Society News


Posted March 17th at 4:01 pm in Meetings by Mike Daniels

In the light of the further measures announced yesterday to deal with the virus, all of us have a role to play in trying to lessen the impacts of the pandemic. Last week we cancelled the AGM until later in the year, and we have now recommended that Indoor Meetings and Field Trips should be postponed for the foreseeable future. Whilst we do not want to have a situation of overkill, we do think that prudent actions we take today will help to keep people safe and healthy now and in the weeks and months to come.

Shaw Edwards – Chairman

Outing to Topsham, Bowling Green Marsh and Goosemoor

Posted March 22nd at 6:10 pm in Plymouth Branch by Inga Page

7 members of Devon Birds attended the Plymouth Branch field trip on Tuesday March 17th at Topsham, Bowling Green Marsh and Goosemoor.  After lunch we moved to Dart's Farm for a look at the stubble fields, ponds and moorland.  55 species were observed:

Mute Swan, Black Swan, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Muscovey/Mallard Hybrid, Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Scaup, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Coot, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Black Tailed Godwit, Curlew, Black Headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch.

Mid Devon Branch visit to Exminster Marshes on Tuesday 25th February

Posted February 29th at 10:13 am in Mid Devon Branch by Mike Daniels

The sun shone when there was a break in the storm clouds on Tuesday morning. Mid Devon's field trip to Exminster Marshes took advantage of the opportunity and clocked up 48 species during a 4 hour morning saunter along the lane and canal path to Turf Lock. Wildfowl and waders prevailed with close up views of the more common species at this time of year. It's comforting to see a large, undisturbed mix of Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler, Teal, Shelduck and the odd diving duck of freshwater and estuary. Snipe, Lapwing and Curlew in the fields while flocks of Godwit, Lapwing and Dunlin circled above. The Peregrine emerged and the Kingfisher fished at the lock. Avocet, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin and Oystercatcher were present on the estuary. The group split in to two for the return leg when the rain forced us back to the cars at 2pm. Eleven members enjoyed the company and opportunity to forget everything else.

Nick Armstrong

Wadebridge, Walmsley Sanctuary and Chapel Amble February 5th 2020

Posted February 9th at 10:16 am in Plymouth Branch by Inga Page

24 members rose early and met at the start of the Camel Trail in Wadebridge. We walked along the trail to opposite the Burniere hide and back before driving round to the CBWPS hides at Burniere and Walmsley. There we were met by the warden, Adrian Langdon, who joined us later in the hide and proved an excellent host.

Because the group was too large for the Tower hide we split into two groups having lunch in the two hides. The extra visit to Burniere provided beautiful views across the saltmarshes to the estuary and spectacular displays of thousands of Golden Plover wheeling in the bright winter sunlight. The walk to Tower hide disturbed a Brown Hare that entertained the group by racing back and forth across the fields.

Some of the group then went on to Chapel Amble [extra species seen marked with asterisk below].

Among the abundance of 71 species were the rarities of Whooper Swan, Greater Scaup, Spoonbill and Siberian Chiffchaff.

Spoonbill preening                                                               Lapwing in the sunshine

Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon,

 Teal, Greater Scaup [F], Tufted Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe,

Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Spoonbill [A], Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Water

Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover [3000?], Lapwing, Knot,

Dunlin, Green Sandpiper*, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit,

Curlew, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Dove /Feral Pigeon, Wood Pigeon,

Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit*, Pied

Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Redwing, Blackbird,

Chiiffchaff, Siberian Chiffchaff*, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie,

Jay, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch,


Brown Hare


Phil Stevens, Photos by Dave Batten

Birding in a Vulture Landscape - talk by Ian Parsons on 27th January 2020

Posted February 2nd at 5:08 pm in Plymouth Branch by Inga Page

Many will be familiar with Ian Parsons’ insightful and informative articles in Bird Watching magazine where he casts light on British species often revealing behaviours that are not so widely known to us all. Ian brought this focus in his presentation where he introduced us to that birding Mecca of Spain’s Extremadura region. It is a place close to the heart of Ian and his wife Jo. So much so that in 2012 they set up a bird tour company specialising in guiding birders toward the many exciting flora, fauna and avifauna there. Ian and Jo named their company “Griffon Holidays” a name that owes much to Ian’s great passion for vultures and, in particular the Griffon Vulture.

Ian gave us a detailed overview of the region; its geography and flora, fauna and birdlife. The region is rich in surprises, such as a species of Mongoose, and the Iberian Lynx, which is recovering its status in Spain thanks to a conservation programme there. Wolves are also present in the north of the area.

Why do species prosper in Extremadura?  Land management, low population density & climate all underpin the food chain. Beautiful wild flowers fill landscapes of traditionally managed livestock who freely roam the distinctive dehesa grazing under the oaks, which also provide precious shade in the hottest months. Other landscapes include the mighty steppes where Bustards mingle with cattle and Bee-eaters hawk from fence wires. In the Montfrague region the Tajo cuts through the landscape and provides cliffs from which raptors and Black Stork can be seen. Bridges are occupied by huge colonies of House Martin and Alpine Swifts scythe the skies beneath. Trees host species such as Golden Oriole, Crested Tit and Hawfinch. And, up above them, ever present, watching and waiting Black, Griffon and Egyptian vultures occupy the airspace.

Evolved and adapted for a key position in the ecology of Extremadura vultures can be seen circling. Using the thermals with great mastery and always watching- watching each other, other birds such as Kites, Eagles and Ravens and livestock (and incidentally humans far below them!) they await opportunities to find carrion.  They are the ‘clean-up squad’, reducing carcases in a matter of minutes to mere skin and bone. In doing so they prevent the spread of diseases, such as rabies and anthrax, due to their unique physiology that incorporates stomach acid that destroys these antigens and dissolves bone. They are equipped also with the ability to cope with extreme heat of the region up to 40C +, by regulating body temperature through heat loss from ‘bare’ necks and legs’ circulatory system.

Ian presented this talk with great knowledge and passion.  Listening to him it is evident why one could become enthralled by this iconic area of Spain - a ‘must do’ visit for all birders and naturalists.

Ian’s book, “A Vulture Landscape, twelve months in Extremadura” Whittle Publishers is available from June 2020     ISBN 978-184995-457-0

Griffon Holidays                                                                            John Lloyd

Trip to Lyhner Estuary, 7 December 2019

Posted January 14th at 8:42 pm in Plymouth Branch by Inga Page

A group of Devon Birds members gathered by Wacker Quay on the Lyhner in South East Cornwall.  The weather and light produced excellent viewing conditions. From a viewpoint in the layby above Wacker, we had views right across the Lyhner Estuary.  Shelduck were plentiful and at least 100 Avocets were seen, as were Grey Plovers, Great Crested Grebes, Wigeon, Grey Heron and a few Little Egrets, and a few distant godwits.  On going down to Wacker Quay and looking up the creek, Redshank were common and a Spotted Redshank could be identified at the far end.  Then a Great Northern Diver swam in and dived around immediately in front of the group.  Some members spent time carefully checking through the flock of several hundred teal, in a fruitless search for the male Green-Winged Teal that had been reported from this site.  A short walk through the woods took the group to a more extensive saltmarsh with open views down the estuary.  Curlew, Cormorants and a few Dunlin were seen and one person glimpsed a couple of flying Greenshank.  On return to Wacker, three Roe deer were grazing just over the creek.

Great Northern Diver with crab, Dave Easter

Teal, Dave Batten

On moving on to Torpoint, and looking out over St John’s Lake the tide was now well up, but the pier by the boatyard held a good selection of gulls including Common Gull and Mediterranean Gull.  Most of the waterfowl were on the far side, but Shelduck, Wigeon and a small group of Pale-bellied Brent Geese were to be observed on or around the island.  Finally, as the group prepared to leave an unafraid Rock Pipit was poking around on the beach below us.

Redwing, Dave Batten

A good day in most favourable weather produced a favourable total of 47 species of birds.

The list was Wacker Quay - Grey Heron, Little Egret, Goldcrest, Blackbird, Redwing, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Shelduck, Wigeon , Teal, Mallard, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Avocet, Coot, Crow, Robin, Wood Pigeon, Dunlin, Cormorant , Canada Goose, Great Northern Diver, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Greenshank, Buzzard, Pheasant (including one white), Dunnock, Blue Tit, Wren, Greater Spotted Woodpecker and Long-tailed Tit.  Additional species found at St John’s Lake – Magpie, Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull, House Sparrow, Feral Pigeon, Mute Swan, Little Grebe, Turnstone, Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Jackdaw, Starling and Rock Pipit.

Douglas Herdson

South Milton Reed Cuts

Posted January 10th at 6:10 pm in Events by Inga Page

Each year, Devon Birds' volunteers cut part of the reed bed in South Milton Ley to regenerate growth. This year we are planning two cuts either side of the boardwalk, about halfway between the sewage works and the coast path. The first cut will be on Sunday 19 January starting at 9.30am and the second on Sunday, 2 February, also starting at 9.30am.

Our mechanical reed cutter greatly reduces the work of the volunteers but there is still plenty to be done by hand, gathering and burning the reeds. This year we hope to have a second mechanical cutter running so there will be more work than in previous years. There is a friendly atmosphere and an enjoyable few hours of physical work! We usually finish around lunchtime.

Bring wellies and gloves, wear warm old clothes and if you have long-handled bagging hooks and/or rakes please bring them along as well. Please bring your own refreshments. We meet by the sewage works but if you are a bit late, the smoke will give away where we are working. Please park in the field at the beginning of the cul-de-sac leading down to the sewage works.

If you are interested in helping with the reed cut, please contact Vic Tucker (01752 216887) or Nick Townsend (01548 560243 or email ).

I will check conditions a few days before each cut to confirm it is going ahead and send around an email and put notices on Devon Birds and Thurlestone Bay Birds websites.

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