Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Not Quite Blakeney Point, But...

What a difference the shift in wind has made! Migrant-wise these last few weeks it has mostly been a case of scratching around for not much, but suddenly I'm going out and expecting a few decent birds. This morning's pre-breakfast walk at Cogden was terrific. Within moments of arrival a flock of 18 Yellow Wagtails flew over, and the beach was peppered with chats. It didn't feel as busy as yesterday, but very decent totals all the same, mainly from the beach and coast path...

44 Yellow Wagtails, 26 Wheatears, 11 Whinchats, 3 Willow Warblers and a Tree Pipit.

Beach Whinchat

And nice though it was, that should have been my lot for the day. However, I hadn't considered the possibility that Mike and Alan might find a Red-backed Shrike at West Bexington. I was just sitting down to an early lunch when the news broke, and immediately adjusted (aka 'abandoned') my plans for the afternoon. And boy, am I glad I did.

Thankfully it was on show when I arrived, and I was fortunate enough to see it before it saw me. It wasn't close, but despite a bit of heat-haze the photos came out nicely...

Female Red-backed Shrike. What a cracker!

As I'd made the effort it seemed sensible to cover a little circuit and see what else might be around. I'd already seen a Whinchat along a fence line, and could feel the expectation bubbling up a bit...

Forty minutes later, and nothing had happened. Plodding along a footpath I flushed a dragonfly, which landed again further on. Now, I always look at dragonflies if they perch up in a cooperative way, so raised my bins. My gallery of Odonata 'search images' is very, very small. Pitifully so. But among this tiny collection is a dragonfly with bright blue blobs on the upper abdomen - the male Lesser Emperor. It's been there since Steve found one at Lower Bruckland Ponds near Seaton many years ago. I did see it, buzzing distantly around the biggest pond, and recall how vivid those blue blobs were, even at range. And as I peered at this afternoon's specimen I couldn't help but notice blue blobs. Unfortunately the rest of the abdomen was much more brightly marked than the one in my search image. Hmmm. Just a moment though, what does a female look like? Obviously I had no idea, but I knew a man who did, and sent him a photo.

'Stevie, what do I have here?'

'A female Lesser Emperor!'

Cue restrained bit of air punching.

And here is the very first photograph of the very first rare dragonfly I've ever found...

Female Lesser Emperor. Photo taken at some range. I really didn't want to flush it.

And here's a closer one...

My Odonata knowledge is so scanty that I really don't deserve to find rare ones. But I do realise the potential of a south coast location, so will always look. And it turns out I am decidedly chuffed with that one, and wouldn't mind it happening again.

Shortly after the Lesser Emperor I came across a smashing little bunch of migrants...

Two Redstarts...

...a Spotted Flycatcher...

...and a Pied Flycatcher - my first this year.

I had obviously stumbled across a bit of a hot-spot, because apart from a couple of Willow Warblers I'd seen very little else in the way of migrants. And then, almost back where I started, that first Whinchat had now been joined by another, as well as a Wheatear and my third Redstart a bit further along the fence line. Another little hot-spot...

What a day!

And it is days like this one which reinforce my conviction that almost any classy bit of habitat along this coast (and of course countless other places) has the potential to provide some really exciting birding. Just imagine how much is out there, undiscovered. Yep, to bird where so few (if any) birders go, and to find your own stuff...

Can't beat it .


  1. Happy days! Been a long while since I jammed into decent birds but after reading that I'm definitely heading out tomorrow to see what I can drum up.

    1. Excellent. I'm sure there will be some bits and bobs on Skye. Hope you find a few of them. 😊👍

  2. What a haul. Seek and you shall find, maybe one day I'll see a shrike..... maybe.

    1. A proper net full! Shrikes are really smart birds, but dreadfully scarce and often uncooperative. Well worth taking the opportunity to see, when you get one.

  3. Replies
    1. Cheers Stewart, definitely a red-letter day. 😊

  4. Not quite Blakeney Point! Compared to the last time you and me flogged that particular peninsular Gav, Cogden resembles Fair Isle or Scilly on one of their more productive days.
    Boy, did we flog and were 😶

    1. Ha ha! Yes, we definitely chose one of the Point's off days! Must be 25 years since I was last there. A hot day in August I recall, and we were on holiday with friends. I coaxed them all into walking to the Point with promise of refreshments being available at the old lifeboat station café. When we got there it was closed. I was not popular. I did find a Wryneck on the way out though. 😊