Saturday, 12 October 2013

MEGA!! Hooley brings seabirds to the farm.

I like to spend time with the sheep. That maybe sounds wrong, but what I mean is that I can just sit and take a moment or two watching them graze.

It was while I was doing this last week that I got a new mammal for the farm - I'm heading towards twenty species now, and that's without knowing how to identify any of the bats.
Completely out of context a grey squirrel went bounding across the grass, quite some way from any large trees. Presumably it was one of this year's young push out by its parents and searching for a new territory. Like foxes and muntjacs, I have to say I hope I don't see it too often.

But this post is about a couple of very special birds which I was lucky enough to see yesterday. It's been rather windy here of late, and that's something of an understatement.
Finally the leaves have started coming off the trees. Finally autumn has arrived. Only a few days since the thermometer in my car hit 25 degrees!
A hint of autumn colour

I was most frustrated to have to be at work on Thursday. For I knew that strong gales from the North would be blowing birds into The Wash and hopefully inland towards my farm. But I could only manage half an hour of daylight on the farm, during which I managed to see a couple of flyover bramblings. It really was blowing a hooley!

A small tree does its best to catch out
unwary motorists speeding round the corner.
Daisy prepares her house for the winter
The plan for Friday was to bird North Norfolk, but I was battling a thick head and decided to stay on the farm. And what a good decision that turned out to be. The winds switched more easterly and squalls swept through all day. But in between I made sure I was outside, taking the opportunity to move the sheep to some new grazing.
All the while a constant stream of gulls were battling north into the wind, sweeping low over the fields. But I wasn't quite prepared for the sight which met my eyes late afternoon. I was conscious of the possibility of a skua species flying over and that's what I was hoping for. All of a sudden, from nowhere, I became aware of two large, dark birds sweeping low over the neighbouring field, really not very far from me. I instantly knew what they were. Pointed at both ends and long, pointed wings, they had the distinctive shape of a pair of juvenile GANNETS!!!
They cut the corner of my land, making slow progress into a strong headwind. I sprinted all the way back to the farmhouse to get the telescope so I could track their progress further, over the back fields towards South Holland Main Drain.

I was absolutely chuffed. It was never impossible that, one day, I would get gannet for the farm list, but it was far from probable.
Greedy for more, I set up the scope in the lee of the tractor and spent the remaining hours of the day watching over the fields for more seabirds. Apart from the usual evening flight of gulls, which was more spectacular today than normal, there was nothing more of note. It turns out that quite a few inland gannets were seen elsewhere on the same day, all making their way back towards the sea after being blown overland the day before.

It all makes me wonder what I might have seen had I been able to spend all day Thursday on the lookout.
An unconventional seawatch!

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