Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Writer's Block and Modest Birds

Blog-wise I have rarely been so indecisive as these last few days. I have started - and stopped - two new posts, both of which struck me as a too directionless. It's dead easy to write about good birds, and those kind of posts usually take shape rapidly. But we are not in a time of plenty just now, and I have only modest birds to share, so instead I've been working on what are essentially opinion pieces. Holding opinions is easy, but doing something positive and constructive with them, and expressing them articulately, is not.

One of the posts was inspired by the Exmouth Northern Mockingbird. It's too easy and predictable to write finger-pointy stuff about twitchers breaking lockdown rules for it, so I wanted to avoid all that. But it did make me think about what motivates us to twitch a bird. Personally I always enjoyed sharing the experience in some way, and if I was still at it today I am sure there would be lots of triumphal tweeting, and my clutch of so-so photos would join a host of identical ones online. So what would have motivated me to twitch something like this Mockingbird, where all the post-event celebrations would have to be rather secretive and private? The stigma associated with twitching this bird from anywhere other than just down the road in Exmouth is going to be stubbornly long-lived I suspect.

Anyway, perhaps you can see why all this got me thinking about what it is that motivates a birder to go a-twitching, and sadly I came to the conclusion that sometimes it must be little more than the tick alone. A number on a list. One more digit.

Which in turn got me thinking about numbers, and the power they can wield. At which point I realised I was biting off more than a single post's worth of chewing...

The other post was inspired by a fish that is [probably] extinct in Britain. I knew where I wanted to go with it, but kept falling over along the way. So, back burner...

Right then. Modest birds...

Obliging West Bay Rock Pipit from a few days back.

Unless I'm working in Seaton, West Bay has been my birding venue of choice lately. The Yellow-legged Gull which featured in the last post is easily the smartest bird I've seen there, but there have been a few other bits and bobs.

When the mini beast-from-the-east got stuck in yesterday I thought we might see some cold-weather movement as a result. Two Dunlin E past the the harbour mouth and two Lapwings N inland probably count as such, and the Dunlin were apparently the first local birds this year. That was about it though. Still, a total of 17 Med Gulls heading inland from the offshore roost were nice too.

I had another go this morning. Not as windy, and still no snow, but bitterly cold. There were two Wigeon on the river, and another four flew over...

One of two Wigeon on the river. The first I've seen on the deck in West Bay.

These four went over while I was stomping round a field just inland.

While still on the seafront this morning I could see a distant flock of something-or-others slowly working their way W or NW, inland of Burton Bradstock. I suspected Lapwings, but they were simply too far away even for my super-lenient acceptance criteria. Some time later I picked up what was almost certainly the same flock, now over the fields N of West Bay...

109 Lapwings

I've seen Little Grebe on the river a few times, but never as close and confiding as this one...

This Little Grebe came so close eventually that I wondered if it was a bit unwell - right beneath the bridge I was standing on. It was clearly uneasy about my proximity, but rather than take underwater evasive action like they usually do, it slowly swam past and off upriver. And I mean slowly.

The final West Bay thrills of the day involved a winter-plumaged pair of cruise liners just offshore...

A third liner was approaching from further out. Wouldn't surprise me if there's a flock in the morning. At last, some decent cold-weather movement.


  1. Twitching in pandemic lockdown is the new egg collecting.

    1. Funnily enough the exact same analogy occurred to me too.