Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Close, awesome and emotional

The Safari had bad wind and high seas yesterday so wasn't able to get out for long and didn't see much. This morning the wind had eased a bit and the light was much better early doors so we were able to have a good look for 20 minutes or so. It was still extremely choppy out there and apart from the usual gulls, but no 'unusual' ones, about 60 Oystercacthers, 30 Cormorants and 100 Common Scoters there wasn't anything else save for a lone Sanderling which was rather odd, they usually come mob-handed!
Our Monday gardening volunteer wasn't able to come yesterday, which was good as he wouldn't have been able to do much outside in the atrocious weather, so he came today instead, which was good as it meant we saw the male Kestrel (P2 #34) waft over the mirror ball in a generally southerly direction that we would have missed had he been here yesterday and we'd been stuck driving the desk this morning. Nothing over-excting about a Kestrel although they are always a pleasure to see and watch but they are having a torrid time at the moment
From BTO Population Trends
Their longer term picture is a little different
Again from the BTO
No wonder we used to see more of them when we were cutting our birding teeth in the late 60s and early 70s, sadly the downward plummet since 2005 doesn't appear to be showing any signs of bottoming out like it did in the late 80s and late 90s. Let's hope it does though and they see a resurgence in their fortunes.
We said earlier there was nothing over-exciting about seeing a Kestrel, well yes in general they are still reasonably common and widespread and many non-birders recognise and enjoy them when they spot them hunting alongside motorway verges but at Patch 2 it's a very different story. This one was the first since 2014 and that was the only one recorded here in the previous five years, so you see, the 'ordinary and 'common-place' can be unusual and exciting!
Our volunteer did his two hours and went for his lunch and so did we. We were then unexpectedly called to man the front desk while our colleagues got their lunches, this turned out to be a bit of a boon. By the time they'd scoffed their baggin and returned to their posts the wind had dropped and more importantly so had the tide so that the waves weren't crashing over the wall as they were an hour earlier. That gave us the perfecrt opportunity to have a quick look.
It was still very choppy, the buoy is about 12 feet (4m) tall, yesterday it was totally disappearing in the troughs and at times rocking to less than 45 degrees from vertical; not quite so bad today
It's a little over a kilometre (c2/3 - 3/4 mile) from the wall, these pics are phone-scoped

The sea is predominantly brown from the stirred up sand and silt, yesterday it was predominately white with sea-foam and at high tide was hitting the wall with great booming thuds. 
Looking out that way there was little to the south (left) but the glare from the sun (sun???? - What's that???) off the water made looking that way difficult, there wasn't much straight around and beyond the buoy either. Looking north was far more interesting, here we could see tiny white specs flitting about over the sea beyond the 100 or so Common Scoters which must be on their rinse cycle now after yesterday's thrashing from the weather - by eck they are tough little cookies! 
Every so often one of the white specs would drift into range of the scope revealing it to be a Little Gull, most were the black under-winged adults. These are the worlds smallest species of gulls and one of the prettiest - YES gulls can be pretty! A couple of times we had both the worlds smallest and largest species of gull in our field of view when a Great Black Backed Gull cruised by, unfortunately we didn't  quiet get the full house of Little, Black Headed, Common, Kittiwake, Herring, Lesser Black Backed and Great Black Backed all in the scope together, got a view of six out of the possible seven though which can't be bad - those darned Lesser Blackies are still to migrate in reasonable numbers past here.
Last week we had young Kittiwakes and Little Gulls feeding along the beach between us and the pier so we had a look from the gate to the beach again, just in case. The tide was ebbing quickly now but still crashing violently against the toe of the wall. There was hardly a gull over the water but one in the distance cruising along the top of the wall caught our eye, it banked a little and gave itself up as an adult Kittiwake. It continued to cruise towards us without so much of a hint of a wing flap using the up-draught from the wall, a real masterclass in mastering the air currrents, at a few points it was actually over the  promenade - a real live 'inland' Kittiwake! We soon wished we'd brought the camera to work; that's twice in recent days we've broken the basic rules of photography - 1) Carry the darned camera and 2) make sure the lens cap is off for instant snapping (That's why there was no Lesser Redpoll pic for you at the weekend - dohhh). Our bird kept coming closer and closer, still without a wing flap and then passed at eye level just the other side of the wall from us, no more than two arms lengths away - awesome, absolutely awesome views as it slightly turned its head to look at us as it met our gaze as we turned ours to look at it; such a spectacle we got all emotional and started to well up a bit - nature can do that to you when you witness something apparently simple yet truly special.
Then it stalled and landed on the sea to investigate a potential morsel before being rudely interrupted by a couple of young Herring Gulls who wanted a  piece of whatever it was it had found. Deciding that it wasn't worth hanging around near the bullies the Kittiwake upped and headed out to sea - bon voyage and fair well my friend...
Where to next? More of the same please, and we were looking through some photo folders this arvo and realised we've not seen a Sea Mouse for ages, must put our wellies on and get down on the beach for a good rummage about through what the tide has washed up, who knows we might even get close to a decent gull or two.
In the meantime let us know who's cruising along close as maybe in your outback. 


Scyrene said...

You big softie ;)

Warren Baker said...

Fingers crossed the Kestrel pair on my patch breed this year, every little helps !