Society News from May 2018

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


Challacombe Farm visit on 17th May

Posted May 30th, 2018 at 10:16 am in Plymouth Branch by Inga Page

A warm and sunny day boded well for the 25 Plymouth Branch (with other Devon Birds members) to walk from Bennett's Cross to Challacombe Farm looking for cuckoo and moorland species.  A very slow measured walk down the valley in bright sunshine showed Cuckoos calling and very good views of Whinchat (see photo above).  Due to the slow nature of the meeting lunch was taken at the Golden Dagger Tin Mine and while having lunch one of the highlights was a Red Kite that very slowly drifted over us to the South West.

The group then walked on to Challacombe Farm. In its vicinity Redstart (see photo above), Swallow, House Martin (see photo below) and Garden Warbler were observed and even a Tree Creeper was seen taking food into a nest situated in a fascia board on one of the buildings.   The group then split with some returning by car to the start, others returning on the same route and some taking the longer route back to the car via Headland Warren Farm.  The latter route totalled 7.6km.

Species list

Buzzard, Red Kite, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Cuckoo, Skylark, Swallow, House Martin, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Robin, Redstart, Wheatear, Whinchat, Stonechat, Blackbird, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Chaffinch, Garden Warbler, Blue Tit, Blue tit, Marsh Tit, Tree Creeper, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Raven, House Sparrow, Chiffchaff, Linnet, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.   Total 36

John O’Connell-Davidson

Seabird Survey

Posted May 29th, 2018 at 9:02 pm in Surveys by Inga Page

Seabirds Count is the 4th breeding seabird census to be conducted in Britain and Ireland. Although data has been collected since 2015, there are still many sites needing to be surveyed. In Devon there are 29 non-urban seabird breeding sites that will need to be surveyed either this season or the 2019 season as set out in the spreadsheet here.

The timing for this season is getting tight but if you think you could take on one or two, either this year or next, please get in touch via email:

Summary of Membership Survey Responses

Posted May 9th, 2018 at 3:43 pm in Surveys by Inga Page

Below we have summarised the results of the survey sent out to all the members of Devon Birds on behalf of the Council at the beginning of this year.  The results of this survey were presented to this year’s AGM, and it was thought that it might be useful to share a summary of the responses.  Overall there was around a fourteen per cent response rate which we are informed is not untypical.

Figures shown below are percentages.

How satisfied are you with Devon Birds?

Extremely satisfied - 47%;  Satisfied - 46%;  Neutral - 3%;  Dissatisfied - 1%;  Extremely dissatisfied - 3%

Which events have you attended in the past 12 months?

AGM - 24%;  Field meetings -  38%;  Indoor meetings - 38%

Have you participated in bird surveys in the past 12 months?

Yes - 20%;  No - 80%

Do you feel that surveys are important for DB?

Yes - 98.5%;  No - 1.5%

Have you visited a DB reserve in the past 12 months?

Yes - 39%; No - 61%

Have you carried out any voluntary activities?

Yes - 12%;  No - 88%

Are you willing to participate in voluntary activities?

Yes - 28%;  No - 72%

Do you feel that DB should support conservation activities?

98.5%;  1.5%

Are you satisfied with the information you receive?

Yes - 91%;  No - 9%

Are you satisfied with the DBR?

Yes - 95%;  No - 5%

Are you satisfied with The Harrier?

Yes - 90%;  No - 10%

Are you aware that The Harrier is now a blog?

Yes - 52%;  No - 48%

Have you subscribed to The Harrier blog?

Yes - 29%;  No - 71%

Are you a member of one of the Branches?

Yes - 37%;  No - 63%

How do you keep informed about DB activities?  (Shown as percentage of overall responses)

Website - 74%;  The Harrier - 81%;  Other - 13%


Mid Devon Branch 2 day visit to Avalon Marshes

Posted May 9th, 2018 at 10:45 am in Mid Devon Branch by Mike Daniels

Monday 30 April

We all gathered at Ham Wall Information Centre for a RSPB guided walk around the Reserve. Our guides,Peter and Giles, gave an overview of the habitat and how it was created and carefully designed, particularly for Bitterns. The weather was the opposite of what had been forecast and we had no rain for 2 days, so that was a bonus. Lots of spring warblers were seen and heard along the hedgerows, including Cetti's, Blackcap, Garden, Sedge etc. Swifts, Sand & House Martins, Swallows have arrived in good numbers. Great White Egrets and Marsh Harrier were seen flying over the reedbeds and Bittern were heard booming in several places. From the Avalon hide Hobbies were seen flying and perching on a nearby post.

Back at the centre having lunch, a Cuckoo was heard and Red Kite flew over. We then carried on to the Shapwick Reserve where a large number of Hobbies were swooping over the reeds and we had good views of Whitethroat near the path. From Noah's hide we watched a pair of Great Crested Grebe looking beautiful in the sunshine.

Butterflies included Speckled Wood, Peacock, Orange Tip and Brimstone.

Most of the group overnighted in Glastonbury and met up in the evening for dinner where we all enjoyed a good evening chatting about the day.

Tuesday 1 May

The group met at Catcott Lows Reserve and were joined by 3 more members and walked to the Tower Hide. We spent about 3 hours spotting many birds not seen on the previous day including: Skylark, Reed Warbler, Kestrel and Song Thrush. Then on to Greylake for lunch and another couple of hours where we watched a Lapwing mobbing a Harrier. Birds seen included Peregrine, Hobby, Greta White Egret, Gadwall, Redshank, Wigeon and Shoveler.

Onwards to Aller Moor for our final challenge of seeing the Cranes who are currently into the breeding season. We were pleased to watch 2 Cranes on the ground feeding and a short flight.

Mission accomplished, a grand total of 71 birds over the 2 days and everyone headed happily homewards having made new birding friends.

Annabelle Strickland


Dawn Chorus at Magpie Bridge - 5 May 2018

Posted May 8th, 2018 at 7:27 pm in Plymouth Branch by Inga Page

The dawn had not broken when the 10 brave members of the group assembled at Magpie Bridge on the River Walkham. The moon was rising over the valley which was shrouded in mist but head torches were needed at the start. This was a new site for us so we waited with anticipation. 

Ears at the ready the first song heard was Blackbird at 04:50. From then the variety and volume increased as we headed up away from the river. Robin was next with a few Pheasant leaving their roosts. A Cuckoo was heard repeatedly from above us on the Down and a Tawny Owl heard and then seen by some as it drifted through the woodland. Soon Song Thrush had taken over and seemed to be everywhere but nowhere to be seen despite it just becoming light enough to use binoculars. Eventually we all saw one perched on the highest part of an Oak tree in full voice. The drumming of Great Spotted Woodpecker was constant and the melodious song of the Blackcap accompanied us to the canopy viewed from Gem Bridge.

It was cold here and the mist dominant. We did manage to hear the call of Dipper before heading up to the Down and sunshine. Cuckoo was again calling and so were several Yellowhammers who obligingly, stayed in the same perch for long periods, so all had excellent views.

Returning to the cars Marsh Tit were seen and Green Woodpecker heard rounding off an excellent three and a half hours of birding. The breakfast at Drake’s Café was enjoyed by all.

 Here is the full list of 31 species

Mallard, Pheasant, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Cuckoo, Tawny Owl, Green Woodpecker, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Dipper, Robin, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Yellowhammer

Phil Stevens, photos by Roy Harris

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