Out on Patch 1 pre-dawn, now with more than a hint of light in the eastern sky, the Peregrine was on its usual roosting ledge. We bumped in to a neighbour who told us that her dog had just sent the Fox dashing for the safety of its underground earth deep in the bushes.
By the time we’d done the circuit it was hardly any lighter but the Peregrine had flown off. Recent webcam observations at Derby cathedral have shown that they are able to successfully hunt at night. Not surprising when you consider the size of their eyes – big in relation to their body.
Patch 2 before work was beset by bait diggers; four were spread out along the low water line in front of us, upsetting the waders. The Sanderlings, Redshanks and Oystercatchers were skittish and moving about uncountably. The gulls were calmer and we started to count the Common Gulls after the other day’s good guestimate it would be nice to know how many there actually are. About half way through the count we came across one that appeared to be much darker than the rest. A trick of the morning light or a real difference? It helped solve the problem by picking up a shell and flying up then dropping it. It did this a few times, as luck would have it when the shell broke it was near another ‘typical’ Common Gull which walked up to it in the hope of scraps or a steal and we could compare the saddle colours. They were noticeably different; in comparison the darker one was almost approaching Lesser Black Backed Gull darkness more smoky dusky grey than dove blue grey and a little ‘heavier’ in overall build but at that range we couldn’t tell if the bill was any stouter…a full L.c.heinei? Perhaps not, but probably one from further north and east than our ‘normal’ ones which are mostly Scottish breeders. Best bird we’ve found on the beach for a while. After all that 53 was the final count.
A numb-nut in a bright yellow jacket appeared and started to pick Mussels off the outfall pipe – well I tried them once and never again – as gritty as a gritty thing from Gritsville, Arizona! – they’ll appear on a restaurant menu somewhere in town tonight probably…oohh err. He did, however, flush two Turnstones – dough-brain! Pick of the best of the rest was a north flying Great Crested Grebe and a tiny scattering of Common Scoters, Not near enough to check for any Velvet Scoters – our Patch 2 bogey bird – there have been some on the South side and others off Walney Island to the north. Bally typical! Stuck in the middle with(out) you... Oh no not more musical references viz. Stealers Wheel featuring a very nice chap named Tony Williams who is now one of our local Councillors!...and Nilsson (not written by him though but by a 60’s/early 70’ s group called Badfinger (appropriate - given my condition!) – Don’t ever, ever, ever mention the diabolical wailing, shrieking version by an American female, who can’t sing, in my presence – she destroyed the song in my (humble haha) opinion.
Lunchtime saw a reduced Patch 2 visit, more Common Scoters this time, about sixty, and most of them close enough to be grillable but no Velvets…what were you expecting. We did get four Great Crested Grebes this time and a mammal year tick – Grey Seal, but that was very distant to the south. A necessary errand out of town left us within striking distance of an area from which a mixed wild swan flock, of approximately a hundred birds, had recently been reported. We had to check it out. Rounding the corner we could see the flock away across the fields in the distance – they were still there…phew. Most of them were Bewick’s Swans (102), outnumbering the Whooper Swans by about 3:1, not that we had time to count them.
What was noticeable was that there were very few birds off the year so last year’s breeding season might not have been too good. Four Grey Lag Geese were sat in the middle of the flock. Impossible to tell if these are feral local British breeders or genuine wildlies from the Northern Isles or Iceland. Five minutes was long enough to get some dodgy digiscope pics (long range, old scope, cheapest camera, gloomy conditions) before having to head back at breakneck speed to the desk. Nowhere near enough time to think about going for the now very close lifer, we’ll have to wait until the next high tide at the end of the month.
Good to get Bewick’s Swans on the year list as they have been a bit tricky in recent years, the milder winters have resulted in many of the western European wintering population staying on the continent. In the early 90’s a good sized flock of roosting birds used to appear nightly on the nature reserve and it was a real joy watching them coming in each evening and settle down on the mere.
So 102 in the bag only 98 to go…we should be so lucky…(lucky, lucky, lucky - Oh no not Kylie!)
Where to next? Small matter of an important footy match tonight as the Seasiders take on the always in form and hard to beat West Bromwich Albion – a clean sheet no score draw will do nicely…a win, of course, would better!!!
In the meantime let us know which tricky species you’ve just seen in your outback.