Had two fantastic recent trips to East Dartmoor, Devon in the last week. First last Sunday, with a planned group tour specifically for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers and Cirl Bunting and then yesterday with Pam and Bob, a birding couple from Illanois, USA. Unfortunately the LSW’s didn’t show on the first date, but we had a great day with most of the other target species, like Tree Pipit, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Siskin, Willow Warbler and a stunning drake Mandarin that sat atop of a tree!

The afternoon was spent at RSPB Labrador Bay reserve on the Devon coast. Green Woodpecker was only heard here but our target species, Cirl Bunting, showed brilliantly, some in bushes along the path as close as 2 feet away!

The private tour with Pamela and Bob started at Yarner Woods. By far the best weather we had had so far all year greeted us at the woodlands and we were soon enjoying singing Pied Flycatchers, Siskins, Blackcaps, Grey Wagtail and Chiffchaffs just a few feet from the car park. Our first Spotted Flycatcher stayed high up in the canopy and Mistle Thrushes showed well collecting nesting material. We continued up onto the heathland where we added singing Willow Warbler and Tree Pipit, a fly over Lesser Redpoll and single female Yellowhammer. At this point we had heard, but still not seen Lesser Pecker, so we walked another loop and found a pair of Treecreepers, Marsh Tit and heard, but didn’t see Common Redstart! Back at the car park, whilst enjoying lunch, Paul saw a small bird fly into the birch almost above our heads and then another. Bingo! Not just one of our target birds but a pair! Tiny Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers!

The afternoon was spent at Challacombe Farm and the surrounding area. As we approached the Farm we noticed a group of birders looking up the hillside. A glance up and an obvious silhouette of a Cuckoo sat on a bush was our first for the year. We eventually saw two birds that gave fantastic close views. Other species at the farm included Whinchat, Stock Doves, Wheatear, Treecreepers and an unexpected Black Redstart!

Two brilliant days with amazing guests, stunning scenery and great bird life! Cant wait to go back again with our Cornwall Birding ladies group next month!