I had a bit of a shock when I looked out over a calm Seaton Bay on Tuesday morning... there were birds!
|Not flat calm but good enough!
Go back by over a decade or so and Seaton Bay wasn't all that bad for wintering sea birds. Don't get me wrong it was never in the same league as Torbay or Portland Harbour, but it was always worth a look. A double-figure flock of Great Crested Grebes were a constant magnet, and there always used to be a wintering Common Scoter flock off the Harbour which would sometimes attract Velvet Scoter (have managed double-figure counts of this species here before), Long-tailed Duck and Eider. Scarce grebes were pretty much annual, most often Slavs but have seen a few Red and Black-necked too, and there were always good numbers of Red-throated Diver often with a few Great Northern.
However this is a dim and distant memory now, although it is clearly not just a Seaton thing. You only need to look at how unusual and restricted large Common Scoter flocks have become on the south coast, and as for the scarcer grebes - Slav is almost a county/south west rarity now! Another good example of a similar decline, although neither were ever common here, is Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye. Really quite shocking when it is so drastic over such a relatively short period of time.
Anyway back to Tuesday. Half-hour at the Spot On in the morning was brilliant fun. The Wigeon from the Estuary were floating around in small flocks, as they often are when disturbed from the valley, but a young drake Eider was a surprise find tagged on to the end of one of these flocks (my second record of the year). Three Common Scoters were on the sea closer in, with two Great Crested Grebes out towards Seaton Hole and over 40 Razorbills spread all over. Divers were represented by two Red-throats and a lovely close Great Northern feeding well, the latter a species most often seen flying through here so a close settled bird was very much appreciated. On the move were a Dunlin in/off, two Brent Geese east, another seven Red-throated Diver and eight Common Scoter west, as well as a small number of Kittiwake and Gannets flying back and forth presumably feeding.
So nothing earth shattering and nothing like 'the old days', but enjoyable winter birding nonetheless.