Monday, 9 May 2011

A change in the wind

The Safari went out on a mild Patch 1 but was surprised to find a little pocket of grass frost in the most sheltered area of the Butterfly Zone. Not a lot doing this morning, the ubiquitous Blackcaps were still giving their syrinxes some serious welly and the Whitethroat was dancing away above his Bramble thicket. No sign of the Iberian Chiffchaff nor any other Chiffchaffs, or birders for that matter. A Blackbird gleaned a healthy amount of worms from the now thankfully moist lawns.
Our first safari of the week to Patch 2, which has a bit of catching up to do now, was a cool and breezy affair with the wind coming from the south whipping up a whole field full of white horses.
The tide was well down and still dropping but fishermen, bait diggers and dog walkers on the beach meant there were only a few distant gulls about. On the horizon visibility was pretty good but we didn’t get any dark cruciform shapes careening northwards as we had hoped. Towards the river mouth a Gannet dived and scanning round we found two more much closer to us with a further two coming in from out by the rigs to join them. We then enjoyed a diving masterclass. Whilst the Gannets were fishing a Sandwich Tern passed by uninterested in the fish they were catching and it was soon followed by two Arctic Terns. The Gannets were all adults apart from one 3CY bird.
A little further out three Common Scoters flew north, and swung round to join a larger flock of 12 heading south which was being chased by another three doing their best to catch up. The light was good enough to distinguish the males and females even at this long range, males outnumbered females approximately 2:1.
Our annual year list challenge with Monika has been boosted by the amount of available time due to high-days and holidays coinciding with a number of unusual birds turning up. After 128 days we are tied at 175 species recorded out of our target of 200 each. That target now looks as though it could well be beaten as there are still 237 days of the year left! We have drawn a list of probables and possibles, (there are no certainties in this game) and reckon that without too much twitching (unlike yesterday and the Temminck’s Stints' safari) we could find another 30 – 40 species depending on time, luck and the future price of fuel! And there’s a lot more to look at/for than just the birds...there’s not enough hours in the day for this safari-ing malarkey and loadsa kids today say they’re bored and there’s nothing to do...HOW???
The lunchtime safari was looking to be uneventful, a few Herring Gulls mooching about and two Great Black Backed Gulls cruised menacingly by. Not as menacing as the weather though as big thick black clouds from which we could see sheets of rain emanating we drawing ever closer for m the south. We soon picked up a Gannet probably one of the ones seen earlier this morning. It was fishing at a very shallow depth; on lifting out of the water it was only using the wing under those long wings to sweep round again no more than 10 – 15 feet (3 -5m) above the water before plunging in again at a very slight angle, it had so little altitude it barely had time to fold its wings before hitting the water.
Another joined it after a few minutes and we were treated to another fine display of (almost) synchronised diving. Then, from way out by the big red and white buoy, a tern appeared the flight pattern of which set some alarm bells ringing. It was an age before it came close enough to determine and it wouldn’t dip below the horizon so remained a silhouette for ages. Eventually it dipped below the horizon against the duller sea and revealed its true colours – or at least colour (singular), a Black Tern (176) last!!!...we were beginning to worry we might miss the spring passage given the numbers that have gone through already and their apparent avoidance of the nature reserve this year and then it was time for a celebratory cuppa, as the heavens opened, the lightning flashed and the thunder crashed overhead for all of twenty minutes, we stared out of the office window watching the lightening flicker down in to the sea...some spectacular flashes .
Back out on the seawall after work we had another quarter hour watch as the high tide turned. The light was fantastic; the best it’s been for ages. Not much different to report except that a Grey Seal was close in shore. Further away towards the river channel the Gannets were lit brilliantly white and black against the dull grey sky and even at that enormous range we could see the long tail streamers on the Arctic Terns! A few Sandwich Terns were also fishing out there but we couldn’t find anything more ‘interesting’ this time.
Where to next? More of the same from both patches and with plenty of west in the wind forecast those Manx Shearwaters can’t be too far away.
In the meantime let us know who’s wearing the coat of many colours in your outback.
Oh and you nearly got a full frame pic of a cracking male Blackbird with a gob full of worms but he saw a twitch the shutter finger a fraction of a second before said shutter was pressed and was gone...better luck next time...but enjoy this Yellow Flag from the work’s pond instead.

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