Outline itinerary

Day 1                     Arrive
Day 2                     The River Exe
Day 3                     Dartmoor
Day 4                     Torbay Coastline

Dates
June 10th – 13th (Mon-Thu)

Focus
Birds & other wildlife

Level
Beginner – Amateur – Improver

Intensity
Easy paced; all walking will be for slow birdwatching.
Reasonable level of walking required.

Cost
£365pp      Double Room or Twin Room

N.B. Single occupany of a double/twin room may be possible upon request but is not guaranteed.

Highlights

  • The amazing mix of spring migrants on the river exe; waders, warblers & raptors
  • Ancient woodland specialists; redstart, pied flycatcher & wood warbler
  • Optional evening excursions for owls & nightjar
  • Exploration of the Devon coastline for coastal & sea-faring birds
  • Nationally rare cirl bunting

 

Introduction

With an assorted and wide variety of habitats, south-east Devon offers the perfect location to explore and enjoy the delights of UK wildlife in both spring and summer. Its fertile estuaries and sandspits provide a haven for migrating waders and seabirds which exploit the areas large tidal ranges. The mouth of these estuaries break up an otherwise rugged coastline whose combination of red sandstone, slate and Devonian limestone make for some of the most spectacular coastline views in Europe and provide cliff top homes for several colonies of seabird. Travel just a few miles inland and there is amble heathland in amongst large blocks of both coniferous and deciduous woodland; the perfect location for warblers, flycatchers and other summer passerines. Surrounding these are vast areas of hilly farmland and of course the high moorlands of Dartmoor, home to several upland specialists’ species like larks and ouzels.

This part of the county undoubtedly offer some very good birding opportunities suited to both the beginner and improving birdwatcher. This tour will provide a taste of the excitement of identifying birds at a peak time, particularly for coastal breeders, as well as an introduction to identifying bird song and a range of other non-avian species found at this time of year. Our base for this tour will be the seaside town of Exmouth on the River Exe, the place I first learnt to identify birds, and within easy reach of our other tour locations.

Day 1 – Arrival

I will meet you in the lounge area at the Hotel at 6.30pm where we will have the opportunity to all meet before sitting down to dinner. Shortly after, I will give a short introductory talk outlining the programme for the next couple of days and some of the birds we will hope to spot. You will also have the chance to highlight any particular species you hope to see and get answers to any questions you may have.

Day 2 – Exe Estuary

Dawlish Warren
Locally known as ‘The Warren’, this National Nature Reserve (NNR) is an area of grassland, sand dunes, beach and mudflats, centring on a 1½ mile long sandspit across the mouth of the Exe Estuary.  This varied Reserve has many different habitats including salt marsh, fresh water ponds, wet meadows and woodland which attract a variety of birds including skylarks, whitethroat, stonechat, linnet and geese. Although Dawlish Warren is an important holiday resort and is visited by thousands of people each year, the site has a remarkable variety of wildlife including 2000 spp of invertebrates, 620 plants, reptiles (incl. sand lizard) and up to 200 species of bird seen annually including many seabirds including terns, grebes, divers and gulls.

Exminster Marshes
As Devon’s premier wetland area, Exminster Marshes is a reserve featuring marshland and wetland habitats interlaced with canals and rivers. The area consists of wet grassland drained by dykes and ditches and provides important breeding grounds for lapwings and redshanks. Ducks, including shovelers and teals, also breed here and the ditches have a good dragonfly fauna, including the rare hairy dragonfly. The large areas of reedbed attract large numbers of breeding reed, sedge and cetti’s warbler, and reed bunting. Both hobby and marsh harrier can be seen here hunting above the reeds and both avocet and shelduck are regularly spotted on the estuary from this reserve.

Bowling Green Marsh
Situated on the east bank of the Exe Estuary, just outside the small town of Topsham, Bowling Green Marsh is one of the main critical high tide roosts for the Exe Estuary providing birds a safe place to rest up and feed when the tide is at its highest and the mudflats are covered. As a great place for wildlife, it is recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), as well as a Natura 2000 and Ramsar site. Throughout the year, the open water attracts many different species of wetland birds; godwits, swans, a variety of ducks and often a kingfisher or two. As a permanent area of standing water it is also a magnet for migrating waders including ruff, knot and whimbrel. This little reserve is best enjoyed from a wonderfully comfortable hide with open views across the pools.

Day 3 – Dartmoor

A National Park since 1951, Dartmoor is a truly unique natural area covering almost 368 square miles and is the largest and highest upland in southern Britain. Exposed to strong winds and high rainfall, the soils are acidic and relatively undisturbed by intensive agriculture. These factors make the National Park especially interesting in terms of its wildlife; a mosaic of upland moor and bog, lowland heath, deciduous valley woodland , coniferous plantations, reservoirs, rivers and farmland have allowed this site to register over 230 species of bird with a combination of lowland heath and upland species that is unique to the UK.

There are also many birds of moors, heath and farmland to be found here. The moorland areas are home to a fascinating range of birds including large numbers of breeding meadow pipit and stonechat. Dartmoor is also a stronghold for several species that have declined elsewhere in the UK, including skylark and snipe, and national rarities such as the ring ouzel and cuckoo. The relatively mild climate and high rainfall means woodlands are classed as temperate rainforests, with mature oak trees covered in mosses, lichens and ferns dominating the scene, often over a carpet of bluebells. This kind of woodland is loved by a number of migrant birds, such as the pied flycatcher, redstart, wood warbler and the elusive lesser spotted woodpecker. Dartmoor is also an important reserve for those species that can withstand harsher conditions including some very rare plants and invertebrates, and is particularly noted for rare lichens, butterflies and other insects.

Day 4 – Southwest Coastline

Approximately 100km of stunning coastline runs between Dawlish and Start Point forming natural harbours abundant with sea-life. The still waters of the bay provide nurseries for many fish, particularly mackerel, drawing in sea birds and coastal species alike. Gannets, shearwaters, razorbill and occasionally puffin can be seen passing the headland while the cliffs are home to hundreds of nesting guillemots, pairs of fulmars and kittiwakes, peregrine falcon and kestrel. The cliff tops often pick up migrants such as wheatear, whinchat and lesser whitethroat as well many other common migrants like blackcap, chiffchaff and goldcrest. Looking out to see there is a good chance of porpoises, seals and occasionally dolphins. This is also one of the best spots in the area to see cirl bunting which regularly turn up at several sites along this stretch of coastline close to the paths.

We’ll be visiting several sites along this stretch of coast including visits to Slapton Ley, the largest natural lake in south-west England. Although it is only separated from the sea by a narrow shingle bar, it is entirely freshwater and surrounded by reedbeds, marshes and woodland habitats which attract a large variety of migrant and breeding birds. You’ll also get the chance to visit Brixham to see one of the largest breeding colonies of guillemots on the south coast of England and explore the cliffs at Berry Head for more seabirds and cetaceans.

Intensity

There will be some easy and moderate walking on this tour, covering between two and four miles per day including some semi-steep elevations and walks on sand. However, this will all be taken at a slow birdwatching pace, and will be interspersed with time spent in hides and cafes/pubs. With suitable footwear and a can-do attitude there should be no problems for most.

Unfortunately this tour is not suitable for those who need significant assistance with walking be it walking stick or wheelchair.

Food & Accommodation (included in the cost)

Breakfasts and evening meals are included in the holiday cost beginning with the evening meal on Day 1 and ending with breakfast on Day 4. Accommodation will be at the Manor Hotel in Exmouth with double or single occupancy rooms available, all en suite and with tea and coffee-making facilities. The hotel is situated close to the coast and beach and is within easy reach of the key birding and other wildlife sites we will be visiting during this tour. The hotel has recently undergone a full refurbishment and meals are served in an attractive restaurant. The tour price includes a buffet breakfast and a 3-course meal on all nights with the food a combination of modern and traditional British cooking and, where possible, uses locally sourced seasonal ingredients. Vegetarian options are available on request.

Note: Lunches are not included in the cost of this tour. We will stop at a mixture of cafes/pubs for lunch and, depending on weather and other factors, we may make another comfort stop during the day. Snacks, and drinks that you require (apart from at breakfast), are not included in the price of the tour and are not provided, so you will need to make sure you have what you need during each day’s wildlife-watching independently.

Included in tour cost

The holiday cost includes 3 nights’ accommodation, half board (breakfast and evening meals) plus guiding and transport during the tour. Lunches are not included, nor travel to and from the hotel prior and after the tour have ended.

Book your place!

To book your place on this tour or to find out more information, please call 07551866043 or drop me an email at matt.collis@live.co.uk.

Payments can be made by online transfer and details will be given to you by email. You will then receive a receipt and further information regarding the tour via email or post dependent on your preference. Please do remember to stipulate any special requirements, for example dietary exclusions, at the time of booking.

 

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