Wednesday, 11 August 2010

National Whale and Dolphin Watch – Day 5 – half way!

The Safari was out last night again in a fresh pair of keks and thankfully the vicious trouser-shredding Toby was nowhere to be seen. The Sparrowhawk was out and about though and gave us a few good fly past views and this rather hastily grabbed poor pic. Note the colour of the background – BLUE!!!!!!!!!!!
The late night Patch 1 walk revealed no Peregrine and it wasn’t there this morning – gone AWOL? The sky was CLOUDLESS, well almost cloudless and the colour for just a few minutes at that late hour was a beautiful rich, deep turquoise or aquamarine – worth going out for. Apparently we missed a show of the Aurora Borealis last week – too dang cloudy – not often it appears this far south would have been something special to witness.
What had appeared yesterday though was the welcome return of Red Admirals with one in the garden at Base Camp, feeding on the Buddleias, and one in the White Letter Hairstreak glade.
This morning Patch 1 gave us a singing Wren, a lot of Woodpigeons and three Sparrowhawks; which were a male and female juvenile and the adult female. All whipping through the breezy, swaying treetops at breakneck speed calling all the while – spectacular to watch. The walk back once again gave us the ‘hweet’ of a Willow Warbler/Chiffchaff from an isolated tree in a garden – they’re certainly on the move!
Possibly even better than the Sparrowhawk aerobatic display team was a party of at least 26 – that’s 2-6 Blue and Great Tits that went through Base Camp’s garden this morning! WOW!!! We were having our brekkie so couldn’t say how many of each.
No early Patch 2 today, on a mission to see if we can find the recently discovered Common Lizard colony and grab some pics but the weather was unkind to say the least; the promised sunny spells and light winds turned into showery drizzle driven by a near gale force winds.
Meanwhile we enjoyed a rant loosely regarding a Cuckoo and twitching. Sad to think that many local quality birders have to twitch this species for their year lists at this time of year as they must have all missed it in the spring – where have all the Cuckoos gone?
Is it something to do with their host species? A good few years ago at the nature reserve we were watching a young Cuckoo in the nest being fed by its Sedge Warbler parents when a Long Tailed Tit with a gobful of food flew over saw that huge gape and just had to dive in! At that time LTT themselves had only just started breeding on the nature reserve. There are now more Reed than Sedge Warblers on the nature reserve so you would think that would suit the Cuckoos better. Meadow Pipits don’t seem to be too scarce in the uplands (PW should be able to give a more accurate perspective on their local populations) – is it that they have become desynchronised with their host or prey items due to Climate Change, or a decline in prey due to farming or other man-made effects although the bird in question seems to having no trouble finding large amounts of big caterpillars. Or is there something seriously untoward in their wintering grounds in Africa; probably a combination of all these factors and more – but we’ll probably have to nip up and twitch it ourselves otherwise Cuckoo will be an embarrassing gap on the year list – Sorry S; needs must when the devil drives!
Regarding Climate Change we made a comment in response to a comment from Monika the other day which isn’t exactly true. Although we appear to be in the grip of an orrible cold summer here in Blackpool unfortunately it is just about bob on ‘normal’ for us. If anything the night-time temperatures are a little up on the long term average! It just feels like it ought to be a lot better/warmer!!!
We will let you know how Blackpool has fared temperature-wise over the last decade (compared to 1961 – 1990 & 1971 – 2000) in early January. We have been keeping daily records since 1st Jan 2001. The Met Office will also be showing us how the national picture for 1981 – 2010 compared to those previous 30 year averages,,,we wait with baited breath.
Meanwhile back on Patch 2 for Day 5 of NWDW the wind is choppin up the sea on the rising tide summat rotten! Wot a bag of sh*te the weather has been so far this week. But it is par for the course. If anyone is thinking of booking a holiday to Blackpool next year (or their family/friends/bloke they chat to down the pub) we would advise waiting until they have chosen the date for NWDW then do yourselves a favour and pick a different week.
We got to the watch point on patch 2 an hour before high tide and already the surf was well up the wall. Two Gannets went past in the distance followed by an Arctic Skua (fanfare…170/94 and only five more to get for our 'expected' target, but will that include Cuckoo?) not too far out and giving brief but reasonable views in the sunlight.
It wasn’t long before we started to get wet and there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of seeing any cetaceans, unless it was a dead one being bashed against the sea wall a lá a couple of weeks ago. Or the other dead one we heard about this morning washed up on the beach on the northern side of the other river on Day 2 of NWDW.
At least we had some company today – not a volunteer watcher but a Sea Slater.
Getting wetter we retired to higher ground and tried the shelter that offers no shelter – they might be trendy but they ain’t no good! We were still getting wet.
A handful of adult Lesser Black Backed Gulls headed out in to the wild sea, more passage? Two Cormorants went out low over the water too but they were more likely to be on a fishing expedition. Nothing much happened for ages until two Sandwich Terns nipped through quickly going south, then nothing much started to happen again…really don’t know why we do this; we were getting that wet that if this were a few short years ago before the sea was cleaned up we’d be off ill all next week after being in the ‘miasma’. Thankfully that is now resigned to history.
An Arctic Tern went past, south again, first for ages…it really was that exciting!
Then disaster happened; we stood out there a full quarter of an hour longer than necessary cos we couldn’t hear the alarm on the mobile phone for the whistling of the wind and the pounding of the surf! But even with the ‘extra-time’ we surprisingly we had no Manx Shearwaters, Balearic Shearwaters or Storm Petrels (although it is getting a little late in the season for the latter) – where were they? Oooooohh - we’ll be double vexed if any Stormies snuck through in the deep troughs and those expert seawatchers on the South-side have seen some.
It was, however, warmer than expected and at least it didn’t rain…
Where to next? Day 6 beckons…and the weather forecast says…(a) sunny with showers and windy and (b) sunny without showers and windy…maybe we won’t get wet…hahaha a very high tide (9.8m) only half an hour after the watch finishes – we’ll get wet all right.
In the meantime let us know if you’ve been suffering from the miasma in your outback.

1 comment:

Monika said...

I also heard about the Aurora being seen at more southerly latitudes due to the recent solar flare, but unfortunately it was all overcast here on the nights it was most likely to be seen - not that I would have camped out from midnight to 4 AM as they suggested if you really wanted the best chance to see it!

Now that you've posted some pictures I can see why you haven't been able to spot any harbor porpoises in those seas - yikes!