Saturday, 13 November 2010

The Sea And My Patch List

I do love living by the sea - it is always there to look at, and it can NEVER be built on! Not to mention the fact its appearance changes from day to day...

This was how it looked on Wednesday morning of last week...

Oh so tranquil!

And this is how it looked the following morning...

See what I mean! And yes - the sea watching was so poor that I ended up taking photos of waves!

And when it comes to birding - the sea is just fantastic! You simply never know what is going to fly past, literally anything could at any moment! Which is why, if I'm not sure what to do or where to go, I head for the sea front. This was the case today....

I arrived at the Spot On Kiosk at 08:20 this morning, joined by Ian M about five minutes later. There are three lessons to be learnt from today's sea watch...

1/ a quiet sea watch isn't always a rubbish sea watch

2/ eat lots of breakfast beforehand

3/ sea watching with company is much better as you are less inclined to give up as quickly

So, in the end, we did a full TWO HOURS of sea scanning, I was planning on a twenty minute watch!

First highlight was a female-type Eider bobbing around distantly, our first of the autumn - and not a common bird for the patch at all. It remained on view throughout the whole two hours despite getting itchy wings and taking to the air on a couple of occasions.

Second highlight was a Black-throated Diver which flew west at about 09:15.

Third and final highlight was a Red-necked Grebe Ian picked up flying east at 09:30. It looked as though it was going to fly straight through, but it landed somewhere miles to the east of us. I wonder if it's the same bird that I had off Branscombe on Wednesday just milling around?

Other than these three highlights; five Red-throated Divers (3w,1e,1 on sea), one diver sp. (distant e), a few Gannets, nine Dunlin (w) and a Razorbill (w) were all that made it in to the notebook.

So little to show in quantity for two precious hours of my life, but some nice patch quality :-)

I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon at home, that wasn't totally bird-less though...

Oh look - a nice male Sprawk

I was out again though mid afternoon til dusk...

Spent 40 mins wandering around the stubble fields at Axe Cliff. The first flock of Skylarks I flushed (c80 birds) had a Lap Bunt in with them. I couldn't see it, just heard it call several times. And I didn't see or hear it again despite sifting through another 350+ Skylarks before returning back to the car.

I spent pretty much the rest of the daylight hours seeing nothing of note at all. But last thing from the farm gate was incredibly pleasant....

Very nice

And when it was almost pitch black, a/the flock of 12 Brent Geese (re)appeared. They flew south down the river - so I assume they are feeding up river somewhere and roosting on the Estuary or in the bay.

Now to lists....

Whilst sea watching, Ian M casually asked me "so how many birds have you seen on patch?"

To which I replied "haven't a clue!"

So this evening I worked it out - and have even uploaded my list to BUBO (thanks to Bun for the guidance!).

And yes I have been strict...

1/ Ruddy Shelduck is not on the list....despite the fact the two Gav found were wild!! If you don't believe me - look for yourself...

See, both totally wild! Wary, unringed, fully winged, only present for a couple of hours, seen by me, etc...

2/ The Black Stork that stunned Bun and myself on 08/06/07 was 0.4km outside the 5km radius from Axmouth Bridge - which just sucks! As you read this I am drafting a letter to the 'local patch authorities' to see if I can get ours expanded by another half a kilometre!

3/ I have only seen Nightjar on Trinity Hill, again outside the 5km zone

4/ I know I've seen Baird's Sand on the Estuary, on Wednesday 19th May 1999 to be exact - I was 13. I won't go in to details, but it wasn't accepted by BBRC despite four people seeing it, and even hearing it call! But, it got the NP vote so it's not on the list.

Anyway, after all that, my official patch total is.... 238.

But if anyone was to ask me casually whilst in the field, the answers 242 ;-)

So what do I still need (apart from the four mentioned above!). Well my three biggest bogey birds are:

1/ Turtle Dove - and I reckon if I don't get one in the next couple of years I'm stuffed, just as they sadly are.

2/ Puffin - how I've not seen one of these I don't know!

3/ Hen Harrier - I was counting Chaffinches half a field away from Gavin who jammed in to one. From where I was stood, I couldn't see it! And I was at work for the male everyone else saw going to roost on Axe Marsh a year or two later.

The most painful gap on my list is Common Crane. I think I'm the only birder in the world who has ever 'fluffed' a flock of four of these easily identifiable and humongous birds....

....I reached in the car for my bins and yanked them out, but the strap got caught on the handbrake. By the time I'd untangled them, and put them to my eyes, the birds had gone around the corner.... I went to sleep that night thinking 'just what were those four massive large winged grey birds!??'.... the next day, four Common Cranes were on Exminster Marshes. In the words of James May.... oh cock!

On the other hand, I have got some really nice grippers....but no way am I going to list them or go in to any details - wouldn't even dream of it! There is one bird I will extrapolate on though....

"Friday 26th April 1996 - Dad took me and Mr House (a Grammar School music teacher) to the Undercliff tonight. Heard and got good views of a singing Nightingale in the undergrowth near Goat Island"

What is weird is that my life up to age of about 17 is just a blur of immaturity, but this is one night I can remember - and I'm not just saying that! I can see us walking down the steps, waiting, hearing and seeing... and the hazardous walk back in the pitch black! Sadly I think this was the last one ever recorded here.

So there you have it, I am now a 'lister'....

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