Thursday 2 November 2023

Storm Ciarán - Before & After

Around 11:30 last night I was wading through kerb-high water in our street, clearing drains of accumulated leaves. A neighbour was helping with the final gully when another downpour hit. I was back inside within seconds but still looked like I'd had a few buckets tipped over me. Thankfully our torchlit toil had done the trick, and the flooding abated. Storm Ciarán gave us thunder, lightning and torrential rain, but not the worst of the wind. By the morning it was long gone, leaving a modest NNW that promised little in the way of seabirds. Even so, I tried. The sea was enormous, and I quickly realised the need to be away long before high tide; it was definitely going to be up over the seafront soon. Predictably, no birds. My early-morning highlight was a Curlew on the new flood, my first on-the-deck record for West Bay.

I've no doubt the storm wreaked havoc in places, and its mark was evident in West Bay this afternoon...

That's the seawatching shelter in the middle. There was no debris to speak of first thing. That's all a consequence of high tide and huge waves.

Seafront debris and damage.

View east at low tide. The amount of fine shingle that Ciarán dumped on the prom has made it as much of slog to walk on as Cogden Beach.

As the day progressed, news filtered through of much ado up-Channel, with a wreck of Leach's Petrels along the Sussex and Kent coasts: 203 past Dungeness gives a flavour of it. Oh, plus 84 Storm Petrels, 49 Little Gulls and two Sabine's. I know I wasn't the only Lyme Bay birder who had entertained hopes for something locally but the forecast winds didn't really justify them. Absolutely the wrong direction for us.

Thank goodness for yesterday!

Arriving at the shelter just before 07:00 I was greeted by a strongish southwesterly, or maybe a notch towards SSW. Either way, I couldn't help but liken conditions to a toned-down version of this time last year. Even so, I could hardly believe it when a small, dark shape appeared in my scope at 07:42, skipping quite rapidly eastwards. Despite the hefty sea it was easy to keep track of due to a fairly high flight line. Not close, but clearly a Leach's Petrel. About ten minutes later, brief views of what was almost certainly another, though back-on, as if lingering. It was lost before I could clinch it. Finally, one more at 08:29. Like the first, it went rapidly E, though somewhat closer. Great views. The final tally was 2+ Leach's Petrels, 1 Pom or Arctic Skua (probably Pom), 3 Brents, 1 Sandwich Tern, 4 Med Gulls and 68 Gannets.

One bizarre incident. Shortly after 09:00 I picked up a distant falcon heading very rapidly out to sea from the vicinity of West Cliff. It zipped low over the waves, suddenly climbed and then dived. I missed the crucial moment due to a dog walker inconveniently filling my scope, but next saw it flying back towards land with a small bird in its talons. In my excitement I assumed I had just witnessed a Peregrine taking a Leach's Petrel, but the cold light of day forbids that sort of conjecture. Even so, it was pretty awesome.

In the afternoon I visited again. No seawatching, but I did glimpse a/the Black Redstart briefly.

Taken from a similar spot to this afternoon's pic. Not calm exactly, but definitely before the storm.


  1. I did wonder how things were down in Dorset generally, having seen Burton Bradstock on the national news. Glad I don't live on Jersey 😯

    1. I've not heard much local news about storm Ciarán, but Burton is a bit prone to flooding.

  2. Fishing in France was interesting too but the only thing flying of note was part of my bivvy.

    1. Oh dear. I certainly would not have fancied bivvying out in that storm. Glad the outcome wasn't more serious.

    2. PS. Hope the carp kept you busy!