Sunday, 17 March 2013

DBWPS West Charleton Marsh

Yesterday I went along to the the DWPS meeting at West Charleton Marsh on the Kingsbridge Estuary. The weather forecast was for rain, which may explain the smallest turnout I've seen at a meeting.....there were seven of us! I gave Libby a lift, and at first we thought we may have the wrong date or site as it was quite a while before anyone else arrived. Jonathan was due to be the leader but as he couldn't make it David took on the role. We started walking down to the marsh just after 10am and one of the predicted 'showers' started shortly after. It was actually more of a monsoon & we tried for the Guinness record of how many people you can get under a small brolly & managed four. There were at least 6 or 7 Chiffchaffs at the sewage works on the way to the marsh, but not much else. We decided to leg it to the hide & hope for an improvement in the weather. We did get a few rain-free minutes on our way during which we found Meadow Pipit & Stonechat, but were glad that we arrived just before it absolutely chucked it down.
The hardy/foolish/soggy birders during a brief dry spell
View across the marsh from the hide during the downpour 
Sheltering in the hide.
The hide is 'double aspect', overlooking both the marsh & the Kinsbridge Estuary, although we only opened the windows one side at a time in order to keep down the draught. We'd seen a lovely male Cirl Bunting in front of the hide as we went in, but unfortunately it didn't reappear. We did see quite a lot though, including Pintail, Shoveler, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit & Snipe on the marsh side, and Red-breasted Merganser, Brent Geese, Curlew, Great-crested Grebe & lots of Shelduck on the estuary side.

We headed back to the cars during a break in the rain just after 12, and found a Water Rail lurking in the channel just below the hide on the way.
At least there was some blue sky by now
Most of us had on wellies, but Libby & Annabelle were wearing walking boots. On the way back they decided to try the track in case it was less soggy than the field we'd crossed on the way in. It was OK most of the way....
Libby (left) & Annabelle...(this is what happens to Annabelle if husband John hasn't been out & reccied the route!)
We stopped at the sewage works again on the way passed. There were still loads of Chiffchaffs over the back, although it was difficult to get an accurate count as they were permanently on the move. Libby spotted an odd Chiffchaff just inside the gate which could have been a Siberian Chiffchaff, but without a song or a photo it's impossible to say for sure.
In the sewage works....we go to the nicest places!
The rain started again just before we got back to the cars so we were a bit damp as we drove on to Beesands for lunch. There were now 8 of us as we were joined by Annabelle's husband John, who'd left us to the birds at West Charleton & gone off Geocashing.  An extra spotter is always welcome, even if birding under sufferance!

Last year we found Black Redstart & Wheatear from the hide at Beesands, but no such luck this year. There was however a rather nice Great Northern Diver just off the shore.

Slapton Ley was our last stop for the day, a place I've never birded before. I had my exercise for the day chasing a plastic bag up the road after the wind whipped it out of the van. I caught mine & turned around to see 2 orange carrier bags coming at me up the road having been whipped out of one of the other cars. I'd have made a useless goal keeper as they both got passed me, although I did manage to catch up with one of them further up the road.

We were hoping to find the two Ring-necked Ducks that have been there for a while, but failed to find them in amongst the Tufties. However there were at least 3 Goldeneye, which are always nice to see.

Slapton Ley hide
Ring-necked duck hunting
Offshore were 2 Great Northern Divers, 3 Common Scoters  & a few Gannets out in the distance
Look at that lovely sky now!
We had a last ditch attempt to find the Ring-necked Ducks from the bridge at the Eastern end of the Ley. Again we failed to find them, but finished on a real high when a beautiful Marsh Harrier gave us excellent views as it did a slow fly-by over our heads and off to the East.

Looking East from the bridge
We could easily have aborted the trip first thing, but we were so glad that we hadn't as it turned out to be another great day....62 species on the list, some lovely weather (eventually!) & entertaining company!

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