-guns’ of local shooters at that time. Since than Walmsley has grown to become a crucial site for a wide variety of waterfowl and waders throughout the year and hosts large numbers of Golden Plover and Lapwing as well as Black Tailed Godwit.

Its position between Chapel Amble and the river Camel makes it well placed for birds pushed up by the incoming tides. The site comprises three hides with the Tower Hide requiring a key for access but the others being open access. The Bernier Hide looks out over the Camel estuary and is good for early morning viewing, subject to tides whereas the other hides look over the Amble Marshes.

Adrian has managed the reserve for over 20 years. His dedication and his relationships with local landowners and tenant farmers have helped to make Walmsley an acclaimed location. He related the scope of work carried out by himself and his team of volunteers to maintain the site. Careful management of water levels, creation of new channels and scrapes and monitoring of wildlife are all key elements of the work necessary.

The reserve attracts a wide range of fauna with Otters, Hares, Foxes and Dragonflies also featuring on site lists. There have been several rarities at the reserve. These include; Wilson’s Phalarope, American Bittern, Common Crane and a Tundra Peregrine. Regular visits are from Cattle Egret ( a maximum of 80 at one point earlier this year), Glossy Ibis ( a maximum group of 14 birds) and regular drop ins from Lesser Yellowlegs, Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint.

Your committee visited the reserve in mid-January this year and were thrilled to see a flock of some 2000 Golden Plover and 1000 Lapwing as well as many other waders and wildfowl from the vantage point of the excellent Tower Hide. We encourage all to visit this wonderful Sanctuary, check details on the Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society website and follow the link to Adrian for information about access and the key for the Tower hide.

John Lloyd

Devon Birds Plymouth Branch committee member

Bowling Green Marsh and Darts Farm visit on 14th March 2019

Posted March 20th at 3:18 pm in Plymouth Branch Field Meeting by Inga Page

After a number of days of strong gales and rain, the forecast was abysmal and so the weather proved to be.  However, six brave souls from Devon Birds ventured out.

From Holman Way car park, we walked towards the hide with high water due at 11:00. We stopped briefly at Goosemoor before ambling to the hide where we remained until after high water.  The water levels on the marsh in front of the hide were higher than expected as the sluice had been defective and was only lowering the level slowly.  From the hide, we managed a brief stop at the platform to look over the River Clyst before progressing to the Goat Walk and viewing the River Exe.   However, the wind was so strong that nobody felt it safe to put up a ‘scope. 

After lunch it was decided to venture to Darts Farm for the final stop of the day where a pair of Black Swans seemed to have taken up residence.  On the way back to Holman Way car park on Bowling Green Road, as we were looking at white violas on the top of the bank, we noticed a Slow Worm sunning itself.

Although the weather, especially the wind, did not make for a good days birding we agreed that we had a lot better visit than expected with a total of 53 species observed.

Species list

Mute Swan, Black Swan, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Snipe, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wren (heard), Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Rook, Starling, House Sparrow, Linnet, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch.

John O’Connell-Davidson

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