Saturday, 29 January 2011

Puffin Ahoy!

So said my colleague to alert me to my first Puffin of 2011. I was out in the Moray firth doing another survey. I missed a Little Auk sadly but we did manage a couple of Porpoise and 3 Seals, a pretty good mammal haul for January. Flyover Pink-feet were noted on a couple of times and a Blue Fulmar was seen in the company of its normal coloured conspecifics. This wasn't a double-dark bird but nonetheless it stood out. You may be asking - where are the pictures of these lovely creatures and I can tell you. There aren't any as I left the camera at home due to the expectation of a grey and choppy survey. Imagine my surprise when the first day was flat calm and sunny all day.

Gemini Explorer - Moray Firth (last year)
A night in Wick held the usual trip to Wetherspoons (are there any further north in the UK? how come curry night is so reasonable? What does a cabin smell like the morning after with 3 surveyors in it? - I cant answer any of these questions as I was sent to Coventry [the small cabin] due to my persistent cough associated with my bout of swine flu, thankfully). Still no Iceland Gulls or Glaucs in Wick but it was pitch dark - I think the best chance is March/April with a bit more daylight. For the record I went for Chicken Jalfrezi and Belgian Waffle plus Amstel. In different containers. Obviously. We were back on our regular boat and thus it was a doddle although the second day held some pretty big waves and temperatures of 0c at sea. Not conducive to a good time. This mean't that a relatively quiet day was had although throughout the entire survey we had good numbers of gulls including many presumed argentatus Herring Gulls. Some of the Kittiwakes were entering summer plumage and winter plumage Guillemots and Razorbills were very much in the minority.

A surprise was sprung on us as we returned to Buckie - we weren't overnighting on the boat and thus I hatched a plan that involved Travelodge, a train and the newish food hall in the mall attached to Aberdeen station. Once our immediate future was decided I went on deck for the final miles before entering the harbour. I regret the first 2 of the 2.5 I stayed on deck for. Cold is not the word, I can assure you as I was rewarded with a single Shag and Eider. As we got closer to the harbour 3 trios of Long-tailed Duck were seen. Each trio consisted of an adult male, female and 1st-winter male. I was very chuffed but they were distant views of flushed birds. I was hoping for decent, close-ish views of these prettiest of sea ducks but seeing as they usually flush from the boat at very close range I wasn't optimistic. Immediately 2 pairs either side of the harbour entrance showed on the sea at around 100m range - outstanding views were obtained in the looming dusk. Better than this though was an adult female within the harbour itself showing down to 10 metres with the resident Eider flock. Now if only I had bought my camera with me you would have been subject to some acceptable images.

We managed to get to Aberdeen and despite my colleagues hesitancy were esconced in the luxury that is Aberdeen central Travelodge. My review - 3/5 on the travelodge scale - slightly past its best in decor and the bedding needed more conditioner but otherwise pretty good. The only birds I saw were as we returned from Pizza Hut at 10pm - 6 Herring Gulls fighting over and consuming a carton of Kebab that someone had vomited in. I ruled out Glaucous Gull despite the falling light and my burning contempt for their dietary choices.

This morning was a blur until Arbroath - I must have managed to catch the train as I was on it. Beautifully lit I enjoyed the British east coast immensely from Carnoustie down with Goldeneye seen on the Tweed in Berwick, several Buzzards, 2 groups of Whooper Swans and bizarrely 50 Teal in a puddle. No Green-wings sadly (the train was on the go slow at the time). The last sighting of note - meaning the last I remember was a Heron overflying the train south of Newcastle, notable only for the sexist rant that the passenger opposite was engaged in. And then I was home. Bliss. Same time next week?


Mark said...

I watched the Gemini whateveritscalled coming in to Aberdeen last week. Seemed to be towing some sort of PAMS cable? It was the highlight on a seawatch of little consequence!

James said...

Yeah, another survey team do a job with PAM in Aberdeen bay using the Explorer and they were up there last week so we got bumped onto the sister boat.

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

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