Our arrival at Chew Valley Lakes was both misty and cold, a situation that took some time to improve. After looking at two separate areas, a temporary improvement in visibility allowed us to pin down the Spotted Sandpiper, which showed very well. The spots are beginning to show under close examination but the bird remained out of any reasonable range for a photograph, which was disappointing.
Moving through Wells, we located a sandwich van whose use of home made bread, fresh eggs and good bacon earned a 9!! Surprisingly all other customers were obviously locals, which is perhaps the best advert of all. One to remember!
Shapwick Heath NNR took some finding and both Natural England and RSPB ( Ham Wall Reserve ) could do with investing in a few more road signs! Despite this initial trial we had an enjoyable time in the overall area and I'd certainly like to spend time there again. Took a walk to a couple of the main lagoons and had a good selection of birds including Whooper Swan, Little Egret, Bittern, 3 Great White Egret, which even indulged in a period of display at one point, and at least 11 calling Water Rail and 14 singing Cetti's Warblers despite the weather still being dull and cold.
Journeying towards Paignton the weather began to improve immeasurably with blue sky and broken cloud and warm sunshine developing. By the time we reached out destination it was a "hats off" day ( quite relevant in my case! ) and fleeces too, a great bonus to things. We were seeking out an area for Cirl Bunting near the coast, which Matthew found with uncanny ease! And there they were, at least two males and a female along with some Reed Buntings and a Dunnock coming down to a feeding area. What splendid birds they are, the colours coming through brilliantly in the bright sunshine.
We moved on to Dawlish Warren and completed a period of seawatching which produced a couple of Slavonian Grebe in addition to Red-breasted Merganser, Eider and Great Crested Grebe. Whilst the volume of birds seen wasn't great it was nice to be out in such nice weather! We then moved on to the Exeter area and down to Exminster Marshes. Close views were had of Wigeon, Pintail, Teal, Shoveler and Mallard plus some Black-tailed Godwit and, close to dusk, a Short-eared Owl hunting briefly over an open area.
After a rest at our Travelodge, a drink at a local pub ( where we were offered a "taster" by the barman of the local Cornish beer. Bad move with Yorkshiremen! ), we took on the traffic system of Exeter and, finally, found our way back to base clutching our respective Chinese takeaway selection! A good day.
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