Once was a time when every late Summer through Autumn we would look forward to regular bouts of hypothermia, sat glued to a spot staring out east. In recent years it seems that these opportunities are becoming ever more infrequent, so, it was a pleasure to get out this weekend, on the deckchair, eye screwed into the scope to look for seabirds.
In Northumberland we are spoiled really.
In Suffolk last week I looked out to the sea from Minsmere and all I could see was a sepia looking, wet patch, practically devoid of bird life. If I looked out just down our road, in any month during a flat westerly there would certainly be more birds than down there.
Recent posts on social media, show birders enthusing over '500 Gannets! a record!' or 'Arctic Skua 2, and a Kittiwake, a good patch day'. Up here we don't have time to count Gannets, Kittiwakes or Fulmars. They are present most of the time, like Black headed Gulls. I am not trying to be smug here, not at all, this is just how it is. Its horses for courses really, its just that our county is a great sea watching area, maybe not up with the likes of Cornwall, but over a full year, not far away. We may not do spring, but seawatching, when weather allows, makes up for it I think.
So, on Saturday morning, I took up position at Craster soon after 6.30am and waited. The wind was a moderate NW4, maybe not the best for us where a straight Northerly or North easterly is best, but at least the thick cloud cover prevented the glare from a rising sun.
First bird past was a nice Sooty Shearwater, quite close in too, always a good sign, closely followed by a juvenile skua that looked suspiciously small. As it came closer it was joined by an Arctic Skua and showed an excellent size comparison - a juv Long tailed Skua!
From then on things were steady as she goes with a nicely building list with nothing earth shattering happening until at 7.20 - Great Shearwater! Only my second county record, it came through at close range, indeed the closest bird of the day, so all features could be seen. Superb. At 8.10am it wwas time for home as we had other commitments...
On Sunday,John and myself headed up to Beadnell where the point should get us closer views of the sea bird passage. We camped out from 07.15 until 11.45 and had a grand morning, with nice birds, but unfortunately, no cigar...
Later in the afternoon, reports were still coming through of good numbers passing with some better species too, so I though I'd give it an hour back at Craster...it paid off with a juv Sabine's Gull N, albeit, a bit distant but ok...
The lack of detail is deliberate in my notes as this was the view I had. My first patch Sabine's too, so seven and a half hours staring across the waves was really worthwhile. Lets hope there are more northerlies in the near future!
For a further impression of my view, see Jonathan's blog in the side bar, he has some video of what may have been the same bird, though a few were reported during the day.