Sunday 21 September 2014

Risky strategy paid off

As reports came in of a Fea's Petrel being tracked up the north-east coast this afternoon, I got twitchy and had to make a tricky decision. Do I go to a good seawatching spot such as Newbiggin or Snab Point and give myself a better chance of connecting with a lifer, or do I stay loyal to the patch and hope I can see it there.

I decided to go to Druridge. To be honest, the decision was easily made but I was aware that it was a risk. When I set off the bird had only just gone past Seaham, so I had plenty of time.

Not long after I was set up I had an unexpected bonus, an adult Sabine's gull was flying around offshore, about half-way to the pot flags, I watched if for a good three minutes as it zigzagged in a generally southerly direction, before it flew south-east into the gloom. I tipped off Neil and Tom and Snab. 

A few minutes later, what I presume was the same bird, an adults Sabs, flew north, again not very far out at all. A fantastic start and only my second ever patch Sabine's gull, the first was back in 2009.

I was joined on the dune by Alan Hall, as news came through of the Fea's northerly passage. A risky strategy for Alan too. So news in came in from Newbiggin and shortly after from Tom and Janet at Snab. What seemed like an age passed, and then two manx shearwaters came through, as I watched them, I saw another bird bank and tower quite high with a different jizz all together. It looked quite a bit bigger, the dark, almost black wings, looked really obvious when it banked and turned - it did this twice before dropping down. I was struggling to get Alan onto it though, there were too many black and double-black flags (we should have been more organised with hindsight and made sure we were on the same flags).

I lost it behind a wave and couldn't re-find it after re-positioning my scope.

I was gutted for Alan, but delighted to have seen it myself. These 'tracked' seabirds certainly get the adrenaline going.

It was followed by a sooty shearwater, the first of five that I saw. I continued to seawatch until after six o'clock but it had really tailed off after five.

Red-throated diver 4S, 3N
Sabine's Gull one adult southeast then north
Pale-bellied brent 4N
Manx Shearwater 8N
Fea's Petrel (1620ish) N
Sooty Shearwater 5N
Bonxie 1N
Arctic Skua 1N
Velvet Scoter 1 drake with flock, 1S with smaller flock
Dark-bellied Brent 5N
GC Grebe 1N
harbour porpoise 2

So Fea's takes the patch list to 236

I took Friday off work as it looked like the easterly winds were going to end. I had planned to ring from first thing, but the heavy, almost drizzle-like, fog persisted until mid-morning. I tramped the bushes, but it felt very quiet, almost as if there had been overnight clear-out. Pied flycatcher was all of note. 

I put some nets up by 11am, but only caught 12 birds. Hardly worth the effort.

158 grey wagtail
159 Sabine's Gull
161 sooty shearwater

PWC Score 247

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