Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Includes a Garden Whale

On Monday night I settled down for a bit of naked nocmigging, expecting the usual silence, and within a few minutes a Moorhen called, directly overhead! Unmistakable, just the sort of noise you'd hear if you startled one out of the bankside vegetation during a stroll round your local lake. I was ridiculously chuffed, out of all proportion to the status of the species involved. Number 36 on my #BWKM0 list, and a new one for the garden.

Last night I gave it an hour. Within seven minutes I heard a faint, presumably distant, Canada Goose. Number 37.

Sitting in the garden after dark, ears cocked, has become slightly addictive. My hit rate is dire, yet I keep trying. I simply cannot help myself. However, I am not the world's best at calls, and need to up my game. And I will. More on that later...

This morning it was another long walk. A chap in West Bay noticed my bins and said "Are you looking for birds?" Responding to my affirmative, he went on: "There's a nice Sandwich Tern perched on a buoy in the harbour." It was great to get gen from a fellow 'exerciser'. There currently seems to be a marked increase in friendliness (in a two-metres-plus kind of way) when locals encounter one another. I don't think I'm imagining it. And if it helps me see birds, terrific...

Phwoarr! Sarnie. What a cracker.

And another, slightly more distant shot to give it a bit more context...

Great hair-do.

Not too long after this I came across a fresh-in male Wheatear. I will never tire of Wheatears. Especially spring males. They are simply outstanding little things. I spent a bit of time with this bird, and although it was never confiding, the P900 did it proud. I believe there is a saying: 'you can never have enough Wheatear photos'...

There isn't? Please let there be.

I am a sucker for this pose. As you will notice...
Leatherjacket breakfast.

And while we're on chats...

Stonechat. Having them breeding on my doorstep is easy to take for granted. Mustn't.

Most of the rest of the day was spent in the garden. Adding to the #BWKM0 list has been a slow but steady process. As of today I am on 39, with Long-tailed Tit added yesterday and House Martin today. Best bird this afternoon was Red Kite x4. Three came over simultaneously (two went W, one S) and another single S later, encouraged on its way by a Herring Gull.

Red Kites. The two that drifted W
And the one that got grief.

And finally, cetacean of the day. Around 10:55 a plane flew over. Planes are infrequent right now, so I had a look at it. The odd shape reminded me of the subject of a tweet which Cliff Smith posted a few days back, and belatedly I thought to get the camera out and take a snap. This decision coincided with it heading away into cloud, and the two photos are shockingly bad. However, it is pretty amazing what you can extract from a digital image if you're prepared to be brutal...

On the left: my original smear. On the right: Beluga! BGA114D Airbus en route from Toulouse to Chester. With grateful thanks to John Down for the gen.

Needless to say, this is the first whale I've seen from my garden.

Earlier I mentioned upping my game re bird calls etc. Ooh! That reminds me! Today I heard a singing Goldcrest. Which is brilliant. Why? Because I could hear it. Some ears of similar vintage have not heard Goldcrest for a while. So I am pleased. Anyway, I was saying...

I have ordered a digital sound recorder. Living as I do in Dorset, one day something is going to fly over me in the dark, going 'plik'. Once. Faintly. And when that happens I want to be able to save that 'plik' for posterity. To replay it at my leisure, time and time again. To view its smudgy little spectrogram with self-satisfied delight.

After all, one cannot live in Dorset and not have Ortolan on the garden list.


  1. I think naked noc-migging with a back-up recorder switched on by your side must be the best way to play this game. Of course, if it picks up something mega that your ear missed....ouch!

    1. I can't really imagine not hearing something that was picked up by the recorder. Even if Can you? (wink, wink)