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Dawlish & Hayle Year Birds

Always good to get to a proper bit of sea for boosting the year list. I was aiming for Dawlish Warren, which I last visited with Redditch WWT in 1999. Things have changed. For a start it now costs £2.70 to park, which is steep for my lonesome and just an hour.

It was raining too. So I skedaddled down the coast to the town itself where a mere quid bought me the requisite parking right by the water. The first bird to hove into view was big, white and obvious – I’ve had a few of those lately. This time it was a gannet – nice and easy.

The next was more difficult and turned out not to be a year bird. A couple of ducks flew in the mid-distance. They should have been red-breasted mergansers; in the event they were shelducks. Still, a few fulmars made their way into 2011 instead. I hoped for some auks nesting on the same cliffs but couldn’t spot any. A nearby shag softened the disappointment. Then the stars of the show appeared.

They’d probably been there all along but it was only when I retrieved my scope from the car that they came into view. Initially five, then another five, then dozens of common scoters. When was the last time I saw them that far south?

The answer is 2009 in Cornwall, where I now find myself. I’m in Hayle this time, ostensibly researching the bird tour by train series. That is true although reports of Bonaparte’s gull and American golden plover on the estuary are equally alluring. Yesterday evening made it worthwhile anyway with my first 2011 grey plover on the Copperhouse Pool and more whimbrels.

They are popping up all over the place.

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