Saturday 30 November 2019


This morning was the first time in a while that seawatching has felt a reasonable (as opposed to perverse) option. The forecast ESE wind made me get up early and head for East Bexington. It was worth it. By 09:35 I'd tallied 23 Common Scoter, 19 Brents, 4 Teal, 2 Wigeon, 1 Goldeneye (Lyme Bay seawatch quality!), 2 Great Northern Divers, a Red-throated, 2 Kittiwakes, 1 Fulmar and 1 Dunlin. By the time I packed up, Gannets and auks were moving in the sort of numbers which almost made me wish I'd been counting them too. Almost. Apart from a few Scoter, everything went east. Quite a few gulls were passing close in as well, including several Lesser Black-backed. All-in-all a fair bit of action, and I went home pleased I'd bothered.

Earlier this week I dropped into Lyme Regis for a change, and had a very quick look at Monmouth Beach. For some reason I've only been birding there on a couple of occasions, which is a bit poor considering how attractive it can be for birds. The first time was a twitch back in September 2008...

Yes, Monmouth Beach has had some classy birds. Juv Sabine's Gull.
I wasn't the only birder sitting in the soggy wrack. That Sabine's was one obliging bird.

It's good for Grey Phalaropes here too, and there was indeed one offshore that day. Nothing quite as spectacular on my brief on-spec visit in the week, but I was dead pleased to have a Black Redstart pop up in front of me. It allowed just a couple of quick photos before vanishing like they do...

I know that sexing the brown ones is a bit iffy, but surely that bright wing flash means it's a young male?

So, on to the subject of this post. Inland. If you drive the main A35 east from my home to Dorchester you climb out of Bridport to some high ground, and lying to the north is a broad expanse of farmland. The area is a favourite for me and my bike, and cycling the lanes there has given me lots of Yellowhammers, a handful of singing Corn Buntings, and a Merlin once. Birding it properly has been on my to-do list for ages. But you know how it is... Anyway, back in October a friend showed me a photo her farmer husband had taken up there. "It's a very wet owl", she said, passing her phone. Expecting a Barn Owl, or maybe a Tawny, I was surprised to see it was actually a rather bedraggled Short-eared Owl, perched up in pouring rain. "On your land?" I asked. The affirmative reply encouraged me to revisit my to-do list. But you know how it is...

Anyway, this week I finally decided to stop being so bloomin' idle, and drove up there for a good poke around. I had about two hours to spare, and just pootled about, stopping and scanning from any likely-looking spot. It was hard work finding birds, but not without reward. One field held some Lapwings plus an attendant flock of 17 Golden Plover. I found at least 100+ Skylarks, and a decent mixed bunting flock - lots of Yellowhammers and 20+ Corn Buntings. There were also good numbers of Stock Doves and loads of winter thrushes. It's a very long time since I've tried birding farmland, and I'd forgotten that birds can often be concentrated into small areas - they certainly are not evenly spread. A massive flock of Linnets erupted out of one field I looked in, and they were the only Linnets I saw. Another, very large field held two 4WD trucks bearing cargos of khaki-clad shooters. No wonder the Red-legged Partridges were looking jittery.

The highlight was seeing all those Corn Buntings so close to home. One of my better 'quality' Beer Head finds was a Corn Bunting, a species so scarce in Devon that it provoked a modest county twitch when it stuck around. So having them just down the road now is a real pleasure. I shall try not to neglect my local inland countryside quite so much in future...

Corn Bunting near Eggardon Hill. Hardly eye-candy, but nevertheless very nice to see.
Fieldfare. They don't let you get anywhere near them, do they?!


  1. As much as I’d like to live and bird by the coast Gav, what you describe in your post as inland birding gets my vote all the time. Largely un-watched and, as you said recently, a path less travelled.

    1. I can see the attraction. It's not easy birding, but clearly there are rewards to be had. I've just learned via Twitter that one of the West Bex regulars had a Monty's up there a few years back, and that it's been a regular haunt of Quail. My list of places to 'keep an eye on' is getting longer and longer!