Society News from December 2013

Taw & Torridge Branch Indoor Meetings - updated

Posted September 2nd at 5:16 pm in Events by Mike Daniels

The Taw & Torridge Branch are restarting Indoor Meetings at the Castle Centre, Barnstaple. Start times are :7.30pm. Details for the remainder of 2022 and beginning of 2023 are:

8th November - John Walters, the Secret Life of the Long-tailed Tit

13th December - Philip Marlow, African Game Parks are not just the Big 5

10th January 2023 - Emma Scotney, An Introduction to Bats

14th February - James Fentom, Plovers of St Helena: A study

14th March - Stephen Powels, Tawny Owls

11th April - Ian Gaspar, Bird behaviour: an illustrated talk


Happy Christmas and New Year to all our Members

Posted December 24th, 2013 at 10:47 pm

We would like to thank all our Officers, Volunteers and Members for their hard work and help during 2013 and hope you all have an enjoyable festive season.

2012 Devon Report - Delayed

Posted December 20th, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Well you have all had your copies of the Harrier without your copy of the 2012 Report.  Very disappointingly Short Run Press has let us down despite the Report being proofed and ready to print on 27 Nov.  The promised dates for printing have come and gone without the goods and when I chased them again this morning I was told that it has still not been bound and will not be ready until after the Christmas break.  My apologies for the delay which is very disappointing but hopefully your Report will arrive in early January.      George Harris

BARN OWLS need help

Posted December 18th, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Below is an extract from the Barn Owl Trust Press Release issued on 18 Dec

Britain’s favourite farmland bird, the Barn Owl, is in serious trouble and for the first time ever, landowners are being asked, to help get them through the winter by providing an artificial food supply. “There are now so few Barn Owls in England that we must pull out all the stops to get them through this winter”, warns the Barn Owl Trust, “this is not a long term solution; it’s an emergency measure”.

“Britain’s Barn Owl population can usually recover from severe winters such as 1947 and 1963” says the Trust, “but 2012 and 2013 have been an unmitigated disaster”.

The Trust claims that this year there were fewer Barn Owls nesting in England than at any time since farming began around 3,000 BC. Reports from Sussex, Lincolnshire, Devon, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Wiltshire and even Cornwall are all telling the same story. The population has crashed. The proportion of sites where Barn Owls have attempted to breed this year is up to 90% down on previous years. One of the most successful schemes run by retired Major Nigel Lewis in Wiltshire usually finds around 310 nests. This year they found only 32. The Shropshire Barn Owl Group which monitors 150 nest boxes and usually finds 45 nests, this year found only two. Britain’s biggest County Barn Owl Survey carried out every 10 years by the Barn Owl Trust in Devon has so far checked 707 sites. “We would normally expect to have found 170 nests by now” said the Trust’s Senior Conservation Officer, David Ramsden “actually we have found only 44 and most have either failed, or produced only a single owlet”.

Supplementary feeding is not a long-term solution to the crisis facing Barn Owls. “What the birds really need is more prey-rich foraging habitat and a few years without extreme weather events” said Ramsden, “we are also extremely concerned that around 30% of all young Barn Owls end up dead on the side of a major road before their first birthday and 84-91% of all Barn Owls contain rat poison”. Numbers are now so low that another severe winter or cold spring could be the last straw.

Anyone who owns a building or a nestbox containing a roosting Barn Owl is urged to keep a small stock of dead day-old poultry chicks in a freezer and be ready to start putting out food as soon as snow or sub-zero temperatures are forecast. “Food items placed outdoors in the open will be taken by scavengers”, said Ramsden, so we have produced a set of simple instructions to follow”. If you are lucky enough to own an occupied roost site please go to for details.

If you see a Barn Owl dead or alive you can record your sighting please send your sighting to Data Manager


Devon Report 2012

Posted December 16th, 2013 at 12:01 am

We had hoped that you would have received your Devon Report by now, but we are disappointed to have heard from Short Run Press that due to underestimating their workload there has been a delay in printing the Devon Report.  To speed matters up we have now arranged with them to send the Report out direct to members on 17th December so you should still have it before Christmas.

Mike Lock


Posted December 13th, 2013 at 6:30 pm


1st  prize       £200  Mr I Taylor

2nd prize      £75     Mr R Mann

3rd  prize      Concise Edition ‘Birds of the Western Palearctic’  Mrs P Burtt

4th  prize      Two tickets to Lundy:  Ms H Marshall

5th  prize      Framed hand embroidered Waxwing:    Mr & Mrs Hickson

6th  prize      Framed hand embroidered Chaffinch:   Mr G Bogg

East Devon at Escot Park

Posted December 11th, 2013 at 3:58 pm

East Devon at Escot Park Dec 2013

A two mile walk around the estate at Escot Park on Wednesday, 11th December produced 96 Lapwing, 2 Buzzard,  Dipper, Treecreeper, Fieldfare, Redwing, Stock Dove and a Snipe to mention a few good birds.  18 members then sat down for a traditional Christmas lunch before visiting the Red Squirrel enclosure where several of the delightful animals were seen up close.  Jonathan Ruscoe

S Milton Ley Reed Cutting

Posted December 8th, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Despite the weather not being as kind as we had hoped an excellent team turned out to help cut the reeds on Sunday morning.  Disappointingly the reed cutter fired into life and very soon after sheared a part so it was a return to the ancient art of reed cutting with sickles, scythes and fortunately one petrol brush cutter.

Reed cutting SMLey 8.12.13

By mid morning there were enough reeds cut to start building large bonfires with Bob Burridge as chief firelighter.  After a coffee break with chocolate biscuits and mince pies, which refreshed the team, this spurred them on to clear a large area which Jon Avon thought would soon attract in Snipe and perhaps a passing Bittern.

Reed Cutting S Milton Ley 8.12.13

I would like to say a big Thank You and Well Done to Nick Townsend, the group of Devon Birds members, an energetic group of young National Trust Volunteers and not forgetting several local South Milton and South Devon folk who all worked hard together during the morning to achieve an excellent result. 

George Harris

Plymouth Branch Field Trip 7 Dec

Posted December 8th, 2013 at 2:43 pm

South Efford Marsh Aveton Gifford

A mild sunny morning helped to make this an enjoyable visit, although the water level was so high due to the spring tide that there was no suitable meadow for pipits or wagtails to land.

Early on we spent some time trying to confirm the identity of a small grebe but the lovely view of a kingfisher, to be seen later gave no identity problems. The sound of the curlews helped to set the scene. Good numbers of teal and little egrets were on the marsh and on the edge of the estuary we clearly saw 2 common sandpiper, redshank and 2 over wintering greenshank along with oystercatcher. Doug patiently scanned the gulls and eventually found all 5 species of gull that you could expect.

To complete the morning, most of us had a simple lunch at the pub where we “put the world to rights” and got to know each other better

Eventually we saw 34 different species of bird with good views. Fortunately we all were suitably shod so no lost shoes in the mud - thanks Sue for the recce the previous day, so if you plan a visit, it’s well worthwhile but don’t forget the wellies!

Lesley Goonesekera

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