Monday, 21 November 2016

Desert Storm

Motivation and opportunity to get out with the camera have both been a bit lacking recently. With autumn migration largely over and done with, the allure of Swineham in mid-November is pretty limited, being, as it generally is, mild, wet and devoid of interesting bird life. I was discussing this problem with fellow Swineham regular Trevor on the train on the way home from work mid-week, and by the end of the conversation we had talked each other into twitching the long-staying Desert Wheatear in neighbouring Devon if it remained until the weekend. A patch-neglect pact, if you will.
Trevor doesn't generally twitch but had never seen Desert Wheatear in the UK, and I had never seen a male, incentive enough for us both to make the effort. After an exhausting week at work neither of us fancied an early start, so a leisurely departure time of 0800 was agreed and not long after the good news came through that the Desert Wheatear was still present. This made the journey a breeze, and despite signs diverting us off the A35 due to an accident (if being dumped on the outskirts of Axminster with literally no signage can be called a 'diversion') we followed our noses westwards arriving at Thurlestone around mid-morning.
The forecast had been sufficiently good for the morning to support, we thought, our decision not to head down too early but we stepped out of the car into the what appeared to be an early appetiser for Storm Angus. A fierce squall soon had us running for cover behind a raised bank at the back of Leasefoot Beach before we had even raised our bins to look for the bird. The squall had also caused other birders to flee the beach but as we stood there wiping our spectacles, wondering if it had also caused the Wheatear to beat a retreat, a passer-by who had seen it earlier pointed it out in a favoured spot on the beach.
With the squall passed we were soon crawling around in the sand trying to get close enough for a few photos. The Wheatear was reasonably confiding but also very active, flying regularly to the end of the small beach to preen on rocks and the low cliff face before heading back to the strand line to feed. Unfortunately the weather had taken its toll and the bird was looking a bit bedraggled, its breast feathers looking particularly waterlogged. Any concerns that this might have done any lasting damage were fortunately allayed by photos from the following day which showed it looking all fluffy and handsome again. A charming bird, and an enjoyable excursion.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic Series Peter ..... Thanks for the link to my Blog Bud