Monday, 5 February 2007


Roger Smaldon describes February in The Birds of Dartmoor as "another cold month on the moor". To which must be added, at least this February, "and very wet".

Although we have had some reasonable weather when out bird watching this month, there is no getting away from it that this has been one of the wettest months for some time, with heavy rain most weeks. The reservoirs are all full, and there is standing water in the low lying fields of the in-country and along the moorland roads. Getting out to watch birds has been difficult, but there have been some good days.

Sunday 3 February
: bright and sunny; cloudy later

Berry Head: Guillemots and Fulmars; Black backed, Herring and Black headed Gulls; watched three harbour porpoises in the broken water off the Head. Buzzard motionless riding the wind. Stonechats.
Slapton: Canada Geese moving off the Leys to the fields; Shovellers, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Wigeon and Pochard; four Goldfinch in the bushes; seven Heron disturbed and lazily circling the trees; Great Crested Grebe, and two Little Grebe; Moorhens and Coots.
Kingsbridge: four Egret on the slipway, with the tide running out.

Saturday 10 February: cold and raining

Mardon Down: a mixed flock (50 - 75) of Starlings and Fieldfares in the fields at the northern edge, later moving into the hedgerows and trees, down towards Doccombe.

Sunday 11 February: rain and sun, windy.

Trenchford Reservoir: eight Goosander (4m, 4f)
Kennick Reservoir: three pairs of Shag; Tufted Ducks, too far away to count; Mallard and Coots.
Tottiford Reservoir: a singleton Canada Goose.
Watched a pair of Carrion Crow feeding on the edge of a field, being troubled by a pair of Magpies.
On the way home, a pair of Bullfinches in the hedge.

Wednesday 14 February at 5.15 p.m.: clear with light fading

Whiddon Down: tens of thousands of starlings roosting.

Saturday 17 February: light rain in fading light.

Whiddon Down: twenty minutes of starlings coming in to roost
in the woods between the village and the A30, a quarter of a mile north of the village. We estimated one hundred thousand birds plus.

Sunday 18 February: light rain and, later, very low cloud.

Soussons Wood: Crossbills (2 f.), Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker
On the road 150 yards past Grimspound (the edge very wet, standing water and streams): Merlin (Caroline thinks a Hobby but query wrong time of year) and a Golden Plover (very difficult to determine: unusually on the ground and by itself. We first thought a Dunlin but the wrong time of year).
Whiddon Down: very misty and the Starling roost difficult to make out. Truly a murmuration of Starlings: absolute quiet, the noise of the A30 blanketed. The numbers seemed less than the day before.

Monday 19 February: cold and short, sharp showers

Whiddon Down: as I drove out from Exeter on the A30, I could see small flocks of Starlings heading towards the Whiddon Down roost. Watched for 30 minutes but the numbers definitely less than those at the weekend. Large groups overflying and heading further west.

Sunday 25 February: rain and colder

Fernworthy Reservoir: very little of note. Mallard (2 m.) on the reservoir, and a single Shag, far out (later left). Canada Geese (2) overflying the reservoir.
We had not intended to watch birds, were kitted out for walking (bright waterproofs etc.) and no field glasses, so bird identification was not that easy. A Great Spotted Woodpecker in a tree next to the road as we drove back down towards Chagford, so all was not lost.

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