Friday, 1 January 2016

Ending the Year

After the usual unsuccessful attempt at Hawfinch on my birthday (the big three-"o"), there wasn't much opportunity for birding before returning to York. So by the morning of the 31st I was keen to get out and about, and was in my car by 7:45. Hartlepool first for black-throated diver. I was expecting the cold and the wind. I wasn't expecting a slightly emotional meeting with an old friend. 

Aora, the University Marine Biological Station's largest research vessel, has been working out of Hartlepool since she was sold off. Somehow I didn't twig that she would be there when I was out birding. She was the first thing I saw when I parked up, and I couldn't grab my camera and scope fast enough as I shot out of the car. Aside from the change to the registration she looked just the same, but I couldn't help but give her a full check over with the scope; so engrossed I nearly missed the diver feeding of her port side. 

Still Beautiful

Low light and a fair amount of chop

From Hartlepool I headed up to Widdrington in search of the Bewick's that had been seen the previous day, but driving along the side of the lake I could see no sign of anything swanny on the water. I pulled up next to the lone car in the car park, dragged out my scope, and set up on the windy shoreline. Nothing on the water (besides goldeneye, gadwall and mallard), and only a juvenile mute swan on the bank. The couple from the par car joined me and also set up scope and then a third car appeared and together we gazed over grey water. I had the usual "unusual to see a girl birder" talk with one half of the couple that were in the first car, before checking my phone to see that two Bewick's had been seen at Grindon Lough, over an hour's drive away. 

Dejectedly I swung my scope to the far shore in order to look over one of the flooded areas behind the lake-proper, landing it straight onto the great northern diver that had been seen earlier in the day. Calling it, I was complimented on the keenness of my eyesight; I was so miffed about the swans that I decided to take the compliment rather then admit to my total luck. Eventually the others left and I decided to walk further up the lake to try and get a view on the obscured near shore, as I did so a second birder pulled up and asked what I'd had. I complained about the Bewick's and pointed out the rough direction of the great northern; he headed down to the car park and I carried on to set up at the new vantage point. I picked up the GN diver again, but still no swans. Sod this, off to Grindon.

After a pretty uneventful drive I arrived at the lough at noon. A couple of birders were there and reported seeing a few swans tucked behind a rise in one of the flooded areas (around 5 birds), but not being sure of their identity due to the distance. As they spoke one bird swam out - a juv mute - and my heart sank. 

I rearranged the scope so that I could sit in the car out of the chilly wind, and soon another 3 mutes appeared. Urgh. Looking back another birder was parked about 200 meters behind, doing exactly the same as me. I contemplated walking out to get a decent back view on the bank, but didn't fancy the breeze and sat tight. Then finally, thankfully, after 15 more frustrating minutes, two more swan heads appeared. Smaller swan heads, with beaks that looked entirely black at the distance.

I hoped out of the car to re-sight the scope and the red car behind me drove up to park just behind mine. And there they were, two diminutive little swans. Too far for a decent shot even through the scope. But undeniably themselves. Finally my stomach rebelled at the lack of food on offer and I decided to head for home. Two birds better off before the new year. 

I'm still hoping for that 400 by 40 target, only 176 to go....

Swan-like blurry things

Swan-like blurry things next to a larger mute-swan-like blurry thing

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