Monday, 11 April 2022

Spring Skuas!

There were four reasons why I wasn't particularly excited by the sea watching potential of this morning:

1.  The wind was south easterly, we often fail spectacular in anything with east in it.

2.  The sun was out.  Poor visibility seems to be the primary reason seabirds accidentally venture this far into Lyme Bay.

3.  The wind didn't really strengthen until just before dawn. Often need a good half-the night of gales to blow birds in here.

4.  94% of times I am excited about birding potential because of weather conditions, I end up being hugely disappointed.

But this proves just how unpredictable birding can be, even when watching a patch you think you know pretty well!  It was actually a really enjoyable watch.  I could only give it 90 minutes, in hindsight wished I had started earlier and of course that I didn't have to leave for work at 08:30. Pleased to have had the company of Phil for most of it, always helps having another pair of eyes and someone to talk to during the quiet times.

Gannet - as close as they ever come here!

For me the highlight were the skuas. I have gone entire springs here without seeing a single skua, so to see five Arctic Skuas in one watch was a nice result indeed. Saying that, three were a bit underwhelming, as I only saw them when they briefly pursued a (presumed) Kittiwake up from the horizon somewhere between Seaton and France, and then disappeared when the four birds dropped back below the horizon. The other two however were far better value...

An intermediate sub-adult flew in from the west, and spent about twenty minutes in the bay including looping right into the Seaton Bay and then back out, which is when it then tagged onto a lone dark-phased adult that was steadily flying east and both went on their way.

My full counts (all east) were: 70+ Gannet, 11 Manx Shearwater, 5 Arctic Skua, 24 Common Gull, 14 Sandwich Tern, 9 comic Tern, 7 Common Scoter, 1 Wigeon, 2 Teal, 2 Whimbrel and 20+ auk sp. 

So although nowhere near the quality and quantity seen further east (the sea watching in Lyme Bay in easterlies dramatically improves the nearer to Chesil Cove you are) it was still great fun for us!  Well all except for this tern...

I thought it was a Common Tern, it just didn't look floaty and dainty enough for an Arctic to me. I watched it for a minute or so with a Sandwich Tern, sometimes close, but on my last view looking back west away from the sun, a pale grey upperwing and clean underwing suddenly worried me that I had thrown away an Arctic! And that's when it flew off...

Please let me know if anyone can do anything with the below pics. I really don't see anyway near enough Sternas to be confident either way...

Lower bird

Not this one, this is the close Sandwich Tern I saw

This one! Worryingly long-tailed looking in this pic, but is it bill a bit too long?

Tern aside, more of the above would make for a very enjoyable spring!  Check back to the blog soon for more news...

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