Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Best Job Ever?

On Sunday evening I was delighted to lead a tram of 19 (plus Allan our driver) up the Axe Valley on a Birdwatch special. 

The weather during the afternoon was overcast with some heavy downpours, and the forecast looked a bit iffy for the duration. But in reality except for a couple of spots of rain as we left Seaton Station, everything including the weather was just so kind to us.  The wind dropped to almost nothing and the rain and clouds soon cleared revealing a magical soft golden light across the valley...


The birds were just as kind to us, and I'll start with the punters favourite as always, Kingfisher.  We had four sightings of probably two birds, with one sitting in full view for several minutes which left smiles on everyone's faces.  The hunting Barn Owl that remained in view for about ten minutes was also a firm favourite, this also posed well for the tram full...

Barn Owl

On the other side of the Estuary, one of the lingering juvenile Marsh Harriers hunted over the reed beds before landing distantly in a field opposite...


For the whole journey, low-flying Swallows, House Martins, Sand Martins and (a surprisingly high number of) Swifts showed really well as they fed low on flying insects. Whilst on the subject of passerines, three Wheatears showed well around Sheep's Marsh...

Wheatear - I just love the pale-edged black primaries

What was really special for me was the variety and numbers of wading birds on show.  At the top end of the trip where we turn around by Colyford scrape, as if three Green Sandpipers, a young Turnstone, a Dunlin and 11 Ringed Plovers weren't enough - a Wood Sandpiper took off from the small pools north of the scrape and flew south, calling all the way.

Adult Ringed Plover left and juvenile Turnstone right
Green Sandpiper

Thankfully on the return journey the Wood Sandpiper showed better, unusually feeding on the Estuary with a group of Redshank...

Look at the size difference - juv Wood Sandpiper flanked by two Redshank

Black Hole Marsh showed good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Dunlin plus a close Greenshank, with the Estuary giving another three Greenshank, a further three Turnstone (four is a cracking good count for us!), two Whimbrel, a heap more Black-tailed Godwits and at the very least 14 Common Sandpipers.  

Next year I'm going to try and arrange a few more Birdwatch tram trips for autumn, particularly August and September.  Seeing large numbers of wildfowl during the winter is always good, but nothing quite beats the variety, quantity and almost endless possibilities that can be seen during a trip in one of these months.

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