Monday 8 May 2017

Vaguely Serious Birding and Record Shots

On April 1st I wrote this:

"In a way it's a shame that I just cannot seem to get the birdy juices flowing right now, but I take consolation from the fact that it has happened before; the interest has merely diminished, not died."

And yet here I am just a few weeks later, apparently a full-on birder once again. I must be a nightmare to live with...

I think it was the Redstart which got things rolling. And of course, finding a Hoopoe is basically a class A drug, and I am in serious trouble. Talking of serious, my birding approach has definitely gone up a notch. It is now somewhere on the 'serious' spectrum. But not fully serious. For example, I have begun to cart the camera around with me, but still not the scope. After all, the camera is a piddling little bridge jobbie that weighs about two ounces, whereas the scope/tripod combo tips the scales at almost a hundredweight. I will regret this decision one day. I have in the past, so I know it's only a matter of time before some goody slips through the net because I can't be bothered to carry a scope. Just this morning I had to let a trio of divers go - simply too far out for my bins. I suppose I'd better think about manning up before the inevitable happens.

Anyway, in the meantime here is a post about some not-quite-fully-serious birding...

I'm glad I've decided to take the camera with me because it means I can illustrate my birdy posts with lots of record shots. And 'record shots' is exactly what the vast majority will be. Here is about the very best you can expect:

Stonechat. Not a record shot. No. This is a portrait.

More likely you will get stuff like this:

A Hobby coming in-off on May 5th. At this point it is still well out over the sea. When it decided to make landfall it shot past way too quickly for my camera-pointing skills.

And some more:

Gorgeous Grey Plover on Cogden beach, May 5th.
Wall, Cogden, also May 5th. I know it's a butterfly, not a bird, but 'rubbish pose' and 'highly cropped' are both on the list of #recordshot criteria
Common Sand, Cogden, May 3rd

Which brings us to this morning. Yet another bright and sunny start to the day, with a biting NE wind. Although I was only out for a couple of hours or so before work, I wished I had longer as there was obviously a lot going on. Waders on the beach for a start, as well as passing by. Several little groups of Dunlin and Sanderling. Quite hard to count but I settled for 27 Dunlin and 22 Sanderling. Also a handful of Whimbrel; I ended up with seven.

A Whimbrel legging it, because I'm pretty scary and much too close for comfort.
10 Sanderling. In the true spirit of #recordshot the birds are not only small but also blurry.

There were also passerines. It's funny, whenever you've been out and done a bit of birding, and then later on read the counts of migs at Portland for that day - you know, '10 Redstarts, 15 Whinchats, 60 Willow Warblers, 5 Yellow Wags, etc' - it's so easy to think you must have been walking about with your eyes closed. I have to remind myself that Portland clearly acts like the spout of a funnel, and concentrates birds that would otherwise be across a broad front. Also, there will likely be lots of birders out in the field all day, going through the habbo like a giant flea comb. Whereas most of us are birding what amounts to the mouth of the funnel, for only a small part of the day, with just one or two others or perhaps on our own. So when you walk a mile of coastline and see a Whitethroat skimming across the sea towards the beach, and a Willow Warbler flitting through the sea kale, and a few jumpy Wheatears on the shingle, and a steady trickle of hirundines zipping past, and it's evidently all going off to some extent...well, you can safely assume you're going to see about three percent of it all! Or less!

I saw 7 Willow Warblers, 7 Wheatears, 1 Whinchat, 2 Sedge Warblers, and 1 Spotted Flycatcher. I would say that apart from one of the Sedgies they were all new arrivals, along with at least 1 Whitethroat. Add to that a few other passerines which made landfall too far away to be identifiable. So, using the Three-Percent-or-Less Rule, I can confidently extrapolate my counts to 230 Willow Warblers, 230 Wheatears, 30 Whincats, 30 Sedge Warblers and 30 Spotted Flycatchers. Which is much more like it.

One of the 30 Whinchats on patch today...
...and one of the 30 Spotted Flycatchers likewise.


  1. Keep taking the happy pills Gav..........Derek. Not your Derek the other one

    1. Ha ha! Thanks Derek, I shall request a repeat prescription...