Sunday, 4 September 2011

All at Sea with the All Weather Birders

The blue Fulmar close to the boat.

2nd + 3rd Sept. Saturday was to be the long awaited pelagic for the all weather birders with but before that, Tom and I took a trip down to Holywell Pond on the Friday evening. Unfortunately Cain was unable to join us. It was as atmospheric as ever down there, but there weren’t too many birds about. The highlights were the Mediterranean Gull (which in hindsight we decided was going into its second winter), the Greenshank which was first of all heard and then seen flying across the pond looking for somewhere to settle, although it never did, and the Common Buzzard performing aerobatics whilst being mobbed by maybe eight corvids.

The gulls on the mud took off after hearing gunshots in the distance and they and other birds never seemed to settle down again. There were numbers of both Lesser and Great Black Backed Gulls on the pond and a few Common Gulls were about too. The growing flock of Teal was in the east corner of the pond and a few Grey Herons were about the area. A walk to the members hide to stretch our legs found us Great Spotted Woodpecker and several finches and tits at the feeding stations. Tom and I called it a day eventually, as we intended to watch the football in the pub. The football didn’t materialise, but the pub did and instead of football it was chat.

Up with the larks on Saturday we met up again and were both off to the Royal Quays to join the converted lifeboat for our eight hour pelagic. Our dreams of year ticks and lifers were never made reality, but we did have a great day out on the open, and not too rough sea, as the sun shone for much of the time.

As we left the Tyne we found the likes of Common and Sandwich Tern and quickly got our eye on a small flock of Teal once out of the river mouth. There were to be no great rarities today, but that was of no concern as it was just so good to be out there. Our interest in seabirds is a growing one. So much to learn and enjoy. We did have two Great Skuas come in close and over the boat and a rather less exciting sighting of a distant dark phase Arctic Skua. It was also good to watch a relatively close Sooty Shearwater. The bird of the day for both Tom and I was the blue Fulmar and that performed very well for us. We also had good sightings of a number of Mediterranean Gulls off Newbiggin. Mainly first winter birds, but there was also at least one adult bird.

The organisers were disappointed that it had been a quiet day birdwise, but I saw no sense of disappointment from the participants. I think just like Tom and I they were enjoying the atmosphere of being out there on the North Sea as much as anything. I always like to be amongst the flocks of birds on the sea and we certainly were. One of my favourite seabirds is the Gannet (must get myself a copy of Bryan Nelson’s monograph on the Gannet) and there were plenty of them around, along with the Kittiwakes, Fulmars and others. Tom did get his eye on a diver species at one point, but by then the rain had begun so I think it had been difficult to identify with certainty. There were one or two small flocks of Common Scoter and of course the Eider Ducks. Numbers of Guillemot and a few Puffin. The guys with the boat got there eye on a fin in the water at one point and we sped off in search of cetaceans, but never found them. A small young seal was found.

The rain began and rarely stopped maybe for the last hour and a half of the trip so we all enjoyed a good soaking during the fast return trip. By now I was feeling perfectly at home on the waves. It was good to pass by and see all of the points that we had bird watched from over the past year including Cresswell, Newbiggin, Seaton Sluice, St Mary’s Island and North Shields where we had found the Iceland Gull.

It had been a great day. This is the second pelagic trip we’ve done with NEWTs. I’m sure we’ll be back. I’d strongly recommend to anyone, whether experienced birder or not.

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