Patch 2 at dawn was another matter, had to wait half an hour after getting to work for it to get light enough to warrant nipping over the road. It was busy on the beach. A runnel under the seawall had attracted over a hundred gulls, mostly Herrings but a tidy number of Commons too and just a handful of Black Heads. A brute of a Great Black Back kept an eye on the proceedings from the ‘higher’ vantage point of the crest of nearby sandbank. We were giving the gulls a good going over, one Herring Gull stood out as being more advanced in its moult with a pristine white head, but no more unusual than that. Whilst we were in the grip of gull fever a Rock Pipit was noticed to land briefly on the Bladderwrack at the base of the wall before moving of south down the beach, and a Ringed Plover was spotted too. There has been a Ring Billed Gull away down at the bottom end of the south side so always a possibility, but before we could work our way through the whole flock a barking dog appeared from one of the sets of steps close by and flushed the lot…brilliant…NOT!
They moved down to the pool over by the outfall pipe where they settled down enough to be given our full attention once more. Nothing doing. Sanderlings however were doing a lot; exactly forty of them zazzed about the lower part of the beach on their clockwork legs picking up this that and the other they seem to find down there – what it is exactly is anyone’s guess – maybe they do actually eat sand there doesn’t seem to be much else in the small particle line when you take a close look. Three Turnstones were in the vicinity of the pipe and we didn’t take too much notice of the Redshanks idly clocking a meagre six or seven.
Out at sea a pair of Common Scoters looked like they had had a pre-Christmas bust up sitting facing opposite directions about 25 yards apart fairly close in. What we took to be an adult Shag came briefly into the field of view, landed on the water and promptly dived never to reappear. It did look slight and slim beaked but at distance and with nothing about for size comparison…hmm – another one that got away? – Shag’s aren’t regular along this stretch of coast although a handful have turned up on some of the local marine lakes in the bay after the heavy weather a few weeks ago, they appear to be all juveniles rather than adults though. We missed the best sighting of the morning; young AD came out for a few minutes and spotted a massive flash of lightning over the Liverpool area. By way of thrilling natural phenomena we were lucky enough to spot a fine shooting star over Patch 1 yesterday morning.
More thrilling was the Patch 2 lunchtime visit. Little doing bird-wise but dark snow storms dotted the horizon.
The usual ubiquitous Common Scoters were bobbing about and a few gulls careened over the swells. One of the snow/hail storms rattled through at a rate of knots stinging the face and making watching a painful experience. Once it had passed and full concentration resumed we got the sighting of the day - a distant pale phase Arctic Skua going north low over the waves – certainly not one we would have put a bet on earlier in the day! Soaked by another sleety downpour and no more birds it was time to retreat indoors for a celebratory brew.
Only one more day at work and the local Patches then it’s Christmas and hopefully the safari will be reporting exciting stuff.
Where to next? Plastic Peregrine spotting probably.
In the meantime let us know what the snow has dumped in your outback.