Society News

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

Annual General Meeting

Posted March 17th at 9:50 am in 2019 Annual General Meeting by Mike Daniels

The 2019 Annual General Meeting will take place on Wednesday 27th March 2019 at the Exeter Court Hotel, Kennford, Exeter EX6 7UX at 7pm. The meeting will be followed by a talk by Nick Baker titled: "A screaming success - Churches as bird boxes, or how to make a church goer out of a non-believer"

Visit to West Charleton Marsh on 15th February 2019

Posted March 1st at 4:23 pm in Plymouth Branch Field Meeting by Inga Page

On a bright sunny morning, a group of fifteen members gathered outside the West Charleton Water Treatment works.  Unfortunately, there was a man working there and only one grey wagtail, two chiffchaffs and a greenfinch were of note. On moving down the marsh, a couple of grey herons and stonechats were seen but few other birds. Due to a breakdown of the sluice, the marsh had been inundated with seawater for two weeks in January, with a strandline of debris marking the extent of the flood. The marshland vegetation was looking in a poor state, presumably due to the saline invasion.  Hence, we were very pleased to hear two water rails and glimpse one, as we feared they might have been driven away. The channels and pool held a few mallard, teal, grey herons and little egrets.

On arrival at the hide, we were disappointed to find that the tide was right up to the sea wall below the hide, although it was still almost three hours before high water. Consequently, less shore birds were found than had been anticipated. There was a smattering of the usual wintering estuarine birds, and numbers of curlew and oystercatchers could be seen roosting on a distant shore. A highlight were the regular groups of dunlin seen flying in across the bay, until eventually several hundreds put on a lovely, if distant, display.

Towards the end of our visit, a medium sized grey seal appeared about 100 metres away in front of the hide.  On the way back up the marsh, peacock and red admiral butterflies were observed fluttering in the February sun. A total of thirty four species of birds were observed by the group.


Jackdaw, Blackbird, Herring Gull, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Dunnock, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Carrion Crow, Stonechat, Water Rail, Mallard , Teal, Buzzard, Robin , Wren, Chaffinch, Magpie, Chiffchaff, Grey Wagtail, Long-tailed Tit, Little Egret , Moorhen


Brent Geese, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Wigeon, Oystercatchers, Dunlin, Shelduck, Redshank, Greenshank, Great Black-backed Gull, Cormorant

Doug Herdson

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