Thursday 1 April 2021

April Begins Well

On my way to work this morning I stopped off at a coastal hamlet called Seatown. The place has been on my radar for a while, and indeed I have had a little dabble once or twice. Plans to do some regular early-morning sessions there last spring were thwarted by a microscopic pathogen, but 2021 gives me a fresh opportunity. So I arrived about 07:15 and walked down to the sea...

Looking W towards Golden Cap...

...and the view E. Notice total absence of people.

I had a good old scan around, but there was nothing much to see. Back at the car park I decided to try heading up the hill to the east first. This is all going to be very exploratory; I have no idea whether or not there are any good spots. A small bird flew across the hillside from my right. As I checked it out I knew it was going to be a Meadow Pipit, until I noticed its unexpectedly red tail! Landing briefly in a bush, it was clearly a female type Black Redstart. It rapidly flicked away inland and out of sight, but the impression made by its almost subliminal performance was profound. Literally the very first bird I had raised my bins to look at turned out to be a classy little migrant. Is Seatown trying to tell me something...?

In the brisk NE wind I poked around for a bit more than an hour, adding 2 Sand Martins, 2 Chiffs and a Blackcap. Not much, but it's a start.

Some more views...

Seatown is basically a few houses, a pub and a holiday park, all nestling in a small valley. Look at those lovely primroses on the left. It really is very picturesque. And quiet.

Plenty of scrubby habbo. Looks ace.

As far as I'm aware, this place is not birded on a regular basis, if at all. Chideock sewage works is just inland, and I've seen Sibe Chiff and Firecrests there, but other than that it's all a bit of an unknown quantity. When I first moved to the southwest I was amazed at how much of the coast is totally neglected. Sure, there are hotspots which are well-watched, but countless locations hardly ever see a birder. The potential is obvious.

By 08:30 I was on my way to work, and apart from a couple of dog walkers and runners I hadn't seen another soul. Anyway, my intention is to make it a regular part of my pre-work agenda. We'll see how it goes...

After work I had time for a West Bex to East Bex walk. Highlights in pictorial form...

Painted Lady at the old coastguard cottages. A bit early? Now you see me...

...and now you don't. The cryptic version.

When it comes to matters lepidopteral I am not very knowledgeable, but I wouldn't have expected to see Painted Lady on April 1st. In spring it's a butterfly I associate with May, and probably late May at that. Someone on Twitter mentioned the possibility of it being released rather than of natural occurance, which hadn't occured to me. I guess that happens a lot with butterflies, which must take the shine off many 'unusual' sightings. Ah well, it was very smart all the same.

At this point I had seen very little bird-wise. That soon changed...

A pukka spring gem - White Wagtail

They are so hard to photograph. Constantly on the go. Just look at it though! Stunning!

A different bird (I saw 4+ in total)

Lots of pale grey rump on view between the wings

Irresistable. A cracking male Wheatear.

This was one of three males together. It had noticeably whiter underparts than the other two.

Same individual. So handsome.

At West Bex I ended up with 5 Wheatears, 4+ White Wags, 17 singing Chiffs, 4 singing Blackcaps and a Swallow. East Bex produced a couple of Sandwich Terns fishing close in, and another Swallow. Lovely stuff.


  1. Looks like you've found another decent walk. I've had a nice meal at the Anchor there.
    It does seem early for a painted lady but they do migrate over prodigious distances so, it may have come from Africa. This is the time of year when the hummingbird hawk moths start to arrive too.

    1. I heard there was at least one Painted Lady on Scilly today Dave, and a small influx into the SW in late Feb/early March. Seems like they are genuine migrants. Pretty amazing.

      Re the Anchor: me too!

  2. Gav, if birds were the only measure of how good a day could be. How would you rate those views with those of Dagenham Chase or dare I say, West Thurrock.
    Or course there's those who spent days on end at sewage works. Shit and epic views all at once.

    1. Nice surroundings are a lot more important to me than they used to be Ric. I can easily spend a couple of hours at Cogden, say, see very little, yet still have really enjoyed myself. It's very much not all about the birds these days. Having said that, though the views were hardly scenic, driving around the top of Wraysbury Res when I had a permit to do so was pretty epic, and so was walking Queen Mother. Hardly a soul around back then...