I’ve taken the ‘Cornwall’ out of the title for Day 4 as we spent it all in Devon! Another beautiful sunny warm day in east Dartmoor concentrating on moorland and woodland species. We left Cornwall at 5.15am and reached our first destination, Yarner Woods on the east side of Dartmoor National Park by 0640hrs. (Stopping only to ‘list tick’ Mistle Thrush near Moretonhampstead) The woodland was alive with birdsong but the car park didn’t open until 9am, so we parked about 1/4 mile away in a small car park overlooking an amazing valley, then walked back towards the wood crossing a small heath where we had great views of singing Siskin, Tree Pipit and Yellowhammer. Redpolls were also seen briefly (and much better later on) and Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers were heard. We were soon back at the visitor centre where I discovered a new hide complete with feeders and birds galore. Within minutes we had incredible views of Siskin, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker and four stunning male Mandarin Ducks. A short walk to the higher hide produced singing male Pied Flycatchers, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Grey Wagtail. The next hide provided more great views this time of Bullfinch, Coal Tit and a brief Spotted Flycatcher.
I decided we should then head off in search of Wood Warbler and I soon picked up a singing male that showed well along the path north from the car park. Steve led the way in Common Redstart finding, picking up a stunning male then two females which were a challenge to show the small group of birders that had gathered!
It was then back to the car for a coffee where the Redpolls showed better! The decision was then made to head for Challacombe Farm but not before a quick toilet break back at the Yarner Wood Car park. What a slice of luck that stop turned out to be. As we were about to get back in the car I heard a Green Woodpecker calling close by but high up, I looked the direction of the call and also heard a Kestrel calling. Over the tops of the trees came a huge female GOSHAWK with two Kestrels in hot pursuit! We never did see the Woodpecker, but Goshawk was a huge consolation!
Elated with the morning so far we then headed for Challocombe Farm and Sousson’s Plantation. On arrival I parked up the car, got out and immediately heard, then spotted a Treecreeper on the tree not 8 feet from us. This was really pleasing as we had not seen this species at Yarner. The next few hours were spent walking from Challacombe to Sousson’s where we picked up Whinchats, including a stunning male, two reeling Grasshopper Warblers, Lesser Whitethroat and more Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wheatear, Cuckoo, Stonechat and lots of Siskins!
After a hearty meal at the St Goerge and Dragon at Clyst St George near Exeter, the evening was spent at Bowling Green Marsh RSPB reserve. I was pleased to see there was a fantastic new hide built since my last visit. The water here held good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Shelduck, and two male Eurasian Wigeon were new for the trip list. At about 5.30pm all the waders and gulls became agitated and I looked up to see Common Buzzard circling overhead. But, beyond the Buzzard and incredibly high up I picked up another bird, gliding south-west. This was followed by another, then another, then another. Nine birds in total. I quickly aimed the scope and saw they were all RED KITES!!! A further two were spotted half an hour later as we walked to view the estuary, making 11 birds in total. A great end to the day with a total of 19 new trip birds for Steve and a few year ticks for me too! Birds seen were:
Yarner Woods – 4 + Pied Flycatcher, GS Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, 4 Common Redstart, Long-tailed Tit, 4 Mandarin Duck, 2 Grey Wagtail, Mallard, GOSHAWK, Kestrel, Siskin, Tree Pipit, 4 Yellowhammer, Redpoll, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Wren, Robin, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Bullfinch, Raven, Carrion Crow.
Challacombe Farm/Sousson’s Plantation – Treecreeper, Wheatear, Swallow, House Martin, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, 2 Grasshopper Warbler, Jay, Siskin, Redpoll, Whinchat, Cuckoo, Stonechat, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Blackcap.
Bowling Green Marsh RSPB – 11 RED KITE, 2 Wigeon, 50+ Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Greenshank, 10+ Mallard, 50+ Shelduck, 3 Little Egret, 20+ Black-headed Gull, Coot, Moorhen, Cetti’s Warbler, Blackbird, Magpie, 200+ Oystercatcher, 70+ Dunlin, 4 Mute Swan, 6 Canada Geese, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Carrion Crow, House Martin, Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Reed Warbler, Reed Bunting, 30+ Whimbrel, Cormorant, Herring Gull, GBB Gull, Buzzard, 1 male Tufted Duck, Grey Heron, Woodpigeon, 2 Swift, House Sparrow.
TRIP LIST TALLY – 116 Species