|A sketch from some scribbles taken on the spot. A long thin winged bird, the white arm pits giving a spiky appearance. Some white was in the dark primary bases too but distance was too great for detail. Its my impression anyway...|
How many more puns can there be on this tremendous bird?
After a quiet days birding, all the drift migrants have cleared off along with the easterly, a cool north westerly was bound to bring some seabirds. This year has been slow for seawatching and until this morning I was still waiting for my first Sooty of 2014, so we started off down at Craster where Sooty Shearwaters duly obliged, along with Arctic Skua and a few Manx Shearwaters and Red throated Divers. As is the way in the north east, morning seawatches can be ruined by glare on the sea, so when the cloud moved, so did we.
Later, I heard that a Fea's Petrel had been seen off Flamborough and Filey this morning, but never gave it much thought. Steph McElwee rang to discuss timings up to Newbiggin, but I just thought that was too fanciful to contemplate.
Fast forward a couple of hours and Gary Woodburn was on the phone recruiting extra eyes up at Beadnell on the off chance. His positivity was infectious and the twitchy-ness began.
I arrived at Beadnell at 3pm, met Gary and headed off the the point, a spot I have never been to previously. We were soon joined by Barry another local.
Lots of birds were moving, but the sun was bright and the sea blue, merging into a hazy sky. Fortunately, some birds were very close. On arrival we got a strategy in place. I always like to set the boundaries before starting off a venture like this, because it would be a disaster if one saw the bird and the rest dipped. We pin pointed visible lobster pot bouys in the mid distance, pink, green and yellow, so they could act as markers for a rapidly moving pterodroma...
The conversation changed to predicting arrival times, and Gary said, about 5.20pm should do it, but it might be 'fashionably late'.
Tension mounted at 5pm as we knuckled down. Eyes screwed into scopes grabbing at every fly by. We had 20 odd Sooties and Manxies and a few Brent Geese for good measure, when Gary said...
'Oh, wait, I think I've got it...' ' Oh it might just be a Manx'....It was 5.25pm.
Now his tone wasn't 'manx-like' to me so I said that he should let us worry about miss-identifications and keep talking. He then said 'Yes thats it...Fea's, above the green bouy!!'
Everything goes into slow motion as you dread being the dipper in this situation but no, after a few seconds without breathing, there it was! Excalibur! A Gon-gon, a Soft-plumaged Petrel, a Fea's! I thought I was the only birder in Northumberland who had never seen one of these, so the relief was amazing. The spiky, unusually shaped black and white petrel swayed and switch-backed past us at mid distance for about 4 or 5 minutes before being lost from view...Get In! What a bird...