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WEATHER:  a misty start then long sunny spells until lunchtime when it clouded over, heavy rain showers followed by more clear spells. Temp 3 – 12C

What an incredible day, I saw a couple of excellent rare species and it wasn’t even an official birding day. Dawn and I set out at 8am heading south towards Exeter, we planned to make a circular walk around Topsham, taking in Bowling Green Marsh and the River Exe along Goat Walk. It is one of favourite walks and a great place to have lunch.

Bowling Green Marsh taken from Bowling Green lane

The mist cleared in no time and we had a clear sky as we arrived at Topsham around 8:50am, after parking the car we set off on foot along Bowling Green lane. Although it wasn’t a birding outing I happened to have bins with me and for reason my scope was harnessed to my back!! The hide at Bowling Green  Marsh was closed but there are several gaps in the hedge where you can peek across the large lagoons and reedy marshland.

a bunch of Redshanks

Large groups of waders were semi-obscured by grass and sedge but I picked out both Redshank and Greenshank, Black-tailed GodwitsEurasian Curlew and a couple of Oystercatchers. Grey Heron, Little Egret, Canada Goose, Mute Swan and Common Shelduck made up the list of the larger birds whilst Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Coot and Moorhen made up the smaller waterfowl.

a bunch of Greenshanks

The mature hedgerows along the lane were full of birds, I heard Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler and many common garden, resident species,

a bunch of both Shanks

It was almost 10am by the time we reached the Goat Walk and tide was turning, many birds were flying off the marshes to feed on the exposed mud along the shoreline of the great River Exe. We sat on a bench enjoying the warmth of the sun watching the proceedings on the river, both human and birdlife activity kept us occupied for a while.

views of the river taken by Dawn

The Goat Walk taken by Dawn you can see the benches where we sat 

a panorama of the river from the Goat Walk by Dawn

I heard the shrieking sound of Sandwich Terns, three of them landed on buoys out on the river and many Redshanks, Common Shelducks and a few Greenshanks fed in the mud.

Sandwich Terns

We found a lovely small café/restaurant that had a sun-drenched courtyard where we sat and ate lunch and enjoyed a lovely hot drink. We then walked all the way back to the car, noting fewer birds but enjoying them all the same. We did Dunlin to the list of waders and we saw a female Blackcap near the car.

It was 2pm by the time we set off for the journey back, we decided to take the coast road which took us very close to Seaton Marshes and so we popped in for a quick look. By this time the cloud cover had got thicker and rain threatened, in  fact during the latter part of the journey to Seaton we drove through some light rain showers.

At Seaton Marshes we visited the circular ‘Island Hide’ that overlooks Black Hole Marsh, from there we saw more Redshanks, a single Greenshank and lots of Black-tailed Godwits. Also present was Common Shelduck, Little Egret, Teal, Wigeon, Grey Heron and Moorhen.

the view from the Island hide of Black Hole Marsh

The Tower Hide gives you good views of the Marsh and a good section of the River Axe, along the track to this hide we heard both Reed and Sedge warbler but we saw neither. As the tide was low large muddy banks were exposed on one side of the river, these areas were covered in a multitude of gulls, just as I had hoped!

Greenshank in BLack Hole Marsh

I knew a Glaucous Gull had been seen over the last week, so I searched for it amongst the hundreds of gulls present and guess what……..I actually found it!! A 1st year GLAUCOUS GULL, on my year list wow, I was pleased with that. Other gulls present were G BB, L BB, Herring, Common Gull and Black-headed Gull.

GLAUCOUS GULL - showing off its white plumage

It started to rain again, and Dawn had had enough of being cold and now a little damp, so we left the area and drove home.

I thought that my birding was finished for day after I fed Fez and watched a few garden birds, but it wasn’t.  A message came up on my local WhatsApp group about a Harrier species being seen about 3 miles from home, it was thought to be a Hen Harrier and a message came through that it had settled on the ground.

a very poor record shot of the Montagu's Harrier - it was distant and the light was poor

So at 7:30pm off I went and within minutes I was watching the bird, which turned out to be a Montagu’s Harrier, a beautiful male. It was sat on the ground at some distance and in poor light, but it did take off and we all had great views of it. Thanks to James Watson for finding the Montys and for putting it out on WhatsApp. This was the first Montagu’s Harrier seen in the UK in 2021. It was a great end to great day.