Thursday, 12 August 2021

Cogden Beach

Lifting my eyes from the laptop screen for a second to peer out the window, I find it hard to believe that this view has been a daily event for more than six years now. The move from Seaton coincided with a birding hiatus, and getting the juices flowing again was quite a struggle. I think it's safe to say that I'm pretty much back to normal now though. And a major factor in that recovery has been a place called Cogden Beach.

At least three birding friends suggested I try Cogden, way back when we first moved to Bridport. In November 2015 I had a look, and liked it. Unfortunately my enthusiasm wasn't yet up to the task of investigating a new spot, and fizzled after just a few weeks. It would be more than a year before I had another go, but within a couple of outings this happened...

2nd May 2017. Initially this Hoopoe wasn't quite within the Cogden boundary, though it found its way there soon enough. (photo ©Mike Morse)

Despite the massive buzz of such a classy find, I still wasn't ready. And once more there were a few weeks of sunshine before the fog of deep phase descended. Mind you, Cogden did try very hard during that period to keep me going...

16th May 2017. Short-toed Lark on Cogden Beach, found by Mike and Alan. A first for the West Bexington & Cogden recording area. And again Mike's pic is way better than mine. (photo ©Mike Morse)

That was the spring of 2017. Although I wasn't totally inactive in the ensuing two-and-a-bit years, it was October 2019 before I could detect any sign of real enthusiasm again. And here we are in August 2021 and I'm still keen, and seem to be ticking along nicely. I find it quite sobering how long it's taken me to settle into a steady routine of birding again. I say 'routine', but that isn't really the right word. I don't actually have a birding routine. Rather, I just go when and where the fancy takes me, though that does tend to be quite often, and Cogden features regularly. The place has definitely grown on me...

Cogden is one of those spots where you could probably poke around all day, yet see only 10% of the birds present. Some areas are not accessible to the public, but even where you can wander freely, the habitat is such that birds can simply hide away: thick scrub; enormous hedges; rough, weedy fields. Also the sea, roughly a mile of well-vegetated beach, and a whopping great reedbed. There are loads of habitat photos scattered through this blog, but here's a shot from yesterday...

A tiny fraction of the Cogden habitat. Gorgeous.

Cogden has been very good to me in the last year or so. Although COVID-19 ensured that most of spring 2020 was a bit of a washout, it wasn't quite over when this happened...

8th June 2020 - Red-backed Shrike. The day my eyes popped out.

And since then?

11th September 2020 - Wryneck

1st October 2020 - another Wryneck

22nd April 2021 - Stone-curlew

10th May 2021 - the wonderful Tawny Pipit which Nick Senior found

26th July 2021 - Melodious Warbler

A somewhat unapologetic parade of lovelies above, I know, but they serve to illustrate what rewards Cogden has to offer in the way of rare stuff. Probably it is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what actually occurs there. However, there is so much more to birding at Cogden than the occasional exciting oddity. Regular common migrants, seawatching, gulls, vis-mig passage...the list is long. Plus butterflies, wild flowers, myriad mystery insects. Oh, and scenery. Not once have I visited Cogden and subsequently thought, 'Well, that was a waste of time.' A visit to Cogden is never a waste of time.

Some bits and bobs from the last few days...

Early morning Sedge Warbler with dewy crown.

Beach Wheatear pic #1

Beach Wheatear pic #2

Lesser Whitethroat - possibly a local rather than migrant I guess

A bit busted up, but this is the first Wall Brown of 2021 that has actually paused for a pic.

Beach Wheatear pic #3 (500mm zoom for a 'birder's photo')

Beach Wheatear #4 (2000mm zoom from same spot as above)

Beach Wheatear pic #5

Technically that last photo is not strictly Cogden Beach; at this point we are in West Bexington territory. Still, that doesn't bother me at all, and I think my 'no boundaries' approach to the last couple of years has helped enormously to keep me in the game. Although Cogden is the place that currently draws me more than most other locations, I couldn't in good conscience call it my patch. But I do like it very much. And I have no fear that writing about it in glowing terms, and sticking it all on the web, will in any way contribute to a mass invasion of birders. I'm pretty sure that Cogden, like umpteen other places along the West Dorset coast, will continue to be one that loads have heard of, but few bother with. And to be honest I'm delighted about that.

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