Sunday 3 November 2019

Yesterday and Today


To follow on from the last post: tomorrow came, and it was yesterday. First thing in the morning, the SW wind was quite possibly as strong as I've ever witnessed. I'm not one of these nutters who venture out to precarious places and take photos of massive weather in all its roaring glory, so I don't have anything like that to show you. But I did drive to West Bay shortly after 07:00, park up in a sheltered spot and walk into town. My plan was to cross the river, stroll up past the harbour and on round to the Esplanade to see how rough the sea was. Well, I got half way up Quayside, the road that leads to the Esplanade, and bottled it! And there was no 'strolling'! It was a struggle to stay upright at times. As I headed home for breakfast I realised that seawatching was going to be a challenge...

And it was. There were rewards for some Lyme Bay birders though. At the far eastern end, in the Portland Harbour/Ferrybridge area, 160 Kittiwakes, at least 4 Leach's Petrels, 2 Little Gulls and a Pom Skua. But elsewhere it was slim pickings, just a handful of Little Gulls, the odd Grey Phalarope or skua. In the end, I managed about two and a half hours seawatching, from two different spots, split 50/50 morning and afternoon. It was like the wind had scoured the sea clean of birds. Apart from a handful of distant Gannets and the odd foolhardy gull I saw absolutely nothing.

However, it wasn't all bad. For example, at 11:00 I turned green. This doesn't happen often, but is an absolute given when Steve texts from the Axe saying he's found TWO Caspian Gulls together on my old patch. Please see Steve's blog post here for ghastly details: 'Grippin' Gav, Big Time!'

Though I notice Steve has changed the post title now.

So, in the afternoon, when the wind shifted to WSW and moderated to something like a force 11 or 12, I thought I should get out and see if I could find any loafing gulls. I didn't know whether East Bexington would be any good, but nothing ventured, and all that...

It was rubbish. All the gulls had been blown away. So I made the best of it by walking west for around 15-20 minutes to check something out...

On the beach is a great big concrete bunker, thoughtfully constructed in WW2 for future seawatchers. It is so tall and massive that I felt there was good chance it might offer some decent shelter, and was keen to try it out in proper weather. It was perfect! Sheltering in the lee of the thing was utterly serene, after being pebble-dashed by horizontal rain and spray on the walk out there. I thought I had a photo of the architecture itself, but cannot find it. Instead, here's the view...

I guarantee you, not one fraction of one pixel of this shot has been spent on a bird. It is 100% sea, sky, shingle and scope.

I shall doubtless be returning to this spot in the future, because until now I've had little success in finding decent local shelter for seawatching in wet and windy conditions. The only birdy action was a flock of 22 Wigeon that manfully struggled into the wind over my head. They were making such slow progress that I was easily able to count, sex and age each one. And triple-check my findings.


This afternoon I tried East Bex again. A new warbler in the Sallow Clump of Delight: female Blackcap.

And I thought briefly of Steve when I encountered this lot...

40-odd opportunities.
Actually, I'm liking the new camera. This 1st-winter Great Black-backed Thing of Beauty is approximately 100m away.

Caspian Gull is one of the few decent birds I seem capable of finding in recent years, so I will keep looking. In the meantime, I did see something else today that impressed me...

That speckly blur is several thousand Starlings in the air together. They are as far away as those cattle, and in the next shot they have just landed...
What a swarm!

Probably the largest feeding flock of Starlings I've witnessed. Quite a spectacle. I'm enjoying these early jaunts to East Bexington, and most visits have turned up something noteworthy. But that's about it for today. I am inundated with material for NQS right now - a couple of interesting things on Twitter that have made me want to opinonate vigorously, plus the 'Dodgy Birders' series to work on, and the Little Auk Quest has been a Little Auk happens. Might be a long-term thing...


  1. I am genuinely amazed when I hear of seawatchers in those conditions, seeing nothing. When I am on holiday in Suffolk in September I look out to sea from Dunwich and yes, I see nothing. That is not possible in Northumberland. Even on the most dire of days there are Gannets and Auks maybe a red throated diver or two... any theories why there are totally blank days?

    1. Stewart, I wish I knew. It would certainly save me a lot of disappointment. When I read seawatch totals from the NE I am always impressed at the numbers and variety. It's like the seabird M25 up there!