Mid July signifies the start of one of my favourite pastimes on the coast - seawatching.
In recent years we have had some great birds from the sea on the local patch in July. In 2019 it was the surreal appearance of a Giant Petrel from Southern Oceans, followed in 2020 by a more twitchable mega, a Sooty Tern for a day or two and as if that duo wasn't enough, 2021 was not going to be outdone as another UK first opened July with a close, nicely breast banded Soft-plumaged Petrel moving North offshore.
Is it any wonder I like the hypnotic draw of the waves?
Last week we had the first light north winds of the season, so an hour intro on Wednesday was quiet but pleasant with Little Tern, a dozen Manx Shearwaters, a handful of Puffins with ever present Sandwich and Arctic Terns making up the tally. That was until a very close pod of Bottle nosed Dolphins slashed into the bay, soon followed by a Minke Whale that dived just in time to avoid the Life Boat bombing over its head. An adult summer Mediterranean Gull passed North as I was preparing to leave. Not a bad start.
On Monday as a large high pressure system moved in to the west of Ireland bringing with it masses of Cory's Shearwaters into the western approaches, hopes were high that we might get in on the action. Cory's is a very difficult bird to catch up with in Northumberland, Ive only seen one, at Newbiggin around 1999 I think.
On Monday I was out on Cullernose alone from 16.45 - 18.00. Although there was a fresh breeze from the North, few birds were moving. 86 Arctic Terns, 21 Sandwich Terns, 4 Whimbrel, 3 Manx, 9 Puffins a few waders and an in off juvvy Med Gull were all I could muster. A single Wheatear was quick off the marks here, a taste of what is to come hopefully.
Tuesday turned out to be a different kettle of fish. Early doors, Dan Langston had a Cory's slowly past our village and sitting on the sea while I was walking the dog within viewing distance if Id had my scope. I dashed back down with the scope after dropping the dog off at home but the light was dreadful and nothing of note was seen. Gutted, a great patch tick gets away.
After work saw me keen to get back on to the point, and by 16:30 I was in position.
Manx Shearwaters were the main passage birds on show with 583 N in 3 hrs, a good total for here. 5 Goosanders flew south as did a distant Bonxie, while an Arctic Skua chased terns overhead. 2 Little Terns were good to get too.
Soon, I was joined by Dan, Alan, Ian and Keith ( and a bit later by Mark). After about half an hour Dan called the bird. CORY'S! It was way to the south and distant but as it progressed the distance shortened and it gave reasonable views hugging the surface with long bowed wings occasionally tipping over to reveal the underside. It took around 8 minutes to get past us, but even though we called directions, pot flags and range, Ian and Keith just couldn't get on to it. Whilst three of us were elated, it still takes the edge off things.
We sat another hour hoping for another chance, but only 3 Sooty Shearwaters were added to the total before most of us left*.
Cory's Shearwater, a great addition to the patch list for me and a full new species for the site.
|Cory's Shearwater, Cullernose Point 26/07/22.|
*Mark Eaton stayed on after we left. As dusk came, Ben Steel at home in Longhoughton a mile inland, was looking at the sea from his bedroom when he picked out another Cory's coming past Longhoughton Steel [ garden tick!]. Mark managed to get it close in as it passed Cullernose . Finally last night Tom Cadwallender was on the point alone not seeing much at all until a group of 4 Sooties passed, followed a minute later by the 5th Cory's of the week. Unprecedented.