05 January, 2014

Sabre Dance

Life got in the way of birding - I really ought to sort my priorities, oughtn't I? - again and so I wasn't at Brixham Harbour first thing yesterday morning. As a result of this I again dipped the Iceland Gull, but the Ivory Sabre-toting Monster* more than made up for it. :)

The plan - formulated while kicking my hee merrily working - had been to get there first thing, see the gull, then stay around until I got decent sustained views of the diver, and then wander around the Coast Path to Broadsands. Not bad, right? Alas I had to curtail it drastically at both ends; I know it's heresy, but some things are more important than birding. ::Gasp::


I got to AstraZeneca to find a decent crowd for the length of the bird's stay but also to be told there'd been "No sign..". Oh shit. Not again.
After the fun on Wednesday and the two following days of porn star behaviour, I started to wonder if this diver was psychic. And evil.

Fortunately, it wasn't long before someone called it, and the 'it' wasn't the big GND with the huge bill, though that was there, too. The White-bill appeared with the big GND and an ordinary GND next to it - fascinating comparison shot if anyone got it. The WBD then proceeded to gradually work ever closer, mostly going after crabs; some of those were very big and put up quite a fight! The Red-necked Grebe then appeared right in front of us, hunched up and showing a silhouette like a Little Grebe!?!


Red-necked Grebe. 
No, really.

The bill's a giveaway in this, but when it was approaching and the bill seemed shorter, it was very.. educational.

The WBD took the chance to become briefly elusive; when you can pop up behind yachts and move anything from 0 to 200 feet from where you went down it's not hard. Fortunately it reappeared quite quickly. Photography was challenging, as the bastard bird kept turning it's head; never mind the whole 'don't stay up more than 10 seconds' routine..
Right, here's a few of mine;

Getting closer..

Showing the nape pattern; reminded me of a cobra!

The Ivory Sabre.

At this point, my phone's battery died.

The diver again showed clear psychic tendencies by coming in to spitting distance.. I wasn't complaining; I got insane views! :D

This was partly abetted by a couple of photographers, who'd hired a little boat to go for a harbourlagic. They got very very close views. A bit too close for the bird, which started to play silly wotsits with them - diving and coming up a way behind their boat. After the third time this happened, a voice from the shore pointed out that they were disturbing the bird and would they kindly refrain? To their credit they did back off [though by this point, if they didn't have perfect shots they should donate their cameras to charity and take up something else! ;) ].

While this was happening, a Black Guille flew in and vanished and a/the Long-tailed Duck flew past the Harbour entrance. GNDs and BTDs were also on display - some of the former to the shoreline below us [it was observed that they were probably jealous of all the attention the russki was getting].

The WBD then got properly elusive and the crowd broke up.Watching the crowds - well, ok small groups - going hither and thither the long way 'round after a bird that could outpace them without it's advantage made me think of the title of this post. Humming the tune to myself, I had a wander to the Inner Harbour then came back - not having time to go further - and had lunch on the nice observation platform right by AstraZeneca itself.

 I soon picked up the WBD, which was fishing just off the old coaling jetty thing that comes off the Breakwater. Various birders were on the Breakwater and seemed oblivious to the diver. My attempts to get their attention and direct them to the bird only had the effect of pinging something in my right shoulder.. Ouch. Also bugger.

Giving up; it was probably out of sight of them anyway - hell, that's probably where it's been hiding most of the time! - I then noticed the other Black Guillemot, right below me! It was diving on the 5 second rule, so I could barely scope it, let alone try pictures, but the views were amazing! Once it had passed, I looked up and there was the WBD, still by the jetty, but now I saw it had stopped crabbing and started preening! Right.. I had my proper camera with me and rattled off a few. I was slightly hindered by discovering that my manual exposure adjustment has stuck itself on 2 seconds.. Shooting through the scope on auto is iffy, so it's more hope than expectation of getting a good proper photo, alas.

I finished my lunch, gave the diver a last coo, and went on my way.

[[*The bill of a diver, especially a Great Northern, is often well described as 'dagger-like'. Compared to them, the White-billed's is more of a sword! The upcurved impression and Russian history mean that really you can only call it a sabre.]]

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