Sunday 19 February 2023

The Birdwatching Tram

I do miss living next to the Axe Estuary, but my work takes me there often enough to keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay. However, back in January I was unexpectedly offered an excuse to go there for a different reason. Would I like to be one of the Seaton Birdwatching Tram guides? I didn't have to think too hard about that one.

So. This morning I had a date with a tram. This was a 'learn the ropes' session. Steve was guiding, and I was taking notes...

Once the tram reaches the estuary, this is the view looking north.

Many moons ago - before Black Hole Marsh and the Seaton Wetlands were really a thing - clandestine, out-of-hours walks along the tram line were a naughty indulgence for some of us. I saw my first Seaton Wryneck exactly thus, expertly found by Phil. The tram line gives a unique perspective of the Axe Estuary and marshes, and superb views of its inhabitants. As well as the birds, today's sell-out trip provided a tram-full of lovely punters with a sunbathing Fox and three Roe Deer. In addition, it is just so peaceful out there...

Bird-wise, we had some great highlights. Like this...

Med Gull, one of several.

And what a treat to discover that everyone on board was absolutely nuts about gulls!


I assume that such impeccable taste in birds is perfectly normal for the Birdwatching Tram clientele.

Arriving at Seaton Marshes, we were hopeful that the long-staying Axe Patch Coot might put on a bit of a show. Sure enough, there it was on the lagoon, right out in the open. Until it saw us...

Coot. Quality Axe Estuary bird.

Best of all was this Great White Egret, loafing on Colyford Marsh, initially with a Grey Heron...

Great White Egret. Still feels pretty rare to me.

Then it was back to base. At this point we had tallied 57 species, but a brief Black Redstart on a rooftop overlooking Sheep's Marsh at the south end of the flood plain took us to 58.

In addition to aforementioned highlights, the usual spectacle of whistling Wigeon, creaking Teal and chattering Blackwits made for a splendid soundtrack. Some terrific birds on a beautiful February morning, and a friendly, appreciative audience. Two hours just flew by...

Heading south. Black Hole Marsh coming up on the right.

Obviously I am now obliged to shamelessly promote the Birdwatching Tram experience. Dare I suggest that any NQS readers might want to coincide a visit with one of the following dates, book a ticket and come say hello?

  • Saturday 18th March at 08:30
  • Saturday 1st April at 08:30
  • Saturday 15th April at 08:30
  • Saturday 29th July at 18:00
  • Saturday 12th August at 18:00

I am also due to lead a couple in September too, but the dates are not on the official website yet. Click HERE for more details and to book tickets. Like I said, shameless.

Or you could go for one of the Sunday dates, and meet Steve. To be fair, he is pretty good actually.*

Obviously the subject was not broached openly, but there might have been some unspoken agreement involving the best Birdwatching Tram find of 2023 and a nice pint.


*Okay, very good.


  1. Another string to your bow Gav, or is it a harp now?

    1. To add to the metaphors: an unexpected twist in the road!