Friday 1 August 2014

Prat in curls?

A few months ago I offered Northumberland to the Scots as part of a deal to keep Scottish birds on my list (if they vote for independence), partly on the basis that I'd never had a tick there. That's all changed now having seen a Bridled Tern there earlier this month, and this week, back again for a family holiday, I've also seen a Collared Pratincole (my second) and a Stilt Sandpiper (my third) in the county. Had the Bridled Tern shown a bit quicker a few weekends ago I might even have had time to twitch a Black-winged Pratincole which put in a brief appearance. So I now fully accept it's not a county list to be dismissed lightly by cocky southerners. And the deal is off, Scotland.

The Northumbrian mid-week twitching scene, I've discovered, seems to consist of the same dozen or so good natured blokes (or blurks, as they are called up here). I bumped into one as I parked the car at the scene of Monday's mini-twitch and had to listen carefully to the description of where he had seen the Pratincole (pron. Prat-in-curl). 'Flying o'er wor heeds', it transpires, roughly translates as 'look up'.

Neither the Pratincole nor the Stilt Sand was more than 45 minutes away, so I was able to twitch them without seriously interrupting the flow of the family holiday. Monday, before the Pratincole was found, we spent back on the Farne Islands, introducing the children to the smell of guano and the territorial violence of Arctic Terns. I struggle to get them to enjoy birding trips with me mostly, but the sight of aggressive Terns repeatedly attacking innocent passers-by, and Dad getting crapped on regularly by seabirds, amused them greatly. Amid the fun, a few pictures were taken.
This Arctic Tern on the lighthouse wall didn't appear to be guarding a nest or chicks...
...but it certainly had an attitude problem
A more placid Arctic Tern
Still many Arctic Tern chicks at various stages of development as with my last visit in early July - this one of the younger ones
Guillemots packed all the available ledges just over a fortnight ago - now just a handful are left, including this Bridled Guillemot
A few pairs of Fulmar were on nests on Staple Island
Fulmar as it's meant to be seen - gliding on straight wings
Fulmar chick - fluffy, but not a bird to cuddle as it will spit foul-smelling oil at you
Still plenty of Puffins bringing food to nests or just loafing on the cliffs of Staple Island
Looks like a good year for sandeels
Shag - the only seabird that breeds on the Farnes and then sticks around for the winter
A prehistoric looking bird...
...even more so with the chicks
A bit of an ugly duckling, if truth be told
The Collared Pratincole, present for just one evening near Ashington, showed distantly but well
The white rump, and contrast between black primaries and otherwise brown upperparts can be seen here. With scope views a white trailing edge to the wing could also be made out.
This view shows a rusty underwing and black border to the throat

Puffins, Staple Island

Puffin, Staple Island

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