Society News from August 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


West Charleton Marsh Field Trip - Monday 10 Aug

Posted August 4th, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Do come and join us at the interesting location of West Charleton Marsh, one mile east of Kingsbridge on Monday 10th August at 10am.
The scrapes and reed beds offer variable bird habitat leading to the hide over looking the Kingsbridge Estuary.

Take the A 38 from Plymouth to Ivybridge.
Come off at the slip road and cross over the dual carriageway to Ermington via the A379.
Travel through Ermington, Modbury, and Kingsbridge still on the A379.
As you enter the village of West Charleton, (TG7 2AH) note Marsh Lane on the Right.
At the Ashburton Arms on the left take the first left and park on the road by the pub.
Cross over the road to Marsh Lane and meet at the sewage works.
For further information contact Liz Harris Tel 01752 789594


Mid-Devon visit to Meeth, 28 July

Posted August 1st, 2015 at 4:42 pm

On a breezy morning with occasional showers six members of the Mid Devon group enjoyed a mornings stroll through both the Ashmoor and Meeth Quarry reserves of the Devon Wildlife Trust. Whilst there were plenty of birds about they were doing their best to remain hidden, very little birdsong was evident.

Despite apparent lack of birdlife we had a good selection of listed sightings by the time we stopped in the warm sun for a picnic lunch beside one of the many ponds. Here we had a good view of a darting Kingfisher, other small birds were also busy feeding in the tree tops, including three members of the Tit family and Willow Warblers.

Through the Quarry reserve we had Green Woodpeckers calling as they flew around a favoured feeding area. Apart from Canada Geese the water was almost bird free except for several active Little Grebe and a distant Kingfisher seen fishing from a lakeside perch. By the remote settling pond area where few visitors walk we were lucky enough to see two adult otters cross the track only a few feet ahead of us, both otters and humans were taken by surprise! In the fields on the opposite side of the lake a fox was sighted heading home with what looked like a pheasant for the family! This sparked a discussion as to whether the bird should be added to our list! Other notable non birding wildlife was the sighting of several thumb nail sized baby toads hopping across the walkways.

Before reaching the cycle track we found a butterfly hotspot where several species were enjoying a sheltered sunny corner. There were stunning Silver Washed Fritillary, Gatekeepers and Ringlets feeding on the flowering thistle heads. Wood Whites and Damselfly were also abundant.

 After two hours in the quarry area we crossed the Tarka Trail, entering the Ashmoor reserve from the viewing platform entrance. Here the terrain changes to a culm grassland habitat, quite wet after all the recent rain but accessible along the way-marked track. The meadows here are covered in great swathes of wetland flowers with more butterflies, damsel and dragonflies attracted to this section. Looking skyward a Sparrowhawk and Hobby were seen flying over. When we reached the new pond a Sandpiper took fright and flew rapidly away, no one was able to agree as to its exact identity, Green or Common?

A very rewarding morning’s stroll, with a total of 23 species on our list.

It is worth mentioning to those who have yet to visit Meeth that the paths here are well maintained with good directional signs. Apart from the birds and insects there is an incredible array of wild flowers. A naturalist’s paradise.

The next Mid Devon meeting is at Fernworthy on Tues 15 September, we look forward to seeing you there.                             Digby Greenhill

Balearic Shearwater survey 18 August 2015 – could you help?

Posted August 1st, 2015 at 2:15 pm by Steve Waite

RSPB and MARINElife are trialling a joint synchronised land/sea survey for Balearic shearwaters (and also bottle nosed dolphins) from Portland to Lundy on 18th August. We are testing this as a way to help arrive at a population estimate for Balearics using the seas around the SW peninsula.   The combined survey will cover up to 4km out to sea and the observations from the multiple land based watch locations will help to validate those  from the boat based crew. 

Although we realise there are so many variables that could affect the survey (timing/weather conditions/location/no birds etc) we have agreed on this date  and hope to build on the great information already collected by previous researchers and survey projects over the last few years and keep the momentum going to help safeguard this critically endangered seabird.

Many of you have been involved in past projects such as JNCC seabird surveys and Seawatch South West and have your regular seawatching sites, so we would really appreciate your help and experience at key sites if you are available on the day.  If the coordinated approach really works and gives us valuable data we would look at repeating the land-based operation again, perhaps even in September/October  this year and then as an ongoing initiative. 

If you are an experienced seawatcher and would like to be part of the land-based survey on the 18th, please contact and we will send you more information.

If you are ESAS trained and could help with the boat-based surveys please get in touch with Rachel at MARINElife

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