Do not disturb: overwintering birds need to feed and build up their energy reserves

PUBLISHED: 08:00 07 November 2019

Amelia Davies, Habitat Mitigation Officer, South East Devon Habitat Regulations Partnership

Amelia Davies, Habitat Mitigation Officer, South East Devon Habitat Regulations Partnership


Guest columnist Amelia Davies tells us about the migratory birds that make the Exe Estuary their home during the winter.

My job is to help people connect with and understand the importance of the wonderful wildlife and nature reserves that we have on our doorstep.

The area that I patrol covers the Pebblebed Heaths, Dawlish Warren and the Exe Estuary.

At this time of year, my colleague Will and I are at the Exe Estuary talking to estuary users, and trying to reduce the disturbance to our overwintering birds.

More than 20,000 birds overwinter here, making the Exe estuary internationally recognised for wildlife!

The wildlife refuge at the Duck Pond in Exmouth is an area of intertidal estuary that is an important place for the birds, it's where their food grows.

One of the birds that arrives in autumn, making the most of this food source, is the dark-bellied brent goose.

These birds breed on the Arctic coasts of Russia and come to Exmouth for their winter holidays.

After a 3,000 mile migration they need to be left to feed and build up their energy reserves in order to survive the winter, and make the long journey back to their breeding grounds.

Unfortunately, these birds are easily disturbed; because of this, we are asking people to avoid the Duck Pond Wildlife Refuge between September 15 and December 31 only.

This area is identified with yellow marker buoys.

By the end of the year the geese have normally eaten all of the delicious eel grass and move into the fields in search of more food.

As a general rule, please always avoid flocks of birds and other wildlife wherever they may be on the estuary.

Enjoy watching them from a distance and they won't be disturbed.

If you see us set up at the Duck Pond with a telescope and a wildlife flag come and say hello and we can show you some of Exmouth's most charismatic birds feeding and squabbling away.

What a great way to spend winter.

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