Saturday 2 April 2022

Extra Helping of Jam

The last spring Ring Ouzel I definitely recall seeing was found by Karen Woolley on Beer Head in 2011. And I'm pretty sure that is the only E Devon or W Dorset bird I have seen outside autumn. Arriving at West Bex this afternoon I certainly wasn't expecting to find one, but within 15 minutes that is exactly what happened. I always have a good look at fields with horses in them, and usually spend a couple of minutes grilling a load of birdless turf. But not this time...

Ring Ouzel. It might have been right at the back of the field, but boy, what a welcome sight!

Judging by the brownish tint and off-white gorget, presumably a female.

Thankfully Mike Morse was close by, and got to see it as well. As I strolled on up the lane I was well aware that I had peaked a bit early! Still, there were a few bits and bobs...

Rubbish light, but a very nice drake Common Scoter quite close to the beach.

The only Wheatears were four distant birds together...

Small Wheatear, big field

On the way home I popped in to Bride Valley Fish Farm in the optimistic hope that I might finally see a Sand Martin this year. Nope. But four pristine Swallows were more than compensation...

Look at those immaculate tails!

To be honest, I didn't deserve the Ring Ouzel. Before even setting out for West Bex I had been handed what should by rights have been bird of the day. This is how it happened...

Last Friday week I sat down and worked through the previous night's nocmig recording. One sequence of calls had me stumped. I put it down as 'possible Wigeon', with a big question mark, and set it aside to review later. I did that last night, and immediately wondered why on earth I'd thought it might be a Wigeon. Could it be another duck that I wasn't familiar with? Pintail maybe? I checked Pintail on Xeno Canto. No, not Pintail. I tried a few other ducks (I won't embarrass myself by naming them) but drew a blank. Only one thing for it: ask the Nocmig WhatsApp group. I resolved to do so in the morning...

This is exactly how my mystery bird looked on the nocmig sonogram, those little blips at c2.0kHz

This is what those marks look like when stretched, cleaned up a bit, and enhanced...

So, this morning I posted the sonogram and recording on the Nocmig WhatsApp group. Literally within seconds (before I had even finished typing my question!) I had a diagnosis...


A couple of other group members said the same, and a quick visit to Xeno Canto confirmed the identification beyond any doubt. I hadn't even considered it might be a wader but, no question about it, at least one Avocet flew over my nocmig kit at 20:52 on Thursday 24th March! It is actually a really distinctive call, and my only excuse for not recognising it is that I never hear Avocets. They are seriously scarce (rare?) locally - certainly I have never seen one - and were just about annual on my old Axe patch. Needless to say, a bit of a nocmig mega for Bridport! Not super-loud, but this is what it sounds like...

Yes, I was already grinning from ear to ear as I stepped out of the door this afternoon. I didn't deserve a Ring Ouzel as well, but I'll take it. And very grateful I am too.


  1. Fabulous Avocet calls! I once strung a small flock over Stanwell Moor for incoming Bee-eaters (before I clapped eyes on them, obviously...)

    1. I remember in the mid-'80s seeing Andrew Moon identify an incoming Avocet on call at Staines Res, long before it was visible. I was really impressed and wondered if I would ever be good enough to do that. Clearly not! 😄

    2. Ive done that too Seth, heard bee-eaters then 8 Avocets appeared!

  2. Like you I never hear avocet and would have gone for wigeon!!

    1. Nocmig has been an education in many ways Derek, not least in teaching me to listen to bird sounds a bit more critically. Very glad I didn't let that gem slip through the net. 😊