Friday 10 May 2024

May Rewards

Since the visit to Portland Bird Observatory I've been birding four times, and it's fair to say that migrant land birds have been like the proverbial rocking horse poo. Presumably they are arriving at necessary destinations inland, but I've seen hardly any on the coast. A Cogden outing on May 3rd was typical: four Lesser Whitethroats - quite possibly territorial birds - and a lone Wheatear. May 5th was even worse. From sunrise to 08:30 the only migrant I noted was a Swallow. Though nothing special, an afternoon jaunt on 7th was birdy indulgence by comparison, featuring my first Spotted Flycatcher, Garden Warbler and Whinchat of 2024, 3 Wheatears, a Willow Warbler and the dregs of a Red Kite movement that had already seen well over 250 heading west just inland of the coast. My 12 birds were significantly north of the coast road, and little more than Red Kite-shaped dots.

A few snaps...

What a joy, finally to catch sight of a freshly-arrived Whinchat on the beach (roughly a third of the way up, bang in the middle).

Female Whinchat.

Nice to see some cracking Wheatears passing through still.

Spotted Flycatcher is always a treat, especially when perched up all perky like this.

Once upon a time I would occasionally encounter breeding Spotted Flycatchers while out working in East Devon, but that hasn't happened for many years now.

The 'one Swallow' morning was brightened by my first local cetacean for a while...

A single Common Dolphin heading E with attendant Black-headed Gulls.

Red-throated Diver is not what the early-May birder is particularly after.

This morning dawned calm and clear, and I really hoped an early beach walk would produce a few waders. With just a handful of Whimbrel and a Sanderling to my credit so far this spring, things could only get better. And they did. The final tally was 43 Sanderling, 25 Whimbrel, and singles of Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Grey Plover. That's more like it. The latter two species are less regular than the others, and both look fantastic in summer plumage...

Turnstone with Sanderling.

Sum-plum Grey Plover, a classy stunner.

Walking E from Burton Bradstock this morning, I could see a distant flock of Whimbrel by the water's edge at Cogden. By the time I arrived I could hear them calling, though they were hidden below the shingle ridge. Without any prompting from me or anyone else, they took off and flew N, away over the coast road and out of sight. A few years back I saw a flock of 60 Whimbrel do exactly the same thing. I wonder how many blissfully oblivious inland birders missed a decent patch species heading over today, presumably at considerable height. I have many nocmig Whimbrel records, but don't so readily think of them as daytime migrants over land.

It's 06:25, and 17 Whimbrel are taking an overland trip north.

Incoming. Two Whimbrel dropping in to the beach.

The Sanderlings were at various stages of progress into breeding plumage.

For anyone not aware of this feature, note lack of hind toe on Sanderling. On at least one occasion that I can think of, this handy field mark has been used to nail the correct ID of a what had optimistically once been a Red-necked Stint.

Walking back along the beach this morning I helped out with the rescue of a couple of badly-snagged Great Black-backed Gulls. A discarded mackerel feather trace had tethered the birds, one hooked in the foot, the other in the lower mandible. Without assistance they would certainly have died. We managed to unhook the foot, but I had to bite through the line on the bill-hooked individual. It was 1st-summer bird, and looked pretty done in, flopped awkwardly on the shingle. Feeling sorry for the poor thing I lifted it upright, whereupon it pecked me energetically before flying off without a backward glance.

First non-DIY blood blister for a very long time. GBB Gull packs a punch.

I cannot believe that this kind of tackle winds up on the beach 'accidentally'.

There haven't been many lepidopteral shots for a while so here is a Wall butterfly from this morning...

Wall is a pretty smart insect anyway, but I can't help thinking that the underwing is its best feature.

Finally, this Stonechat gave me an absolute peach of a photo-opportunity...

That azure backdrop is the sea. Not bad...


  1. A busy post Gav, and the usual excellent pics. Have the moths had a look-in yet?

    1. Cheers Dave. Very low key with the moths this year, but the trap has been out a few times. It's been slow so far though.