Friday, 22 May 2009

Bowness-on-Solway - 22nd May 2009

single Dark Phase Pomarine Skua Sea Watchers companion!
Arriving on Site at 9.17 I was able to enjoy an hour before High Tide and then a few following hours of Watching. I had great expectations, as arriving on the end of the Viaduct, I joined c10 other birders whom announced that 2 Poms had flown past about an hour before I had arrived.
It wasn't long before I saw my first probable skua sp at 09.35 shortly followed by 'I've got 3 probable poms in the distance'. They began to get closer and started circling at c1 mile distance clearly showing 'spoons' even at this distance. It wasn't until 9.47 that they had come over the viaduct so I has 11 minutes to get to grips with their behaviour which came in handy later on with other skuas. The 3 birds passed High over the viaduct all being pale birds and at the same time, a pale phase Arctic Skua didn't mess about and flew straight up the solway quite low...2 species down.
It remained pretty quiet after this starter until 11.30 when a merlin was picked up across the river and began chasing a presumed meadow pipit and eventually caught it in the air.
I picked up a Fulmar at 11.34 and that came up river passed the viaduct.
Between then and 12.11 there was very little except 9 Gannets which came quite far up river and then at 11.50 a large flock of c100 Kittiwake were flying extremely distant at about 3 miles.
12.11 came and a group of 9 skuas appeared and begun coming closer. At first they appeared like Poms as they were behaving similar to the first birds but as they got nearer, our suspisions were that these weren't Poms and were possibly Long Tailed. At this range, we would have suspected to pick out Spoons which we didn't. To our horror, they turned round and carried on out of the firth!!! A potential Lifer slipping out of my grasp! (Arctic Skua just don't show this behaviour on the Firth, so they were either Pom or Long Tailed...75% Long tail)
Nothing now for the next hour until 13.00 when one of the regulars picked up 2 birds. I got onto shamefully slowly but these quickly joined a group of 7 to make 9...these just had to be the same birds! A second chance!
We were viewing the birds for 10 minutes at c1 miles range. The Wing beats were a lot more 'flappy' than the poms and they certainly seemed a lot slimmer and less barrel chested than the poms. They begun to turn again...NO! as they did, they revealed more features that were pro Long Tailed. Much Paler underneath, paler head, very tern like flight, spiralling fights that i was told was a feature that they had never witnessed coming from Pomarine Skua. We were almost certain that we were onto Long Tailed Skuas...Fantastic but again these failed to come up river.
At 13.16 I picked up 2 Arctic skuas (dark phase and pale phase) and came up the river and begun circling 1/2 past the viaduct. 13.46 came and I picked up 2 more Arctic Skua (again dark and pale phase) at the same time, a regular picked up a Pom at the same place and range that the flock of 9 were picked up and it was clear that this was nothing like the flock, it was a much bigger bird, with a barrel chest and spoons visable almost clearly.
These 3 ended up joining each other and circled for several minutes above the viaduct clearly allowing the two species to be seperated (this is the Dark phase Pom in the picture above)
Based on the information given by the birders on-site and the views I had of the birds, I and the ohter birders were happy that the flock of 9 were definatly Long Tailed Skuas - A lifer!
Final tally of birds:
9 Long Tailed Skua
4 Pomarine Skua (3 pale, 1 dark)
5 Arctic Skua (3 Pale, 2 Dark)

1 comment:

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