Thursday, 6 November 2008

Thursday 6th November 2008

Local Specialities

Living in East Devon, we are blessed with having a few species nesting locally which are uncommon or just plain rare elsewhere in the country. Dartford Warbler springs to mind. They are literally common on the commons, and can be found in good numbers on the East Devon heathlands. They even nest within the Exmouth Civil Parish Boundary, so I get to see them like most folk in other parts of the country see Yellowhammers or Treecreepers. But perhaps the most localised of all is a bird whose main breeding stronghold is in our fair county. Yes, I'm talking about the Cirl Bunting. The males in breeding plumage are absolutely stunning, and even at this time of year set the pulse racing. Now most local birders hereabouts would have year-ticked Cirl Bunting back in the first two weeks of January. Not me however, I tend to be a bit slow when it comes round to yearlisting. So, when I realised I hadn't seen any this year yet, I thought I had better make a special trip and make sure I saw some. I usually catch up with the birds on the west side of the Exe estuary, or in the South Hams when I am twitching a county rarity in those parts. Not this year though! I haven't had occasion to travel down to the south of the county and, well, I just hadn't made the effort to see them locally.
Therefore I popped round to the village of Exminster at lunchtime and meandered up and down the edges of some fields which are well-known to locals as being a good bet for connecting with the species. Eventually I came across a small finch flock numbering some 35 birds. Goldfinch and Chaffinch made up most of the numbers, but a couple of Reed Buntings were present and sure enough, there were the Cirl Buntings! There 6 birds in all, consisting of 3 of each sex. They flew into a hedge which had all it's leaves turned to an autumnal yellow in colour. Once I got the telescope on them, they were easy to see. I enjoyed these for about 30 minutes whilst a pair of Stonechats did their level best to impress me by perching closely on convenient stalks of weed. Mission accomplished. I must not leave it so long next year to make my acquaintance with these lovely birds!
I popped briefly into Bowling Green Marsh hide on the return journey just to see if there were any different birds to yesterday. Wigeon numbers were up on yesterday and there was a pair of Gadwall on the back edge of the main pool, while 3 Pochard were new in as well. The Little Grebe was still present. I bumped into Ron Lewis from Bath who had caught the train down for a day's birding, definitely a well-known birder from my distant past, and one I hadn't seen for over 20 years! He was quick to inform me he'd seen a Firecrest earlier along by the viewing platform, so that will be something to look for over the next few days.

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