Sunday, 9 January 2011

Shaking at the knees

One of the problems with keeping a wildlife diary or blog, is that inevitably days and sightings are repeated. Early each year there will be a fine day when I walk along the cliff top, and if it isn't too windy peer over the edge, despite my phobia of heights, when I hear the cackling of a Fulmar.

Fulmars aren't away from the cliffs for all that long after breeding. Certainly by early November groups are assembling off shore in what looks like loafing around gangs. Mind you this hasn't really been happening for long. The cliffs were only colonised in the late 1950's and with the current state of fishing, the activity that triggered the spread of the Fulmar, we may soon see a retreat in their numbers.

If one is resting on a ledge that is easily visible it is possible to study the complex bill of this pelagic bird. As they never come to land or fresh water they are able to drink salt water and excrete the salt through their nostrils. The tubes on the bills of petrels may well have to do with their remarkably developed sense of smell, which is used when locating food and also, in some species, when identifying a particular nest burrow in a colony in total darkness.

I never tire of watching them sweeping along the cliffs, in complete mastery of their environment. Each year I try and get "the" photo that shows off their beauty in the air, and today I was quite pleased with this picture.

Apart from the Fulmars and Gulls, it was good to get some reasonable views of Red-throated Divers out on the sea. On the other hand I managed to wall from the Blue-bird Tea Rooms to Hope Point with out seeing or hearing a single passerine. In the end I did see a few birds around the gardens and the Golf Course, but no singing Skylarks, despite the sunshine, and no Meadow Pipits.
When I got back home I popped to the shop for my milk and on the way back had the pleasant surprise of a flock of 22 Waxwings in a Hawthorn tree on the corner of the Avenue. Unfortunately they flew off when a car arrived and despite searching I failed to track then down. Anywhere that there are berries, including Hawthorns they are likely to drop in. There have been so many in the country this year they may be finding harder to find food now that so many trees and bushes have been stripped of their fruits.

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