Monday, 28 March 2011

What’s mist is mystery.

The Safari took advantage of the change to British Summer Time yesterday evening and headed back out to Chat Alley for the high tide in the hope of catching up with a Harbour Porpoise or two. No such luck the wind had swung round 180º and was coming off the sea making it choppy, the day’s warmth meant there was a thick low hazy mist not far off shore and we were looking directly into the sun. Still we gave the best part of an hour with only a very close Meadow Pipit for our efforts...and no camera!!! Nothing out to at all. However we did see a fish of about a foot long leap clean out of the water. Speaking to one of the fishermen there have been several Whiting caught in the last week or so which probably explains the increase in Harbour Porpoise sightings, from the little information on the web about the diet of UK porpoises it seems that Whiting is one of their most preferred prey items This morning, back in the pre-dawn darkness, there was a thick mist and a grass frost. Best of all was the loudest and fullest dawn chorus we’ve heard for a long time which included two Song Thrushes, one in the Golden Triangle and the other in the Butterfly Zone, but still no Chiffchaffs which shows how isolated this small patch of habitat is and consequently how weird that last week’s male Pheasant should find it. Talking of butterflies we had the Butterfly Zone’s first Small Tortoiseshell of the year yesterday arvo and on the way back to Base Camp got spotted by CR. No Patch 2 early morning safari today...too much fog; visibility was down to about 100 yards. By lunchtime the sun had burnt off much of the mist although there was still no horizon and visibility was far from good. The tide was well out but the beach mostly empty. 18 Turnstones footled along the outfall pipe with a single Redshank there too. 30 Oystercatchers fed in-between the resting gulls to the south but with the bright sun looking that way wasn’t fun. Out on the sea two Grey Seals were pick of the thin bunch, one distant and one close in but away to the south. Also very distant, on the edge of visibility, was a small flock of Common Scoters and three Red Breasted Mergansers. Nearer were three Great Crested Grebes, two displaying the third trying to muscle in on the action. A Cormorant came to the surface and swallowed something sizeable judging by the bulge in its throat and like yesterday we saw a fish of about a foot long jump out of the water and land with a splash. If it was a Whiting sadly there didn’t appear to be a Harbour Porpoise within ten miles. With time pushing on and it getting towards the end of the March and the year’s first quarter how are we progressing towards our target of 200 species of birds by the year end? Saturday’s Sandwich Terns were the 135th species to hit the pages of the notebook this year leaving 65 still required for the 200. A quick shuffy through the field guide to check what’s still available suggested we won’t quite make it unless we get lucky or win the Lottery to be able to do a bit of twitching, or afford a at least couple of further flung safaris...coulda really done with that Lesser Spotted Woodpecker last weekend! But we have the family trip right down to the Devon/ Cornwall border area coming soon followed by a safari with our birding compadrés we were with at Moore somewhere northwards to look forward to so we may just sneak it. Patch 1 and Patch 2 are currently neck and neck with 42 & 44 respectively, the garden has 25, which acre for acre isn’t bad at all compared to the patches particularly the several square miles of Patch 2, and at the small but perfectly formed nature reserve we have 71. We haven’t kept a Chat Alley list but might wade back through the pages of scrawl to see what we come up with. Where to next? More of the same with hopefully less mist. In the meantime let us know what’s got you all misty eyed in your outback and enjoy this sequence of yesterday’s Great Black Backed Gull taking flight.


Monika said...

I'm not sure I'm going to be able to make 200 either, but it will sure be fun to try!

That great black-backed gull is stunning. I can tell he's huge even with nothing to compare him to in the photo.

Anonymous said...

Well captured series of flight shots there, Dave.