Thursday, 16 September 2021


Small children are toxic. Less than seven weeks after going down with a dose of manflu that scuppered me for a fortnight, my tiny grandchildren gave me the cold from hell. Thankfully my immune system seems to be functioning a bit more effectively this time, and I only had a couple of really grim days. I'm still a bit fragile, but this afternoon my itchy, itchy feet took me to West Bex and made me walk a short, flattish route for what they called 'a bit of active convalesecence'...

It often strikes me that even on a good day, birding can be very patchy. This autumn I've noticed it many times. You get a few decent birds in one spot, then nothing for a while, then another little cluster. Birds simply are not evenly distributed. Rather, they are in pockets. That was very much a feature of today's little outing.

There's one area of West Bex which always reminds me of birding some of the 'inland' parts of St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly. If I called it 'gateway birding' I'm sure you'll get what I mean. There's a dead-end lane which runs parallel to the sea, and both sides of it are lined mainly by hedges with the occasional gateway, and give views over fields running either down towards the beach or up towards the coastal ridge. For me it is simply a case of ambling along, stopping at every gateway (or anywhere else which gives you a view) and carefully scanning every field, plus every distant hedgerow, treetop and skyline. It's a slow, easy way to bird, and today was a perfect option for someone feeling well below par.

The very first gateway overlooks a small paddock. I've always fancied it, and one August day last year I had a single Pied and two Spotted Flycatchers from this spot, so it always gets at least a few patient minutes. Within a short time today I'd seen a Chiffchaff and a Blackcap, then a flitting shape up the far end became a Spotted Flycatcher, which was soon joined by second. And then...

Probably well over 100m away, so maximum zoom, but when it's a lovely male Redstart, who cares?

I loitered here for a good 15 minutes, by which time I'd added another Chiff and Blackcap, plus a Lesser Whitethroat. And I'd barely started. Naturally enough I concluded that I was in for a migrant-filled walk. Well...

The rest of the lane provided me with a hefty acreage of lovely fields, hundreds of metres of absolutely impeccable, sun-kissed hedge and panoramic views in all directions. But by the end I had added no more than another Blackcap or two, a handful of Chiffs and a couple of Kestrels. I could hardly believe it.

And then I spotted a distant shape flit up above the hedge top briefly. I deviated off my route a little to look at the area properly and suddenly found myself knee-deep in Chiffchaffs! By the time I'd finished, my Chiffchaff count had gone up by more than 40! Plus at least another 7 Blackcaps. All in no more than about 150m of hedge and scrub.

The flavour of this afternoon: fresh Chiffchaff

My tally looks like this: 50+ Chiffs, 10 Blackcaps, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 1 Redstart, 1 Lesser Whitethroat. Which sounds like a nice sprinkling of autumn migrants. But a 'sprinkling' it certainly was not! Basically it was two discrete pockets about half a mile or more apart, with hardly anything in between. Fascinating...

Anyway, a few bits and bobs from the last time I was out, pre-lurgy...

Two White Wagtails on the beach at West Bex

Still the odd Sedgie to be coaxed from the reeds. Too late for an Aquatic?

One of five Whinchats at Cogden

Friendly Painted Ladies always worth a snap

And before I close, the garden has provided me with what I'm pretty sure is a bee tick. We tried a Sea Holly cultivar in a pot this year, and it is flowering nicely just now. These bees don't seem to be interested in anything else...

If I've got it right, this amazingly stripy job is an Ivy Bee Colletes hederae


  1. You may be 30 years too late for Aquatic Warbler Gav!

    1. Ha ha! Sadly you are probably dead right there.

  2. Another interesting post Gav. Hope you get back to match fitness soon.

    My front garden border has masses of ivy bees communal nesting and has spread to the neighbours. They were very rare but are spreading fast, as I'm sure you've researched.

    1. Thanks Dave. Yes, I had heard of Ivy Bee but didn't realise they were recent colonists. Certainly striking little creatures.