December 2014





Another year passes by at first glance comments would be an uneventful one particularly the Autumn and Winter end of the year.

Yet on reflection a year with quite a few surprises – I managed to increase my patch list to 239 (since 2002) with 5 additions.   Final total for the year was 195 ( includes sub species) which is the lowest in the last four years – 2013 – 195, 2012 – 198, 2011 – 198.



The total species recorded for the month at 110 is the highest December total.


Weather for the month unremarkable, cloudy days a few where the sea was flat calm at the end of the month a couple of nights of hard frost resulting in the Marshes being frozen.


Significant sightings for the month:-



MUTE SWAN – a max of 3 on 2nd otherwise mostly singles and a pair on South Huish marsh.

GREYLAG GOOSE – One amongst the CANADA’s on 9th.

CANADA GOOSE – Max count was 335 on 2nd, by 31st down to 100+.

BRENT GOOSE (DB) 12 on 3rd and 4 on 7th were the only sightings.



SHELDUCK – Max of 3 on 13th.

RUDDY SHELDUCK – Present all month, feeding on its own, occasionally flying over to Thurlestone Marsh otherwise spending all the time on South Huish Marsh.  It is unringed.

WIGEON -  Number well down on previous years building up from 15 , on 3rd to a max of 46 on 21st.

GADWALL – a pair on South Huish marsh most of the month with 3 on the sea on 2nd.

TEAL – Totals fluctuated from a low of 25 on 8th to a high of 70 on 19th.

MALLARD – No more than 20 on both marshes.

PINTAIL – singles only on 3 days.

SHOVELER – a max of 8 on 1st down to 2 females on 17th.

COMMON SCOTER – Recorded on 3 days – max 21 on 1st.

RED BREASTED MERGANSER – A male flew east on 1st.



RED-THROATED DIVER – Singles on 17th, 22nd, 27th with a max of 2 on 5th which included one sighting flying high over Thurlestone Bay Marsh heading inland up the valley.

BLACK- THROATED DIVER – Singles on 1st and 17th.

GREAT NORTHERN DIVER – Singles on1st, 2nd, 8th, 19th and 3 on 30th.

GREAT CRESTED GREBE – 1 on the sea on 29th.

SLAVONIAN GREBE – first for the year on 1st and a single on 29th.

BLACK NECKED GREBE- first for the year on the sea on 8th.

LITTLE GREBE – One on Thurlestone Marsh on several dates.   On 4th, 2 birds watched feeding at the edge of the rocks – very unusual to find these on the sea here.



FULMAR – first returning Bird on 22nd and another on 30th.

GANNET – Seen almost daily with a max of 100 on 17th and 27th.

LITTLE EGRET – wintering birds total up to 6.

GLOSSY IBIS – One found by Bob B late afternoon of 27th in the field behind the Café, still present on 31st, although goes up the valley for long periods.   Maintains the record of annual sightings on the patch.



MERLIN – One chasing the STARLING roost on 1st.

KESTREL – No more than 2 on the patch.

SPARROWHAWK – Almost daily sightings probably no more than 3 around the patch.

BUZZARD – Daily sightings – estimated total to be 8 birds.

HEN HARRIER – a ringtail seen by Eric W on the 2nd.

PEREGRINE – Regular sightings.

BARN OWL – 1 reported by the Farmer mid month.

TAWNY OWL – Heard regularly.



WATER RAIL – Up to 8 on South Milton Ley, 2 on South Huish Marsh and probably 4 on Thurlestone Marsh.

COOT – Only record 1 on Thurlestone Marsh on 13th.

MOORHEN – Marked increase this month, a survey on 13th produced a total of 30.


WADERS – Only 9 species recorded.

OYSTERCATCHER – Max was 26 on 10th.

RINGED PLOVER – Wintering flock much lower this year – max 7 on 1st but thereafter a max of 4.

LAPWING – Numbers building up with a max of 36 on 4th and 8th.

PURPLE SANDPIPER – 2 on 1st and a single on 29th were the only records.

DUNLIN – Recorded on 3 days – 2 on 1st, 2 on 28th and 1 on 29th.

JACK SNIPE – A single record of 1 on South Huish Marsh on 13th.

SNIPE – Difficult to ascertain total numbers unless a raptor spooks them – Max 110 on 13th.

CURLEW – An unusual December, record 1 flew over the Bay on 28th.

TURNSTONE – Only recorded on 5 days (usually around high tides) with a max of 8 on2nd and 16th.


GULLS – No unusually large flocks.

MEDITERRANEAN GULL – 1 on South Huish marsh on 1st.

COMMON GULL – An adult on 19th (uncommon here).



Most are picked up flying east, due to distance offshore not able to specifically identify – max 40  E on 10th.  On calm days can be seen offshore on the sea.


KINGFISHER – one seen regularly until mid month.



GREEN WOODPECKER – Have become scarce, 1 in the village on3rd and 1 in Buckland Valley on 16th.

GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER – Regular sightings from at least 5 different places on the patch.

JAY – Up to 6 around the patch at South Milton Ley and Buckland Valley.

NUTHATCH – Singles at 2 sites on 1st.

SWALLOW – A first ever December record of a single bird on 2nd (At nearby Aveton Gifford Eric reported one on 7th).





CETTIS WARBLER -up to 6 heard on 1st

SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF – At least 3 recorded during the mont, 2 were caught and ringed.

CHIFFCHAFF – At South Milton Ley up to 30 present on 20th.  Also regular sightings at 3 other sites.

BLACKCAP – A male and 2 female in a local garden on 8th.


THRUSHES – An influx this month but no very  large flocks.

BLACKBIRD – Up to 30 around the various sites on 16th.

SONG THRUSH – Regularly 2 or 3 but 8 recorded on 16th.

REDWING – A flock of 50 on 20th, and 130 on 27th were the  only large numbers – South Milton Ley/Huxton Cross area.

MISTLE THRUSH – Singles only at up to 3 sites.



BLACK REDSTART – Only coastal sighting was a single on 1st.  In local gardens female on 15th, 2 on 24th and 3 on 28th (including an adult male).

STONECHAT – wintering birds seen daily, probably up to 10 at various sites.



PIED WAGTAIL – Max roost on 1st when 100+ counted.

WHITE WAGTAIL – One ringed on 13th.

GREY WAGTAIL – No more than 2 around the patch.



MEADOW LARK – Counts of 100+ on several dates.

ROCK PIPIT – Up to 20 on the beach area most of the month.

WATER PIPIT – Singles on 24th and 31st.

SKYLARK – Largest viz mig was 37 on 6th.  Winter flock of 200+ at Huxton Cross on 20th and 60 at South Milton Ley on 30th .



GREENFINCH – Up to 30 at South Huish Marsh.

CHAFFINCH – No winter flocks yet, just small numbers.

GOLDFINCH – flocks of 25+ at 3 sites.

BULLFINCH - up to 4 at South Milton Ley, 2 males at 3 other sites.

YELLOWHAMMER – A male at the feeding station at South Milton  Ley.

SNOW BUNTING – On 1st Arthur had a female/imm male on the beach briefly – first record for 4 years.

REED BUNTING – Winter flocks slow to build up a max of 25 on 30th at south Milton Ley over 80 birds were ringed this month.  At my feeders a max of 5.

CIRL BUNTING – A male on 20th and a pair on 28th  in local gardens


STARLINGS – Murmurations continued during the first week when the max roost was 50.000 on 1st.   Reduced very quickly after the 7th with only local birds around after the 15 totally no more than 200.


Still have not reached the magical figure of 200 species in a year.   Looking forward to having another attempt in 2015.



Mike Passman