Looking west, thinking east.

I squeezed an hour or two in at Cabin Hill this afternoon, dark, humid and grey, but despite that, it was not too bad for a west coast afternoon.
Three Whinchats alongside a family party of five Stonechat, Whitethroat, grotty, featureless juve Reed Buntings, and groups of Starlings, Goldfinch and Chaffinch were in the grazed corner field at the end of Range Lane.
All were frequently spooked by local Kestrels, which also sent a mixed flock of Swallows and House Martins into apoplexy.

Yesterday a meeting at the neighbouring Altcar Rifle Range produced a fine Short Eared Owl and stacks of Painted Ladies around the coastal thistles, so I was feeling autumnally inspired and ready for action today.

I was hoping to see a few Whinchats this afternoon – they’re pretty much guaranteed, but distant, at Cabin Hill in autumn, albeit in small numbers.
They remind me of the days when big counts were recorded on passage on our coast, and they were very much an indicator “carrier species”, rather than the target bird they are now.
The first scarce bird I found – a Wryneck – was lurking amongst 100+ plus Whinchats around 40 years ago (!!!) at Hightown as I left the area following a morning’s ringing with my uncle, Dave Low.
I remember bouncing along in his car and testing out my new Boots Pacer binoculars as we drove off site.
“Whinchat…Whinchat…Whinchat…Wryneck…Whinchat – woah!!!”
The Wryneck disappeared as soon as we stopped of course, dropping into the Sea Buckthorn, and it took a few hours before it was refound and any doubts over a youngster’s id call evaporated.

Whinchats used to breed at Hightown, but they, like my uncle, are long gone…
Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and titmice were in the scrub at Cabin Hill today, and Phil Smith was heading off for some willowy business in the Devil’s Hole.
A Spotted Fly was sallying out from the wires by Range High School, but two afternoon walkers, loudly sharing their life experiences, spooked it before I could get close enough for a clear picture.

“Blah blah BLAH” – bye bye Spot Fly.