11 June, 2014

Air Jaws

I don't know if you remember the documentary a few years back about White Sharks doing spectacularly fatal things to poor innocent Fur Seal pups? Well, I was treated to something a little similar at the weekend and boy oh boy was it a sight!

'Twas Saturday morning and I'd toddled down to the Nose to have a look at the sea - the bushes had a Holly Blue and the usual breeders but nothing in the way of late migrants - after all the thundery fun last night. There was a slick of sorts, but it was more a suspicious stain than a stream of bird-tempting goodness*. With the heavy showers interspersed with near [and eventually total] sunshine, conditions were a bit iffy, but I gave it a go anyway.

This was a good idea as there were even a few birds; most notably a Stormie, with a Balearic in with the Manx.. er, well not so much stream as trickle. A flock of Common Scoter also enlivened the otherwise duotone of Kitts and Gannets. So, not amazing, but not dead either. For a change, I counted the number of visible chicks on the Ore Stone, and came up with 48.

The real fun came at 0926 and commenced with a huge splash well out - south of the wreck, north of the tanker**. This naturally drew my attention. I got on and zoomed in, in time to see something big making another big splash - breaching megafauna!! The next one came seconds later and a little further south - big, long, pale belly.. My first thought had been Minke Whale [there was no way this was a dolphin, let alone a porpoise; did I mention big??] but it didn't seem right. Then again another breach! This time I got a much better view as the animal came out about 2/3 of its length at an angle of about 50°, turning belly-on as it did so. Pointed head, huge triangular pectoral fins - Basking Shark! They look much sleeker when they're not feeding, and Ye Gods can they move!! Twice more it breached, no more than ten seconds apart and probably less - the whole display lasted less than a minute! The sheer athleticism to do that; to get that much fish clear of the water, recover and breach again so quickly. You normally see Baskers just cruising along, so slow and laid back, but the power they have...

To try to get a [slightly] more accurate idea of how big the shark was, I worked along the range to see if anything scalable was at that distance. I was in luck, as a small angling boat was indeed that far out - closer to the wreck. The Basker had only got about 2/3 of it's length out of the water, but that was longer than the boat. Very hard to judge, of course, and impossible to get a proper measurement, but I reckon that shark must have been the far side of 20' and probably well past it.

I'm saying it now;


That afternoon I took a stroll about Yarner with the Folks. We didn't get rained on, but didn't find a single Frit either - wrong place/time/weather, probably.. We did see Speckled Wood and Brimstones, so not butterfly-less. Wood Warblers were vocal, Pied Flies were showy, and LBD found a Roe Deer fawn.. :(  A very young one, it was in the leaf litter next to one of the tracks - Tilbury is always on a lead - so hard to miss. She didn't do anything more than sniff it excitedly, but I fear that will have been enough for its mother to reject it. I can only assume the doe was inexperienced, to leave her fawn in such an exposed location. Oh well, nature is what it is. Beautiful little thing, it was.


I spent Sunday doing things about the place, such as getting covered in polyfilla, with screaming Swifts outside and the local gulls - I can see a nest from my kitchen window! :) - battering a poor passing Buzzard for distraction. Of note; polyfilla and binoculars are not friends, but if your bins are waterproof it's not fatal.. ;)

Heading further back into the mists..

Friday morning at the Nose saw another lovely s/pl GND fly past, with not a great deal else; usual Manx/Gannet/Kittiwake/Fulmar mix plus plenty of auks to and fro from the Ore Stone. The first Speckled Wood and Silver Y were on the wing onshore.

Before that, I got a really nice surprise! Heading back from work along a nicely rural stretch of road, what flies before me? Only a frickin' LEO!!! As it was light enough to see your hand in front of your face, I can only assume it had been disturbed [though there weren't any photographers chasing it that I could see  ;) ]. Working antisocial hours does give you a shot at some nice birds - Tawny and Barn Owls, Woodcock, that sort of thing - but I never expected a Long-ear***..

Otherwise, it's been pretty quiet.


[[*For a given definition of 'goodness', I suppose.]]
[[**The 'Sanko Mineral' seems to have finally moved on, but not before handing over Artificial Island and Big Shear Repellent duty to the 'MV Irina'. Bugger.]]
[[***The Spanish Inquisition, on the other hand...]]

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