MAY 2015


An unusual month for weather – predominately cooler than normal, many cloudy days with above average rainfall.    Some days of strong to gale force winds but usually from W and NW which does not bring birds into the Bay.


Most birding websites which cover the South and South West coastal areas have commented on the very low numbers of passage birds both summer visitors waders and TERNS.   The bay has also suffered.   Our wader passage has been the lowest in terms of numbers I have witnessed in the last 11 years .  TERNS again very sparse.  Amongst passerines our numbers of WHEATEAR and YELLOW WAGTAIL again lowest for years.


The total number of species recorded was 106 (c/f 2014 – 110 and 2013 – 116 – it is also the lowest in the last 5 years of detailed study).   The yearly total increased to 161 with 8 new additions – surprisingly this is the second highest total reached in May during the 5years (c/f 2014 – 158, 2013 – 161)


Outstanding among the new additions was the adult SQUACCO HERON found by Nick at the back of his garden.   Only the 2nd record for the patch.   Also added were TUFTED DUCK, REDSHANK, POMARINE SKUA, RED L. PARTRIDGE, SPOTTED FLYCATCHER, TURTLE DOVE and FERAL PIGEON.


Significant sightings for the month:


The pair breeding on South Huish Marsh abandoned their 3 eggs towards the end of the month.

CANADA GOOSE – Numbers reduced considerably towards the end of the month.  No attempt to nest on either Marsh.



SHELDUCK – Present throughout the month, max 14 on 27th.

WIGEON –A male was joined by a female on 6th, pair last recorded together on 13th.   Thereafter only the male still on South Huish marsh on 31st.  First site record for May, possibility may over summer.

TEAL – Last record were 2 on 3rd.

EIDER – A female on the sea on 3rd.

TUFTED DUCK – A pair on South Huish marsh on 3rd.

MALLARD – Almost all the broods hatched on South Huish Marsh were predated.

COMMON SCOTER – Poor spring passage, continued in May – Only recorded on 3 days with a max of 15 on 7th.



RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE – One flushed by Bob near the sewage works on the 21st.  Likely a local farmer is breeding some for shooting purposes.



GREAT NORTHERN – Only record was 1 flying east on 18th.



GANNET – Only 2 days with significant numbers – Bob reported 100+ on 5th and 1 had 70 on 18th.

FULMAR – Bob reported “many” flying through on 5th, otherwise a max of 5 on 18th.

MANX SHEARWATER – Only recorded on 5 days with a max of 40 on 18th.



SQUACCO HERON – Outstanding find of the year by Nick of an adult in a pond at the bottom of his garden in South Milton at 11.30 on 13th – flew off towards the estuary at 13.30.

Only the second patch record – the first being  32 years ago.

There were at least 2 birds in the South Hams area at Prawle Point and Beesands Ley with further records at Marazion in Cornwall and Scilly Isles.



LITTLE GREBES – One on South Huish marsh on 11th – a very rare bird on this Marsh.



RED KITE – Adult birds on 16th over South Milton Village (AFD) and near Thurlestone on 28th (MBP) 2nd and 3rd patch records this year.

HOBBY – Singles on 26th (5 mins before the KITE) and by the footbridge on 30th (AJL.


WADERS – Only 9 species recorded with very low passage numbers.

OYSTERCATCHER – Our summering birds reached a max of only 5 on 29th.

LITTLE RINGED PLOVER – Bob flushed from the edge of the almost dried up front pool at Thurlestone Marsh on 20th (A very late date for a migrant).

RINGED PLOVER – Only 1 record – a single bird flying over an 28th.

SANDERLING – Normally good numbers in May, this year only 2 records 2 on 26th and 12 on 30th.

DUNLIN – Only 1 record a single on 27th.

BLACK TAILED GODWIT – A single on South Huish marsh on 5th, with 2 there on30th/31st.

BAR TAILED GODWIT – Only 2 records! 17 on 1st and 8 on 13th.

WHIMBREL – Recorded on 7 days – max 50 on 5th, last were 2 on 26th.

REDSHANK – first of the year on South Huish Marsh on 1st, 2nd and 3rd.



POMERINE SKUA – 2 watched close inshore flying around the Bay for 10 mins on 18th, and a single flew east on 29th.

ARCTIC SKUA – 4 on 5th and 5 on 18th.

GREAT SKUA – Nick and Bob had a total of 10 flying through on 5th, on 29th 3 together flew east.

KITTIWAKE – Max 20 on 18th.

BLACK HEADED GULL – Singles on both Marshes from 18th

TERNS – Apart from  passage on 5th very few.

LITTLE TERN – Nick had 1 in the Bay on 5th.

SANDWICH TERN – Only recorded on 4 days – 4 on 4th, 12 on 5th, 4 on 11th and 1 on14th.

COMMIC TERN – 3 flew through on 5th.



FERAL PIGEON – First for the year on 3rd!

TURTLE DOVE – One by South Huish Marsh found by Bob on 12th and another by the top car park on the evening of 20th and very early (05.30) on 21st (Andy Woodward and Paul Boulden



SWIFTS – Seen most days in small numbers – max 20 on 10th.

SAND MARTIN – Max 20 also on 10th.

SWALLOW – Max again on 10th of 250 with 80 at the roost on Thurlestone Marsh on the same date.

HOUSE MARTIN – 100+ at South Huish marsh on 1st was the max.




Small numbers building up during the month – CHIFFCHAFF, CETTIS, BLACKCAP, WHITETHROAT, SEDGE WARBLER, (a French control on 13th.

GROPPA – 1 on South Milton Ley, GARDEN WARBLER – 1 on 3rd, REED WARBLER.


WHEATEAR – Recorded on 3 days – 1 on 3rd, 2 on 9th and 2 on 12th.

STONECHAT – Several pairs on the patch with evidence of young.


YELLOW WAGTAIL – singles on 1st and a late date 30th (AJL)


SPOTTED FLYCATCHER – first in Buckland Valley on 12th, 2 by South Huish marsh on 26th.

REED BUNTING  - Several on both Mashes.

BULLFINCH – 4 in South Milton Village on 13th and a single in Buckland Valley on 28th.

YELLOW HAMMER – Pairs in the hedgerows along the lanes, probably no more than

 2 or 3.


June is always one of the birding “quiet” months, most attention will be on breading records with some sea watching if any gales occur.



Mike Passman

Thurlestone Bay Birds.ards the end of the month.


back of his garden.   Only the 2nd lowest i