Friday, 22 May 2020

Fifty-Nine

When the C-19 lockdown began and birders started talking about keeping a #BWKM0 list, I'll admit I could take it or leave it. I've never really bothered with a garden list, or any kind of 'in or from the place where you live' type list. It's never appealed. Anyway, I joined in and began to make an effort to add to the paltry collection of obvious common birds which I felt would be my lot. And then one evening in early April I was sitting outside in the dark, along with most of the nation's birders, listening (with zero expectation) for nocturnally migrating Common Scoter, when I clearly heard a Moorhen call. It was so unexpected that I said something out loud. That was species number 36, and the beginning of a slippery slope.

The other day I thought I was on 58 species, and said so. However, I had counted Jay twice, so was actually on 57. Song Thrush was one of the very few species which I felt were obvious gaps (Goldcrest and Greenfinch are others) and I've since heard one, bringing the total genuinely to 58.

Looking through those 58 species is quite amazing. There are a few I would have included in a list of possibles, like Whimbrel and Peregrine, but there are several more which I would never have predicted, like Barn Owl, Nightjar, Coot, Cuckoo and Greylag. So what I've learned is this: anything is possible. As was proven today...

After lunch I put in a hard skywatch effort. It was dire. I knew it would be. Yesterday was hot, quite calm, perfect raptor weather. Lots of exciting potential. Today was windy, a stiff south-westerly. I think I saw just one Buzzard, maybe two, but otherwise it was just the ubiquitous Herring Gulls, occasional Swift and resident common stuff. I stood with my back to the man cave, looking downwind over the bungalow roof, the most likely approach direction of new birds.

Three more Herring Gulls hove into view. One of them flapped a few times. It had stiff, flicky wingbeats like a Fulmar. It was a Fulmar. It was a FULMAR!!

I couldn't believe it! We are exactly three miles inland. In all the years I lived just one mile inland at Seaton, I never saw a Fulmar anywhere near our house, despite there being a small breeding colony on the local cliffs. There are three Manx Shearwaters and a Balearic on my London list, but no Fulmar. Fulmars hardly ever wander inland*. This was a proper garden mega. The bird slipped sideways, riding the wind, and I quickly grabbed the camera and rattled off two bursts. It was barely more than a dot, but an in-focus one...


With hindsight I should have zoomed out a little, so that treetops and roofs were visible. That would have been really crazy!



The Fulmar was soon out of view, and heading seawards, but now I was all fired up, and put in another hour's hard skywatching, knowing that a skua was imminent.

It was rubbish.

So there we are. Species number 59 on the #BWKM0 Garden List. Number 60 should be good...


* 'Fulmars hardly ever wander inland' is based on my limited experience. It seems there are places where they breed well inland, using quarries and other suitable habitat, though usually within 20km of the sea. When I wrote this post I didn't know that. I do now!

10 comments:

  1. I used to live in Easton on Portland, surrounded by Fulmars (well several pairs on East and West cliffs about a kilometre away). Only once did I get one over the garden. We had some pretty horrific storms when I was there but it was on a still, calm, misty day that a fulmar flew over. So... a cracking record for you.

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    1. Cheers Ken, that's good to know. Amazed they didn't appear in storms occasionally.

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  2. Our Northumberland Fulmars nust buck the trend. I see them head inland every day, except early winter. They visit a quarry about 1 mile inland and fly over our village and my garden regularly, last summer I saw one even attempt to land on a neighbours chimney! To top the lot though one year I went out and found a poor Fulmar flattened on the village road. We only have 18 houses and not many cars use it, so to become a road casualty here is very unlucky indeed...

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    1. Stewart, someone on Twitter mentioned quarries away from the sea, and someone else said they'd seen Fulmars 15 miles inland in Yorkshire, like it wasn't unusual. I've since found out that Fulmars do indeed breed in inland quarries, and other suitable sites, though usually within 20km of the sea. You learn something every day!

      All I can say in defense of my ignorance is that I am unaware of such behaviour occurring close to anywhere I've ever lived! Which is no excuse for such limited knowledge...

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  3. When storms knocked the migration flocks off course, I once recorded a Manx Shearwater in my garden in Herefordshire. Okay, it was brought to me from a neighbour a couple of houses away but it sat in my front room whilst I arranged it's onward travel.

    Not many fulmars make it this far in land though....

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    1. In birding parlance, Manx Shearwater would constitute a massive garden gripper! The first one I saw inland was floating on a little gravel pit of no more than a few acres. It looked very lost!

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  4. Gav, I think it was last year that a Cory's Shearwater was recorded over central London.
    After that one, anything is possible.

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    1. I remember that Ric. Was it Tony Duckett, over Regent's Park? Yep, anything, anywhere!

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  5. Replies
    1. Ah, I wondered how things were going on Skye. Too well, clearly... 😜

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