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Avocet On November - 18 - 2013

A rather chilly and overcast day dawned but it was dry and calm, so ideal for a day out on a boat. ┬áMost of the group boarded at Saltash, including a 70 strong party from the Tavistock branch of the Devon Wildlife Trust. The tide was very low and as we carefully manoevered upstream the first birds were logged – Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Curlew and Oystercatcher all in reasonably close view, but more distant were Wigeon, Teal and Black-tailed Godwit. Further upriver the first Avocets were seen in Kingsmill Lake but too distant to call. Great crested Grebe were abundant including a group of 20 or so birds at the confluence of the River Tavy. As usual Shelduck were frequent on the mud at Cargreen, vigorously hovering up Hydrobia snails. Then more Wigeon, Redshank, a single Greenshank but no Spotted Redshank or Common Sandpiper on this occasion. We were beyond Weir Quay before the next group of Avocets appeared, up on the high mud at Clifton together with a small flock of Lapwing. It’s interesting how the Avocets adapt their feeding mechanisms to the food availability. Sometimes they are in the water in a tight group, stirring up the sediment and other times, like here,┬áspread out and picking off small invertebrates from the surface of the mud.

We turned and sailed back down river before passing under the Tamar Bridges and then heading up the River Lynher where a pair of Red-breasted Merganser were quite close. Then ahead, two Spoonbills were spotted, feeding in the shallows but unfortunately soon flew off as we drew alongside. The birds were both juveniles identified by their black wing tips. All the birds on the Lynher were unusually flighty today with large groups of Wigeon, Teal and Black-tailed Godwit all taking to the wing as we passed by the mud opposite Wacker Quay. Here a group of Avocet were very close and gave us marvelous views of this iconic bird. Around the bend and on towards St Germans, another Greenshank, together side by side with a Redshank, enabled a good comparison between these two species. By now the river was very shallow and we turned back for Saltash but were treated to excellent views of 3 Spoonbill off Rat Island winding up another enjoyable day on the river. After dropping most passengers off at Saltash we headed back to Cremyll, adding a smart adult Mediterranean Gull to the list. The traditional post trip carvery at the Edgecumbe Arms was especially good today!

Many thanks as always to Derek, Nigel, Pete and Tony for their help in spotting the birds and general contributions. Tony’s photographs to follow.

Dereks counts were as follows


Tamar Estuary Total

Lynher Estuary Total

Trip Total

Avocet 82 28 110
Black-headed Gull 562 42 604
Black-tailed Godwit 90 55 145
Buzzard 1 0 1
Canada Goose 15 165 180
Carrion Crow 101 40 141
Coal Tit 1 0 1
Common Gull 0 3 3
Cormorant 24 16 40
Curlew 40 47 87
Dunlin 3 3 6
Feral Pigeon 260 0 260
Great Black-backed Gull 5 3 8
Great Crested Grebe 21 17 38
Greenshank 1 1 2
Heron 13 4 17
Herring Gull 52 56 108
House Sparrow 7 0 7
Jackdaw 14 0 14
Jay 1 0 1
Lapwing 32 3 35
Little Egret 13 9 22
Little Grebe 0 4 4
Mallard 102 160 262
Mallard hybrid 3 2 5
Mute Swan 14 2 16
Oystercatcher 62 34 96
Pheasant 3 0 3
Pied Wagtail 2 0 2
Red-breasted Merganser 1 2 3
Redshank 23 26 49
Robin 2 0 2
Rook 0 14 14
Spoonbill 0 3 3
Shelduck 127 117 244
Teal 71 414 485
Turnstone 2 0 2
Wigeon 147 476 623
Woodpigeon 8 16 24

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