Sunday 22 November 2015

Patch Progress

I think it is now safe to say that I have definitely adopted a new patch. Three people bear responsibility for this: Ian McLean, Steve Waite and James McCarthy - all of whom suggested it - and especially James, who works it already and extended an enthusiastic invitation to share it. The place? Regular readers (can I say that yet?) will know it is Cogden, in West Dorset. A couple of maps...

As you can see, there are fields, hedgerows, scrubby bits, a reedy mere and a wide beach. There is also sea! The yellow line more or less delineates the border, but it isn't cast in stone. I reckon the beach frontage measures a little under a mile. The B3157 runs along a ridge which I would guess at comfortably over 100ft in elevation, so the entire patch slopes gently down to the sea, and faces SW. Imagine how utterly ghastly that's going to be on a warm, calm day...
This one puts the Cogden patch in its West Dorset context. Note West Bexington just to the SE - well worked, with a proven track record. Also, Seaton and the Axe approximately 15 miles due W - mostly rubbish of course, redeemed only by an estuary which gets gulls. A similar distance away to the SE lies a massive lump of rock, home to many rabbits.
Cogden is a five mile drive from my home, around 10 minutes or so. I'd prefer closer of course, but reckon this modest journey is a small price to pay for what is evidently going to be some interesting and (I hope) rewarding birding.

So, how's it going?

My first visit, in pouring rain just over two weeks ago, yielded a hefty 14 species! Very slowly the patch list began to grow, and last Friday a walk around with James produced a few nice bits: 3 Golden Plovers, 3 Mistle Thrushes and a juv-type Marsh Harrier, only James' third at Cogden. All good. Yesterday I got down for a late afternoon visit in the biting NW and added 3 Lapwings and 3 Brent Geese, and flushed 2 Snipe off the beach. My patch list now stood at 48.

And so to today...

It's been a long time since I witnessed any of the amazing late autumn Woodpigeon migration that this part of the country is renowned for, and the forecast looked good for this morning. I knew I only had until about 09:00, and managed to make it to Cogden in time for sunrise...


That thin sliver running along the horizon is Portland
The Woodpigs came, thousands of them. Mostly fairly high, in slowly writhing, sinuous clouds. It truly is a birding spectacle. I made no effort to count them; I was much too interested in patch-ticking. Once I'd winkled out a few Stock Doves I tried to concentrate on what else was going on. A bit tricky, because there was too much! Heading E along the beach it was hard to know where to look. There were birds flying W overhead and inland, birds passing on the sea, and I really didn't have much time! Highlights included: a female Goldeneye W, Curlew and Oystercatcher, 2 Wigeon and a Teal, several Siskins, a Razorbill and a surprise House Martin! A lot of finches went past, but unfortunately I couldn't dig out a Brambling. Annoyingly I am pretty sure I briefly heard the pinging of Bearded Tits from the reedbed, but couldn't swear to it, saw nothing, and couldn't wait around. Ah well. By the time I climbed back in the car my Cogden list was on 59. However, this afternoon I added another species without even visiting the patch...

Walking back along the beach this morning I heard a fairly muted corvid commotion going on behind me, and turned around to see a Crow hassling another Marsh Harrier! Excellent! I managed to whip out the camera and get a couple of lousy shots. Here's one:

Not a Crow. Number 60 - Rook!!


  1. There are pool/marsh frogs in burton mere if that sort of thing takes your fancy!

    1. Thanks Martin, I always found those at Dungeness quite entertaining if the birding was slow, so I'm sure they'll be a nice alternative to Mackerel fishing!

  2. I have stopped by a few times when passing but never in my new guise as a dipterist and it looks good for a few flies. So you might bump into a bloke waving a sweep net on a sunny day.

    I'll nick a few mackerel off you too.

    1. If you ever come a-dipterising please bring disposable barbeque, and we can share the mackerel!