Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Pomless & Pessimistic

At close of play on 13th May 2017, just five short years ago, my spring tally of local Pomarine Skuas had reached a dizzying 26, including ludicrous flocks of 9 and 12. Compared with a 10-year Seaton tally of 17 (spring and autumn combined) this was unimagined bounty, and I wondered if the move to Bridport was going to see a sudden, massive uptick in the number of springtime Pom encounters. So far this year my tally is zero. Last year it was one; the year before, zero again. This is more like what I am used to. 2017 was clearly a glitch in the matrix...

The prospect of witnessing a spooned-up Pom muscling its way east is well worth putting yourself out for, so there have been several early alarms and late vigils. It is why I was sitting on the Cogden shingle yesterday evening, resignedly soaking up the light rain and trying to be enthusiastic about the measly dribble of Kitts and Manxies. The Pom season has given me three Arctic Skuas and a distant skua sp. which was almost certainly an Arctic too. I dare not total the hours.

Next year maybe.

Arctic Skua past Cogden yesterday morning. Not close!

Pom fail apart, there have been some nice things lately...

Whimbrel are always great value. According to eBird I have seen a grand total of 103 this spring, since 11th April. On the deck they are usually a bit skittish, and getting nice pics is a challenge. I saw one land on Cogden Beach yesterday morning, and a bit of belly-crawling was worth the aggro...

Initial shot, from afar


Three others flew past...

Since I last mentioned nocmig there has been a steady trickle of interest, apart from the year's first blank on 14th/15th May. The following night I almost compounded the disaster by neglecting to switch on the mains adaptor. The batteries gave me less than three hours, dying just after midnight. But that was enough to capture the nugget of nocmig gold which flew over at 23:43...

A Nightjar! My third, after two birds in the spring of 2020. And in the early hours of 14th there were two flycatcher sp, which despite the non-diagnostic sonograms were no doubt Spotted Flycatchers, a species I have yet to witness in the flesh this year. Waders continue to feature occasionally, though nothing untoward. Very entertaining.

Non-birdy stuff then...

Profusion of Greater Butterfly Orchids at Cogden

Pallid beauty

A significant arrival of Painted Ladies on 16th, all hunkered down in the damp and dismal conditions. I saw six - five flushed and one which became a Wheatear's breakfast - but there must have been countless others.

Rob, our eldest son, is visiting from Switzerland right now. Yesterday we had a stroll along the Exeter Canal, scene of many an angling adventure together when he was still based in the UK. Spotting an unfamilar dragonfly, I whipped out the camera...

Being rubbish at dragonflies, I had to look it up. Teneral male Scarce Chaser, apparently. Considering an adult is blue, it's not surprising I didn't realise what it was. I have to say, the youngster looks a good deal smarter than the adult!

So there we are, all up to date. Almost two weeks of May left, yet it feels like spring is over. Barring the ultra-slim possibility of something rare, I foresee a lot more photos like the last five in this post! Though I am happy to be proved very wrong indeed.


  1. With you on the Pom fail this spring gav - have tried a few times and had a smattering of bonxies and arctics but no poms - that's gotta hurt!

    Too scared to try nocmig here as I'm not sure I could handle being gripped off by a recording - especially if it was of something as mega as a nightjar!


    1. Yep, big disappointment re Poms, Col. Maybe next year...

      When I first started nocmig recording I did wonder how I'd feel about being 'gripped off' by the recorder. And in the very early days I felt it once or twice. But weirdly, what has happened since is that nocmig has simply become part of the way I do birding, and a nocmig biggie is just as welcome as a visual one.