Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Doctor is... CHEERING UP

This was meant to be a bush-bashing day, but in fact the area down the Elsick Burn, the Mill, and the track to the beach, were all very quiet, though a constant stream of Meadow Pipits flying over, together with odd Sky Larks, and piles of Swallows, gave me hope. I decided to try a quick seawatch anyway. so up and along the cliffs (one Common Stonechat, 1 Northern Wheatear) to my favourite rock.

Conditions were about as bad as could be - sun in my face, and with a bit of haze (vis down to a mile) turning the sea into this kind of haze of soft glow. You know you're in trouble when *every* Fulmar looks blue. But hang on a minute... there was something on here. Birds going past. Close in. Jinkies, better hope my jizz and silhouette id skills are up to scratch. Immediately Manx Shearwaters - in the next hour and a bit there were 21 of those. Then zoinks! 2 Balearic Shearwaters, close in - they even came in for a circular fly past so I could get enough plumage detail - praise the Lord Lucifer and all his little pixies. Although the light still wasn't great, they came both directions in front of me, where I could see they were brown +/-Manxie-sized shearwaters, with uniform dark heads, largely pale-centred underwings and pale bellies, but dusky flanks. Also the flappy wingbeats stood out in comparison with the Manxies. In fact there were going to be two more as well (separately), but further out and I really only got the flight pattern and the general impression of all-dark heads and darker underwings that couldn't be Manxie. Absolutely fantastic. While this was going on, I tallied through 12 Sooty Shearwaters, 6 Great Skuas (all north), 6 Red-throated Divers, 26 Common Scoters and 3 Eurasian Wigeon south, an Arctic Tern and 9 Puffins north, and a stream of Northern Gannets, going both ways. For the first time this autumn, I was starting to feel something (stop giggling McKinney, save your smut for your own website), but The Sender hadn't finished with me...

...I look up from a herd of Guillemots and there's a LONG-TAILED SKUA just off the rocks, sailing north. Argh! This is the funny bit. I'm testing something called 'remembird' which is a kind of digital dictaphone/bird sound recorder, so I was trying to describe this skua into the mike instead of making proper notes like normal. When I uploaded them all to my computer this evening, it turns out that all I recorded for posterity is a stream of expletives of frustration about the light. A bit like 'F*ck, juvenile skua... jeez, it's a small one, it's got to be long-tailed... f*ck... f*ck... f*ck... I can't see a bloody thing... yep, it's a skua... small... f*ck... get out of the light! Go on... get next to that sarnie.. go on... no! f*ck. Long-tailed. It's just sailing past, not doing anything. f*'s just going to keep going. Looks quite pale.' Then a couple of minutes later... 'F*ck'. A classic of modern bird recording, and a lesson in how to do it for any youngsters out there. If there are any youngsters out there, isn't it past your bedtime? Do your parents know what sort of filth you're reading on the internet?

A Sparrowhawk in-off, and a Harbour Porpoise, off-in, were also entertaining. It turned out that the birds were coming in ahead of a weather front, and about 10.45 the light improved enormously as it went dull and cloudy, and the mist went away a bit, but the birds stopped. Best seawatch ever from here, but I'd like to see what sort of descriptions I'm going to come up with. :-) Ker-CHOW!

After this, I went up to the Coastal Park, and then the allotments. The allotments still look good, but it was a bit awkward as there were several gardners out there picking their onions and their noses. I guess i should try to get there before 11.15 am on Sundays - curse those infernal interesting seabirds!

Note added in proof: I'm not claiming the L-t S. MC


Harry said...

Hi Martin,
Funny how rare birds produce the symptoms of Tourette's Syndrome in people who don't have it!
Had a decent week meself on Cape Clear, finding a juvvy RC Starling Wed and a Greenish Warbler Thurs. Also finally nailed Tree Pipit for Ireland Friday a.m. ...and then proceeded to find one on the mainland yesterday!

Martin said...

Actually, I speak like that all the time. I blame the parents.

You'll be pleased to know that Tree Pipit has been on my Irish list for 15 years! Greenish looks pretty cool

Harry said...

Yeah, I know that I've been such a tart all these years not having seen one, but that's that and life moves on!
Now the only 'easy' ticks that I need for here are Spotted Crake and Fea's Petrel....