Saturday 4 February 2023

Puzzling On...

First, the exciting stuff. A long-awaited 2023 Patchwork Challenge tick sailed over West Bay yesterday afternoon: Lesser Black-backed Gull. Get in!

I fear that NQS posts for the next couple of months are going to try the patience of any reader with an aversion to pipits. Sorry, but I am neck-deep already...

Last night I went through all my Rockit pics so far. I seem to have photographed seven different birds. One of them I have photographed on two dates, and another on three. And both those birds were pictured in two different spots, as shown on the following image...

West Bay

Location A is a wet field, extremely popular with dog walkers, who mainly stick to the perimeter but not always. I am not much cop at botany, but am pretty sure I was told that some of the plants (grasses?) in this field are typical saltmarsh species. Whatever, Rock Pipits can often be found feeding here, and being as unapproachable as Rock Pipits reasonably can.

Location B is the pier, or outer harbour wall, with rock armour all along the west side. The far end is roughly 600m from point A. So far I have photographed three Rock Pipits here, and two of them also in the wet field. For some reason, birds are noticeably less wary here.

Rock Pipit 1

The top photo was one of the first I took, back on 29th January, and featured in this post. At the time, I noted that the bird looked fairly swarthy in the field. Certainly it never gave me any littoralis vibes. Yesterday it was on the far end of the pier, and looked quite different. For starters, it has the strongest pair of supercilia that I've seen on any Rock Pipit so far this year...

Rockit 1 yesterday.

Rock Pipit 2

The same day that I first met Rockit 1, I also met the next bird. At the time, I was so smitten by its appearance that it went down as littoralis straight away. Since then I have unwittingly photographed it twice more. But on neither occasion did it particularly stand out to me as obviously littoralis. At the moment I don't know whether this says more about the bird or about the (in)consistency of my field skills. Either way, it is a warning to avoid becoming complacent. Clearly, when it comes to the separation of littoralis and petrosus in winter plumage, I have so far solved nothing.

I am having a lot of fun though.

And I am so glad that individual birds can be identified from photos!

If this collage teaches me one thing, it is this: never trust a photograph's depiction of subtle browns and greys.

My gut feeling is that both the above are littoralis. I hope they hang around long enough to show me a bit of pre-breeding colour. We'll see...

In the meantime, there are sometimes other birds to get excited about...

108 Lapwings. They hang around in the field immediately north of, and across the river from, location A. It is largely undisturbed, thank goodness. It would be nice if someone could just buy it, please, and turn it into the wetland it so wants to be. If any reader has a few bob going spare...?

The Odd Couple. Two months now.

The droopy-winged female-type Black Redstart again.

The male Black Redstart yesterday. Two months since my one and only previous sighting, though it has occasionally been seen by others. Where does it get to?

Finally, and with apologies for this super-early lepidopteral digression, the moth trap went out last night for the first time since December. Just a single moth, which didn't even get inside the trap. A garden first though...

Pale Brindled Beauty. Very nice.

Very little birding time this weekend, and already I'm getting Rockit withdrawal. I do sometimes wonder what I would get up to without these silly puzzles to keep my brain ticking over...


  1. Relieved it's not just me that finds these kind of things fun!

    1. Adds an extra dimension to everyday birding, doesn't it? Very enjoyable. 😊