A swell weekend for a survey or two…or three

by on Feb.22, 2010, under Birdwatching, Harwood, Photography, Surveys

Saturday was planned as the next survey day for NEWT/Marinelife…and then in the early hours of Saturday morning the sea began to turn ‘a bit lumpy’ (c)Allan Skinner.  With over 3m of swell smashing it’s way through the harbour mouth at Amble there was no chance of getting the boat out.

With all three NEWT guides having the day together we headed inland to finish our BTO Winter Atlas timed tetrad visits in Harwood.  Ironically, given the wintry weather on the coast, there was less snow than on our last visit.  Birds were few and far between and, after what turned out to be a strenuous 4 miles over rough ground, as we headed back towards home the late afternoon light looked just about perfect for a visit to Nursery Park to photograph the Waxwings.  The light was as good as we could have wished for and the 20 or so birds that were still present were much more obliging than they had been in previous days.

Waxwings stacked on top of each other

Waxwings stacked on top of each other

Do you think I can swallow this in one?

Do you think I can swallow this in one?

Bohemian Waxwing, Ashington, Northumberland 20/02/2010

Bohemian Waxwing, Ashington, Northumberland 20/02/2010

Bohemian Waxwing, Ashington, Northumberland 20/02/2010

Bohemian Waxwing, Ashington, Northumberland 20/02/2010

On Sunday we separated out to do different surveys; Sarah covered the WeBS count stretch from Cresswell-East Chevington and back (taking her total distance walked over the weekend to nearly 12 miles) and Martin and Andy set out from Amble along with Tim Sexton, on calmer seas, to start surveying the Farne Deeps.  Remarkably, all three surveyors on this trip used to live within 100m of each other in the late 90’s, on Percy Park in Tynemouth.  Tim was on the famous Wilson’s Petrel pelagic back in 2002, and Andy only missed that one as he was delayed while heading back from Mull.  The journey out to the deeps was unremarkable, other than for the number of Gannets that we found, and a lone Common Seal was an interesting find.  Fulmar and Guillemot were also seen throughout most of the survey, and a small number of Puffins were around as well.  As we headed east on the first transect we could see some very dark clouds massing to the south.  By the time we’d completed the 13 mile run and turned to follow the next transect west the clouds had caught up with us.  Sea state 5 in a near white-out was one hell of an experience, but we continued to keep our attention on the sea, still surveying in the hope that the weather would soon pass by.  It did, and we completed that transect before heading north and then east along the next survey line.  Ten miles along the transect we were hit by another winter storm, this time coming from the east.  With the turning tide making our skipper’s task increasingly difficult, we made a note of the position we’d reached and headed back to the warmth and comfort of the shore.  Two days, three NEWT guides, four surveyors.

Now I’ve got a couple of days of office stuff to catch up on; press trip proposals to write, images to process for articles I’ve written and we’re already well into planning for the Birdwatching Northumberland stand at the British Bird Fair.  I reckon I’ll be able to fit in some time for photography though 🙂

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2 Comments for this entry

  • CE Webster

    Beautiful bird pictures. I really enjoyed the article, too!

  • martin

    Thank you CE 🙂 Waxwings have been a favourite bird since I was very young. While I was living in Texas in 1999/2000 I really enjoyed watching Cedar Waxwings. Almost identical behaviour to Bohemian Waxwing; feeding on fruits of ornamental trees and shrubs in housing estates, resting in tall bare trees close by.

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