It is not just summer in the South West that is popular. Among the many visitors that flock to Devon each year, some arrive to spend the winter here.

But when your summer only lasts a couple of months in the freezing arctic of Eastern Siberia, Devon must feel exotically warm even in mid-winter. For the Dark-bellied Brent Goose the Exe Estuary is a regular hot spot for their long winter break.

With rich pickings on the mud flats, easily reached in shallow water, they eagerly feast on their favourite food, eelgrass and green algae. They need it, especially after a 3,000 mile flight from the Siberian tundra.

The Exe Estuary is very special, being one of the most highly designated sites for nature in the region. Its protected status is globaly important for wildlife, critical as a feeding and breeding ground for thousands of birds each year.

The mud flats and surrounding wetlands support internationally important numbers of Redshank, because Exminster is one of only two places in Devon where they also nest in summer.

But the winter refuge this estuary offers to many more birds is impressive, especially when hundreds of avocets can be found on the mud flats.

During the coldest months few places can offer such an easy view of several thousand wildfowl and wading birds.

This is the winter home for a couple of thousand of the world’s population of the Dark-bellied Brent Goose.

That is around one percent of the entire number, over 200,000 that spend winter in North West Europe. Suitable refuges need a safe high tide roost and plenty of accessible eelgrass beds where they can feed without disturbance.

Vital after their long migration from Siberia and they are not alone. Seemingly countless other birds flock here. The Little Egret, once a rare visitor now feeds and breeds around the estuary.

Ducks too are plentiful. Especially shelduck along with red-breasted merganser, wigeon, teal and mallard with some pintail and goldeneye.

As if that is not enough, we can add many different gulls to the growing list of birds that make the Exe Estuary their winter home. Not many places can boast such a spectacle, but Devon can.