Thursday, 19 June 2008

Surfs up!

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Wildlife Adventure Safaris

A late start at work, a rising tide and a strong wind blowing a right old hooley in midsummer equals only one thing – Storm Petrels. So a stint down by the North Shore Boating Pool was called for. Humming “They’ll be coming round the boating pool when they come….they’ll be coming round the boating pool when they come…they’ll be…” (Well, I’ve seen a few Leach’s Petrels doing that) I made my way to a sheltered cliff top vantage point, passing the fossils of all manner of marine creatures embedded in the ‘decorative’ water-worn limestone. It’s a pity this was ever removed from some now precious limestone pavement but things were different in times past. Even the cliffs themselves are a shadow of their former selves. Old photos on Blackpool4Me show the cliffs in their natural state without the concrete apron. What plants and animals were to be found there is anyone’s guess now. Soft cliff is a very rare habitat in Lancashire, as they have always been ‘strengthened’ with sea defences and not left to their own natural devices. Clever these Victorians and Edwardians! Hmm.

In the distance the wind turbines off Barrow were spinning like mad. More of these please but only in the right area. No point having ‘environmentally friendly’ energy if it destroys the environment! On a day like today just one of these giants produces enough juice to power my house for a year every 2 hours!

Finding a sheltered spot was proving difficult, the Thrift was blowing about that much it looked like it was going to torn from its roots. Finally found a place where I wasn’t staring in to the teeth of the gale. First bird past was a Common Gull. Unusual, as they are the least common at this time of the year. The supporting cast of Black Headed, Herring and Lesser Black BackedGulls soon put in their appearance. (That’s more species than the whole of Australia!). Even from my high vantage point the larger gulls were disappearing in the troughs between the waves so picking up a bird no bigger than a crisp packet in that expanse of sea was going to be tricky.

It was mesmerising sitting there watching the shadows of the clouds scudding over the churning sea. I was finding it hard to concentrate being buffeted by the wind and my hair was trying to escape to Yorkshire! At least the sun was warm on my back. There weren’t many birds about just a few of the local Herring Gulls riding the up-draughts from the cliffs.

A young Gannet drifted by, unusual to see this species so close in, only a few hundred yards off shore, just behind the surf. Then another Common Gull. The wind is getting stronger, I’m fifty feet up the cliff and getting soaked by the spray from the crashing waves. A Great Black Backed Gull powers by, impervious to the storm. Things are looking up as two Turnstones dash past. Normally they would be roosting in the shelter provided by the boating pool; but this is being used as a race track and the disturbance has forced the wading birds to find somewhere else – I hope they have found an alternative sheltered spot as there is precious little shelter elsewhere along the Promenade.

Magic – a Fulmar not a hundred yards out. I very rarely see these ocean wanderers and then only as distant dots on the horizon. Not a wing beat, just dipping from side to side using the wind – absolutely effortless! Then another! Two Fulmars to one Gannet – that never happens!

No sign of any Storm Petrels. That’s the trouble with wildlife – you just can’t guarantee anything – better luck next time. But it was much better to be out in the wilds (and boy was it wild!) than to be sat indoors watching daytime TV.

I hope this storm blows itself out before next week's National Whale and Dolphin Watch.

Where to next?

1 comment:

babooshka said...

Hello Dave,( say hello to Grace)

I read your comments on my blog and guessed it was you straight away.
Be prepared for a deluge of bloggers coming your way once I get on the case. I can see your blog is going to be a winner. Be prepared to for me picking your brains about plants I photograph and can't identify. You are on my elusive links list.

Really great post, very informative and welcome to the world of blogging.