The Safari was out not long after first light on our fortnightly Winter Thrushes survey. It was somewhat quiet out there took a while to find our first Blackbird not far short of the survey's starting point.
Grey Squirrels were in evidence this morning but birds were hard to come by, other than the thrushes we noted noting of note! 51 Blackbirds made it on to the sheet and just one Mistle Thrush representing 'the others' - really need a lengthy spell of cold crisp weather rather than the odd day here and there.
On the way back to Base Camp we disturbed two Blackbirds in the street.
A plate of toasted crumpets was demolished then it was out to meet up with Young Un AB who had been on the trail of the Snow Buntings found yesterday just beyond Patch 2's southern border. He'd been out for hours without success although another birder had found them. We marched poor Frank a mile up dune and down dale for nothing until we decided they must have snuck behind us so we walked all they way back and beyond our start point on the beach - a bit easier for the old fella but he did find a ball and want to play with it. Almost at the end of the beach we saw a movement on the shingle - a Pied Wagtail flitting about but then another movement caught our eye on the toe of the dune - Bingo Get In!!! 5 Snow Buntings (189).
Creeping nearer as they fed we got withing about 20 feet of them as they worked their way through the shingle. Shame about the really rubbishy light.
We're only two behind birding arch-rival Monika although it's not all about the lists, just being outside communing with nature and enjoying what we do see common, unusual or rare is great in itself. But can we catch up and overtake in the next 36 days?
Not much else in the dunes, a Meadow Pipit and a couple of Reed Buntings was the size of it!
We dropped AB off at home cos the poor lad was starving then went back to Base Camp for a quick nibble ourselves and grab the scope for a cetacean watch from the cliffs nearby.
We set up on the cliff top and started to scan, first impressions were that there wasn't too much out there but we soon picked up a Red Throated Diver. Two Shelducks flewe past and enough close enough Common Scoters kept us entertained looking for the recent Velvet Scoter. A flock of about 17 Meadow Pipits went past at eye level followed by another five and a few minutes later a singleton - still moving south? To the north a male Kestrel hovered over the steep grassland arse on to us, we hoped it would come our way giving us the opportunity of a face on 'at eye level' shot but it went further north and round the corner.
We scoped the distant meteorological tower and counted 13 Cormorants on it with another wrestling with a medium sized flatfish in the middle distance. Whilst watching it struggle with its dinner a drake Eider flew past. We didn't find anything blubbery - we'd very happily swap our cetacean free sea for the waters off southern Japan at the moment, the news from there in the last couple of weeks has been depressingly awful. Someone once said 'forgive them for they know not what they do' but tbh we're finding it very hard to do that at the mo not least because we're certain that, very sadly, they know exactly what they are doing! If it wasn't for dolphin 'shows' these massacres wouldn't happen - please please please don't go and explain to the children who want you to take them to Florida for the Christmas break why you're not going to take them. This is how you see cetaceans especially Orcas. Don't forget that Monika's Southern Resident species of Orca was decimated by the captive 'trade' and they've never really recovered numerically or mentally.
The tide was in and the waders were roosting in a bad place on the boating pool wall with most of them out of sight. But as time went by we noticed that a few Turnstones were clinging to the almost vertical wall like Spiderman dodging the waves as they sloshed up towards them. Good fun. Until we saw that one wasn't a Turnstone, a Purple Sandpiper, then we saw another and another - WOW our record count here by a whole 50% - well chuffed!
We lost the light without a sunset and left for home and to give Frank a well earned rest.
Here's some more pics from yesterday, the Ruffs were good value for money.
If we were designing a hide where there was no vegetation in front of it we wouldn't make it all high for looking across the landscape but would also incorporate a sunken area for photography at the birds' level.
More about the bird fair later in the week.
Where to next? We have an invite to join CR at the Starling roost after work tomorrow and of course there's always the possibility/probability of something on Patch 2.
In the meantime let us know what's flown down from the frozen north in your outback.