Bountiful Brixham

For my New Year birding trip I chose a drive down to Brixham where a White-billed Diver has been in the harbour for several days. Not a twitch you understand, just a day out. I couldn’t face getting up at four in the morning so drove down late last night arriving in the beach car park at half past midnight. After a coffee and some Christmas shortbread I settled down to sleep in the car. I had the alarm set for just gone seven but was woken earlier by a group of birders chatting in the car park. As it started to get light I, along with a few other birders headed off along the breakwater. First birds seen were a couple of Turnstones followed by a Rock Pipit. Cormorants, Shags and a Great Northern Diver. Three Purple Sandpipers were feeding unobtrusively on the rocks below, as usual quite easy to miss. At the end of the breakwater a number of Shags were fishing and a line of fifteen Great Northern Divers were making their way into the harbour. A couple of Black-throated Divers were picked out in the bay and a Black Guillemot flew in. These are a little confusing as in winter plumage they are mainly white. I stayed at the end while most of the others wandered back towards the town. It was pretty amazing here with a constant flow of birds in and out of the harbour. I counted at least thirty GND and a similar number of Shags. A few Gannets passed by out to sea. When I finally decided to head back down the breakwater I found the others watching the White Billed Diver, An incredible bird with a massive bill. As with all divers it would gently slide under the surface and eventually resurface a considerable distance away. It was quite entertaining watching the photographers chasing up and down trying to second guess where it would come up. Someone called a Red-necked Grebe across the harbour. Could it get any better? well yes it could with another Black Guillemot and an Iceland Gull found, also four or five Black-throated Divers appeared close in to the shore. As my parking ticket expired at ten I headed back to the car to pay for more time and for something to eat. I timed it well as it started to rain quite heavily. As the rain passed over a fabulous rainbow appeared over the harbour. After the rain had passed I headed back down the breakwater to spend more time enjoying the great birds. There was a constant flow of birders arriving and as the WBD wasn’t showing it was rather frustrating for them. I and a couple of others decided to walk around to the other side of the harbour where the Iceland Gull was. On the way round we found a Black Guillemot close to the harbour wall allowing us to get some great pictures. Arriving at the far-side the first thing seen was a seal. Then the WBD which hadn’t been seen for a couple of hours just popped up in front of us giving some more amazing views before it disappeared again. The gull wasn’t showing but a Sparrowhawk shot across targeting a group of Feral Pigeons. As it didn’t reappear it seems that it was successful. The Iceland Gull hadn’t shown so it was back to the car and after a cup of tea and some chips I reluctantly decided to leave as I wanted to go to Broadsands, a reliable site for Cirl Buntings. It was only a few minutes drive and on arrival I saw a small group of birders. I assumed they were looking for the Buntings but when I joined them found that they were watching a Siberian Chiffchaff. Only a sub-species I know but another life-tick for me. The second today. Five minutes later I got my third, the Cirl Buntings feeding on grain on the far-side of the overflow car park. After watching them for a while I went back for another look at the ‘Sibe’ where I also found a couple of normal Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest. A Buzzard drifted over and another birder saw a Red Admiral. Not bad for the second of January. My original plan had been to head for Portland Harbour for the Brunnich’s Guillemot but as this has not shown for a couple of days I had thought of making Dawlish Warren my next stop but en-route changed my mind and headed back up the M5 towards home. Approaching Bristol I thought it might be worth looking in at New Passage and Aust Warth. This I did but the tide was out so most of the birds were a long way away. I could see many Teal but with no chance of finding the Green Winged didn’t stay long. Thirty minutes or so in rapidly fading light at Aust got me a Kestrel but no Owls. So then it was onto the M4 and back home after one of the best days birding ever. Three lifers amongst a great selection of birds. Strangely no ducks were seen which was a surprise. Checking out the Devon Sightings it seems that there were over sixty GND seen in the bay today. Incredible.

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4 responses to “Bountiful Brixham

  1. Great way to start the year!

  2. Richard Williams

    A super day Malcolm. Thanks for writing the account and sharing the pictures. I missed the lapwing/Golden Plover flock at Hodson this afternoon but didn’t tarry long as I was on my way to Coate

    • Drove past there at just before three on the way to Barbury Castle. There were three flocks of Plover in the air, one high and heading south and two which appeared to be heading towards Coate. There were still around a hundred Lapwing on the ground.

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