Saturday, 23 April 2022

Sights & Sounds

Until quite late in the day I thought this post would likely be all about sounds rather than sights. And then this happened at Cogden...

Perpetual motion in yellow

I am happy to live somewhere that Yellow Wagtails are fairly scarce in spring, because their value just goes through the roof. A male Yellow Wag is an eye-poppingly bright little creature, and fully deserves the audible 'Oh wow!' that accompanies its appearance. Unfortunately they can be a pig to photograph. Today's bird was dead flighty and never stopped moving. Neither the above photo nor the one below would normally pass muster, but they are all I have. And lemon yellow is still a joyous colour, even when it's badly posed and blurry...

Male Yellow Wagtail. A few minutes later it was over the coast road and away.

Within a hundred metres of the Yellow Wag I was failing once again to photograph a really smart bird, having inadvertantly flushed my first Redstart of the year. It was a female, which then proceeded to make sure it was on the wrong side of every bush in the neighbourhood, and I didn't get a single shot.

A long time before this little excitement I had been on the coast path, just inland of the beach. It was very breezy, with a brisk north-easterly blowing almost straight offshore, but a distant sound had briefly cut through the wind noise and stopped me in my tracks. A Cuckoo, surely? Only four or five notes, but I was 90% sure. I waited, but nothing. I walked on. Ten minutes later it happened again, clearer this time. Definitely a Cuckoo, but way up near the coastal ridge by the sound of it. With nothing better do I decided to track it down...

I got very close, but never did see the bird. It was roughly 650m from where I first heard it, but buried in a dense thicket and calling briefly every few minutes. I recorded half a dozen short videos, just to capture that wonderful sound. Here is an mp3 file lifted from one of them...


It is a cool five years since I last heard a Cuckoo, also at Cogden, so that was the undoubted highlight of this afternoon's outing. However, there were plenty of other bits and bobs: 7 Wheatears, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, a handful of Willow Warblers and assorted hirundines.

Having spotted a couple of small Scoter flocks going by, and a Whimbrel, I sat on the beach for a while to see if there was much else moving past. After a few minutes I spied a very distant group of five small white birds flying straight towards the shore it seemed, but a long way west of me, and well out. Small gulls, I thought. They appeared to have that white/black/white/black thing going on as they flapped, which in some lights can make very distant Black-headed Gulls look annoyingly like Little Gulls, and get you all excited over nothing. They were drifting even further west in the wind, and I had no scope, so grudgingly let them go and tried to forget all about them. Unfortunately they came to mind again as I sat down to write this post.

The Cuckoo wasn't the only audio thrill of the day. Last night's nocmig recording captured a spring sound I've been hoping for since I first began this lark two years ago: a little flock of Bar-tailed Godwits. At least, I think it's a flock. I'm sure the NE wind had some influence, and hopefully there will be more to come. They are not close, but that jittery, wickering noise they make is just brilliant all the same...


Finally, another 'Wheatear in habitat' shot to close...

It is 11:51 on a Saturday morning, and the Wheatear and I are at the western end of Cogden Beach. The West Bexington houses are some 2.3 miles away. Look how few people there are! Magic.

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