Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sooty's off the starboard bow

Up early this morning. So... an hour and a half seawatch before work. This is the life. Hope all my lab were working hard. Wind had dropped, but figured it couldn't be any worse than the few days of northerlies. And, up to a point, I was right. 1st clue was a flock of 10 Manx Shearwaters going past, close in, and they kept coming through in dribs and drabs, so that I'd had 75 in the end which, as I think i said before, isn't all that bad for dead-sea Newtonhill. I guess there might have been a Balearic Shearwater trying to slip through, but 30 of these birds were so close no mistake was possible. About 10 were so distant I didn't really get any plumage details at all, but even then I've seen enough Bals that the flight pattern might have raised suspicions. Still, there you go. Also, 7 Sooty Shearwaters, my first of the year, heading north, always on a slightly more distant line than the bulk of the Manxies - I've noticed that before. It took til 7.15 for the skuas to wake up and get going, but between then and 8.05 there were 9 Great Skuas, all north. A Pomarine Skua too. Between you and me, the Pom is a bit stringy. Argh! I can't believe I'm saying this. I'm going to format it with really dense text so that no one gets this far. It was a long way off, and was more of a jizz id than anything - didn't see any plumage and didn't appear to have spoons. I don't think I'll be bothering the County Recorder with it. Back on real birds... two Black Guillemots flew north! To put that in perspective, there's a small but unknown number breed a couple of miles to the south of me at Muchalls, but these were only the third and fourth individuals I've seen at Newtonhill in 4 1/2 years. That's the problem with Black Guillemots - they look pretty, but they're just pig-headed. What else... 20 Sandwich Terns, 9 Common Terns and 7 Arctic Terns, 204 Gannets per hour and 144 Fulmars, a dribble of Kittiwakes (mostly herds of juveniles sat on the water), a few rafts of Razorbills, and a few individual Guillemots. 4 Dunlin flew north.

There was one Harbour Porpoise sploshing about - now there's something that's become really scarce here this past couple of years, and a Grey Seal. But continuing my series of appetising dead mammals along coastal tracks, I found a beheaded Wood Mouse (patch tick!), the head still there next to it, half eaten, and a Harvestman Spider sucking its blood (no really!). So now I know why small mammals die on paths... they're overrun by packs of hunting Harvestmen, apparently. I'd assumed I'd flushed a Kestrel from it's breakfast without noticing, but the mouse was still there 90 min later as I went back to the car. Still dead.

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