Monday, 27 January 2020

Untickable Views

This post is a brief appendix to yesterday's, in order to cover something I left out of that account because it would have got in the way of the narrative. I mentioned yesterday that I've managed a photographic record (however bad) of every Caspian Gull I've seen. Well, that may not be true...

Within just a few minutes of the 2nd-winter bird departing I was joined by Marcus and Phil, and eventually our number grew to seven. It was the first time in ages that I've stood with a bunch of other birders, and obviously it is very different to birding solo. Although there is of course the chatting and the not looking properly at times, the added fire-power of seven pairs of eyes means very little escapes notice. For example, it wasn't me who spotted the Yellow-legged Gull on the mere but, like everyone else, I benefitted from those extra eyes.

By this time the weather had cleared. The wind was still quite strong, but the rain had stopped. Away west along the beach a gang of gulls had been gathering. I'd run a scope across them once or twice, but at 4-500m range, with a haze of fine spray in the air and not the best lighting, I had struggled. While I was photographing the YLG a shout went up: a Caspian Gull candidate in the beach flock! I'll be candid. Although I got on the bird I didn't see anything like enough to count it. It had a long bill with a prominently hooked upper mandible - slightly deformed even - so was easy to pick out. But it was preening constantly while I watched it, and most of the bird was masked by other gulls too. Very unsatisfying. At that range, with those views, I couldn't do anything with it...

Collectively we decided to approach closer, and began to do so. But before we'd gone more than a few yards, someone further along the beach unfortunately spooked the flock and they all went up. I don't know if anyone managed to pick it up in flight, but I certainly didn't.

So anyway, that was that.

Caspian Gull is still a local rarity in Devon and Dorset, requiring a description. Even my lamentably low standards demand a full(ish) suite of characters. Unfortunately, based on my views there wasn't enough even to start a description, so I definitely couldn't count it.

As an habitually solo birder it is very rare that I need to worry about what someone else thinks a bird's identity is, but when in company it can happen. And when it does there is a handy catch-all expression for such situations...

Untickable views.

And those are the kind I had. Which means I'm not worried that there is no photo, and my unbroken record of happy pixels is therefore maintained. Obviously this is of...er...paramount importance. Even so, I'm a bit disappointed I couldn't clinch it. A two-Casp day would have been rather special.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

American Herring Gull - Unfolding Story...

So yesterday afternoon I walked from Cogden to the West Bexington mere via this...

Never again! In future, the beach, just the beach.

I even took my scope, and at the mere kept my distance and went through the gulls on offer, and then pointed it at the sea to look at some of the gulls planning to sleep out there...

8 Med Gulls in this shot.

Then home, and a quiet evening of Netflix and bottled beer. Or so I thought...

During a refill break I noticed a new email. It was from Ian M, and attached were a few shots of a dark and dangerous gull which had caught his eye on West Bexington beach that morning. What did I reckon? Well, I reckoned flippin' heck...

There are several reasons why this looks a very good candidate for American Herring Gull!
(photos: Ian McLean)

I relayed my opionion to Ian, adding that you really need the rump and tail to clinch it. Ian replied that although he had noted an all-dark tail and very dark rump, he'd not been able to photograph it. This nailed it for me, and I knew where I would need to be when I was free this afternoon.

It must be a decade or more since I twice dipped the AHG which graced the Otter Estuary at Budleigh Salterton, and the species has been on my radar ever since. But you never see really dark first-winter Herring Gulls down here, so in ten or more years I've seen nothing to get excited about. Until now.

And then this morning Mike Morse popped down to West Bex nice and early on the offchance...and this flew past...

AAAAAGGGHHH!!!! I mean, AHG.     (photo: Mike Morse)

I was free at lunch time. The weather was truly dire. Heavy rain, strong SW. I could stay at home and definitely not see an American Herring Gull, or I could go to West Bexington, get cold and wet, and probably not see an American Herring Gull. I chose the latter.

Initially I was alone, and the conditions were...er...challenging. It was pouring with rain, and blowing a mild hoolie. There were few gulls on either the beach or the mere, and none of them were in the slightest bit exciting. At first...

After 30-45 minutes of very little, a newly-arrived bird on the mere caught my eye. Through bins it looked a little bit like a 2nd-winter Caspian Gull. Through the scope it looked very like one. I really didn't fancy getting the camera wet, but thought a couple of minutes of video was worth a try. My plan was to lift a few stills from the video and see what they looked like. Well, it was a plan...

2nd-winter Caspian Gull, West Bexington mere. I am well aware that these shots do not look too clever really, but at least they maintain my record of something that can be called a photo for every Caspian Gull I've ever seen!

The video quality is awful. Most of the individual frames are very blurry, it is jiggling around non-stop, and the audio is just a violent roar. But it is genuine footage of the third Casp I've been fortunate enough to find this winter. I am absolutely delighted, and really don't care that the American Herring Gull didn't show. Oops. Spoiler...

I'm going to be honest here. All the Caspian Gulls I've previously found have been 1st-winters, and I'm comfortable with that age; I am far less confident with 2nd-winter birds. I've only ever seen two, and my fear was that I was mucking up a 3rd-winter Herring Gull. I really didn't think so, but, well, let's just say I wished I'd had a [waterproof] copy of Larsson & Olsen to hand. Anyway, I need not have worried. In the field it was easy to see the little mirror on p10, a great feature for 2w Casp (just visible in the shot beneath top right), and the state of the wing coverts, tertials and flight feathers, the bill pattern, the neat speckled 'shawl' and the lovely black tail band all confirmed its age. Woo-hoo!!

So, a few other birders arrived, and it was good to put faces to one or two names I knew only from t'internet, like Marcus Lawson, Brett Spencer and Phil Saunders. And I think it was Phil who spotted the next good gull...


Yellow-legged Gull. Judging by the tiny bit of black on the bill, not quite a full adult. Lovely.

This was about an hour and forty minutes after the Casp, and by now I was getting a teeny bit cold. However, there was no way I was giving in before everyone else, so I stuck it out until around 17:00. No American Herring Gulls, but...

Earlier I'd sent this tweet to Steve Waite...

Well, it ain't rocket science!

Yep, I really enjoyed myself this afternoon. I doubt I'll get much opportunity for gull chasing during the coming week, but you never know.

West Bexington. Dipping's not all bad!

Friday, 24 January 2020

A Non-Confrontational Exchange...

Whenever someone takes the trouble to leave a comment on this blog I will normally reply to it, if only to say thank you. Once in a while I feel compelled to respond more fully, and this post is a case in point. The catalyst is once again that lovely Seaton Hole Black Redstart and my soapbox monologue outlining the case against feeding it mealworms. A reader calling themselves 'Hull's Angel' expressed an interest in having a non-confrontational exchange on the subject, and asked what I thought might be the negative effects of feeding mealworms to the Black Redstart. In principle I am usually up for a discussion, so replied that I had no real idea what negative effects this action might have on the bird, but the negative consequences for people I had already sketched out in the original post. This prompted a longer comment from Hull's Angel, which I am going to use as the foundation of this post. I hope that Hull's Angel won't mind me breaking the comment down and responding piecemeal.

Hull's Angel begins...


  • Interesting. Think a good case could be made that feeding an insectivorous bird mealworms in a UK winter could be beneficial. Are you opposed to all feeding of birds garden bird tables, feeding stations on RSPB and other reserves, feeding swans at Welney etc etc?


No, I am not opposed to any of those things. Quite the opposite. But my soapbox issue is nothing whatsoever to do with the pros and cons of any of the scenarios mentioned in this question.

As an aside, when it comes to 'feeding an insectivorous bird mealworms in a UK winter' the RSPB has the following advice...

TIP: If buying dried mealworms rather than live mealworms, soak in warm water for 20-60 minutes before putting out to provide valuable moisture content. This makes them more attractive to birds plus easier to digest - especially for younger birds.

In the case of the Seaton Hole Black Redstart I don't know if this advice was being followed, but I somehow doubt it.

But here's the point: the Seaton Hole Black Redstart is not someone's garden bird, nor is it visiting an established feeding station. It is not being fed for its welfare. It is being baited. It is being baited by photographers.

Which leads nicely to this...


  • Also, I would think the effects on fellow photographers would be positive, they would get better pictures, and fellow birders would get better looks?


Well, I am a birder with a camera rather than a 'fellow photographer', so I cannot really comment from that perspective. However, if any actual photographers wish to offer a thought on whether the scenario would have a positive effect on them I would be delighted. Commenting as a 'fellow birder' though, is something I can do. I detest the whole scenario. 'Better looks' (or 'better pictures' on my bridge camera) are no justification for it, do not help me feel any better about it, and of course are utterly selfish motives anyway. Well, that's my opinion...


  • Aesthetically speaking, I'd be more concerned by the presence of a load of unattractive birders than a few mealworms :-) and more concerned as to what is good or bad for the bird.


Re 'what is good or bad for the bird' I would say this... 

During my years birding this area, Seaton Hole has always been a reliable spot for wintering Black Redstarts. The place evidently has what it takes to attract them, and I would guess that principally includes food and shelter. Knowing this, what would I say is good for the bird?
  • Keep your distance
  • Employ a little fieldcraft
  • Allow the bird to behave naturally 
  • DO NOT FEED IT

And bad for the bird? Pretty obvious really. The polar opposite of any of the above.


  • Feeding mealworms to birds is common at "blinds" in Asia and for antpittas in South America, to entice shy forest birds into the open for both birders and photographers.


Fine. Doesn't surprise me. 


  • I'm trying to get at exactly what it is that generates such strong feelings?


For me, such behaviour betrays a selfish disregard for the sensibilities of others. The attitude seems to be 'I am perfectly within my rights, I am not breaking any law, so it is therefore okay to do exactly as I please, and anyone who has a problem with that can go whistle...'

In everyday life one encounters such folk on a regular basis, so it's no surprise that some of them will be into birding and/or bird photography. And when I come across it in my hobby, that profoundly selfish attitude generates strong feelings. Hopefully that answers your question.


  • The issues between birders and photographers seems much stronger in the UK than in the US where I live, although some behavior such as baiting winter owls with live mice cast by fishing line here is beyond the pale.



I think it's true that the interests of birders and photographers often clash, which frequently leads to photographers getting bad press from birders. But these days the classifications 'birder' and 'photographer' are probably too simplistic to be of much help in any discussion of the issues involved. It's a topic that interests me, and hopefully I'll get to it in a future post...

The 'live mice cast by fishing line' doesn't need any comment from me. 


  • In my 55 years as a birder and 40+ years as a bird photographer I have seen at least as much what I considered bad behavior by birders as by bird photographers, but appreciate we all have individual opinions as to what constitutes bad behaviour.


These days I don't often go anywhere that birders or photographers might be present in numbers, but during my 17 years in this part of the country the vast majority of 'bad behaviour' I've witnessed has involved people with cameras. As you say though, that's based on my opinion of what constitutes 'bad behaviour'.

So, I hope I've covered everything that you touched upon, Hull's Angel, and that my viewpoint is clear and unambiguous. Actually it has been nice to express some of my thoughts in more depth, and though I would prefer to thank a person with a real name, I am nonetheless grateful for the opportunity.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Routine Birding & Unanticipated Blog Promotion

A very light offshore breeze was barely rippling the sea today, and with almost zero swell it was a great opportunity to see what was bobbing around out there. From the Abbotsbury tank teeth to East Bexington I counted 12 Red-throated Divers, 4 Great Crested Grebes and 6+ loitering Kittiwakes. I didn't count the numerous auks that were chugging about in little flotillas, but certainly there were quite a few hundred, and all those close enough to ID to species were Razorbills. Best of all was a Harbour Porpoise off the tank teeth. A lone Chiffchaff flitting through the beach-side vegetation at East Bexington was nice, and in several spots along the route I was accompanied by Stonechats, a bird which I'm always pleased to see...

Huge eye, scraggy plumage. Stonechat. Very lovable.

I had lunch at Burton Bradstock, where there was another Red-throated Diver, 16 Fulmars off the cliffs and lots more chugging Razorbills.

All the above could comfortably be filed under 'Routine' and, while pleasant birding, was not what you would open the 'Exciting' drawer for. And this is the general way of things isn't it? Most birding outings are indeed enjoyable in a very unremarkable way. I'm okay with that. There is only so much thrill a person can handle, so it's just as well I haven't encountered any more winter White Wagtails yet.

On a different note...

On Monday's NQS post I happened to mention my disappointment at hearing that the jolly smart (and photogenic) Black Redstart in residence at Seaton Hole was being baited with mealworms for photographic purposes, and outlined some of my reasons for feeling this way. My thinking on this matter is not some knee-jerk thing. I've been birding for many years, and my views on various aspects of this hobby have been shaped not only by my sensibilities, but also by experience. On some things I have strong opinions, and occasionally they make an appearance on this blog. Obviously, while I make no apology for that, I also accept that some will view things differently to me; that is their prerogative. So I was half-expecting some sort of response to Monday's post. However, I was not expecting it to get so many page-views, so rapidly - it is currently running at something like 4x the norm - and was initially puzzled as to why. And then I spotted this on Twitter...

Isn't there a saying about 'no such thing as bad publicity' or something...?

So anyway, here was the explanation. Lee has nearly 22x as many Twitter followers as I do, and a good number of them presumably clicked on the link and dropped in to NQS, maybe for the first time. I doubt they found what was alluded to (which is a somewhat inventive extrapolation of what my words actually said) but I am nevertheless indebted to Lee for the advertisement.

It was a thought-provoking reminder of how quickly you can access an audience through the internet, even unintentionally, and therefore why words are probably best chosen carefully. Once it's out there, it's out there. Birders of my ilk need to remember that... [insert winking smiley emoji]

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

An NQS Tradition Revisited

Yesterday I took my van over to Seaton for a bit of mending and its annual MOT test. This morning I returned to collect it. I was accompanied by bins, scope, camera and a hefty sum of money. Not all of us made it home...

To take my mind off the pain I spent a very long lunch break in Holyford Woods, looking for a Yellow-browed Warbler which had been found there yesterday. I suppose this could be called twitching. And I suppose what happened next could be called dipping. But it was good to bump into Phil, Clive and Richard and enjoy a good natter. Phil and Richard saw the YBW briefly before I turned up, while Clive unwisely picked those few vital seconds of performance to carefully grill the wrong bird. And that Goldcrest (and one or two of its mates) were with us almost constantly thereafter. A fine consolation bird was a Marsh Tit, the first I've seen for absolutely ages.

Of course, a visit to Seaton wouldn't be complete without some gull worship, but I couldn't pick out anything exciting amongst the modest collection on the estuary. With a sigh of resignation I reached for the ignition key and simultaneously flicked a final glance towards the river...

Wait! What is that distant white shape out there on the mud? Could it be...? My bins confirmed it, and moments later the P900 was in my hands and fired up for action...

And there it is! Dead centre, just as my eye first saw it. The Axe Estuary just keeps on giving...

Maybe a word of explanation here...

In the first year of the original NQS I wrote about a visit to Axe Cliff, the farmland E of the harbour, adjacent to the local golf course. Birding that farmland meant the occasional encounter with errant golf balls. On 23rd August, 2008 I found one plugged in the field next to the 14th green. I photographed it in situ, prised it out, took it home and looked it up on the internet. The advertising blurb made me laugh out loud, and a little NQS tradition was born. Here is a snip from that post...


Axe Cliff Gets a Visit (23 August, 2008)

A particular bonus of birding near the golf course is that I occasionally get to add to my Golf Ball List. I got a tick this morning. Here it is:

The amazing Srixon AD333

I used to play golf years ago and have never heard of this species (or genus, even) so it was a very, very tiny bit like discovering a First for Britain. Ok, that's a lie, but when I was able to research the literature imagine how thrilled I was to learn that the Srixon AD333 is....
  • 'The Ultimate 2-piece ball for golfers. The AD333 utilises a brand new revolutionary "Rabalon" blended elastomer cover which is exclusive to Srixon. It provides greater ball speed and initial velocity off the tee while providing soft feel and spin on all shots from tee to green.
  • The AD333 is powered by Srixon's proprietary super-soft Energetic Gradient Growth core which is firmer on the outside and gets progressively softer towards the centre. It delivers the optimal launch conditions - high launch angle with low spin.'
I can see it now.....

Our golfing hero strides confidently to the 14th tee. A pretty easy 166 yard par 3, stroke index 14. No sweat. He proudly whips out his ball with an exaggerated flourish, the dimpled gem glinting in the low morning sun. The desired effect is achieved - his colleagues gasp in awe: an AD333!! One of them leans over and whispers to the other two:

"Penetrating high trajectory for longer carry and roll.

Higher launch angle and lower spin for greater distance.

Superb soft feel on all shots from tee to green."

A hole-in-one is inevitable, it seems. However, they are hugely chuffed to see our hero execute a mighty hook. The naughty little AD333 follows a penetratingly high trajectory (with a lower spin) and it's true - there is a 'superb soft feel on all shots from tee to...field of oats'. With a rustle and a thud AD333 plugs nicely, lying low to await my chance discovery.

I suppose this particular ball was a bit faulty or something - surely the rest of them do what it says on the tin?

____________________________________


I haven't been to Axe Cliff in years, but spotting that golf ball in the Axe mud brought it all back and before I could stop myself I was falling out of the van, leaping six feet down onto the shore and flapping out over the mud for my prize...

P900 photo from the van. 2000mm zoom and I've got it ID'd to genus and species
Maxfli Noodle Long & Soft. And a #1 no less! Habitat context shot.

Back home I was straight onto the internet...
  • Satiny Soft Core
  • Super-fast and low spinning off the driver for greater distance
  • Slick and quick Surlyn cover makes this ball jump off the club
  • Special Design dimple pattern for high long-carrying trajectory
  • Feather Soft Landings
The usual nonsense. There are only so many ways to convince the owner of an appalling swing that the answer to his prayer lies in this little white thing and its 408 special dimples...

"Yes, sir. I realise that golf balls generally tend to spray off your club face at random, vicious angles and swerve unerringly into the deepest rough, but this one is different. The Maxfli Noodle Long & Soft is going to 'jump off the club' in a 'high, long-carrying trajectory' and enjoy a 'feather soft landing' in the river."

"Sweet. I'll take a dozen."

Monday, 20 January 2020

Winter Doldrums, and a Soapbox

Today is January 20th. In two months exactly it will be March 20th. Assuming I can maintain my current level of birding enthusiasm I would expect to have seen a Wheatear by then. Two months. And by April 20th many other common migrants should have joined Wheatear on the year list that I am not doing. Three months. By that time the flood gates will be open, and a gush of arrivals will be pouring onto the S coast just down the road from my home. Exciting times. There's little to beat the buzz you get from watching tired little passerines flitting over the breakers and across the shingle, and then diving into the first available bit of cover. Very exciting times. And there'll be sea passage too of course. Skuas! Super-exciting times!

But...

Those times are ages off yet. Weeks and weeks. And between then and now are the winter doldrums.

I suppose that old-time sailors caught in the literal doldrums would have needed a survival strategy. A way to eke out their meagre, limited rations until a rich variety of fresh provisions could be found and taken aboard. A way to view the exact same scenery each day without letting it drive them mad. Note the birdy parallels. Perhaps I too need a survival strategy.

In years past I found that year-listing would get me through most of January. There would be the special efforts required for Dipper, Jack Snipe etc, and then it would all come to a grinding halt for about 6-8 weeks until a burst of way-too-premature visits to Beer Head in the vain hope of an early Wheatear. However, now that I don't feel constrained by a patch there are several options open to the ornithologically becalmed...

Gulls
Obviously. Always potential with gulls, and in fact there can often be some good passage - think extra-dark Lesser Black-backed Gulls to compare with the 'intermedius' spectrum on your Kodak Grey Scale - and a decent chance of white-wingers. I've seen Casp and Ring-billed on the Axe in February, and expect to unwrap a lot of sarnies alongside that estuary between now and Wheatears.

Niche stuff
Admittedly there's probably only so much you can squeeze from alba wagtails and tristis Chiffs, but that won't stop me trying. Regarding the Chiffs, I hope eventually to record one calling, or even singing, and there's always the search for more. I've learned today that a Bridport site has two or three tristis present, which gives me hope that there are yet more to discover.

Local Exploration
When it comes to this option I have been deluding myself. I am coming to realise that all the little nooks and crannies that I am 'discovering' (or am likely to 'discover') have, in all probability, long ago been discovered by someone else. It's just that the birder density in this part of W Dorset is so low that you never meet anyone else. Especially inland. So I'll keep at it anyway, if only for the peace and quiet.

Camera Practice
A great way to extract added value from everyday birds. I really enjoy playing around with the P900, and will continue to do that through the next couple of months. Here are a couple of shots from yesterday afternoon. I couldn't face the coast, with all its people and dogs, so pottered around the high farmland E of Eggardon Hill...

Bud-munching Bullfinch, its bill covered with evidence.
One of a decent number of Corn Buntings, maybe 30+

While I'm on the subject of photography, let me share a big disappointment. Remember the Seaton Hole Black Redstart to which I paid homage at the back end of last year? I learned today that photographers have been baiting it with mealworms. I have only heard this, and not seen it with my own eyes, but sadly I have no trouble believing it. Regular readers of this blog will know that I very rarely get on a soapbox about anything (unless you count being a gull apologist) but in this case I'm going to make an exception.

If you are reading this, and have been baiting that bird with mealworms in order to set it up for a nice image, for the purpose of 'likes' and kudos, let me ask you a question: Where is your conscience? If your response is "What do you mean? It's not doing any harm," allow me to share with you just some of the consequences of your actions...
  • For others, you reduce what should be an exciting jaunt to see a confiding wild bird to something cheap and shallow
  • You cause those who put the news out to wish they hadn't
  • You tempt others - especially those who might not know better - to imitate your own selfish ways
  • Togs struggle with bad press as it is - you just add fuel to the fire
  • You decrease the likelihood that future photogenic birds will be publicised
I could have speculated wildly about the negative effects your actions would have on the bird itself, but because I am not so sure of my ground I shan't even go there. However, when it comes to what at least some of your fellow humans think about the matter, I am in absolutely no doubt about that. Please just pack it in.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

A Ton of Chiffs

For many months my exercise regime has been ticking along at 'non-existent' level. Everything went to pot some time before last summer began, and the consequences are visible right there in the outer reaches of my belt. We are in no-spare-holes territory. Desperate straits... So yesterday I dusted down my trusty old Orbit America and mounted it on a turbo-trainer in the man cave. This morning, before the sun had risen, I climbed aboard and cranked out 20 minutes of feebleness...

It was pathetic. But it was a start.

After lunch I burned some more calories by going out birding. But at the pace I walk, not many calories, and certainly not enough to offset the several shortbread rounds that troubled me for their attention at coffee time. So yes, that's something else that's got to change - the biscuit intake. Sigh...

Anyway, once again I tried to do something a little different this afternoon, and spent most of it investigating the Bride Valley, which runs from Burton Bradstock towards Litton Cheney. The stand-out highlight was Water Lane Fish Farm, again somewhere I had previously spotted on the map but never visited...

Water Lane Fish Farm

There is no general access to the place, but a footpath crosses it, so at least you can view across the ponds. Overhead there is a massive network of fine lines, presumably to dissuade birds like Herons and Cormorants from dropping in for freebies, and a modern otter fence surrounds the entire site. Bird-wise there wasn't much to see, but I did spot a Kingfisher, 3 Tufties and these...

Not fish farmers. So the overhead lines don't make the place burglar-proof...

The best feature of the fish farm was its approach road...

Track to Water Lane Fish Farm. Chiffies live here.

I spent quite a lot of time along this track, and counted about 10 Chiffchaffs. Try as I might (and I did) none was a tristis. I know it's a bit wrong, but I felt slightly diddled. So spoiled have I been that anywhere with a double-figure Chiffy count I am almost expecting to hold a Sibe Chiff too. There were also a couple of Goldcrests and a few Long-tailed Tits. Clearly there is plenty of food hatching out of that little ditch.

This Chiff sat here in the sunshine for ages. As soon as I got nearer though...gone.

I just wanted to include this next photo to demonstrate how effectively the P900 can focus past the foreground 'interference' on occasion. A good reason why it is worthwhile setting both the metering and focus on 'spot'. It doesn't work every time, but if you can get close enough to pick out a bit of bird through the twigs and leaves the camera is pretty good at focusing on it. And if you are too far away for that, chances are at least fair to middling that the depth of field will take care of things anyway...

In-focus Chiff through the twigs. Incidentally, it is notable how the legs of a regular collybita Chiff generally look rather red-brown, compared to proper black in tristis.

Nowhere else I tried this afternoon produced anything of interest, but it was nice to investigate these quiet corners anyway. The fish farm site was a pleasant surprise though, and one to note for the future. I finished the day at Cogden Beach, where I saw the orange-fire sun slip all too rapidly below the horizon, but very little else. All in all, a very relaxing bit of birding...

One final thought. Today's bunch of Chiffs got me wondering how many I've actually seen this winter. Adding up the counts from Colyton and Kilmington WTW, Chideock and Puncknowle WRC, the Water Lane Fish Farm and a couple of single birds here and there, I reckon a total of 100 birds is not an exaggeration. One hundred Chiffchaffs! And that's just me. How many others are out there?