Friday 29 April 2022

Upupa epops

The day started well. Barely a breeze, the sun low in a clear sky; it didn't feel that birdy, but a beautiful spring morning can be reward enough in itself. As I approached the beach at Cogden an Oystercatcher flew in calling and landed out of view below the shingle ridge. A careful bit of creeping...

Think I've been sussed.

You don't see Oycs on the deck here every day, so already I was nicely chuffed. The beach itself yielded 5 Wheatears as I plodded east...

The current crop of male Wheatears tend to look a lot different to most March birds. Much browner on the mantle and extensive rusty tones below.

This female was quite obliging.

And thus I ended up about as far east as you can get and still call it 'Cogden' which point my phone rang. Certain areas within West Bex and Cogden are notoriously bad for mobile signal, and it took three attempts for Mike and Alan to get through properly. I am very glad they persevered, because 'a Hoopoe at the Manor House Hotel, West Bex' was just about to make my day.

The hurried walk back to my car was not without incident though...

Female Redstart record shot. The small version...

...and the larger one

Surprisingly this is my fifth Redstart of the spring, but that's for another post. Anyway, it slowed me down a bit. Some 40 minutes after the first phone call though...

West Bexington Hoopoe. Initial views were dreadfully backlit.

Down the hatch!

Eventually managed to get the sun in a favourable place.

What. A. Stunner!

After about 15 minutes it flew to this sunlit roof and settled down for a good preen...

This is my second local Hoopoe. The first was five years ago, almost to the day, and at the time a significant bird for a variety of reasons, not least as my first self-found. I thoroughly enjoyed this morning's little twitch, and am jolly glad I was able to record the bird on something a bit more up to the job than a weedy phone camera.

And the spring is yet young(ish)!

This afternoon Sandra and I ambled in to town for a spot of lunch, via the River Asker. Since learning that we have a small population of Water Voles literally yards from the door, we've been pretty keen to see one. Today was the day...

Water Vole! It was only on view for seconds, and I completely botched the photo opportunity, but that furry blur is a pukka River Asker Water Vole.

The River Asker also supports a head of Brown Trout. Most are very small, but we did see this one of roughly half a pound or so...

River Asker Brownie

While we were standing on a bridge and peering into the water, an elderly chap approached us. His mobility was very poor, and aided by two sticks, but he shuffled slowly over and in a broad Dorset accent asked if we'd seen any trout. Yes, we answered, a few tiddlers. He replied that he was glad, because some years ago a farmer upstream at Powerstock had suffered a slurry spill* which had 'killed the lot of 'em'. We guessed this old guy's rheumy eyes might have struggled to spot the little Brownies, which are quite hard to see. Hopefully he wasn't able to see the state of the river bed either though. Covered in brown, slimy-looking gank, it was not a picture of aquatic health. Let him be happy that the trout are here still...

* 'Slurry spill' = euphemism for act of ecological vandalism that kills rivers.


  1. I've never seen a UK Hoopoe but have refused a couple of twitch opportunities, its one of those birds I want to find myself.
    Great pics and video Gav.

    1. Hope you get that opportunity Dave. That's only happened to me once, but what a buzz!

  2. Beautiful bird, they don't very often reach Ireland, so I still keep looking!!

    1. This was the 5th Hoopoe in 6 years for the West Bex & Cogden recording area (though only 2 were seen by birders) so I definitely live in a good location for them! 😊