We met our bosom pal Judith in the highly respectable carpark at Exminster Marshes RSPB reserve, and promptly headed across the water for Bowling Green. The snow had thawed and intense rain had added to the surface flooding, so there was a huge shimmering mass of water lying in the floodplain of the Exe estuary. Shimmering indeed, because against all expectations, the sun was shining too... Weird. We struck out with enthusiasm and confidence, finding a nice selection of waders and ducks still off the river - nothing exceptional, but it's amazing what a warm and sunny day does to lift the spirits! Massed ranks of Avocet concealed a posse of Bar-tailed Godwit and Redshank, the Wigeon were all out on the bank grazing, with Black-tailed Godwit tottering around between them, all hunched backs and splayed tails and chattering with that gentle churry call they have. We sauntered on down to the Clyst, where more birds were chasing the ebbing tide - Grey Plover, Dunlin and Redshank, more Avocet and a handful of Curlew...
We continued on to the recreation ground, where nothing of note showed itself, bar a pair of Red-breasted Merganser loafing on a backwater - surely one of the most outrageous-looking of ducks, with their grunge hairdos (that dates me - ouch!) and mad eyes. No dice finding the long-reported Spotted Sandpiper, so we headed on to Powderham, where we wandered up the riverbank towards Turf. The fresh mud by the railway crossing rippled with brigades of Knot, interspersed with nippier, more manouverable Dunlin, whilst Grey Plover and Oystercatcher pattered around on the more distant mud, close to the water's edge. There was nothing much to show on the marshes, and the Brent Geese were way up on the river, so we sat down for a bite to eat, only to see a drake Smew lurking way out on the edge of telescope use... Judith and Na were rather underwhelmed by the view of him, which was understandable, so we packed up and headed further upriver, to check the goose flock out, as they were now in the fields by the pub. Predictably enough, the Red-breasted Goose amongst the Brents was pronounced bird of the day - a fair assessment, given the views (pleasantly close) and the light (perfect). Some poor pictures from a previous visit:
Our final destinations were Starcross and Dawlish Warren. The former was superb, with a couple of Slavonian Grebe and three Great Northern Diver on flat calm water, but the latter was disappointing, as the long-promised rain finally caught up with us. A final tally of about 84 species was pretty respectable, given the time and effort we put in and the weather.
Sunday (will the writing never end?) we headed out for a morning's survey-cum-birding - Na out to help on Atlas work, myself to bimble round Hembury Woods (Lesser Spotted Woodpecker) and then meet up with Jo, Arturo, Laura and Basti to head down to the National Marine Aquarium... some dodgy photos follow!
Beech leaf, Hembury
A confiding Robin
Arturo and Laura tempting the rays
Friendly fish in the Atlantic Reef tank
Basti and Laura shark-watching
Laura, Basti, Jo, Na. Sand Tiger Shark...
Can't remember your name, but won't forget your face...