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SPONSORED BIRDWATCH 2005, THE RESULT.

Paul Boulden


On May 25th 2005, I got up at 2 a.m. to go off on the sponsored birdwatch. A combination of poor health and bad weather prevented much planning and a look outside revealed thick fog and a strong breeze, neither of which looked promising. There was a chance of a Tawny Owl in the garden but no sign so I drove around the local roads looking for any owls, unfortunately the fog prevented use of main beam headlights so nothing was seen a the roadside.

03:45 I set off from home ( near Kingsbridge ) towards the moors after checking in a shed and seeing the roosting Swallows to get the list started. Arriving at Bennets Cross the fog was thicker, drizzle in the air and stronger winds, not looking good. After a few minutes a male Ring Ouzel walked across in front of the car but there was no chance of much else so off to Soussons in the hope the fog would clear.

It was better there and a fly over Redpoll on the way helped, a few common species were soon seen together with a Cuckoo and a Bullfinch ( this was one of several fairly common species which may have proved tricky ), 22 species up and on to Challacombe Farm. At the farm the weather improved and Siskin, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Grey Wagtail were soon added. A Whinchat near Headland Warren Farm was no. 36.
Next stop was Trendlebeare & Yarner Woods ( after Dartford Warbler at an undisclosed breeding site ) where several good birds were seen quickly, Green Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Pied Flycatcher, Wood & Garden Warbler and Mistle Thrush brought the list to 52.

On to Haldon for Turtle Dove and then around the Exminster area for Woodlark and Cirl Bunting amongst others, list now 60.

Topsham was a bit of a let down, the tide was out so the only waders on the estuary or at Bowling Green Marsh were a Whimbrel, a Knot, several Black Tailed Godwit, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover and Dunlin, a single Brent Goose flying down river was a lucky find.

With the list now at 80 species it was on to Exminster Marshes, there was a single Sand Martin over the lagoon and some Gadwall. Cettis, Reed and Sedge Warblers were all easily seen but a lot of time was wasted looking for a Hobby ( no sign ).

The Exe Estuary viewed from Powderham, Cockwood and Starcross added nothing and the strong winds put me off Dawlish so I turned back to the A38. The bridge over the River Dart on the old Totnes Road revealed a Dipper which made 90. By now it was getting difficult to find anything different but on to Slapton which brought the score to 98 ( surprisingly Collared Dove was number 92 ! ). Beesands added nothing so on to Start Point. The first Whitethroat of the day was beside the car park as expected, a bigger surprise was the Short Eared Owl hunting between the car park and the lighthouse which brought the total to tantalising 99. A Fulmar was the 100th for the day.

As I had a Barn Owl site near Plymouth I headed that way, looking on the way for the "missing" species, especially waders, Kestrel and Peregrine. Nothing extra was seen, I looked around the Stoke Beach area where partridges ( even Chough ) were possible but the only interesting sighting was a Hare ( other mammals seen included Badger and Fox ).

The Barn Owl was seen near Plymstock at 22:00 which brought the day to a close. All in all a sucessful day although better planning, especially in relation to tides, and better weather could have brought the total closer to 110.

The money raised will help set up the new website and provide more nestboxes. Many thanks to all those who have contributed.

As a postscript, upon returning home the following afternoon I peeked through the curtains from my living room and was amazed to see a superb adult male Black Headed Bunting feeding on the ground beside the bird table. It soon flew off, returning only once. Unfortunately no-one else got to see it as it disappeared before anyone arrived although I did manage to take some ( poor ) photos as a permanent record.

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07/05/06