Saturday 23rd July 2011
We arrived and parked in the large car park at Dawlish Warren and were welcomed by a beautiful mottled blue sky, lovely sunshine and a calm azure sea. There was a rather chilly wind blowing that reduced the ambient temperature resulting in the need to wear more than just summer attire.
We started to walk slowly - I call it “birding pace” - through the more open scrub and bushy area of the nature reserve. Linnets with there grey heads, the males with their raspberry breasts and foreheads and the females and juveniles with their streaked breasts were seen and heard twittering from their prominent song posts. Herring Gulls, Cormorants and Swallows were all seen flying over us. A Whitethroat , very active, was constantly on the move among the bushes and scrub. On the rough ground vivid yellow Evening Primroses and Giant Thistles were growing in abundance. Red Admirals were dancing on the thistles, Small Copper, Wall Brown, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown and Green-veined White butterflies were all observed during the walk obviously encouraged by the sunshine.
Chiffchaffs were heard but were more difficult to see. When seen in the canopy, unlike the Willow Warbler they repeatedly pump their tails down. In the trees we could hear a plethora of “tweeting.” Greenfinches, characterised by their bright yellow outer tail feathers and edges of primaries were busily feeding their young Blackcap and House Sparrows were seen with their fledglings such a wonderful sight. Goldfinches too with their lovely red heads and golden yellow bar on their wings, were also accompanying their lesser colourful young.
A Common Buzzard was identified soaring on the thermals and a pair of Swifts were seen floating high up in the air. Close to the Swifts a Hobby, a speedy and agile hunter was seen - could he have been threatening the Swifts?
A Grey Heron stood motionless on the side of the pond waiting for a tasty meal. Mute Swans and Mallards the commonest and most widespread of the surface feeding ducks were also seen on the pond and later in the same area a Little Grebe was heard but not seen. A handsome Stonechat with his jet black head and throat was perched upright on the top of some brambles and a Reed Bunting with his white collar and bib standing out in the sunshine was seen near the reserve centre. A juvenile Reed Warbler was flitting around in the trees, wildflowers and reeds and nearby someone identified a Sedge Warbler.
We continued to walk along the track at birding pace and then through the sand dunes. The tide was quite low and as we turned from the dunes towards the bay behind the spit we could see a group of Cormorants and Great Black-backed Gulls sitting on the sand. We made our way to the hide, it was extremely cold in the hide area and some of us had to put more warm clothing on! From the hide we added the following sightings to our list: Oystercatchers (including one leucistic bird); Black-headed Gulls; a lonely Ringed Plover, seen characteristically with the Dunlins; Sandwich Terns with their “posh hair” and black bills; a Common Tern with its red bill with black tip; a Common Gull, and Sanderlings.
We then wandered in smaller groups around the spit area and a beautiful Kestrel was seen hovering over the dunes fluttering its wings and depressing its fanned tail.
It was time to start the stroll back to our cars pondering for a while and looking out to sea where we saw a large “Bird Raft” consisting of Shags, Herring Gulls and Gannets. Both Wood and Feral Pigeons were also seen as were Magpies, Carrion Crows, Blue tits, Great tits, Blackbirds and Robins. Altogether we found 41 Species, including 1 heard.
Many thanks to Richard Swinbank for leading the group and other members who helped with identification. A great morning of birding.