Monday 2 October 2023

One Bird

'It only takes one bird' is a tired old cliché you'll often hear trotted out to encourage birding slackers into the field in unpromising conditions. Well, tired it may be, but also very true. So many times an outing is made memorable by that 'one bird'...

An early visit to Cogden on Friday was lifted from obscurity by a vocal, fly-over Golden Plover, my first of the autumn. One bird.

For a change I managed a mid-afternoon visit too, and was so convinced there would be no fireworks that I set myself the task of counting Stonechats. The final tally was 54. It was 17:20, with 50+ Stonechats in the bag, and I was on the coast path by the previous day's Wryneck spot. I glanced briefly at the calm sea, and at that moment a wader flew west along the shoreline. Only a Grey Phalarope! It flew well past me, veered away from the beach and plonked on the sea for a short while, but carried on west before I could get close enough for a photo. I had been scanning fields and hedges all afternoon and barely looked at the sea. Perfect timing. One bird.

Saturday morning's outing had to be short, so I tried West Bay, heading up to the West Cliff quarry which hosted last year's Barred Warbler. The list would have been supremely feeble (2 Chiffs) had it not been for a Barn Owl wafting into the quarry at 07:15. A very unexpected West Bay tick, it perched for a few seconds and peered at me, before tucking itself under the overhanging curtain of scrub. Pete saw it shortly afterwards, out and hunting. One bird.

Yesterday I was at Cogden from 17:00 until dusk. A Blackcap, 5 Chiffs, a few Yellowhammers. Nothing much, really. Oh, apart from the superb Merlin which dashed NW past me and on over the coast road, my first of the year. One bird.

Cogden again first thing this morning. Boy, it was gloomy. Thick cloud, a bit mizzly, and just a single Wheatear on the beach. I definitely was not feeling it. A few feet offshore was a straggly, broken string of weedy raftlets riding a gentle swell. Normally I would not dream of hoping to find a Grey Phalarope in such conditions but, after Friday's bird in what was almost a flat calm, naturally I had an optimistic scan. Optimistic, yes, but I was nevertheless gob-smacked to realise that the distant, Grey Phalarope-shaped bit of something-or-other poking out of the weed actually was a Grey Phalarope! Though unfortunately it was not hanging about. As I hurried along the beach towards it, the bird kept moving east in fits and starts, and I never got anywhere near it. One bird.

On the return leg along the inner coast path I was pondering this 'one bird' thing that so often applies to my short outings, and how I might turn it into a blog post, when a speeding bullet whizzed past me across the reedbed. It was a Merlin, in hot pursuit of breakfast. Breakfast didn't wait around get eaten though, and the Merlin landed on the beach.

Thwarted Merlin

So, this morning - just for a change - two birds.


  1. This is great birding Gav but what about the moths? 😉 Actually, I'm of the mind, that with all the American passerines currently having made land-fall. A spare bird may work it's way in your direction. 🤞

    1. Yes, a moth update is overdue. I shall sort that out...

      With so much habitat and so few birders locally, I am sure we see just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Absolutely loads of 'one bird' potential out there I reckon. 😊