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Avocet On December - 10 - 2011

Today’s birdwatching cruise must rank amongst one of the best. Not only were we once again blessed with good weather but there were also plenty of birds to see and two new species were added to the total list. The first of these a Guillemot was seen as we left Cremyll and after the pick up at Saltash we headed up stream. Good numbers of waders and duck were evident, especially Mallard, Wigeon and Teal and Curlew and Oystercatcher.

Ten minutes into the cruise and the call of ‘diver ‘ off the starboard side – which promptly dived. It soon surfaced to reveal itself as a Great Northern Diver, probably blown in by the storms last week. Avocets were rather distant at first but as we travelled further, nearer birds were seen in perfect light – just like a Lars Jonnson painting. Great crested Grebe were showing well and Cormorants were wing drying on the mussel banks. As the river narrowed near Weir Quay we looked for a Common Sandpiper and sure enough one was bobbing and picking insects from seaweed at the waters edge on the Devon bank.

Soon afterwards we turned about and headed back downstream; several Buzzards soared overhead, a Spoonbill flew over towards the Lynher, we watched a Cormorant struggle to subdue a flounder and had another chance to study the Diver.

On the top of Brunel’s railway bridge a Peregrine surveyed Saltash and it was then time to turn into the Lynher river. Four Bar-tailed Godwit were added to the list, shortly followed by 7 displaying Red breasted Merganser including 2 beautiful males. The Spoonbill was watched feeding just off Wacker Quay, with typical scything action and then more Avocets and large numbers of Wigeon and Teal. A small group of Mallard flew past and tucked in with them, a female Pintail, easily separated by her slimmer form and faster flight.

Shortly afterwards we turned back to Saltash, adding our second new trip species, a rather distant Goldeneye, but yet more excellent  views of Avocet and 4 Greenshank . As we approached Rat Island we were fortunate that the Spoonbill had flown down to roost enabling us to really study this wonderful bird – an adult with black and yellow bill and pure white plumage


Back at Saltash the Peregrine was still overseeing the river from its bridge lookout. A really memorable day – thanks to all involved, especially Tony for supplying the photos.

Numbers counted by Derek Julian

1 Great Northern Diver            68 Oystercatcher
9 Little Grebe                   250 Avocet
18 Great crested Grebe            91 Lapwing
17 Little Egret                    4 Grey Plover
15 Grey Heron                      7 Knot
1 Spoonbill                       47 Black-tailed Godwit
232 Shelduck                       4 Bar-tailed Godwit
758 Wigeon                        15 Snipe
598 Teal                         226 Curlew
261 Mallard                      113 Redshank

1 Pintail                          8 Greenshank
1 Goldeneye                        1 Common Sandpiper
7 Red breasted Merganser           1 Guillemot
6 Common Buzzard                   1 Raven
1 Peregrine

2 Responses

  1. Peter Crispin says:

    As you say, Bruce, an excellent day. Thoroughly enjoyed it, as ever. The sunlight on the Avocets as they took flight, the over-flying Spoonbill and the GND particular highlights for me. Many thanks for organising what is an essential element of my winter birdwatching now.

  2. Rosie Fierek says:

    We would be very grateful if the Calstock singers could have you permission to use your shot of the flying avocets. We wish to project it as a backdrop during part of one of our songs in the soon to be performed ‘cantata’ Song of the Tamar’. Venue Calstock Arts, date 26th May. Would be happy to credit it to you.