Ian and I arranged a sea-watch this morning. This was the stormiest forecast there has been since I’ve been coming to NO. I got out of the car and early indications didn’t bode well as I couldn’t walk a straight line. I was delighted, however, that the bush at MMs provided surprisingly good shelter from the 65 mph south-westerly gales although I was almost in the bush thus sacrificing any views to the west. Whenever I stuck my head above the parapet I was reminded how ridiculously windy it was.
One of the highlights was a steady run of Gannets, for two hours they streamed west, about 25 in total. They are mostly birds from the 6,000 pair breeding colony on Alderney 80 miles to the south.
Two pale phase Arctic Skuas suddenly appeared from the west. Sea birds often barrel back into the wind to control their progress but these skuas were gunning it full tilt. It was a treat to watch four separate Fulmars heading into the teeth of the gale on albatross wings with white protruding heads and pale white primary flashes, above and below. It is believed that spring Hampshire Fulmars are non-breeders associated with nearby colonies in Dorset and West Sussex.
A handful of adult Kittiwakes also battled against the south westerlies struggling and not bouncing along like they normally do. Having scrutinised every sea-watched Cormorant since I started visiting in September I was delighted to finally record a Shag. On a sea-watch at this range it’s the rather thin straight neck, small head, pot belly and wings positioned to the rear that are characteristic.
Waders included a pair of westerly heading Grey Plover and a group of eight Bar-tailed Godwit also heading west.
At the end of the sea-watch I walked over to check that the Little Ringed Plover nest hadn’t had some gale related mishap, at first I couldn’t see her and began to worry she’d abandoned. I changed my angle and then saw her keeping very low with eyes half closed.
We had hoped for Manx Shearwater as several had been seen in the eastern Solent but unfortunately no luck today. Bonixe was a more realistic aim and is again something I’m still to see at NO.