Society News from May 2014

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

13th December - John Walters, the Secret Life of the Long-tailed Tit

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


Exeter Peregrines are growing up and we would like your help

Posted May 28th, 2014 at 1:34 pm

If you go to the link  you can watch the development of the three young Peregrine chicks at St Michaels Church Exeter.

Their parents are very protective and attack any birds nearby, especially Buzzards, that they obviously see as a threat.

Nick Dixon our Devon Birds Specialist for St Michael's Peregrines has asked for help as follows:

Peregrine Aggression towards Buzzards at St. Michael's Church, Exeter

The attacking of Buzzards over Exeter during 2012 was reported in Devon Birds of April 2013, and increased last year with 48 attacks recorded, some fatal and these peaked through May and June.

It is again occurring this year and we are keen to hear of any observed incidents.

Ideally we would like to know the following details: the date, time and weather conditions, whether it involves one or both peregrines, the outcome (unseen, buzzard fell, buzzard escaped) and roughly where it occurred.

Please send any sightings to and we shall pass the information on to Nick.

Brampford Speke Visit Cancelled

Posted May 28th, 2014 at 12:00 am

Please note we apologise but we have had to cancel the field trip to Brampford Speke for this Thursday as leader Annabelle Strickland has had to go away urgently. 

The next meeting is Sunday 8 June 0.9.30am at Rothamsted Research Centre at North Wyke SX660984 
Leader: Jerry Tallowin.  Meet in Visitors Car Park at 9.30am

Jerry lead this meeting in 2013 giving us an excellent history of the buildings as well as a tour of the various areas of land that North Wyke use for research and the different species that are there.
Come along and enjoy Jerry's excellent bird knowledge and hopefully picnic in the grounds watching the swifts which nest in the buildings close by.

An excellent field trip to Belstone by Mid Devon Group on 17 May

Posted May 19th, 2014 at 8:12 pm

Lead by local expert, Chris Walpole, the Group had a wonderful day in the sunshine, starting off by walking down into Belstone Cleave where on our descent Swallows and House Martins were collecting mud from a puddle.  As we walked on down to the River Taw, we could hear Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Cuckoo.  We then heard the song of a Garden Warbler who was sat near the top of the tree in front of us. 

Garden Warbler, Chris Walpole, Belstone 17.5.2014

A little further on we heard a Redstart singing and walked onwards crossing the footbridge and uphill through Skaigh warren where the views were fantastic. We then got to see the Redstart and 4 Raven flying overhead.  After lunch, we headed out onto the Moor where we saw Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Wheatear and a Stonechat with a small amount of orange at the top of its breast and a large white collar (after comparing with the book it was similar to a Siberian Stonechat?)  We saw two Cuckoos, one perched at the top of a tree not far away with Meadow Pipit flying around and heard a third Cuckoo in the other direction.  The day produced 42 different species of birds and thanks to Chris we all enjoyed a great day out together and look forward to the next Mid Devon meeting at Bramford Speke on 29 May meet 10.00am by the church at Bramford Speke, parking around village, SX926982/984– everybody welcome to come along.

Annabelle Strickland

Guillemot Rehabilitation

Posted May 15th, 2014 at 8:50 am by Steve Waite

Thanks to Kevin Rylands of the RPSB for passing this on to us. A very interesting tale which surely puts to bed any doubts about whether the rehabiliation of oiled/injured seabirds is worthwhile...

"No doubt several rehabilitators will have had Ringing Recoveries for auks that have met their fate during the very severe storms which lashed Spain, France and the west of the UK during the past winter.  I am informed by the RSPB that over 30,000 auks perished in this violent weather.

Two of our Guillemots were caught up in this disaster, and whilst, under normal circumstances I would not bring this to anyones attention, I do feel that one of the recoveries in particular warrants a place in our Rehabilitation Case Histories. 

This particular Guillemot was found at Jard-sur-Mer, France on the 8th February, 2014, Freshly dead - reason 'Violent Weather'.   Duration of time between release and finding was 4996 days. 

We released this bird on the 5th of June 2000 after almost 6 months in care.   It had been admitted to our centre on the 30th of December 1999 heavily contaminated with oil AND injured, necessitating an operation on its wing.   Its 'recorded weight' at time of release was 715g. 

It had been weighed on two previous occasions prior to release - on the 6th of March it weighed 700g and when weighed again on the 2nd May weighed 685g.      

The point I should like to make is that some rehabilitators might consider that this bird had all the hall marks of one that might not survive, however, not only did it survive a) heavy oiling, b) an operation, c) a longer than normal time in care and d) being only 715g at time of release, it went on to have another (almost) 14 years of life.  In my opinion it deserves a place in the file of case studies for future reference. 

Incidentally the other Ringing Recovery was for a guillemot which we had released on the 9th of March 1999, it was found almost 15 years (5465 days) later at Getaria, Spain.  It is recorded as freshly dead on shore due to the storms. It's 'recorded weight' at time of release was 825g.  As far as our records are concerned it did not have any notable problems other than being a victim of oil pollution.  However, it too is testament to the fact that oiled auks do survive rehabilitation.

Jean Bradford MBE

South Devon Seabird Trust"

Please take a look at the South Devon Seabird Trust's website:


Report on Meldon Visit on 6 May

Posted May 8th, 2014 at 7:40 pm

The Field Meeting was led by local birder, Roger Jewell, who certainly knows his patch and thanks to him for a wonderful day around the Meldon area. 

The morning was around the viaduct area and about 30 species were seen/heard which was brilliant considering the weather conditions, although we did not get heavy rain as predicted.  The pictures of the Grey Wagtails attached taken by Tom Wallis created much discussion as to whether they were young ones which were paddling about in the nearby gulley/stream.  We had Marsh Tit, Willow Warbler, Treecreeper, Song Thrush and many other beautiful birds. 

Grey Wagtail, Meldon 6.5.2014 Tom Wallis

Juv Grey Wagtail Meldon 6.5.2014 Tom Wallis

At lunchtime whilst enjoying our lunch sitting on the bench, much to our delight a Peregrine appeared giving good views.   We also watched a Kestrel pestering a Buzzard which was fascinating to watch – usually Crows. 

After our picnic lunch we walked through the most beautiful bluebell wood and saw Pied Flycatchers in and out of the nest boxes.  A great day out again with good company and a lovely area to visit.

Whortle is home!

Posted May 7th, 2014 at 10:38 pm

One of the Dartmoor cuckoos which were tagged and tracked last year on the long journey to their African wintering grounds is now home.

The Dartmoor cuckoo project which began with the tagging of four Dartmoor birds last year is still waiting for Tor to return. It is thought that his tag's battery has now degraded so although it is likely that he is still alive, we may not be able to track him back to Dartmoor. 

In 2013 Devon Birds in partnership with Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), took part in a ground-breaking national satellite tagging project run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to learn about the migration of Dartmoor’s cuckoos and start to understand the reasons for their alarming decline.

Cuckoo, Dartmoor Charles Tyler 2014

In 2014, Devon Birds and DNPA are funding the tagging of a further three birds to help gather more data on the lives of our Dartmoor cuckoos. The progress of these three birds, in addition to the cuckoos from 2013, will be tracked and can be followed online.

You can report your cuckoo sightings by going to

Report on Plymouth Indoor April Meeting

Posted May 1st, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Were you aware that the unique designer hair style of the Skylark chick resembles a spiky lichen, until it moves its head to reveal a gapping beak?  Have you seen an adder engulf a Willow Warbler chick whole and come back for more to empty the whole nest?  Have you viewed the behaviour of a Cuckoo chick in the nest and seen the parent bird stand on the huge chick after fledging to feed it?

John Walters showed these superb images included in a presentation to the Plymouth Branch on Monday 28 April at Mutley Baptist Church on ‘Birds of Dartmoor’.

John simply describes himself as an artist, ecologist and speaker but his talk revealed much more than this. His enthusiasm and depth of knowledge were clearly evident, as was the quality of John’s photography and sketches, capturing particular characteristics of bird behaviour. His skills and dedication can be seen in his book ‘The Wildlife of Dartmoor’.

The next meeting is Monday 16 June when Tony John will be revealing ‘The Changes in the Birds of Devon since 1900’.Liz Harris

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