I must admit that Thistles growing in the Freedown aren't always my favourite plant. Inevitably I seem to manage to get one of the spikes stuck down the side of my boots. But if I've ever wondered what they are for, this time of year provides the answer.
A wander around the Freedown, in the hope that a Ring Ouzel might have joined the influx of Song Thrushes and Redwings that were using the the big hedge on Sunday proved unsuccessful. In fact the number of birds feeding in the hedge had gone down and I saw no Redwings and just three Song Thrushes and two Blackbirds feeding there. The stars of the show was a small "charm" of Goldfinches. They noisily jingled from the top of a hawthorn before dropping on to the thistles and demolishing the seed-heads.
The local population is massively supplemented at this time of year with birds from Northern Europe, it is probable that our breeding birds spend the winter further south in Iberia, rather like the editor of the KOS news letter.
I had two sessions of sea watching today. In the morning I joined Julian who was having a pre-work Skua watch and this afternoon I had a quiet hour watching a largely empty sea. I was surprised when I focused on this small vessel almost on the horizon to see it was a Green Peace vessel. I think it is the MV Arctic Sunrise, but, if so, it has been repainted since the picture of it I could find on the net. I don't know what it was up to, I'd be interested in any information especially if they are engaged in a local project. This morning's sea watch produced several Skuas, at least three Bonxies and two Arctics, and one that we both thought was probably a Pomarine, but was just far enough out for there to be a bit of uncertainty. In addition there were a good number of Gannets moving in both directions. No Skuas this afternoon, just a couple of reasonably close Scoter and a Great Crested Grebe heading up channel.