Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Bufff-breasted Sandpiper at Arnside

September 26, 2011:
A nice surprise for a Monday morning was that the Buff-breasted Sandpiper reported from the Kent estuary at Arnide the previous day was still present. The bird was beyond the far edge of the salt-marsh and about 600 metres from the shore-line proper, feeding on a mud-bank recently exposed by the falling tide. Unfortunately soft deep mud and several still-flooded dykes meant that it could only be viewed from a distance which was never within 100 metres and often much further.

This is a bird which nests in the high arctic of Alaska and northern Canada. A minor migration route to the main wintering grounds in South America runs down the east coast of the USA. Presumably the relatively large number of these sandpipers, normally very rare in Britain, which have been reported during the past week or so (an unprecedented 26 were seen at one site in Ireland today) are probably those forced eastwards during the recent American hurricane. They are a very welcome bonus of the bad weather.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Leach's Fork-tailed Petrel passing Heyham harbour

September 14, 2011:
The strong winds which brought the Sabine's Gull over the weekend had abated somewhat today but conditions were still rough enough to make this passage Leach's Petrel struggle on its southward journey.

A tired looking adult Gannet was resting on the sea near the harbour mouth but eventually summoned up sufficient energy to fly off into the open sea. Another juvenile Gannet hung close overhead in the strong on-shore wind whilst a Mediterranen Gull made forays along the tide's edge.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Sabine's Gull at Heysham

September 12, 2011:
Despite two visits in recent years to Svalbard in the high arctic, neither have provided sight of either a Ross's or a Sabine's Gull both of which sometimes can be seen there. A report of the latter at Heysham over the weekend provided an opportunity to correct this, at least as far as the Sabine's was concerned.

The bird was favouring a section of coast adjacent to the outflow from Heysham nuclear power station. This morning, conditions were atrocious with gale force winds and seaspray battering this exposed section as the remnants of the recent American hurricane arrived in Britain. The gull was an adult bird in full plumage with the contrasting black, white and grey sections of its wings clearly visible, and with a darkish head, yellow-tipped bill, and a shallowly forked tail.

It ranged along a several hundred metre section of the coast here, flying very fast downwind and then holding up against the airflow, often descending to the rough sea to pick morsels from the surface. It was a very agile flier with long, quite slender wings.

It was in company with several other gulls and terns including Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls and a juvenile Kittiwake as well as Arctic Terns.

[As an arctic bird it was quite at home in the very rough conditions]

[The juvenile Kittiwake]

It was well worth braving the elements to see such a splendid, scarce bird.