Wednesday 17 March 2021


Days like today don't happen often, so it's very nice when they do...

It started well. I was up and out more or less when planned, and the weather promising. A clear sky isn't normally great for dropping migrants on the coast, but a light northerly helps. Wheatear-wise I was very hopeful. However, the outward leg of my walk produced none. Never mind, they might still be mid-Channel maybe...

Arriving at the Mere I spied a distant wader on the far side. It was a Knot. The first of the year for Bex - and probably my first ever locally - so I made an effort to get some nice Knot shots...

One Knot, in searingly beautiful winter plumage

Mike arrived from the opposite direction. We sat on the shingle, chatting about this and that, with me hunched over the camera, preoccupied with the spangly wader. Some gulls dropped in, one of them flying through my shot as I pressed the shutter release, ruining my work of art. I tutted, and seconds later Mike quietly said something like, 'GOODNESS ME! LAUGHING GULL!' One of the small group of new arrivals was indeed a stonking Laughing Gull! At 08:16:44 I was photographing a Knot; exactly 30 seconds later, this...

Laughing Gull. Rose. Thorns.

Admittedly that wasn't the first photo I took. But the above is far preferable to the desperate, back-on, in-case-it-flies type capture which occurred at 08:17:14. Here are some other nice ones...

Vestiges of a black tail band, black on the primary coverts etc, indicates a 2nd-winter bird

What a bird! It was present for 43 minutes, until flushed by a passing Marsh Harrier (also my first of the year) whereupon it decamped to some distant sheep fields up on the ridge.

This beaut lays to rest a painful dip back in my Axe patch days. Must have been about 2007, and a bird which frequented the Exmouth area at the time paid Seaton a brief visit during some rough weather. Steve found it off the seafront, but it had seemingly vanished when I went to look. And then Ian M saw it later on. That hurt. I am pretty certain this is only my second-ever Laughing Gull; my first was in (or near) the grounds of Newcastle Hospital in early 1985 or '86. So-o-o-o...


This is the same Laughing Gull that Steve Groves found at Abbotsbury Swannery last Wednesday, and which has since favoured the Weymouth area. I am very grateful to it for coming this way. And Mike even more so I think.

Is it possible to trudge jauntily? Because I'm sure that's what I did next. I trudged jauntily through the shingle, back to where I started. And waiting for me there were two of these...

Immaculate male Wheatear.

Just look at it! Spring perfection on legs

So yeah. A good day. A very good day.


  1. Gav, a morning well walked. It doesn't get much better than this.

    1. Very true Ric, and all done and dusted before 10:30. 😊

  2. It's funny how the phrase "Goodness me" is pronounced so very differently when a rare bird drops down in front of a person... Nonetheless what an amazing stroke of luck, I bet you were buzzing! I'm very happy you were in the right place at the right time, so that'll be 50 points on the ND&B Migrant Index Score - a strong start indeed! :)

    1. Cheers Seth. There's something really special about being there when the quality bird actually drops in. A magical moment for sure!

      I look forward to the next time! 😁

  3. Great bird and the adrenaline rush was palpable in your write up.

    1. Thanks Dave, it was a massive buzz! Glad it doesn't happen every outing - couldn't stand the strain!

  4. Brilliant Gav! What a patch bird that is. Ive only seen one, having dipped the Newcastle bird, I had to wait until 96 and one in Sunderland...

    1. Cheers Stewart. During the November 2005 influx (and its aftermath) there were quite a few not far away, but none turned up locally. With hindsight I'm glad I never twitched any - it definitely gave this one a great deal of extra value!