Sunday, 20 October 2019

Questions and Answers

Four questions I've asked myself today:
  1. Ooh! Is that a Yellow-browed?
  2. Was that a Woodlark?
  3. Was that a Brambling?
  4. What was that?..a Snow Bunting??
I almost always bird alone, but my memory tells me that questions like these are just as often heard from birding companions too. Though unless you know one another well, it's more likely to be a simple "What was that call?" or "Hello, what's this in the bush?" without the possible indictment of your birding skills that might result if you keep putting a name to stuff and getting it wrong. To illustrate, the answers to today's four questions were:
  1. I very much doubt it. I found a little group of fast-moving Goldcrests and Chiffs and briefly glimpsed something that made me ask the question. It was almost certainly a badly-seen bit of fast-moving Goldcrest or Chiff!
  2. Probably not. A small party of Skylarks was among the birds going overhead. I only heard the sound once, briefly; it was most likely a badly-heard bit of Skylark. And wishful thinking.
  3. Possibly. A pretty good wheezy call out from the vis-mig birds but, as I was virtually on the beach at the time, the sound of the waves drowned it out somewhat, and I couldn't be sure.
  4. Definitely not. This one illustrates how dreadfully rusty I am. Again, a call heard from some overflying migrants, which in this case looked like a party of finches. The bird called two or three times, and it reminded me of the rippling part of a Snow Bunting's call. But as I haven't heard that in many years I had to check it out on the computer when I got home. Er, it wasn't a Snow Bunting! And I have no idea what it actually was.

As you can tell, I've been out birding again. More than once actually. At West Bexington earlier this week I jammed a male Ring Ouzel sitting in full view in a bush about a quarter-mile away, and had fabulous views of a female Merlin hunting the coastal fields in very leisurely fashion for a change. And today I've been out twice...

This morning I went to Burton Bradstock, but only had until 09:00. To be honest I didn't see much, though I did manage to inject some excitement by means of the first three questions above! The vis mig was getting going quite nicely by the time I was leaving, and prior to going out again at 15:00 I noticed from our WhatsApp 'Patch Birding' group that it was still in progress to some extent. As I drove to West Bexington a couple of sizeable flocks of Stock Doves flew across the road in front of me, heading inland. Parking up, it was obvious that small parties of birds of all kinds were still dribbling through across a pretty wide front, mostly heading somewhere between W and NW. If anyone had been keeping a vis-mig tally all day long I can imagine the totals being pretty amazing. At 15:30 I was standing in Labour In Vain Lane, scanning the distant bushes where I had the Ring Ouzel a few days ago, when I picked up the unmistakeable (this time!) call of a Woodlark somewhere overhead. It was following the line of the lane towards me, and went over quite low and away W, calling constantly. Brilliant! No Ring Ouzels today though...

Down to the sea and eastwards. I must write a post about Med Gulls some time soon, because today they were so ridiculously abundant that they did themselves a disservice really. Yes. It was terrible. Today they almost became... and that 'almost' is important, because I feared this might one day happen and I never, never want it to and am therefore resisting the idea... they almost became... (whisper it)... dross.

So anyway, enough of that heretical talk. Let me tell you about my optics. Today I was using Mrs NQS's bins...

On loan from Mrs NQS: the diddy little Nikon 8x30
Using these little beauties today confirmed for me just how overdue were my Zeiss for a proper refurb. These are crystal clear, sharp and contrasty. My poor old Dialyt 10x40 BGAT are not. Four years ago I thought they still compared quite favourably with my buddy Paul's modern Leicas. But recent times have seen them get all misted up inside. Knackered. When I bought them in 1987 I had high hopes that they might see me out, and if the Sussex-based optical wizard to whom I've sent them is able to work the necessary magic, they may yet...

I will let you know.

Also today, the first outing for my new bridge camera (more of which in another post), which meant it got pointed at all sorts of stuff...

22 Stock Doves W at 16:13. How many through the day I wonder??
17 more Stock Doves W at 16:26
I'll finish off with these two Stonechat pics. Normally I wouldn't have bothered even making the effort, because the light was very dim (it was almost 17:30 and overcast) and they weren't even close, but I was curious to see what the camera could do. I don't have any proper settings sussed yet, so these are simply on aperture-priority, ISO 100-400 auto, with the aperture opened up as wide as possible. Well, at a 35mm equivalent focal length of 1800mm (!!) that isn't very wide - f6.3 in fact. These are also hand-held shots, relying 100% on the camera's image-stabilising software. The shutter speed is a pathetic 1/30 sec. Frankly I am staggered. Those Stonechats are about 40m away (the female a bit further I think) and both images are uncropped...


  1. Shows how far cameras have advanced Gav. Those shots would have done Eric Hosking justice at his best.

    1. Just used it this morning to photograph a Med Gull on the beach while I was seawatching. I'm dead impressed!

  2. Those wee nikons are brilliant bins! We have a pair in the house for those "whats that going over" moments. The only thing is they arent particularly robust, and therefore are quite easy to knock out of alignment. Great otherwise though!

    1. Terrific aren't they?! Thanks for the warning though. Because they're Mrs NQS's bins I treat them much better than my own, so hopefully they won't come to any harm.

  3. Hello Gavin

    Great blog it is superb! I had a good old read last night. I can relate to the fishing and bird watching during the 1970's and early 80's being a sixties baby. I tend to use vintage tackle nowadays but I still have some carbon. I really enjoyed reading about your early days. I also miss West Dorset after living there in Bridport then Beaminster from 2004 - 2011, walking around some of areas that you have visited. Sadly we had to move back to Hampshire due to ill heath in the family. I have a keen interest in old optics especially from my youth, and was wondering what became of your Diaylts, did they get refurbished or have you moved on? I did spot an Optylth rainguard on one of your Sea watching session.

    Stay safe

    Kindest Regards