Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

30th June-2nd July, Somerset and Devon

A family holiday in Exmouth allowed for some sporadic time in the field, particularly on the trip down, when a stop off at Collard Hill produced a butterfly lifer in the form of two Large Blues. The following day, on Dartmoor, butterflies were again the main focus. For the time of year the Exe Estuary had some OK birds, but more joy came from a couple of sea-watching sessions off Orcombe Point, with a change in wind direction on the Sunday afternoon proving the most productive.

Large Blue, Collard Hill, 30/6/2017

With most of the day free, we left early with a view to stop at a couple of sites in Somerset. First off was Collard Hill, near Glastonbury, famous for its reintroduced Large Blue butterflies. It was pretty cloudy, but we managed to see two individuals, and enjoyed wonderful views. 8 other species were noted, including my first Gatekeeper of the year. On the bird front, a Hobby and Raven passed overhead.

Next up was RSPB Ham Wall, a site I've long wanted to visit. Situated in the Somerset Levels, this excellent reserve was reminiscent of continental wetland habitat, with far reaching vistas and expansive reeds and channels. No less than 6 Heron/Egret/Bittern species breed, and we managed 5 of them, including flyover Cattle Egret and Bittern, as well as plenty of Great White Egrets. In total, a very impressive 57 species was clocked in a couple of hours. Notable was a rather late singing Cuckoo.

We stuck our heads in at Topsham, on the Exe estuary before, we arrived at the house, and watched a few Black-tailed Godwits among little else on the low tide.


An hour's sea-watch from the cliffs at Orcombe Point was quiet, with a few Gannets, a Fulmar and 2 Shags of note. Largely, however, I dreamed about the Red-footed Booby on the other side of the water in France.

Distant Slavonian Grebe, Cockwood, 1/7/2017
With the forecast warm and sunny, the destination was Aish Tor, Dartmoor, where butterflies were the target. The hoped for High Brown Fritillary wasn't conclusively pinned down - most species, in particular Fritillaries, were extremely active and the diagnostic underwing on a few candidate individuals wasn't observed. However, plenty of Dark Green Fritillaries were seen, as well as smaller numbers of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries. 10 species were clocked up in total, and other good bits included Green Hairstreaks and Graylings.

A dapper summer plumage Slavonian Grebe was the highlight of a brief visit to Cockwood, on the west side of the Exe estuary, with a few Little Egrets also here.


Another early sea-watch yielded little, with the winds unfavourable, but with them swinging around to a south-westerly, it was back to Orcombe at 14:45. The first hour was quiet, but not long after the wind speed picked up, and a group of at least 5 Manx Shearwaters flew east. 6 minutes later, 2 dusky brown Balearic Shearwaters moved west slightly further out, and with that my patience was rewarded. This species, one of my favourites, can be found in the English Channel and bay of Biscay from July for several weeks onwards, as post-breeding feeding parties move around. At 16:19 two more Manxies flew east, with things tailing off thereafter.