03 January, 2012

Following, not Chasing

Being the essential difference between 2012 and 2011. Probably. Well, we'll see..

I'm trying to remember why I didn't post last night - just slipped my poor aging mind, I guess. Anyway, I'm back on nights, so this morning I was asleep [or trying to be, anyway..] instead of risking my neck on a seawatch. Drat? This afternoon when I dragged up I headed to Blackball to see what was still cowering in the lee of the cliffs. Maybe now there would be a decent-sized grebe roost?

Ha ha. Not a single friggin' one! Time issues stopped me from going down to Oddicombe, and perhaps due to this I didn't even see a Shag! W T and indeed F!??!? There were a good few Kittiwakes, very close in and well spread out. An initial and careful count of 412 was later amended to 500+ as I realised birds were still arriving and so exact counting was never going to work. [Counting 50's got '500 and a few more' so 500+ is fair.] 11 Gannets were mostly sat on the sea well offshore, though with one closer than usual [a subadult] . 100+ gulls were rafted equally far out [I'd assume Herrings]. No divers or auks - indeed, no surface fishers at all! Where have they gone, I wonder? There was a sub-surface fisher on very close display, though - a Grey Seal! It was right in off Blackball, then moved towards Oddicombe, seemingly to have a look at the elderly gentleman having a swim off the beach! I don't think he knew it was there, might have given quite a surprise if he turned around and saw this big grey thing in the water coming towards him... ;)

A smart Grey Wagtail gave a flypast, but otherwise nowt else of interest to report.

Back to yesterday now. Looking at the forecast and then out the window first thing I decided that all this blue sky was too good a thing to miss and went up on't Moor! Blazing blue skies were offset by a wind on the strong side of brisk and the sight of a Moor seemingly covered in cloud. But not so! The showers were indeed present, and full of rain, sleet, hail, and snow, but they were discrete - hulking islands in the cerulean sea. Eventually a fair crowd cottoned on to this, but early on it was gloriously quiet for a Bank Holiday Monday. :)

I went to that old favourite - Vitifer and Soussons. Tooled up in full waterproofs I splashed my way down into the valley, for oh it was wet underfoot. When I reached the bottom of the workings and reached the valley floor proper, I had the following in my notebook; Raven 3, Mipit 1+. A few soggy sheep and ponies looked rather brassed off as the sunshine vanished and it started to snow. I was happier, I have to say. Not having been the first down there, there was no chance of Snipe in the boggy bits, so I pressed on and found some more birds down towards Golden Dagger. Bullfinches, mostly; Vitifer's a good spot for winter Bullfinch and a group of 7 were very showy, perching in the young conifers on the edge of Soussons and calling in that dejectedly melodic way of theirs. Siskin were a little less obliging and not a sniff of Redpoll [though its not a good place for them].

On my way there I'd passed groups of Fieldfare and Redwing, so I turned into Soussons proper and spent a fair while wandering the tracks and paths. Crossbills were of course the target, and they were indeed about in small groups - 20 or so in all, I reckon - though it took a lot of work to get a decent view. Green Woodpeckers were for once the opposite, with two different birds showing very well, but the Star of the day came when I picked a nice sheltered patch of young regrowth for lunch. Finding the right place to sit down is something I take a lot of care with - I'll often be stalking about for an hour or more, looking for the right mix of sheltered spot were I can set up unobtrusively, with a good view over decent habitat and not likely to get disturbed by every muggle and their dog! [[This gets even trickier when Little Black Dogs enter the equation, as 'no livestock in sight at all' and 'not within 30' of any path' and 'nothing Tilly can get tangled in' plus of course 'room for 3 plus pog' have to be factored in with the addendum of 'we're not going to be messing about, its time for lunch!'. Its an interesting challenge..]]

Anyway... From distant Hamel Down, to closer trees with Crossbills, to young trees with cones, it was a nice spot. Of course, it was pure spawny luck that the female Merlin chose that gap in the trees to cross the ridge... :D Oh what a view! Picked her up coming in head-on over the young conifers and tracked her up over and past as the Crossbills went "Eeek!" Merlins tend to be fairly distant, sat on a rock or post, or dashing over hillsides at zero feet, rarely flying over and only once before such a good view [and that a little more distant and lower*]. I'm a happy birder.

After lunch [curtailed by incoming weather] I worked my way up the ridge line and over to the Warren House valley [in case of GG Shrike] before dropping back into Vitifer, getting thoroughly hailed on, and then home. No grouse or even Skylarks, though a Roe Deer in Sousson's [point-blank range, Tilly would have been delighted] and a flock of 79 Fieldfare heading towards Fernworthy were both nice. It was a good day, no it was a great day, even when trying to deal with pesky mimicking Siskins while blinded by glare... The trees, oh the trees were festooned with droplets shining like jewels in the sun and the weather even decorated the windward side of my car with, well not snow but congealed hail, but it looked pretty!

[[*I refer to the Magic Minute we had a few years back at Fox Tor, I think I mentioned it once? Ringtail Hen Harrier, pair of Merlins, and a male Nightjar [!!!] flew past in front of us in quick succession. All going the same way [lucky for the Nightjar]. Mad...]]

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