Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Shore-watching From Telscombe Cliffs

Inspired by a certain Urban Birder's new Book, I headed down to the seafront for a good look at what was down there - rather than a cursory glance or distant views that I usually get when out for a run along the undercliff on Telscombe seafront.

The tide was on it's way out, so most of the birds were along the shoreline but I was delighted to see curlew feeding in amongst the gulls.  The first one having a bath in one of the rockpools and then two chasing each other and a few minutes later a fourth flew past.  I kept seeing them all along the shore as they either poked about in the weed or flew past, so not sure if it was the same four or if there were more of them.

Plenty of oystercatcher around in quite large numbers 10-12 at a time and I'm fairly certain those weren't the same group I saw each time, so there were at least 30 of them.  Also at least 3 little egret and a few cormorant - mostly offshore and further along with wings outstretched in with a flock of gulls.

Now I'm just about OK with the more common species of gull but I could probably have spotted most of the species in the book when you start looking at the different ages, plumage, shapes and sizes.  I did pick out - plenty of herring gull, lesser black backed gull and black headed gulls.  My scope would have been useful for making sure there weren't any rarities or passing migrants in their midst and to improve my identification skills.

I did spot three completely black 'ducks' out on the water about 100m offshore.  They just seemed to bob about not doing much and I couldn't make out what they were (needed that scope!)  When I saw them again from up on the clifftop, they were still in much the same place.  I saw one dive and thought I saw a paler underbelly when one of them had a stretch and a flap.  I'm thinking common scoter - they do migrate around the coast in the winter and it's about the only bird I can think it could be (answers on a postcard).

I was just wondering if the peregrine was about when a bird of prey appeared over the cliff, quite far off to the west and being mobbed by a crow.  It circled up over the sea until I lost sight of it without being able to make a positive id.

In the other direction I caught sight of a kestrel skimming along the clifftop before settling to preen on a clump of vegetation.  In the same area a small flock of birds were making brief appearances on the edge of the clifftop - too far away to identify them from down on the undercliff.  When I got back up to the top they turned out to be a few linnet in with flocks of starlings and a few house sparrows, feeding on the ground and washing in puddles, flying up to the rooftops every time a dog walker passed by.  I was trying not to be too obvious while looking at people's roofs and gardens through my binoculars.

The seafront is just one of my local patches and next time I'll take my scope - who knows what I might be missing.