Friday 19 April 2019

The Slacker's Lot

A few weeks ago Kev Hale, one of the Seaton birders, started a patch WhatsApp group and kindly asked if I'd like to be included. Although I haven't contributed much, I have enjoyed keeping tabs on what's being seen on my old patch...

[Ha! Literally as I was typing that last sentence, the following appeared on the WhatsApp message board: 'A boat's just sunk off the Spot On. All people been rescued by lifeboats'. I expect you realised my sentiment mostly relates to bird news though...]

The daily mention of migrant sightings, etc, has prompted me to keep the optics dusted, and I've even made a couple of brief sorties into the field when I've been working in the area. But apart from a few Willow Warblers and the odd Swallow I haven't seen much. Nevertheless, I think the steady drip, drip of bird news - relevant bird news at that - has kind of kept me plugged in, so to speak, and was probably a contributing factor in getting me out seawatching just recently. Which reminds me...

The events of the previous post were not my only seawatching endeavours that day. In the evening Steve posted on the WhatsApp group that a pale phase Arctic Skua had gone E at 19:04. Remembering the Pom-sharing events of two years ago I thought I'd try and see it from Burton Bradstock. I was there by 19:20 but unfortunately the Arctic was a no-show. Even so, I sat there until it was too dark to see, and added c.75 Dunlin (in four groups), 9 Ringed Plovers, 25 Manxies, 3 Common Scoter and 8 Sandwich Terns to the morning's tally. Shortly before I packed up at 20:15 I had a distant flock of what looked like Whimbrel, about a dozen birds. I mentioned this to Steve, who replied that 11 Whimbrel had flown E past Seaton at 19:40. Nice. Incidentally, a quick check through my old Seaton records tells me that 75 Dunlin is the most I've ever seen on a Lyme Bay seawatch!

Anyway, I didn't start this post to talk about seawatching again, but rather to get the birding stuff up to date. Because, finally, this morning I got my finger out and went for an early morning stroll from Burton to Cogden and back...

Last year I saw my first Wheatear on March 20th. Here it is...

20/3/2018. Wheatear at Coronation Corner on the Axe Estuary. Lunch-break jam.

This year there's been no such fluky encounter. Minimal birding effort = no Wheatears at all so far. Serves me right, of course. But honestly, how can a so-called birder get most of the way through April without seeing a Wheatear?? However, I made up for that this morning. At least 15 Wheatears were my first of 2019. Also new for the year: 1 Whinchat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Sand Martin, House Martin, Reed Warbler and a fly-by White Wagtail.

I'd forgotten how exciting it is to see freshly-arrived Wheatears on the beach, and to watch a tiny warbler zip across the shingle into the first bit of cover following its cross-channel epic.

Stuff it! This isn't right! Where's the lighthouse???

There is an urgency to many new arrivals, a need to hurry on inland, and frequently Wheatears on the beach don't stay there long. On my return I bumped into a few of these, plus a cracking little Whinchat...

I'm not saying I'm properly back birding again, but this morning's walk certainly didn't do any harm...


  1. Gav, I was watching off Portland one spring as a small bird came zig zagging it's way in. A cry of 'female Pied' went up. And there it was! right next to me, but for mere seconds. It stopped just long enough to grab a fly off of a rock, and was gone.
    I imagine it's next stop would be it's breeding site.

    1. Superb! Seeing migrants arrive is such a treat :)