Sunday, 16 January 2011

Auks and Shearwater

Woke to the wind still fresh so headed down to Hannafore first thing. As soon as I parked up it was clear that there was considerable movement. I could have stayed longer but Plymouth's creative cluster needed my attention. So an hour (as is the law) was all I could give it. With Australia making a dramatic run chase on the radio, I watched as auks streamed by, in flurries up to 30 strong. I long ago lost my trusty "clicker" which resided in the pocket of my battered Barbour, so counting them while also trying to keep up with the steady passage of Kittiwake and Gannet was a challenge. Rough totals were as follows:

Auk sp - c1200,
Kittiwake - 160
Gannet - 80
Fulmar - 8

Closer in a couple of Slav Grebe were riding the surf, and today there were 5 Pale bellied Brents. 3 Great Northerns and a Grey Plover completed the list of birds of note.

I always find great amusement in the reaction to passers by when seawatching from the car. At Hannafore one parks up next to the pavement, along which dog walkers and grockles parade. Luckily in the best seawatching weather, the conditions put off all but the hardiest. However, there's always a few souls who invariably, coming across a scope pointing out to sea, will look out to see what you might be looking at. Some will walk by un-moved but once they get a distance away will stop and look out perplexed, wondering why you seem to be staring intently on a stretch of empty sea. Only very very occasionally will someone stop and ask what you are looking at. Now at this point one has a choice. Do you:

1) Keep it simple - "I'm birdwatching" and hope that they'll move off quickly.

2) Engage them in detailed conversation - "I'm watching passage seabirds, there's lots of auks passing offshore this morning, but they're too far out to see with the naked eye"

3) Bamboozle them with birding slang - "Plenty of Kitts moving"

The third is a particular favourite. I was once in the company of one of Lancashire's foremost birders at Heysham. We'd had a great hour or so at the outfalls, and were driving off, when we passed a couple of sweet old ladies who just happened to be sporting binoculars. It was clear to anybody that these were not hardened birders. However, our driver and foremost birder slammed on the brakes, wound his window down and shouted "A Med, two Littles and a Black!!". I can still recall the rather mystified faces of these ladies as we sped off. I wonder if they managed to see the Mediterranean Gull, two Little Gulls and the Black Tern, but somehow I doubt it.

Now for a seawatching related musical treat. I came across Shearwater last year and was quickly hooked. Their third album - Golden Archipelago suffers from a dreadful album cover, and is the third in a trilogy of "thematically linked" albums called the Island arc. If this sounds a little bit too much like Yes, don't be put off. The Golden Archipelago is a thing of beauty. This is the promo for the album...

..and one of the more mellow tracks from the album below (note I have mastered the embedding of video now!!)..

1 comment:

  1. Hey... you're back! How nice.
    [a] 1200 clicks would have been a bit digitally challenging.
    [b] I have guessed the identity of the " important birder." His trademark question to anybody at all was " What's your list?" which historically and to this day causes widespread bewilderment re. the scope and range of his question.
    [c] Favourite telescope questions from members of the public.. "How far can you see through that telescope?" and ( rather ad hominem this one) " What's happened to your leg?"
    Best wishes from Ray.
    [My telescope is heavier than yours]