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Sat 23rd October 2010

Posted on November 1, 2010 at 4:35 PM

Scilly Trip 2010 - day one

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My previous birding trip to Scilly was in 2007 and I thought it was about time I went for another visit - so during the year I have been organising the week ahead. One of the factors that puts me - and clearly others - off making the trip every year is the cost involved. The accommodation is reasonable, but the travel is expensive. There is the flight to Exeter and the flight to Scilly to consider, and the only satisfactory way of getting from Exeter to Penzance is by hire car. I have tried it by train but this really constrains you, since part of the Scilly experience is calling in to see birds in Devon and Cornwall en route. So it all adds up to quite a few hundred quid, but a couple of years of lunch duties at work have paid for it.

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So early afternoon today I waved the family off at the departure gate, and fair play to Flybe, I was actually on the road outside Exeter Airport within an hour of my scheduled departure time. This meant that there was about two to three hours of daylight to squeeze in a bit of birding and I set off to Exminster Marshes, the closest site to the city of Exeter, where a couple of rare birds had been recorded recently.

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Exminster Marshes are not that marshy really, mainly low-lying fields with ditches and the odd pond

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One of the most obvious differences when you go birding in the UK from Guernsey is the large number of waterbirds at such sites. On the photo above you can just see the duck flock dotted around on the water. I was looking for a Glossy Ibis that had been regular here recently but it was not about.

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This bird seemed pretty wild, with no signs of an escaped origin, so I added it to my British year list - I am of course talking about the Canada Goose on the right rather than the plastic jobby on the left!

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It was starting to rain, but I walked South along the canal anyhow to the Turf Hotel, where you can stand right on the edge ofthe estuary and look out. The light conditions were not good but watching the waders feeding and flying around was spectacular. The two most common species were Black-tailed Godwit and Avocet.

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Black-tailed Godwit in the evening light

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A tight feeding flock of Avocet

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There were only a handful of Pluvialis plovers on the mudflats and so I suspected that I would be disappointed looking for the American Golden Plover that had been seen here in recent days. However, one bird that was feeding by a Grey Plover appeared to be small with a bright clear supercilium, but it was rather distant and I was finding it difficult to say that it was 100% the bird in question. Luckily though, I was scoping it as it took flight, and it very clearly had dark underwings - a lot darker than I expected actually - and so confirming it as an American Goldie, which is only my second ever sighting of the species.

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juv American Goldie - you can just see a pale super - poor photo I know, but it was quite distant

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The Exe Estuary - the AGP was on the mud behind the boat

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It was now dusk so I headed on back to the car, just as it started to tip it down, and a Cetti's Warbler sang from a nearby ditch and Water Rails were squealing. A most satisfying couple of hours in the field and a good start to the trip.

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dusk over the Exe

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I was very pleased that I had managed to find online a place to stay near Exeter for just £20, so I now had to try and find it in the dark. It was in a small village in the northern foothills of Dartmoor and I did have problems locating it, but I eventually droveinto the pub car park of the Drewe Arms. The lady behind the bar confirmed that I had indeed booked a "bunk" which concerned me a bit as I thought I had booked a room. I was even more concerned when she led me out to what appeared to be an outhouse/pig sty behind the pub. It was actually a converted stables and was a small room with a bed in it, a mirror, and a table with a kettle on it. Ideal for the tired birder.

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"The Bunk"

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I drove straight back to Exeter, grabbed a pitiful burger and went to The Picturehouse Cinema to watch "A Social Network". One thing I always like to do when I am away is catch a couple of films at the cinema, and this non-multiplex cinema I would definitely recommend. The film started off pretty good but 3/4 of the way through it got a bit boring for me which was lucky as I hadn't anticipated the length of the film and my car was about to be locked in the car park, so I had to leave before the film finished. I managed to negotiate the dark lanes again and fell sound asleep in the creepy stable - good job I hadn't just watched a horror film! 

Categories: 2010 Autumn