20 March, 2010


Today is the Vernal Equinox, the turning point between the darker Winter and lighter Summer halves of the wheel of the year. As befits a day of balance, today has seen some ups and some downs. It being windy and raining, there were but two choices [ok, there was also the nearly equally valid 'stay in and do bugger all'] Ahem. It being wet and windy there were but three choices, and as the tide was out in the middle of the day and I was determined to get out that left the sea. It being the weekend and me being not up at the crack of dawn [to put it mildly..], Hope's Nose seemed the less likely of the local choices, and Prawle was too far off. Berry Head then!

When I got there the wind was blowing, the rain was coming in sideways, and only three cars were in the car park. Yay! The sea wasn't rough and the wind wasn't really strong enough, but you never know. A couple of fishermen got past the barrier [I think it is broken again] and were setting up as I wandered down to the seawatching point. Nobody else. No migrants sheltering in the quarry either. Oh well. Halfway down I saw the Gannets circling close in, and before I got there I knew I'd not wasted my time - very close in indeed they were! The Harbour Porpoises were putting on a show - close as you like, looked like 7 including a mother and calf, and they were frequently staying shallow enough to track under the surface :D 13 Gannets kept over them, sometimes diving, with a few Herring, Geebs, and Fulmar along for the fun.

I watched for an hour and a half, and the Porps were still there when I left - brilliant! Birds were otherwise fairly quiet - a light southwards passage of Kittiwakes, including 1 smart 1s, a scattering of Guilles, couple of b/p Cormorants... Now for the down side [part one]. That gull was about again! It would not sit still, not even fly nicely for me, so I have no idea if the bill tip has gone pale or not, though it is mostly dark. I have nothing to add that I didn't get last time, despite it being closer and in better light! Its definitely different from the 1w and 2w Herrings [one of the latter was very obliging indeed], I can see nothing that says 'No', but still I hesitate. Why?

Extra frustration came from just missing what looked horribly like a Balearic - I'd been Porpoise-spotting, noticed something heading south and was just getting on it as it went round the corner. Arg! This of course is the chief downside of solo seawatching - one set of eyes misses a lot. Oh well, not like I'm monthlisting...! ;)

Now to more negativity. Yeah, sorry, but what can you do - this has to be said.

After three, the weather perked up, the visibility 'improved', and I decided to wander back and have a look at the shiny new visitor centre - newly opened this week! It was shut. Half three on a weekend. The hide? Locked. Round the back of the visitor centre, [by all the new mud] is the new cafe. This was open. It has a menu up by the door, like its a posh restaurant. It has prices in fractions, like we don't have a decimal currency. It wanted a fiver for a ham sandwich [6 for a baguette]. It had a sign telling you to take your muddy shoes off [evidently to protect its stone tiled flooring]. It also had a humourous request that only guide dogs and children with well-behaved parents were welcome [though it does have {distant} outside tables and water bowls]. There are supposed to be loos there - but the only interior door in the cafe was marked 'Crew Only' [Yes, that's right, it has a crew, not staff] - so they must be in the visitor centre. Which was still locked.


"Smoked Salmon and stuff Sandwich 7 3/4" [I paraphrase, but the price is about right]. Maybe on Sandbanks you could get away with pretentious bullshit like that, but not here.

The people in charge are Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust. They are the ones currently screwing up Cockington by spending all their money on turning the Hall into an arts and crafts centre, while the gardens go to hell - brambles are growing through everything, the beds not being brambled are a mess, the ponds are silted up, and any tree that twitches is felled [ok, that's now standard in Torbay]. Clearly they are trying to repeat the act at Berry Head, despite some valiant efforts by staff there to do the right thing. I could go on about the problems of TCCT in general, and Berry Head in particular, but I'll spare you - I'm sure you already get the idea, and if not one visit will enlighten you.

My, this one's gone downhill, hasn't it? Worry not, brave reader; hopefully tomorrow I'll see my first Swallow of the year, and it'll all be smiles again!

P.S. Mr. Blackcap is still with us, but the Blackbirds still aren't singing.

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