Rare birds visit North Devon

NORTH Devon naturalist Stewart Beer reports an exciting year of bird watching in the region, not least two rare sightings in recent weeks. During the last week of November, he reports, a Grey Phalarope spent several days at Northam Burrows. This very sca

NORTH Devon naturalist Stewart Beer reports an exciting year of bird watching in the region, not least two rare sightings in recent weeks.

During the last week of November, he reports, a Grey Phalarope spent several days at Northam Burrows.

"This very scarce autumn passage visitor was watched and enjoyed at close-hand by myself and many other birders. It was a confiding, incessant feeder spinning about its favourite pool of floodwater. Wonderful!" he said.

Then came a visit to Wistlandpound in the first week of December to follow up a report of a Crossbill being seen in the vicinity.


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"We had wandered about two thirds the way around the reservoir, in vain, checking all the conifer trees for signs of this rare species in the Westcountry, when suddenly a telltale sign confronted us - a twirling light shower of winged pine seeds accompanied by a falling cone or two! Looking almost directly upwards to the top of a towering Sitka Spruce there they were. A flock of crossbills, male and female, were busily engaged in wresting the cones from swaying outer branches and retiring to the firm branches close to the trunk to extract the seeds with those uniquely evolved crossed mandibles," said Stewart.

"As we watched the 15 birds another flock, comprising around 25, flew over the tree tops This is only my second ever sighting of the species here in North Devon, my first being at Umberleigh 45 years ago! A long wait but a thrilling end.

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