Society News

Plymouth Branch Field Meeting Report

Posted March 24th at 3:15 pm by Kevin Cox

Topsham and Bowling Green Marsh 6th March 2017

With heavy rain forecast throughout the day 6 intrepid birders met started at Holman Way car park SX968881 for what they hoped would be a day’s birding without getting too wet. In the event the weather was kind and a good birding was achieved.  

We started at the Key at Topsham Quay car park before walking along the road towards the Marsh. First stop was the viewing platform overlooking the river at SX 97284 87296 where we had very good views of a Common Seal eating a large Mullet.   Moving on to the Bowling Green Marsh hide for an hour either side of high water before walking to the NCN Goosemoor & River Clyst Bridge path for views across the moor.  

Bird list

  1. Wood pigeon
  2. Collared dove
  3. Carrion crow
  4. Canada goose
  5. Robin
  6. House sparrow
  7. Dunnock
  8. Starling
  9. Blue tit
  10. Great tit
  11. Goldfinch
  12. Blackbird
  13. Blackheaded Gull
  14. Herring Gull
  15. Red-breasted Merganser – 6
  16. Teal
  17. Feral pigeon
  18. Redshank
  19. Avocet
  20. Blacktailed Godwit
  21. Cormorant
  22. Pied Wagtail
  23. Dunlin
  24. Golden Plover – 500 to 1000
  25. Curlew
  26. Mute swan
  27. Shelduck
  28. Mallard
  29. Grey plover – 10+
  30. Song Thrush – 1
  31. Common Gull – 2
  32. Magpie
  33. Jay
  34. Wigeon
  35. Moorhen
  36. Bartailed Godwit
  37. Shoveler
  38. Goldcrest
  39. Snipe
  40. Pintail
  41. Lapwing
  42. Coot
  43. Tufted duck – c. 5
  44. Little Grebe – 3
  45. Little Egret – 1 or 2
  46. Buzzard – 3
  47. Sand Martin – 2
  48. Greenfinch
  49. Chaffinch
  50. Grey heron
  51. Greenshank – c.7
  52. Spotted Redshank – 1
  53. Water Rail – 1 heard


Red fox – 1

Common Seal – 1 Medium sized; eating a Thick-lipped grey Mullet.

John O'Connell-Davidson

Mid Devon Field Meeting Steps Bridge – Tuesday 21 March 2017

Posted March 23rd at 7:41 pm by Inga Page

Dipper © Ron Champion, 15/3/2017, Dartmeet, With nest building material.  Same site for 35+ years.

16 members attended Steps Bridge today for a most enjoyable field meeting. Ably led by Tim Channon who has great knowledge of this area, his local patch, so many thanks to him!  It was very encouraging to have 2 friendly and knowledgeable prospective new members in attendance, hopefully they will join us again.  It was good to hear people happily sharing their knowledge with each other and discussing various points of the sightings.

The weather was typical for early spring, mixed sunshine and showers allowing us 32 different species seen and heard.  Most notable, were at least 2 lesser spotted woodpeckers, 3 pairs of dipper – 2 seen coming from their nest about 6ft up a tree alongside the river, several song thrush, nuthatch, redwing, siskin, jay, tree creepers, pair of bullfinch, pair of goosander, kingfisher, heron, marsh tit, gs woodpecker, sparrowhawk, goshawk and to end the day a tawny owl was heard nearby.  All the other usual suspects, eg goldcrest, grey wagtail, buzzard etc were present so a good birding day was had by all.

Annabelle Strickland

Mid Devon Co-ordinator

Raptor Rescue

Posted February 22nd at 11:13 pm by Kevin Cox

Devon Birds Plymouth Branch - Indoor Meeting of Monday, 13th February 2017

A talk by Steve Hopper, South Hams Hawks & Owls

Steve has dedicated much of his life to birds of prey and his extensive knowledge and his great passion for these birds was deftly communicated to an enthralled audience. He illustrated his presentation with many outstanding photographs that showed another great talent that this engaging birder possesses. Many of us will have met Steve on his ‘peregrinations’ and he is always a helpful and informative guide willing to impart his bird ID tips to enrich our birding experience.

His presentation clearly showed us the complex and involved care that is needed to rescue the birds that come his way. His rapport with many local vets and land owners has meant that his reputation has spread far across our county and beyond. Many occasions have seen Steve venturing out late at night (sometimes in his pyjamas!) to attend to a raptor in trouble. The success rate of recovery is impressive too and Steve is always saddened when a bird is beyond his and the vet’s skills.

In the second half of Steve’s presentation we were introduced to three of Steve’s charges. The audience were thrilled to meet Scamp the Barn Owl, Marley the Kestrel and the impressive and imperious Hazzard Hawk (Harris x Buzzard hybrid that Steve had bred).   From his skills in falconry we learnt about the importance of weight and condition when flying birds of prey and how birds hunt both from the falconer’s arm and in the wild.

We all came away from the evening with much admiration for the sterling work that Steve does, a great deal more knowledge and a desire to get out birding and see more raptors!

John Lloyd

Thurlestone Walks

Posted February 22nd at 9:36 am by Shaw Edwards

Kestrel © Keith McGinn, 11/4/2016, shaldon


Just a brief note to say thank you to the people who came on the two Thurlestone walks, over forty in all.  We saw a good range of birds on both occasions, with clear identification of 30 on the January walk and 37 on 19th of February, on top of which we had good weather! We had great views of the Desert Wheatear, which is now acquiring his breeding plumage and according to local reports is beginning to sing.  There were also good viewings of a Water Pipit, several Snipe, Cattle Egrets and two White-fronted geese on South Huish Marsh and a female Black Redstart on the rocks by the flats.  Another highlight was the wonderful views of a Kestrel, on the 19th, who most obligingly hovered a few feet above us, giving many people a chance to take photographs.

From some of the feedback that we gathered on both days a lot of people enjoyed meeting, talking and sharing their knowledge with each other, therefore if people feel it would be of interest maybe it would be worthwhile organising similar informal events. Valerie and I have some ideas of walks that we may like to organise, but if anyone else has suggestions on where they would like to explore, please let us know.

Again, many thanks to everyone who joined us, and also considerable thanks to Mike Passman for his local knowledge and advice, and to those members who helped in January.

Shaw and Valerie Edwards



Successful Reed Cut on Saturday at SML - with thanks to all who helped

Posted February 18th at 6:41 pm by George & Julia Harris

A beautiful spring-like morning greeted the twenty-plus volunteers who turned out for the second reed cutting and burning session of the winter at South Milton Ley today. With Rory Sanders driving the reed-cutting machine and ably coordinated by Nick Townsend, the team of Devon Birds’ members, local birders and residents from South Milton and the surrounding area, was able to cut, clear and burn around 7,000 square metres of reed bed in about three hours.

With a relatively high average age, the volunteers were in agreement that spreading the cutting over two sessions made the process more enjoyable and less physically demanding than in previous years. It also enabled a larger total area to be cleared, which fully meets the requirements of the management plan agreed with Natural England for the reserve.

Slash and burn

Mowing sections of the reed bed on rotation helps to rejuvenate it by preventing the accumulation of plant debris. If not managed, this can accelerate the drying out of the marsh and encourage colonisation by willow, alder and other trees. Cut sectors are always adjacent to established stands of mature reeds to ensure rapid recolonization of the new growth by invertebrates from the surrounding areas. In the short term, this minimises the impact on the birds breeding and feeding in the reed bed and, in the longer term, produces a diverse mosaic of healthy reeds.

Reed cutting team

Devon Birds extends its thanks to all those who took part.

Alan Pomroy


Directions to Carswell Farm

Posted February 15th at 11:30 pm by Kevin Cox

There's still time to join us for the first bird survey at Carswell Farm on Friday 17 February at 8am. This is an opportunity to help survey the farm at a time when improvements are being made to the range of habitats for birds and wildlife. All are welcome whatever your level of birding expertise. You will survey as part of a team, so we need recorders and spotters as well as expert birders. Please come along.

Directions to Carswell, Holbeton, Nr Plymouth, PL8 1HH:

Approaching from the East:

Take the A38 for Plymouth.

Shortly after passing the Shell garage on your right (which is just passed South Brent turnoff), turn left at intersection signed to Ermington A3121 and Yealmpton A379.

Proceed 1 mile to crossroads with give-way sign and turn right onto A3121. Keep on this road for several miles past Ugborough and Ermington.

Half a mile past Ermington stop at halt sign and turn right on the A379 towards Plymouth (DANGEROUS TURNING). At the top of the hill turn Left at Crossroads following signs for Holbeton until you come to signs for Stoke (DO NOT GO INTO HOLBETON VILLAGE).

Still following signs for Stoke go straight across crossroads at hamlet (Battisborough Cross) with houses and garage.

Carswell is the third farm entrance on the left beyond.


South Milton Reserve – Reed Cut 18 February 2017

Posted February 9th at 7:25 pm by Kevin Cox

Each year, Devon Birds' volunteers cut part of the reed bed in South Milton Ley to regenerate growth.  Perfect weather and an excellent turnout meant we made very good progress on the cut this year until the mechanical reed cutter broke down. The cutter has now been repaired and we are going to have another go on Saturday 18 February at 10.00am.  Please let Vic Tucker or Nick Townsend know if you will be able to help.

With about 30 volunteers at the January cut, we were able to keep pace with the mechanical reed cutter without over-exerting ourselves gathering and burning the reeds. This time we will be cutting the reeds about 200m downstream of the public footpath by the South West Water treatment plant. Please park in the field at the top of the lane leading down to the treatment plant. We will gather at 10am by the public footbridge over the stream by the treatment plant. It is a friendly atmosphere and an enjoyable few hours of physical work!

Bring wellies, gloves and refreshments, wear warm old clothes and if you have long-handled bagging hooks and/or rakes please bring them along as well.

Please contact:Vic Tucker (01752 216887)  if you are interested in helping with the reed cutting or Nick Townsend (01548 560243).


Update on Mid Devon Field Meeting Tottiford – Tuesday 17 January 2017

Posted January 23rd at 9:15 pm by George & Julia Harris

Nine members met at Tottiford Reservoir car park for the morning field meeting.  Weather was overcast but fortunately we avoided the forecasted rain.  Walking along the east side of Tottiford we were surprised how low the water level was.  The other two reservoirs were also extremely low.  We walked up to the Kennick dam and crossed over to the western side, up through the woodland and down to Tottiford reservoir next to the wooden shelter, along the western shore back to the car park for lunch.  There were many stops on our way as we thought we heard Crossbills but we were unable to get sight of them.  There was great interest in a tree beside the path which appeared to have a hornet’s nest near the top.  One of the members who is a keen beekeeper will make the necessary enquiries due to the possibility of it being an Asian hornet.Goosander at Tottiford, Tom Wallis

Birds included Goosander, Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Mistle Thrush, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Bullfinch and Raven.  Our total for Tottiford was 28.  

Due to the weather we decided to give the exposed areas around Blackingstone Rock a miss and after lunch headed to Yarner for a short walk.  We added five more birds to our list including Marsh Tit, Chaffinch, Siskin, Stonechat and Dartford warbler.

Next Field Meeting – Steps Bridge – Tuesday 21 March 0930  Annabelle Strickland

Reed cutting at West Charleton Marsh - 7 Feb

Posted January 23rd at 2:31 pm by George & Julia Harris

After an excellent morning of reed cutting with Nick at South Milton marsh yesterday, where I saw that many people volunteered to help, we would be delighted if a few volunteers also came to help us carry out the same task at Charleton marsh. The area is nowhere near as big as S Milton and the farmer who owns the land will be sending two workers with brushcutters and we Devon Birds/Kingsbridge Natural History Soc members will bring two or more as well. The farmer supplies long handled muck forks, but a few more would help. We will pile and burn the cut reeds. The area may be a bit wet but wellingtons should suffice.

Date;     Tuesday 7th February. 9am start. Low tide is at 08.33

Meet:   At the end of Marsh Lane, West Charleton. This is a right turn off the A 379 in West Charleton (coming from Kingsbridge). Pass the church on the right, go down a short dip and as you go uphill again the lane is on the right. If you come to the Ashburton Arms you’ve missed it, but this is a good place to park. If you come later than 9 just walk down the marsh to the hide at the bottom.

We will aim to finish by about 1pm.

I’ll be happy to answer any questions.  Chris Klee  Tel 01548 288397.


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