Report of Plymouth Indoor Meeting 8 June – Our backyard

Which area gives good opportunities for observing wildlife around an estuary with adjacant woodland and meadows, yet is only a couple of miles from the city centre?

The answer is the lower reaches of the River Plym and the surrounding area of Saltram House.

Over fifty people enjoyed a presentation by Pete Aley, who has been watching and recording bird activity around this area for thirty five years.  His records indicate that about 215 species have been seen over this time.  Much of this has been achieved en route by bicycle, using his superior skills of bird identification.

Pete described the many habitats available.  Waders, waterfowl and gulls value the mudflats of the tidal estuary and the adjoining man made brackish saltmarsh.  These include Common Sandpiper, Goosander, Curlew and the occasional Whimbrel, and many others especially over the winter. Other birdlife inhabit the reclaimed Chelston Meadow, such as the Skylark while local parkland and woodland support such species as the Spotted Flycatcher and Firecrest.

Each species mentioned was accompanied by excellent photography taken by Pete.  He was able to give particular locations and changes in population witnessed over the years. Sadly he confirmed that the overall numbers of some species are declining as is reflected nationally.

What of the future of this important landscape?  Pete highlighted the plans to create a new country park at Chelston Meadow and the development of housing at Sherford.  How would these change the birdlife in our backyard ? We wait to see.         Liz Harris