Sunday, 5 July 2020

When West is Best

While not a fanatic, I do enjoy a bit of seawatching. Like many birders I completely missed out on almost all of the spring season, so am hopeful that summer/autumn might offer some compensation. However, there is one problem. If the seawatching in my part of Lyme Bay is any good at all, it will be a hundred times better in a different part. The prevailing south-westerlies of autumn can be immensely productive at, say, Berry Head and Start Point in S Devon, but local pickings will be meagre in comparison. To illustrate, take yesterday's movement of Balearic Shearwaters. Start Point produced a monstrous day count of 1068!! I put in almost 2.5 hours from first light at Burton Bradstock, and saw five.

Out of curiosity I had a hunt around for counts from other Lyme Bay locations and stuck them on this map...



My old patch at Seaton did amazingly well compared to what might normally be expected there, but look at Lyme Regis, Burton Bradstock and even Portland Bill. Slim pickings. Admittedly some of those counts will be from relatively short watches, but even so, there is no way those birds were evenly shared yesterday. And in the 17 years I've lived down this way I have come to learn that this is simply how things are...

It's rather like being offered a couple of Maltesers, while someone else gets a whole box. A large one. And when you later discover that Dawlish Warren was also graced with a double-figure count of Arctic Skuas and an adult LONG-TAILED, well...

If you think it's difficult to teach a small child how to be content with its lot, and not to eye the other kid's goodies, get screamingly jealous and spit its dummy out, try an east Lyme Bay seawatcher.

13 comments:

  1. Yes but... In the spring the western headlands in Lyme bay usually fair poorly for skuas and terns which are moving north and west, bypassing Berry Head and Start Point and offering far better numbers the further East you go.

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    1. True, Mike. Nice skua potential in spring here. But when the autumn seawatching is as good as it often can be over your way, the season feels very lo-o-o-o-ong and gripping! 😐

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  2. Few of us get everything in life, best to give seawatching a miss, at least you can always buy a large box of maltesers.

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    1. Ha ha! Yes Derek, clearly I should be a lot less moany! πŸ˜„

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  3. It begs the question 'In which direction was the 1068 flying?' If they were going West and some snuck into Lyme Bay, did the rest vanish or pass by unnoticed?

    Think I'll stick to light centred boxed confectionery ;o)

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    1. Heading S, I believe Dave. Straight out of Lyme Bay! πŸ˜„

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    2. An interesting point Dave. The source of these birds would be the large aggregation off Guernsey. As the Balearic flies, that's 60-70 miles up into Lyme Bay, so about 3.5 hrs (we've timed them between BHd and SPt before). While some may head on W, as we proved with the SeaWatchSW project, I expect many are just going going back across, as numbers off Cornwall still relatively low. With a SW wind they can use it either way as they sheer across it - a way of saving energy in looking for food source. These big gatherings off Guernsey are a fairly recent event and getting earlier. Been working on an article for sometime. Basically we are getting more and more of a critically endangered and apparently declining species! Just got another chapter with the recent event! Mark

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    1. Think I am developing a nice, fat cataract in my seawatching eye. Try using the other one and I cannot recognise birds. Explains everything.

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    1. Surprised you didn't say 'Move to Brixham!'

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  6. Hi Gavin it's John Herbert how are you doing long time no hear

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    1. Hi John, it is indeed!!! Found you on Twitter and sent DM. 😊 πŸ‘

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