Sunday 12 January 2020

Some Chiffs, a Walk, and a Puzzle

This afternoon I visited Puncknowle, a small village inland from West Bexington. Just down the hill lies a little sewage works, a facility with which I've become quite familiar this winter. Obviously this was a Sibe Chiff hunt, and in fact my second attempt at this location. Last time the weather was lousy, and I managed maybe six Chiffs and a few Goldcrests. This time the weather was nice, and I managed maybe six Chiffs and a few Goldcrests, so at least it's being consistent. All the Chiffs were non-tristis. A couple came quite close at one point, and out of curiosity I played some tristis song to them. No reaction whatsoever; they were oblivious. So I tried some collybita song. Wow! They both went bananas, coming closer and wing-quivering like the Kilmington tristis birds did. A short while later a single bird was quite near, so I tried some abietinus song on it (which sounds just like collybita to me) and had the very same response. Interesting...

Anyway, Puncknowle Water Recycling Centre has had its chance and been found wanting, so I doubt I'll bother again this winter. I'm not upset, because access is rubbish.

Puncknowle WRC. I mean, where else would you want to go on a sunny Sunday afternoon?

From Puncknowle it's an easy drive to Cogden, where I parked up and strolled down to the beach, then slowly E towards the West Bexington Mere. There was hardly anyone about. Perfect.

I was barely birding really, it was more a walk with bins and camera. If there had been a Snow Bunting on the beach it would need to have mugged me to get noticed. I was hoping for a few gulls to check out, but it was absolutely dead, and soon the metronomic step after step of shingly trudge became almost hypnotic. Bliss-s-s-s-s...

Before you reach the Bex Mere there are a few fields lying back from the beach. I've had Corn Bunting here a couple of times, so wandered over to check them out. Two or three modest flocks of Linnets went past, and then I came upon something a lot more interesting - a bunch of Yellowhammers. Popping up and down between their feeding spot and adjacent hedge, they were too distant to go through properly with bins. There were at least 60+ birds, and I looked carefully for anything obvious, like male Cirl Bunting, and I think I would have picked out any Corn Buntings too, if they'd been present. I think. Just to be on the safe side I took several maximum-zoom photos of birds on the deck, intending to check them out on the laptop when I got home... like this one. Lots of lovely Yammers.

On the way back to Cogden I followed the seaward edge of Burton Mere, which is basically a reed bed, and flushed a Snipe, and then a Water Rail - the first I've actually clapped eyes on at Cogden - and listened carefully for Bearded Tits. No joy with the latter, but I know that one local birder has seen birds here on a couple of occasions quite recently. A nice Bullfinch up near the car park...then home.

So, it's been quite fun sifting through the Yellowhammer pics, looking for a nice surprise of some sort. I don't know what I was hoping for really, but I did get this little puzzler...

Hmmmm. That doesn't look like a warm, chestnut rump to me.

The only other species I noticed among  the Yellowhammers were a few Chaffinches and a single Linnet. So what's this? I can't see a likely culprit on any of the other photos. Answers on a postcard to: Mystery Bird Competition, NQS...


  1. Well, depending on the colour balance (everything seems maybe a little too warm-hued?) it could be an Ortolan. Stick an 'arctic filter' on it, see if it looks closer to one?

    1. Cheers Seth. A January Ortolan would be seriously outrageous! I wondered if it might be a Corn Bunting I'd overlooked, and apparently there are two in the area. Other suggestions so far are Reed Bunting, Stonechat and female Cirl. At the moment I'm liking the Cirl option best.

      I think you're right, the photo looks a bit too warm. It was lit by late-afternoon sun, which probably contributes to that. I do know that photos can lie, but I'd be well chuffed if the Bex regulars turned up a Cirl Bunting tomorrow. And gutted if they find an Ortolan I'd overlooked! ;-)

  2. Hi Gav,
    I've sent you a message via your twitter message to me- use as much or as little as you want. It's not particularly conclusive a response!