Sunday, 21 March 2010

Wheels on the bus...

A good weekend.

Yesterday was dull and drizzly. The only forays were two trips to Hannafore. One which coincided with high tide and where a misty rain meant that anything moving further then a few hundred metres offshore was lost in the murk. I was hoping for a bit of seabird movement, but had to make do with a quick trundle (with Assistant Clerk snug in rainproof buggy) along the promenade. Was rewarded with the first Wheatear of the year, flitting round the rocks, and no doubt wondering why it had bothered (this, I hasten to add, is not a comment on making landfall at Looe). It was also notable how the Turnstone numbers have dwindled.

Later in the day, it cleared up and the wind freshened, so I popped down again to see if there was anything moving. Light was fantastic and visibility superb. Shame the birds didn't match! A trickle of VERY distant Gannet and Fulmar. Wind had a bit too much north in it really.

On the way back noticed a group of large gulls on the river north of the bridge and swung into the car park to have a scan. What followed was one of those really frustrating birding events. The wind is blowing towards me so all the birds are, of course, facing away from me. One gull immediately catches my eye. It's much paler than the surrounding Herring Gulls, and looks like it's in heavy moult, or has very short primaries, Glaucous like. Problem is, as it faces away from me and preens it has dark tertial centres and what may or may not be a dark band on the upper tail. Its primaries (although when it turns for a moment it doesn't seem to have many) are totally white. It's fairly heavily built, a shade bigger (perhaps) than the surrounding Herrings.....and then Assistant decides she's had quite enough of this and complains loudly. I wish the thing would fly to get an idea of what the underwing looks like and what state of moult it's really in and for another five minutes I try to combine keeping a scope steady resting on the the car window in a brisk wind and singing "the wheels on the bus" to placate the passenger. I turn briefly to soothe the complainant and when I look back all the gulls are in the air. Absolutely typical!! I fail dismally to pick up the bird in amongst the wheeling masses and drive home, perplexed.

Today, Sunday, Clerk of Works is car booting - we're de-cluttering ahead of putting the house on the market, and she departs with a car full of tat that we have no need for, leaving Daddy and daughter to a full day together. This is important as, what with the work schedule ahead, it looks like I won't see my beloved again for a week after today. And people wonder why I'm changing jobs! Getting rid of stuff is also quite alien to the Clerk of Works, who tends to collect tat rather than dispose of it - she came home from work with half a dozen demi-johns a month or so back because "someone at work was getting rid of them" (Why this meant we had to find space for them I don't know). So this is a big event, and I give her every encouragement.

We head up to Siblyback with high hopes of the first Sand Martin of the year (well I have high hopes of this, my willing accomplice probably has high hopes of a go on the swings). While I was disappointed on the hirundine front, the Smew made a re-appearance. In addition there were 14 Tufted Duck, 20 Coot, and 2 Great Crested Grebe on the lake. 2 Chiffchaff were the only migrants. 10 Buzzards were milling about over the eastern shore. A badger has been here before us - see below, and Assistant Clerk of Works adds a new word to her vocabulary - "geese". She has plenty of opportunities to practice it on the walk round.

After the obligatory swing and slide, followed by consumption of toddler picnic (which features rather a lot of baby-bell cheese today) we head off to do the Dozmary circuit. After a few rounds of "Wheels on the bus" and "Row row row your boat" she is fast asleep. First stop at the north end of Colliford reveals a couple of Goldeneye, 4 Teal, 2 G C Grebe and 4 Little Grebe, but my scan for that most glamorous of birds - the Black duck - is fruitless. Still fast asleep at Dozmary (her not me) and I clock the Lesser Scaup-like thing.
Next stop further down Colliford and I'm scanning the odd mallard and another couple of Great Crested Grebe, when a cracking male Hen Harrier flies through my scope view! I watch it quartering the lake fringes for 15 minutes before it heads west over the brow of the hill. Hen Harrier is a bird I always think about when up here, but this is the first time I've seen one, and the first I've seen in Caradon.
Buoyed by this success, we decide (by we, I of course mean "I" as the sound of snoring is still emanating from the back of the car) to head down to Looe, in the vain hope of relocating yesterday's mystery gull. Assistant Clerk of Works is particularly excited by the prospect.

She proceeded to invent a new game down at Hannafore. As on many promenades every few metres there is a granite bench, with a personal inscription for people "who loved the sea" or "who loved this view" etc. The rules are we have to sit briefly on the first bench, before pointing excitedly at the next one, trotting the few metres to it and sitting on this one. Repeat ad infinitum. It makes a stroll along a few hundred metres of prom last a good hour.

Only bird of note was a White Wagtail. We didn't find the gull.

PS: Clerk of Works made £80 selling our rubbish. Result. She also came home with a set of golf clubs. Neither of us play golf. Enough said.

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