Sunday, 24 October 2010

Early morning at Cresswell

I got up early on Saturday and decided to sea watch at Cresswell. I rather over-cooked the early start and sat for half an hour in the pitch dark. I could hear Oystercatchers and Curlews, plus a strong wind and a lot of rain. My plan to set up the scope and sit on the car boot was rapidly changed to sitting in the car.

As soon as the light picked up at 08:00, I could see that a steady stream of Gannets were flying north. I was there until 11:30 and they were moving for all 3 and a half hours.

In conditions where there is a strong wind; in this case a north easterly, it amazes me how easily birds fly in to the wind. Admittedly I am a bit unsteady on my pins, but I am about 90kg and a Gannet is a maximum of around 3.5kg. I get blown over by strong winds and Gannets have the same lazy flapping action irrespective of the conditions. But Gannets are big powerful birds; the thought of a small gull such as a Kittiwake battling against gale force winds shows just how amazingly these birds are adapted to their often hostile habitat.

I note that Liverbirder saw Little Auks; I missed those. I did see three Sooty Shearwaters, several Guillemot/Razorbills and lots of gulls. Four Common Scoters flew south; one singleton flying somewhat higher than normal was doing at least 100mph with the tail wind.

Juvenile Gannets can be very confusing. Some that have a dark body and wings and a light head and tail, look a completely different shape at distance. Several times I got excited about a possible large Shearwater, only to realise that it was a Gannet.

The sun put in an ten minute appearance at 09:15, but otherwise it blew and rained. I used regularly to participate in a monthly bird count on the Lincolnshire Wash at dawn throughout the winter. I realise how much age and decrepitude are catching up on me as I had to keep closing the car window to warm up!

A raptor flew in from the sea carrying prey. The rain soaking my bin lenses and the wind causing the bird to fly in an uncharacteristic short winged manner made identfication very difficult. I would like to think that it was a small male Perigrine, but it was probably a Sprawk. Has anyone heard of a Spawk catching prey over the sea?

I went on to Druridge and Cresswell Pond. Seven swans in the field behind Callico Barn got me excited, but they were only Mutes. There was, however, a single Whooper on the north of the pond beyond the footpath. A flock of at least 272 Golden Plovers (they are impossible to count on ground with bumps and hollows), were feeding in the adjacent field.

The need to shop to feed friends that evening counted against a session in the hide at Cresswell, but I had an enjoyable five hours in spite of suffering the rotten weather and not venturing from the car.

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