Thursday 16 November 2023

Winding Down

As the year winds down, so do I. Winter is my least favourite season, and with advancing age seems ever longer and more unrelenting. I am definitely not built for it.

Winter isn't even here yet, and look, already I am moaning about it. You would think I might use the remaining six weeks of the year to seek out those chilly-season specialities currently missing from my Patchwork Challenge list, but I really cannot be bothered. Instead I shall just plod about as per usual, wherever the mood takes me. I'm not going to add to the PWC 2023 tally by visiting Cogden or West Bex but have been to both in the last few days...

The West Bexington Mere is in fine fettle right now, and pulling in the gulls.

On this particular occasion the pre-roost Med Gull count reached 160 on the Mere, though more were on the sea. I still haven't quite got used to such abundance.

Storm Ciarán has ripped a significant breach in the shingle bank at Cogden, and dumped a heap of pebbles on the beach flora.

We had our granddaughter Gracie today, and while she took an afternoon nap I popped down to West Bay to see if any Black Redstarts had taken advantage of the welcome break in south-westerlies to visit the beach. And yes, three had. At the time I wasn't sure how many of them I'd managed to photograph, but it turned out that I had caught them all...

Black Redstart #1. Note split fringe in shortest right-hand tertial.

Black Redstart #2. Photographed in the act of heading E towards the harbour with #1.

Black Redstart #3. This one remained on the rocks just W of the West Pier throughout.

Black Redstarts were a fixture in West Bay last winter, with at least four birds involved, including a gorgeous male. Three female types today was a promising sign that this winter too will be rewarding in that regard. I hope so.

Black Redstart #1 or #2 on the West Pier wall, prior to heading off towards the harbour.

Black Redstart #3 again.

Another winter feature of West Bay is the small population of Rock Pipits. Today I counted 15, all but one in the West Pier area. Knowing that Mark Cutts is engaged in a colour-ringing programme on Portland, in association with the Bird Observatory, I eagerly checked each one for a black plastic ring. Or any ring actually. Predictably, nothing.

I am confident that some of these Rock Pipits will be littoralis birds (the migratory, so-called Scandinavian Rock Pipit) but will not be getting too obsessed with them this winter.

There was just a single Rock Pipit on the wet field inland of Rise restaurant this afternoon, and from some angles its supercilium was quite striking. Could well be littoralis...

The same Rock Pipit.

A recent feature of West Bay winters has been Purple Sandpiper, with up to four at the start of the year. I couldn't find any today though, despite the West Pier rocks looking superb with the tide out. Actually the low tide encouraged me to photograph the harbour for posterity...

The inland half of West Bay harbour at low tide, from part-way along its western side. The wide-angle shot makes it look bigger than it is The swollen River Brit gushing into it mid-shot.

And the seaward half, ditto.

Birding-wise the only plan I have for 2024 is to have no plan. Next year I'll be back to pottering around the local area; no targets, no goals, no boundaries, maybe a silly project or two as the fancy takes me.

Next year? I think I've already started.


  1. Gav, I'm sure something will turn up that you can sink your teeth into. Sea fishing? 😮 Well, not in a conventional sense. I'd be using my carp rods to have a dabble out there. A total unknown as regards what turns up. Hair-rigged Halibut pellets and all.

    1. I once thought that living by the sea would inevitably result in my taking up sea fishing, but in 20+ years I've still managed no more than the occasional dabble. I don't think it's going to happen!

    2. The environment of the sea probably suits my nature Gav. As a lost school report made mention of such, "He just stares into oblivion". They didn't get that one quite right. My position in the classroom simply gave me a good view of a garden with an occupied (Blue Tits) nest box. The greatest number of feeding visits during one double maths ordeal was π 18.143663.

  2. I know what you mean about age and the onset of winter. My week in a tent has done little for my aching bones as I search for inspiration. Roll on Spring.