Thursday 31 December 2020

And Finally...

It is a still, blue, crisp morning, and there is almost 1cm of ice on the garden pond. At least the year 2020 is closing prettily. This post is intended to wrap up twelve months-worth of NQS output, and right here in the third sentence I'm not yet sure how it will pan out. A bit random I suspect...

My final bit of 2020 birding has been entertaining, if unspectacular. Yesterday I spent a fair bit of time in the field adjacent to Colyton WTW, staring at a muck heap. Periodically the steaming pile would fill with Chiffchaffs, until they reached a bursting-point of jittery unease which sent them whizzing back to the safety of cover in a hedge. Obviously I was hoping to find a Siberian Chiffchaff among them. It didn't happen though. Well, not really...

The closest I got to tristis was the bird on the left. Very brief, rather distant views, and just this single photo. It caught my eye, and looks quite promising in the pic, but I'll reserve judgement. With all the to-ing and fro-ing I was sure I'd see it again eventually. Unfortunately not.

Still, I got a nice shot of a standard collybita Chiff...

I love that we have a few of these to look at through the winter months.

At one point I noticed a high-flying raptor heading over, and thought it looked a bit harrier-ish. Sure enough, it was...

Significantly enlarged from the original, and definitely a Marsh Harrier.

So that was a nice surprise.

The last three or four days have also produced...

Green Sandpiper at Water Lane Fish Farm, near Burton Bradstock

Portuguese Man-of War on West Bexington beach

Avocet on Black Hole Marsh, Seaton Wetlands

So, a nice selection of locally notable birds to wind up the year. What next then?

Well, tomorrow I plan to walk a long way, starting at my back door. I have no preconceptions, no targets, and only a sketchy route plan, but there will definitely be a lot of coast. If there is one thing I have come to appreciate even more during these strange times, it is the local coastline. When you spend the first forty-odd years of your life living well inland, moving to the coast is initially odd. You constantly have to remind yourself that no, you're not on holiday, you actually live here. I'm well past that stage now, but still the coast is a wonderful delight for which I am truly grateful...

Reed Bunting in Thrift, with the blurred sea as a backdrop. West Dorset at its finest.

West Bay, my nearest bit of coast. So many seaside places have that weird mix of beauty and ghastliness, and West Bay is one of them. It's growing on me, but I have to be in the mood. This photo was taken in early June, before the hordes descended.

I first used this photo in NQS to illustrate the differences between juv Yellow-legged Gull and Herring Gull (foreground) but this is the uncropped version, illustrating a different aspect of coastal life. Thankfully not a year-round scenario.

An October view from East Bexington. Stunning...

2020 was not all about the birds. Some tentative forays into the lepidopteral world were a lot of fun. And even a few plants featured. One small triumph was nailing Essex Skipper for the first time. Oh, and a classy moth too...

A local male Essex Skipper, with diagnostic short, straight scent mark highlighted bottom left. Our Essex Skippers are currently among the most westerly in England.

Jammy encounter, jammy photo. Sandra first spotted this Lunar Hornet Moth during a country walk in June. A species which until recently was impervious to all known pheremone lures, and really tricky to see.

That'll do, I think. I'll wind up the final post of 2020 with a thank-you to all NQS readers for your continued support and assorted comments. I'm confident that 2021 will produce plenty of bloggable moments, with hopefully some terrific surprises among them. So whether your interest is birds, plants, fish, inverts, or whatever, I hope your 2021 will be memorable for all the right reasons...


  1. Gavin,
    Many thanks for entertaining us so well in this strangest of years. Particularly enjoyed the detailed analysis of Gull identification. Keep up the good work and trust all is well with you and your family during 2021.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Gordon. Hopefully there'll be a few opportunities to get analytical with gulls again next year. All the best...😊👍

  2. Your blog has kept me entertained through the year Gav and I thank you for that. Your photographs are excellent and I'm still tempted to upgrade to a high zoom camera.... very tempted.

    The backdrop to your birding is familiar too and seeing Dorset's coast makes me yearn for time there, maybe later in the year.... maybe.

    Keep up the good work.... and the gull lectures. I'll sit out of the end of year exam this time around as my dog ate my homework.

    Happy '21

    1. Thanks Dave, I've really appreciated your regular comments too.

      The camera has been a revelation, and it's very pleasing to be able to illustrate the blog with some decent photos sometimes.

      And hopefully you'll get the chance to visit this lovely coastline again this year. All the best!