Little Egrets and Lots of Wheatears: Axe Estuary Birds Newsletter 163

Axe Estuary Birds birding newsletter is published with permission, and sincere thanks to the team behind it. As always, we have reproduced it as faithfully as possible for the web.

Axe Estuary Birds No 163 August 31st 2011

The Birds

Ian Waite counted no less than 36 Little Egrets at Colyford Common on 15th August, and one Sandwich Tern. And then later at the FSC at Black Hole Marsh saw a young Cuckoo feeding up on caterpillars ready for the long journey south. It seems along time ago that we had a Cuckoo actually on one of the reserves.

John Stentiford was on Beer Head on 21st, and says he saw many more Wheatears there than he would expect at this time of year. Early migration? Hard winter ahead?

Peter Butler took this photo of a Sparrow Hawk in his Seaton Garden.


The Oyster Catcher chick at BHM seems to be flourishing and has been assiduously watched by Sue Smith, who says the parents have been most attentive. As you can see, the chick is now well grown, but still has pale legs.

Oyster Catcher family

On the same day Sue took a lovely photo of two Little Egrets landing (if that’s the right word for a descent onto water!)

Little Egrets

Stop Press! Sue has just sent me a photograph of the Cuckoo !


Wet and Wild Weekend

On Sunday 21st August, three generations of the Anderson family spent a wonderful morning at this event.

We started off watching the bird ringing which none of us had seen before, seeing Blue Tits, Robins and Sedge Warblers. The latter were wonderful to see close up and see just how tiny they are – you do not get the idea of size through binoculars or a scope. This was seen whilst also enjoying bacon rolls and coffee – great!

After this the girls made fluffy animals from wool then decorating them from materials provided. Following on from this they joined the clay modeling table and one made a hedgehog and the other a swallow. Some of the group then went into the field with large nets to sweep through the grass looking to find insects etc.

I went with the two granddaughters to the tiny stream, where armed with nets, they caught various “little creatures” from the river bed. These included mayfly larvae and a tiny eel amongst other things. A very knowledgeable gentleman was eagerly telling us all about our finds. In between all this the ITV crew arrived and, with our permission, televised us. We were able to watch ourselves on the local news later in the day.

I had to reluctantly drag the children away to go home for lunch, but others including a family on holiday were staying to make bird boxes.

The East Devon rangers and volunteers put on a wonderful event over three days and should be highly praised for all they are doing to generate knowledge, interest and enthusiasm in this area. Not only did they teach the children, but parents and grandparents too!! Many thanks to all concerned.

Moira Anderson and family.

The Trivia

From Peter Vernon “ I have attached a few images of another favourite moth I am regularly catching at the moment in my moth trap. It is a Canary-shouldered Thorn and yes it is sitting on my hand!

Canary-shouldered Thorn Moth

I have had two firsts for the garden in the last couple of days, in 13 years here I have never seen either before. The first was a Brown Argus butterfly which was nectaring on our marjoram in our garden and I also saw one in our little meadow.

Old Lady Mormo maura moth

The second which I caught last night in the moth trap was an Old Lady Mormo maura moth, although dowdy colouring it was an impressive beast with a wingspan of around 60mm.”

Brown Argus butterfly


John Stentiford reports seeing seven Dolphins in the sea off Beer Head on Sunday 21st. It was a still day, and he had great views’

Mike Hughes a wildlife artist living in East Devon, I also do some design work for EDDC Including work on the Bird Reports.

He is having an exhibition of his work in early September in your next newsletter. Details are as follows.

Mike Hughes – Wildlife Art Exhibition, The Gallery, Hind Street, Ottery St Mary, 3-17 September

Gallery open Tuesday to Saturday

Colyford Common Snippets

The early part of the week was mostly cloudy with occasional light rain or drizzle and ‘useful’ rain overnight on 17th-18th. The ‘Wet and Wild Weekend’ was changeable with rain during the morning of the Saturday but Sunday was warm and sunny.

The 49 Canada Geese were seen on the scrape on 15th, and a single Teal was there on 16th and four juvenile Shelduck on the 18th.

Up to 25 Little Egrets were on the scrape on 15th and a maximum count of seven Grey Heron were there on 20th.

Two Kestrels were seen on the reserve on 16th.The scrape continues to provide excellent sightings of waders: a max. of eight Ringed Plovers on 18th, three Lapwings on 16th and a single Knot on 18th and 20th, six Dunlin on 15th , a Black-tailed Godwit on the same day, 53 Curlew on 18th and 51 on 20th, a single Whimbrel was in the area on 20th and 21st, three Sandpiper species were noted – a single Common on 20th and 21st, 3 Green on 19th and a Wood Sandpiper on 16th and finally, a maximum of three Greenshank were present on 16th – a total of 11 species.

The 23 birds caught during the ringing demonstration on 21st at the Wet and Wild Weekend included seven Sedge Warblers, one of which was a ‘control’ (i.e. ringed elsewhere), one Reed Warbler and three Chiffchaffs. During the week a Willow Warbler was noted on the reserve on 15th and one observer saw two Whitethroats on the tramway on 18th.

A record of eight Grey Wagtail noted in the log on 21st as being on the scrape is unusually high for the reserve which rarely boasts more than a single bird; such a number is high even for Devon and one cannot help wondering if these were in fact juvenile Pied Wagtails.

News from Holyford Woods

What a tremendous difference to be back in our green Woods again after the bitterly cold winter experience of Botswana at this time of the year. I was privileged to see three Leopards, one with a cub up a tree devouring the kill, and two Cheetahs twice, not to mention the other animals and wonderful birds, especially waders, in the amazing wet environment of the Okavango Delta. There is even more water there than usual and some tracks were impassable.

At this time of year our Woods are very quiet. Little bird activity though I have heard bird calls such as twoGreen Wood Pecker, Greater Spotted Woodpecker,Wrens still defending territory, Nuthatch, Corvids including the Ravens which have returned, one young Buzzard, and the Robins. The brambles are soaking wet so there have been no deer feeding there. They prefer to be in the conifers or the open grassy places. The Wasps nest has gone now, and today Paco located a Bees nest dug out by a Badger. On the path to my seat I nearly crushed two thumbnail sized Toads, a long way from the stream and pools in the valley. I have picked plenty of blackberries – why do people gather theirs from polluted roadsides when there they are, untainted in beautiful surroundings? On a lovely warm morning EDDC CountrysideTeam held a very successful morning event in the Woods, entitled Use Your Senses. This was well attended by 7 adults with 11 enthusiastic children of varying ages. Lovely to see them and share their enjoyment.

Jean Kreiseler

Sorry this newsletter is a bit sparce – my eyes are still not right. Many thanks to all of you who have sent encouraging messages.

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.

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

Axe Estuary Birds 159: Cuckoo!

Axe Estuary Birds No 159    June 30th 2011

The Sky over Whitford, Saturday 18th June – Simon Wakely

The Birds

Steve Waite writes ;- “I hadn’t seen or heard a Cuckoo on patch for at least seven years – and have only heard/seen three ever. So as I was driving between Southleigh and Colyton, I came to a sudden halt when I saw a Cuckoo perched right besides the road! Unfortunately, the stopping of my car made it take to the air. A couple of Swallows chased it as it flew towards a near by wood, but it U-turned and flew back low over the road – heading for a large Oak tree.”

Recent photos by Steve – a Mistle Thrush with hungry mouths to feed, and three Little Egrets.

A Hobby was seen by Ian Maclean over Colyford Common on 29th, and on the same day there were approx 40 House Martins at Black Hole Marsh.  The Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings can still be heard there, but seldom seen!

Images from Black Hole MarshYoung Shelduck and two young Sedge Warblers, and one from Colyton – a Spotted Flycatcher all by Susan Smith.

The Trivia

Peter Mason tells me there are Pyramid Orchids on the Seaton Hole to Beer Cliff path.

Maggie Dilley asks  “Did anyone else notice how “happy” the birds seemed to be after that rainy  Sunday’?   Our bird feeders were busy all day with many birds and many young – Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Nuthatch, Woodpecker, and even a young Bullfinch (had to look that one up in the book!). We also had a Mistle Thrush that sang all day from most of the tall trees in the garden.  A bit after the event but we have been putting apples out again for the Blackbirds which they seem to appreciate.”

The Water Voles have been showing well near the Tower Hide recently.  Sue Smith saw six, and managed two lovely photos, and even I saw one on the 29th!  And on the next day a Stoat showed as well. For good measure, a Fox Cub also joined the party.

A Lens Cap for a Sony camera has been found, and is currently in a locked notice board at Black Hole Marsh Island hide.  Please contact me on 01297 552616 if you have lost one.

The Log Books at Colyford Common and Seaton Marshes, seldom used and sometimes defaced, have been removed, so please tell me if you see anything of interest there.


Another excellent catch on 23rd June of 60 birds with some interesting retraps, including a House Martin the Group ringed in 2009. The tally was:

Reed Warbler 23 (11); Kingfisher 2; Blue Tit 4 (1); Great Tit 5; Goldfinch 3; Treecreeper 1; Sedge Warbler 6 (2); Greenfinch 2; Mallard 1; Swallow 2; House Martin (1); Blackbird (2); Chiffchaff 6; Wren 1; Blackcap 1.

News from Holyford Woods

The rampant undergrowth invading the paths would have soon meant wet legs and nettle stings, but thanks to Dave Palmer, our Countryside Ranger, they have all been cut back.  He is also called in to clear the paths of fallen trees and limbs after storms, and helps with keeping open the glades that have been created. The rabbit numbers are well up this year, so I am very surprised that there are as yet no young Buzzards calling in or over Seaton Down Coppice. It is a long time since I have seen any Long Tailed Tits but there are 4 Chiffchaffs calling loudly and 3 Blackcaps singing in their territories. Bird numbers are generally down, and we cannot blame the squirrels as I have only seen one over the last month. I think two bitter snowy winters can be blamed for the low number of feisty little Wrens. Checking in the fields along the North side of the Woods, I have seen 2 Mistle Thrush, and 1 Green Woodpecker though I have been told 2 young Green Woodpeckers were seen recently near the bridleway.  This morning Paco disturbed a hen Blackbird feeding 2 juveniles on the way to my seat. Also the peace of the Woods was shattered with a group of children from Seaton Primary School learning about the different types and texture of tree bark.  They were very happy to be out of the classroom. I spoke to one boy who said his parents often bring him and his sister to Holyford which is good to know.

Because I am worried about the fewer numbers, I have recently made a donation to the Corvid Research Project Appeal for Songbird Survival.

This is their address for donations on line:-

Note:- Last week I was travelling from the 3052 to Axmouth when I spotted a Red Kite being hassled by a Buzzard.  By the time I could park, and get my bins out, they had flown East towards the North side of Hawkesdown Hill. They are such a wonderful sight, and hopefully we will have them breeding here. 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.



Up Tails All – Photo Carol Lowe