There was a stiff east wind blowing this morning and I woke to news of a national movement of wild geese with White-fronted and Pink-footed Geese being seen in various parts of Devon, both of which are rare species here. So, I knew it was worth a special effort to check the Otter Valley this morning. This area is currently undergoing a big restoration project and the landscape is changing drastically. One of the key aims of the project is to create more inter-tidal habitat for birds to compensate for losses in the Exe Estuary due to "coastal squeeze."
Literally, as I arrived on site this morning a text from local friend Dave White confirmed I should have arrived earlier, as he had just found 19 European (or Russian) White-fronted Geese! A single bird would be noteworthy, but 19 birds!! Within a few minutes I was very happy to be watching these wonderful geese, a mix of adults and juveniles and a fantastic record for the Otter Valley.
However, the story doesn't end there! Later in the day the flock size increased to an incredible 34 birds thanks to Clive and Liz from Sidmouth. All in all, a fantastic day on the patch and an exciting time as the Lower Otter Restoration Project develops further.
Checking Devon Birds Reports and thanks to Kev Rylands, the last White-fronted Goose flock involving 20-30 birds was in January 2002 when a flock of 23 birds was present at Exminster Marshes and 30 birds flew over Colyton in 2005 (Gavin Haig). However, it seems you have to go back to 1994 to find a flock that is closer to 34 birds, when there was a flock of 33 birds at the Tamar Lakes. Other than that you need to go back to 1982!
Amazingly, the River Otter area recorded and incredible 200 birds in January 1963!