Off again... Na escaped with the excuse of a party in Cardiff, so I grimly went out and birded for myself instead. Saturday was easy enough: babysitting in the morning, drop Na at the train and head off to a roosting gull survey, where we got chilled to the marrow for the sake of a few thousand Black-headed and Herring Gulls, with a scattering of Common Gull and both black-backed species. Not scintillating, but could have been worse.
Once again the weather forecast was for extreme crap whistling in from the south, so met up with Judith to do some searching of the Exe. Once again, the Met Office were completely up the creek, for which we were quite grateful!
Powderham - the Cattle Egret flock now numbered three birds, with a Little Egret looking down on them amongst the cattle.
Dawlish Warren briefly - all three scoter still present, yes, tick, blah blah.
Starcross - no, no sign of the resident Slavonian Grebe (now beginning to moult into summer plumage again: check the Dawlish Warren website for some piccies). No sign of the Spoonbill either, but pleasant enough birding as it stood - Red-breasted Mergansers and a dusting of waders across the growing mud. No Iceland Gull either. Oh well.
Powderham through to Exminster Marshes - started off well with a good tight pack of Avocet in the river, kleeping and sweeping their way around the ebbing tide; accompanied by Knot, Dunlin and Grey Plover in abundance on the waters' edge. Further up-river, the Brent Geese were peppering the edge of the water, so we stopped off for a scan - five birds in, a nice adult Pale-bellied (hrota) bird; then at the other end of the flock, a Black Brant (nigricans). Seemed good anyhow: wide collar meeting across the front of the neck, whitish flanks and a blacker belly than the accompanying Dark-bellied birds. A couple of minutes later, the whole flock lifted off and dropped onto the shallow floods over the railway line from us. Will have to get back and have another look at that!
We then picked up another little group of Brent on the grass, where we could see legs, so I had a quick squiz through for colour-ringed birds: success in the form of two locally-ringed birds, both from 1996 sessions, and a 'new' bird, which proved to be ringed on the Taimyr peninsula, Russia. Looks like this was the first sighting of it since ringing in 2006 as well, so that was particularly satisfying.
Exminster marshes themselves were covered in Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwit, Teal and Wigeon. We picked out a few Golden Plover amongst the Lapwing, and a Peregrine lurking atop one of the pylons at the back of the site, which seemed to have really put the wind up the Lapwing - they were up and down like, well, fill the blank yourself, I think!
I finally dropped Judith back at her car and headed back to search for more colour rings in amongst the godwit, only to be thwarted by the entire flock hoofing it over the horizon as soon as I got back. Consolation in the form of a Ruff and a single Water Pipit, and some quality time watching everything going about it's daily business...