Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Axe Estuary

Yesterday (Friday) I attended my first Devon Bird Watching & Preservation Society meeting. We met in the lay by near to the bridge by the harbour. There were about 20 people there & luckily they were a nice friendly bunch.

We started off with a spot of sea watching. It was fairly quiet, but there were a few Great-crested Grebe, a distant Red-throated Diver & equally distant Fulmar over by Seaton Hole. I particularly liked the Fulmar as I needed that for my Year List.

Next stop was the bridge where we had a rather nice view of a Kingfisher sitting on a pole in the sunshine. There were a few ducks & distant waders but nothing too exciting. Then off to Black Hole Marsh where there's a nice new car park beside the cemetery. I came to the marsh once before, back in October 2010 when I came for the Solitary Sandpiper. Since then there has been a lot of work done, with the addition of nice new paths & hides. We walked North and had a look at the new field study centre & hide before continuing on to the hide & viewing platform at Colyford Common. There are several pools, lots of marsh & grassland, as well as the estuary itself.

Colyford Common from the viewing platform
The group looking for an elusive Bullfinch

Sandwiches in the car park, then back to the Tower Hide which gives good views across the estuary. The estuary that was covered in gulls, deep joy! I was hoping for a Mediterranean Gull, and having been watching the blog of an Axe Estuary local, I knew there should be some about. So, time for some serious scanning. There were a few Lesser Back-backed Gulls which I needed for the Year List, so that spurred me on to inspect the masses of Black-headed Gulls in search of a Med.

Dave, one of the group experts found one! Great. I was sitting beside him at the time & got to have a look down his scope. Despite several attempts at following his directions, I just couldn't see it behind the 2 Herring Gulls.....I think there was a queue waiting for a look, so I'm sure I wasn't very popular, especially when the flock flew! Not a good start at my first meeting!

View from the Tower Hide. The Med Gull is out there somewhere!
I was determined not to give up, so kept scanning. Gull blindness was setting in when Alan said he thought he may have one. I homed in with Carl ( scope) & sure enough even I could see this one. It was coming into its Summer plumage so had a nice black head, its bill was much more orange than the Black-headed Gulls, & those primaries were just so white! Lovely! I definitely needed that one for the list. Luckily everyone got to have a good look at it in Carl, so hopefully I redeemed myself!

That was it for the meeting, but it was still fairly early so I thought I'd try out another site before heading home. I was going to head for Seaton Hole but then found that a few of the chaps were heading to Seaton Marsh, another section of the West bank of the Axe just South of the section we'd already done. I tagged along & got a few extra species for the day.

When we finished there, it wasn't quite dark so I paid another quick visit to the bridge & sea front, after all you just never know........

I enjoyed my day's birding. Its a great area to explore & it made a pleasant change not to be by myself. And the 3 Year List birds helped too!

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