The Safari went back out for the high tide the other day . The wind was still strong but by now had too much north in it, south of west is much better direction for bringing seabirds close to shore along our coast. But it had been windy a while and any birds blown in to the bay should start to come out and past us as the tide dropped. With the wind in that direction we had to walk well over a mile up Chat Alley to find somewhere sheltered enough to put the scope up.
An adult Kittiwake a fair way out got our hopes up but there wasn't much else about, even the local gulls were keeping their heads down. Then we spotted it, a tiny dark dot between the crashing white of the breaking waves. We stuck with it watching as it weaved its way through the maelstrom of foaming water. What an awesome little bird a Leach's Petrel (172) is. Nothing more than a scrap of feathers in the monstrous sea it barely needed more than a twist of its little tail to change its trim to glide effortlessly between the waves using the air currents to keep it on its way with hardly a beat of its wings. Like an empty crisp packet being blown along the street it wafted and wiggled past us giving great views in the scope. Nothing much else happened for a while until we picked up another Kittiwake, but this one wasn't an adult and as it got nearer it wasn't right for a youngster either - a flippin juvenile Sabine's Gull (173) - A self found lifer...another embarrassing gap on our life list filled! It gave great views in the scope as it came slowly past us just behind the worst of the surf. If the Leach's Petrel had us oohing and ahhing and telling Monty how good it was to spot one the Sabine's Gull had us punching the air and shouting "Get In!!!" much to the bemusement of some passing dog walkers...some people just don't get it do they.
Once the Sabine's Gull had passed out of our view only a few minutes later another Leach's Petrel came in to view. This one appeared to be struggling compared to the first. It was much closer in and rather than just jinking and twisting its tail to keep airborne it was doing a lot of wing flapping and kept getting drenched by spray from the crashing waves which the first seemed to avoid with ease.
Then it was time to go unfortunately - a short but productive seawatch, most enjoyable.
We planned to get out early the following morning and do some more seawatching taking the camera with us this time but stay-a-bed Monty put paid to that idea. Instead we took him to the nature reserve after news of a Gannet sitting on the water there broke - only the second record for the reserve. Again Monty had other plans and was a devilish nightmare on the walk up from the wetlands. A walk that should have only taken five or six minutes turned in to half an hour of delays, ball thefts, sniff-a-thons and we missed the Gannet by a good many minutes! A quick scan from the Viewing Platform didn't give us anything of note on the water but a Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest in the adjacent Willow tree offered some consolation. Neither were for having their pic taken though, staying well hidden in the still dense foliage...roll on autumn proper and let's get rid of those pesky leaves!
It was warm down in the dip with the trees behind us keeping the wind off, warm enough for a Brown Hawker to start flying around but when it got a bit buffeted by the wind it settled long enough for us to get a phone pic.
Out of time and out of luck it was back to Base Camp with an 'in disgrace' Monty.
Later we took him to his favourite field where we saw his friend and look-alike Richie, a Schnauser-Poodle cross (Schnoodle) rather than a Labradoodle, had been hard at work digging a huge hole which had filled with rain water. Almost looks like Wild Boar have been at work.
The mad hound dug this hole in not much more than a few minutes but what effect, if any, does this doggy behaviour have on the ecology of the field which is one of the best in town for butterflies? Is it a good think, is it a bad thing or is it just a thing? Could it bring long buried seeds to the surface or just make another heavily compressed area where all the dogs tread? One thing is for sure, once one dog has started a hole then all the others seem to want to finish it.
We tried again for seabirds this morning but had no luck at all and might have even dipped some stonkers like a juvenile Long Tailed Skua, a Velvet Scoter and yet more Leach's Petrels - aarrrggghhhhh.
Where to next? Back to Chat Alley tomorrow morning
In the meantime let us know who's doing all the excavating in your outback