Tuesday, 21 December 2010

You know it’s cold when...

The Safari counted 39 Magpies still asleep in Magpie Wood this morning. There being no other news from patch 1 we’ll go straight to Patch 2 and the beautiful blood red dawn, missed the eclipse due to cloud though. Looking out over the sea wall the tide was on the rise and had already covered the beach. Temperatures overnight the last couple of nights have been down below minus 10 and just beyond Patch 2’s southern boundary the sea has started to freeze. There were a couple of slushy patches probably of over an acre each gently rocking on the light swell.
Our dodgy gull wasn’t present today, very few were on the patch, but there were good numbers just out of range beyond the slush. Also there was a huge black morass of uncountable oystercatchers being pushed up the sandbank by the rising tide; a very conservative guestimate would be well over 1000. Also present in large numbers were Cormorants with a constant stream of reasonable sized flocks coming in from the open sea to roost in the estuary. SD had recently made a count of about 800 in the shipping lane to the north of us on his cetacean ferry survey; there were certainly plenty about today. Looking to the north we could see a lot more fishing in the hazy distance with several Great Black Backed Gulls in attendance. Wouldn’t like to say how many we had but somewhere between two and three hundred wouldn’t be far short of the mark.
Also seen were two Red Throated Divers, a few scattered small flocks of Common Scoters, nothing like last weeks numbers, and best of the session a pair of Red Breasted Mergansers flew south at close range.
At lunchtime the blimp over the wall was severely curtailed by the need for Christmas shopping. We spent a total of five minutes in the shop and almost an hour getting to and from it – it’s only two miles from the office...this traffic nightmare is becoming, well, a - for want of a better expression - NIGHTMARE!!! Some people are driving over cautiously on the well gritted roads – you can’t skid if you’re only doing 0.0000001 mph!!! We had a minor sideways ‘incident’ on an icy side street ample warning that not even 4WD is totally safe, just put a bit too much right boot down at the wrong time and whayyy-hayyy that was fun!
We had hoped that yesterday’s gull would be about again but it wasn’t. From our usual vantage point we saw the Bar Tailed Godwit again but there were very few gulls on the beach. Looking away down to the south the beach there was full to busting with Oystercatchers and gulls, we shudder to think how many Oystercatchers there might have been, at least a couple of thousand. Once again we moved our second vantage point and once again wondered if this might not be a better patch to watch (nice vagaries of the English language there – why isn’t it patch to wa-tch or potch to wotch rather than patch to wotch?) This viewing point is (currently) better for beachy stuff than our normal watch point. The six ringed plovers were still there as was the Grey Plover. A handful of Sanderlings scampered around a solitary Dunlin, we didn’t count the Oystercatchers or Redshanks but two Turnstones were noted.
As for the gulls; plenty of Black Heads and Commons but very few larger gulls, a Lesser Black Back was way down at the far end and as we were leaving a Great Black Back came in off the sea and landed not too far away from us – my those things are brutes close up.
Far too dull for photos today.
A trawl through the interweb revealed the following joint coldest records going back to January 1973 for Blackpool, equalled in the early hours of yesterday morning; minus 11ºC on 13th & 28 Jan ’79 and 15th Jan ‘82 – not come across any -12s yet, hottest was 34 ºC on 3rd July 1976.
Where to next? Back to those dang shops...
In the meantime let us know if there’s somewhere else you should incorporate in to your patch.

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