Oyster Catcher, Water Rail, Little Grebes: Axe Estuary Birds #160

Reprinted here with permission and sincere thanks to the team!

Axe Estuary Birds No 160    July 15th 2011

The Birds

Oyster CatcherOn July 11th, an Oyster Catcher chick emerged at Black Hole Marsh.  We think that the parents are those whose first attempt was frustrated by marauding gulls some weeks ago, and it’s great that they have succeeded this time. Well camouflaged in the rock, but visible. Photo Sue Smith
Water VoleFrom the Tower Hide, near the mouth of Stafford Brook, at the end of June Ian Waite saw a young Water Rail with an adult, and also three Water Voles.  Then on July 1st he saw fairly well grown young Little Grebes on the Lagoon at Seaton Marshes.  There was a nest on the Borrow Pit, but whether these were from that nest or another he is not sure.

On July 4th, Ian saw no less than 6 Common Sandpipers from the Tower Hide, and Carol Lowe sent this lovely photo of a Water Vole.

Then this week Ian saw 15 Dunlin and four Little Ringed Plover on Colyford Scrape, and three Greenshank, 12 Common Sandpiper, one Green Sandpiper and 12 Black-tailed Godwit from the Tower Hide at BHM.

Steve Waite ringingSteve Waite reports a remarkable 22 Bullfinches of various ages in his Seaton garden, which makes me wonder if the  two or three frequently seen by the rest of us are part of a much larger flock.

Steve Waite going to a ringing session :- “A scan over Blackhole Marsh on way to the rendezvous point revealed our first Little Ringed Plover of the ‘autumn’, an adult… There were a few other waders about too; my first autumn Green Sandpiper on the southern end of Colyford Marsh, eight Common Sands on the Estuary and at least six Blackwits still on the Estuary. Oh, that reminds me, about four weeks ago the group caught a pair of Lesser Whitethroats on Colyford Common – both adults and the female with a brood with a brood patch. In the hedgerows there were a few Willow Warblers and a Whitethroat – I haven’t seen either of these species here since the spring so I presume these were returning migrants? And a Herring Gull nearly did me a serious injury !”

Robin“Look at me !!”  A very proud Robin in Simon Wakely’s garden at Whitford.

Mike Lock reports “Today (12th) I went down to Black Hole Marsh for the first time for about four weeks – have been on holiday in Scotland . The highlight was three adult Mediterranean Gulls with full black hoods, accompanied by what I think was a juvenile. Also about 200 Black-headed Gulls, mostly with full chocolate hoods. Two Great Black-Backs on the estuary and a single Little Egret and single Heron. Also at least two Common Sandpipers, three Dunlin, and ten Black-tailed Godwits. The Oystercatchers have a single very young chick – how long will it last? The Mallard are still hatching; one female near the Tower Hide had two young no more than a day or two old, and another brood of ten on the ‘Green Patch’ were no more than a week old. The Shelduck broods are coming on nicely – one of ten and another too far off to count.

I saw a young Little Owl in Musbury last week. The adults are also around and often calling both by day and night. Our garden birds were not fed for three weeks while we were away. Some (Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Robin) returned within a day of feeding restarting; Goldfinches and a Dunnock returned after three days, and Greenfinches, House Sparrows and a Great Spotted Woodpecker took over a week to return. The House Sparrows live fifty yards up the road but clearly do not move about much!”


Just to let you know we had a very good catch yesterday, the 9th,  thanks to Ian and those ‘early birds’ who gave up their sleep to attend at 5.00am. Well done chaps, but now you have created a precedent!

The catch comprised of 91 birds as follows: Blackbird 4; Blackcap 4; Great Tit 3; Dunnock 3 (1); Blue Tit 16 (3); Sedge Warbler 7 (1); Reed Warbler 25 (8); Song Thrush 3; Reed Bunting 9 (1); Wren 2; Greenfinch 8; Linnet 2; Starling 2; Chaffinch 1; and Goldfinch 2.

News from Holyford Woods

PacoWalking the paths through the trees one cannot see much as everything is overgrown and tangled.  However along The Hangings there is much to enjoy in spite of the bracken and brambles which have gone mad this year. On many of my recent visits I have had my pruners in hand, cutting back the strong arching shoots which will reach the track and root themselves. Paco does not like being asked to ‘wait’ constantly and is glad to get back into the Woods. The track is lined with dainty grasses, ranging from a sandy colour to pink to warm maroon, interspersed with clumps of elegant arching Pendulous Sedge. The amount of Blackberry flowers indicates there will be lots for pies and crumbles. Butterflies are still almost non-existent, though here on the hillside on a warm and muggy morning I counted 25+  Meadow Brown, and 1 White too swift to identify. I wonder if it is true, as it is suggested,  they are suffering from a similar disease to that which is killing Bees?

I have only seen 1 large Hornet, supping from a run of sap in a hollow on an oak tree. Very early one morning walking down the field to the main entrance I counted 35+ Rabbits before they shot into the undergrowth. Plentiful food for Buzzards, but I have only occasionally heard the plaintive call of 1 young one. Walking along several of the paths one is crunching on snail shells around stone ‘anvils’ still in use by the Thrushes. Bird song has died down now, there are mostly the calls of Chifchaff, Greater Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, and Corvids to hear.

I have had lovely views of the buck lately and the one this morning was really good, as he was fraying the trunk of a conifer.  Then later, along The Hangings track, Paco disturbed a fawn.  The first this year for me. Jean Kreiseler

Jean feels that newsletter readers have only ever seen Paco’s rear end, so sent this picture!

The Trivia

Be part of the Big Butterfly Count from 16 to 31 July this year and help save them.

This is the link to Butterfly Conservation to record your butterflies http://www.bigbutterflycount.org/

Next week, 24th to 29th July is East Devon’s Heath Week, with lots of events for the whole family.  Find out more at


The Love story continues !  “We were sitting in the conservatory and chatting about this and that when friend Alan remarked that he hadn’t seen ‘those Lovebirds‘ yet – we could hear their distinctive calls and, as he sat there, watching through the door, my eyes were drawn to the large brown bird which flew up from behind the Acers close to the windows. Almost before I had time to say anything, it reappeared and perched atop the highest level of the bird feeding station, no more than 5’ from the glass. Alan turned round slowly to see it and we were all able to view this female Sparrowhawk close up for a minute or so before it flew off. I think that for all of us this was our closest ever encounter with the species.

Oh, yes, he saw the Lovebird, too !”  Mike Dannat

Diary Dates

Sunday   July 17th 2.30 pm – 4.30pm               Winefred Walk     A guided walk to take in the key sites in the
Winefred Story. Led by Donald Campbell, meet Windsor Gardens
Seaton. (Opposite Town Hall)

Sunday    July 24th – Friday July 29th July                      East Devon’s Heath Week – see link above.

Thursday July 28th 9.00 am – 10.am                                 Birds from the Tram for youngsters, led by James Chubb. Please
book with Seaton Tramway on 01297 20375.

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!) davidwalters@eclipse.co.uk.   tel. 01297 552616  Mobile 0779 1541 744.