Monday, December 1, 2014

A White-billed Diver (and the rest)

It was one of those days when I nearly didn't bother. Unpromising conditions, nothing on the move, lots to take care of domestically and a trip to plan and pack for (leaving the next the day); but with circumstances keeping me away from the patch much more than I'm used to lately, and with the majority of the month ahead out of the country, I set the alarm for an hour before dawn and hoped I'd have the will to react to it.

Thankfully I did, and by dawn I was on the end of Carr Naze, about to descend the slope to the sea-watch hide. In addition to a handful of Snow Buntings, a couple of Blackbirds and (unusually) a Mistle Thrush on the very end indicated some incoming movement, and then, from the gloom, a deep honk from just behind me - fantastically, a Bean Goose heading low and north-west. Perfect timing, and a species I've been singularly hoping to catch during the small east coast influx of late.

If I'd have turned around there and then it would of been a very worthwhile morning, and after a while in the hut, I was thinking that maybe that would'nt have been a bad idea; 'local' auks, Red-throats and Fulmars notwithstanding, there was effectively nothing on the move. But then, there was just enough to keep me entertained - a Long-tailed Duck close in and south at 0850, a couple of Mergansers and a Goosander, then a Great Northern Diver through at 0945. Red-throats kept trickling through, which (crucially) made for something to count, and then at 1020, a Black-throat cruised south with two of them - three Diver species within 35 minutes.

Again entertaining thoughts of quitting while I was ahead, a monster of a diver appeared in the 'scope, well to the north, and heading south: banana-shaped front end, big heavy bill, seemingly angled upwards... and pale; not just reflected, momentarily pale, but clearly white(ish) in the flat, gloomy light. After following it in the scope for a fair while, I switched to the camera, promptly lost it, panicked, and luckily picked it up again as it broke the horizon and gained height.

Flustered calls and texts to (potential) observers to the south followed, and then the good news came through that Brett had watched it passing Flamborough, 13 minutes later (according to his calculations, at a speed of 32mph). Another hour and a half added Little Auk, Pom Skua, a few ducks and more Red-throats, but it was, of course, all about the divers. All four species in forty minutes, plus various other highlights on an otherwise quiet sea - not exactly the worst place to live and bird.