Society News from June 2015

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


Cuckoo Sightings

Posted June 21st, 2015 at 8:17 pm

You did it, Devon Bird members and other members of the public have recorded well over 1000 Cuckoo sightings! By the end of the week (Sunday 21 June) the website received 1231 sightings! This is fantastic work by everyone who has made the effort to log their sightings. We are now close to doubling last year’s 728 sightings.  

Please keep recording all Cuckoos you hear and see around Devon until they make their way back to Africa later this season, and help us double last year’s count: our new target is 1456 sightings.

Juvenile Cuckoos could also be seen at this time of year, so if you come across any, please send us a detailed description in the website comment box. Any information on Cuckoo breeding success would be extremely valuable for our Devon records.

Mid Devon Field Meeting North Wyke – Sunday 14 June

Posted June 18th, 2015 at 4:57 pm

14 members, including two members from Plymouth, met on a warm summer morning for our walk around Rothamsted Research.  Hosted by very informative Jerry Tallowin, initially we were shown around the grounds seeing Greenfinch & Siskin, then walked to their Meteorological Station at the top of the hill, where we watched Buzzard, House Martin, etc. Then down through hydrologically separated fields to the water meadow environment alongside the River Taw, where we saw Heron, Dipper, Kingfisher and many other species. On our return we walked into the wetland area watching Reed Bunting, past the beautiful meadow full of flora, and through the woodland seeing/hearing Treecreeper, Lesser Redpoll, Garden Warbler, Blackcap and many other wonderful birds. Coming out of the woodland we saw a pair of Redstart.  Arriving back at the Centre we had our picnic lunch by the baronial style lawns and gardens. During lunch Jerry regaled us with insider snippets from working at the centre for many years until official retirement last year. After lunch he led us through North Wyke’s own bio-sewage system of ponds and reedbeds (after checking the resident Charolais Bull was not in the same area!) the water in the final pond being clear enough for a Mallard, where we also saw a Sparrowhawk!!  Our total species for the day - 38.

Many thanks to Jerry for a very interesting day.  Annabelle Strickland

Next Field Meeting – 7 July 0930 – Bellever – meet at car park (pay & display) SX656773.   Leader – Mary Wallis

"The Life of Buzzards" by Peter Dare

Posted June 17th, 2015 at 2:43 pm

To everyone who has already ordered a copy this should be landing on your doormat by the end of next week.

The author Dr Peter Dare has been a member of Devon Birds for nearly 60 years and spent many years on Dartmoor studying Buzzards.

His book "The Life of Buzzards" is now available through our Shop at a discount to members.

This is a much-needed and authoritative account of Common Buzzards gained from extensive studies by the author over 60 years and also from enthusiasts in this country and across northern Europe.

The accounts describe the life history and ecology of Buzzards mainly inhabiting the British uplands where historically they have always been most numerous. For the first time, population activities are followed through successive seasonal stages of their life cycle. These include the vital and inter-related aspects of Buzzard territories and social behaviour, diets and hunting methods, food requirements, prey abundance and breeding success, survival and life spans and how Buzzard numbers and distribution have changed, particularly in relation to the influence of Man. The book also demonstrates how well Buzzards have adapted to living in our modern and rapidly-changing landscapes, constantly adapting their habits in response to prey resources and environmental conditions.

In the book’s first section, The Year of the Buzzard, the sequential changes in the composition and behaviour of a Buzzard community, their seasonal patterns of food habits and hunting methods, their breeding season from courtship until fledging of broods and their subsequent dispersal are outlined. The second section, Special Topics, provides greater detail of six key aspects of their ecology which are explored within the following chapter topics: Territory; Energy and Food Needs; Predation; Food Supply and Breeding Success; Demography and Population Dynamics; and Changes in Buzzard Abundance.


Posted June 17th, 2015 at 12:37 pm

There is an EU "fitness check" of the Birds and Habitats Directive taking place at this time which could result in a weakening of the current protection that the Directive gives to our birds.
I would therefore ask members to take about 20 minutes to complete an on-line EU survey document letting Brussels know that we do not want any weakening of the current arrangements.  The website details to do this are:

If you do not feel confident to complete the 20 min multiple choice survey document referred to above then you can instead spend two or three minutes to complete "action of support campaign" with the RSPB on

The EU has a timetable for receiving responses which started on 1st June so please do not delay completing ideally the 20 min survey which will be the most effective way of responding.

Please forward the content of this email as you see fit to members, friends or family. If you prefer information can also be accessed and followed by sharing the social media campaign < > >  (#defendnature)
I hope you are able to pursue one or other of the options above to protect Devon's birds.
George Harris

Report of Plymouth Indoor Meeting 8 June - Our backyard

Posted June 17th, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Which area gives good opportunities for observing wildlife around an estuary with adjacant woodland and meadows, yet is only a couple of miles from the city centre?

The answer is the lower reaches of the River Plym and the surrounding area of Saltram House.

Over fifty people enjoyed a presentation by Pete Aley, who has been watching and recording bird activity around this area for thirty five years.  His records indicate that about 215 species have been seen over this time.  Much of this has been achieved en route by bicycle, using his superior skills of bird identification.

Pete described the many habitats available.  Waders, waterfowl and gulls value the mudflats of the tidal estuary and the adjoining man made brackish saltmarsh.  These include Common Sandpiper, Goosander, Curlew and the occasional Whimbrel, and many others especially over the winter. Other birdlife inhabit the reclaimed Chelston Meadow, such as the Skylark while local parkland and woodland support such species as the Spotted Flycatcher and Firecrest.

Each species mentioned was accompanied by excellent photography taken by Pete.  He was able to give particular locations and changes in population witnessed over the years. Sadly he confirmed that the overall numbers of some species are declining as is reflected nationally.

What of the future of this important landscape?  Pete highlighted the plans to create a new country park at Chelston Meadow and the development of housing at Sherford.  How would these change the birdlife in our backyard ? We wait to see.         Liz Harris

Keep reporting your Cuckoo sightings please

Posted June 7th, 2015 at 11:57 am

Great news, we have broken last year's record of 728 reported Cuckoos! By June 1st we had received 963 sightings, 852 of which were on Dartmoor, a fantastic response. The remaining 111 records are from Exmoor and wider Devon, helping us collect important information on possible strongholds for our Devon birds. Have a look at our live map to see where the Cuckoos have been seen and heard so far: Today's records are shown in red, and earlier records in blue.

Our next target will be to make it to 1000 records, can we reach this by the end of next week?
The Cuckoos are still very active, so we hope you will continue to log all your observations, especially any sightings of juveniles or adults at the end of the season. We are also curious to find out about any Cuckoos in the Mid Devon area, as we have received few sightings from there to date. Thank you to all who have logged your heard/seen Cuckoos on our page, you are contributing to valuable research on our iconic Cuckoo!

If you'd rather phone your record through ring Julia on 01822 853785

Sun 14 June Rothamsted Research North Wyke visit

Posted June 3rd, 2015 at 8:51 pm

The Mid-Devon Branch (and any other Devon members, friends and visitors) are invited to Rothamsted Research North Wyke on Sunday 14 June at 0930, meeting at North Wyke (SX660984). Apart from a wide variety of birds (from Kingfisher and Dipper on the river Taw; Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Treecreeper .... in the oak woodland; Reed Bunting, Grasshopper Warbler, Willow Warbler and Garden Warbler, ... in our wetland; Tree Pipit in our grassland; Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Songthrush ....... in the gardens: all recorded this year on the breeding bird survey this year), butterflies and plants. You will also be introduced to North Wyke's exciting new research to define sustainable grassland farming systems.  
Jerry Tallowin will be leading the walk through gardens, grasslands including flower rich meadows, oak woodland, wetland and riverside meadows. In places the walk will be on uneven paths that may be a bit muddy, so please bring sturdy footwear.
Further information and details are available by contacting Annabelle Strickland on tel 01392 439685 or Mob: 07557 736456, and/or Jerry Tallowin tel. 01837 840032.

We look forward to seeing you all and everyone is welcome to join us.  Please support the Mid Devon Group.

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