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19 Sep 2010

What a difference a day makes.

The Wirral seawatching team headed out to Hilbre after work on Friday to complete a marathon 48 hour continuous count of seabirds during the recent gales. Mr Conlin kindly provided the sustenancee in the form of spicy chicken thighs and wings whilst  Steve expertly drove the Landrover across the rutted foreshore, where the recent storms had churned the sand into ridges shapped like glacial morraine.

With good numbers of Leach's Petrels already being logged since first light it was our task to continue the count until dark. We counted over 200 Leach's petrels in the time we were in the seawatching hide - over 500 were counted during the day.  Mark 'Whipper' Gibson was on the edge of the East Hoyle Bank and phoned us to say he'd had a Sabine's Gull heading out to say. Within 10 minutes we picked it up out towards the wind farm and we later picked up two more together!

There were plenty of Skua's around with a Bonxie feasing on tideline corpses on the East Hoyle and Arctic Skua's harrying terns - including a stunning pale phase adult.
With global warming predicted to increase temperatures and the frequency of gales there is already talk of the winners and losers in the bird world as natural selection kicks in.
This Arctic Skua will certainly have an advantage and will probably survive to pass its genes on to a new generation -
As always the star birds are the Leach's Petrels and I never cease to be amazed at how they survive such a fearful battering as they've had over the last three days.
With daylight fading it was time to turn the camera west towards the spectacular sunset. Even whislt admiring the setting globe of the sun petrels were still passing by. Eventually it got to dark to see and we retired to the Obs for a celebratory beer before driving off the island in the dark leaving the petrels to their battle to survive another night.

Saturday dawned wet and miserable but a problematic tern first picked up at Inner Marsh Farm Thursday was relocoated and eventually gave good enough views to clinch the identification as a juvenile Whiskered Tern. A rare plumage for this species in the UK and one which most birders are not familiar with. The bird has a habit of mooching around the reserve for an hour or so and then disappearing somewhere on the outer marsh and I got bloody soaked going from the hide to the top path trying to relocate it ov.er a three hour period

Sunday's wind had switched right round to the south west and the sea was much calmer. A short seawatch showed how much difference a day can make with no petrels or skua's being sighted but two summer plumaged Red-throated Divers and a Greenshank were still good records. Luckily for those thae missed it Saturday (Steve!) the Whsikered Tern was still at IMF today. It's interesting that a juvenile Whiskered Tern was in Cleveland during August, then moved toShropshire for a day and then Rutland water. I wonder if this is the same bird?

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