16 Sep 2010

Fabulous Seawatching.

A fantastic few days on the Wirral for seawatching following prolonged north westerly gales approaching 8 - 9 at times. Firstly the two Al's (Conlin & Orton) scored heavily when Mr Conlin picked up a Little Shearwater flying along the surf line at Dove Point! A stunning find. Unfortunately I was in Munich but my phone went ballistic as the news was broadcast by RBA with people texting to see who'd seen it and if it was genuine. It certainly was.  As Al Orton eloquently put it - if it was wearing nail varnish we'd have seen it!

The same day Kenny Dummigan kept up his excellent track record and found a Wryneck nearby.  This proved to be very elusive but I eventually managed brief views yesterday and was able to put a visiting birder on to it before it disappeared out of the howling wind and back into the sanctuary of its favoured gorse patch along with Brer Rabbit and at least three Blackbirds who were also hunkered down for the duration. For all I know Lord Lucan or Shergar could have been in there as well.

The main event  however was the passage of seabirds past the N Wirral coast as the gales pushed them into the mouth of the Mersey and they tried to escape by hugging the coastline. Not ablee to join the Hilbre seawatchers I took the mobile seawatching hide  (see here ) to Leasowe Gunsites where a grateful Al Orton claimed sanctuary in the front whilst I used the rear widnows. It was so windy his VW golf was rocking like an old Quo guitarist and he was actually feeling seasick inside the car! Three tonnes of Landrover make a perfectly stable base. In fact after Hilbre and Jane Turners house its probably the third best seawatching hide o nthe Wirral - certainly the most mobile.

Birds were passing all the time and the highlights included firstly an adult Sabine's Gull picked up by Frank Duff and then a juvenile.  I found a Sooty Shearwater - a county 'lifer' for Al. The sama bird was seen by several other birders at Leasowe and then by Jane Turner from her lofty perch at Hoylake. Leach's Petrels streamed past for the whole duration of our watch and we also picked up two Storm Petrels, lots of Kittiwakes (including good numbers of juveniles) over thirty Manx Shearwaters, a Fulmar, two Bonxies, four Arctic Skuas, numerous Guillemots, a Razorbill and a few small flocks of Common Scoter.

Mark Turner picked up the Sooty Shearwater again briefly as it careened west, shearing into the wind and as far as the horizon you could see birds either battling into the wind or rocketing along in front of it as they gave up and went with the flow.

A fantastic spectacle but in many ways also very sad. Many of the birds appeared exhausted and were sat on the sand moribund.

We later moved to Dove Point where we again picked up what were probably the same two Sabine's Gulls and watched as squadrons of Leach's Petrels flew along the tide line as the sea receeded.

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