17th January – The Exe Estuary, Devon   3 comments

Another excellent day, this time along the Exe Estuary.

I arrived at the Exmimster Marshes just after 9, as I entered the car park I saw a young birder staring at a tree, I was amazed to find that he was watching a roosting Long-eared Owl, a widespread species but because of its secretive habits, one i haven’t seen in the UK for 12 years.


Long-eared Owl



I was at the Exminster Marshes for two reasons, Glossy Ibis and Red-breasted Goose, but in spite of there being quite a few birders around neither had been seen recently. The morning was very cold and much of the marsh was frozen which certainly would explain why the ibis, which normally feeds in soft soil, was absent.


The frozen marshes



Many waterfowl such as this drake Shoveler were present




I spent a lot of time on the bank overlooking the Exe estuary searching through the big flocks of Brent Geese on the far shore, they were all very distant and in spite of spending some time there I failed to find the Red-breasted Goose. This vagrant, which should be wintering on the Black Sea, is probably the same individual that I saw near Christchurch in Dorset last year.

By late morning I given up on the goose quest but I had seen a Water Pipit on the marsh. I set off for Dawlish Warren at the mouth of the Exe in search of two North American ducks.

The first, a female Surf Scoter wasn’t on show when I arrived so I headed south of Langstone Rock to look for it. I then realised that this was exactly the same area as I visited on 12/11/06 to see Britain’s first Long-billed Murrelet which breeds no closer than the north-west Pacific. At the time this produced a real dilemma as I had arranged one of my first dates with Margaret and she was already on her way to meet me when news broke, did I blow off the date or risk dipping? I delayed the twitch until the following day and well the other part is history…..

On the way back I found the Surf Scoter had moved back to its usual spot and I enjoyed good if distant views and also saw a first winter Little Gull


Langstone Rock formed from red Triassic sandstone



The same area in November 2005 as hundred of birders gather to see the Long-billed Murrelett. There were only two birders present today!


I then continued along the sand spit to a rather crowded hide where there was a high tide wader roost but no sign of the American Wigeon. Later on my way back I found an area in the corner of the salt marsh that could be viewed across the golf course and I enjoyed a reasonable if brief view of our Wigeon’s American cousin.


Exmouth on the far side of the Exe estuary



Roosting waders and Brent geese. Large numbers of Knot, Dunlin, Oystercatchers and Grey Plover were present.


I then returned to Exminster and tried for Cirl Bunting, a bird virtually confined in the UK to south Devon. My usual site drew a blank, I was worried that the area had been deserted but there again I have never visited in January, so they may well winter elsewhere. A final return to Exminster Marshes gave me views of the Glossy Ibis in the gathering gloom ending another excellent day.


Glossy Ibis


Exminster Marshes at dusk.






Posted January 18, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

3 responses to “17th January – The Exe Estuary, Devon

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  1. Hi Ian – Great Blog and interested to know how your quest for your year list is going as you’re certainly racking up the species – how many are you up to ?(having ventured into hampshire the last couple of weeks myself for certain passerines you’d already seen !) – all the best paul m

  2. Pingback: Birdparty! Rock’n’Roll about birding. | Kolibri Expeditions Blog

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