Monday, 20 September 2010

Wot, no rain?!!!

The Safari was relieved not to get wet on Patch 1 this morning after over 24 hours of non-stop heavy rain. With all that rain getting us down we forgot to lift our spirits by talking like a pirate all day yesterday – hope none of you forgot too.
Just one of the Peregrines was on the water tower and that soon headed of eastwards into the gloomy dawn. We were able to monitor its progress through the cries of alarm coming from the local gulls on the rooftops.
It was soon obvious that there were a few Robins about and this morning they outnumbered Blackbirds 2-1, with at least 14 and seven respectively. Three Wrens sang at each other from the dark depths of the shrubbery.
On the way back we had our best view of a Fox for a long time. Due to the horrendous weather we had left the early morning little camera at home not wanting to get it any wetter, but we don’t think we’d have been able to get it out of the pocket, turned on and focused in the time before Frank spotted the Fox and shot off after it like a rocket. What he would have done to it had he caught up with it is open to question but as he sniffed around the bushes where it disappeared his tail was wagging so much we though it might actually come loose and fly off!

Hitting Patch 2 after letting a particularly heavy downpour pass over it was something of a disappointment after the unprecedented seabird extravaganza of last week – almost all of which we missed! Only about 50 Common Scoters were knocking about on the rising tide doing their ‘no idea where we want to be’ thing; I’m going this way, you’re going that way, why are they going over there? What’re the odds on us getting a Velvet Scoter before Christmas – longer than ‘Pool winning the Premiership probably?
A Red Throated Diver heading into the estuary was our first of the season.
Back on the sea wall at lunchtime we met a couple from Lincolnshire who said they’d been there for about half an hour and not had anything other than the Common Scoters. They also said that they’d spoken to a couple of other lads who had been out for an hour before them and they too had had very little. It didn’t look good, but hey, it wasn’t raining and it wasn’t cold so we thought we give it a go for a quarter of an hour at least.
First up we were checking the mooching Common Scoters for something more exciting – there wasn’t anything to get the pulse racing…well there wouldn’t be would there?
A Guillemot came in from the north and remarkably put its landing gear down and flopped onto the sea next to one that was already there that we hadn’t seen – how do they find each other in such an expanse of seemingly featureless water – smell?
Then we had the weird one! The light was good, nice and flat with no shadows, but the sea was still very choppy when we picked up a Manx Shearwater coming towards us from the south spending most of its time out of sight in the troughs. The wind was due west so the waves were parallel to the shore putting anything in the troughs temporarily out of view. This bird was fairly close inshore, only a few waves beyond the breakers which were still just about reaching the toe of the wall. When it was closer was saw it wasn’t a Manxie at all, quite a bit smaller and with a much less cruciform shape, wings much more sharply angled at the elbow, recalling a very small skua. Uniformly dark, but perhaps not quite black, above with maybe a hint of a paler tail and rump but that could have been an effect of the light as it went passed us with the light now behind it. The flight wasn’t quite ‘Manxie’ either if you know what we mean, the bird’s jizz wasn’t right - the way it moved through the waves was just ‘wrong’ …and then it was gone…we never did get to see anything of the underside…total viewing time about a minute; total time in view about 10 seconds! Certainly something we’ve never seen before anywhere in the world but what was it? Answers/suggestions on a post-card please.
Whilst following the flight-line of that we picked up a Leach’s Petrel coming towards us…excellent stuff and well worth sticking it out for more than the intended quarter hour.
What followed was the best view of a Leach’s we have ever had. For about five minutes it jinked, fluttered, hovered, and flitted in and out and over the lessening waves just behind the surf, no more than a hundred yards from us, appearing to picking tiny bits of ??? from the surface, doing the pattering thing, at times it seemed to be using its feet as an extra brake dragging them in the water to hold itself still. Exceptional views. Then it ‘tumbled’ into a trough and was gone. No chance of getting a pic but for some ‘proper’ pics of Leach’s have a look here and here.
The sun came out and looking south the light became awful. As the tide started to drop a bit more and leave a bit of beach the gulls began feasting on the thousands of Starfish that had been washed up; a Great Black Backed Gull waited for the Herrings to find a particularly tasty morsel he could steal.

We gave it a few more scans but with picking up nothing other than the regular Common Scoters and a few Cormorants we called it a day humbled to have witnessed one of those miniscule ocean travellers going about its business – we wish it, and all its storm ravaged chums, a safe trip down to the South Atlantic
Where to next? Maybe something a bit different tomorrow afternoon.
In the meantime let us know what’s been pitter-pattering through your outback.