Trip report - south west England

09th January 2018
Dates: 5th to 8th January 2018

Destination: south west England

Purpose of trip:

The purpose of my trip was to visit a number of sites in south west England to get my 2018 year list off to an excellent start.

Primary target areas:

The primary target areas for birdwatching were:

Gloucestershire: Sharpness and WWT Slimbridge

Avon and Somerset: Chew Valley Lake, RSPB Ham Wall, NNR Shapwick Heath and RSPB Greylake

Devon: Broadsands near Paignton, RSPB Exminster and Powderham Marshes and RSPB Bowling Green and Goosemoor

Dorset: Portland Harbour, RSPB Lodmoor and Lytchett Matravers

Getting there and getting around:

I rented a car for the whole trip from Europcar at Southend Airport. Renting a car from this location, rather than my normal location within walking distance from my home in Basildon, enabled me to pick up at 20:00 and have an early start at 05:00 the following morning for my drive down to Gloucestershire. The 4 day rental cost £57.53 reduced by cashback to £53.99.

On 5th January 2018, I stayed at Travelodge Yeovil Podimore 8 miles north of Yeovil in Somerset. Costing £24.50 for the night (booked in the 30% Black Friday sale), this provided excellent value for money and a convenient stopover after my day in Gloucestershire and in readiness for my visits to the Somerset Levels sites the next day. I had my evening meal at the Nuovo Italia in nearby Ilminster, an exceptionally good Italian restaurant.

On 5th and 6th January and 2018, I stayed at Travelodge Exeter M5 4 miles east of Exeter at the service area at junction 30 on the M5. Costing £47.60 for the 2 nights (booked in the 30% Black Friday sale), this again provided excellent value for money and a convenient base for my visits to Devon sites. I had my evening meals at a nearby Pizza Hut and Toby Carvery.


The weather was dry and mostly bright and sunny. Temperatures were generally very low with day maxima of only 5°C.


During my trip, I was able to record 92 bird species, which was a good total for a short trip during the winter months, and a single mammal species (Stoat).

Trip list - south west England

With regard to birds, I was able to add 30 species to my 2018 list bringing the year to date total to 109 species.

The main disappointments of my trip were failing to see the previously reported Great Northern Diver and Black Redstart at Sharpness in Gloucestershire, the Lesser Scaup at Chew Valley Lake, Somerset, the Ring-necked Duck amongst the thousands of Wigeon and other ducks at NNR Shapwick Heath in Somerset or the Lesser Yellowlegs at RSPB Lodmoor in Dorset. In addition, I failed to see any of the regularly recorded Otters at any of the Somerset Levels sites and very strong winds and very rough seas off Broadsands made seawatching for divers, grebes and sea ducks impossible.

One species which was not included on my trip list was Tawny Owl which I heard calling at 05:00 as I packed the car before leaving home.

The following summarises the notable species seen on my trip.

WWT Slimbridge, Gloucestershire: Bewick’s Swan, Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Barnacle Goose, Wigeon, Pintail, Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Common Pochard, Shelduck, Heron, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Ruff, Little Stint, Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Common Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit

Compton Martin near Chew Valley Lake, Somerset: Cattle Egret

RSPB Ham Wall, Somerset: Great White Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Water Rail (heard only), Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Common Snipe, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Bearded Tit, Cettis Warbler (heard only), Lesser Redpoll, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Stonechat, Reed Bunting, Jay

NNR Shapwick Heath, Somerset: Great White Egret, Whooper Swan, Heron, Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Barn Owl, Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher, Stonechat, Stoat

RSPB Greylake, Somerset: Great White Egret, Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal, Mallard, Common Snipe, Lapwing, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier, Reed Bunting

Broadsands near Paignton, Devon: Cirl Bunting, Reed Bunting, Gannet, Kittiwake, Cormorant

RSPB Exminster Marshes, Devon: Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler, Teal, Mallard, Shelduck, Heron, Avocet, Curlew, Common Redshank, Lapwing, Golden Plover

RSPB Bowling Green and Goosemoor, Devon: Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Shelduck, Little Grebe, Heron, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Common Redshank, Lapwing

Exmouth, Devon: Little Egret, Red-breasted Merganser, Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Common Redshank

Portland Harbour (from Portland Marina), Dorset: Great Northern Diver, Black-necked Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Cormorant, Oystercatcher

Portland Harbour (from Ferrybridge), Dorset: Brent Goose, Mediterranean Gull, Oystercatcher, Kestrel

Portland Harbour (from Portland Castle), Dorset: Red-breasted Merganser, Cormorant

RSPB Lodmoor, Dorset: Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal, Mallard, Shelduck, Little Grebe, Heron, Lapwing, Common Snipe, Dunlin, Turnstone, Common Redshank, Marsh Harrier

Lytchett Matravers (St. Mary's Church), Dorset: Hawfinch, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Jay

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