Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Powerful Urges

Readers of this blog may have noticed a very slight decline in the standard of my birdy pics. To make amends for trying your patience thus, I have blagged this so-so shot of yesterday's Hoopoe from Mike Morse...

Just wow! (Thanks Mike!)

I first saw this on Twitter yesterday. Straight away I poured it carefully into a tall glass and stirred in every last ounce of buzz that I got from finding it. A heady brew. I am still under its influence and subject to long-forgotten and powerful urges...

Which is why I was up at first light and out birding by about 5:30!

Migrants too are subject to powerful urges. Despite a brisk headwind no doubt making the Channel crossing a right drag, they still come. Relentlessly. However, being a bit knackered after all that, they sensibly pause for a breather rather than rush off northwards immediately. I counted 14 Wheatears between Burton Bradstock and Cogden. My highest ever May count on the Seaton patch was 6! A Common Sandpiper and a rather grey Willow Warbler added to the interest. I had to be gone by 7:30 but the evident action had me vowing to return later if I could...

At 3pm I was back at the Hive Beach car park in Burton Bradstock. As I tied my boots a Yellow Wag flew over calling. There were Wheatears on the grassy slopes still. Excellent! A long walk later I had a very pleasing tally of birds to savour: 9 Wheatears, 1 Yellow Wag, 1 Whinchat, 2 Spot Flys, 1 Garden Warbler (seen, not singing), c15 Willow Warblers, 4 singing Lesser Whitethroats, 1 Cuckoo, plus brief views of an accidentally-flushed Tawny Owl.

I was on the inland edge of the patch when the Cuckoo flew straight past me and headed down towards the sea, disappearing over a hedge. To give this some context, here is my record with spring Cuckoos on the Seaton patch: 2 heard in 2005 (April 21 and May 15) and one flying E at Beer Head, being mobbed by a Pied Wag, on April 19, 2007. And that's it. Plus I have never seen or heard one in all the countless springtime hours I've spent working outdoors locally. So it is 10 years since I've seen a spring Cuckoo in these parts, and today's is only my 2nd in 15 springs! I've seen more Hoopoes!!

A good day.

My van is booked in for a service tomorrow morning, but there is plenty of daylight available before it's due at the garage. And if I can get up early, there will be urges. Powerful ones...


  1. Gav, I read this post of yours first and was thinking it was you simply finding a Hoopoe on twitter that got you going. Surely twitter isn't that good?
    Great find.
    I confess I'm yet to see one at all.
    Meanwhile, I added a new bird to my local patch which I've wandered around on for over forty years.
    Not often is the air punched on seeing a Mute Swan!

    1. Ric, that is very surprising. Assuming you're talking about Bentley Priory, there is a lake after all!
      I've not seen that many Hoopoes, maybe 8 or so, but when it comes to vanishing without trace they are easily on a par with Great Grey Shrike.

  2. Yes Gav. There once was a pair of Mutes on the lake but not since a 'run-in' with dogs. My feeling is that any swan would think twice about landing there, since the trees which have grown up, would make getting off the lake a bit awkward.
    As for Hoopoes vanishing without trace. I remember a day-list attempt by Moon and company going astray as they attempted to trace one that had been flushed off the margins of; was it KG6?, but seen only by one of the party.
    That one had clearly kept going.
    I went to BP yesterday. Pretty duff. It isn't the south coast.

    1. There's a story in that, Ric. The day-list attempt was in 1985 or 86. The team was Andrew Moon, Pete Naylor, Rupert Hastings and me. We were doing okay (though not brilliantly) when we arrived at King George VI Res some time in the afternoon. The res was partly drained, and lurking among the ducks in the weedy margins had recently been a Teal - not an easy bird to get in early May. We pitched up on the N bank and fixed our scopes upon the NW corner. A couple of ducks were prodding about, but no Teal visible. We assumed it was asleep in the weeds. Someone needed to head over there and chivvy it out. Having been up since about 03:00 we were all knackered. There was a lot of grumbling and unwillingness. In the end AVM drew the short straw and set off. The rest of us sat there scoping the far corner. After a while a few ducks began to swim out. I cannot recall if there was a Teal among them, but I can recall what happened next. Someone looked to see what Andrew was up to. He was waving like a nutter...

      Yes, he had flushed a Hoopoe off the concrete apron of the res, which had flipped over the top of the N bank and "surely couldn't have gone far."

      That neatly put the kibosh on our Big Day.

      I did eventually see a Hoopoe in London - at Kempton Park Res in the early '90s - but spent a long time ruing my idleness that day.

      I've just had a nasty thought: AVM and myself are the only ones still alive...