Tuesday, 19 April 2022

The Tricky Virtue

The alarm went off at 05:45 again this morning. I am not great at getting up early, but do like to be out birding first thing if I can. When you're out before sunrise there is always a thrill of anticipation, a tingly buzz of optimism that today will be the day. Of course, it never is. Or hardly ever. It will happen, but in the meantime...

I am useless at patience. As virtues go, it is for me one of the trickiest. It's only April 19th, but already I am struggling to cope with the seeming lack of migrants. They are arriving, I know. Each day there are new birds - an extra couple of Whitethroats, Reed Warblers and whatnot; one or two Wheatears on the beach. This morning it was indeed Wheatears, five of them...

Wheatear on Cogden Beach, with Golden Cap in the background

Perfection on a stick

The white cliffs in the background belong to Beer Head, which regularly provided my first-light birding fix in a previous life.

I also know that Redstarts, Ring Ouzels, Pied Flycatchers and so on, are turning up at various inland sites. In this fine weather I am sure many will be flying straight over the South Coast without stopping. Even so, where are the Willow Warblers? I have heard a couple this spring, but I'm not sure that I've seen one yet!

It would be so easy to lose heart. This morning's five Wheatears were the only 'new' migrants I noted, but there were just two yesterday, and three the day before that. Fast and furious it ain't. Still, if I illustrate the rest of this post with various photos from the last few days, it is pretty obvious that I have nothing to moan about...

Green Sandpiper in the Saturday evening sunshine

White Wagtail...

...and again

Sand Martin

On Sunday morning I was greeted by a Marsh Harrier at Cogden. To put that in context, last year I recorded the species just twice I think. I did a really bad job of getting photos, but here is one of the less awful efforts...

Female Marsh Harrier over the Cogden reeds. At least you can tell what it is.

I also saw two Curlews distantly heading away east with four smaller waders. Thankfully Mike Morse at West Bex nailed the ID, and I have no qualms in adding Bar-tailed Godwit to the #LocalBigYear list. Five Whimbrel were less slippery. Here are two of them...

Whimbrel. I've been taking a lot of rubbish flight shots lately, but I'm happy with this one.

Red Kite over the garden at 11:56 on Sunday. I thought it was going to be the first of a few, but it was the first of one.

One interesting aspect of recent garden skywatching has been the occurrence of up to six Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Normally rather scarce from the garden, these birds have been chasing around as if they are getting a bit fruity, and now I am wondering if they might be setting up home somewhere nearby.

And so to yesterday...

A clifftop Wheatear, just after sunrise. Lovely stuff.

Oblivious to my nearby (but concealed) presence, this Brown Hare was munching away innocently...

...until it spotted me, whereupon it made for the horizon. This was at West Bexington, and a spot I've not seen Hares before.

Male Sparrowhawk at West Bex, exactly 163m away. Hand-held. Good practice for when it's something rarer. Though the hands might not be so steady I guess...

Finally, this afternoon's pics from West Bexington...

Eight Red Kites flew west in the first hour, which was quite a surprise!

Most were fairly distant, like this one, but one was so close that rooftops kept obscuring it!

Ridiculously yellow Yellowhammer in ridiculously lime green Hawthorn

Two drake Common Scoters quite close in

Wheatear with spangly dotted background of Campion flowers

This 'Passing Place - No Parking' sign always makes me chuckle. Technically this is the Burton Road, but frankly you would be doomed if you tried this in anything less than a serious 4x4 or, better, a tractor. A little beyond that bloke walking his dog are ruts like the Grand Canyon.

Lovely pair of Gadwall on the West Bex pond. Apart from eight birds on the excellent seawatch of April 11th, the first I've seen locally this year.

Scaly, vermiculated subtlety

A pretty smart duck

An awful lot of photos, I know. But hopefully I have managed to convey the fact that a massive helping of tasty migrants is not essential in order to enjoy a lovely bit of springtime birding.

That said, can I have a Redstart please?


  1. Another excellent post Gav. Puts us the viewer right on the spot, but with considerably less effort 🙂
    Restarts aplenty to that man!

    1. Ha ha! Thanks Ric. I'll be happy with just one or two. 😄