Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Close to the edge....

I was at Orcombe Point by 7:45 this morning. The sun was out & it was lovely!

Last night I did what I should have done before i.e. homework on not just Manx Shearwater, but other birds that have been turning up in the area recently. So, as I did a sweep of the sea & spotted a large, chunky, dark bird quite a way off, I immediately thought ‘Great Skua’. Well, I hoped it was anyway as I’ve never seen one. It was much darker & more uniform looking than any juvenile gull I’ve seen & also appeared to be very buoyant, floating high on the water. I kept watching for ages hoping that it would fly & give me a look at its wings. After about 10 minutes it obliged & flapped its wings to reveal very bold white patches, just as I’d hoped it would! Great! It must be the cleanest Great Skua in the West as it was having a bath for at least half an hour! It occasionally flapped its wings, and even flew about 20 yards twice, but then settled down to more bathing! I finally decided to see if anything else was about, after all, being such a big & obvious bird the Skua would be easy to relocate.  Wrong! After having a look about I couldn’t find it again, I assume it must have finally felt clean enough to move on.

I’m quite happy that it was a Great Skua, especially having seen the Arctic Skua on Sunday. This bird was much bigger & chunkier and those white wing flashes were very striking.

I still didn’t find a Manx Shearwater. There were however lots of Gannets about, some quite close to the shore. There were also about 20 Sandwich Terns flying about & doing a spot of fishing, although I still couldn’t find any Common or Little Terns. A raft of about 80 Shags was bobbing about off the Point & 2 Whimbrel flew past towards the estuary. On the cliffs all I saw was a Rock Pipit that came within a few feet of me & a flock of Linnets.

I'd been a bit distracted during my birding by a bloke in nothing but a pair of short shorts or trunks just West of the Point. At first I thought he’d been camping there overnight, but it then appeared he’d come to do his exercises. At one stage he was on his back with his legs in the air, but the best one was when he stood up, put his arms out and span around in circles for about a minute. All very well, but I’m not sure that doing that about 2 feet from the cliff edge was entirely sensible. When he stopped spinning & started wobbling I thought I’d be calling out the Coast Guard! Each to their own....

By now the wind had picked up & had frozen my fingers, so I moved just beyond the fitness buff into the shelter of the bushes. I was joined by a visiting Midlands birder who’s been birding since he was a lad....great, someone that knows what he’s looking at! A couple of times we saw a pale morph Arctic Skua, I don’t know if it was the same one twice or if there were 2 of them. A Guillemot & a Great Crested Grebe were the only other additions to the list.

I briefly stopped at the Lifeboat Station on my way home where I saw the Arctic Skua again & a couple of Swallows flying low over the beach. I watched a Cormorant trying to eat an enormous flat fish. “He’ll never get that down” I thought “Oh yes I will” it demonstrated. I wish I’d had the camera to take a photo...its neck stuck out almost to the tip of its beak, but after a lot of effort, amazingly enough it did finally manage to get it down.  The sky was getting dark & I headed home before the rain hit. 
A front coming through
Late afternoon we went for a quick walk along the cliffs up to The Beacon. We left Vera in her basket at home as it's too much for her now. We saw 3 Peregrines attacking a Buzzard & then attacking each other with some very impressive dive bombing. The only other sighting of note was in the newly ploughed field along the access road to Sandy Bay Holiday Park where there were 7 Wheatears, 5 male & 2 female.

Year List now on 172 + 2

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