Bullfinches and Black Redstarts – Axe Estuary Birds 172

As always, thanks to David and the team for permission to reproduce the newsletter here. Best wishes to David too, who writes the following:

Please be patient, as the next Newsletter may well be a bit late.  I shall receive a nice new knee on the 24th January, which will hopefully make me more mobile.  In the meantime please continue to send me all your news and photographs, without which there would be no newsletter.

Axe Estuary Birds

No 172   January 15th      2012 

The Birds

Mike Lock writes “A beautiful male Black Redstart on a farm roof in Musbury today, 2nd January (and the last day or two according to the owners).”

Simon Wakely has at least seven Bullfinches visiting his garden, but they will not cooperate and enable him to get more than two in the frame at the same time!

Steve Waite has also been pleasantly surprised by the number of Blackcaps in his garden.


Steve gave the Wigeon flock on the marsh a quick look through – in case there was a Gadwall or any other patch goodie in amongst them – and this very pale female Wigeon stuck out like a sore thumb!

On January 1st Steve went out for his annual Bird Race – but as he was the only one doing it, it wasn’t really a race.  It was a filthy wet day too, but he managed to find 94 species on our patch, which was pretty good

At Seaton Marshes on the Lagoon a very vociferous and amorous Shelduck was trying his luck – but in vain.

Colyford Common Snippets

“I will hold back from passing you the snippets for the first week of January.  They are done but there were not a lot of entries and I think the mild weather may be reducing the numbers of our usual winter visitors.  I would like to pass on my thanks to the many contributors to the Colyford Hide log book who, between them, compiled 131 pages with over 3,500 entries covering 128 species during 2011.  These records will be passed to the CountyRecorder.  It should be pointed out though that these will not necessarily be accepted; entries covering Category B and A birds on the Devonlist (i.e. rarities) will need to be accompanied by written descriptions.  I will continue with the log book in 2012.”  Bob Olliver.

News from Holyford Woods

One has to remind oneself that it is only January, not March or April as the birds, trees and plants would have us think. Over the last two weeks Spring has really sprung upon us. Apart from one wild and stormy day, the weather has been warm, damp, and on many days sunny. Bird song rings out everywhere, particularly  Song and Mistle Thrushes, Blackbirds, Wrens, Robins, and calls of Jay, Raven, Rooks, Buzzards, with Crows, Long Tailed Tits and Nuthatches displaying, and Greater Spotted Woodpecker drumming insistently. On Top Pool there are 2 pairs of Mallard, and 1 pair of Moorhen. Paco tells me there has been Badger in one of the setts, and there is still the strong pungent scent of Fox around. The woodland floor is coming to life too. Bluebells are up to eight inches tall, and Primrose and Foxglove plants are refreshed. The odd Celandine is out together with Cranes Bill, and Red Campion, which has shown the odd flower all winter. Not much showing of Pussy Willow yet, but the Hazel Catkins are already dusted with pollen, and the leaf buds are opening, bright green even from a distance. The Honeysuckle, never without some leaves, a winter favourite of the Roe Deer, has opened fully. On a bramble bush was a spray of Blackberry buds and flowers, next to one of fruits, albeit wizened.  We, The Trust, have had a hedge trimmer cutting back the brambles, which have never stopped growing, right along The Hangings track. Wielding my pruners, I have been fighting a constant battle with them so can put them away for a while. What will the coming weeks bring I wonder? Jean Kreisler.

The Trivia

Peter Vernon writesI saw my first Celandine flowering yesterday together with several hoverflies and also at5pm heard my first Blackbird singing and not its faint half hearted song but full on all guns blazing song! There are also still Red Admiral Butterflies about. We have Crocus, Snowdrop and Daffodil (Daffs out before Christmas!) here in the garden.

I would be interested to know what else is early this year.

I ran my Actinic 40w Skinner trap last night for the first time this year as it has been very wet and windy here up until now and was surprised to find that the only moth I caught was a Silver Y. Would this be very late or very early for this species?”


Following the query last time, Barry Henwood writes “Yes, the Winged Mayfly having emerged from the aquatic nymph has to moult again.  The first winged stage has dark wings – if you catch one at night and keep it, then you will see it changes to it’s final winged form with clear wings.”

Denys Ovenden writes “I think it’s safe to say that it doesn’t happen that way, well, not quite. What does happen in all mayflies in Europe is the nymph arriving in the surface film. As it breaks the surface the surface tension is enough to support the nymph long enough for the skin to split down the back and allow the winged insect to rise from the surface within a few seconds. Point is that this isn’t the adult, but what is called the sub-imago, or sub-adult – tiresome teenager who probably deserves to be eaten anyway – which then flies to a convenient perch to ‘harden off’ before casting the final skin and becoming a full adult. These are the two stages which anglers call the ‘dun’ -because of its rather dull drab look, and the spinner, hard, bright and contrasty, with clear shining wings and very long tail streamers – two or three, depending on group.”


A different varied catch today (7th) with a few corvids invading the patch. The tally was :Shelduck 27 (15); Carrion Crow 1; Jackdaw 1; Rook 2; and Moorhen 1. A smaller catch than normal, but still very satisfying.

Next Newsletter

Please be patient, as the next Newsletter may well be a bit late.  I shall receive a nice new knee on the 24th January, which will hopefully make me more mobile.  In the meantime please continue to send me all your news and photographs, without which there would be no newsletter.

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.

Bob, Mike Jean, and David.  (and many others!) davidwalters@eclipse.co.uk.

7 Springfields,Colyford,EX24 6RE. tel. 01297 552616 Mobile0779 1541 744.