Axe Estuary Birds No 157: White-fronted Goose

NB: the following is reproduced for the web by kind permission of Axe Estuary Birds. Photos/text are the work of the respective contributors.

Axe Estuary Birds No 157 May 31st 2011

The Birds

Steve Waite went to the Island Hide at Black Hole Marsh on Friday 20th hoping for something special, and was not disappointed.  There was an adult White-fronted Goose.

White-Fronted Goose by Steve Waite
White-Fronted Goose by Steve Waite

Ian Waite reports that from the tram on Sunday 22nd visitors ere treated to the sight of two adult Water Rail collecting food from the mouth of Stafford Brook, and taking it back into the reeds,

Reed Warblers are noisily present in the reed bed alongside path to The Tower Hide at Black Hole Marsh, more often heard than seen, and Reed Buntings have also been seen in the hedge opposite.

Tim White has a blog well worth looking at, with many fine photos.  This one of four young Kingfishers on the Coly caught my eye.  Have look – you wont be disappointed.

Kingfishers by Tim White
Kingfishers by Tim White


Snippets from Colyford Common Log Book

Four Little Egrets were on the scrape on 17th and 2 Grey Herons on the marsh on 21st.  A single Purple Heron is listed for the 17th but no location is given nor signature or initials of the observer.  There do not seem to have been other reports of this bird and juvenile Grey Heron cannot be ruled out.  The same observer listed 12 Ringed Plover, again with no location given.  This is a rather high  number for the scrape although 3 were present there on 18th and 2 on 19th.  6 Dunlin were at Black Hole Marsh on 17th and 3 on the scrape on 18th.  Two Whimbrel were there on the same day and 2 Curlew reported there on the following day.  One Redshank was seen on the scrape on 16th.

There was just one record of a raptor, a Buzzard on 17th. A single Sand Martin was noted on 21st, c20 Swallows (16th) and House Martins on 16th and 18th with a maximum of c20 on 18th.  A Lesser Whitethroat was reported from Stafford Marsh on 18thBob Olliver

The Trivia

Report of two Fieldfares near the FSC at Black Hole Marsh on Saturday 21st.  The observer was positive that they were Fieldfares, a bit of a rarity in this country at this time of year, but often seen further south on the continent.

Possible Red-backed Shrike in Axmouth?  Wendy Hyde writes “I saw a bird land on a branch, it had a coppery red back a tail that had a black centre and white either side, I think I saw a flash of white on its wings as it landed and a dark patch round its eye. It was the size of a Starling. A day or two before this my husband came in from the Garden and said he had seen two  birds he did not recognise that were a beige colour and about the size of a Blackbird, we now presume he had seen two females.”

The long, warm, dry spring seems to have had contrasting effects on the birds.  The BTO report the earliest ever Reed Warbler egg, and lots of nests (The reed bed on the way to the Tower Hide is full of their song, and some people have been lucky enough to see them!), but Blackbirds are struggling to find enough worms.  Indeed one male in our garden has conquered a hanging feeder to get sunflower seeds to feed his chick.

Mute Swans by Sue Smith
Mute Swans by Sue Smith
Fox by Sue Smith
Fox by Sue Smith

A pair of Grey Herons with a juvenile were spotted at Colyford Common, and two young Mute Swans were rescued from the ditch by the Tower Hide path, and reunited with their mum who appeared reluctant to cross the reed bed.


Sue also spotted this fox at Black Hole Marsh.


Photo by Steve Waite
Photo by Steve Waite
Photo by Steve Waite
Photo by Steve Waite

On Wednesday 28th Steve Waite had a moth trap out in the back garden, a few more new species for the year were amongst the 34 moths of 13 species

1 Red Twin-spot Carpet. 1 Silver-ground Carpe,
1 Scalloped Haze
,1 Peppered Moth, 2 Poplar Hawkmoth, 1 Elephant Hawkmoth (right), 2 Orange Footman,
2 Shuttle-shaped Dart, 9 Heart and Dart,
1 Hebrew Character
, 1 Ingrailed Clay (left),
6 Vine’s Rustic.



Photo by Karen Woolley
Photo by Karen Woolley
Photo by Karen Woolley
Photo by Karen Woolley

Karen Woolley writes  “I’d never seen one of these stunning bugs before. It’s a Corizus hyoscyami, which as far as I’m aware doesn’t have a common name. A once rare bug of coastal dunes, it is now becoming more regular inland apparently.  I also managed a better shot of a Ruby-tailed Wasp.”


How many Moths can fit in a Buttercup? Here are eight micro moth Micropterix calthella all in a Buttercup flower snapped by Peter Vernon.

Micropterix calthella by Peter Vernon
Micropterix calthella by Peter Vernon


A reasonable number of 24 birds were caught on 14th May as follows: Reed Warbler 8(3); Sedge Warbler 3(2); Blackbird 4(2); Reed Bunting 2; Dunnock 1; Robin (1); Goldfinch 1; Great Tit (1); Blue Tit (1); Long-tailed Tit (1); and Song Thrush 1. One Reed Warbler, on checking the database, was a control.

The team had a good catch on 26th, including three Swifts, a new species for the Group. The tally was 38 birds and only five of these were retraps. Species count: Great Tit 4; Song Thrush 2; Blackcap 2; Blackbird 5(3); Blue Tit (1); House Martin 10; Robin 3(1); Long-tailed Tit 5; Swallow 1; Linnet 1; Reed Warbler (1); Swift 3.

News from Holyford Woods

Hasn’t springtime flown by, roughly 12 weeks between mid February and late May.  From the first Primroses and Violets peeping through, then on with the Bluebells, Red Campions and Ramsons, the glorious greens of the trees when the leaves open, Greater Stitchwort and Goosegrass on the rampage, to the Foxgloves which are now flowering, mostly along The Hangings.  (They seem to get less and less as each year passes, smothered as the grasses and brambles increase). All that has happened to the accompaniment of the glorious dawn chorus. Recently in some places paths have been strewn with petals from the May blossom and at the top of Holyford Coppice with those off the Spindle trees that unusually have been absolutely smothered with flowers.

The young of the Corvids (mostly Rooks) that nest in the trees in Seaton Down Copse are now off their nests, their raucous calls for food ringing out from the surrounding trees. The cold has cut down on butterfly numbers.  On only one day have I seen any, a peacock, orange tip and holly blue enjoying a brief sunny moment by Top Pool. There the Moorhen was calling as if to defend her chicks, but nothing came in to view. Just after sunrise one morning I checked the boundary fence against Pratts Hill, enjoying the dawn chorus and hoping to see young Roe, but was unlucky. Later however I did see a doe feeding on bramble shoots on The Hangings.

Doe by Jean Kreiseler
Doe by Jean Kreiseler

Jean Kreiseler

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 me of any unusual, interesting or amusing sightings, and what is about locally, and send any photos you would like to share.

Mike, Jean and David.  (and many others!)   tel. 01297 552616  Mobile 0779 1541 744.


Interview with Steve Waite

For those who don’t know, Steve is well-known locally and a bit of an expert on birding. He is also the Devon Bird Recorder, so remember to get in touch with him ( if you see any birds of note!

What’s a typical day for you? How much time do you spend a week birding?

During spring and autumn and with good weather conditions for birding – as much as I can! Maybe two or three hours a week day, and a couple of hours during the weekend. Sometimes spend a full day birding too.

What is it about birding? Why do it?

I’m very much into finding my own rarities – and I have to say it is an addiction! Finding a very rare bird makes all the hours of seeing nothing worth while. The best thing is you never ever know when it is going to happen – could be any time of day, any time of the year, any where!

How did you get into it?

My Dad, he used to take me out birding every weekend when I was younger.

Is it just British birds or do all birds count?

Compared with many other countries, this country is actually pretty poor for birding – with for example Spain having a far greater array of bird species (and much more colourful!). I have only been birding abroad once, and I really enjoyed it (two weeks in Morocco)… my reason for doing this is different than most though; Birds that may be common in some places abroad, could be one of the rares I hope to find here. So If I get experience of how they look in the field, and how they sound, I have much more change of recognising one if I was to find one in the UK.

Do you maintain all the yearly/lifetime lists? Digitised or on good old paper?

Actually I don’t, I could tot it up if I wanted too – but I just enjoy being out there looking!

What is the minimum equipment needed to get started birding?

A pair of binoculars and a decent bird book! The internet is getting better and better now, with free photos, videos and sound clips avaliable.

You take some pretty good photos. Is this something everyone learns as they do more birding?

No, each to their own. I just enjoy snapping what I see – it is almost like another totally seperate hobby.

How far would you go to see a rarity?

I am not really fussed about going to see rares birds, unless it ws something I really wanted to see. I’d much rather go out around my local patch and look for my own rarity

What’s the difference between a twitcher and a birder?

Twitchers are list obsessive – and will travel any distance to see a rare bird (even if it is small boring and brown) at the drop of a hat. Birders go out, birding to find a rare bird. Yes birders do ‘twitch’ birds now and then – but are a lot more relaxed about it.

Could you say which species you are most interested in? Why?

I don’t really have a favourite to be honest with you! All are interesting.

What’s the most common bird you have never seen?

Hmmmm… Good question. I’ve seen all species that breed in the UK annually, so the commonest scarce bird I’ve never seen in the UK is probably Bluethroat (a two second flight view one of wasn’t enough for me!)

Are there full-time jobs in birding? Would you ever consider one?

There are full time jobs in working for conservation for birds, and yes I would!

Do other countries do the same amount of birding as us?


Is Britain a good destination for foreign birders?

Yes, the UK is one of the best places in Europe to see vagrant birds. Because of our position on the globe, we get American birds in westerly winds, and rarities from the far east during easterlies. For day to day birding, although you do get many more species abroad, there is always plenty to see. Winter sees impressive flocks of waders, ducks and geese in the UK.

Is there anywhere else in the world that appeals as a birding destination?

Around the Med, also Israel is a very good country for migrants and birding.

What’s your ambition in birding?

I don’t really have one – to find a Slender-billed Gull on the Axe is one I suppose!

What’s your proudest achievement in birding to date?

Finding Audouin’s Gull on the Axe, the UK’s fourth record and Devons first.

Are you working on any secret projects at the moment?

No, none secret anyway!

What are the top 3 websites aspiring birders should bookmark?, whatever your county birding website is…and mine of course:

Are there any other hobbies we should know about?

I’m big into moths, butterflies and dragonflies too! Also I have just sent away for my permit to catch and ring birds alone. Birds are caught, ringed, measured, weighed, then released in the hope someone else will catch them somewhere else. 

Any wise words or other thoughts you want to add, on or off topic?

Yeah – don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!


Thanks to Steve for taking the time to answer our questions! He posts regularly at his blog where you can keep up with all his exploits.


Seaton Marshes hide closed

Those of you who subscribe to the Axe Estuary Birds newsletter will probably have seen this note from David that tells us that the hide at Seaton Marshes will close for a while next week:

Just a note to let you know that Seaton Marshes Hide will be closed for up to seven working days from next Monday, 10th January, for improvements to the path. It may be quicker, and it is hoped that it will be open during the weekend.

There will be restricted parking, but the Borrow Pit and the path out to the North West Corner will be open.

He adds:

Just to whet you appetite, a Bittern was seen at Black Hole Marsh yesterday, so that could be a good alternative!

January 5, 2011Permalink