Monday, 4 October 2010

All at sea

We had a nightmare journey to Bridlington on Saturday night. This photo was taken by Rob at some point during our two-hour wait in stationary traffic on the M25. We arrrived at about midnight, when I remembered to call the RSPB office to check if the cruise was going ahead. The recorded message revealed that they hadn't yet decided, and to try again at 7.30am.

A troubled sleep later (not the fault of our accommodation, which was lovely) I called again and this time the recorded message brought happier news - it was going ahead. We dressed, breakfasted and hurried to the harbour under dismal skies and moderate rain.

The boat set off at a fair old lick and and it soon became clear that standing at the front brought maximum soakage for us and, more importantly, our optics. However, staying under cover and peering through the rainy windows wasn't an option. I shoehorned myself into a space on the deck at the back, after mortally offending someone by daring to sit in the empty space next to him close to an open window (oh dear).

Great Black-backs of all ages gathered around the chum line. We soon had an entourage of some 50 gulls, nearly all of them GBBGs.

Rob was standing at the back opposite me photographing them. I drew his attention to an enraged-looking Kittiwake overhead.

A few smart juvenile Kittiwakes joined the adults, each one prompting excited calls of 'Little Gull!' from nearby birders, followed by embarrassed apologies.

Soon there were Gannets around, hanging photogenically in the breeze as they waited for their opportunity among the gull melee.

Many were in messy subadult plumage.

The juveniles of the year were striking in their all-dark plumage.

This poor individual had what looked like a bit of carrier bag caught on its lower mandible. As the upper mandible was free, presumably the bird was able to feed normally.

Not all the birds were interested in the chum line. Close inshore there were rafts of Shags.

Further out  - auks. The announcer called out Razorbill and a single Puffin, but all Rob and I saw were Guillemots.

This Bonxie did a quick, dutiful fly-past, preventing the trip from having to be renamed the 'No-Skuas-or-Shearwaters Cruise'.

We then got an alarming announcement that a force 8 gale was coming and we had to cut the trip short. We began powering back towards the harbour, going through some major choppiness on the way.

The way back saw no new additions except for a few Fulmars. Someone upstairs called a Leach's Petrel, but I think he was the only one to see it.

We made it back to dry land about noon, in freshening winds and just as much rain. All in all it had been fun but spoiled by the weather. I'd like to do another one on a better day though.

On the way home we called in at RSPB Blacktoft Sands, and looked at some wet and miserable waterfowl. I'll put the pics from that in a new post.

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