Wednesday, 17 March 2010


I like the Rock Pipit. He’s another bird that stands still long enough for you to admire him. Despite his essential pipitiness he is well qualified as a bird of the Estuary. He, in his habits, as T. A. Coward tells us, “more nearly approaches the shore-haunting waders than any ‘land bird’.” At this time of the year I see him or his mate or both of them every time I walk beneath the red cliffs and along the shingle from Lympstone’s Green to Sowden End.

The Rock Pipit gives me the impression that he likes my company. I think I’ve seen the last of him and then he flutters past me and perches on the cliffs ahead and waits. He is a fearless climber on the cliff face but then I suppose we would all be pretty fearless climbers if we had wings to our backs! Nevertheless the way he keeps his balance without a flutter and hops about and shuffles sideways on the stormsculpted sandstone is remarkable. He is a very chamois among birds.

How he can skip it
that pretty Rock Pipit!

When the tide is falling he ventures out onto the mud flats and finds good things to eat in the rock crevices and in the seaweed. The cold breeze ruffles his Royal Marine olive plumage but like a bold booty he feels not a thing. There are plenty of birds scuttling about on the mud pecking at things but the Rock Pipit more or less has the whole length of the cliff wall to himself. The kestrel that used to hover and hunt there I haven’t seen for a couple of years. He is probably hovering above a motorway these days. There have been winter days when I have glimpsed a kingfisher along these cliffs but not lately. Most days there are fat woodpigeons perched high in the bushes but they don’t do a lot.

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