28 Mar 2020

28 Mar 20 - Seawatching From #BWKM0

Many Birders dislike seawatches away from well recognised sites or even at them. The combination of wind & rain battered coastlines & potentially long periods waiting in the hope of getting onto a good Seabird, is enough to put many Birders off. Being a Poole Harbour Birder means I, like a number of the other Poole Harbour listers, are made of sterner stuff: we are used to disappointingly dull seawatches. I could seawatch from Durlston, where there is a proper sea-facing coastline & a track record of interesting local Seabirds flying past. But Durlston isn't in the Poole Harbour boundaries. Instead all the Poole Harbour boundaries are on the inside of Poole Bay, so generally the only interesting Seabirds occur when they get pushed well into Poole Bay if the winds are right or if they drift in by mistake during misty conditions & we are there as the mist clears. This makes for long & tediously boring seawatches on many occasions with little reward, except for knowing that if you do see something good, it will be really good for Poole Harbour.
Balearic Shearwater (no 102): By far the best Seabird on my garden list. Seen in Jan 08 when there were several around the Swanage & Studland area. A very good thirty minute seawatch hoping one would go past while I was watching Peveril Point from the house. Whilst waiting, 150 Razorbills (no 100) flew by along with a Red-throated Diver (no 101). I had previously been watching the Razorbills at Studland & had seen over 200 in a few minutes. This photo was taken in the Bay of Biscay (16 Aug 18)
But seawatching is far more tedious from my house. I have a line of sight to Peveril Point. I have what an estate agent would call sea views (i.e. distant sea views). But I don't have the downside of waves & spray crashing into my garden. It would have to be a terrible tsunami for the waves to reach that far. On the positive side, the telescope is stable, it isn't getting battered by the wind so I can increase the magnification, it's warm & comfortable & I can enjoy some music while I'm waiting & waiting for something to fly by. To be fair, I have seen some good Seabirds over the years. The last was an Arctic Skua found by Mark & Mo Constantine at South Haven in Oct 14. I wasn't going to chase it, but then Mark rang back to say it was flying South: game on. I had time to make a cup of tea, set the telescope up & 15 minutes later, Garden Tick no 113 flew through my telescope.
Arctic Skua: From the Plancius off the Portuguese coast (7 May 18)
Having decided, I'm clearly going to be confined to the house for the foreseeable future, then I decided I would try adding a few potential bonuses to the House Year & Lockdown Lists. It was the weekend so I could spare some time to try some House seawatching. The target species were Great Black-backed Gull, Shag & Gannet. It was a stiff NE wind so blowing Birds offshore & I didn't think there would be any Gannets moving offshore. Thirty minutes later, I had good evidence to confirm that expectation. I thought there was a better chance of one of the Durlston Shags flying past Peveril Point into Swanage Bay, but I was disappointed. Even a good scan of the Gulls flying over Swanage, failed to produce anything, but Herring Gulls. But one of my Gull scans, did manage to snatch success, with a Cormorant flying down the valley to the sea. I see one about every other year on average: albeit I am generally not daft enough to try seawatching from the house, more than one or twice a year.
Cormorant: How many coastal Birders really get excited about seeing a UK Cormorant. Old Harry (1 Jun 14)
At least, I know from twitter there are quite a few other Birders who are coping with the current restrictions in leaving their house, by scanning the sky or distant fields, trees or rooftops for extra house Ticks.

Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at when I will be confined at #BWKM0.