Wednesday 24 June 2020

The Rough and the Smooth

Most of the time I have little trouble writing NQS posts, but right now there are a couple of draft efforts on my laptop, unfinished. It's no problem to write about going birding, seeing birds, stuff like that. But there are other things.

In this cosy corner of West Dorset it is not difficult to stick your head in the sand and ignore those other things. This blog normally does. One example. A few months ago I wrote a post about twitching, which basically concluded that it's just a bit of harmless fun. Yet we have right now the unedifying spectacle of English twitchers reportedly flouting Irish lockdown rules in order to tick Cayenne Tern. Not to mention the planet burning. Low carbon birding? That's the first time I've typed those three words together. Because I've avoided it. Another example. Living where I do, it's dead easy for me to champion the local patch approach. Because I have never been mugged, threatened with a knife, had my phone smashed to prevent me calling the police, or had my optics damaged or nicked while out birding. Those things have all happened, and probably worse that I've not heard about. When your local patch offers that possibility, is it any wonder you'd rather travel elsewhere?

Anyway, this post isn't going to tackle any of that, but maybe I just need to get my head out of the sand once in a while.

Quite probably the reason for the less-than-cheery preamble is yesterday's visit to East Bexington. The plan was a short evening walk with Sandra, hopefully to see some hares. You park at Abbotsbury Beach and head west...

On arrival, around 8pm, the car park was heaving. That was unexpected. A few tents were pitched too. Up on the beach it was like a mini festival, with tents everywhere, many in little clusters. Perhaps it normally gets like this in good weather, even midweek, but it's certainly a first for me. Due to Covid-19 the beach toilets are closed. So what are hundreds of people, all eating and drinking, going to do?

As you walk west, towards relatively deserted beach and lonely fields, you pass a couple of big tamarisk clumps. Just a glance - and your nostrils - tell you everything. It is foul.

Abbotsbury Beach from about half a mile away. Several hundred people in that shot.

Many years ago on the Isle of Lewis, I remember meeting a couple who had moved there to get away from people. Even my mild intrusion into their lives was not very welcome. I totally get it.

Right, that's enough unpleasant reality for the moment. We did see some hares, but none close. We also saw a couple of Corn Buntings. I would guess they were a pair. One was perched on an umbellifer, the other on a fence wire, and they were calling to one another. So I got my recorder out and switched it on. Since the H4n Pro has become part of my kit I have found a few opportunities to make use of it, and really enjoyed doing so. A nice sound recording provides exactly the same pleasure as a decent photo. I think I am gradually working towards having the device rigged so that it is actively recording the whole time I am in the field. We'll see...

This Corn Bunting had no problem vocalising through that mouthful of cricket

Later that evening I ventured east of Bridport, on to some high farmland around Eggardon Hill, West Compton and Compton Valence. I was on a Quail quest. Many stops, much listening. Quail fail, sadly. But before it got too dark there were some nice consolation prizes: several roe deer, a badger, and great views of a Barn Owl, a bird I see all too rarely.

If I can get my aged carcass to respond tomorrow morning, there will be an early jaunt, well away from my fellow man, many of whom I don't much like right now...


  1. Nice blog Gavin. As a confirmed misanthrope I am constantly disappointed with Mans behaviour.

    1. Thanks Dave. By nature I'm an optimist, but the trouble with that attitude is the constant disappointment that goes with it. Just wears you down...