Exeter Field Course 2014

Thursday 3rd to Wednesday 9th April 2014

I have spent the past week on a field course in Devon as part of my degree. It was a thoroughly enjoyable week despite the fact that it was raining for most of the time we were in the field!

View from Holland Hall, Exeter Uni (where we were staying)

View from Holland Hall, Exeter University, on a not so rainy day (where we were staying)

Wet and windy day at Dawlish Warren - typical field trip weather!

Wet and windy day at Dawlish Warren – typical field trip weather!

The field course is split in to two parts. The first 3 days were spent devolving skills we’d learnt in Southampton and also picking up new skills. We spent a day at Meadfoot Beach in Torquay looking at rocky shore ecology, a day in Dawlish Warren looking at coastal defences, management of the site and doing a beach profile and a day by Castle Drogo where the morning was spent learning about the River Habitat Survey, Electric fishing and water quality (by identifying the invertebrates present). The afternoon was spent doing a forest survey.

Weir along the River Teign

Weir along the River Teign

The final 2 days were spent in collecting data for group projects we’d chosen before we left. My group’s project is looking at the effect the managed realignment of Dawlish Warren might have on the migratory bird populations, so we spent the final 2 days at the Bight and Warren Point recording the species of bird present at high tide.

We mainly concentrated on wading birds and thankfully on the first day of the projects, there were quite a few species still present. I suspect the poor weather had something to do with that! There were Curlew (24), Black-tailed Godwits (41), Ringed Plover (c50), Turnstone (5), Sanderling (2), Grey Plover (4), Dunlin (15) and also Oystercatchers (c500) and Brent Geese (11). There were also a few summer migrants around in the form of Sandwich Terns (4+) and a Wheatear. We also noticed the three main large white headed gulls were present – Herring (10+), Lesser Black-backed (2) and Great Black-backed (5).

The Bight, Dawlish Warren

The Bight, Dawlish Warren on Tuesday 8th April, when it was quite sunny!

On the second day, we didn’t have as much luck. It was a much nicer day and I suspect the migration was in full swing, so the only waders we saw at the Bight were Oystercatchers (c500) and Sanderling (3). We did, however, see a Swallow, and (even better!) the Glaucous Gull which has been hanging around Exmouth and Warren Point for the past few weeks. Definitely the best bird of the week!

Very poor record short of the Glaucous Gull!

Very poor record short of the Glaucous Gull!

The only other bird to notes was a pair of Goosander that flew past when we were at the River Teign near Castle Drogo. It was nice to see the up close as the only other time I’ve seen Goosander was at Blashford Lakes when they were very distant!

Although this wasn’t birding week, I still ended the week with 2 lifers and 2 year ticks so have now seen 124 bird species this year.

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