THURLESTONE BAY BIRDS
What a start to 2014 – a month that could rank amongst the wettest ever with both marshes flooded. Only 10 days where my notes indicate there were sunny periods. Gales seemed to be occurring almost daily with some gusts up to force 10 and 11, with high tide surge significant damage to the dunes at South Milton/Thurlestone sands. Only 2 mornings with a ground frost.
A very quiet start to the New Year with only 98 species recorded (c/f 2013 – 108) in fact this total is the second lowest since this monthly review commenced four years ago.There were some outstanding records during the month particularly WHITE WINGED GULLS, DIVERS and KITTIWAKE with new patch record counts. A noticeable lack of winter THRUSHES and low numbers of TITS.
Highlights for the month:-
SWANS AND GEESE
MUTE SWANS started to hold territory on the marshes, a maximum of 6 on 20th. Only record of BRENT GOOSE (DB) were 2 which landed on the sea on 7th.
Nothing spectacular this month – where have GADWALL gone to, a male on the marshes on several dates with a pair on 11th the maximum (last year’s max was 26)
SHELDUCK returned to South Huish Marsh with 4 on 4th and a max of 5 on 17th.
WIGEON numbers were significant on South Huish marsh with a max of 110 on 9th, some passage as well as flocks flying in and landing on the sea – 180 on 20th and 275 on 21st (when also 40 on the marsh making a patch total of 315).
TEAL numbers above 100 most of the month with a max of 195 on 6th. MALLARD don’t normally get reported on, however a count of 100 on 6th is worth mentioning.
SHOVELER numbers below normal with a maximum of 17 on 6th. There were 15 on the sea on 16th. TUFTED DUCK are scarce visitors with less than 5 records each year, a female on South Huish marsh from 1st to 21st (not every day). An EIDER flew east on 14th and only a single record for COMMON SCOTER – 7 flew west on 19th.
A record month for total numbers recorded daily of 43. GREAT NORTHERN were most numerous at 29 with daily totals of 10 on 14th, 13 on 19th, 5 on 21st, 1 on 30th, followed by RED THROATED with 13 but a max of only 3 on 20th/21st, finally a single BLACK THROATED on the sea on 19th.
FULMAR AND GANNET
First FULMAR flew east on 13th, with 3 on 21st and a max of 5 on 29th.
GANNET reported most days – maximum 190 east on 21st ( a date that saw significant GULL passage.)
EGRETS AND GREBES
Usually only singles on the marshes of LITTLE EGRET so 6 on Thurlestone Marsh on 18th was unusual.
A LITTLE GREBE reported on Thurlestone Marsh on several dates (probably around all month spending time sheltering in the reeds). A GREAT CRESTED GREBE reported in the Bay late afternoon of 31st.
RAPTORS AND OWLS
Nothing out of the ordinary just the local regulars of BUZZARD, KESTREL, SPARROWHAWK and occasionally a PEREGRINE.
A BARN OWL reported near South Huish Marsh ON 24TH. TAWNY OWLS calling in both villages.
A total of 10 species recorded maxima were OYSTERCATCHER 40 on 6th, RINGED PLOVER 8 on 12th, GOLDEN PLOVER 25 on 13th LAPWING 100 on Thurlestone Marsh and 155 at Huxton Cross on 2nd, SNIPE 35 on 1st, TURNSTONE 10 on 19th. Species with only a single bird recorded were – SANDERLING, DUNLIN, JACK SNIPE, and WOODCOCK.
New patch records were set for GULLS. On the morning of 21st in just over 2 hours, 1230 KITTIWAKE and 140 GREAT BLACK BACKED GULL flew east – this is the highest January KITTIWAKE passage on the South Devon Coast in the last 10 years. The GULL fest just got better with record numbers of WHITE WINGED GULLS and in 7 days from 19th at total of 10 species recorded (only GULL missing was LITTLE)
MEDITERRANEAN GULL – adults on 3 dates with 2 on 9th, YELLOW-LEGGED GULL an adult on South Huish Marsh on 24th. Same day that an adult GLAUCOUS and a 1st winter ICELAND were on the Marsh and in the scope together. A 1st Winter GLAUCOUS flew west on 27th and finally a different 1st winter ICELAND on the marsh on 27th.
The GLAUCOUS records were the first since April 2011.
Both GUILLEMOT and RAZORBILL in the Bay on several dates, only passage of note was 375 east on the 19th.
WOODPECKERS and WARBLERS .
Sparse records for GREAT SPOTTED in 3 locations and only 1 for GREEN.
CHIFFCHAFF numbers well down on previous years with a max of 6 on 22nd , also a SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF seen at South Milton Ley on 11th and 22nd. CETTI’S WARBLER at South Milton Ley but no more than 2.
TITS AND THRUSHES
Both species noticeable by the scarcity of records – visitors to my garden well below previous year. BLUE TIT max only 6 on 29th, GREAT TIT – 4, COAL TIT singles on 2 dates, LONG TAILED TIT – small family parties only. REDWING only recorded on 2 dates 2 on 4th and a single on 30th (No FIELDFARE at all) SONG THRUSH max 3 on 29th, BLACKBIRD 5 on 29th, and MISTLE THRUSH 2 on several dates.
FINCHES AND BUNTINGS
Very few flocks in the wood fringes and fields. Only CHAFFINCH flock was at Huxton Cross with 100 on 14th and a single YELLOWHAMMER. GREENFINCH – a flock of up to 30 by the café. GOLDFINCH – flock of 50 by the Café on 25th and 30+ in West Buckland on 30th
BULLFINCH pairs at South Milton Ley and West Buckland. 2 CIRL BUNTING in a garden on 28th. Max REED BUNTING was 7 on 22nd (on feeders) LINNET – 30 on 4th.
WATER RAIL heard on both marshes with a max of only 4. Only BLACK REDSTART was a female in a garden on 3rd. STONECHAT up to 6 on the patch. GREY WAGTAIL – singles at several sites, PIED WAGTAIL 35 in a field on 2nd. JAY only in a local garden and finally MAGPIE – a noticeable increase in numbers more than 10 regularly seen.
Whilst not part of the patch some interesting records from South Efford Marsh /Aveton Gifford particularly now that the Hide is fully open (keeps Eric dry!)
A GLOSSY IBIS from 14th to 31st, up to 3 GREENSHANK, 2 REDSHANK, 3 COMMON SANDPIPER, 1 GREEN SANDPIPER , KINGFISHER, 20+ CURLEW, 24 SHELDUCK, 18 LITTLE EGRET and 6 WATER PIPIT.
Numbers of DUCK on Thurlestone Marsh since it was dredged and dyked giving some cause for concern. Only MALLARD and TEAL were regular. Time will tell whether this is just a temporary blip or a change in the feeding habitat to be found.