Friday, 14 May 2010

South West Trip: Day One & Two (Devon)

Devon is a part of the world I'd seriously consider retiring to. I've spent many a happy holiday down there as a child and now as a grown up, it has become just as enjoyable as a spot for brilliant bird photography opportunities. This year though, Mum's recovery from her illness last summer has meant she was unable to go along, and I offered a friend the chance to come down to see and experience what the area around Teignmouth has to offer.

Exminster Marshes

We met up here on the Saturday morning, but the weather was against us, being cold and wet at times. This wasn't good for seeing our target bird (hobby) as the bigger insects would not be flying around. Driving round to the car park nearer the canal, we found dozens of martins, swifts and swallows hunting and the highlight for me was a distant garganey. The cold conditions eventually won out and we retreated to the Swan's Nest pub for a bite to eat.

Dawlish Warren

Had the weather been better and Ian's back less painful to him, we would have made the walk to the hide, but as it was, we were restricted to staying within the main area of the reserve, though that didn't mean we saw nothing.

On the pool were little grebe chicks and ducklings, plus swallows taking breaks from their acrobatic flights on the posts in the centre of the water. A heron soon moved away when it caught sight of us, and the usual Canada geese squabbled noisily as they munched on the fresh green grass. Within the woods, I managed to catch sight of the spotted flycatcher reported to be about, though only momentarily and certainly not long enough for a shot. And as usual, by the smaller pond near the dunes, a pair of whitethroats sang and flitted between bramble patches.

Day two: Berry Head

Having had no joy at the first two spots for photography, I banked on going to Berry Head. Upon arrival, we hiked up to the lighthouse area and after speaking to a local, heard that the peregrines were still around. And within minutes of searching the cliff face for it, I clocked one landing on the edge of the quarry face, close to the top. A quick scoot along the wall at the top yielded much closer views and Ian trudged over slowly to take advantage of the views.

Certainly changed our fortunes seeing this bird, as it preened and shot off for occasional sorties, returning to the same perch on the cliff, presumably because it was sheltered from the strong and rather chilly breeze. While I missed the actual kill, I did see one of the birds plucking and tearing up a catch later on which was compelling if not somewhat gruesome viewing.

I was also rewarded with a momentary glimpse of a cirl bunting near the new café and hide, though with the greyed skies, the pictures weren't anything special. Better than nowt though!

And I also saw a cuckoo on the slopes, but that stayed well away from me, alas.

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