Female Beaver, River Otter Devon by Chris Townend

Tour Dates: Throughout June and July 2023
Tour Price: £550pp
Deposit: £150 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £40 – £100
Minimum Number: 2 people
Maximum Group Size: 6 people

Single Evening Beaver Walks are also available through our friends at: Devon Beaver Tours

Target Species
Birds: Cirl Bunting, Dartford Warbler, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher, Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, Fulmar and Rock Pipit.
Mammals: Eurasian Beaver, European Brown Hare and with luck, Otter

Tour Summary
Fancy a short Summer break to Devon with an excellent chance of seeing Beavers, possibly Otter and some great birds including the highly localised Cirl Bunting? Then come and visit Budleigh Salterton!
A population of beavers, of unknown origin, has been present on the River Otter in Devon since around 2008. However, when video evidence emerged proving that the beavers had given birth to kits (young) in 2014, the UK Government initially planned to have them removed from the river. However, thanks to the Devon Wildlife Trust and the support of the local community their removal was opposed. After consulting with landowners, local residents and public bodies, it turned this unique situation into a five-year trial to monitor the beavers’ effects on the landscape. On the 6th August 2020 government gave permission for the re-established colony to remain and making it the first legally sanctioned reintroduction of an extinct native mammal to England.

Chris Townend has been studying the beavers on his local patch, the River Otter, for the last 8 years and he therefore knows the habits of these wonderful mammals better than most! The months of June, July and August are a great time to look for beavers, as this is when newly born Beaver Kits first venture out from their lodge onto the river! The River Otter also has a good population of Otters and though less predictable than Beavers, there are regular sightings. The surrounding coastline and East Devon Pebblebed Heaths are just a stone’s throw away from Budleigh Salterton. Both these prime habitats have many special birds including Nightjars, Cirl Buntings and Dartford Warblers.

ACCOMMODATION: 3 nights in Budleigh Salterton, Devon
3 nights in local guesthouse
Inclusive Meals: Breakfasts and an afternoon Cream Tea of course!

Eurasian Beaver, River Otter by Chris Townend

Previous Trip Reports

DAY 1: Arrival Exmouth and transfer to Budleigh Salterton
After a mid afternoon pick-up from Exmouth train station we will take the 15 minute drive east to the coastal town of Budleigh Salterton. Once you arrive at your homely guesthouse in the very pretty seaside town of Budleigh Salterton, your local guide will come and meet you during the early evening. We will then take a walk along the River Otter where we should see plenty of signs of Beaver activity and with luck, our first sighting of this amazing animal! Overnight Budleigh Salterton or nearby

Family of Otters on the River Otter by Chris Townend

DAYS 2 – 3: River Otter – East Devon Commons – Jurassic Coast
Each morning we will venture out for a full morning walk, one day visiting the coast and another the Pebblebed Heaths. Both sites are very easy to access and will either involve a walk from your guesthouse or a short drive of no more than 20 minutes.
During our first morning, we will visit the impressive East Devon Pebblebed Heaths. This important habitat is one of the largest rare low lying heathlands in Southern England and home to many special birds as well as some fantastic butterflies and dragonflies. We should find Dartford Warbler, Willow Warbler, Yellowhammer, Hobby, Stonechat and a good selection of more common species. Dragonflies and butterflies we will look for include the localised Downy Emerald (June – early July), Keeled Skimmer and Small Red Damselfly whereas butterflies we hope to find include the Grayling and Silver-washed Fritillary.

Male Cirl Bunting, Devon by Chris Townend

On the second morning a walk along the the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site will produce spectacular views of Lyme Bay and the associated coastline with views to Berry Head and Devon’s southern tip at Start Point. During the walk we should find a good selection of coastal species such as Rock Pipit, Shag, Cormorant and Fulmar and maybe a hunting Peregrine. For those interested, we can also look for Brown Argus butterfly. However, it is the adjacent farmland that should reveal one of the true speciality birds of the South West, the Cirl Bunting. This species is a huge conservation success story and gives hope for other farmland species which are declining. In 1989, the Cirl Bunting was confined to Devon and had declined just over 100 pairs but a focused effort to create more crucial mixed farming habitat for breeding and winter feeding areas has resulted in the population now reaching over 1,000 pairs and crucially, the species has spread in distribution. After the coastal walk, we will pop in for one of the best Devon Cream Teas in the country – Cream first of course!

Both afternoons will be at leisure to explore the town and seafront on your own and enjoy the numerous places offering food. Then we will meet again in the early evening when, once again we will be looking for Beavers and Otters. Overnight Budleigh Salterton or nearby

Female Beaver carrying nearly born Beaver Kit, River Otter by Chris Townend

DAY 4: Transfer to Exmouth
After a leisurely breakfast at your guesthouse you will then depart for home or transferred to Exmouth train station where the tour concludes.

One of the many Beaver signs, River Otter by Chris Townend

Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides

Leader: Chris Townend
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, breakfast from day 2 until day 4, a Cream Tea on one day, pick-up/drop-off Exmouth train station and services of the leader.
Not included in cost: Travel to/from Exmouth, lunches or dinners, drinks and travel insurance.
Accommodation: Good quality local guesthouse.
Single Supplement: £65
Transport: Taxi for train station pick-ups/drop-offs. Otherwise on foot or your own transport to the meeting points (all within 3-4 miles of Budleigh Salterton)
Difficulty: Moderate
The footpaths along the river are flat whereas the terrain on the heathland and coastal paths will be undulating. Walking distances will be around 8 – 10 miles over the three days.
Climate: Variable as with most British Summers!
Tour Start Point: Exmouth railway station, Devon.
Tour End Point: Exmouth railway station, Devon.

The Jurassic Coastline of Budleigh Salterton by Chris Townend