Society News from February 2017

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


Raptor Rescue

Posted February 22nd, 2017 at 11:13 pm

Devon Birds Plymouth Branch - Indoor Meeting of Monday, 13th February 2017

A talk by Steve Hopper, South Hams Hawks & Owls

Steve has dedicated much of his life to birds of prey and his extensive knowledge and his great passion for these birds was deftly communicated to an enthralled audience. He illustrated his presentation with many outstanding photographs that showed another great talent that this engaging birder possesses. Many of us will have met Steve on his ‘peregrinations’ and he is always a helpful and informative guide willing to impart his bird ID tips to enrich our birding experience.

His presentation clearly showed us the complex and involved care that is needed to rescue the birds that come his way. His rapport with many local vets and land owners has meant that his reputation has spread far across our county and beyond. Many occasions have seen Steve venturing out late at night (sometimes in his pyjamas!) to attend to a raptor in trouble. The success rate of recovery is impressive too and Steve is always saddened when a bird is beyond his and the vet’s skills.

In the second half of Steve’s presentation we were introduced to three of Steve’s charges. The audience were thrilled to meet Scamp the Barn Owl, Marley the Kestrel and the impressive and imperious Hazzard Hawk (Harris x Buzzard hybrid that Steve had bred).   From his skills in falconry we learnt about the importance of weight and condition when flying birds of prey and how birds hunt both from the falconer’s arm and in the wild.

We all came away from the evening with much admiration for the sterling work that Steve does, a great deal more knowledge and a desire to get out birding and see more raptors!

John Lloyd

Thurlestone Walks

Posted February 22nd, 2017 at 9:36 am by Shaw Edwards

Kestrel © Keith McGinn, 11/4/2016, shaldon

 Just a brief note to say thank you to the people who came on the two Thurlestone walks, over forty in all.  We saw a good range of birds on both occasions, with clear identification of 30 on the January walk and 37 on 19th of February, on top of which we had good weather! We had great views of the Desert Wheatear, which is now acquiring his breeding plumage and according to local reports is beginning to sing.  There were also good viewings of a Water Pipit, several Snipe, Cattle Egrets and two White-fronted geese on South Huish Marsh and a female Black Redstart on the rocks by the flats.  Another highlight was the wonderful views of a Kestrel, on the 19th, who most obligingly hovered a few feet above us, giving many people a chance to take photographs.

From some of the feedback that we gathered on both days a lot of people enjoyed meeting, talking and sharing their knowledge with each other, therefore if people feel it would be of interest maybe it would be worthwhile organising similar informal events. Valerie and I have some ideas of walks that we may like to organise, but if anyone else has suggestions on where they would like to explore, please let us know.

Again, many thanks to everyone who joined us, and also considerable thanks to Mike Passman for his local knowledge and advice, and to those members who helped in January.

Shaw and Valerie Edwards –

Successful Reed Cut on Saturday at SML - with thanks to all who helped

Posted February 18th, 2017 at 6:41 pm

A beautiful spring-like morning greeted the twenty-plus volunteers who turned out for the second reed cutting and burning session of the winter at South Milton Ley today. With Rory Sanders driving the reed-cutting machine and ably coordinated by Nick Townsend, the team of Devon Birds’ members, local birders and residents from South Milton and the surrounding area, was able to cut, clear and burn around 7,000 square metres of reed bed in about three hours.

With a relatively high average age, the volunteers were in agreement that spreading the cutting over two sessions made the process more enjoyable and less physically demanding than in previous years. It also enabled a larger total area to be cleared, which fully meets the requirements of the management plan agreed with Natural England for the reserve.

Slash and burn

Mowing sections of the reed bed on rotation 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. Cut sectors are always adjacent to established stands of mature reeds to ensure rapid recolonization of the new growth by invertebrates from the surrounding areas. In the short term, this minimises the impact on the birds breeding and feeding in the reed bed and, in the longer term, produces a diverse mosaic of healthy reeds.

Reed cutting team

Devon Birds extends its thanks to all those who took part.

Alan Pomroy


Directions to Carswell Farm

Posted February 15th, 2017 at 11:30 pm

There's still time to join us for the first bird survey at Carswell Farm on Friday 17 February at 8am. This is an opportunity to help survey the farm at a time when improvements are being made to the range of habitats for birds and wildlife. All are welcome whatever your level of birding expertise. You will survey as part of a team, so we need recorders and spotters as well as expert birders. Please come along.

Directions to Carswell, Holbeton, Nr Plymouth, PL8 1HH:

Approaching from the East:

Take the A38 for Plymouth.

Shortly after passing the Shell garage on your right (which is just passed South Brent turnoff), turn left at intersection signed to Ermington A3121 and Yealmpton A379.

Proceed 1 mile to crossroads with give-way sign and turn right onto A3121. Keep on this road for several miles past Ugborough and Ermington.

Half a mile past Ermington stop at halt sign and turn right on the A379 towards Plymouth (DANGEROUS TURNING). At the top of the hill turn Left at Crossroads following signs for Holbeton until you come to signs for Stoke (DO NOT GO INTO HOLBETON VILLAGE).

Still following signs for Stoke go straight across crossroads at hamlet (Battisborough Cross) with houses and garage.

Carswell is the third farm entrance on the left beyond.


South Milton Reserve – Reed Cut 18 February 2017

Posted February 9th, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Each year, Devon Birds' volunteers cut part of the reed bed in South Milton Ley to regenerate growth.  Perfect weather and an excellent turnout meant we made very good progress on the cut this year until the mechanical reed cutter broke down. The cutter has now been repaired and we are going to have another go on Saturday 18 February at 10.00am.  Please let Vic Tucker or Nick Townsend know if you will be able to help.

With about 30 volunteers at the January cut, we were able to keep pace with the mechanical reed cutter without over-exerting ourselves gathering and burning the reeds. This time we will be cutting the reeds about 200m downstream of the public footpath by the South West Water treatment plant. Please park in the field at the top of the lane leading down to the treatment plant. We will gather at 10am by the public footbridge over the stream by the treatment plant. It is a friendly atmosphere and an enjoyable few hours of physical work!

Bring wellies, gloves and refreshments, wear warm old clothes and if you have long-handled bagging hooks and/or rakes please bring them along as well.

Please contact:Vic Tucker (01752 216887)  if you are interested in helping with the reed cutting or Nick Townsend (01548 560243).


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