Axe Estuary Birds Newsletter #132

Note: the following post is an abridged online version of the Axe Estuary Birds Newsletter, #132 dated 15th May 2010. Reproduced here with permission. You can also get this newsletter in PDF format and see years of archives at

The Birds

Well, it has felt more like March than May. It is only just beginning to warm up now, with the wind having gone round to the south….at last! The cold north/north east did little to encourage local birders into the field – as whenever they did there wasn’t much to see!

Another Marsh Harrier proved ‘bird of the period’ as it spent the evening over Colyford Marsh on 11th. Unlike the only other Harrier of this year, this one remained for a good few hours. There was no sign of it the next morning though.

Mid May is usually the best time of the year for passage waders. It is when we get three figure strong flocks of small waders (mostly Dunlin and Ringed Plover) feeding on the Estuary, but for some reason this year it just isn’t happening. Peak counts for these two species were 37 Dunlin on 12th, and ten Ringed Plovers on 10th. A fairly late Little Ringed Plover spent a few days on Blackhole Marsh from 10th. A couple of Greenshank and several Whimbrel have been seen with a summer plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit in the vicinity from 9th, probably the most attractive wader we’ve had so far.

Swifts have been arriving in good numbers, with some very strong passage occurring on many dates. Blackhole Marsh is proving a good site to see this species, along with all the usual hirundines feeding low over the water. A couple of Hobbys have been seen here amongst them.

Spotted Flycatcher secured its place on the 2010 year list on 4th, with one in Beer. Several have been seen since. The 8th saw a bit of an arrival of Lesser Whitethroats, with six at Beer Head and one in Axmouth. Also on this date a late Black Redstart on Beer Head along with two Redstart.

The sea is still dire, though the 14th saw a slight increase with the second Arctic Skua of 2010 along with a few Manx Shearwaters, Great Northern Divers and a good passage of Guillemots and Razorbills.


Photos: Little Ringed Plover – Steve Waite; Whimbrel – Karen Woolley.

Mothing this month has been slow, with the cold nights. I have captured a couple of nice species though, along with my first immigrant of the year…

Photos: Pine Beauty, Pale Tussock and Silver Y – Steve Waite.

News from Holyford Woods

The Bluebells are stunning, and their perfume where the sun warms them is over-powering. Bluebell Day was a great success, and many people and Friends of Holyford Woods were able to enjoy the walks, especially those unable to cross the fields, who were kindly ferried by Colin Pady. All the woodland birds were heard on the Dawn Chorus Walk, and their songs ring through the Woods any time of the day. Peter Vernon tells me the missing Wrens have been in the surrounding hedgerows through the bitter weather. Now many are back and their songs are heard all over the Woods again. There have been two reports of a Cuckoo heard briefly, and I am told of one calling in Bindon Valley behind Axmouth.

Flowers which have now joined the Bluebells are Red Campion, Stitchwort, Yellow Archangel, and most of the Ramsons. Foxgloves are not far behind.

One afternoon I enjoyed ten minutes closely watching the Roe buck, nibbling brambles on the slope of The Hangings. He now has fine antlers, though one point is bent over. Not much sign of the does who will be having young soon. Butterflies have been lovely, with 3 Orange Tips, 3 Green-veined White, 7 Speckled Wood and 2 Peacock.

Diary Dates

Thursday 20th May, 2.00pm – 4.00 pm Stop Line Way Walk and Talk Led by archeologist Bill Horner, who will explore the southern section, where you may have noticed those little ‘Pill Boxes’. Meet at Colyford Memorial Hall.

Sunday 30th May 5.00 pm – 7.00 pm Birds from the Tram with Donald Campbell.

Wednesday 2nd June 9.00 am – 11.00 am Birds from the Tram for Junior Birders with James Chubb.

Many thanks to David, Steve, Jean and all contributors!

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