Monday, 31 August 2020

Vole for Breakfast

I planned a long, slow walk along the coast this morning, and a hefty tally of migrants. In the event it looked like there were few new arrivals, and I'm fairly sure that most of the 10 Wheatears and 6 Whinchats I counted were yesterday's birds. Never mind, it was a lovely morning and there was plenty to look at...

Highlight was a cracking Barn Owl at East Bexington, hunting in broad daylight. It promptly caught a vole and perched up quite close. Camera out...!

A bit overcast and gloomy still at 07:05, but the camera didn't do too badly.

I very rarely see Barn Owls locally. My last was in early summer, while out listening for Quail one evening, but it was almost dark. The one before that ago. So forgive me for including a couple more photos of what is for me a novelty...

I suddenly realised it was going to consume the vole right there in front of me, so switched to video mode...

Unfortunately that's as much as I got. Stupidly I attempted to shift a few feet to where I could rest the camera on a rock. The Barn Owl thought I was taking liberties, moved its meal to a more distant post, turned its back on me and did the deed off camera.

So, other than missing the big swallow, a brilliant start to the morning. Although it failed to deliver the migrant numbers I was hoping for, there was a steady flow of hirundines overhead, and by the time I headed for home I had a nice list of bits and pieces, in addition to the Wheatears and Whinchats noted above...

Best was a Grasshopper Warbler, seen really well but all too briefly, only my second of the year. Also a Spotted Flycatcher, 11 Willow Warblers, 7 Chiffs, 13 Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler. 22 Yellow Wags (including a flock of 18) were all flyovers, heading E, as was my first Wigeon of the autumn, heading the other way.

East Bex Whinchat. I've a feeling this might have been a new one.
And the West Bex version.

The other day, as I was fiddling with yet another Wheatear pic, Sandra asked what I was going to do with all these photos. I was a bit stumped for an answer. The vast majority are just record shots really, and I have no plans for any of them. When opportunities arise I enjoy trying to get a photo, and I enjoy illustrating this blog with some of the results. I realise most are pretty naff, but do I care? Clearly not.

If I stop and think about it, all the shots of common birds, distant birds, birds in flight, birds I've photographed a thousand times...they're just so much practice for the day when some crippler pops up in front of me. I take photos all the time, frequently with no hope of anything decent. The camera has become as important to me as my bins are. On occasion I have reached for it first! If I scanned through NQS I can think of several birds whose photographic images are even more impressed upon my memory than the visual ones. Without the photos, the experience would be diminished somehow. The Cogden Red-backed Shrike springs to mind as an obvious example, also the Seaton Serin, and loads of gulls...

Strange isn't it? From a cumbersome, expensive luxury years ago, a camera has now become such an indispensable part of my birding kit that I would seriously struggle without it. In fact, I don't think I could bear to go gull-watching with no camera. The thought of finding a Caspian Gull and not being able to get photos is too hideous to contemplate.

Does any of this make me a photographer? Definitely not!


  1. Start deleting Gav! You have to be ruthless!

    1. Don't listen to him Gav. Flash memory is cheap, load 'em up and enjoy the memories when you are stuck in on a long, wet winter day.

      But please, if you are photo graphing owls, at least remove those annoying long pieces of grass beforehand. ;o)

    2. Stewart, I've just started a deleting regime. I tend to edit and resize the best from any batch, and use some of those on the blog. The rest are surplus to requirements anyway, and will systematically be ousted from the hard drive...

      Dave, good idea re flash drives. I ought to use them for backup anyway. Thanks. And yes, sorry about that slender, twiggy thing. Didn't see it at the time. 🙄

  2. Poor Vole! Goes out to nibble some sedges and ends up down an Owl.