Monday, May 05, 2008

Christening the new scope - Portland sea-watch 4th May

I managed to snatch just a couple of hours in an Easterly wind at the bill, 6:15-8:45 on Sunday morning. I stuck myself next to some regulars watching by the lighthouse, which proved to be an excellent decision as they called out everything going past and unlike me knew what they were looking at.

The sea was covered in birds. Everywhere you looked there were Manx Shearwaters; flocks sat on the sea, long lines arching up over the waves, certainly numbers in the many hundreds. The locals were unimpressed, recalling recent days of thousands of Manxies. There were plentiful Kittiwakes, Gannets, Fulmars, and Commic terns joining in this feeding frenzy, and Guillemots and Razorbills were sat out on the sea.

All this activity made picking up birds moving through tricky, but before long a dark phase Arctic Skua moved through close in, then Commic Terns moving through with loose flocks of 4 Black Terns, then 6, and a 1st summer Little Gull too. A dark phase Pomarine Skua with a nice set of spoons came through next, my first for many years. Then a bit of an interlude where we had 21 Common Scoter, and 3 Whimbrel. But not much else. One of the regulars had been texted that a male Hen Harrier had flown south onto the island, and after quarter of an hour someone checked the top fields - and there it was! We got distant but clear views as it slowly made its way out to sea.

Back onto the sea, and 3 Velvet Scoters came through close in. These didn’t get the attention they deserved as a shout of “Roseate Tern” went up. One was with a feeding flock of Commic Terns mid-way out. A lifer for me, it was clearly paler and slighter than the others, quite easy to pick out, and to my eyes seemed more fluttery. If I’d been on my own I might have struggled with confusion with Little Tern, but someone took me through the relevant features. And apart from a pale-phase Pomarine Skua that was more or less it.

This was the first real test of the Kowa 883. Everything was crystal clear and bright, and zooming in still gave a lot of details. It was a nice change not be struggling at distance. I can’t recommend it enough.

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