Bird lovers Seaton Tramway

50 species of birds recorded during this two hour Birdwatching Special Tram!

A Ticket to Ride – A Golden Hour Experience like no other!

Back in the Summer during the heatwave I was lucky enough to join 21 other keen wildlife and bird watchers and take an evening ‘tramway to heaven’ to experience this unique Birdwatching Special Tram!

There are lots of things to do in East Devon and the award-winning Seaton Tramway is definitely one to check out. The Tramway’s main station, in Seaton, is an impressive building and a recent addition. This lovely seaside and tourist hotspot is a gateway town to the Jurassic Coast and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Tramway is one of Devon’s Top Attractions and is a high-quality Devon day out.  It takes you on a unique journey of discovery through the glorious Axe Valley, through two nature reserves and alongside the Axe Estuary to historic Colyton. Catering for all ages there are a remarkable number of special experiences and events throughout the year. Each one is unique and as the Tramway is an all-weather attraction and runs for much of the year, you can see why it continues to be a winning day out across all seasons. It’s dog friendly too, so your pet pooch can enjoy some of the experiences along with you.

Tram 9 seen from Seaton Wetlands.

Our Special Birdwatching Tram was a 6pm departure and the chance to spend the final two hours of daylight aboard this moving bird hide on wheels!  It was one of those rare and wonderfully sultry midsummer evenings with the temperature still a balmy 25°C as we set off on the start of our northbound adventure.  Everyone on the trip had their birdwatcher’s attire on, adorned in natural colours, binoculars around their necks and a hat in their hands. We all took the steps up to the upper open-topped deck where we were treated to a glorious view across the flood plain of the River Axe.

Seaton Tramway Bird watching tram..

Seaton Tramway Bird watching tram....

The trips are led by local ornithology experts, and we were lucky enough to have Steve Waite as our professional guide. Steve has lived in the Axe Valley for 25 years, studying and photographing the birds and wildlife on the estuary. Steve has spotted a total of 258 species of birds locally and publishes on his wildlife blog ‘Axe Birding’. Steve served as a Devon County Bird Recorder for five years, he is a licensed Bird Ringer and an ambassador for a leading optics and camera manufacturer. He has authored numerous articles on birdwatching and bird identification.

Off we set on this perfectly picturesque evening, immersing ourselves in nature and the moment. We were being taken on a bird watching journey of discovery through two beautiful nature reserves, Seaton Marshes and Colyford Common, next to the River Axe Estuary, which plays host to an ever-changing selection of birds throughout the year.

The first bird to be spotted was the humble Greenfinch, then came a Blackbird, some Crows and a number of Gulls. Steve told us 19 species of Gulls have been recorded on the Axe River.

Steve who was a marvellous guide, was knowledgeable and very skilful in getting the group to sync their binoculars and locate the exact bird he’d spotted within just a couple of seconds. For a complete novice like myself who can never pinpoint the bird before it has gone it was an absolute pleasure to have an expert guide with you, and further enhanced the whole experience. I was towards the back of the tram, and it was quite amusing to watch Steve in full action with all heads and binoculars turning in the same direction and at exactly the same time.

I was also really impressed with our expert driver, Robert Oldfield. Amazed at the skill of getting the tram to creep along the tracks quietly, and then to stop swiftly, but very gently on his commands. Robert added to the commentary when he spotted another species of bird we hadn’t yet seen. It was clear to see that both men work as a super team, and both have a passion for their jobs.

Seaton Tramway Bird watching tram. Northward journey

We got to Riverside Halt, a lovely stop and one of the newly opened halts on the wetlands. We didn’t get off on this occasion, but if you want to you can alight and enjoy the view on the 400 square metre deck constructed above the tidal River Axe Estuary giving a fantastic vantage point to view the wildlife.  There are picnic tables and large bird identification boards which are a nice touch. They also have a live webcam focussed on this area.  We stopped there a while and saw an abundance of wading birds which were well represented along the whole of the route. We saw Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Grey Heron.

Greenshank - Seaton Tramway Bird watching tram.
Greenshank

Birdwatching tram Riverside Halt seaton Tramway

Our journey saw us stop at Seaton Marshes and the hide and then to Blackhole Marsh where we could see the Island Hide and Tower Hide and such an ideal habitat and unique setting for the abundance of wildlife we saw. You can see why the nature reserves are thriving. For myself, another day on the Tramway beckons, to alight and explore the hides and walkways on foot. We journeyed on to Blackhole Marsh, Bobsworth Bridge, Seaton Wetlands Halt and Colyford Common, all of which uncovered more excitement and sightings to add to our list.

Seaton Tramway Bird watching tram.

Linnet and Goldfinch - Seaton Tramway Bird watching tram.Linnet and Goldfinch

Explore the Route of Seaton Tramway with an interactive Map

At these stops and the Axe Estuary we saw many more species including Whimbrel, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ringed Plover. Another highlight was a Bar-tailed Godwit which is an infrequent visitor to the Estuary. Many of these birds were from this year’s broods and were sporting fresh juvenile plumage and looked stunning in the warm evening golden hour light.

Bar-tailedGodwit - Seaton Tramway Bird watching tram.Bar-tailed Godwit

Our expert guide Steve also got us to listen as he identified the evocative calls of the Curlew, Redshank, Wigeon and Teal. This enhanced the experience further and everyone in the group delighted in hearing these birds and being taught their calls.

There was much excitement from Steve when he got us all to spot the trip’s rarest sighting, which was a lone Cattle Egret that was neatly perched on the edge of Colyford Scrape. Two nearby Little Egrets provided a useful point of comparison. The distinguishing characteristics of this irregular visitor are its smaller size and yellow bill.

Cattle-Egret - Seaton Tramway Bird watching tram.

Cattle-Egret

Another highlight of the trip for me personally was the frequent Kingfisher sightings, I missed the first couple of sightings on our outward journey. However, I was delighted when we saw several sightings on our return journey. First came the distinctive ‘blue flashes’ but then we watched two for several minutes fishing from Estuary-side posts just north of Riverside Halt.

Kingfisher - Seaton Tramway Bird watching tram.

Kingfisher

This special bird watching trip is a bird watchers delight. It gives exclusive access to remote parts of the valley, and you are likely to see between 30-50 special of birds. We were lucky enough to see over 50 on our two-hour trip. You can always see a range of waders, ducks and gulls but favourites of our trip must be the Kingfishers and Little Egrets. Autumn can bring a passing Osprey or Wood Sandpiper and numbers build up in winter as Wigeon, Teal, Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwits all arrive.

The trip will delight whatever level of bird watcher you are and whatever interest you have in wildlife. This trip is informative and interesting and puts you right in touch with nature in a beautiful tranquil countryside setting.

In total 50 different species of bird were recorded during the trip, SPECIES LIST Spotted – 14/08/2022
Pheasant                       Cormorant
Canada Goose             Grey Heron
Mute Swan                   Little Egret
Shelduck                      Cattle Egret
Mallard                         Kingfisher
Teal Common              Buzzard
Woodpigeon                Kestrel
Stock Dove                   Magpie
Water Rail (heard only) Carrion Crow
Moorhen                      Great Tit
Oystercatcher             Reed Warbler (heard only)
Ringed Plover             Wren (heard only)
Little Ringed Plover (heard only) Starling
Lapwing                       Blackbird
Curlew                          Robin
Whimbrel                    Stonechat
Black-tailed Godwit House Sparrow
Bar-tailed Godwit      Dunnock
Dunlin                         Swallow
Common Sandpiper House Martin
Redshank Pied         Wagtail
Greenshank               Meadow Pipit
Black-headed Gull   Linnet
Great Black-backed Gull Goldfinch
Herring Gull             Greenfinch

The special bird watching trams run on selected dates during February, March and April, July, August, September and October. To find out more about the Special Bird Watching Trams here

In total 50 different species of bird were recorded during the trip, SPECIES LIST Spotted – 14/08/2022
Pheasant Cormorant
Canada Goose Grey Heron
Mute Swan Little Egret
Shelduck Cattle Egret
Mallard Kingfisher
Teal Common Buzzard
Woodpigeon Kestrel
Stock Dove Magpie
Water Rail (heard only) Carrion Crow
Moorhen Great Tit
Oystercatcher Reed Warbler (heard only)
Ringed Plover Wren (heard only)
Little Ringed Plover (heard only) Starling
Lapwing Blackbird
Curlew Robin
Whimbrel Stonechat
Black-tailed Godwit House Sparrow
Bar-tailed Godwit Dunnock
Dunlin Swallow
Common Sandpiper House Martin
Redshank Pied Wagtail
Greenshank Meadow Pipit
Black-headed Gull Linnet
Great Black-backed Gull Goldfinch
Herring Gull Greenfinch

The special bird watching trams run on selected dates during February, March and April, July, August, September and October. To find out more about the Special Bird Watching Trams here

Other top experiences offered at Seaton Tramway are

Tram Driving Lessons
Driver’s Eye Experience
Riverside Depot Tours
Twilight Trams – 2023 dates TBC
Children’s special themed trams including the Dinosaur Adventure Show, the Story Tram and the Fairy Tram.
The Quiet Tram for adults and children with additional needs.
The Memory Tram – Operates monthly giving people living with dementia, and their carers, special access.
The Polar Express Tram Ride– Operates in Nov-Dec each year.

Trip Advisor 5 Star review for Birdwatching Tram says
This was the best two-hour experience I have had at any time in the past two years.

To find out more about Seaton Tramway and book tickets see here

Latest Posts