Wednesday, 24 October 2007


Bunked off for a quick wander round a couple of my stamping-grounds this morning - the sun was shining and the birds were a-singin', so it seemed like a good idea at the time. A brief wander down the canal-bank at Exminster Marshes (picture on the header) made me realise just how biting the ene breeze actually is today, and that I was slightly under-dressed. There were few birds of great interest, the best probably a juvenile female Ruff on the lagoon. Despite the wintry feel to the day, wintering birds were not particularly numerous - around 50 Wigeon, 100 Teal and a single Black-tailed Godwit on the marshes, plus a handful of Redwing flying over. When a local farmer moved in to top some of the grass round the pools and scared all the birds off, I headed off to the old sludge-beds at Countess Wear in search of wintering warblers.

Briefy, the sludge beds are the old settling pools area from the Exeter sewage works - a land use that has traditionally attracted birds and birders alike. The sewage works have long since moved to more modern techniques of treatment, and of course everything associated with them is now fenced off to prevent random numpties from falling in. The old beds, however, have been turned over to the Devon Wildlife Trust, who leave them part-flooded, with a mix of willow carr and reedbed.

(part of the boardwalk through the sludge beds reserve)

Inside the reserve, the wind was buffered by the trees to some extent, and I was able to get into a couple of flocks of mixed passerines - handy being able to cling to branches with your toes, I've found.

Not much amongst them, beyond a quartet of Chiffchaff flicking and flycatching their way around the sunny patches and a couple of the resident Cetti's Warblers exploding with indignation at my intrusion. Frustrating point of the day came when I caught a very brief glimpse of what was most likely a Yellow-browed Warbler in an ivy-clad oak: it stuck it's head out from behind a leaf and then vapourised.

My return journey was brightened by a rather tame Goldfinch feeding on teasel, which allowed me one photo only, and the disturbing sight of Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) seeding madly in the sunshine...

(Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis) and Japanese knotweed seeds. Vile invader...

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