Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Making Up For Lost Lifers

I do enjoy a bit of seawatching. And I've done a fair amount over the years, though mostly from deep within the bowels of Lyme Bay. When you first take up birding you quickly learn that not all sea is equal. This is why birders go to places like Pendeen and Porthgwarra. I guarantee that not a single birder looks at the fantastic seawatching potential of a stormy weather forecast and goes, 'Right, Burton Bradstock here I come!' Not one. And certainly not me. Which is why I went a bit off-patch last week and visited Berry Head.

I was really hoping for one or two large shearwaters, preferably Great Shearwaters. My tally of big 'uns is pretty woeful for someone who's been birding as long as I have. More than a hundred Cory's, but all during a single week in 2008, and all from Porthgwarra. But just one Great Shearwater, and pretty brief views at that. In about a million hours of dedicated examination of the mainly lifeless ocean off Seaton I had one unidentifiable 'large shearwater sp'. And I had another of those off Berry Head last week. So I did seriously think about going again yesterday. The forecast looked pukka, and I was pretty sure it would produce.

Well, it did...

Whatever it is that occasionally impels me to go birding off-patch got it seriously wrong this time. Five days wrong. And having shot my bolt last Thursday I couldn't really justify another jaunt. So. That's that then. Yep, and I also missed out on the two Great Shearwaters they had at Berry Head yesterday. Gutted.

Anyway, the local seawatching completely took my mind off it. Once I'd ungritted my envious teeth I got two hours in from 10:30, and enjoyed a breathtaking 14 Manxies, 3 Sandwich Terns and 3 Kittiwakes, and added another Balearic Shearwater to my monstrous 2020 tally. Thankfully I had my counting clickers with me, or I'd have struggled to keep up. ZZZzzzzzzzz...

This morning it was time to banish the what-ifs by going out and seeing ordinary, common migrants in the [mostly] sunshine, and getting all photographic. Initially at Burton Bradstock before work, then an afternoon visit to Beer Head while I was in the Seaton area...

Yellow Wagtails on the clifftop. Four in this shot, 20 in total.
Yellow Wags are a gorgeous late-August treat.
Juv Peregrine looking for trouble...
...and finding it!
Two Spotted Flycatchers were nice, but not very cooperative.
A 'birder's photo'. Yellow Wags, Burton Bradstock style.
Who needs Pterodromas when you've got these? ...Sob!
Sob! ...and these.

I came across 5 Wheatears at Beer Head this afternoon. I haven't done much birding here since I moved to Bridport, and it was nice to be poking around somewhere that holds so many memories of good birding and good birds. Although it was pretty quiet today, this male Wheatear made up for it by being quite approachable. Forgive the overdose. Just remember I'm in mourning...

And a nice little Beer Head 'birder's photo' to close.


  1. So that'd be a Mourning Wheatear? Wow, that'd get the pulse racing! If it's any consolation, I've never seen a Fea's from Beer Head either. In fact the only halfway decent bird I've seen there was an Ortolan. Pure dross.......

  2. I just got back from a wet blank by the lake...... one slight pull and a deluge, give me yellow wagtails any day.

  3. Gav, I imagine that many of the good days/not so good days on the favoured sea watching sites aren't so much a matter of the conditions on the day, but also on the conditions of the preceding days.
    A spot of hind sight weather system studying could be worthwhile. Saves time. Sit back, wait for an appropriate pattern to emerge, then go...

    To Burton Bradstock. Until it does.

  4. Love thos shots of Wagtails & Wheatears. Very nice.