Axe Estuary Birds Newsletter #145

Axe Estuary Birds No 145 1st December 2010

NB: The following is reproduced by kind permission of Axe Estuary Birds. Full credit goes to the team that produces the newsletter (see the bottom of the post for specific details). Photographs are credited throughout the text although we are working to preserve the original layout wherever possible in the future.

The Birds

This period started with rough and windy conditions, and ended with freezing temperatures and snow – what a great month November is!

The windy weather during the first couple of days encouraged a few Little Gulls on to the patch. Single adults were opposite Axmouth FC and along the sea front on 17th, with another (a first winter) on flood water at Axminster. A single Great Skua spent a short while in the bay, coming unusually close to the shore – and the observer!

Once the weather calmed, aside from a few Red-throated and Great Northern Divers, and two Balearic Shearwaters and a Red-breasted Merganser past Branscombe on 21st, it all went quite quiet. But there were plenty of other things to look at!

The cold weather really started to affect birds from about the 28th, with small flocks of Lapwings noted flying south out to sea. Small flocks continued to trickle southwards ‘til the end of the month. Three Ruff flew low north east over Colyford Common on 29th, with five on the Estuary on 30th – with a Knot seen here also. A few Golden Plover were expected, so a flock of above 30 near Musbury on 28th, and 13 near Boshill Cross on 29th weren’t a surprise at all. As ever with this weather, Snipe have become much easier to see, hopefully a Jack Snipe or two will appear amongst them! Four Woodcock were seen in private woodland near Colyton on 30th.

Wildfowl always become more evident on our Estuary during this weather. Best of all were two lots of three Goosanders; on 29th three were on the sea off Seaton then flew off west. The following day three were on the Estuary at high tide. Another two were on the Axe at Axminster from 29th. A few Gadwall included a flock of six on 29th, and highest counts for both Wigeon and Teal were also on 29th, with 450 and 380 respectively. The flock of 12 Brent Geese are now spending all day feeding in the vicinity of Colyford or
Bridge Marsh.

A Spoonbill was a bit of a surprise – but also presumably arrived here due to the weather conditions; it was first spotted on the Estuary on 30th. Up to four adult Mediterranean Gulls have been counted during the afternoon gull roost.

Passerine news is a little sparse for this month, although a Bearded Tit was seen briefly on Colyford Common on 25th, and two Firecrest and a Black Redstart have been noted in Beer. Another Black Redstart, an adult male, was seen in Musbury on 28th.

Photos: Great Skua, Goosanders, Gadwall and Mediterranean Gull – Steve Waite; Spoonbill – Sue Smith.

The NewsletterHELP! Steve Waite, who has done The Birds section so well for the last two years, is finding it difficult to reconcile with his other commitments, and has decided to give up at the end of this year. We shall miss his contribution, but I shall attempt to continue. However I can’t get out and about as much as I used to, so will rely on your notes and photos even more. Please send all you can to me at . All items published will be acknowledged. Thanks.

News from Holyford Woods

What a glorious show the trees have put on this Autumn, in the lead up to National Tree Week (25th November – December 5th). Even now we can enjoy the gold tops of the Oaks, and the yellow of the Hazels, and all over The Hangings the many young Birches are now showing themselves. From a thick patch Paco picked up the scent of Roe Deer, which I could not see from the main track but he took me down to the bottom path to the very place from where I could just see the Buck and 2 Does happily feeding, sheltered from the cold wind. Although Winter is taking over from Autumn, not everything has gone to sleep, as next year’s catkins are appearing on the Hazels, some of the Honeysuckle is showing new leaf, and the Foxgloves are well up. There are even a few Red Campion flowers in sheltered places. On a late afternoon walk a Tawny Owl was calling at the same time as a Buzzard, and the Corvids were moving back from the surrounding fields to roost, as noisy as ever.


On 15th November the team caught 37 birds after a slow start. Lovely sunny morning which produced a nice surprise, a Snipe. in the new reed bed. The tally for the day was:
Song Thrush 1; Robin 7(2); Blackbird 2; Dunnock 14(8); Reed Bunting 4(2); Chaffinch 2; Cetti’s Warbler 1; Snipe 1; Goldcrest 1; Long-tailed Tit 2; Linnet 1; and Kingfisher (1).

Not so good was the attempted canon netting – a fox had been lurking on the marsh, and there were no ducks, so the net was not deployed.

Although we attempted mist netting on the 29th, it was considered after less than one hour to be too cold, so in the interest of the birds (and us!) we packed up. Anyway 3 (1) Blue Tits, one Robin and 5 (1) Dunnocks were caught, all of good condition and weight.

The Trivia

John Crabb wrote “I first thought I had found a rarity, but probably it is just an ordinary Wren with a white patch. It lurks in the corner of the ditch right by the car park at Seaton Marshes.”

Maggie & Ray Dilley on Monday 22nd saw two Redwings on their holly bushes, with lovely strong colouring.

Closer to home, Sue Smith took a wonderful series of photographs of two Godwits having a real squabble. Shame there is only room for one here.

Diana and I are mystified by the almost complete lack of Starlings in our garden. In previous winters we have had a gang demolishing the fat balls, but only the occasional one so far this year.

And now for something not remotely connected to our patch! Our son John, in Botswana, found this Baboon Spider on a sandbag – the body is about 4” long, beautiful to some, horrendous to others. It is one of the Tarantula species. The sandbags are being used to clad the walls, instead of bricks and mortar, (an innovation that has aroused interest in high places) of a school he is building in the Kalahari desert for a village of Kalahari Bushmen, recently resettled in their home land.


Thursday 2nd December 10.00am to 12 Noon Meet the Birds at Colyford Common.

Wednesday 8th December 10.00am to 12 Noon Winter Birds from the Tram with Donald Campbell
Followed by lunch at Eyre Court Hotel. Book with Christina Bows 01297 238222

Thursday 16th December 10.00am to 12 Noon Meet the Birds at Seaton Marshes.

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 me 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.

December 6, 2010Permalink