Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Watching the birdies

No, I wasn't on East Devon golf course, which you can see in the distance on the right of the photo, covered in snow.

The scene may not look especially wintry compared with what people have been suffering in other parts of the UK but it's still pretty unusual for Budleigh Salterton.

I'm not one of those twitcher people, but even I with my fading eyesight couldn't help noticing this odd-looking bird pecking away in the grassy patch down on the beach near Steamer Steps in Budleigh. And then another, and another. Thrushes, with their speckled coats? Quite a few people gathered to watch and wonder. "Partridges?" wondered Chris Miller, landlord of East Budleigh's Sir Walter Raleigh pub, where I showed off my photos (and where we had a most enjoyable lunch). "No", thought his wife Sally, who knows a bit about birds.

The icy conditions even here on the coast have made it hard for birds to find food, but down on the beach the winter sun had melted the snow and created green patches of feeding frenzy. It turns out that our birds were golden plovers, related to lapwings. "They breed on the moorland in northern Britain and move south for the winter," I was informed by my Norfolk ornithologist friend Nick Owens. They feed on worms and beetles and so on. And that name makes them sound so exotic, which is a good thing for Budleigh.

Later I discovered the enthusiastic twitcher's website set up by Jaffa who has noted for Wednesday 6 January that 'Birds flood in to Budleigh' in a 'Huge Cold Weather Movement,' and counted not just two but eight golden plovers. I felt even more blind and ignorant as I browsed his site, which is devoted to birds in the south-west. It's impressively illustrated, and I'll look at it in future. It might even turn me into a twitcher after all. Click here to see Jaffa's site at http://creamteabirding.blogspot.com/


  1. Thanks! I'm not an expert photographer but it's fun to mess around with stuff.