Saturday 9 October 2021

Not Quite the Horn of Plenty

Since the last post there are five new entries in my smartphone's notes app, one each for Tuesday to Saturday. One of them is quite unusual...

5/10 West Bexington 15:40 -

And that's it. It was so uneventful that I didn't even bother with a finish time. I'm not sure when I last noted absolutely nothing at all, but to be fair it is a very rare event. Birding on the coast is not necessarily a daily cornucopia of feathery wonder. That said, there is usually (apart from 5/10) something to photograph...

6/10 A Cogden Wheatear

6/10 Flavour of the moment - Cogden Meadow Pipit

6/10 Autumn Thrift, a sad shadow of its vibrant springtime glory

7/10 East Bex Wheatear on WWII beach furniture

7/10 West Bex Guillemot

7/10 This year's Med Gulls looking too cool for their socks

7/10 West Bex Phalacrocorax phalanx

8/10 Cogden Scoter

There's a story attached to a couple of the above...

Guillemot. Crunching along the West Bex shingle, I spied in the distance an auk corpse stretched out pathetically on the beach. It was lying on one side, its head flat against the pebbles. I strode towards it to check for rings, digging out the camera for an in memoriam photo. As I drew near, the bird's head suddenly reared up. Next, it scampered rapidly towards the sea, rushed in and instantly disappeared below the surface. Fairly soon it popped up, and then paddled about in a worryingly lop-sided fashion. Mind you, this is the first time I have been fortunate enough to witness a resurrection.

Common Scoter. Distant, black, sleeping blob. Obviously a Common Scoter. There's been a few about I hear. I walked away and ignored it. Several minutes later I could see it had woken up, following the close passage of a motor-boat. It was just beyond binocular range, but surely a Common? Once upon a time I found a young drake Surf Scoter off Beer. It too was alone. So I walked down the beach again for a closer look. Still too distant. Resting the camera on the beach for stability, I took some shots at maximum zoom and checked the results with restrained optimism. Sigh... No glory today.

9/10 Oh look! Another Cogden Wheatear

9/10 Cogden Whinchat...

...times two

It's funny. Here we are in October, the season of seriously rare, and my last five outings have produced nothing more than a modest tally of common migrants. A quick perusal of BirdGuides or Twitter tells me that I am missing out, and would do a lot better here, or here, or perhaps there. So why am I not dissatisfied with my paltry lot? How on earth can I see barely anything at all and say it's actually enjoyable?

In truth I cannot really answer those questions. But I'm not dissatisfied. And I really have enjoyed my recent outings, even 5/10 West Bexington 15:40 - ...

In the last 24 hours I've watched a Temminck's Stint become a Least Sandpiper (not for the first time!) and then finally a Long-toed Stint, a species which almost everyone 'needs'. This is a metamorphosis which at one time would have got me all the way to Yorkshire. Why not now? I really do not know, but am very happy to remain unmoved. I often wonder at this apparent dichotomy between the old me and the current version, but know which I prefer.


  1. Gav. Why not now? I'd suggest that the quality of images now available for every rarity reported, allows those of us with an imagination to glean as much satisfaction for the report and record of such, as could be gained once only from the direct experience.
    It could be like getting pleasure simply from the winning result of a football match concerning a favourite team. But without needing to watch the game.

    1. There is probably something in what you say, and I can certainly attest to vicarious enjoyment of a rarity via someone else's photos of it. But that's not the whole answer. Whatever it was once impelled me to jump in the car and drive 200 miles in pursuit of a bird is no longer there. Personally I think it's connected with the fact that seeing such birds no longer has any 'meaning' for me. Quite why that is, I'm not really sure...

    2. There could be a connection to ancient hunting instincts.
      Finders in the field prefer the capture, the choice of having it all to themselves or sharing with the tribe.
      Twitchers are simply consumers. They're happy with a bite of the carcase, no matter how small.