31 March, 2010

...and then it snowed.

Having business in Paignton, I decided to continue my 'ardcore birding [::coffcoffyeahright::] by walking over and doing some gullbashing on the way. The possibility of grebes and divers was also wandering about in my head - Paignton/Preston seafront is pretty good for them in the winter, and the weather certainly still thinks its winter!

The weather was indeed a bit schizophrenic - hot sunshine one second, lashing rain [with added hail and sleet for fun] the next, then both together. And that was before it started snowballing! Oh, I was so excited - I love snow, it brings out the little kid in me.. Ahem.

Less about the weather, more about the birds!

Lots of gulls were loafing on the exposed rocks from Torre Abbey around to Preston, and on the broad swathe of fresh sand at Paignton. I had a merry old time going through them - with a handful of Geebs and a single 1w LBB all to be found among the Herrings. It never ceases to amaze, the variety of 1w Herrings [2ws not far behind], and the rapidly changing light helped to show off their oddness. Pale ones, dark ones, long-legged ones [ok, one], funny-shaped ones, little ones, big ones - ah you get the idea! More amusing was watching two of them chasing each other desperately over an empty cardboard pot. Now, a crab, or a bit of dead fish I could understand, and both were available at the time [if they could get them off other gulls], but they were ignored. I suppose they could have been messing around [do gulls mess around?], but I can't help wonder if this partly explains the high levels of first year mortality in Herrings?

A pleasant surprise was a party of 8 Sarnies, burning around the bay at high speed - possibly due to them realising just how many large gulls there are here! The sun was out and they were a very scenic sight indeed - my first of the year - from the benches above Preston's newly re-installed huts. Wandering on, I came to my final site - Paignton Pier. After checking the beach gulls, I went down to the end, where I reckoned I had the best chance for grebes, divers, and so on. The weather was feeling frisky again as I started scanning from next to the talky telescope someone's fitted there, but with the wind behind me, my fingers going rigid just helped my bins stay steady. [Yup, 'ardcore!]. A careful examination of the impressive panorama revealed the ubiquitous Shags dotted around the Bay, together with an utter lack of visible divers and grebes. A couple of Gannets looked very bright in the occasional sun, and chief interest was provided by a fairly sizable raft of Scoters, pretty much straight out. Long distance for bins, but patience [ok, bloody-minded stubbornness] on my part was rewarded as they drifted a bit closer, and the sunshine helped pick them out. 'Circa 30' due to waves and persistent diving, 2/3 female [very clear in the sun], and a glorious flash of white revealed one to be a Velvet. :D

A rising tide and increased numbers of dog walkers had put most of the gulls well offshore by the time I went back, but the wonderful fun of Springtime Snow awaited. I admit it, I whistled 'Let it snow'. I know, no hope at all....

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