Saturday 10 February 2024

Satisfied Customers

I don't suppose a photo has ever screamed 'Brownie Points!' but, if such a thing were possible, this one could be a contender...

The hallway of our little bungalow is finally done.

I shan't try the patience of long-suffering NQS readers by posting photos of the view to the right, featuring beautifully finished cupboards with bespoke doors, neat and functional light switches...that sort of thing...

There is only so much DIY stuff you can get away with on a birding blog, so I will leave it at this: yesterday the entrance matting arrived; I cut it to size, bunged it on the floor, and took the above photo. Next: a big sigh, a fat glass of wine, a swiftly-averted glance at the next jobs on the list. And so it was that I could set out this morning to lead the 2024 season's first Birdwatching Tram with a temporarily clean conscience.

Illness had trimmed our numbers today, but a small and enthusiastic group set out from Seaton Tram Station at 08:30, with our driver, Pete. A spring tide plus recent rain meant the valley was much more flooded than usual, and the top end was heaving with birds. It is so rewarding to show people 'new' birds, sharing small nuggets of knowledge collected over decades of mostly self-centred birding. Two couples had received their tickets as presents, so it felt especially incumbent on me to make things interesting if I could. So - obviously - I waxed lyrical on gulls. Someone asked if Mediterranean Gull was a possibility. 'Yes,' I said, 'Most definitely.' It took a while, but eventually we scraped one out at the farthest point of our journey...

Adult Med Gull. Although I couldn't see it with bins, there is a yellow colour-ring evident in the photo. Presumably a UK-ringed bird. Hampshire, or Sussex maybe?

Brent Geese are unusual on the Axe, so this adult grazing on Sheep's Marsh was a nice surprise. I'm not sure that it was 100% fit. Swivelling its head to preen, it kept overbalancing and falling over. Or maybe it is just very elderly? Old age ain't that kind to humans either...

The wobbly Brent.

Nearing the end of our trip, we stopped for a short time at the Riverside Halt. Which meant a quick scan of the Bovis estate rooftops for Black Redstart. Always a chance at this time of year, albeit slim. Far away I spied a possible candidate, but had to use the camera to confirm one way or the other. Sure enough, a male Black Redstart. At 250+ metres, it was a dot. So, having disembarked back at the tram station I popped round to the housing estate to see if there was any sign. And briefly, there was...

Male Black Redstart. Original photo, from the tram at 250+ metres. Full frame at 2000mm equivalent zoom.

Same bird, I assume. A bit closer.

A good trip. Loads of birds, with one or two nice highlights. And, more importantly, happy punters...

Some of this morning's group. A real pleasure.

That was the first of eight planned outings on the Seaton Birdwatching Tram for me this year. I genuinely look forward to them, and not just for the birding possibilities. Last year, Steve found Wryneck, Caspian Gull and Garganey on his trips (massively eclipsing my own 'find' highlights!) so there is certainly a great deal of potential on these jaunts. But I'll be honest, satisfied customers are enough for me. Birds are a bonus.

If a birdy pot of gold was at the end of that rainbow, it stayed well out of sight.


  1. That's one neat piece of work there Gav, however, the very mention of anything but birds on your blog would, no doubt, completely and diametrically bamboozle many readers. And for some perhaps? inflict such paroxysms of stress and uncertainty, that emergency medical intervention is required. Lets hope they managed to reach the male Black Redstart before passing out.

    1. When it comes to random digression, this blog has history! I suspect that any NQS readers still hanging in there will be well used to it by now! 😄

  2. With carpeting and DIY updates on your blog you could be the new Bagnell!


    1. Ha ha! Perhaps I should write a book... 😄

    2. If you did I imagine you would likely avoid some of the common pitfalls....