Nov 2, 2008

Sunday class with Tim Dean.

At 10.30 this morning five of us turned up at the Holm community centre car park for this months Tim Dean all day birding class. The weather as forecast was stunning with some high cloud and blue skies. To add to the effect the wind dropped all day letting the surface of the sea fall nice and calm. You really couldn’t ask for better, it was a bit of a contrast with last months. The first bird of the day was a Waxwing that was coming to apple and a berry bush. Fantastic birds and a first for some of the class. We watched it come and go for a wee while. Out attention was also take by a Dunnock singing from the top of a fir tree. Fun as it was we heade3d off down the back lane bit to have a look over the Loch of Ayre. The whole loch is hooching with birds as usual. The Whooper swans massively out number the Mutes today. The males are argumentative with each other producing continuing bouts of blokish behaviour..all very entertaining. The majority of the ducks are Widgeon with tufted and mallard the next most represented. Saying that I would have thought there would have been more tufted duck about. We exercised our scopes and bins for a bit picking out Male and female Gadwall and male and female Goldeneye. A car stops and it turned out to be Keith Hague who tells us there is a goosander around the corner and out of our sight. Its an excellent tip as it’s a bird I need for the old photo year list. We all wave him on his way and pile across the road to the shore track and sure enough Tim is the first one to get on it. He calls it sitting on the bank. A quick snap and its mine. We check out all the Mergansers we can see looking for another…and there are a few but with no luck so we are off back to the cars. After an uneventful walk back we are putting scopes away and chatting when suddenly every thing rises. There are flocks of Starlings followed by a flock of Golden Plover. Every thing is in a panic. Whilst we are looking for the cause a Sparrow hawk shoots across the car park feet from us at ankle height with a Starling in its talons. It pulls up in to an impossibly steep climb and pops over the community centre to disappear into the gardens beyond. Stunning, leaving behind it settling panic and a memory of whooshing feathers…..its wagons roll for Hunda.

Crossing the barriers the hunt is on for our target bird the Grey Phalarope. Yesterday there were none to be seen along the barriers so today the plan is to go to the island of Hunda. This is small island (200 acres) that sticks out into Scapa flow joined to Burray by a causeway. This will get us further out in to the sea and give us a better chance to find Grey Phal if they are still about. The barriers hold little apart from Red Throated and Great Northern Divers. We stop off at Echna bay lay-by. The sea is nice and calm the air still. From the far side of the bay we can here the mesmeric calls of Long Tailed Ducks. The sea is dotted with birds so we are soon sorting through them. There are rakes of Mergansers,Slavonian ,Greebs, RT and GN Divers, some nice Velvet Scoters and a first for me a Red Necked Greeb. I have looked for one a few times so I am finally chuffed to get one. I was a bit gutted to find that the only picture I got of it has its head in the water but such is life!!. With the warm sun on us we stop to enjoy a coffee before heading to Hunda.

Hunda is a small island that at one time supported nine pepole. Nowadays it is left to the sheep. It is conect6ed to the island of Burray by a causeway. Its an interesting feature in its self as no one really knows who built it. It was built maybe by the army between the wars or during the second war but know one realy kens. It is still solid and it wont go below the highest tide so you cant get cut off…cool. Parking at the farm of Littlequoy we walk the track to the shore scoping the sound as we go. Mergansers and long tailed ducks are conspicuous along with a couple of GND’s. We cross watching our footing as we go. We get close to a few Long tailed ducks that give every one a good view before they fly. Onto the island its self and we head for east Ayre the furthest point north to look out in to the Flow. Ahead is a Heron stood atop of a ten foot cliff looking down on to the rocky shore. I think he must have been taking a moment out to do some digesting stood up there. So far none of the coastline we have tried has held no Phalaropes and the Hunda shore is no different. Reaching the point the first bird that pops up is a Snow bunting…excellent. Every one has fine views as the rest of the flock appears over head. It is an absolute delight to be hearing the my first snow buntings of winter. With this we stop for lunch. Sitting looking out into the small area of Scapa Flow that we can see twenty or more Great northern divers dotted about. Some more Red throated divers that are in pairs and threes. Below on the rocky shore Turnstones forage and newly returned Purple sandpipers move across the lower rocks, they are as yet single birds but more will be coming soon. On the point of leaving we meet the folks who own the island coming from the other direction,they tell us of wee white birds on the sea moving like clockwork toys. YEE HAA we are off. As we are walking the western shore looking out into the flow its becoming obvious the sea here is full of fish. Accompanying us as we walk are a load of diving Gannets. They are twisting in to a dive at about fifty meters and plunging in to catch fish in spectacular fashion. There activity is bringing in Herring gulls and Blackbacks looking for easy food. Moving along an excited cry goes up as a flock of Phalaropes swirls around to land just out of sight. The class move to the cliff edge just in time to see the flock rise and head off towards Holm. A bit of a bummer but at least some folks got to see there first Phalarope. Continuing on to complete our circum navigation of the island we arrive above the Bar Taing looking in to the wee bay called the hope, not to be confused with the Hope over the bay hehehe. Out on the water it is mayhem Gannets maybe 75 or more are continually diving steadily feeding there are big gulls every where Its an impressive scene . There are more divers and sea ducks. The light is going fast and as there are no Phalaropes to be seen we press on rounding Cairn Head with its Broch and on past the Laxigar shore with its rich red sand stone. A few Turnstone and ringed Plovers were dotted about the best waders we see are a pair of Bar tailed godwits tho. The sun is setting as we cross onto the causeway. It seems like for the first time for ages that we have had a fiery sunset so it is a double treat being in such a fine site to see it.

Even though it is getting dark and we are about done the birding go’s on. A spy over the water reveals a large flock of Mergansers starting their roost. A count up has 75 with another 25 or more on the other side of the barrier. These lift off to settle with the big flock giving over a smart is that!! Wondering how you top that the sound of gun fire towards the hope has put up Geese and by the sound of them lots of geese. Sure enough here they come filling the skies Fifteen hundred maybe more…who knows. The air it thick. They fall out the sky in a twinkling of an eye. With in a minute or so they are in a huge flock in the middle of water sound with the sun setting behind them…..Not a bad end to a not bad day.

No comments:

Post a Comment