Society News

Devon Birds Plymouth Branch Visit below Bennett’s Cross and onto Challacombe Farm, Dartmoor 18th May 2017

Posted 9:46 am by Kevin Cox


After three days of persistent heavy rain 13 members were pleased to be greeted by sunny weather at the start of the walk down to the valley. Meadow Pipit were plentiful and the first Cuckoo was soon heard and then glimpsed at a distance. As we dropped down Whinchat became abundant and great views were had of both females and males. Tree Pipit were also singing, parachuting and perching. Numerous Willow Warbler and Wren, with Blackbird, Robin and Chaffinch gave a busy sound track, as we walked along the valley floor.  In the same area a striking Reed Bunting showed itself well.

Photos by Dave Batten

By now we had seen at least 4 Cuckoos, definitely two males and probably two females. At the lunchstop Siskin appeared along with a flock of 21 Herring Gull on their way to somewhere. Just after lunch the highlight for many was the view of a male Crossbill, which although well camouflaged, was obligingly chilling out. At least two other Crossbill were seen nearby. Redstart were heard and a male was at last seen at a distance.

 The walk across to Challacombe added a few more Wheatear to our solitary one previously seen. The good weather was not to last and the heavens opened, hail included, though the nesting Swallows were not deterred. Our spirits were lifted by excellent views of a male Redstart and then a pair of Spotted Flycatcher, as we sheltered under the trees waiting for a slight lessening of the rain before we headed back.  The full list totalled 42 species.

Phil Stevens

Grey Heron



Herring Gull

Great Black-Backed Gull



Green Woodpecker [H]



House Martin

Tree Pipit

Meadow Pipit

Pied Wagtail

Grey Wagtail







Northern Wheatear


Song Thrush

Blackcap [H]

Willow Warbler



Spotted Flycatcher

Great Tit

Coal Tit





Carrion Crow

House Sparrow





Reed Bunting


Plymouth Branch, Dawn Chorus Walk, Saltram - Saturday, 13th May, 2017 04.30 hours

Posted May 14th at 5:57 pm by Kevin Cox

Skylark at Chelston Meadow

A Skylark seen at Chelson Meadow on the Dawn Chorus walk  (photo: Bob Barrow)

A group of eleven attended this walk and were rewarded with a good selection of birdsong and some interesting sights including a buzzard being mobbed by Corvids, a Whitethroat singing and showing display flight and a male Chaffinch feeding its mate. Below is a list in order of hearing from 04.30 to 07.30 hours.

Robin; Skylark; Song Thrush; Carrion Crow; Blackbird; Wren; Pheasant, Blackcap; Chiffchaff; Wood Pigeon;; Goldcrest; Goldfinch; Chaffinch; Canada Goose; Whitethroat; Mistle Thrush, Dunnock, Nuthatch.

Also seen fledged Robins and along the river and overhead: Little Egret; Shelduck; Cormorant and Mallard.

John Lloyd

Mid-Devon Branch - Field Meeting at Fernworthy on May 2, 2017

Posted May 4th at 11:18 am by Inga Page


Eleven members, including one new member, attended Fernworthy Field Meeting for a very productive and enjoyable day’s birding led by Roger Jewell.  Many thanks to him!

The weather was initially chilly and overcast but the sun came out later and we enjoyed its warmth.   42 different species were listed for the day, including  mistle thrush, linnet, willow warbler, garden warbler, crossbill, redstart, redpoll, tree pipit, whitethroat, marsh tit and a family of mallard plus all the other usual sightings of birds.  The highlight was a cuckoo heard somewhere above the north side of the reservoir followed shortly after by 2 calling cuckoos which flew across the reservoir from the northerly direction. A little later they reappeared on their return flight from the woods on the south side of the reservoir.   A good birding day was had by all and ended with a picnic lunch near the hide in the sunshine.

Annabelle Strickland, Mid Devon Co-ordinator

 Next meeting: Tues 16 May, Sludge Beds, Exeter (DWT) (due to Bridge Road works, the boat car park will have to be approached from the Countess Wear roundabout where there is plenty of parking)

Devon Birds Plymouth Branch - Trendlebeare Down and Yarner Wood Field Visit 24 April 2017

Posted May 1st at 7:12 pm by Kevin Cox

The Plymouth Branch of Devon Birds chose to visit this area of ancient woodland, before bird identification is made harder with the wonderful mosaic of greens  enclosing the tree canopy. The reserve encompasses the East Dartmoor Woods and Heaths National Nature Reserve.

Twenty-nine of us gathered and we divided into three groups.  As we crossed the dry heathland, Yellowhammer, Stonechat and singing Willow Warbler were spotted as well as displaying Tree Pipit parachuting down to a tree. Just into the woodland an impressive male and female Redstart flitted into the glade from hollies under a row of birch trees adjacent to the Down. 

Further into the wood the numerous nest boxes had occupants of Blue Tits, Nuthatches and Pied Flycatchers. During the walk, at least four nest boxes showed Pied Flycatchers supplying nesting material. The song of these migrants was heard frequently from males posturing on the young rowan saplings nearby.  At least two geolocators have been retrieved this year from these birds as part of the research by Malcolm Burgess, linked with Exeter University. Malcolm will be showing the results of his project to Plymouth Branch in a talk 13th November on ‘Tracking Devon’s Birds’. 

All three woodpeckers were seen or heard, although the Lesser Spotted was only seen by one group and appeared to be less vocal, presumably nesting now. Returning Wood Warblers were sought and viewed high in the canopy by one group on the higher slopes of the woodland, where a Cuckoo was also heard beyond the woodland periphery. Other birds of interest included Sparrowhawk over the Down and Hobby found in the valley along with an elusive Blackcap, as well as Siskin and Bullfinch, which took advantage of the feeders near the hides. This gave a total of forty-one species identified.

Liz Harris

Flightless birding to Extremadura

Posted April 19th at 1:35 pm by Kevin Cox

A talk by John O’Connell-Davidson, Devon Birds Plymouth Branch committee member at the Devon Birds Plymouth Branch Indoor meeting -  Monday 10th April 2017

John combines his love of travel with worldwide birdwatching and has visited many far-flung places in his search for species. Accompany John on a local bird watching trip and you will benefit from his expertise and ID knowledge and this skill was brought out in this engaging and informative presentation on birdwatching in Extremadura. The title of John’s presentation had nothing to do with some exotic non-flying species but referred to a cost effective and enjoyable trip which combined Plymouth to Santander ferry and car hire road trip down through Spain. John has kindly offered to give advice on travel and accommodation as well as birding hot-spots for iconic Iberian species of birds, insects and flora in this untouched and idyllic area of Spain.

Extremadura is located on a large flat plane and with varied habitat that has been shaped by an agrarian system that has been used for centuries and that allows for a harmonious relationship between farmer and wildlife. The bio-diversity is such that a rich and varied flora and fauna can exist and it is this ecology that is a key to the successful populations of resident, migrant and passing migrant birds. The management of the land with a more leisurely rotation of crops and livestock promotes the wild flowers, trees and insect life that in turn support the wide and flourishing bird populations. Even the towns and villages make homes for species such as Lesser Kestrel, Spotless Starling and Stork. The many lakes and reservoirs support warblers and water birds including Little, Great and Cattle Egrets, Purple Heron and even Whiskered Tern. Over the winter the many managed Oak groves that are an integral feature of the agrarian landscape support huge numbers of Crane which gorge themselves on the acorns before the find roosts at the local lakes.

John had visited Extremadura with his friend Peter whose photographs of many iconic species, such as Roller, Booted and Short-toed Eagle, and in the nearby Sierra Gredos Mountains Honey Buzzard, Goshawk and the sure-footed Ibex mountain goat featured in John’s presentation. The visit to the mountains also provided opportunities to see Alpine flora and to put one’s boots in the snow!

Information and advice about Extremadura is freely available both from the internet and in hardcopy from events such as Birdfair and help to make this area of Spain an easily accessible and rich resource for anyone who wishes to be immersed in a wildlife paradise.

John Lloyd

All photos by Peter Burkill

South Milton Reserve - track maintenance

Posted April 17th at 11:17 pm by Kevin Cox

The track on the north side of the Reserve between the treatment plant and just short of the boardwalk is to be re-seeded with a grass mix that does not grow so rapidly or prolifically. Work is due to start in the week ending 23 April with an initial coarse harrowing of the track, followed a few weeks later by fine harrowing before the new seed mix is sown.  The track will remain open throughout the work so please feel free to continue using it.

Photo's for the Digital Devon Bird Atlas

Posted April 6th at 9:09 am by Mike Langman

The digital Devon Bird Atlas is about to be launched and we need some new bird photographs preferable taken in Devon. Can you help?

This is the list of species required:

  • Whooper Swan
  • Bewick’s Swan
  • Eider (male & female or pair)
  • Velvet Scoter
  • Honey Buzzard
  • Marsh Harrier
  • Woodcock
  • Little Auk
  • Little Tern
  • Common Tern
  • Black Tern
  • Roseate Tern
  • Kittiwake
  • Little Gull
  • Feral Pigeon/Rock Dove
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Swift
  • Hoopoe
  • Wryneck
  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  • Hobby
  • Golden Oriole
  • Red-backed Shrike
  • Chough
  • Willow Tit
  • Woodlark (adult)
  • Skylark
  • Swallow
  • Cetti’s Warbler
  • Bearded Tit
  • Garden Warbler
  • Lesser Whitethroat
  • Grasshopper Warbler
  • Starling
  • Nightingale
  • Tree Sparrow
  • White Wagtail
  • Water Pipit
  • Lesser Redpoll
  • Lapland Bunting

Photographs (up to 2MB) for selection will be collected in a ‘Devon Atlas Digital’ dropbox folder (  

For an invite to submit material contact Mike Langman at

Submission of any photo assumes that Devon Birds may use the image free of charge in any of their own publications, on the website or for Society publicity purposes, the copyright of course remains with the photographer.

It is essential that every photo submitted is file named to identify species, age (if applicable) location (unless a vunerable species in which please just mark as 'undiclosed site' or UdS), date and photographers initials some file names are restricted to 28 characters in which case they can be abbreviated  i.e. a Mediterranean Gull 2nd summer photo taken at Instow on 20 July 2012 by Jo Bloggs (please use your known Devon Birds initials if you have or know them) could be: MedGull2sInstw200712JBs.

We really look forward to seeing what you can offer.

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