Friday, 7 September 2012

Great White Cape?

 Today we were at a coastal site, but migrants were kept down by strong westerly winds just the direction you don't want on the east coast at this time of year.

There were plenty of Fulmars about the cliffs, and one particularly sheer cliff was covered with Shags. There were a couple of female Grey Seals in a little cove, and some Herring Gulls, but little else. A walk along the hedgerow got us out of the wind, but apart from the call of a Robin and the sound of a Linnets in the thistle field there was very little sign of bird life. One exception was the chattering House Martins, but then Andy spotted a Swift heading south.

Roe Deer
Roe Deer Doe [left] & Fawn
Speckled Wood
Great, White Cape?

The walk along the cliff edge was very windy again. We were accompanied by House Martins with the odd Swallow virtually all the way. In the ploughed field I located a Wheatear, and Caroline later saw another. A couple of Lesser Black Backed Gulls flew past at one point, whilst further out to sea I heard a Sandwich Tern, which was heading south. A pair of Red-legged Partridge were hunkered down on the edge of a field, and from their indistinct plumage they appeared to be moulting.
As we travelled to the woodland a flock of Goldfinches were observed flying over the hedge - they seemed to be trying to evade a Magpie. At the copse we looked back and saw a Kestrel effortlessly hovering in the strong winds. In the trees we eventually saw a juvenile Willow Warbler, and there was a brief call of something unusual, but we couldn't see anything apart from a Great Tit.
As we skirted the trees we flushed a doe Roe Deer and her fawn, which took off across the fields, but they did pose long enough for everyone to get a good enough view. Back on the path I noticed a pair of ears sticking up from the shade of a small bale of hay. It was a Hare. It lowered its ears, but remained hidden in the shade and all participants were able to observe it from the path before it zoomed off along a field margin. Just after this we saw a family of 6 distant Red-legged Partridge, but we only got a rear view as they carried on walking away from us.
The remainder of the walk was pretty uneventful - just a few Starlings on the wires. Not the most exciting start for Linda's first session, but she did enjoy the sight of the deer and the long look at the Hare.
In the afternoon we went through some woodland down to the beach, but the heat had brought out some day trippers and dog walkers, so there weren't many waders to see. There were a few Oystercatchers, and Turnstones ; plenty of Cormorants were flying back and forth across the surface of the sea, and at least 3 Sandwich Terns fished as they headed south. One of them caught an enormous fish, which it carried off with ease. It was lucky to get away with it because also heading south a few minutes earlier was our first ever Great Skua (Bonxie). This was a bird that some on the course had never heard of, and those who had didn't expect to see one on our shores - they had been up to Orkney specially to see them!
After the beach we climbed the steps to the top of the cliffs. From this vantage point we could see Redshanks and a Ringed Plover in the rock pools and a Curlew also flew in. A pair of Kestrels flew over the golf course, and continued to make a lot of noise for the next 10 minutes. The hoped-for Wheatears failed to materialise, so we retraced our steps to the woodland. In here we heard a few alarm calls of bramble-eating Blackcaps, a Treecreeper, and the plaintive cries of an immature Sparrowhawk, but there were precious few other birds to be seen or heard. However, it was a very pleasant walk in a fern-covered, verdant pleasure garden. Hopefully, there will be more birds for the newcomer from Bingley, as it's a long way to travel for only a few birds!

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