FSC | Field Studies Council

Field Studies Council: Bringing Environmental Understanding to All


Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti

This bird has been spreading North West across Europe from the Mediterranean since the 1940's, arriving in the UK in the 1960's with first proven breeding in Devon in 1975. As a non migrant insect eating bird it can suffer severe population declines in hard winters, but at Slapton the population stays stable at about 40 singing males.

The best tactic to get a view of this skulking species is to spend time at Slapton Bridge, in most years one male has territory on both sides of the road. Also early morning watching along the shingle ridge can often produce singing males briefly on prominent perches.


Cirl bunting - Emberiza cirlus

The Cirl Bunting can be found throughout much of Europe, breeding in England as far north as Cumbria by the mid-1930s. Changes in agriculture brought about a rapid decline to the extent that just 118 pairs were present in 1989, 96% in south Devon.

Although it is now recovering, the coastal strip of land between Plymouth and Exeter is still the stronghold. There are as many as 4 pairs around the fringes of the nature reserve, favouring thick hedgerows with grasshopper-rich grassland adjacent. Listen for their rattling song delivered from a high perch anywhere along the paths from the Ley into Slapton village.


Great Crested Grebe - Podiceps cristatus

Annual nesting at Slapton began in 1973 with breeding success varying considerably from year to year, from 4 to 17 pairs. This can be linked to the availability of fish in the Ley, mainly Roach and Rudd, whose populations also fluctuate.

In the spring the resident population will abandon the Ley on a daily basis to fish in the adjacent Start Bay if poor conditions prevail in the Ley. For this reason breeding can often be much later than elsewhere in Britain. The Slapton population is the most south westerly population in the UK.