Friday, 28 January 2011

Dunlin numbers go through the roof.

The Safari was surprised to open the door to a smattering of snow this morning, not enough to completely cover the cars but certainly enough to notice. It was very quite, just a Robin was twittering in the distance. We did hear something very unusual though, the wind must have been in the right direction as we heard a Lion roaring; we’re assuming it was still within the confines of the zoo and not somewhere closer!!!
Patch 1 was very quiet; even the Song Thrush was silent (gone?). As usual we counted the Magpies but they were beginning to rouse themselves and were a bit on the wary side and moving about; we tentatively got somewhere between 30 and 40. We did hear something we don’t ever recall hearing before, a Magpie singing a lovely, but very quiet, musical thrush-like song; we’ve heard something similar from Jays a few times over the years, a species we come across far, far less frequently than Magpies. Had a look/listen on Xeno-canto and no-one has added a recording of this song to that great site.
We got out on to Patch 2 just as the sun was rising over the rooftops. The sea was flat calm and visibility perfect...shame there wasn’t much out there! We were hoping for a Harbour Porpoise or two but only got ten Great Crested Grebes instead. A couple of distant Red Throated Divers was an improvement on yesterday but Common Scoter numbers were well down with no more than 50 being seen other than a few small flocks flying around the horizon. Cormorants were streaming out to sea in huge, but uncounted, numbers from their roost on the sand bars at the mouth of the river.
On the beach the receding tide hadn’t attracted many gulls but there were a few waders. The flock of 27 Sanderlings also held double yesterday’s total of Dunlins, a massive four; we won’t be on Patch 2 tomorrow to see if they’ve doubled again, to eight!
A handful each of Oystercatcher and Redshank completed the wader interest although we did enjoy a ‘frame filling’ view of all four species of wader in the scope at the same time.
Once again the beach to the south of Patch 2 was smothered in gulls and Oystercatchers.
A more or less empty beach was waiting for us on a cold but bright and sunny lunchtime visit. A cursory look at the gulls didn’t produce anything earth-shattering. The outfall pipe had ten Turnstones pecking about on it and a similar number of Redshanks where wadding around in the pool at the side looking for tasty morsels.
Out at sea not much was doing...or was it? Something strangle was going on. Here and there we noticed huge splashes, at first we thought they might be something to do with the Cormorants knocking about but when we watched more intently we saw that these splashes we much bigger than the Cormorants themselves and far bigger than any splash made by the Cormorant’s pitter-patter take off. Not only that but the Cormorants appeared to be attracted to the splashing, as did several gulls. Unfortunately at no time did we see what made the splashes although just once we thought we might have seen an animal briefly surface facing us but we didn’t see it again and couldn’t be 100% positive. What did we witness? A shoal of fish being attacked from beneath by larger fish, or a shoal of fish being attacked from below by one or more marine mammals? We can’t think what sort of fish would be large enough to make splashes that big but might have expected at least a small portion of a cetacean’s body to have broken the surface especially if it had been a large animal like a Bottle Nosed Dolphin, although on our last cetacean survey ferry trip the Bottle Nosed Dolphins we watched attacking the bait balls didn’t come to the surface. If it was smaller dolphins, such as Common Dolphin, we’d have expected these to have been seen breaching if they were actively feeding, the single one videoed off Fleetwood jetty a few years ago was feeding actively and breached often. We’ve never noticed the Harbour Porpoises making this amount of disturbance to the water surface; they’re normally quite slinky in their movements. No sign of a seal’s nose either.
To give you an idea of how big these watery goings-on were they were about the size of a Cormorant’s wingspan, so approaching a couple of metres long, and reaching about a metre high.
After work it was light enough to try to twitch the Ring Necked Duck. On our way along the Prom we spotted a mass of gulls a few hundred yards offshore. Luckily we were near a place where we could pull in and have a good look. About 70 Cormorants were also there when we looked through the bins but no sign of anything mammalian. A few Eiders were also on the sea but not connected to the feeding frenzy.
Moving along to the Dog Walking Nature Park it was mayhem with loose dogs everywhere, loud owners yelling at deaf mutts and a guy in the car park playing Pink flamin Floyd - never one of our favourites - at full decibels. Guess what? Yep - no RND, just a few Pochards on the 'quiet' pool and bathing gulls on the other - the shallow pool in the middle of the site had a small flock of Tufted Ducks on it swimming around trying to find the furthest point from the marauding mutts. We could have wandered round to the big pool at the back of the tip but we left them to their mayhem.
On the way in we'd seen a large flock of geese in two fields by the side of the main road and the second flock was by a place we could legitimately pull in. A good scan through them revealed they were all Pink Footed Geese, no sign of the Red Breasted Goose that had been seen here recently.
To get to the other flock we had to drive on and do a 'U'ey to get to another lay-by on the opposite side of the road, we could have gone straight back to Base Camp, but we're glad we didn't. Working our way through this flock right at the back was a Greenland White Fronted Goose (102). What a shame at it wasn't at the roadside edge of the flock.

You'll have to use your imagination with the pic.
Where to next? The Big Garden Bird Watch tomorrow at home and at Kincraig Rd Ecological Area. No Sunday safari this weekend due to family stuff and wood cutting.
In the meantime let us know what’s been making a splash in your outback.

1 comment:

Stu said...

Nice one, never seen a WF Goose in Lancs............