Plymouth Indoor Meeting Report 23 January 2023

Birdlife of the Plym Estuary and Saltram Park; Threats and Opportunities, a talk by Pete Aley

Plym Estuary regular patch birder, volunteer and Devon Birds website editor.

Pete is often found watching ‘his patch’ along the Plym estuary and at Saltram Park where he has closely monitored the development of Blaxton Meadow since its inception. He has long championed the needs of wildlife and has brought his knowledge to bear on ecological issues such as the creation of a solar power plant at the adjacent Chelson Meadow. He galvanized a group of local birders into action to come up with alternative proposals that would mitigate the damage to wildlife, by the plant’s construction, in the most sensitive areas. He has also advised the National Trust on wildlife habitat around Saltram in planning the future of the park.

The presentation outlined the threats posed to wildlife, particularly birds, that rely on specific areas of the estuary and Saltram Park. He illustrated the way in which Chelson Meadow acts as a bolt-hole for disturbed species from Saltram Park and its importance as a migratory stop off for other species, including several red and amber listed birds.  Pete noted an increasing leisure usage in the area and emphasized the need to connect with all parties concerned to reduce disturbance to wildlife caused by groups such as paddle-boarders and canoeists and the growing numbers of dog walkers.

Many of the key species of the area, and where and when to find them, were highlighted.  The area is of growing importance and is actively monitored by Pete, and a number of local birders, who’s data forms a useful part of Devon county and National (BTO) databases.  Over the years his records show both positive and negative trends in population and breeding and even help to define migratory patterns of some species.

Looking to the future what can we expect? The success of the “marmite bird” love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Ring-necked Parakeet, for example, shows how ‘new’ species can, given favourable habitat, establish populations.

He suggests too, that we might realistically look forward to a range of visiting species such as Caspian Gull, Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Great White Egret, Glossy ibis, Woodchat Shrike, Little Bunting and, top of his wish list, Red-flanked Bluetail. Much to look forward to!

This presentation was well received, some of the audience already frequented this area, others knew it less well and some had not visited, but all were inspired to visit this Plymouth birding gem following this informative and thought-provoking talk.

John Lloyd

Devon Birds Plymouth Branch Committee Member