Monday, 30 August 2010

Cory's will have to wait until next year

Unless something extraordinary happens in Wanstead, I'm resigned to not seeing Cory's Shearwater this year. This is a great shame, as I really wanted to see one. The main problem is that there don't appear to be many in British waters, so if I apply the same sea-watching dedication in a good Cory's year, I'm sure I'll score.

Yesterday and today were the last throw of the dice. The forecast for Norfolk looked great - can you tell where this might be leading? Yup, once again, and for the umpteenth time, what appeared to be a great forecast failed to deliver the goods. Perhaps my weather-forecast reading skills need sharpening, or perhaps my expectation of what constitutes a good sea-watch is sky-high. Either way, a howling force 8 northerly gale, strong enough to rock the car as I slept in it, didn't produce spectacular numbers of rare sea-birds.

I drove up yesterday night and gave it a quick go in the evening. Plenty of Skua action, but not a lot else. Today was the same story, except for six hours. Loads of Great and Arctic Skuas, a few Manxies and Sooties, and stacks of ducks on the move, including many Pintail. Bird of the morning was a Storm Petrel, by all accounts somewhat of a Norfolk biggie, which I somehow failed tio get on while all around me lapped it up. Not to worry, I thought, saw loads last week, and I don't want a Norfolk tick anyway as it will mean that Essex lags even further behind. I am somewhat touchy about the fact that the list of birds I have seen in Norfolk eclipses that of Essex, my home county. I should probably just accept it and move on, but it feels wrong. For the record, it's 238 plays 230. Little league.

Anyway, there I was congratulating myself on having been inept enough to miss it, when a full five minutes later an unmistakable Storm Petrel appeared in my scope. It promptly disappeared again, but it was too late, the damage was done. Rats. Gradually the weather cleared, and whilst it remained very windy, the sea-watch was over. I gave it until midday, by which time it was blue skies and sunshine, and then gave up. No Long-tailed Skua, or at least not one I am prepared to year-tick, and not a sniff of a Cory's. Maybe next time. I should probably go up on a day of southerly winds and bright sunshine. I expect I'd get several.

At this point I was at a loss what to do. Should I stay or should I go? I elected to have a nap in Cley, but was rudely awakened by news of a Red-backed Shrike about a mile away. Oh go on then. Rule number #162, always go and see Shrikes, remember? It was just a Red-backed Shrike, but they are always nice to see. Got a tolerable photo as well, before being shouted at by the anti-photographer brigade for crop-trampling, despite actually being on a track. An insignificant detail apparently. The Shrike was between me and him, so rather than shout back that in fact I was doing no such thing and risk scaring it off, I retreated so that he would stop shouting and not scare it off. Which he did, no doubt very pleased at having seen another photographer off, and the Shrike stayed put. Don't get me wrong, I think people should have words with photographers who overstep the mark - no point being all coy about it and then moaning (using a pseudonym) on Birdforum afterwards. But before you do, perhaps check where they're actually standing, rather than just guess? Anyway, to the guy who decided to 'have a go' in total ignorance, this is for you.

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