Saturday, December 1, 2012
One species already arriving in good numbers are the tiny Goldcrests. It may seem amazing that they migrate across the North Sea to our milder shores but they do and I have been noticing them around our lanes regularly in the last few weeks. They are often heard before they are seen, with their very high pitch contact calls sounding a bit like a lisp. If you hear them, look out for a tiny bird moving almost mouse like through the trees. Perhaps because numbers are higher than usual they seem to be fighting off others to protect a food source once they find it. As a result they can often be seen chasing each other when they meet up! ( Of course they could be pairing up, but I suspect, with the cold weather approaching, they are more interested in feeding). This tiny bird has to eat its weight in food daily to survive cold periods and feeds constantly in the short winter daylight hours. The cold winters of 2009 and 2010 decimated the native population though they recovered well last spring.This morning I saw a pair, along with a small family group of Long tailed tits, as they flew out of SSW and into a small tree in Stantway. They did not stay long enough for me to get any pictures of them, dashing off to the next feeding post up the hill.
We met at 10.30am timing our visit for high tide in the Exe estuary as the views from the hide overlooking the estuary are best for the birds which come to feed on the mud then.
We walked through the reserve through the dunes, alongside the golf course, spotting a pair of beautiful Stonechats en route to the hide. The mud was just exposed as we arrived and we were delighted to see plenty of birds busily feeding, or in some cases just hanging about resting before fore mud was exposed. This estuary is protected as a reserve by RAMSAR and is home in the winter to thousands of waders and wildfowl.
It is also a good spot for interesting vagrants from America and most of the group were very pleased to be able to see the Bonaparte's Gull which has been hanging around, using the wooden groynes to rest up. On the day we visited ther was a lot of disturbance as the weather encouraged more people than usual for the time of hear to walk on the beach. Fortunately, this who did not see it at the beginning of the morning caught up with it feeding along the shore towards Langstone Cliff later in the afternoon.
Birds seen from the hide included Oystercatchers, Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, Turnstone, Little Egret,Shelduck and Red breasted Merganser. or a full list see the group website.
Unfortunately I did not take my camera along so have no bird close-ups but used my phone for some views. See below.
Exe estuary looking upstream from Dawlish Warren