Friday, 9 December 2011

Battered and bruised but we’re still here

The Safari has been hunkered down out of the wind. Yesterday must have been one of the windiest days of the last 20 years here. We had two sustained periods of over a couple of hours when the wind didn’t drop below 40mph (65kph) and there were several gusts recorded at 55mph (90kph), it wasn’t quite as bad as had been forecast.. We got off lightly; the top of Cairngorms recorded a gust of 165mph (266kph) not far short of the all time UK record of 173mph (280kph) (March 1989) but that is at 4000 feet (1245m) above sea level.
Poor Frank was lifted off his four very sturdy feet and bundled over by one gust which surely must have been well over 100mph, with his large mass and low slung centre of gravity we wouldn’t be surprised it had been touching 200mph!!!
At last we were able to get out and have a look over the wall this morning. Dodging the severe hail showers we dashed out and gave it a go. And glad we did too. Almost straight away we were into a flockette of Kittiwakes, a 1st winter and two adults, close inshore making their way south. Also heading many southwards were a fair few uncounted Common Gulls, are these local birds moving to feeding areas or late movers. Half a dozen Lesser Black Backs were also seen and the couple of Great Black Backs appeared to be enjoying the blustery conditions, one had a good close look at the Kittiwakes checking if they may be catchable and breakfast no doubt.
Our friends the Common Scoters were uncountable sitting defiantly amongst the still huge waves, well over a hundred with several large-ish flocks close in and plenty of smaller flocks moving further out towards the horizon.
Best bird of the short session was found while we were watching the distant scoters – a skua sp sped northwards just above the horizon. We watched it cover the miles and not once did it move its wings as it expertly caught the up-draughts off the waves in a superb display of effortless speed flying against the wind. If we had to put money on a species we’d say Arctic Skua but it was a long long way out. Eventually it disappeared into the oncoming hail storm and that was our cue to leg it back indoors for a brew.
Woulda credit it! Despite the fact the tram was now running we got out again at lunchtime and enjoyed a full quarter of an hour’s fresh air in the stiffening cool breeze. Kittiwakes were order of the day with at least four adults fairly distant and a much closer 1st winter bird. A change from the scoters appeared in the form of an unidentified auk which was far too large for a Little Auk, so Guillemot or Razorbill, take your pick.
The dropping tide started to expose the beach and we had a flock of Oystercatchers nicely silhouetted by the midday sun. 17 Sanderlings pattered along the retreating water’s edge and a hundred or so Black Headed Gulls waited for the tide to reveal its edible treasures.

The dot thing above the horizon in the middle of the pic is the Lennox gas rig, to the left of that you can just about make out the Welsh hills east of Snowdonia.

There was still the high probability of heavy showers as the sky suggests. 
Where to next? The weekend probably entails more Christmas shopping than safari-ing :(
In the meantime let us know what's been silhouetted in your outback.


Warren Baker said...

That was quite a blow Davo!! Good to get out after though :-)

Enjoy the xmas shopping - not! :-)

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

I was a tad on the breezy side last night Warren - think my hat's caught on a tree somewhere near Dean's place! Really good to be back out, its so frustrating not being able to get a daily slice of the natural world to soothe the soul


cliff said...

Dave, what am I looking at in shot one, is that someone flying a kite??

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Hi Cliff - it's a wind surfer. What a weird light it was yesterday! With the naked eye I couldn't tell his kite was red. He's a good half mile away.


cliff said...

Cheers Dave, I did initially wonder if it was a wind surfer, but thought not a chance in those winds, he must be flippin crazy, I'm surprised he didn't finish up in the Azores or such like.