Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Winters last Hurrah!

The last couple of days I have spent a couple of hours at Barmston despite the weather. I have sat in my nice warm car and angled it so I could do a spot of seawatching without having to worry about the snow showers or the force 7 winds or the cold. This has been a good thing as despite the frankly disgusting weather I have been able to pick solace in a few avian signs of the impending spring.

If this isn't the last snows of the winter I will be extremely surprised but things are unpredictable throughout the British year when considering the weather so definites are best avoided I guess. Seabirds have been the principle in making me feel warm. That and the heater in my car. Yesterday I watched solely from the car and very little was moving, a handful of the usual gulls up and down the beach interspersed with Sanderling, Turnstone and the like but a duck made the difference. It was a male Eider flying north about 200m off the beach and it was a vision, flapping like a crow such was the headwind for it but nobly fighting its cause. The black belly makes them look so much smarter in flight than on the water as well. This was my first record of the year and presumably it will be heading to a rocky outcrop to nest in the near future. I didn't see much else except for the Kumlien's Gull which did its obligatory fly past despite looking half dead last time I saw it.

Today was even more promising - there were several birds worth noticing and many that weren't worth noticing but their constant presence made me sit up and realise what was happening. We will start with the latter. Not glamorous or interesting in a coastal location but ubiquitous. Herring Gulls were present as always. I almost recognise some of the local winterers now. Despite this I couldn't help but notice that everytime I looked at the surf birds were passing north. At first I dismissed it as local birds moving up and down but after 2 hours it became clear this was quite a decent passage as perhaps 6 or 7 birds a minute arced through the breakers without hinting at any interest in the world terrestrial a mere flap away. They looked like British birds so I imagine, like the Eider from the day before they were making headway despite the weather. In fact mentioning the weather, it was more clement today in that it was above freezing and damp with less wind as it was in the process of switching NE to NW.

A squadron of Gannets passed by perhaps 2km offshore. A long way away anyhow. All adults and all heading toward Bempton, these were my patch year tick. No longer must I gaze to the horizon for them. Just skuas and shears... A pair of Razorbills were being attended by a Great Black-backed Gull and single Guillemot & Red-throated Diver sat in the calm beyond the breakers. The Razors were my first local ones since last year so were another harbinger. A Shag flying south was a surprise - I hadn't seen a cormorant sp for a while here. Not sure where it was going really. Away from Bridlington!

I decided to leave the comfort of my car where immediately a couple of Rock Pipits hopped about on the rocks below the car park. They showed no sign of a pink flush but weren't particularly dingy so my guess was they were littoralis passing by, just starting to smarten up for the spring. My only other Rock Pipit this year looked extremely petrosus like so it is nice to get a ssp. tick. I froze my whatnots off clambering to the beach and saw the Kumlien's Gull looking surprisingly healthy - it was bathing in a puddle on the top of the beach and has managed to remove most of the oil that it had got itself coated in. It seems to have either regrown the feathers on its face or these were only matted with the oil. Either way a pleasing sight.

Hopefully tomorrow I will have a proper migrant. Probably not though.

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How brains and birds become mutually exclusive