Saturday, 30 November 2013

New home in Devon

I have recently moved to Totnes in southern Devon to work for the wildlife tour company Reef and Rainforest Tours.

I have recently been out exploring my local natural attractions including the beautiful Dartmoor National Park and South Hams rugged coastlines.

(Brixham Head, Paignton)
(Gannet, Brixham Head)
(Dartmoor National Park)
One of the birding highlights recently was at Clennon Valley, in Paignton. There is a long staying yellow-browed warbler favouring a patch of willow and sycamore along a small stream near to Broadsands area of Paignton. On my second visit to the site I had some great views of the bird, but it rarely perched long enough to obtain a picture.

(Yellow-browed warbler)
The majority of the yellow-browed warbler population over-winters in southern Asia. However each year there are increasing numbers of this tiny warbler arriving on the eastern coast of the United Kingdom and other areas of Europe and even north Africa. There are now many theories as to why these birds are migrating so far to the west of their normal (known) wintering range. These include; reverse migration, and random dispersal. The most recent proposal however is that a part of the population may be discovering (colonising) a new wintering range in the west. Yellow-browed warblers are active feeders and seek out insect rich habitat when they arrive in the UK and are associated with non native sycamore trees because of the abundance of autumn insects these trees offer.
I frequently observed the yellow-browed warbler at Clennon valley feeding by hovering below a sycamore leaf to probably pick greenfly larvae from underneath the leaf. The same patch of woodland was also used by 2 chiffchaffs and several goldcrests that were feeding in the same way. A Green woodpecker, jays and several buzzards entertained me while searching for the warbler.
(Green woodpecker)
I later popped into the Broadsands car park for a look at the cirl buntings that overwinter in that area but only managed distant views. I finished the day at the weir in Totnes where there was a kingfisher actively hunting the main pool below the weir and a mobile pair of goosander too. As the light faded I caught a glimpse of what was probably an otter swimming downstream towards Totnes, but because of the light and overall poor view it prevented a 100% certainty to the identification of the animal (it could have been an American mink). I am really looking forward to finding more wildlife in this this beautiful county.