Sunday, 1 May 2011

Where'd they all go?

The Safari was out at the cliffs by 06.30 this morning hoping for a repeat of yesterdays Arctic Tern etc-fest that was going on along the coast.

The blustery warm conditions hadn't changed much overnight so all looked good (unless you happen to be one our new roadside trees which are beginning to seriously suffer after four days of wall to wall sunshine and 20mph+ winds - hope someone is out watering them first thing Tuesday).

We arrived to a furry of Swallows with a flock of seven moving along the cliffs, after that the next 2 1/2 hours only produced another eight, all singles. A single House Martin shot northwards low over the beach, they like Swifts have been in very short supply so far this year.

Two Gannets were seen in the distance but it was only towards the end of our watch that we had a third, much closer this time. By now it was evident that the mass movement witnessed yesterday wasn't happening.Several small flocks of Common Scoters buzzed about on the horizon but most of the entertainment out there was from the digger on the barge laying the cable to the new wind farm. somewhere overhead an 'alba' Wagtail called unseen, another was heard and finally late on in the session two were spotted a good way out to sea.

Eventually the Arctic Terns turned up, not hundreds just two! With only another single, which landed briefly on the sea and picked something up, and second two travelling together seen while we were there - hardly a spectacular passage.

With the arrival of the terns we hoped for a skua and we weren't disappointed, an Arctic Skua (168) was followed coming in from out by the meteorological mast and cutting across they bay. A bit later a second was found which came from around the same place but came straight in and then turned north just as it reached the beach a mile or so to the north of us. As it reached its closest approach it looked a bit meaty for an Arctic Skua and the tail streamers looked 'bulky', could it have been a Pomerine Skua? We would have to wait to read other blogs from further up the coast.

SE was out a couple of miles up the coast, we could easily see the southern end of their 'patch', but looking at his sightings from a longer morning than we did they had no skuas at all!

About a 100 Turnstones went to roost on the boating pool wall with a further 50 or so joined then at intervals, maybe disturbed from elsewhere. At sea there was a constant dribble of Lesser Black Back Gulls at distance drifting north, we didn't count them but somewhere around triple figures would be a good guess. A fourth year bird on the beach caught a very large Green Shore Crab as the tide began to run but it was so big it couldn't wrangle it and the crab was able to scuttle back in to the water. That was possibly the only camera moment of the entire day and we hadn't taken the camera out to the cliffs!

Sighting of the day occurred when a mad Black Labrador charged down the steps behind us grunting and groaning with joy. It scootled down the steps we were stood at the top of and dashed onto the beach and through a deep runnel. At the other side it ran round barking at a few Herring Gulls for a minute or so before turning round and diving back in the runnel this time lying down in it with its tail poked up like a periscope. Then it was on the move again - all grunts and excited grans as it raced up the steps towards us then over the promenade and up the big steps behind us never to be seen again - we never did see anyone around but it must have had an owner somewhere.

After that excitement three unID'd auks went through at range. By now the tide had just about reached the wall and over what was the beach a few minutes earlier a pair of Sandwich Terns dived successfully catching small fish. Before long they had been joined by two more as the hunted up and down in front of us.

Just before we left we had what we think was a very distant Little Gull cutting disgonlly towards the point, the others definitley had one but we don't know if it was around this time or not.

Time was up we had to back at Base Camp making toast and brews for nine o'clock but we probably wouldn't have stayed much longer as it wasn't that exciting...until we learned that a flock of six Little Terns had gone through, always a good find along this coast.

Visited the nature reserve later - news about that later - did do it but blogger somehow musta time out and we lost it all...doohhhhh

Where to next? Last day of the hols tomorrow so we'll be out somewhere hopefully.

In the meantime let us know how far short of the mark your outback fell today.

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