Thursday, 24 July 2014

Waders, Seals and Cetaceans

23rd June.  In my view there is never a time of year that is poor for bird watching and anyone would be foolish to write off July.  Of course there is also the wider nature interest to keep an eye open for and this evening proved my point.

We began in South Bay at St Mary’s Island which provided a small flock of about fifty Golden Plover in various stages of plumage change, a handful of Knot only slowly changing from summer plumage, Dunlin and Turnstone still in full summer plumage, along with Oystercatcher, Redshank, Curlew and Lapwing.  A broken up raft of Common Scoter drifted southwards on the sea and Eider Ducks in changing plumage were there in small numbers.  Gannets, auks and gulls were around in numbers, but we saw no sign of skuas or shearwaters.

Our eye was drawn to the Grey Seals laid out on the Island and we decided to have a walk across the causeway for a closer look.  Not to close as the many signs warn the public.  Sam informed me that someone had allowed or been unable to prevent their dog chasing after the seals recently.  No shock there then, at least in the case of the couldn’t give a damn ‘my Rover comes first’ minority of dog owners.  We had good sightings of four Grey Seals with more in the water just off the island and perhaps one or two more hidden behind the rocks.

As Sam and I overlooked the sea I got my eye on the dorsal fins of cetaceans which at this point were quite close into shore.  We reckon on a minimum of five or six which included Harbour Porpoise (we think) and certainly White-beaked Dolphins where were breaching fully out of the water at times.  They were swimming in circles and seemed to have perhaps found a shoal of fish and a good feeding area, which was further underlined when the Gannets began to dive and feed in the same area.  We watched these cetaceans at some length as they gradually moved further out to sea.  A young lad joined us to help out with identification and it was good to see him enjoying the use of the scope, although sadly he never did get as good a sighting as we had initially when the dolphins were breaching.  More sightings were made on our way to Seaton Sluice and this occasion I’m positive that the sighting was of Harbour Porpoise, further out to sea than our initial sighting had been.  Our walk to Seaton Sluice (Common Whitethroats and Reed Buntings seen on the way) proved to take us much longer than planned as we watched the cetaceans and got into conversation with a number of interesting and interested people along the way.  This all made for a good evening.  I think the young lad we initially spoke with was only just getting into bird watching, so we were able to offer some advice about places to visit.  We enjoyed our fish and chips before heading off to Holywell.

We walked to Holywell Pond again in the main taking the open paths across the farmland where Yellowhammers, Linnets and Whitethroat were found.  The flash towards the obelisk looked perfect for waders, but was in fact completely bird-less when we passed.  Our watching however attracted a local and his son.  Apparently he had been involved in birding when younger and is keen to get started again.  Perhaps the flash was not good encouragement this evening although I think the guy was fully aware of that can be attracted to the area.

The pond was once again quiet with only Lapwing and gulls attracted to the muddy area.  A flock of Redshank once again looked as though they were going to land but again decided to move on.  Growing numbers of Lapwing and Curlew were feeding in the fields to the south.  After watching the Grey Herons we too decided to move on and make for home.

Whilst standing quietly in Holywell Village we heard the unmistakeable call of a Greenshank that flew over our heads, although we were unable to locate it in flight.  A good ending, to a rewarding evening.

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