Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Looking Back; Dawlish Warren 14/10/00

Birds, birding and wildlife is my main passion in life, I get so much enjoyment and pleasure from it day in day out. One could say it's what makes me tick.  But during a particularly dull dog walk this morning when my head was away with the fairies, I realised that as a more experienced birder it's just not quite the same, there's a certain excitement that's now lacking.

When I started birding and was just getting into birds, everything was new. I didn't have Harry Potter or revision books next to my bed as I was growing up, but bird books.  I knew the Collins Bird Guide off by heart page by page plate by plate, and I read it over and over and over again. As a result all the species and the different plumages in there that I'd never seen before, however common, had an almost mythical status in my head. And whatever the species was, when I first clapped eyes on it in real life after studying it on paper for so so long, it was so captivating and felt like I was actually living the dream and had achieved a massive goal in life. Yes, at the age of 30 I do still see 'new' birds now and then, rare birds turn up that I've never seen before, but they are few and far between as twitching isn't really my thing. And now days when I do twitch something, the bird is so intensely photographed, blogged and tweeted that I kind of feel like I've seen it before I've actually seen it! My main reason for twitching these days is if I think the bird I'm going to see will be educational for me, and will ultimately help me become a better birder.

My usual bed time reading

Anyway, back to starting out and the amazing feeling of learning your way through your early years as a birder, this is what's encouraged me to do some 'turning back the clock' blog posts and relive some of the elation I felt as a teen. 

A photo from the archives of Dad and I at Branscombe in 1989.

I'm lucky enough to have a birder for a Dad, in fact he's what got me into birding in the first place, and much to my delight when I was growing up we went out pretty much every Saturday. Mind you, I think Dad was just as pleased about this as I was - I was the perfect excuse for him to go birding all the time!  I used to keep something of a diary in my early birding days, and these are going to help me construct these 'Looking Back' posts...

My birding diarys from the early 00's

A random page from one of them. Full details of the days birding on the right hand pages, highlights in green felt tip on the left pages, with major highlights/rarities starred in red!

And first up is not so much a day, but a very memorable hour which I can recall so clearly despite it being over 15 years ago!

Dawlish Warren ~ Saturday 14th October 2000

Dad, myself and our very good birding friend Jean Millen (aka 'my birding Mum') were spending this mid October day at Dawlish Warren.  We had spent the morning on the Warren and looking around the Bite, but hadn't seen much special. After our lunch we walked along the sea wall towards Langstone Rock, which is where all the magic happened. 

Even from a distance we could see the (back then regular) Common Scoter flock very close in just off the rock, there were about 50 in all, of both sexes, but as we got closer I thought I glimpsed a white stripe down the wing of one of the birds that were resting. We all looked closer, it was slightly bigger, over all a different shape with a completely different face pattern to the female Common Scoters, just two small white dots on a darker brown face. It then flapped - I was looking at my first ever Velvet Scoter!  This was just the start of it. We had already seen a couple of Red-throated Divers, but a close summer plumaged bird was a delight to see, although this was completely eclipsed moments later.  On the flat calm sea a dark green-gloss head appeared, with a beautifully patterned white necklace and a striking blood red eye, I was looking at a summer plumaged Great Northern Diver!  I'd seen many winter Great Northern Divers before, but to see one in this plumage was immense, and not something I thought I'd see without going to northern Scotland or further!  Also whilst looking at the sea we noticed an all dark seabird with pointy wings, and it kept coming closer and closer - it was a dark-phased adult Arctic Skua - the closest view I'd ever had of one.  It sat on the sea, flew west, but soon returned back east before landing on the sea again.

We were just folding up the telescopes and began walking away when a few alarming Herring Gulls made us look up - Osprey!  It circled really low over our heads a couple of times, before disappearing off west towards Dawlish Town.  I'd only seen a handful of these in the past so it really was the icing on the cake.  What an incredible hour!

Reliving this hour of birding ecstasy has made me realise one thing hasn't changed with me and my birding.  Whether I was 15, or 30 (today), I get the most pleasure from seeing a bird I wasn't expecting.  I don't just mean the rares (though they are always nice obviously!), but even just scarce birds, or unseasonal ones. My biggest buzz has always, and I think will always come from the surprise-factor of the unexpected.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed that. Tough if you didn't because there will be more!

8 comments:

  1. Brilliant post Steve,great to see the workings of a Birder,hope you have many more discoveries,as you say,we never know whats around the corner.
    Until we look.
    John.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks John, really pleased you liked the post.
    Best wishes,
    Steve

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice post Steve. Some of my earliest birding memories are from Axmouth in the 1970's. My aunt and uncle used to live in the Old Forge up Chapel Street, my uncle worked for Bindon Estate and my cousin use to own the butchers in Colyton, so I spent many hours gazing at the river. Seen some goodies there over the years. Makes me feel old though - by 1989 I had just started visiting British Columbia!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Roger, many thanks for the comment. Be interesting to know what your best birds were here on the Axe in the 70's, you may well have seen one or two birds that I would very much love to see here!
      Take care,
      Steve

      Delete
    2. Steve, a friend of mine (non-birder!) was mates with Paul Dukes and can remember seeing the Western Sand with him in '73! Grippage!!!

      Delete
    3. Wow what a gripper Gav! Phils got some great birds on us all, but I feel the likes of Squacco, Great Reed Warbler, Scaup and Wilson's Phal are all gettable. But another Western Sand I think is slim...

      Delete
  4. Nice one Steve, just like you my youthful reading was dominated by bird field guides, and everything about Devon's Birds, even at school I would nip off to the School Library which brilliantly had Humphrey Sitters first Atlas of Breeding birds in Devon published by the Devon Birds (DBWPS) in 1974. My favourite book was The Birds of Devon by Robert Moore (a much appreciated Christmas present in 1975!) this was permanently out and dipped into at least a couple of times a week. If we can aspire we can thrive as a birdwatcher!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mike. Many many thanks for the comment, I just love recalling all the excitement in the learning - was so much to learn as well! The very first time you see a species of bird, is that feeling ever truly replicated again... Bird Ringing for me is giving me so much enjoyment at the moment as I am learning so much more to do with the patch.
      Best wishes,
      Steve

      Delete