Thursday, 21 October 2021

Whooper Swans and Water Pipit

Well I can only start this blog post by mentioning the staggering rainfall that Seaton and the surrounding area witnessed last night. 

Very sadly this led to many properties in Seaton being flooded out, and my heart goes out to all those who have fallen victim of this. The Fire Brigade were in my road for most of the evening, as the torrent of water in the below video (almost destroying a neighbours fence) was pouring right into someone's kitchen a little further down the hill.  Our local Fire Station received over 30 calls during the night, they had to call in a further three appliances to assist.

And it was no surprise to see the river valley full to the brim this morning...

Looking south from the A3052. On an average day you wouldn't be able to see any water from this viewpoint.

The A3052 itself.  That campervan was still there at 3pm today, this photo was taken at 07:40!

By this afternoon much of the flood water south of the A3052 had rescinded, thankfully.  Although Seaton Marshes remained much wetter than it has been for what feels like about five years! I took this at 5pm ish...

Looking like a proper marsh at last!

And the reason why I was there? Well to walk the dog along the cycle track of course.  The fact Clive shortly before found two Whooper Swans on the flood water (viewable in the picture above) was a pure coincidence!

Sadly I didn't have the chance to get to a closer view point, so pleased to see them though!

Love how the yellow bills are so vivid in this pic. These two birds could well have been in Iceland at dawn yesterday.

Something I noticed about one of the birds was a narrow black line where the bill met the forehead, which you can just see here...


And I'm pleased I noticed this, because here's a screenshot of a tweet from Charlie Wheeler about two Whooper Swans which flew into Abbotsbury Swannery this morning, but had gone by early afternoon...


An exact match.  And yet another example of big white birds leaving Abbotsbury and turning up here (we've had numerous Whoopers, Spoonbills and three Great White Egrets do it over the years!). Shame their wintering Scaup never follow suit!

Anyway, these were my first patch Whoopers since one on 14th October 2019, and the first ones on patch since two on 2nd Dec 2020. From the patterns of our previous records, these two will either be gone by the morning or stay until March!   I am going for the former option, although would love to know where they go next!

And finally I must mention (as they are no longer a regular wintering species here) the Water Pipit I saw on Bridge Marsh yesterday morning.  It didn't hang around long enough for a photo and flew off towards Colyford Marsh, but it is good to know we have at least one around.    I always pick these up on call here, not that I can at all ID them on call - it's a Rock/Water until I see it properly.  

Is there anyone out there who can separate these two species on calls?  I certainly get the impression Water Pipits sound thinner, but it's not consistent enough for me. I have heard thinner calls from Rock Pipits, but must admit have never heard a definite Water Pipit quite sound like a Rock. If that at all makes sense?  Thankfully yesterday's bird showed well enough before darting off that it didn't at all matter what it sounded like.



  1. Hi Steve, Please feel free to encourage any large white things to keep coming west!

    Re pipits no idea what the spectograms show but feel I can make an educated guess as to Water/Rock or even Scando Rock on call, still need to see the bird though to be certain. Even managed to pick Buff-bellied on call but only to think that 'rockit' needs checking! Over to you on the last, I've failed so far at the Warren so one on Black Hole Marsh will have to do ;-)


  2. Hi Kev, thanks for the comments and your thoughts on the rockit-type calls. Have to agree with you too, although littoralis on call would be a new one for me! Guessing mid-way between petrosus and Water?

    Have always fancied it for a Buff-bellied here, but not on the wetlands, more so when the Water and Meadow Pipits get in the wet ploughed field north of A3052 by Colyford WTW. One day! They do seem to be getting commoner...

    All the best,

  3. Hi Steve, to my ear Scando and Water are the trickier pair. A stomp across some East Anglian saltmarsh will get your ear in, they only get littoralis not petrosus.

    Helped a colleague with his flight calls when working on Anglesey and he was happy to have Rock and Meadow Pipit down, on moving to Essex that winter he was confused again!

    Looking forward to an Axe twitch this weekend, you're due to find something having honoured lockdown and you must be chomping at the bit!