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Exe Estuary
A Special Protection Area, Site of Special Scientific Interest and a wetland of international importance
An aerial photograph of the Exe Estuary (c) Still Imaging

The Exe Estuary is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) in recognition of it's international importance as a wintering ground for over 20,000 waterbirds.

Waders including Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Redshank and Lapwing flock to the habitat these nature reserves provide. The eelgrass bed between Exmouth and Lympstone provides feeding grounds for thousands of Dark-bellied Brent geese and Widgeon. And at Dawlish Warren, the Wildlife Refuge and secluded bight provide winter sanctuary for Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Grey Plover.

A photo of a Dark-bellied Brent Goose - photo courtesy Lee Collins

Dark-bellied Brent geese.  These charming monochromatic birds spend their breeding season on the boggy arctic tundra of northern Siberia. It’s in this unforgiving environment that dark-bellied brents nest and raise their young for the first weeks of their vulnerable lives. The climate is so severe that there is a mere 2 month window of fair weather before the returning cold triggers the need to leave, and an incredible migration begins. It’s a sharp learning curve for the juveniles.

Their flight takes them south and west, following the migratory super-highway down the Baltic coast. The journey is broken by familiar rest stops; marshland, coastal grassland or suitable farmland on which to roost and feed. In places where the grazing is good they may linger a while, before pushing on for their final destination: the estuaries and wetlands of our coast. The entire journey takes no more than a matter of weeks. To hear the burbling of Brents, why not have a listen to tweet of the day

A photo of an Oystercatcher - photo courtesy Lee Collins







A photo of a Dunlin in Summer plumage - photo courtesy Lee Collins
A photo of Sanderling in Summer plumage - photo courtesy Lee Collins


A photo of a male Wigeon