Saturday, 22 January 2011

Ventnor seawatching

Dunno what happens between Sussex and Portland but the Island tends to disappoint when it comes to seawatching, so I don't do much of it nowadays, but the big numbers of Razorbills in Dorset lately prompted me to see what was happening in local waters. It doesn't take long staring at the sea to be reminded: Ventnor is not Portland. But I was happy with what I did see this morning, my count of 2,350 Razorbills east is actually a county record. They were coming in fits and starts, at times looking quite impressive, biggest flock 60, but the viz prevented me picking up all the distant ones. And they look way cool, much better than Guillemots. I stayed until I had to move.... ah, standing for hours in a northerly wind, till I lose the feeling in my toes and my fingers are so cold I can't jot down numbers, staring at little specks whizzing by in the 'heat haze' (yeah right), this is nostalgia at its best, I used to look forward to this! There wasn't much else on the go, the usual suspects - a trickle of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Common Gulls, ten RTDs, a few Fulmars. And of course some Brents (17) heading up-Channel, you can always count on them to get their spring on stupidly early. A pair of Peregrines came in off, the female carrying something quite bulky - an auk perhaps?? I walked along the front to Bonchurch to see if that Water Pipit was there again this winter. It was, and flushed up from the revetment west of Monks Bay before foraging on the cliff face. So it's back for its 3rd year but this is the first report I've heard this winter. I couldn't finish the morning without seeing a decent gull of some sort :-). Scanning through a feeding flock of gulls, Gannets, auks and divers fairly close inshore I picked out a 2yr YLG.

Water Pipit on the cliff face, taken from video

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Pale-bellied Brent

watch as the bird up-ends: you can see the area between the legs is white, compared to the dark brown of the Black Brant in the video below; Dark-bellied Brent is mid-brown in this area.

Black Brant and Pale-bellied Brent

not getting the shots I want of this bird tho, could do with some side/dorsal angles against a tree/building background
Worst thing about winter is having to rinse every minute out of the day and you still cant get everywhere you want. Later on I headed out to Bembridge Harbour (via the sewage works and Laundry Lane) for the juicy prospect of a Branta three-way. The colder weather had sent 3 Water Pipits back to the filter beds in search of an easier meal (what happened to the Chiffs this year - did the cold spell kill them all off before they could reach the sewage works or were there just not enough left over from autumn?). On the marsh the geese were still hanging on with 17 White-fronts and 8 Greylags. 7 of the White-fronts got flushed onto the wrong side of the river and the other 10 were circling when I picked them up, got fed up of not being able to decide where to land and flew off into the distance over Foreland. An hour and a half later they were back, in over the harbour before resuming big circles high over the marsh until I got bored of looking. Where had they been all that time - pacing the Solent??? A nice Brant + Pale-bellied Brent combo on the millpond - check. About as rare was the 62 Gadwall on the millpond - cant take a sight like that for granted, Gadwall are meant to be scarce on the Island. Still above average numbers of waders in the harbour too, including 23 Blackwits. Underwater views of a diving Dabchick at Mill Quay made me laugh, they look like terrapins or summink! On my return to LLane the White-fronts had sorted themselves out with all 17 together grazing amongst the Canadas.

White-fronts before going awol

for the novelty...

Water Pipit video-snatch

went for another look at the Little Gull in the morning and dropped in on the feeding station on the way home. Cant get enough of these squirls, adorable :-)