28 February, 2014

Time For A Change

Greetings and salutations, dear readers.

As you may have noticed, things have been a bit sparse and a lot rut-like on here recently ['recently..?!?']. I've been busy with Important Things That Unfortunately Aren't Birding, and so this birdy[ish] blog has suffered for it. No more.

So, Backward Birding will be taking a sabbatical until I can do something interesting. Quite how long this will be is something I honestly do not know and [judging by recent history] attempts to speculate will only be disproved by the harsh logic of time.

But before that.. A little final news.

Sunday afternoon - oh, way back then in the dim mists of times past - the Little Black Dog took me I took the Little Black Dog for her afternoon constitutional about The Patch. She had a lot of fun - not least due to my taking her current favourite ball along - though my back was less amused. Also my arm, my shoulder, my feet..... Ahem. I saw a lone GND in Hope Cove, Tilly saw a squirrel [she was happier than the squirrel], and a dead [adult s/pl] Guillemot was on Meadfoot Beach [northeast end]; no oiling, neck looked broken [though that could be canine post-mortem, of course].

Wednesday, my first Chiffchaff of the year [!] was at work.

Last night, a male Tawny Owl was calling on't Patch :D

Always good to stop on a smile, isn't it?

Be Seeing You

23 February, 2014

Sunday Morning Posting..?!?

Whiskey, Tango, and indeed Foxtrot.

Why am I am lurking about on the 'puter, instead of down at the Nose? No, you haven't wandered into an alternative reality*, I have managed to dent myself a little and am 'taking it easy'. A bit.

My job sometimes involves lifting awkward bits of metal into and out of ovens - the 'out of' being the more delicate operation - and I think I didn't quite lift one properly last week.. It's nothing major [I hope] but better safe than sorry. So, I've not been yomping around on't Moor [yesterday] or seawatching [today] like I was planning. Not to say I haven't been out doing things [Life not stopping for a pesky back ache, after all], but it has been of a more genteel nature.

Yesterday I was mostly being a Good Brother and taxiing my Icklest Sista around. One of her darling hellcats needed to be tortured go to the vet and then she was off to see a man about a grannymobile car. Which she promptly bought, so no more brotherly taxis needed [the two things may or may not be a coincidence]. Sister's cats are in fact Good Cats; they are house cats and no longer inflicted on the local birds. Though this is more due to their propensity to try to defy gravity and traffic [both of which tend to win arguments..] than any compassion for slaughtered wildlife.. ["They're just behaving naturally"] Still, a win's a win, right?

Anyway, while the cat-wrestling was going on, I wandered off to some nearby woods, where I met a lot of lovely birds. A surprising amount, for not very big woods right by a large housing estate; GSW, Treeeeeecreeeeper, Nuthatch, and 4 flavours of Tit were nice to all see, but the Redpoll I did not expect! They were Lessers, of course, and while I was greatly pleased to see them [Redpoll rock], we were outside the Patch, alas. I know I'm not chasing any yearlists, but that doesn't mean I'm not keeping count. Redpoll is a flyover migrant species for the Patch; seeing them on the ground [ok, in the tree, but you know what I mean] is usually only for far afield. So their presence close by does lend some hope.. [Though they could be joining Marsh Tit, Little Owl, and RLP as 'seen by others'] It wasn't all 'nearly', though, as I watched a flyover Stock Dove head Patch-wards for long enough to count [ :) ].

I also met a piece of shocking modern art. Shocking in that I actually quite liked it! I am of the Imperial Attire camp when it comes to most 'art', especially that funded by my grit and graft public money. Far too often, it seems that the required talent these days is being a smooth-talker. I know the truth of commerce is that things are only worth what someone will pay for them and that Barnum was right, but still...

Here is a picture, not the greatest, even by my standards;

No, it's not the Mad Hatter

And with less messing-to-get-rid-of-shadows;

It's a Big Stick


It's a Really Big Stick.

For those of you outside the Bay's Artistic Circles, this is a monument to honour the guy who the woods are named for. Some Victorian chap in a very tall hat who the world thinks looks like Kenneth Brannagh, maybe?

I present a totem to the works of a famous engineer [there's a handy board to name all the bridges and ships and railways and things], surrounded by the elements of fire and water and a statue of the man himself. Despite approaching with no small amount of cynicism healthy scepticism, I found myself quite liking it. Though the huge numbers of birds in the vicinity may have helped my mood somewhat - a Treecreeper was singing as I took these! :D

Just up the hill is the house he had built; he planned to retire here [a man of great taste, as you see] though sadly died before he could. The woods [and quite a few other things around here] are named for him. Further along the Musgrave Way [one of the many trails in the area - set up in honour of a famous rambler], there is a bench facing a panoramic view of the Bay. Not uncommon here [or anywhere else], this one has the usual little metal memorial plaque. The bench itself is markedly more impressive than most, the name..  I K Brunel.

Carrying on the Musgrave Way [which also goes through the Patch at Cockington] takes you up Great Hill. This is the highest point hereabouts, and while the top is fenced off [there's a reservoir up there - our water pressure kicks ass], the views from not-quite-but-almost are very panoramic and very impressive. Too much so for my little phone camera, so go up and have a look for yourselves. [though maybe let the mud dry a bit..]

More exploring was precluded by a call from Sister, she and cat were ready to go.

I'll be back....

[[* Ok, maybe you have accidentally crossed over from the World Without Shrimp or something, but it's nothing to do with me...]]

21 February, 2014

Very Little. No, Not A Gull

Very little birding since last I blogged. Things just get in the way, 'tis most vexing. Lots of running around, but not for birds. It's scandalous, I tell you.

Thursday afternoon I was able to swing past Blackball for dusk; despite there having been a reasonable front through earlier, the weather had really cleared and the sea was pretty calm. In fact it was in that intensely irritating balance of soft light and low chop which excels at hiding birds...

Close in it was mirror calm, though, and so I saw a bit.

15 GNDs, 2 [more distant] RTDs, 22 GC Grebes, 20 Kittiwakes, and 7 auks - 2 close enough to be Guillemots - were inshore of a gull roost of 1100+
The gulls were well out, so the figure is a definite understatement [not least as gulls were still arriving steadily as I left!] and no chance of picking anything sexy out from them..

This afternoon I had a very quick look at the Harbour, where a frickin barge had somehow got into the Inner Harbour - photo now here! - complete with Big Boss Crane and a tug! It was very quiet, with nothing better than Shags visible on the sea [when it wasn't tipping down] and only 4 Purple Sands on Haldon Pier [now re-opened and shock- aside from the yachties' ex-flagpoles - fully serviceable].

Big crane, big barge, little blue tug. 
How did they get over the cill, never mind between the Towers of the Teeth?!?

Finally, two new visitors to the Garden today; two male Blackcaps. In very quick succession, or more likely, in a chase.

17 February, 2014

Another Monday, Another Post

More of the same for more of the same, I'm afraid..

A weekend spent doing more Stuff, with a couple of coastal patrols the only interest for you.

Saturday saw a longer one - from the Harbour around to the Downs [for sunset]. This didn't start too well, as in their brainless idiocy dedication to public safety, Haldon Pier was still closed to the public. This time there were two police officers [proper ones, too] there to, er, police it. I applaud this sensible use of our money to protect people from the deadly three foot seas and raging breeze.

Was that enough sarcasm?

Anyway, 6 Purple Sands were visible on the intact* pier, with 3 GNDs out to sea and a lovely 1w right in the Harbour;

1w Great Northern Diver

Meadfoot had some nice waves and a couple of bits of modern art on the beach;

Meadfoot Beach, now with added trees.

Hope Cove was still diver central, though now 'only' 18 GNDs, a lone GC Grebe, and no sign of any Little Gulls around the Nose.

Group of GNDs, viewed from IMD

Auks - more Guilles than Razorbills and none visibly oiled - were scattered along the coast. Presumably these are a mix of residents and tired survivors resting up. I didn't see any dead birds along the shore, but there are a lot of gulls around...
Blackball roost was much diminished in gull numbers, with only 17 hundreds [what a difference a day makes!], but 32 GC Grebes and even better a group of 5 divers. said divers seemed to be GND, but close examination revealed one to be a big BTD - brilliant!

Sunday's perambulation was shorter and earlier and also included detours down grassy bits. This was due to it being with the Folks [and a certain Little Black Dog, who was quite insistent about playing two sticks]. The sun shone and the wind was markedly lighter. It was almost like a summer's day [only a bit colder and a lot drier!]. Between Meadfoot and Brandy Cove we saw 8 GND and a probable [though irritatingly slippery] BTD, with at least 8 Kittiwake still hanging around the Nose and no grebes at all! Fewer auks, too, with only a handful of Guillemots - again all at sea with none visibly oiled - and no Razorbills.

The decent evening weather when I actually had a chance to use it saw me head out for a hopeless Owl quest, but I did hear a Redwing fly over, so not a total failure.

[[*From what of it I was allowed to see, the only non-flagpole related damage is a few bits of concrete skin chipped off the edge. This happens every winter; the contractors then get paid a nice fat wedge to spray a new concrete skin on, paste over any cracks, and call it a repair.]]

14 February, 2014

Who Dares... Gets Blown Away

Another Friday, another battering of the Patch.

After the morning's continuous rain, an easing of the precipitation to mere violent squalls saw me heading out in determined fashion.

After I took care of yet more Stuff, anyway.

Figuring that the only birds viewable would be cowering in the lee of the land, I headed out to the Nose. From IMD, Hope Cove was full of birds! 170-odd Kitts were closest in, with a couple of GC Grebes and a few auks, but holy cow, look at all the divers! 31, yes, you read right, 31 Great Northern Divers were sheltering in the calm[er] waters. Wowzer!

The female Eider flew in to join them, and among the gulls attending the outfall was at least one Little Gull.


The wind, though.. On my personal scale, I go from Brisk to Strong to Very Strong to.. Holy Shit! When you nearly get blown off your feet sideways three times in less than a minute, you know it's not a good idea to go wandering down near drops. So I didn't go down and get up close and personals on the divers. Twas a pity as a party of a dozen were right right close in and mostly just sitting there looking full of divery goodness. Oh well.

The sea was feeling most wrathful, with huge waves scouring along the side of the Ore Stone - no wonder there's no auks on the ledges! - and sending spray over the Nose for good measure. Not quite as epic as I've heard tell of, but still pretty impressive.

After a big boss squall had finished hailing on me, I headed towards Blackball - pausing at Anstey's to pick up 6 more GNDs - where again, the sea was covered in birds.

Really close in - oh if I'd lugged the Big Scope with me! - were 583 Kittiwake. Yes, close enough to get an exact count. Well, exact until more started showing up as it got dark. Further out, what looked like an RTD vanished amid the swell before I could pin it down. Between the two, a huge raft of large gulls built up. The main roost was right in close - I've never seen them so close. And how many! Counting in hundreds, I got to 34 and change. Ye Gods and Little Fishes... Again I rued not having more optics with me, as I'm sure there will have been a white-winger at the very least amongst that lot. Quite possibly multiples - Kumlien's Gull or even two on my Patch? Dropped. Bugger.

Not that I was without victories.

35 GC and one BN Grebe were good, but the Stars were a couple of ducks, bobbing on the sea. Ducks? No, not Scoter [would you believe I'm yet to see one this year?!?], but something even better.... Scaup!!!! PATCH TICK!!!!


Another squall announced the dying of the light and home I weaved.

10 February, 2014

Sunshine and Squalls

Were the order of the day all weekend. Could be worse...

Saturday morning I dragged up and got down to the Nose, determined to do some seawatching. All this stuff about phenomenal waves was no deterrent - there's nothing like a nice lee shore and being well back from the water's edge, after all. Now, if it had been a SE rather than a SW, that would be entirely different. Indeed, when I got the The Steps, I found the Great SE of midweek had indeed had some fun there, too;

That was my tripod rest!

This is looking down a 5' drop from my spot on The Steps. The triangular piece with the red on its left corner is about 50cm across and was part of the step my brolly is resting on. The assorted stones I was using for weighing down mats and supporting cups were unsurprisingly gone, as was the ~4 kilo chunk I used as a foot rest..
Cue a careful look at the cliff above me - it's a raised beach, with the cobbles layered in a nicely stable herringbone pattern - and after I was satisfied with that, a collection of some new rock furniture.

As well as this, I'd earlier looked over the outfall from The Mounds, where Mark Bailey was watching the assembled gulls. He was being a Very Good Son; on a shufti for Little Gulls so Bailey Senior could twitch them. The gulls had evidently got wind of this, as they were nowhere to be seen..

Anyway, I didn't get seawatching until ten to nine - awfully late - and what turned up wasn't terribly dissimilar to the last couple of watches at the Nose.
The first Little Gull arrived just after 0900 - a nice adult. Little Gulls would show on and off for the rest of the time I was there, but never more than one at a time. However, there were I think at least 4 individuals; two different adults, a 1w, and a 2w. With adults needing close views to separate on wear and moult stage, there may have been more. Certainly, only one was possibly present the day before [the first one]; the others were not among the Friday trio. So there's a turnover of birds - probably they're pausing to rest and feed as they pass along the coast.

Right then, time for my version of Spot The Little Gull!
Heh heh heh...

'Perfectly identifiable'...

Close-up answer at the end of the post.

As well as Little Gulls, the BHGs, Common Gulls, and Kitts were joined by a 1w Med Gull, but no proper white-wingers [or brown and white wingers.. :( ].

Offshore, a few divers went by; a diver sp., 6 GND, and 3 RTD [two of which landed], with 8 more GND and a possible BTD on the sea. Also on the sea were 5 GC Grebe and the female Eider still, plus a scattering of auks.

Passage wasn't enormous, but continuous, with more than an auk a minute, [mostly s/pl Guilles in the AM and w/pl Razorbills in the PM], and just under a Kitt a minute. The Gannet rate was only one every other minute, with perhaps surprisingly Fulmars midway between the two.
The passing Fulmars didn't include any dark [let alone properly Blue] ones, but a few were proper Double Lights - one really markedly so - and they displayed an interesting variation in underwing patterning as well. This went from 'all white bar a very thin dark leading edge to the hand' right up to 'a whisker off BCP'. The first one with the latter came up underside first and gave me a moment's pause, so to speak...

The weather was bright sunshine interspersed with vicious squalls - usually opening up with hail - which would have been wonderful if there'd been more birds out there.. But them's the breaks. High tide came and went, but then the swell picked up markedly and I started to get hit by spray from the [newly enlarged] blowhole nearby.

Thar She Blows.
One of the smaller efforts.

This being despite the wind blowing across and away from me. Also, waves were coming up the fissure centre left, and reaching either side of the brown trapezoidal block in the middle of frame. This is also new. So, mindful of the forecast ever-increasing wave height and not really going in for sewage showers, I called it a day a little early. Thus missing the Manxie which went past Exmouth a while later.. Drat.

Swings and roundabouts, though, as I was in perfect time to catch the male Reed Bunting flying south along the cliff top. Birds, eh?

Sunday saw me shamelessly not going out until the afternoon [there may have been sleep involved]. The Folks and I went for a wander about Yarner and the sun was warm and the squalls manifested as hail and schnooooww!! :)  A couple of male Mandarin were on the Pond - first I've seen there since they hacked down most of the cover - and a few Marshies and a lovely male Bullfinch [which Mum saw - result] came to the feeders. Out in the woods, a singing Treeeecreeeper was the highlight.

We had a nice wander, and when it wasn't hailing it was rather pleasant, though very wet underfoot. The watercourses were all as high as we've seen them, and the road just past Parke appearing to have acquired a new spring..

I wonder what's next?

Right, where's the Little Gull?
Right here;

Adult Little Gull, plus Kittiwake for comparison.

07 February, 2014

Slightly Battered

The Patch today, both from the weather and by me.

Yeah, yeah, I've done better I know...

Speaking of battering;

What used to be a pair of flagpoles, Haldon Pier

Meadfoot Beach, all atmospheric.
The Victorian railings survived, the modern ones.. not so much.

Meadfoot again.
That yellow bit is bare rock, about 1m wide, 
where the sea broke a chunk of the cliff off with a good hit.
[There were chunks missing like this all over the Lead Stone, but it doesn't photo well]

Anyway. I have had Stuff to do, also that work thing, so not much birding before.. well this afternoon.

I took a swing around the peninsula, from Harbour to Blackball, to see what I could see. Aside from a GND in the Harbour and an RTD flying out of the Bay - serious long-range ID; I'm quite proud ;) - the fun was at the Nose. Ok, there were 3 Turnstone and a Purple Sand visible from the teeny bit of Haldon Pier not shut off in the interest of mindles Health And Safety, and one or maybe two Bonxies in with the pack following the Constant Friend as she ravaged the seabe scalloped mid-Bay, and a pair of censored were displaying, and three Song Thrushes were in glorious song.. Ok, so there were birds around. But the Nose had the best bits.

Three of said bits were playing Stormy at the SWBCM, with 130+ BHGs, a couple of Kitts, and 11+ Common Gulls; Little Gulls! A cracking adult, a possibly lightly oiled adult [looked a bit yellowy on the belly], and a rather tatty-looking one with the hint of dark in a few primaries and a few grey feathers mixed in among its underwing coverts; a 3w, maybe? They were gorgeous, anyway!

Lovely comparison shot of Black-headed and Little Gull
[My phone does not like fast-moving birds in strong winds, but I think it's quite arty...]

10 GNDs and 14 GC Grebes were in the area, along with a scattering of auks. The highest note was lurking in the lee of the Ore Stone; a Puffin! Either a w/pl adult or a 1w - too far to be sure without the big scope. Lowest notes were the heavily oiled - with thick dark brown crude - Guillemots, sat on rocks at both the Nose and Meadfoot. Both birds were preening vigorously - so will have ingested enough oil to make a rescue [even if they could have been reached] pointless.. There's some tanker captain out there who's probably feeling very pleased with himself; saving all that money by washing his tanks out when the rough seas will hide his tracks. All I can hope is that his next life is as a seabird and he learns the consequences of his actions.

Getting back.. I spent too long cooing over the Little Gulls - they were right down there and just wonderful... - so didn't quite make it to Blackball before it got too dark to see [the rain didn't help]. Drat.

03 February, 2014

Hat Trick!

Before we get to the fun stuff, on Saturday I only had time for a very quick look at the Harbour. The wind was frisky to say the least and there was little about; a GND in the Outer Harbour and a Moorhen in the Inner were the most interesting with 3+ Purple Sands clinging on the the Real Living Coast.

The ex-Guillemot was still on the pontoon - seemingly permanently moored next to the wall now, so bugger all use for gulls [bastard council]. Here's a couple of phonocular shots;

Alas, poor Guillemot..

...I knew it well.
Ok, maybe not, but certainly alas.

Note the 'just been chucked by the feet from a small boat' posture.

Right then.

Yesterday I got myself out and went looking for what really can only be described as my favourite bird. I've been umming and ahhing about how to post this, as I enforce a strict policy concerning endangered species. By endangered I mean literally, as there are many [Long string of very rude words removed] who mean them harm in various ways. For such reasons I don't talk about raptors except definite migrants or in very location-unspecific terms, likewise Schedule 1 species are only mentioned when not breeding and then in non-specific locations.* In the past I've talked about secret birds in secret places, or like this. Doing that is a source of great frustration for me and well, I've had enough. So, just for this post, I'm going to talk about just how wonderful it can be out there.

Not that I'm going to name locations, or even use Their name. Other species will get nicknames, too. You who read my blog will know exactly what I'm talking about, and an egger, fancier, or keeper using google won't find this.

So, I went out, thinking sunshine and some breeze was promising. The wind was a bit brisker than a breeze and not exactly warm either. Standing around in it while the morning went by with only a few Crowbait on display was a trial, but when the patience runs out, there's always persistence to fall back on. A Finchchaser duly appeared and gave a brief show; despite being a hefty female it was obvious as to what she was - lovely classic T silhouette amongst other things - at least after a couple of exciting seconds. But one long-tailed thing may lead to another, so I kept on. Gold was duly struck, not once but twice! The ten minutes either side of midday were wonderful ones, with first a definite male and then what was probably a female.

The male came up from a way off and was majestically gaining height when a Crow decided, in some fit of madness or suicidal bravery, to have a go... It had to really fight to gain the altitude, but then stuck it to the [probably rather surprised] Thing with gusto. Definitely a male, the Thing was only a little larger than the attacking corvid and it seemed to be doing the Crowbait thing of trying to ignore the yarking git until it got bored. Another Crow came up to join in, and after a minute or so of tag-team attacks, It had had enough and turned the tables! Cue a roller-coaster of swooping diving rolling birds. Crow number two backed off right away, but Crow one either wouldn't or couldn't and the mayhem was still going on when the two birds vanished into the distance! I have never seen one of Them mobbed by anything before, though I have seen Crows bite off more than they could peck, courtesy of Speedfreaks and Gingers; always amusing. :)

After the fun and games, I pondered moving on and maybe having some lunch somewhere else; ie. out of the wind. But I was giddy with Their glory, so I stayed watching a bit longer. Good call.

Another came up, and much closer. This one felt bigger and heavier, but with nothing to size against I can only say probable female. It came up and up and up and up... My arms gave out before the wonderful bird - resplendent in the sunshine - stopped climbing. I gave them a quick rest and just about re-aquired, finding the Thing soaring way up.. Again my arms cried out for relief [I had been watching for a fair while and wasn't using a tripod] so again I took optics off. This time she? was gone. Must have dropped, and I couldn't refind her.

After another half hour, with no further Things, I finally moved on in search of a lunch spot. Final scores were 2 Them, 1 Finchchaser, 2+ Raven, and 9-13 Crowbait, with a few passerines flying over - 19 Linnet and 11 Redwing the best of them.

There are many bits of wooded hillside around, and the one I ended up sitting near the top of had some shelter from the wind, a bit of valley on view, and a few small birds hanging around. These included an evil little Marsh Tit, which twice sat and posed on a branch at a nice range for a photobin shot and each time flew off right before I could get it! Seeing a Marsh Tit at all there was unusual, so I'm not moaning that much. The showers arrived as I was setting up, which would have been a right pain, but I had had a cunning plan. I have an old automatic bumbleshoot - dating back to school, would you believe! - with a broken spar but otherwise functional. I decided as it fit easily in my rucksack to take it along. Setting up, I could tuck the handle in my coat's map pocket and it would sit nicely giving hands-free shelter. As long as it wasn't too windy, anyway. Ah, there are few joys greater than being out of the rain when out birding.. :)

But to the main event.
Sudden. Silent. Other words starting with S.. Most notably SHIT! 10, maybe 12m downslope from me, contouring left to right, a wing's length above the ground, one flap and a shimmy between two saplings.. 1w Thing!!!!!!!!! Nicely streaky underneath, too. Wow. Oh, wow... I was speechless, mouth gaping open. It is a wonderful thing to be able say that this was not my closest encounter with one of Them, but it was definitely one of the best. I may have danced. ;)

After that, nothing else really could compare. A lone male Crossbill flew past. There were the usual woodland species, including a wonderful Treeeecreeeper working along the underside of a mossy branch, but the day belonged to Them.

This is what birding is about, those amazing moments; be they minutes or seconds or hours. And Those birds, those glorious forces of nature. You can't predict them, can't search them out, all you can do is keep trying and trying. Sacrifice the time and effort and pain in the hope the Goddess of Birding will smile upon you and grant you a glimpse of Them. Above all others they are Her birds, the living embodiment of the wild.

I was blessed yesterday. May you be blessed tomorrow.

[[*Saying I've seen Crossbills at Fernworthy is exactly that; if you've ever been there you'll know how massive the place is. Short of giving a grid reference to a site, you're not helping an egging scrote in the slightest.]]

01 February, 2014

Short and Sharp

Unlike the rain today..

My first post-Nights Friday was spent at the Nose, mostly getting rained on while watching gulls tripping and trying not to lose my bumbleshoot...

The wind was frisky getting up to yikes and SSE, so the Steps were out. I found a decent spot on the TSWP - after much fine adjusting - where I could balance my stool, see a decent chunk of where the slick would be [I was in ahead of the rain], and still be sheltered. Ah, the joys of seawatching at the Nose!

Mostly it was pretty dead. I gave it 6.5 hours and with good birds dripping through I had some hopes of something starting up in one of the easings of the main frontal rain, but nada. Oh well, that's seawatching, and I didn't do too badly.

An average of 50 Kitts an hour was top passage, and that was more than twice the Gannet rate! The odd diver kept my eyes open - 5 RTDs, 2 BTDs and a GND went south, with a GND being joined by another Black-throat in Hope Cove. My first Balearic of the year was too far out to coo over, and a lovely adult Little Gull - while closer - didn't hang about to be admired either.. Otherwise; the female Eider showed right up close and is indeed the same bird as was hanging around last year and again 4 GC Grebes were on the sea to the north. On the Ore Stone, 256 Guillemots [It's lovely having a big scope and good light to count them] were on the ledges, with no Razorbills.

When the outfall kicked in it gave high counts of 68 BHG and 11 Common Gull among about 400 birds in attendance.

Late News:
Tuesday I gave the Inner Harbour a passing glance; two Moorhens and a Turnstone - the latter being harassed by the former! Also, on the gulls' pontoon a dead Guillemot - as with the Goldeneye it wasn't ringed. It was moulting into s/pl and had no obvious injuries or oiling, but I didn't have optics with me to be sure [oh, the shame...]. It was right in the middle of the pontoon and looked like it had been dumped there by human hands - perhaps caught by accident in one of those nasty little inshore gill nets you see held up by old plastic bottles?
Yesterday, the first Blackcap of the winter in the Garden; a female.