Saturday 3 October 2020

The Hackneyed Cliché

You've got to be in it to win it!

Definitely one of my least favourite clichés. Unfortunately it is also a tedious truism, and as I lounged, partially embedded in my comfy sofa at lunchtime, peering out at the greyness and teeming rain, it sprang annoyingly to mind. Because indeed, you have got to be in it to win it...

My Twitter feed, like that of every other birder who uses this form of social media, is rigid with rareness, most of it on the east coast or northern isles. Mix that with amazing numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers and many other even scarcer birds, and you have a potion that ought to galvanise even the laziest birder into action. Except that West Dorset is not East Yorkshire. Still, we are blessed locally with some marvellous habitat and a gorgeous bit of coast, and of course you never never know...

This was exactly my thinking yesterday afternoon too. I wasn't able to get out till quite late, but the rain largely bypassed me, so I was able to tramp the Cogden paths with no more than soggy boots to show for it. However, it was a fair old bit of graft for a tally of 5 Chiffchaffs and 3 Blackcaps! I'm not complaining though, because there were birds all over the place. Little groups of Meadow Pipits flicking about, the constant dipping and twisting of hirundines - mainly House Martins - in the lea of the coast road ridge. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It's just that there were no particular highlights.

Which brings me to today. I was busy this morning, but after lunch there was nothing to stop me heading out the door and giving Cogden another bash. Nothing, that is, except my own inertia. It was raining. It was dank and gloomy. Yuck.

But. You've got to be in it to win it!

The hackneyed cliché. The tedious truism. I gathered waterproofs, retrieved wellies from the garage, and headed out...

And within five minutes I accidentally flushed a Short-eared Owl! Ha! Interestingly it was a spot I'd always fancied for the species, and here it finally was, my first Dorset SEO. It headed away east, over a hedge and out of view. It dropped low enough to make me suspect that it wasn't going far. Meanwhile I continued in the opposite direction. Five minutes later and there was another! This one was airborne already, and landed some distance away. I wondered briefly whether it was actually bird number one doubling back past me, but I don't think so.

And then I cocked up. I tried to skirt around well above where it had come down so as not to disturb it, but from a distance had completely misjudged the spot and inadvertantly put it up. Stupid. It went east, and again, seemingly not far. But I felt like an idiot...

Short-eared Owl

The originals were badly underexposed. These have been subjected to brutal processing to get something presentable.

Down to the beach then, which I hadn't had time for yesterday.

Straight away there were Wheatears. By the time I cut inland for the return leg I'd counted 17, plus 2 Whinchats. My first double-figure count since August. Clearly something was happening today.

I got the camera wet more often than I probably should have...

Damp Wheatear.

And another. Some of the Wheatears were a lot more bedraggled than this.

I couldn't get anywhere near the Whinchats, which were together, but met them both again on the inland coast path as I headed back. They were still mighty skittish though...

Whinchat. Distant, appalling light, wind in my face, rain tanking down (quite obvious in the photo), so I really shouldn't have bothered. Just can't help myself...

That was pretty much it. I added 2 Chiffs and 5 Blackcaps before I got back to the car park, at which point I noticed how wet I was. Soaked. Plus I had been plagued all the way round by a rogue sock. For some reason my left sock kept working its way down my ankle until it was all scrunched up beneath the arch of my foot. Whereupon it was welly off, pull up sock, welly on, and away we go...only to find myself tutting with annoyance within minutes, and going through the whole saga again. I think the problem is an old-man thing. My boot socks are elderly, but there is plenty of life in them yet. The elastic is knackered, yes, but they aren't worn out. Basically they work okay. They do. So why throw them out?

Even as I type I can sense the rolling of eyes. Like Sandra's did when I recounted this tale of woe.

Anyway, I'll close with a photo taken yesterday, in a brief bit of sunshine...


Just a smart little Chiffchaff, but maybe a Yellow-browed Warbler one day soon...?

You've got to be in it to win it!


  1. Did you try tucking your trousers in your socks?

    1. Yep. Presumably they're not grippy enough. It's been suggested I try football socks, but I seem to recall seeing somewhere that you can buy proper sock suspenders. Maybe in a Saga magazine or something?? Perfect. 😎