Society News from June 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 - 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


Mid-Devon Field Meeting, Meeth Nature Reserve, Fri 20 June

Posted June 23rd, 2014 at 10:25 pm

Nine of the Mid Devon bird group met at Meeth Nature Reserve on Friday 20th June to enjoy a very warm day of birding.

A good variety of species were sighted in the wet areas including Moorhen, Great Crested Grebe -- first sighted there-- 6 Little Grebes, 70 + Canada, two pairs.Tufted Duck, 5 adult Mallard and two young,  Cormorant, 200 + Gulls including a few Lesser Black-backed, 1 Great Black-backed Gull and more gulls flying in throughout the day.

Other sightings---- Many Jackdaws around the old work sheds. Out and about were scatterings of Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Blue and Great tit, Willow warbler Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Linnet and Wren. Woodpigeon,  Magpie, Buzzard and Carrion Crow were sighted. Also Skylark, Reed Bunting and a Garden Warbler were heard.

Many wild flowers were in full bloom and there are ideal habitats for many species of  butterflies which were enjoying the hot sun. A brilliant Burnet moth showed off its crimson colours. The sharp eyed amongst us saw two Hares at separate locations.

All in all, a productive day.  Many thanks to all who came and contributed to our knowledge.    Sue

The next meeting for Mid Devon Group is Thurs 17th July 10.00am  at Bellever Plantation, Dartmoor - Meet at cp (pay & display) SX656773  Leader: Mary Wallis

Plymouth Talk - 16 June

Posted June 20th, 2014 at 12:00 am

To have the past, present and the future of birds in Devon described by Tony John was a sobering experience. He was describing the ‘Changes in Birds of Devon from 1900’.

He showed how evidence from surveys over the last half-century clearly illustrated declines of species such as grey partridge, lapwing, curlew, and turtle dove, starling and others.  Altered farm practices of autumn sowing, ploughing and spraying to the edges of fields, reduced habitat and climate change all have taken their toll on bird numbers and have reduced their range.

He commented that more observation of the wintering grounds of migratory species such as whitethroat, pied and spotted flycatchers, and cuckoo is being given in Sub Saharan Africa, to understand the losses and changing habitat and an increase of human interference.

On the positive side, fulmars, manx shearwaters and puffins were highlighted as having increased their population by eradicating rats on Lundy.  Collared dove, blackcap, little egret and peregrine have successfully increased their numbers and range.

As a ringer and a member of Dartmoor Study Group and with a scientific background Tony gave a knowledgeable yet thought provoking presentation of a wide range of birds in Devon.  His enthusiasm was evident and he attracted 33 people on a lovely summer evening.   Liz Harris


2014 Cuckoos

Posted June 17th, 2014 at 7:01 am

Last year Devon Birds jointly sponsored the tagging of four cuckoos with DNPA and named the birds Dart, Ryder, Tor and Whortle.  If you have followed the Society News section on our website or notes in the Harrier you will know that sadly two of our four Cuckoos (Dart and Ryder) died in their attempts to reach their wintering grounds.  We thought Tor had also succumbed after he transmitted from the Congo on 4 Dec and then there was silence for three months till March.  When he reappeared he had moved to the Central African Republic and it was realised that his tag had become intermittent. Nothing further was heard until a signal was received in mid-May showing he had made it across the Sahara desert to Morocco but his story ended there as it is believed he died after his long trip or he could have been shot in Morocco. 

Cuckoo Dartmoor Louise Sanders 

Our fourth Cuckoo, Whortle,  we are delighted to say made his journey down to the Democratic Republic of Congo and then all the way back across Africa, the Sahara, then Europe and was back on Dartmoor by the beginning of May!

This is such an important project that Devon Birds are sponsoring a further two birds this year with DNPA sponsoring another one.  As a result of our joint sponsorship the BTO Senior Research Officer, Chris Hewson, assisted by Dr Malcolm Burgess caught and successfully tagged three male Cuckoos on Dartmoor on 15 May.   The birds have been named Emsworthy – after the place where he was caught.  Wistman – after the ancient Dartmoor Oakwood and Meavy after the Dartmoor village and river.   You will be able to follow their migration in the weeks and months ahead with updates periodically here on the Society News section and in the Harrier Newsletter. 

We shall watch with interest to see where their migration route takes them and how they fare on their journeys.

8 June Field Meeting Rothhamsted Research, North Wyke

Posted June 16th, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Jerry Tallowin, a Scientist at the Research Centre, gave the Mid Devon members a very interesting day at North Wyke starting with explanations of the research facilities, the historic buildings and various areas of land used for the work carried out there.  The walk took us around the farmland, nature reserve area and alongside the River Taw and we saw and heard a wide variety of birds, including willow warblers, spotted flycatcher, reed bunting, tree creeper and garden warbler, 29 species in total.  The wild flower meadows were fantastic with plenty of butterflies and damselflies.  We were fortunate that the rain held off and were able to picnic in the beautiful grounds followed by a short walk in the afternoon.  Many thanks to Jerry for hosting us all for the day.

The next Mid Devon meeting is at Meeth Quarry on Friday 20 June at 0930 and everybody is welcome to come along. Meet at Nature Reserve Car Park SS539084  more information from: Annabelle Strickland   tel 01392 439685


Report on Killerton Wildlife Day

Posted June 7th, 2014 at 10:10 am

Four members of the East Devon Branch (Jonathan Ruscoe, Ian Pullan, Colin Randall and Sheila Sherburn) attended Killerton Wildlife Day (Thursday 29 May 2014) and provided interest for members of the public through a static display.  Of main interest to children were the optics, always a fascination, plus colouring sheets for younger children and information about Cuckoo research and Bird Atlas. 

Killerton Wildlife Day - East Devon branch


A list of bird species seen in the locality during the day numbered 28 species, including a Spotted Flycatcher in the courtyard by the display, together with nesting Blackbirds and House Martins.

Talk on the Exeter Peregrines by Nick Dixon

Posted June 4th, 2014 at 11:06 am by Steve Waite


Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Mount Dinham

Parish of St. David, Exeter


St. Michael's Heritage Lectures

Sunday 8th June, 7.30pm


Exeter's Peregrine Falcons at St Michael's:

With new Video Footage

Nick Dixon (Devon Hawk and Owl Trust)

Followed by discussion and light refreshments

The speaker has been investigating the diet of the Saint Michael's peregrines since they first bred in 1997, and has had a number of articles published in journals on this subject.


Nick Dixon has been researching birds of prey since 1995, working for the Hawk and Owl Trust and mainly studying various aspects of the ecology of Barn Owls and Peregrine falcons until 2002.  Since 1996, he has been researching the increasing numbers of peregrine falcons nesting on man-made structures (buildings, bridges and pylons) across the UK, whilst also acting as a consultant for various organisations such as National Grid.


There is a warm welcome for everyone, and admission is FREE (there is a voluntary retiring collection).  The lectures are in St. Michael's Church (Mount Dinham, Dinham Road, Exeter, EX4 4EB) which has a tall spire and is located by the Iron Bridge on North St./St. David's Hill.  For further information, or to discuss disabled access, contact David Beadle at

Sun 8 June Join the North Wyke Field Trip

Posted June 4th, 2014 at 9:22 am

The next meeting is Sunday 8 June 0.9.30am at Rothamsted Research Centre at North Wyke SX660984   directions
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 large variety of 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.

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