Thursday, September 06, 2007

Little Gulls, lots of

At this time of year, if I follow last year's plan, I transfer my attentions during the week to the Upgang Ravine. This wonderful spot along Whitby's West Cliff sits in the middle of the golf course and is a favoured amble for dog walkers. Thus, between the buzz of the mowers drowning out passerine calls and my curses as I step in yet another sweetly scented pile I attempt to find some mega rare.

Today I arrived in good time and at first the sea looked deadly quiet so I headed for the scrub and cover. But I always keep half an eye on the sea. A Red-throated Diver was close inshore, about 100 Gannets were feeding well out and then a nice adult Arctic Skua cruised along the beach. However, there were a few Chiffchaffs so I kept on the passerine theme until er, aren't those Little Gulls? A group of 7 small gulls with pitch black underwings and gleaming uppers disappeared up the coast. By this time I was a good few 100m from the sea but that was that, I legged it for the shore.

Now this is an interesting seawatching site, a classic "Wrong Place" in the pantheon of seawatch spots. Not only is it in the bay but Whitby's harbour piers are near enough to the east and the cliffs beyond Sandsend guard the north western exit. However, it is about the only place with reasonable access between home and work so beggars cannot be choosers.

In the following half an hour or so I managed to find about 300 (or maybe more) very distant Little Gulls feeding at maximum identifiable range, heading out there of the roost and then feeding out there were about 150 or so Common and Arctic Terns (about 4:1 Commons:Arctics I thought), 4 Arctic Skuas went west although two at least ended up sitting on the sea, a Bonxie appeared. Less expected were 3 Manxies and a distant Sooty. Add to these 5 more Red-throated Divers and 3 Common Scoter and 6 or 7 Sandwich Terns and that's a pretty nifty seawatch.

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