Monday, October 21, 2019

Seawatching. In context.

As I indicated in my previous post I was keen to get out on Sunday morning as the weather looked good for some sea passage. Through the night the wind rattled the windows and the rain hammered down.

I met John just along the road at Cullernose but the storm was too great for watching this spot. At Cullernose you sit on an exposed cliff top with no shelter at all. In this north westerly gale and driving rain it would be impossible, so it was a move along the coast, all of 1 mile, to Craster village where there is some shelter behind a stone wall over hanging with garden shrubs. Even better, John had brought his large Fishing brolly purchased just for this type of occasion. What a life saver it was too, we were both tucked out of the rain, on deckchairs with a good view of the sea.

There were not as many birds as I would have expected in these conditions. Still, we watched from 07.45 until 12.00. In this filth what else could we have done?

So, what did we see?

Auks. Lots of auks. We have been Seawatching in Northumberland for the last 30 years so we dont record every bird passing. It would be just too much. Auks, Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Shags are routinely ignored as we look for more tasty targets. Maybe thats harsh, not ignored but not counted.

There were thousands of auks heading north with fewer, but still a good number, of Gannets moving with them, the sea a constantly changing vista of bird movement. In with them were...

Whooper Swan 41 S
Wigeon 34 N there hasn't been a good movement of ducks yet this autumn.
Teal 17 N
Mallard 4 N
Goldeneye 17 N
Long tailed Duck 6 N inc some nice drakes very close in.
Common Scoter 7 N
Velvet Scoter 4 N
Red breasted Merganser 3 N
Red throated Diver 12 N plus a few on the sea, but too rough to get a count.
Ringed Plover  2 N
Sanderling 1 N checked for Grey Phalarope, but this is still a scarce bird on my patch with its all rocky shores. Not seen since 2015 [156]
Purple Sandpiper 4 N
Bonxie 1 S very close in milling around.

A second watch for a short time in the afternoon only had 3 Red breasted Merganser and 1 Bar tailed Godwit N

Only Sanderling was a new addition to the year list.

Today was better. The wind had gone right off leaving a pleasant morning with grey overcast skies giving good light for the morning watch.

Today I watched from Cullernose Point 0820 - 1120.

It was clear that more birds were reorientating North especially wildfowl.

Dark bellied Brent Geese 2 N
Shelduck 6 N
Wigeon 258 N
Teal 37 N
Mallard 16 N
Scaup 1 fem N with Common Scoter. [157]
Goldeneye 5 N
Long tailed Duck 4 N
Common Scoter 142 N
Velvet Scoter 3 N
Eider 5 N passage birds, not our harbour locals, they dont get counted loafing off the rocks.
Red breasted Merganser 6 N
Red throated Diver 9 N 1 S
Black throated Diver 2 N with a single Red throat very close in, for comparison.
Great Northern Diver 2 N
Fulmar 1 N at this quietest time for them.
Manx Shearwater 2 N
Sanderling 1 N with 4 Dunlin, two in 2 days is good.
Purple Sandpiper 2 N 1 on the rocks with 2 Golden Plover.
Dunlin 19 N an excellent count here, best for a long time.
Bar tailed Godwit 2 N
Bonxie 2 N
Kittiwake, good numbers, much more than yesterday.
Little Gull 17 N with adults and first winters seen.
Herring Gull ssp from mid morning many, almost all first winters moved N, not counted.
Auks sp less than yesterday but still a lot N.
Little Auk 8 N max 3 at one time.
Puffin 10 N of the auks identified.

Its in a Local Patch context some of these birds come into their own. For example, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin and Bar tailed Godwit are all more tricky to see here than Velvet Scoter, Little Auk and Purple Sandpiper even though they are very common over most of the Northumberland coast north and south of me.

What was missing? Pintail are often in Wigeon flocks but not today. Grebes, all being very scarce here except Little. Pomarine Skuas. In these conditions I would expect a few at this time of year.

All of these give something to watch out for during the next northerly spell we have. Hopefully before mid November...

Patch list stands at a very respectable for here 157 species...77.72% of my all time total.

Sunday sewatching from under Johns umbrella, Craster.


Steve Gale said...

Even though I added three to the competition list over the weekend - Ring Ouzel, Golden Plover and Marsh Harrier - you’re thrashing me Stewart. Not giving up quite yet...

Gavin Haig said...

Context is everything isn't it?! Four species on your list that I've never seen in a Lyme Bay seawatch, including one that I've never seen locally at all. Plus a few that would make it a red-letter day!

darrell j prest said...

Good idea with the umbrella

That's a great list of birds

Stewart said...

Steve - Never give up. We can only really compete with ourselves. Although I have missed out on Marsh Harrier this year I am having my second best year in the last decade here. My best was 163 in 2010. I need 6 to beat that and in theory could get Waxwing, Snow Bunting, Pintail, an eared owl, Jack Snipe, Little Egret, Slav Grebe, Great crested Grebe, Glaucous and Iceland Gull but, the likelyhood is my list will end much sooner and might have already done so!

Gavin - Tantalising comment. I'm wondering what those species are now..

Darrell - Yes isnt it, I will get one for next autumn for sure...cheers.