Monday 31 October 2016

A Calm, Steady Seawatch Day - North Ronaldsay, Orkney

Monday 31st October Light NW, freshening     Low cloud, some early rain, cooler.

Up early for another seawatching session with Samuel Perfect. I am awake at five partly due to a frightening scene in a dream/nightmare where Wayne Rooney and I are on the way to The Olympics in a lorry, as you do! We never got there . . . I woke up.
Rain is falling and has been for most of the night. Breakfast for champions is porridge with banana chips and honey and my travel mix of nuts and dried fruit is made up today in two bags; one for me and the other for Samuel. He deserves it being such a fantastic young man. Seeing Samuel with his Canadian girlfriend, Larissa is lovely. Both superb birders, Larissa found the glossy ibis yesterday, the latest in a string of good finds. Considering she is new to the UK, how she has developed into such a good birder is a credit to her. She is always the one in last when doing census and I remember having a 9 hour census day when we did census area B together back in August.
Gosh it is so good to be back on North Ronaldsay! Great to be part of the team and part of the 'family,'
There was excitement at the log call last night, not only over the northern harrier, hoopoe, green-winged teal, bean geese, Glossy Ibis and what Samuel and I saw on the seawatch (FEA'S!) but also because last thing, at the mist netting thrush roost session, a bat was flying around Holland. Now this is a very rare event in late October but the hope is that George Gay's photographs will lead to an identification.
Due to it now being what I call British Wintertime, that is the clocks have gone forward, it is now light at seven, just. How can one top yesterday's seawatch? Answer to that is probably can't so maybe today Samuel and I will concentrate on counting the birds! The seawatch yesterday had no counts for fulmar, gannet, auks, kittiwakes . . . . oops!
Samuel and I are at the seawatching hide by 8:30AM, as yesterday. The change of wind direction and the freshening of it, gives different conditions to yesterday and after deciding on making 15 minute counts of all bird species that pass, we settle down to the task.
Sooty shearwaters are passing, heading north west, as are good numbers of fulmar, gannet, kittiwake and various auks.
Every fifteen minutes we collate the counts and note 'specials'. We count the divers, skuas and a number of sooty shearwaters, gannets, fulmars and kittiwakes; auks of five species too.
Samuel leaves at 10:30AM for census work leaving me to continue to count the main three; gannet, fulmar and kittiwakes, whilst noting all other species.
By Noon we have the following seawatch list :

Fulmar 536
Gannet 555
Kiitiwake 109
pomarine skua 1 pale phase adult
great skua 1
skua sp. 1
guillemot 53
razorbill 13
puffin 10
black guillemot 8
little auk 5
sooty shearwater 32
long-tailed duck 5
teal 1
greylag 21
whooper swan 6
great northern diver 8
red-throated diver 7
common gull 5
great black backed gull 5
cormorant 2
shag 3
purple sandpiper 3
goldeneye 1 female

The pale phase adult pomarine skua was a particular delight, passing close in and showing extensive spoons. Two of the great northern divers were in Summer plumage still.

Returning to the Bird Observatory, I see Samuel counting wildfowl at Ancum. All of yesterday's whooper swans have gone; just singles of pintail and greater scaup amongst the shovelor, mallard and wigeon.

An evening of Halloween entertainment, a perfect time to watch Ghostbusters, followed Log. 

A new nickname from Larissa for me, Crusty The Clown!

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