Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Twenty-three Thousand Steps

I have one of those Garmin watches which detects long periods of idle sloth and periodically instructs me to 'Move!' Obviously I ignore it. On the other hand it also senses when I am trudging the local area in search of migrants, and counts my steps. Today I managed well over 23,000 - which is massive - and my watch was quick with the commendation:

'You are moving more than a typical Tuesday'

Thanks, watch. Or maybe it wasn't commendation exactly..? Anyway, Burton Bradstock to East Bexington and back, with a couple of detours, is a long and lovely stretch of West Dorset coast and countryside. But first, some catching up...

These last few days I've been a bit slack, or otherwise engaged, and outings have been short and sweet. Not birdless though...

My first Red Kite of the year, inland of the coast road at West Bexington on Saturday afternoon.

With less heat-haze and more skill this might have looked pretty good.

Very distant Red-throated Diver at Cogden, thinking seriously about summer plumage.

P900 focus mechanism threads through much twiggy stuff and finds Wheatear.

Fence posts can look pretty cool.

I keep seeing bee-flies at West Bex, so have made an effort to photograph them. Accidentally I found there are at least two species present...

Dark-edged on the left, Dotted on the right. Not sure I've knowingly seen the latter before.

And so to today.

Slept right through my early alarm, so decided to have breakfast, review last night's nocmig and keep an eye on the local birdy WhatsApp group. There was little of note in the way of nocmig until 04:31, right in the middle of the dawn chorus...

Most of those squiggles are made by Robins, but some are made by a migrant wader (see below).

Meanwhile, out in the field, local birders were enjoying a big arrival of Willow Warblers, along with a few other bits and bobs. Eventually I got amongst it too, but I suspect that many (most?) of the Willow Warblers had already pushed on inland. Still, when the scenery looks like this it's hard not to want to spend a lot of time in it, birds or not...

Look at that sky! That sea! The distant white bits on the left are the chalk cliffs of Beer Head.

For all the hours spent, and the 11 or 12 miles walked, a species list would look a bit slim, but it was just so delightful to be out there today. And to be fair, my count of 58 Wheatears is by far the most I have seen on a spring outing since I've lived in this part of the world. The only other birds I bothered putting a number to were Swallows (5), Whimbrel (6) and Whinchat (1). The last two were my first of the year. Some pics...

Yes, that dark, unpleasant-looking stuff behind the Wheatear is dung. That field has been subject to some serious muck-spreading!

I thought the plumage on this presumed 1st-summer male made a nice change from the spanking adults which usually hog the limelight on here.

Unfortunately a typical NQS fly-by photo, as 6 Whimbrel are spotted a bit too late. More accurately this shot should be called a flown-by photo.

Here's an NQS oddity. A plant. More specifically, an orchid. The gen on this rather lovely thing was kindly given me by the local farmer. To be honest, if I had stumbled across it myself I would have assumed it was an Early Purple Orchid, but that's because I don't know any better. However, it's a Green-winged Orchid, and a new one for me.

Green-winged Orchid

Just the one spike, which somehow makes it even more special.

Oops! Sneaked in another Wheatear. My excuse? The background is the sea. Good enough?

Birdy prize of the day. Distant Whinchat. I watched this bird for several minutes, willing it to move. It remained in that exact spot from start to finish, and barely turned its head. Fat, idle thing.

Finally, here's that nocmig wader again...

Did you spot it?

Certainly the loudest, clearest Common Sand I've recorded so far, and my first of the year. This is what it sounds like...

Today was a nice little taste of spring migrant action. In reality it is still relatively early days, and there must be many millions of birds yet to come. All I can say is, one of them had better be a Redstart with my name on it!


  1. If I didn't know better - is there some attempt at the ND&B Wheatear award for 2021? What a cynical old git I've become! Another great post, all the best - Dyl

    1. Ha ha! Wheatears are just too photogenic, and I cannot resist pointing my camera at them. Which means they are going to feature on here a lot. A lot!

      PS. I already have two or three shots lined up for the next post!

  2. Looking at your recent pictures of Seatown Gav, just how close were you to the bit that fell off? Were any wheatears involved? When are you going fossil hunting?

    I'd love to have a crawl over the debris with a lump hammer.... when it settles.

    1. I've seen the photos of that landslip and reckon I wouldn't have been close enough to have been in any danger. I hate cliff edges anyway, and stay away from them if I possibly can. It is a whopper though, easily the biggest I've seen. I wonder if there will be fossil hunters risking it? Mad.

  3. The bee fly is a rare dotted bee fly, so a great spot!

    1. Thanks anon. It was a jammy spot though. I didn't realise it wasn't dark-edged until I looked at the photo!