Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Dolphin débacle

Hmmm.... missed a trick yesterday - should have been seawatching, went to work instead. Resolved not to make that mistake today. We had a gruelling all day meeting at a rather fine restaurant on the outskirts of Aberdeen - hard this academic life is. And as it didn't start til the unearthly hour of 9.30, there was time for a bit of a bird beforehand. I got a text from Alasdair asking if I wanted a lift to the meeting, but I said I was out birdspotting and would make my own way there. More of that later.

Seawatch seawatch seawatch 06:15 - 07:38.
36 Sooty Shearwaters went north, and 25 Manx Shearwaters. The shearwaters are back!

Eurasian Teal 6N
Red-breasted Merganser 10N
Common Scoter 2N
Velvet Scoter 1N
Red-throated Diver 1N 4S
Northern Gannets, 297N, 24S
Common (Mew) Gull 127S
Black-legged Kittiwakes, 68N 16S
Great Skua 7N 1S
Arctic Tern 2N

Sandwich Tern 4N, 43S
+ Northern Fulmars 30+, auk spp. etc.

Jesus wept on a small fat furry bike. I had a mare of a time trying to identify some dolphins - I think I went through the works... saw some stretching pointy fins and thought my Killer Whales were back, then realised they weren't Orcas and decided they were probably Bottle nosed, and convinced myself I was seeing them, then one jumped out to reveal a belly pattern that was wrong for Bottle-nosed, but I thought they might be White-sided, and 'saw' the white sides, then 'saw' a greyish back
-patch and thought they must be White-beaked... and after about 20 mins of watching them slide sluggishly about the surface, still worried that the fins were wrong, one breached full out side on three times and I finally got the id.... 5 Risso's Dolphins. First I've seen for years, but my identification could have been any of about 5 species (and 'with certainty' on the basis of id feature I clearly 'saw') if they had dived and disappeared earlier. Tell you it shook my confidence in my cetacean ids, especially my ability to imagine white patches that clearly were not there. I am not claiming ANYTHING on cetacean jizz until I've got that sorted out.

A Harbour Porpoise was no problem, and cheered myself up on the way back to the car with THIS. I dedicate this Common Shrew to Harry (see Sunday comments). I'd like to pretend I was bitten by a radioactive Red Kite as a kid, but the truth is much darker... I'm one of those zombies from the Thriller video and I can only eat dead flesh which I sniff out with my super-undead powers. You read it here first. I'm a Creature of the Night.

This one was fried in batter with onion rings.

On the way to my meeting the exhaust split and I diverted via Kwik Fit. 2 hours and £152 later (ouch!) I turned up at the venue to find everyone thought I'd been out birding. That was only partly true! Was a bit perturbed to read on BirdGuides of a Great Shear past Collieston. But as I've said before, they're all stringy til I get one.

Anyway, by 15:20 I was back in Newtonhill on the clifftops in a stuff onshore wind, with 11 Sooties past in the first five minutes and I thought this was going to be a cracker of a watch. But the wind dropped and the birds dispersed. All the same, in 2 hours

Eurasian Teal 4S
Red-breasted Merganser 10N
Common Scoter 6N
Velvet Scoter 6S
Red-throated Diver 7S
Sooty Shearwaters 31 N
Manx Shearwater 20 N
Northern Fulmars 45N, 20S
Northern Gannets, 238N, 17S
Dunlin 29S
Common (Mew) Gull 5N
Black-legged Kittiwakes, 111N 19S
Great Skua 10N S
Arctic Skua 3N - and a small terny juv that I was pretty sure must be Long-tailed, but I didn't want to string a juvvy for my patch list. Would rather string an adult tomorrow instead.
Common Tern 5S
Arctic Tern

Sandwich Tern 8N, 2S
Atlantic Puffin 25 N (+ sundry other auks)
+ Northern Fulmars 30+, auk spp. etc.

So today, 66 Sooties was not bad, but then I read on BirdGuides that some copycat had seen 66 past the same spot in the evening. It's not on.


Camera Trap Codger said...

Risso's dolphins bring back fine memories of the time I was hired by the California Academy of Sciences to flense and de-flesh one that had been shot by some shady abalone divers south of San Francisco. All that meat seemed such a waste. So I froze the tenderloins. A few months later a Natural History of the Vertebrates course (SF State College) had an overnight field trip to the Sierra Nevadas, and that night the undergrads had what you would call a "jolly good time". At midnight, when no one was feeling any pain, we started to fry the defrosted meat. Naturally, after a while they all wanted to know what it was, and of course no one would believe they were eating the meat of a "toothed whale". Ah yes, Risso's dolphin, so fine a fishe!
Hope you see more!

Harry said...

Risso's Dolphin...the only one that I've seen was in Cork city centre by the Beamish and Crawford distillery...strange but true! Twitched it, like you do, and met a few other local birders there and all.

Martin said...

Risso's Dolphin...the only one that I've seen was in Cork city centre by the Beamish and Crawford distillery

Best place for 'em. The only other ones I've seen were off Cape Clear, back in the early 80s. So we've both got them on our Co. Cork lists.

Martin said...

I meant early 90s, btw. I'm not that old.

Harry said...

Yeah, I've seen your name in old bird reports from the early 90s, knew you weren't old enough to have been coming over here in the early 80s...