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Stover Park, Devon
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Easily accessible from the A38. Literally about 13 mins from Exeter and close to Yarner Wood and Dartmoor. A nice place to walk around early in the morning. Need to get there early as the dog walkers are up and about pretty early too. The downside to this park is the dog walkers who don't pick up after their dogs. Aaargh! Later on in the morning, cyclists and families use the park.
A good deal to see on the lake such as Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Great Crested Grebes, Mallards, Swans, Coots, Moorhens, various Gulls. They would get more here but apparently the Swans are very choosy about who lands on their lake, so the Geese don't stay around for long as they're attacked by the Swans! Snipe, Bittern and Waterail have all been spotted here.
There's an aerial walkway which leads to a feeder. Not overly great for photography as it's either dark, the sun's right down the lens, or the birds are straight on the feeder and then into some heavy shrubbery. There probably is a chance to get something relatively isolated, but it's hit and miss and something I've not managed yet! Shame, as there are Greenfinch, Tits, Chaffinch, Nuthatch and Bullfinch frequenting the feeder.
There is a hide, but it's been shut for quite a while now. Don't know why, but I think it may be due to vandalism which I find incredible! Around the hide I have seen Tree Creepers, GS Woodpeckers, Jays and the usual feeder-type birds.
Stover's a strange place as it houses a lake, woodland and also heathland in a relatively small area, so there's an abundance of possibilities birding-wise. Also meant to be very good for Dragonflies and insects. I haven't a macro lens so I don't have knowledge of this to a great extent, but there's always plenty of people with macro stuff going around.
Parking is 70p for 2 hours or £1.20 for all day. Quite an interesting Visitor centre which is worth a look in.
Overall, a good place to see quite a variety of things but you compete with dog walkers, families, cyclists and walkers, so early is important.
A favourite place of mine. Absolutely wonderful early in the morning. No one about! Lots of activity going on here especially into the winter. Before you get to Dawlish Warren, there are some good opportunities along the back road to Starcross behind Powderham Castle. Good opportunities for Fallow Deer in the grounds, but shooting is possible from the roadside. Also good for Sedge Warblers in the reeds next to the road. Isolating them is a different prospect!
Good prospects for Curlew and Oystercatchers just past Starcross on the Golf course next to the road. High tide drives them onto the front of the golf course. They're oblivious to passing cars, but as soon as you stop they move away....quickly!
At Dawlish Warren, park at the far end of the car park to enter the Nature Reserve. Parking is free until 9am but after that, they 're pretty hot on tickets. I've been ticketed twice there and they don't seem too keen to negotiate! A permit is available from the visitor centre, but that's all I know as I don't have one myself.
Into the reserve, there's a good walk through the reserve with Warblers, Stonechats, Whitethroats, Linnets and Greenfinch. Seen Dartford Warbler and Bullfinch a couple of times.
At the back of the reserve is the route to the hide. As you walk to the hide, the beach is on your right. You get Waders on the beach such as Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone, Gulls, Oystercatchers and some Sandpipers. Shooting is best late pm as sun is right down the lens in the morning. Wardens keep people off the beach on high tides in the am but light is poor as already mentioned.
At the hide, the tides are important as birds can be too far away at low tide for any shooting opportunities. Best time would be 2 hours prior and up to 2 hours after high tide and the best tides are earlier am. Obviously the higher the tide, the closer the birds are pushed towards the hide. CHECK TIDE TIMES otherwise it can be a long walk for nothing. Birds include all already mentioned plus Ringed Plover, Little Egret, Redshank, Curlew, and Summer Whimbrel. Also Summer Terns with fish (only in flight, rarely on the beach).
Also worth a walk along the water edge to the adjacent beach overlooking Exmouth. Some great opportunities for flight shots of Cormorant and Oystercatcher, Skylarks and a variety of Ducks.
See Links page if you are interested in seeing what's around at the moment.
Special thanks to John Lee, South Devon, for some useful information on birds and shooting at Dawlish Warren
A great place for bird watching and frequented by a lot of scope-people! Numbers of birds here are quite astonishing at times and a good place to go at high tide when the water level drives the estuary birds here.
I've not had a great deal of success here either as the sun is right down your lens in the morning and the birds are too far away to get much from the hide itself. An excellent place to just sit and see what's about (except I always forget my binos and have to ask people!)
Next to the hide there are a couple of breaks in the fence and hedge and some ducks can be photographed fairly close. Shoveler, Teal, Pintail and sometimes Godwits. Sun is best early to late afternoon.
A short walk takes you to the viewing platform which looks over Lympstone and the mouth of the Exe Estuary. Good for Godwits, Avocets, Dunlin, Redshanks. Mergansers are spotted quite frequently, but not by me. Admittedly, I don't spend a huge amount of time here, so there's no surprise that I haven't seen much. A case of the more you're there, the more you're likely to see! Quite a steep shooting angle looking down onto the subjects, so not ideal. Best afternoon for sun.
Ospreys attract a lot of visitors and there are opportunities to shoot these just around the corner on what's known as the "Goat walk". When the tide is out, the Ospreys seem to fish in the deeper channel. Again, not had many sightings of these, but a few. No images though!
Towards the end of the day, huge flocks of Avocet, Godwit, Plover, Wigeon and Teal fly in. The odd Curlew and Little Egret are seen here too. Well worth sitting in the hide to view this.
Special thanks to John Lee, South Devon, for some useful information on birds and shooting at Bowling Green Marsh
I absolutely love this place. Early morning and it's as tranquil as anywhere. In the winter, there is loads of activity going on. Lots to see including Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Curlew, Snipe, Waterail, Little Egret, Heron, Gulls - lots of Gulls, Shelduck and more!
The sun is behind you fairly early, so it's good for photography. Hard to get to the waterway without waders, but there's plenty going on without that. Good place for flight shots as birds fly over the path to get either to the fields where there's a pond, or to the main inlet.
There are two hides on either side of the inlet, but one is quite far from the water, and the other is on the side of the hill, again quite far from the action. Flight shots can be had from both these.
Some spectacular sunrises and the atmosphere here makes this good place to visit.....
A place I've not visited too frequently, but it has good potential. A large area that's apparently very good for Dartford Warblers. I have seen some on a few occasions but no shots to show for it. Good place for Stonechats, Tree Pippets and Linnets. Frequented by some irresponsible dog walkers so need I say more??!?!