Sunday, 8 November 2015

A Little Journey

In the late autumn of 2004 I made my first explorative trips up Beer Head, a 10-minute, three mile drive from my then home in Seaton, Devon. Apart from quite a few October Chiffs I didn't see much, but in early November I had a Firecrest and Ring Ouzel in consecutive visits. This was enough to get me making a proper effort in 2005 and it was soon apparent that in the right conditions Beer Head would serve up a nice helping of common migrants. Then in September I jammed a Dotterel, in October had up to eight Ring Ouzels, and finally in November a fly-over Richard's Pipit. It's fair to say that Beer Head was by now 'on the map' and regularly visited by other local birders.

Now for a bit of grippage...

Beer Head goodies were not always as obliging as you would like. In 2006 and 2009 I was fortunate enought to co-find the patch's only Ortolan Buntings. Here's the latter...

Dire pic of course, but do you think I care?!

In April 2007 Stevie found Beer Head's only Mega - an Iberian Chiffchaff. In the next photo you can't really make it out, but Karen is dangling her camera over the fence to record the song, a crucial factor in getting the bird past the BBRC.

The Iberian Chiff was an absolute pig to actually see, as it skulked away in the undercliff scrub. Unlike the next bird which, though technically not Beer Head's rarest bird, was certainly it's most spectacular...

Great Spotted Cuckoo. Again, photo quality not great, but hey-ho, that's hardly the point!

Interestingly the GS Cuckoo turned up in April 2014, by which time I was phasing badly. Happily, my fellow patchers hadn't quite given up on me and I got a text. My word, how grateful I was! What a stunner! It even generated a little twitch...

A clearly chuffed Tim White et al

So there you have it, a tightly edited journey through the development of Beer Head as an integral facet of the diamond that is the Axe/Seaton patch.

As far as I am aware nobody ever gave Beer Head more than a cursory looking-at prior to 2004, so not surprisingly it certainly felt at the time as if I was breaking new ground. That, however, cannot be said about Cogden. The little journey upon which I am about to embark here is on an already broken trail. While Cogden may well be relatively underwatched, it certainly has history! I know that James McCarthy pulled out an Ortolan this year, but I also had a trawl through the Dorset Birds blog and found - over the last five years - Richard's Pipit, Wryneck almost annually, Cirl Bunting, a superb adult Long-tailed Skua on the beach, and assorted other bits and bobs. I was especially encouraged to see that Glaucous, Iceland and Sabine's Gulls have also been recorded and, best of all, not just flying past but, like the skua, lingering on the beach. Gulls! Oh yes!


  1. I'm currently phasing badly ...since when? Err... let me think... Oh yes, April 2014 :-(
    Nice to know I did see Beer Head's rarest though.

    1. Oh dear, sorry to stir less than happy memories K. :-(
      In consolation, you have scored some cracking gulls though, eh? ;-)