Friday, 16 December 2022

When Cold is Hard

This morning was possibly the last in a series of proper sub-zero dawns. There is no doubt a good freeze does spice up the birding, but you have to feel for the birds which struggle to find food when the ground is rock hard or covered in snow, and are then forced to move. A few times in the past we have witnessed thousands of birds heading west along (or close to) the local coast in such conditions, yet known that things were as bad or worse further on. Pretty grim. On this occasion it hasn't been too dramatic, with Lapwing, Golden Plover and Snipe being the main species noticeably affected.

Just before sunrise I could see a number of Lapwings hunkered down in the undisturbed field north of the river in West Bay. Amazingly, they had an obvious covering of frost. Which I guess demonstrates the insulating qualities of a layer of feathers, but also just how hard it must be for these birds. I was expecting a lot of movement once the sun rose, but in the end there was very little, just 34 Lapwings and nothing else. I guess the last few days of sub-zero temperatures have already shifted everything that needed to shift...

On Wednesday morning I counted 196 Lapwings, heading west or coming in-off in the freezing north-easterly, plus 67 Golden Plovers and 13 grounded Snipe. And yesterday the tally was 530 Lapwings, 117 Golden Plovers and 10 Snipe, plus an unexpected bonus in the shape of two, locally scarce Black-tailed Godwits west. Ducks have been few - just a handful of Teal, plus a/the Goosander on the river on two mornings.

A typical sight this week - a small flock of Lapwings heading west.

Some House Sparrow survey by-catch - a nice flock of 77 Golden Plovers just north of Bradpole on Wednesday afternoon, plus a couple of Lapwings below.

The House Sparrow survey continues to produce little surprises. Tom found a Siberian Chiffchaff this afternoon, and yesterday I was granted access to some private land which, in addition to 17 Sparrows, also gave me a Bridport recording area tick...

Marsh Tit - one of two.

The property's owner invited me in for a cuppa afterwards, and we watched a Marsh Tit on the garden feeders just outside the kitchen window. Great to have this species so close to town. Meanwhile, a few Fieldfares were in the orchard...

Fieldfare, soaking up the final scant bit of warmth from yesterday's sunshine.

This afternoon I took advantage of our smallest granddaughter's nap time to hit the trail north from our house, a nice valley walk that I've done a few times now, and which falls within my PWC 2023 Bridport North patch. But today was a bit special, with two species I did not expect...

Dipper! Poor photo in the distant, gloomy shade, but I don't care.

Many times I have searched for Dipper along this little river, so it was extremely pleasing to come across this one, probably just 10 minutes walk from home. It zipped off downstream shortly after this photo was taken, even closer to my front door!

A bit further on I had a good poke around in an area I've always fancied for Woodcock. I think I have only checked it once before, without success, but this afternoon I found two immediately. Brilliant! Another personal first for the Bridport recording area. Not wanting to spoil my chances of a repeat performance in January, when I start the 2023 Patchwork Challenge, I didn't disturb the area any further!

Looking back over the last two-and-a-bit months, I can hardly believe how good the birding has been. Short of dishing up a pukka British Birds rarity, I fail to see what more the Bridport recording area could have done to persuade me to give it a lot of attention next year...


  1. It's been a tough week for the birds but thankfully it should ease up next week. Despite the iron ground, my garden has been full of the usual with none of the field visitors like fieldfare or brambling etc I would expect in these conditions so, I guess, there's still food available out there.

    1. Similar here, Dave. No winter thrushes or Skylarks on the move locally, so I guess they're okay. Might have been very different if there had been a lot of snow cover.