Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sea Urchins

Back in sunny Newtonhill. Between you and me, it wasn't very sunny... there was a harr lingering offshore. Apparently that's some sort of Scots word for a sea-mist. Which is what it is. Don't get me wrong, I love everything about Scotland, apart from Highland dancing and 80/-, but the Scots words get me down sometimes. I married a Scot, I have hybrid children, or maybe that should be intergrades, or more accurately, abominations, whichever, that's 15 years experience of dealing with Scots words coming up in conversation, but there's thousands of them! Just as I think I'm pretty much on top of it and I can finally understand what Diane is trying to tell me, she comes out with 'am pechin' or something, and whoosh! there's another 10 years to go. Anyway, it was bright, but misty. Oooh, no. before I move on... I HATE it when people use dialect words for birds for no other reason than to show how clever they are that they know a word that others might not. Cushies, linties, cuddies etc., there is NO excuse. Birding is not a private club.

Plenty more baby birds around the patch today - mostly the ones you'd expect - Blackbirds following their mums, spotty Robins, a family of (Winter) Wrens giving high pitched squeaks down by the white houses on the shore. Others I might be more impressed by - a juvenile Stonechat that I flushed carelessly from the gardens of the white houses during a particular noisesome pish. They are irregular breeders here and i hadn't found any putative pairs this spring. Also a fresh fledgling Common Whitethroat in the garden of the Mill. The adults only turned up on site on 4th May, so by my reckoning that is 5.5 weeks to get territory sorted, lay, incubate and fledge. Must check it out, but surely that is TOP SPEED effort.
Also at the Mill, a Song Thrush carrying food for the second brood while a bird fromthe first brood bobbed about, and a Mallard with 8 v small (1/8) ducklings, swimming amusingly against the flow.

Why do shrews die on paths? There was a Common Shrew snuffed along the clifftop, no visible injury, except maybe it was scared by a particularly aggresive Rock Pipit. How many dead shrews have I found on paths (even THAT path) in my life. I don't know, but if I had 50p for every one, maybe I'd be able to afford new binoculars!

Offshore, at least with the mist the sun wasn't too badly against me for a mid-morning seawatch. And it was almost worth it! 26 Manx Shearwaters north. 43 Common Scoters, 114 Northern Gannets, 1 Red-throated Diver. A Pomarhine Skua! Wow! Spoons and everything. Unusual date for one along this coast too, although I have seen some in July before. I tried to get a sooty-faced street urchin to bring it down for me with a stick, like I did for the Norfolk Black-capped Petrel in 1850, but unfortunately on this occasion he failed, drowning himself and his entire family in the effort. On some levels, a tragedy, yes, but on the other hand, it creates some space in the workhouses. I may have been lying about that last bit, but I will someday write an article for a magazine about 'rare seabirds killed with a stick in Britain'. Catchy eh?
Other things, 3 species of Auk, a Sand Martin going south along the coast (weird), 3 Sandwich Terns, 2 Common Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, plenty
Herring Gulls and Kittiwakes, a few Fulmars, and another good Shag.


Mike Pennington said...

Hi Martin,

Just so you knwo that someone's reading ... and you didn't give an address for the SAE for the wine gums. I'd've had all eight!

the scottish wife :-) said...

That'll be 'haar' my dearest, not harr xxx

Mazza said...

Shrews die on paths because their metabolism is so absurdly fast that they need to eat something every 2 seconds. So, while they might feel pleasantly full of beetle or whatever when they start to cross the path, by the time they're halfway over they keel over from starvation.