THURLESTONE BAY BIRDS
Weather wise a fairly innocuous month no heavy rain (apart from 6th and 26th) few gales but a couple of good SE blows (16th and 26th) F 6/7 which always brings the birds into the Bay.
Having been well down on previous years in the total species recorded this year this was the month which brought everything up to date and a new record total of species in a month of 134 with 33 new species added this month to a years total of 153 (and still no Feral Pigeon!)
Outstanding year records were VELVET SCOTER, GREAT WHITE EGRET, SPOONBILL, PECTORAL SANDPIPER, POMARINE SKUA, LITTLE TERN, CUCKOO, SHORT-EARED OWL.
Significant sightings for the month:-
MUTE SWAN – Pairs on both marshes completed nest building –first time at South Huish Marsh for a few years.
BRENT GOOSE – A single record of 2 flying north on 14th.
EGYPTIAN GOOSE – the 4 birds finally left South Huish Marsh on 7th.
Some spring passage noted, however numbers low on the marshes.
SHELDUCK – present all month usually 8 on South Huish marsh with passing birds totals of 14 on 9th and 17 on 28th.
GADWALL – having not been recorded since January, 2 on South Huish Marsh on 16th increased to 7 on 17th and finally 3 on 18th.
TEAL – numbers well down on the marshes from 12 on 13th, to a single by 29th.
MALLARD – lots of broods hatched – probably around 10, very few manage to survive beyond a week.
SHOVELER – 6 on South Huish Marsh on 16th.
TUFTED DUCK – A male on South Huish Marsh on 1st (now recorded in every month this year a patch record)
VELVET SCOTER – First record for a number of years on 14th when a male flew east with 2 COMMON SCOTER.
COMMON SCOTER – recorded in small numbers on 6 days – max 19 east on 21st.
DIVERS – Again all 3 common species recorded.
RED THROATED - a single on 16th, BLACK THROATED – 1 on the sea on 19th.
GREAT NORTHERN – recorded on 3 days, singles 10th and 18th and 3 together on 26th.
FULMAR, GANNET and SHEARWATERS – S/SE winds on 16th and 26th resulted in some good sea passage.
FULMAR – 34 on16th and what is a recent record of 82 in 7 hours on 26th.
GANNET – 26TH recorded 725 mostly in east.
MANX SHEARWATER – numbers built up from 8 on 21st, 77 on 24th and 310 on 26th.
BALEARIC SHEARWATER – Eric W had 2 east on 26th.
GREBES – None recorded!
EGRETS etc. – The place for rarities this month was Nick T’s Garden.
On 3rd a GREAT WHITE EGRET tried to land on his neighbour’s pond (only our 3rd site record) and on 16th he and Vic T watched a SPOONBILL fly up the valley.
LITTLE EGRET numbers the same with a max of 6 on the marshes.
No change in status although only 1 SPARROWHAWK recorded. Alan D had a SHORT EARED OWL over South Huish Marsh early evening on 23rd.
TAWNY OWL pellets on my balcony on 2 mornings.
17 species recorded – maxima and highlights were:-
OYSTERCATCHER – 21 on 18th and 26th.
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER – After last years invasion a very poor spring – only record of a single bird on South Huish Marsh on 20th.
RINGED PLOVER – max 4 on 8th.
GREY PLOVER – singles on 16th, 17th, 19th and 22nd (bird on 19th almost in summer plumage – looked fantastic).
SANDERLING -2 on 24th. DUNLIN – recorded on 8 days from 13th with a max of 17 on 20th.
RUFF – Single bird from 15th-17th
PECTORAL SANDPIPER – Not only a patch spring first but also a mainland Devon Spring first. On morning of 10th picked up a bird in the grass on the island at South Huish Marsh – initially thought it was going to be a RUFF, but as soon as it moved in to full view realised it was a PECTORAL SANDPIPER. Staying until 13th – quite a number of visiting birders came to view. Ironically there was another UK spring record at the same time – the other was on North Ronaldsay which is at least 600 miles NW from us.
SNIPE – max 4 on 12th. BLACK TAILED GODWIT (scarce this year) single on 19th and 2 on 20th.
BAR TAILED GODWIT – expected late, April passage did not materialise – after a good start of 27 on 15th up to 3 only on 5days. WHIMBREL – again lower numbers than previous years – passage from 15th with 31on 16th, 76 on 24th and 43 on 26th.
CURLEW – 2 on 15th and 17th. COMMON SANDPIPER – Nick T found the first on the rocks on 19th, next day a spring record of 5 on South Huish Marsh.
GREENSHANK – an irregular spring migrant so singles on South Huish Marsh on 20th and 22nd were unexpected.
REDSHANK – surprisingly the first of the year over the Bay on 20th.
TURNSTONE – max 3 on 9th.
SKUAS – A total of 26 birds between 15th and 26th made this a very good spring passage (hopefully to be continued in May). A single POMARINE SKUA flew east early evening of 25th. ARCTIC SKUA started with 3 on 15th, 4 on 23rd, 1 on 24th and 4 on 26th (a mix of both light and dark phases). First GREAT SKUA was on 23rd followed a superb total of 12 on 26th.
GLAUCOUS GULL – the 1 cy bird still coming to South Huish Marsh with local HERRING GULLS. Reported throughout the month. Will this bird do a Budleigh Salterton and summer?
LITTLE GULL – An adult flew through with a TERN flock on 6th.
MEDITERRANEAN GULL – singles on 8th and 29th. COMMON GULL – small passage from 22nd to 30th with a max of 15 on 27th. Only small numbers of KITTIWAKE recorded, also very few BLACK HEADED GULL by the month end.
TERNS – First LITTLE TERN on 19th and a total of 3 on 23rd.
SANDWICH TERN – 21 on 6th, 14 on 15th, 48 on 23rd and 18 on 26th were the main passage days.
COMMON TERN – 12 on 23rd.
ARCTIC TERN – 2 on 23rd and 22 on 26th.
COMMIC TERN – a single flock of 155+ moved east early on 26th – too far out to fully ID.
A few GUILLEMOT and RAZORBILL on the sea, only large passage were 50+ on 26th. PUFFIN – 1 flew east close inshore on 23rd.
First SWIFT was not recorded until 26th when I over Thurlestone Marsh (only 1 more recorded by 29th). SAND MARTIN – 20 on 7th and 45 on 17 only significant numbers.
SWALLOW – With a max of 70 on 7th nothing exceptional until the morning of 22nd – birds started moving north on a wide front over land and sea in just over 2 hours a total of 2000+ recorded (actual numbers must have been much higher, it was impossible to count over both land and sea at the same time).
HOUSE MARTIN after 1 on 11th max was 30 on 21st.
A CUCKOO heard by the ringers at South Milton Ley early morning of 18th (not an annual passage bird now).
-No exceptional falls this year firsts were – LESSER WHITETHROAT – male on 21st, WHITETHROAT – 13th. GRASSHOPPER – bird reeling at South Huish marsh on 23rd SEDGE – 11TH (but 20+ by 27th). REED – 1 on 8th.
CHATS and WAGTAILS – A REDSTART caught and ringed at South Milton Ley on 21st.
WHINCHAT – Eric W had 1 at South Huish Marsh on 23rd. WHEATEAR – very low passage numbers this year – a max of 5 on both 18th and 25th.
YELLOW WAGTAIL – first on 17th, 3 on 20th and 21st singles thereafter.
BLUE HEADED WAGTAIL – A male recorded from 16th to 21st (3rd consecutive year of spring records).
GREY WAGTAIL – Only record from AJL, 1 at South Milton Ley on 10th.
ALBA WAGTAIL – A roost of 40 at Thurlestone Marsh on 9th many PIEDS moved through, WHITE records were 3 on 15th and 4 on 21st.
PIPITS, LARKS and BUNTINGS
MEADOW PIPITS – no big passage movements recorded but present throughout the month, WATER PIPIT – 1 reported by a visitor on 11th.
TREE PIPIT – 2 flew over the car park on 11th.
ROCK PIPIT – pairs displaying – up to 20 birds on the rocks.
WOODLARK – a single bird over the car park on 10th.
A few more GREENFINCH around this year otherwise nothing exceptional to report.
Finally – A NUTHATCH singing in pine tree behind the houses near the car park on 9th. AJL had 2 JAY fly in off the sea and over the Golf Course (an unusual sighting for Spring)
Early May can still bring some good sea passage particularly if S/SE winds.