Saturday, 24 May 2014


Yesterday I had a very enjoyable day out on Dartmoor with the East Devon Birds group. The weather may not have been as good as on the trip to Belstone last week, but the birds were just as good.

Seven of us met up at the car park at Venford Reservoir. When I arrived the list was already growing... unfortunately I'd missed the Crossbills in the trees beside the car park which had been seen by a couple of the early arrivers,  but I did see a Cuckoo & Tree Pipit. We set off to walk across the dam, and spent ages watching the House Martins flying below us, along with my first Spotted Flycatcher of the year.
Watching a Cuckoo from the car park....we could have stayed there all day!
The dam bridge isn't designed for the shorter birdwatcher
The reservoir was devoid of birds apart from a Great Crested Grebe
We walked around the back of the water works buildings and into the valley, picking up a male Yellowhammer, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Blackcap, Siskin & Goldcrest en route. It was a lovely walk down the valley, and not long before we saw a beautiful male Redstart & started hearing Wood Warblers. There were quite a few, but although we could hear them it took quite a while before we managed to see one.
A lovely walk even without the birds
Playing the Wood Warbler challenge! Fay was on top form, definitely top spotter for the day!
Everything was carpeted in moss
A miniature forest
Whilst watching for the Wood Warblers we found a nice hole in the trunk of a tree. We were wondering who may live there when a Pied Flycatcher appeared on the scene and disappeared inside with a beak full!
Just managed to catch her....
We continued down the valley before climbing up onto the edge of the moor, and heading back to the car park for a very late lunch.
We had to negotiate an obstacle course....Ian took the hard way!
Looking back along the valley...unfortunately no Dippers on the river!
I was hoping to see the Crossbills over lunch....I thought I heard them but didn't see them & I wasn't 100% sure. After lunch, myself Ian & Bob went for a short wander whilst Fay & her Mum had a cuppa in the car park. We hadn't found anything new when Fay kindly came & found us to let us know the Crossbills had returned the the car park. We hurried back....I dashed fastest & managed to see a male Crossbill, pointed out by Fay's Mum who'd been keeping watch. Unfortunately before Bob & Ian arrived it vanished. We stayed for a while, but there was no sign. I was the last to leave as I needed to use the facilities before heading home. Murphy's I returned to the van, there was a commotion in the trees & 5 or 6 Crossbills appeared & gave me a good view before flying off across the road. A nice male came back to the car park for a while, but then again crossed the road & sat in a dead tree. The minute I decided to try for a photo it flew off.

It had been an excellent day. Despite the awful weather forecast, we only got showered on a couple of times & I added 8 new birds to my Year List.

Monday, 19 May 2014


On Saturday I had a great day out with the Mid Devon Birds group, exploring the area around Belstone on the Northern edge of Dartmoor. We had glorious sunshine & fantastic scenery all day, and the birds were pretty good too.

We started off by walking down into the lovely wooded River Taw valley. There were quite a few Swallows & House Martins collecting mud from the edges of a puddle as we entered the valley & we could hear Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers & Cuckoos. A different song caught our attention as we descended towards the river, which we soon discovered belonged to an obliging Garden Warbler.

It was quite a steep climb down
The Garden Warbler gave us great views, I managed this shot with my 'point & shoot' Lumix.
Unfortunately no Dipper. Chris, the walk leader, says he very rarely sees them here
Diversification....John gave us a geocashing lesson
Stopping to admire the view we saw 2 cuckoos & heard a 3rd, and saw 4 Ravens
Looking back towards the village...
...and out to the North over the fields of bluebells 
We descended back into the valley, passing a singing Redstart on the way, and walked back to the car park in Belstone for lunch. Then we headed out through the village onto the moor towards Belstone Tor.

Communications centre...the old Telegraph Office
On the moor...we soon saw Meadow Pipits & Skylarks
I really should have put the tripod legs up!
This is what we were looking at. I really must practise digiscoping.
A Stonechat with limited orange on the breast & large white collar....a bit like a Siberian
As we started heading back towards the village, a female Wheatear gave us some nice views and a couple of Stock Doves flew over, putting the day list on 40, although I think we did add a couple more after that. The day finished in style....Chris's wife is still waiting for the lease to get sorted out on a tea shop in the village, so she catered for us at their house instead!

An afternoon cream tea on the lawn, how civilised!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Exminster & Powderham Marsh

I've been away with husband Simon for 3 months visiting 18 countries......flew to Moscow, train to Hong Kong via Siberia & Mongolia, & back by sea. It was an amazing trip & I may post a blog if I ever get around to sorting through my thousands of photos.

However, it's great to be home & yesterday I had a very enjoyable day out in the sunshine with the Devon Birds group. We met up at the RSPB car park at Exminster Marsh & wandered around the circular route. We saw several Lesser & Common Whitethroat, Cetti's, Reed & Sedge Warblers, Hobbies, Whimbrel & Dunlin.

Devon Birds....
The Lesser Whitethroats were in the hedge by the railway
Trying to find the vocal but elusive Reed Warblers...a raised hide would be  useful!

A lovely day for to wander....
...or just stand about looking & listening
A spot of bog hopping required....
...and Dave gallantly brought up the rear to fend off the cows!
A brief stop at the Turf for the Whimbrel
..and back along the canal path where we actually saw a Sedge Warbler & a Cetti's singing
After lunch most people headed off, but 5 of us stayed on at Powderham Marsh. We had a lovely wander to the viewpoint, where we sat in the sunshine for over an hour. We had fantastic views of a Sedge Warbler & Lesser Whitethroat, and added Swift, Peregrine, Stonechat & Reed Bunting to the list. However the highlight was Cirl Bunting, with one male briefly appearing on the bird table below the viewpoint, and another 2 in a ploughed field on the way back to the car park. The Lapwing chicks were pretty cute as well!

A great way to while away the afternoon!