Saturday, 3 October 2009


The above word sums up the day that I had at Rossall Point as I had an unbelievable days sea watching. Ian and I had discussed today's potential yesterday as the met office had said that a rapidly moving depression would track east over northern England with gale force westerly winds, and they weren't wrong! Ian and I arrived at Rossall Point at first light with flasks of coffee and bags of optimism as we knew we were in for a long session, but I didn't realise I would still be standing there 8 hours later.

Rossall - early morning

As always the first birds I recorded were the 107 Oystercatchers that were struggling to stand on the beach, let alone feed! They were sharply followed by the first of the Kittiwakes for the day and we had 2 battling their way west along the tide line. We had a few more later, but my day total didn't exceed 9. All moving west, in other words heading out of Morecambe Bay and trying to make their way to the open sea.

Eiders and Common Scoters certainly featured, but there were only 4 Eiders but 354 Common Scoters. There could have been more Common Scoters as at times it was very difficult to count them. If a ferry passed then a number would take off from the surface, but as soon as they landed they disappeared behind the wave troughs.

One of the first goodies we had was a juvenile Black Tern that was trying its best to head out of the bay, but it was at best stationary, and worse actually moving backwards though it was flying forward! Eventually it managed to battle it's way round 'the point'.

Next up was a cracking Fulmar that was surprisingly struggling against the wind as well. I say surprisingly because often Fulmars can cope with these conditions well. The further it flew left the closer it got to us and we had stonking views of it 'shearing' through the swell. After this bird we had another two go past.

We had a few Gannets, but only six throughout the whole day. The stars of the day were undoubtedly the Leach's Petrels and we had our first bird at 10:45 on the in-coming tide. This was then followed by a second at 10:55 and then all passage stopped as a squall swept through.

Squall conditions

After the squall cleared 2 Leach's Petrels came past very close in giving absolutely fantastic views and this opened the flood gates for a further 23 Leach's to fly past, making the total 26 in all. Most of these birds were exceptionally close, including one bird over the shingle beach!

Two Red-throated Divers battled west and a handful of Guillemots moved west with some of them being blown back into the bay. We only had four Manx Shearwaters and two of these gave stunning views as they passed close in just over the surf!

Then we had the Skuas, and boy did we have some awesome views of Bonxie and Arctic, and we also had a probable Long-tailed Skua. In fact there could have been as many as three Long-taileds!; more of that in a minute.

We had 7 Bonxies; an early single and then unbelievably two flocks of three! The two flocks of three passed really close and afforded stonking views! Apologies for my liberal use of the word stonking, I just like it and think it describes stunning views of birds admirably. We also had three dark morph Arctic Skuas with one that flew along the surf with it's wing tips brushing our faces as it went past. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but it gives you an idea of how close it was!

Then there was the possible/probable/mystery skuas/Long-tailed Skuas! I picked up three skuas line astern along way to the left, and this didn't leave much time to sort them out before they disappeared from view behind the line of the Coastguard's Tower. I called them out and as I did the rear bird pulled up, banked and revealed full tail streamers! "Long-tailed Skua; adult" I shouted and then it vanished! Pandemonium set in and Ian, Paul, Mark and I were running round like headless chickens trying to get on them. Ian ran round the front of the Coastguard's Tower and managed to briefly get on one that looked like Long-tailed on jizz, but he was exposed to the teeth of gale and couldn't keep his pod and scope still. So was there one, three or indeed any Long-tailed Skuas. I did see what looked like an adult dark morph Long-tailed Skua, but only for a split second, and you know what its like when you can't get on the bird again, you start to doubt yourself. So, that's one or three that got away!

The last goodie of the day was a single Little Tern (and a very late date) that flew west. I would like to say that we had cracking views of it as it flew virtually over our heads, but unfortunately it was a long way out.

I have included below another couple of yanks in the hand from my good mate Nigel to brighten the page up and to give you some birds to look at even though they are totally unconnected with today!

Red-eyed Vireo

Cedar Waxwing

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