Thursday, 27 August 2020

Small Pieces of a Larger Picture

I only had time for a quick outing before work today, and was at Burton Bradstock shortly after six. No one was about just yet, so the clifftop path was still hosting a few freshly-arrived migrants: 3 Wheatears and a Whinchat. Not for long though...

06:30 on the clifftop path. A Whinchat and a Wheatear sense that it is almost time to vacate...

Despite the disturbance I stuck with the clifftop, and soon came across a nice flock of 25 Yellow Wagtails hanging around the small herd of cattle...

12 Yellow Wags in this shot

I spent some time watching the delightful Yellow Wags, and checking through them for anything vaguely blue-headed, or better. While doing so I was surprised to spot a small, dark falcon zip in low from my right and have a go at them. My first thought was Merlin, and then I remembered it was still August. I've never seen a local Merlin in August. As it jinked and turned in aerobatic pursuit of a Yellow Wag I could clearly see that it was dark brown, and the Merlin diagnosis persisted! Within a few seconds it had given up and continued rapidly W along the coast, quite high. Of course, as it went away I began to doubt myself. Was it just a small Peregrine? Am I rubbish at falcons? Well, the size, colour, and twisty-turny hunting style convinced me that my initial impression was correct, and it genuinely was a Merlin. So I mentioned it in my local WhatsApp group message later...and was delighted to learn that Dan at Sidmouth had likewise encountered a surprise Merlin this morning!

I love that! When your seemingly insignificant little birding event turns out to be mirrored elsewhere, to fit a pattern of something happening on a grander scale. And I'll come back to that theme again in a moment.

But first, some snaps...

Dreadful light first thing, but these Yellow Wags are doing their best to look cheery. Love 'em!
I came across the Whinchat again later. It had moved a fair old way from its original spot.
I like chats...

With a final tally of 25 Yellow Wags, 8 Wheatears, 2 Willow Warblers, a Whinchat and a Merlin, I tootled off to work for a bit. Later on I sat down to review the night's nocmig recording...

Ooooh, nice, a Green Sandpiper at 21:47! Along with Greenshank, Green Sand is a nocmig species that I've been anticipating for a while, so it was really pleasing to score finally. Still waiting for Greenshank. Another on the hoped-for list is Tree Pipit. So when the recording got to 04:16 and a teeny little squit of noise appeared on the spectrogram, I was really chuffed to hear a Tree Pipit come through the earphones. This is what it looks like...

Tree Pipit. Obviously.

I should point out that the above image is somewhat enhanced. As I originally encountered it, that squiggle would have been about half the width you see there, almost a vertical line. Also, I've filtered most of the background noise in order to make the call stand out. In other words, it would have been so easy to miss it altogether. I'm glad I didn't though, because I subsequently learned that Portland Bird Observatory recorded 746 close Tree Pipit calls last night. Seven-hundred and forty-six! Just the close ones! To have personally recorded zero Tree Pipits in the face of such news would have been so gutting. In the event it turns out that Chris Townend over at Budleigh Salterton in E Devon recorded his first nocmig Tree Pipit last night. So again, our small, insignificant birdy happenings fit something far bigger. Brilliant.

Finally then, a Wheatear photo that captures the local birding vibe quite nicely. Lovely though it is here, I do not have the local coast to myself...

There are many, many walkers of dogs.

2 comments:

  1. I had a nice close Merlin first thing this morning too, when I was out with the dog... probably not the same one as yours... :)

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    1. Ha ha! No, probably not! 😄
      I don't see many Merlins locally, and rightly or wrongly I associate autumn birds with Meadow Pipit passage, ie, September onwards. So today's was a rather unexpected pleasure. 😊

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