Monday, 19 August 2013

August Catch Up

Apologies for the lack of activity on the blog recently. This was due to a technical error meaning I couldn't post anything. I've sorted it now by installing Google Chrome instead of IE. 

I was away for the start of August in Spain (that write up will be following shortly). On August 5th, we headed over to Leicestershire to see the long staying Night Heron at Thornton Resv. It was a very enjoyable trip for several reasons. Firstly, I hadn't seen one in Britain for five years. Secondly, it turned into a pleasant sunny evening following heavy rain. Thirdly, it was a tick for one of the younger Clayhead members and finally, it was my 33rd birthday. (These last two statements may not be totally true in some respects). 

New Clayhead member young Christopher W staring wistfully at the Night Heron on the opposite bank

Night Heron - for some reason my camera just didn't like this bird. Here's a moby shot

And so onto this weekend, Saturday 17th August. It had been widely predicted that the winds were spot on for a good seawatching session at Porthgwarra. There had been quite a few sightings recently of FEA'S PETREL going past and we thought it was too good a chance to miss. A trip was arranged. Unfortunately CJW was working, but PLo joined us for the trip. We arranged to meet at the rather early time of 01-00hrs at PJ's house. All was going well until PJ decided to get up later than everybody else. We eventually set off at 01-45hrs, arriving at Porthgwarra at 07-30hrs

It was hopefully going to be a good watch, but there was one slight snag. From 09-00hrs onwards it was forecast to rain, probably not stopping until 16-00hrs. We were told that this would make the seawatch even better, as disorientated seabirds would literally be feeding out of our hands. I had a feeling it would just make us wet. 

Following two previous trips out in the rain - here and here - we were well prepared this time. Simple little things all help - like waterproof trousers and coat, plastic bag to wrap your phone and wallet in, leave your brand new camera in the car, a spare set of clothes in the car, a bin bag for your scope, a bin bag in your rucksack to keep your food dry, an umbrella each - we had it all. 

For the first two hours it wasn't too bad. It stayed dry and we saw a distant Great Shearwater plus the close in Manxies just below the cliff enabled us to sift through and find several Balearic Shearwaters. It didn't start raining until about 09-30hrs, but then it did rain. Those ill-prepared ran off. Those with umbrellas sat it out. Those without umbrellas sat it out too. The wind whipped up, the visibility went and you basically cowered inside your umbrella. You needed two hands to hold it, plus it you got the direction of the wind wrong, you ended up with an inside out umbrella. 

When it did finally stop raining, passage increased. We had two distant Cory's go past, quite a few Storm Petrels plus endless Manx Shearwaters. As soon as it stopped raining, it started again. We had another long deluge at 13-00hrs, but then it eased off. And again, the activity increased. Unfortunately, as the birds started going past, the drizzle continued. With the shout of a Great Shearwater close in, I turned and my umbrella was at the wrong angle. It was soon in a different shape. PJ was already on his second umbrella. PLo was struggling optically. My bins were wet as well, but they were still just about usable. My scope was under my bin bag. We had two very close in Great Shearwaters both just below the cliff face, giving us excellent blurry misty views. By 14-30hrs, we were beaten and we squelched back to the car.

The amazing sight of PJ's umbrella. It just shows how strong the wind was (or that it wasn't a well made umbrella)

It hadn't been the spectacular Fea's Petrel twitch that we had dreamt about. We were soaked to the skin and for the majority of the time we were sheltering under our umbrellas. Looking back at the day from the warmth of my kitchen we saw two Cory's Shearwaters, four Great Shearwaters, seven Storm Petrels, three Balearic Shearwaters, a Bonxie and great views of a Basking Shark. It wasn't a bad day after all! 

PJ managed to sketch this whilst under his umbrella