Sunday, 6 October 2019

The Bins Get an Outing

It's fair to say that my birding has languished in the doldrums for a while now. And so has my blogging of course. And fishing. And...well...everything. It is true that my time and energies this year have been somewhat stretched by our little home's aching need for some love, but in between zealous bouts of DIY there is no reason why I couldn't have made an effort to get out in the field a bit. Well, I'm happy to say that something has blown a bit of air into my sails, though I'm not entirely sure what.

Ironically, I suspect that a recent unsavoury bit of local birding 'hoax' nonsense has played a part. It reminded me that there is actually a good number of honest, reliable birders in East Devon and West Dorset, and they make up a very supportive and collaborative network of observers. I feel quite privileged to know many of them, and occasionally to contribute. Perhaps I ought to try and contribute a bit more often?

Another factor may well be the season. Autumn. Scilly happenings. A Twitter feed full of exciting birdy stuff. I'd have to be dead not to be stirred at least a little bit.

So anyway, this afternoon I thought I'd go exploring...

There is a stretch of coast between West Bexington and Abbotsbury that I discovered while out on a long run earlier this year. It caught my attention for a number of reasons. Firstly, access is poor; there is no convenient car park. Second, the habitat looks great: a long stretch of shingly beach backed by sloping fields and isolated stands of cover. And third, I don't recall ever hearing bird news from this area, so maybe it's not watched that much? I figured I could park up at West Bex, walk along the lane to Labour-in-Vain Farm, then down to the coast and eastwards, then maybe back along the beach. So, at 16:30 I locked the car, pulled on my boots and set to...

Heading down to the sea from Labour-in-Vain Farm
A bit of tamarisk. Looks nice doesn't it? Mind you, must remember it's, er, not quite Scilly.

By this stage I hadn't seen much. About 4 Chiffs and little else. And then I came across a bunch of gulls on the beach...

Two adult Med Gulls in there. Shouldn't be too hard to pick out.

Just inland of here was a large brown field with a tractor working it, breaking up the big lumps into little lumps (I'm sure there's a technical term) and pulling in a fair few more gulls. Although I couldn't find anything decent in the gull collection, I noticed there were lots of alba wagtails scuttling about, so I tried to see if any might be White Wagtails. I find the subtle autumn albas quite a challenge, but there was at least one on view that even I couldn't muck up...

A nice adult White Wagtail. A bit distant and fuzzy.

There may well have been others out there, but I was suddenly distracted by brown things flitting about. Brown birds on brown soil are tricky to see until they move, but I am pretty sure it added up to 2 Wheatears and 3 Whinchats...

This rather faded adult Whinchat kindly perched on a fence momentarily, whereupon I proceeded to muck up the exposure a bit.

Well, that was it bird-wise, but moments later I had a very nice close encounter with a hare. I say 'very nice', but mixed feelings on this really. It's true that I don't come across hares very often locally, but when I do I would rather they be fit and healthy and a bit shy perhaps. This poor fella was nothing of the kind, and more than a bit knackered if you ask me...

I don't think it could see very well; it let me creep quite close. I could see its nostrils working overtime trying to figure out what this stinky creature might be, and whether it was dangerous. If it had been a rabbit I'd have said it was probably infected with myxomatosis, but sadly Google tells me that recent reports suggest the disease may have passed from rabbits to hares in the UK.
A bit of context.

Finally, as the sun set I walked back along the path by the the beach until I came to the West Bexington car park, and then up the road to my car. I think I might do this again...

Walking west, this road soon peters out into a deeply rutted track and then finally vanishes. It's called the Burton Road, apparently. I challenge anyone to drive along it to Burton Bradstock!


  1. Ha, you parked where Alan and I park every morning except I'm in Cornwall today ahead of sailing to Scilly tomorrow and Alan is currently in Iceland. LiV farm fields and the Coast Guard cottages form the eastern edge of our patch. Beyond now gets very little coverage. Dave Chown does the occasional vis mig watch from a layby there but the last resident birder (Cliff Rogers) moved away two years ago. He found some good birds there including L-t Skua on the beach, Lapland Bunting and Cirl Bunting.. I sure there were others. Incidentally, the eastern Coastguard cottage is lived in by the scientist and engineer Jim Lovelock with his wife Sandy. We went to his 100th birthday party recently.

    1. Hi Mike, thanks for that. It all looks very promising, and certainly makes for an interesting walk. Hope you have a good trip to Scilly. I'm envious...