If at first you don't succeed, try again. Or at least, if you have the opportunity for a free trip back to Devon a week after dipping, try again. So it was that I got my second crack at seeing the long staying Gull-billed Tern. Family were going down to visit other family in Exmouth, so I was dropped off at Exton railway station at c. 9.30am.
A splendid vantage point over the estuary - and it was about. I'd just missed it on arrival; a train had come and gone meaning the scopes that were trained on it had to refind it. Thirty minutes later it was pinned down half way across the estuary feeding on insects. Although distant, the fact that it was feeding made for excellent views as it double back on itself to dive down towards the mud over and over again. Grey rump just visible. Controlled, confident wing beats. Always a pleasure to watch a Tern in action.
For about two hours (trains permitting) the Tern performed... only settling down onto the mud a couple of times. It was far too far away for photos, so I tried anyway. The results made it clear the bird was far too far away for photos - recognisable only as a Tern:
(Never mind. I know what it is!)
I then took the train up to Topsham, and onto Bowling Green Marsh RSPB.
As it was quite near low tide this was not worth the time spent in the hide.
From the viewing platform - in the strengthening wind - things were a little better. Just separate from a group of about 15 Redshank, at the waters edge infront of the viewing platform, was a Spotted Redshank. Hoorah! I was starting to think I'd go the whole year without seeing one! The bird was moulting back to winter plumage from its summer plumage. Legs were still black, and the wings still retained the white speckles set against black, but the breast was mostly white. I would see a couple of other Spotted Redshanks later in the day, but I 'photographed' this one as it was the year tick bird:
I walked back to Topsham railway station via the Goat Walk, and took the train all the way down to Exmouth for my sea front rendezvous with the family. Along the way I checked every large gathering of Gulls for either Yellow-legged or Mediterranean. Alas no luck.
We left Exmouth at about 7.00pm, making one last stop at the Bowling Green Marsh hide / viewing platform. birdguides had reported the Gull-billed Tern on the flashes (from the hide) at 5.00pm, and it seemed foolish to not have a look. After all it was still high tide. There was lots from the hide - Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Green Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwits - but no target birds. From the viewing platform, and being high tide, the Gulls and waders were peppering the edge of the vegetation.
Nothing new to see though, and so the drive back to Gloucester began.
Not one bird of prey seen today.