Tuesday, 3 January 2023

A Three-pointer

A damp, windy morning in winter would not normally get me hurrying to the West Bay shelter for a seawatch. But these are not normal times. Firstly, Patchwork Challenge is a galvanising thing right now. Secondly, a Leach's Petrel flew past Portland Bill on January 1st; and another yesterday, despite the benign conditions. One or two are still about. And you never know...

I ventured out at 08:00, into what felt like the middle of the night. It was blowy alright, a vigorous SSW which bashed me around as I tried to focus on the distant, interesting duck on the river upstream of Rise restaurant. The Stygian gloom didn't help. Kneeling to rest my bins on the bridge railing did the trick. As I suspected, it was a/the Goosander. Nice. Hopefully it will do the decent thing and revisit the Asker too, so I can add it to both PWC lists.

At the shelter it quickly became apparent that an epic seawatch was not on the cards. A few Gannets and little else at first. I wasn't surprised. After all, the wind didn't get up until shortly before dawn. Got to be worth an hour though, surely? Actually, half an hour was enough...

A slow seawatch is a dull way to pass the time. When visibility is too poor to bother much with a scope, you simply scan back and forth with bins, marvelling at the infinite variety of shapes that a birdless sea can fashion itself into. Eventually it is almost hypnotic, and the occasional Gannet or Kittiwake a welcome novelty. And then, out of the blue, a tiny dark speck pops up from behind a wave...

It was like being zapped with a cattle prod, and suddenly I was very awake! In and out of view every couple of seconds, but a bit too distant for bins, I quickly got the scope on it. Yes! A Leach's Petrel, very slowly moving east. This morning's wind was a notch or two down from the gales of November, and the bird looked in total control, almost stalling at times, and foot-pattering in classic style. Scope views were terrific.

Optimistically I gave it another hour but, apart from a couple of Brent Geese, the Gannet/Kitt theme persisted throughout. Still, I was well chuffed to bag my first PWC scarcity, worth a big, fat three points. Also, as the finder I get a further three bonus points.

Behold! Leach's habbo. It first appeared on a line roughly halfway between the rocks and the red post.

This afternoon the rain was heavier, the wind stronger, and greedy thoughts of Little Gull hard to resist. Nothing ventured...

Ninety minutes later, with 34 Kittiwakes, 4 Med Gulls and just 2 Gannets noted, I called it a day. Actually I called it an excellent day.

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