Taw Torridge field trip to Skern & Isley Marsh 15 Feb

On a cold overcast morning 24 of us gathered, wrapped up against the wind, for a walk around the Northam Burrows, Skern area.  Our first sighting was a flock of 300+ Golden Plover on the mudflats with a similar number of Lapwing nearby.  Shelduck, Dunlin, Grey Plover and Oystercatcher were also present.  As we walked, Skylarks were singing and several seen amongst the short dune grass.

On the pebble ridge near the estuary mouth, two Turnstones picked their way along the tide line and a small flock of Wigeon paddled at the water’s edge.  On the Braunton side of the estuary good numbers of Brent Geese and Wigeon were spotted.

By this time and feeling chilled by the cold wind, some headed home for a hot lunch, whilst the more hardy carried on to Isley Marsh, stopping on the way to see the Little Owl which has taken up residence in a derelict building, once used regularly by Little Owls but none seen there for several years.  It was a memorable moment seeing the excitement on the face of our youngest member Ben, on seeing a Little Owl for the first time!

The sun came out while we were eating lunch, highlighting two Mistle Thrush probing through the grass, and with the promise of a warmer afternoon, we set off along the Tarka Trail to the marsh at Isley.     The Spoonbills, seven of them, were soon spotted just off shore roosting on an island of salt marsh vegetation, one obligingly lifting it’s head allowing us good views of it’s unmistakable bill.

It was a tranquil scene as we soaked up the sights and sounds of the estuary with Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck, Curlew, Lapwing and a lone Little Grebe.

Behind us the sun caught five Linnets perched in a Hawthorn bush highlighting the handsome male bird.  

Continuing along the river bank, some of us were lucky enough to see a male Merlin chasing a small bird into a scrubby area on the old power station site.

Negotiating the muddy track back to our cars, a Stonechat was seen, then Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Goldcrest and Wren, bringing our total number of species to 55; another good day’s birding.

Maria Fernandes