Sama Euridge, left and Amelia Davies, Habitat Mitigation Officers

It’s been a busy time for East Devon Habitat Mitigation Officers Sama and Amelia as they keep a watchful eye on wildlife refuges across the district and help prepare the areas for the winter season to come. Here’s their update.

In the run up to the Exmouth Wildlife Refuge going live on September 15, we launched new codes of conduct  and installed new signs at the Duck Pond. Look out for them when you are visiting. They explain how you can help us protect wildlife from disturbance. It’s important to remember that when you visit a nature reserve you are sharing that space with birds and other marine life which need space to rest and feed – they need the habitat to survive.

We are asking everyone to avoid accessing the foreshore and mud flats of the Duck Pond and instead follow the path along the top of the bank around the Imperial Recreation Ground. To access the sand at low tide, please go down the slipway and left. For water users, the boundary of both Exmouth and Dawlish Warren refuges are marked by yellow buoys, so please avoid these areas. At Exmouth, it’s only until the New Year - a tiny change which most people recognise.

To help us reach more people and broaden understanding of the refuges, we launched our new patrol boat in August with the help of a local supplier. We’re really grateful for all the help and support of people across the estuary, from Starcross Yacht Club, our experienced volunteers and Exmouth Marina, who have all been instrumental in getting us river-ready! Over the coming months we’re expecting to continue to work closely with the Harbour Authority and are looking forward to working with both the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and National Coastwatch Institution (NCI).

Since the introduction of the wildlife refuges, meeting and talking to visitors has been overwhelmingly positive. Overwintering birds are back on the Estuary and counts have shown they have returned in their thousands. It’s such a special time of year, to see and hear Brent geese and Widgeon feeding and squabbling as the tide recedes. They are such characters. Seeing the estuary so full of bird life helps everyone recognise the importance of protecting this environment now and into the future.

Monitoring of bird behaviour in the refuges is ongoing and we are doing our bit by conducting “vantage point counts” a couple of times each week. This is a quick snapshot of the estuary and we record things like air temperature, wind direction, tide state, rain, cloud coverage, people, activity, and a full count of waders and wildfowl. Along with regular recording by the Rangers at Dawlish Warren, we can add our records to those already being collected to make sure we have as much information as possible. The results of monitoring are scheduled to be reported each year, in the summers of 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Find out more about Sama and Amelia's work on the South East Devon Wildlife website.