Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Are you suffering from excessive wind?

The Safari is beginning to get rather peed awff with the amount of wind being delivered by these successive winter storms now. As one batters through there’s another one lining up in the west Atlantic, there’s just no respite!
Looking at the sea we had to feel for the Common Scoters, it must be like living in a washing machine for them at the moment and most of their food seems to have been washed up on the beach. Yesterday a very rough guestimate of about 2000 tightly packed Herring Gulls were feasting on a huge shellfish wreck along the beach at Patch 2. With them were a handful of Black Headed Gulls, a few Common Gulls, a couple of Great Black Back Backed Gulls and a single 1st winter Yellow Legged Gull (98, #31). Out at sea others had seen good numbers of both Kittiwakes and Little Gulls but we could only find a couple of Little Gulls (P2 #32) and half a dozen Kittiwakes. A flock of five Pintails went through low over the tide’s edge and we had a dark phase unIDd skua go north at distance, it looked quite broad winged so probably not an Arctic Skua, can’t go on any of the lists unfortunately but no doubt we’ll get better views of some other skua species over the course of the year.
While working in the garden with our volunteers we saw that at least 20 House Sparrows were taking advantage of the food provided by a generous member of the public. How long they’ll have sufficient cover to hide in is the big question as the ‘official’ gardeners are on-site flooring, aka pruning, all the shrubbery for the first time in many years. It looks ferocious but should help thicken them up over the next couple of growing seasons – the garden will look pretty bare and uninviting to wildlife until that happens though. Maybe it’ll attract different wildlife like perhaps a Stonechat, a species we’ve somewhat surprisingly not recorded here; the nearby dunes must be just too tempting for them as they are regularly found there on passage.
Last night there was some weird cloud action at sunset. We had to go outside to check the back gates were fastened securely against the increasing wind as we'd heard something bang out the back. Looking up we saw the most impressive mother-of-pearl coloured clouds well above the normal and all too familiar rain clouds - we've never seen anything quite like it before - time to ignore the gate for a mo and dash back inside for the camera.
Nacreous clouds between 9 to 15 miles up in the stratosphere
This morning we drove under a swarm of Starlings leaving their roost at the pier, very impressive, shame the traffic light weren’t on red and we couldn’t stop to enjoy the spectacle. Arriving at work the Song Thrush was poking about under the front hedge with a Blackbird, the front hedge won’t be so fiercely pruned just trimmed to a bring it back to a neater ‘A’ shape so there should still be somewhere for the Blackbirds, Dunnocks and Robins to nest.
This morning there wasn't much happening on Patch 2 early morning, best was a half decent count of around 175 Oystercatchers, but it was a little better by lunchtime on the rising tide. Flock of four Kittiwakes followed a few minutes later by one on it's own. A Little Gull weaved in and out between the enormous crashing waves in the distance and a quick look along the advancing tide line towards the pier gave us a 1st winter Little Gull with a few Black Headed Gulls picking who knows what off the surface of the water, the Black Heads wading, the Little Gull doing it in their usual dipping flight.
We had a chat to the work's gardeners and discovered to our amazement that the bush they were working on had the Blackbird's nest in it, not just one but about five old ones and one currrent one with cheeping nestlings in it! 
A couple of hours later we met up with BD who is holding an exhibition of his brilliant pics at work this month and next. After discussing the intricacies of our picture hanging doobries we headed over to the seawall to see what we could see. Immediately there was a 1st winter Kittiwake below us, what a great start.
A few other gulls drifted by including this 1st winter Common Gull
After a while a second Kittiwake turned up and for a split second we had them both in the viewfinder but alas they were too quick for us.
From there we went to the pier to watch the Starlings coming in and murmurating above the tide.
Here they come!
Getting close to the action

There were quite a few of them
For the first time we saw a Sparrowhawk taz past us only inches off the tarmac and disappear under the pier. Moments later the Starlings bunched up.

An excellent if rather chilly session in the brisk wind. The late arrivals missed the main murmuration which was a shame as there might have been as many as 50,000 altogether.
Where to next? More Patch 2 gulling tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know who's seasonally maladjusted in your outback.
Formatting has gone haywire again - doh! Sorry

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