Tuesday 29 March 2022

You Just Never Know

A chap jogging along the West Bay seafront early this morning spotted me peering out from the shelter, and paused briefly. 'Much passing?' he asked. I thought it was nice that he had at least some appreciation of what I was up to, so gave him a comprehensive reply: 'Nah. Nothing. Completely dead.'

I lasted 31 minutes. Just as I was packing up, 2 Swallows came in off, my first of the year. Apart from them, my tally was 3 Shelducks, 1 Sandwich Tern and a Gannet. A light offshore breeze is hardly classic seawatching weather, but you never know...

And that's the thing about birding: you just never know.

Mid-afternoon I was free. There wasn't much local news to get excited about, but I wondered if the slightly damp, overcast conditions and light north-easterly might have held up a few migrants on the coast, so headed for Cogden. I stayed till 7pm. Hardly a soul about, it was perfect...

Cogden Beach this evening

Working my way across the upper fields I noted a few singing Chiffchaffs and two Blackcaps, and finally hit the beach at the eastern border of the Cogden recording area, where it meets West Bex. From the beach I gave the first stubble field in West Bex territory a cursory scan, and immediately spotted four Wheatears. Retracing my steps, I wandered over for a proper look. It was leaping with Wheatears! At least 19 of them! They appeared to be moving east, and most ended up on the beach eventually, not far from the West Bex Mere.

I have a feeling there will be a lot more Wheatear photos before the year is out

There were a few diversions offshore...

Two Red-throated Divers

Sandwich Tern successfully hangs on to its tea

It was nice to get a few flight shots, despite the rubbish light

And at the back of the beach, a handful of Chiffs in the scrub...

Chiffchaff, fresh and hungry

Heading back towards Cogden, Wheatears again...

I will never tire of seeing Wheatears on the beach. Just brilliant.

As always, they were a pig to count. On this occasion though, I had some help. A couple of dogwalkers came up from the strandline and gradually flushed every Wheatear in one particular flock I was struggling with, so I simply counted each one as it flew. The day's final tally was 36, which is easily my highest ever Wheatear count in March.

If pressed, I would have predicted that today's weather looked good for dropping a few migrants (Wheatears included) on the coast. However, I would not have predicted that number. This is why migrants give me such a buzz, even the common ones. Yes, migration happens every year, without fail. Yes, it is basically the same species every year too. But when it comes to locations, dates, times, numbers...

Well, you just never know.

Brilliant, isn't it?


  1. Gav, I suspect a lot of migrants sit across the channel and use their sense of smell to detect our side warming up. That it takes a north wind to deliver the message that dinner is served, is ironic inasmuch as the wind from that quarter is a factor that stops them making the crossing. As soon as the wind becomes more conducive for travel I'd say they'd get a move on.
    On that basis I predict that next Wednesday and Thursday would be a good day to patrol the shore.

    1. If the next couple of days' weather turns out as forecast, a lot of small birds are going to regret coming!