Society News from January 2017

Update on Mid Devon Field Meeting Tottiford – Tuesday 17 January 2017

Posted January 23rd, 2017 at 9:15 pm by George & Julia Harris

Nine members met at Tottiford Reservoir car park for the morning field meeting.  Weather was overcast but fortunately we avoided the forecasted rain.  Walking along the east side of Tottiford we were surprised how low the water level was.  The other two reservoirs were also extremely low.  We walked up to the Kennick dam and crossed over to the western side, up through the woodland and down to Tottiford reservoir next to the wooden shelter, along the western shore back to the car park for lunch.  There were many stops on our way as we thought we heard Crossbills but we were unable to get sight of them.  There was great interest in a tree beside the path which appeared to have a hornet’s nest near the top.  One of the members who is a keen beekeeper will make the necessary enquiries due to the possibility of it being an Asian hornet.

Goosander at Tottiford, Tom Wallis

Birds included Goosander, Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Mistle Thrush, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Bullfinch and Raven.  Our total for Tottiford was 28.  

Due to the weather we decided to give the exposed areas around Blackingstone Rock a miss and after lunch headed to Yarner for a short walk.  We added five more birds to our list including Marsh Tit, Chaffinch, Siskin, Stonechat and Dartford warbler.

Next Field Meeting – Steps Bridge – Tuesday 21 March 0930  Annabelle Strickland


Reed cutting at West Charleton Marsh - 7 Feb

Posted January 23rd, 2017 at 2:31 pm by George & Julia Harris

After an excellent morning of reed cutting with Nick at South Milton marsh yesterday, where I saw that many people volunteered to help, we would be delighted if a few volunteers also came to help us carry out the same task at Charleton marsh. The area is nowhere near as big as S Milton and the farmer who owns the land will be sending two workers with brushcutters and we Devon Birds/Kingsbridge Natural History Soc members will bring two or more as well. The farmer supplies long handled muck forks, but a few more would help. We will pile and burn the cut reeds. The area may be a bit wet but wellingtons should suffice.

Date: Tuesday 7th February. 9am start. Low tide is at 08.33

Meet:   At the end of Marsh Lane, West Charleton. This is a right turn off the A 379 in West Charleton (coming from Kingsbridge). Pass the church on the right, go down a short dip and as you go uphill again the lane is on the right. If you come to the Ashburton Arms you’ve missed it, but this is a good place to park. If you come later than 9 just walk down the marsh to the hide at the bottom.

We will aim to finish by about 1pm.

I’ll be happy to answer any questions.  Chris Klee  Tel 01548 288397.


South Milton Ley reed cutting - Well Done!

Posted January 21st, 2017 at 7:54 pm by George & Julia Harris

A crisp, dry morning greeted the thirty-plus volunteers who turned out to cut and burn reeds at South Milton Ley today. Coordinated by Nick Townsend, the team of Devon Birds’ members, local birders, National Trust volunteers and a good number of residents from South Milton and the surrounding area, was able to cut and clear around 5,000 square metres of reedbed in around three hours.

Rory Sanders on reed cutter    Raking the reeds

Several weeks of low rainfall rain meant that the reeds were standing upright and relatively dry, which enabled Rory Sanders, driving the reed-cutting machine, to make good progress until contact with an ancient roll of discarded barbed wire damaged the cutting blade. Nevertheless, almost all of the target area was cleared and the dry cut reeds were much easier to burn than last year’s damp offerings. The excellent turnout made the whole process more enjoyable and a lot less physically demanding than the previous two years.

One of the many fires lit    Hard at work

Mowing sections of the reedbed on an eight-year rotation is part of the management plan agreed with Natural England for the reserve and helps to rejuvenate it by preventing the accumulation of plant debris. If not managed, this can accelerate the drying out of the marsh and encourage colonisation by willow, alder and other trees. Cutting back the old dry stems and burning them slows down this natural process and encourages vigorous new growth to the benefit of the whole ecosystem. By next autumn the entire area will be a sea of healthy, fresh, green reeds.

More of the workers

Many thanks from Devon Birds to all those who took part.

Alan Pomroy, 21 January 2017


A Brief History of the Exeter Peregrines by Nick Dixon

Posted January 17th, 2017 at 12:45 pm by George & Julia Harris

The Exeter Peregrines bookletSt. Michael and All Angels in Exeter was the first church in the UK to have breeding peregrines, following the species recovery from the population crash in the 1960's. The Exeter peregrines have bred every year since 1997, with 55 young fledging over the past twenty years. During this period, they have been closely watched and monitored, resulting in a fascinating study of Devon's only pair of urban nesting peregrines. Changes of adult birds, annual breeding, egg laying and hatching, juvenile fledging success and development, prey selection, behaviour and hunting, plus interaction with other species in the vicinity have all been recorded by observers, and via the internet. This 24 page A5 booklet (7,500 words and 17 colour photographs) reveals the story of the Exeter peregrines, from first occupation in 1988, and through twenty years of breeding from 1997 to date.

Price: £6 each, including p&p.

All the proceeds from the sale of this booklet will go directly towards the upgrading of the nest camera from analogue to HD resolution, prior to the 2017 breeding season, and to support the costs of live internet streaming.

To purchase The Exeter Peregrines booklet with Paypal, please click the link below:

Purchase Exeter Peregrines Booklet

If you would like to purchase with alternative means, please contact me via my website.


A Joint CBWPS/BTO/UoE Conference: Above and Beyond the Cornish Coast

Posted January 11th, 2017 at 8:24 pm by George & Julia Harris

BTO Regional Conference – the Joint CBWPS/BTO/UoE Conference is being held at the University of Exeter Cornwall Campus, Penryn TR10 9FE on Saturday 25 February 2017.

All are welcome to this day of talks celebrating the coastal birds that make Cornwall so diverse. Join us to hear about wintering Chiffchaffs, urban gulls, seabird restoration, seabird monitoring and some of the current research being carried out in the region. You’ll also hear from local birders about their local patches and why they're so important, reserve updates and host a panel discussion on the future of bird conservation in the southwest. The event represents an excellent opportunity to meet other birdwatchers.

Tickets for the conference are £17, and include buffet lunch and coffee/tea (Student subsidy available ­ book through EcoSoc). You can view the full programme and book your tickets by clicking here.

I hope this is of interest.

Sam Graham (Miss)
Assistant Membership Administrator
Membership & Volunteer Engagement Team
Communications Department
BTO   The Nunnery
Thetford Norfolk IP24 2PU  Tel:     (01842) 750050


Plymouth Branch Field Meeting to West Charleton

Posted January 9th, 2017 at 9:48 pm by Kevin Cox

Phil Stevens writes: "12 members attended the Plymouth group's first meeting of 2017 on January 8th. We met at the Sewage works on Marsh Lane in West Charleton and were led by Lesley Goonesekerra. The works provided the first highlight with up to 10 Chiffchaff feeding on the gravel bed and then skilfully hopping over the arms of the machine when they were suddenly switched on.

Both Pied and Grey Wagtails were also enjoying the feast.

slow walk down to the hide produced Teal in the first pond, Wigeon by the second pond and several Stonechat. There were enough smaller birds around to interest a hungry Sparrowhawk.

At the hide a Water Rail was seen by those looking back over the marsh as it skulked away under the small bridge. Looking in the other direction across the estuary on a rising tide, a male Red-breasted Merganser gave us good views alongside large groups of Wigeon. Many more Wildfowl were present on the far side of the estuary but too distant for definite ID.

The usual Shorebirds were here with the incoming tide allowing easier views of the well camouflaged Snipe [probably 4 in total].

The weather was still and relatively mild with occasional sunny moments adding to the ambiance of the lunch stop in the hide. A very pleasant start to the year's birding with 32 species seen."

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