Friday 23 April 2021

Smiling at the Small Things

Very often it's really easy to work out why there is a big, fat grin all over your birding face. An out-of-context Stone-curlew, say. But many times the memorable and enjoyable things are small, perhaps even surprising...

These last couple of days have seen the wind strengthen somewhat, from principally an easterly direction. For me that means seawatching - if I can - even when it's blowing offshore a bit. My reasoning is that at least a few of the birds heading up-Channel will get pushed westwards into Lyme Bay, and at some point may well be visible from my local bit of coast. Certainly I've learned that Burton Bradstock, Cogden et al are a lot more reliable in these conditions than Seaton was. In three shortish watches, this is my tally so far:

Whimbrel 51
Dunlin 3
Bar-tailed Godwit 27
Sandwich Tern 15
Manx Shearwater 131
Peregrine 1
Red-throated Diver 2
Med Gull 2
Common Scoter 19
Arctic Skua 1

This evening's highlight was undoubtedly the light-phase Arctic Skua which cruised E past Burton Bradstock at 19:07. I'd been in position for no more than two or three minutes, and the only reason I'd made the effort at all was a message on the local WhatsApp group to the effect that a Pom Skua flew E past Dawlish a little earlier. So, James, thanks for getting me out!

Cogden yesterday evening. Not exactly classic seawatch conditions, but it was warm, peaceful, and there were birds...

Striding along the Cogden shingle this morning at sunrise, I noticed a flicker of movement ahead of me. A tiny bird was flying left, away from the sea, at no more than ankle height. It landed in a scanty bit of vegetation and peered at me. A Willow Warbler. I wondered how long it had just taken to cross the vast expanse of sea between here and France, and how knackered it was after tackling that stiff easterly. No more than a few grams of warm-blooded flesh and feather. What they accomplish...

Amazing stuff.

Yesterday afternoon I picked up what was clearly a falcon, far out to sea. For ages I watched it slowly approach the coast. To make forward progress against the strong ESE pushing it sideways, the bird appeared to angle itself at 45 degrees, occasionally side-slipping low to the waves as if resting briefly, but mainly flapping strongly. I suspect it was a Hobby, but when it finally reached land the range was simply too great to be sure. Again, amazing stuff. Blown away by a bird that I couldn't even identify with total confidence!

Sitting in the garden this afternoon - in between bouts of chatty, toddling granddaughter - I heard the gull alarm go off...

The garden's 2nd Red Kite of 2021. It is munching something, and couldn't care less about the agitated escort.

Birding is supremely excellent on so many levels...

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