Thursday, September 27, 2007

Donkey's wanger of a seawatch

Today was the first day I could get away from work early, and with a northerly breeze there was a chance of some lost birds struggling up the coast. I sat at work in the morning with reports of Sab's Gulls, Long-tailed Skuas (Jaegers) and the odd Great Shearwater and Yellow-browed Warbler up the east coast and was starting to itch. At 2 o'clock I got a call from a journalist who wanted a photo of a cross-looking birder with bins stood on the SSSI sand dunes that Donald Trump wants to f*** up with his golf course. So he needed a media whore, and of course he thought of me. Sorry, mate, I'm away birding. And I was. Holy Guano - to the the cliffs, Batman!

And the omens were good, if a Short-tailed Vole of THIS quality can be a good omen. It was sat on the rocks as if placed by the god of small mammals for me to find.

And immediately it was obvious there was something on - 2 hours from 15:34 - 17:42 but straight away there were Sooty Shearwaters going past in 2s and 3s - a total of 50 in all, mostly in the first hour. Much smaller numbers of 9 Manx Shearwaters, usually closer in, but a wee diminutive 'Sooty' going past at 2 km with a flock of normal Sooties had a smudgy white belly because it was a Balearic Shearwater. Sweet! A juvenile Arctic Skua (Parasitic) went north, then a flurry of ducks (ducks) - 28 Eurasian Teal N, then 2 Velvet Scoters carrying a Mallard with them, then another 7 Mallards and a Tufted Duck. Gasp in amazement, Inglis birders, but the Tufted Duck was a base 5 patch tick of unprecedented occurrence on my Newtonhill list. Later on I was to get 6 Red-breasted Mergansers going south, and a single female Goosander (Common Merganser) going north, the latter a valuable patch year tick.

Another juvenile skua going north a 1 km was difficult to get plumage detail on, but was a cold dark bird, very small and was a provisional jizz id of Long-tailed Skua. However I almost forgot to write it down, because of the excitement that followed. Warning, this is going to sound stringy - at least I'd call it stringy if I read it, but I'll tell you what I saw... which is at 16:00 a large shearwater going north at 2 km with 4 Sooties, which on the basis of what everyone else has been seeing recently I would have assumed would be 'just' a Great Shearwater'. But it wisnae. The head appeared all uniform dark, and at this range I would have seen the dark cap of Great Shearwater, also the upperparts were milky coffee and the underparts were clean white - no dusky belly shite. It looked like a Cory's Shearwater, which is what it was... not only on the basis of lack-of-great-shear-features, but also the relaxed flight, shearing on wings bent back and angled down classic Cory's... except that I tend to assume that other people are stringing when they come out with crap like this. Maybe I should be more understanding. Cracking bird, followed 10 minutes later by bloody hell, a juvenile Sabine's Gull! Have I been good in a previous life or something and I'm getting all my rewards in one afternoon? Swanning north like it didn't care. I watched it disappear out of sight, with only a couple of Sooties to distract me. :-O

In between good birds I was mostly going goggle-eye trying to count Northern Gannets (249 N, 2 S), Black-legged Kittiwakes (182 N), and Guillemots/Razorbills (717 N). Only 7 Atlantic Puffins. One of the groups of Kittiwakes had an adult Little Gull in there (keep 'em coming). Also 16 Pink-footed Geese went south, 3 Red-throated Divers north (and 1 south), and 4 commic terns N. Annoying small waders, included the easy ones to identify i.e. 2 Ringed Plovers N, and 2 Purple Sandpipers - my first of the autumn.


darrell j prest said...

god it must of been hell for you seeing all them good birds.

great stuff you deserve it

Martin said...

god it must of been hell for you seeing all them good birds.

I'm bearing up with fortitude and courage. Glad you;re all with me at this difficult time ;-)