Axe Estuary Birds Newsletter #133

Note: the following post is an online version of the Axe Estuary Birds Newsletter, #133 dated 31st May 2010. Reproduced here with permission. You can also get this newsletter in PDF format and see years of archives at Thanks to Steve, Mike, Jean and David!

The Birds

May this year can probably go down as the worst May in recent times for birding on patch! It was very poor, with very few waders, no sea watching worth mentioning, no real rarities, and no numbers of anything…

A couple of Red Kites weren’t surprising, as large numbers drifted into the south west peninsular of Britain during the hot weather of this period. Singles were seen over Colyton on 25th and Musbury on 26th. I’m surprised we didn’t have more, as twenty were over the Lizard (Cornwall) on one day, a flock of seven flew south over a town in Somerset and closer to home, Exmouth boasted five in two days.

A couple of single Sanderling have been seen, one on the beach on 14th and one on the Estuary on 23rd. 15 Black-tailed Godwits, 17 Ringed Plover and 14 Dunlin were the peak counts for these species, all on 25th. It really has been a dreadful spring for wader passage, for all species.

It has been a good spring for Cuckoos by recent standards. Another bird was heard near Axmouth, with calling birds also noted in the Farway area. Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers seem to be really thriving this year, the reed beds are alive with them!

Mothing has been the saviour for me this period, with some excellent catches and some very nice variety. A White-spot was described by one well known UK moth expert as being “the best catch of the month so far”. There are only about six breeding sites for this species in the whole of the UK, with one of these in the Beer/Branscombe area. For some reason though, one found its way into my front garden!

Dunlin and Ringed Plover - Ian McLeanWhite-spot - Steve Waite
Dunlin and ringed plover – Ian McLean; White-spot – Steve Waite

Light Brocade - Steve WaiteCream-spot Tiger - Steve Waite
Light brocade & cream-spot Tiger – Steve Waite

Eyed Hawkmoth - Steve WaiteWhite Ermine - Steve Waite
Eyed hawkmoth & white ermine – Steve Waite

News from Holyford Woods

The Dawn Chorus and Evensong have filled the woods with glorious birdsong these last two weeks. One late evening a Tawny Owl flew silently along The Hangings. A heavy dew this morning showed up the dainty little spider webs low in the grass, and I caught a brief glimpse of a Roe doe with a young one on The Hangings. A family of Great tits, demanding food, were parked in a hazel bush near my seat. On the main path a Thrush has been using a flat stone as an anvil, leaving the broken Snail shells lying about. The place is a hive of activity during the day, with the search for titbits in response to the insistent chirping. It now seems the Moorhen young are down to 3. The first Bluebells are now going down but the late ones are still at their best, their perfume pervading everywhere. Likewise the Ramsons. At this time Badgers low-slung tummies flatten everything and their tracks are clearly defined. Deer paths are less obvious. Butterflies are active, and I have seen 1 Holly Blue, 6 Orange Tip, 8 Speckled Wood and 7 Green-veined White. In places Goosegrass is on the rampage, and the pretty Greater Stitchwort is going to seed – those little pods we popped as children. Now it is the turn of the Foxgloves, tall and erect, with buds poised to open very soon.


Thirty-six birds were caught at the last session and six Great Tit nestlings ringed. There were four other nest boxes checked: 2 contained Great Tits, too large to disturb; one contained Blue Tits too small to ring; and the fourth contained Blue Tits, but we were unable to open the box.
The tally of general ringing was: Reed Warbler 18 (7); Cetti’s Warbler 1 (Brood patch); Sedge Warbler 3 (breeding); Chaffinch 1; Blackbird 3 (1); Greenfinch 2; Meadow Pipit 1 (caught flying down the Stafford Brook, close to the Axe); Great Tit 2; Reed Bunting 1; Dunnock 2; and Robin 2.
The next session will be on 7th or 8th June.

Biodiversity Exhibition

The temporary Biodiversity Exhibition at Seaton will be officially opened on Thursday 3rd June at 10.00 a.m. and currently has 20 volunteers, allowing opening on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Please come, and bring friends and family More volunteers for the exhibition are still very welcome and – just as importantly – the Countryside Service would be very grateful indeed if everyone would text or ring the exhibition mobile phone number on 07734 568923 as often as they like with interesting wildlife sightings from the estuary and coast. This will help to make the exhibition as live and up to date as possible and show what a great place for wildlife watching Seaton is. The organisers would also welcome any object such as bones, nests, archaeology or other things demonstrating the biodiversity of the estuary. Such objects should be hygienic, and not treasured – you may not get them back!

Black Hole Marsh

The planning application for access to Black Hole Marsh was approved in early May; many thanks to all of you who commented. Work is commencing very soon on the hedgebank to screen the lagoon and the reedbed in Stafford Marsh. We will need to limit public access whilst these works go on so signs will be posted on site when this happens. This will be followed by the construction of the hide and boardwalk in the centre of the lagoon. One of our funding partners has recently been affected by government spending cuts, which leaves us looking elsewhere for some funding and causes delays to some of the works. We have put in a bid to Making it Local for one of the other hides. Our most critical funding gap is the main path alongside the lagoon and we are looking at all other options to fund this quickly. We will keep you up to date with progress. On a more positive note, AVDCS have offered us a grant to extend the pond dipping platform at the Borrow Pit, which will be much appreciated by our visiting schools and families.

The Trivia

Vic Dew reports a hearing rather than a sighting of a Cuckoo yesterday (Tues 18th) at 9.15 a.m.

“I was at my front door at River View Drive Colyton , and first heard the bird in the direction of the doctors stone near the picnic site , above us. And then again, a few minutes later, over to the South in  Colyvale housing estate.

Quite a surprise as not too many about so I hear.”

Not sure this picture is entirely suitable for a family newsletter – a veritable damselfly orgy caught in the act by Helene Buse.

Damselflies - Helene Buse
Damselflies – Helene Buse

And an Oyster Catcher guarding her chick at Black Hole Marsh, spotted by Sue Smith.

Oyster Catcher - Sue Smith
Oyster Catcher – Sue Smith

Axe Vale and District Conservation Society Coffee Morning:– This will be held at the home of Donald and Nicky Campbell at The Court House, Colyton on Saturday June 19th 2010. Please come

Diary Dates

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

Thursday 3rd June 10.00 am Opening of the Biodiversity Exhibition in the old TIC in Seaton.

Saturday 19th June 10.00 am AVDCS Coffee Morning – see above

Monday 14th June 10.00 am – 12 noon New Venue – Holyford Woods! Meet in layby at the top of Seaton Down Hill

Saturday 19th June 10.00 am – 12 noon AVDCS Coffee Morning The Court House, Colyton

Saturday 19th June 3.00 pm – 5.00 pm Marsh Plants with David Allen. Meet at White Hart Inn,

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Biodiversity Exhibition at the old TIC in Seaton’s Underfleet Carpark, with various informal walks and talks – more details at the Exhibition or phone 01395 517557.

This twice-monthly email newsletter is freely available to anyone who would like it, as is a periodic one about the activities of the East Devon Local Group of the Devon Wildlife Trust. Just send me an email with Axe Estuary Birds and/or East Devon DWT in the subject line. Also, for those without a computer, I will send a copy by post if you would like to send me some stamps.

Thanks to those who keep us informed – please continue to tell us of any unusual, interesting or amusing sightings, and what is about locally, and send any photos you would like to share.

Steve, Mike, Jean and David, tel. 01297 552616 Mobile 0779 1541 744.

7 Springfields, Colyford, Colyton, EX24 6RE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *