The Exe Estuary is one of England's smaller estuaries, but it supports a wealth of habitats. It has two separate areas of coastal grazing marsh on opposite sides of the Estuary, Exminster Marshes and Bowling Green Marsh. This is a traditional stopping point for migratory birds, including Avocets, Curlews, Lapwings, and Brent Geese. The Exe Estuary's mud is rich in bird food such as cockles and Lugworms, which the waders dig down deep to find.
In winter, during floods and at high tide, bird watchers can see thousands of ducks, geese and wading birds roosting and feeding including hundreds of Avocets. These once rare birds are now increasing in numbers and are characterised by their long, spindly legs and its upwardly curved, black beak. The Curlew is another distinctive visitor, distinguished by its downturned beak which it uses to probe deep into the mud for food. By mid winter there's 25,000 birds in the Exe estuary. Thousands come down from northern Europe to join resident species and feed on the rich marine life. Other highlight species include: Black Tailed Goodwit, Lapwing, Little Egret ......
Brent Geese winter here after flying all the way from Siberia to feed on the grassy fields alongside the estuary. After they've fed on a specific patch of grass, they return exactly four days later to the same spot, allowing the grass to regenerate and produce the nutrients that the birds need.
Bowling Green Marsh
One of the best places to watch the birds is at Bowling Green Marsh outside Topsham, five miles from Exeter. The marsh is located in a narrow part of the estuary further upstream. It boasts a great selection of birds including Waders, Wigeon, Shovelers, Pintails, and Teal, Lapwings are easily spotted by their black and white colouring, distinctive headcrest, and twitching leg designed to disturb invertebrates in the soil. There is a hide here as well as a viewing platform to see the birds from.
Viewing Points and facilities at each site
Winter is the best time for flocks of Avocets. February is a good time to watch the migratory birds. RSPB bird watching cruises run from November to March, leaving from Exmouth, Starcross and Topsham.
Run from November through to March each year. Booking in advance is essential. For actual dates and times Contact No: 01392 432691 for more information. All cruises are dependent on reasonable weather conditions. Two options are:
The boats are partially covered and have a toilet on board. There are also a limited range of snakes and hot and cold drinks available on the boats. Expert commentary is provided on all cruises.
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