Monday, 22 November 2010

What do you call a linear bait-ball?

The Safari didn’t get as far as Patch 2 this morning due to a knackered Frank after his woodland excursions with his mate Benny yesterday. However Patch 2 was pretty lively in the half light of dawn before work. The beach was literally covered with gulls but try as we might we couldn’t pick any dubious ones out, certainly no juvvy Iceland Gull amongst them. We counted exactly 75 Oystercatchers but there were at least 10 times that many off Patch to the south, along with ‘thousands’ more gulls. We also got a fairly high count of 74 Redshanks then something unseen flushed more off the seawall and we had to revise this to 100+.
A scan of the sea revealed a veritable Piccadilly Circus of Cormorants, it was as if the Common Scoters had tripled in size, plenty of them were going every which way. A small number of Red Throated Divers were seen, nothing like the 180+ from last Friday when we couldn’t get out!
A little to our right we noticed a thin string of gulls sat on the water, as we scanned further it was obvious something was going on. Cormorants were popping up craning their necks upwards in the act of swallowing large fish. In the end we had a top count of 44, but as some would undoubtedly have been underwater and others were flying in to join the throng this will have been an underestimate by perhaps as much as 20 - 25%. A first winter Shag was with them, always a good find along this stretch of coast. A single Great Crested Grebe was a poor showing considering the 65 seen at the end of last week.
Red Throated Divers started to arrive at the feast and our best count was 11, outnumbered by 12 Great Black Backed Gulls, a high count for the Patch. We started to hope that a Great Skua or a mammal might turn up but the flock began to disperse before any of these ‘species of more major interest’ put in an appearance. From the several fish we saw disappearing down the Cormorants’ gullets we’d hazard a guess they were Whiting.
At lunchtime there were still a fair few Cormorants feeding along ‘the strip’ although with not so much gusto as earlier. A single Red Throated Diver was still there as was the Great Crested Grebe and just one of the Great Black Backed Gulls hung around hopefully. As sort of predicated a Grey Seal was seen bottling briefly at the surface before sinking beneath the waves for some lunch.
Scanning around we noted at least the same amount of Cormorants in the mouth of the estuary and a similar number were counted heading towards the rigs out over the horizon, total for the day must have been in the order of triple figures.
Red Throated Divers for this session had dwindled to just four including the one mentioned earlier.
However, again as sort of predicted we got a Harbour Porpoise. Actually we saw three ‘surfacings’ and thought there may well have been two. Back at our desk an email from another Cetacean aficionado, SD, confirmed there had indeed been two.
This sighting sits nicely very close to our ‘curve of expected time of porpoise sightings’, being an hour and a quarter after high tide on a fairly high tide.
Shame about the Great Skua – woulda been the hat-trick!
A good look through the gulls on the rapidly expanding beach gave us nothing to get excited about, Redshank numbered a measly compared to earlier but still good for here 34 and in amongst them we spotted a Turnstone pecking at a bit of washed up seaweed.

Exciting and somewhat bizarre news was heard that the enigmatic and ‘extinct’ Thylacine may have been seen recently and even captured on video – is this more Crypto-zoology weird type stuff or is it real? We certainly hope it is real!

Where to next? Wonder if that bait ‘ball’ will still be about.
In the meantime time let us know what’s been balling up in your ouback

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