Thursday, 13 December 2012

***PACIFIC*** (13th December)

Thought I'd treat myself to a good bird after finishing the statistics project so I was all set and ready for finally heading of come Wednesday evening.  However, the dreaded news of -ve Pacific Diver was enough to almost make me start to cry (slight over exaggeration).  Anyway, I decided to try my luck and a little bit downcast on yesterdays news, I found myself wandering up and down Marazion Beach at about 8am on Thursday morning.  A lot of gulls about and I attempted a half-hearted search for yesterdays Iceland but to no avail.  I moved on a bit up the beach in the direction of Penzance, where the number of divers gradually increased.  At least 4 Great Northern Divers were hunting relatively close inshore, just beyond the surf but I soon picked out 5 BLACK-THROATED DIVERS just beyond the breaking waves, surprisingly close to the beach.  I checked them thoroughly  given this was my biggest chance to locate the Pacific but they were repeatedly diving and were gradually drifting out to sea so I couldn't get a positive ID on any potential Pacific.

Black-throated Divers

In the meantime, the beach was heaving with life, dozens of Sanderling were sprinting along the shoreline with equally large numbers of Dunlin a little higher up the beach.  Turnstone were also present in good numbers as were several Common Gulls (my first in Cornwall), a raft of a few dozen Common Scoter offshore along with a nice drake Eider.  A few Knot were a nice surprise and 2 Black Redstarts accompanied me on my so far unproductive sea watch.

Sanderling

This is when the social aspect of birding finally kicked in.  I was wandering back to the car park were I met another birder in hope of locating the Pacific  he kindly put me onto one of the Little Gulls he'd just relocated before a phone call came through from a birder up at the opposite end of the beach near the railway bridge, he'd relocated the Pacific (the first kindness for the day for passing on the news)!   No time for further chat, I ran the length back towards the bridge were the birder kindly put me onto a very distant diver, apparently the Pacific (the second kindness for the day).   He was sure of it but unfortunately it was a little too distant for my licking to be able to tick it.  Once again, a little downcast I wandered back towards the car park.  This time I bumped into another birder and together we gave it our best efforts to finally nail the bird.  We headed for the closest shelter out of the wind by an old shack, set up our scopes and began scanning.  It only took a few minutes before Andy got onto the bird, and he too kindly gave me plenty of opportunity to take a look through it (the third kindness for the day) and together we finally confirmed the key features that finally got us our first ever PACIFIC DIVER!!!  We had prolonged views as it rested on the water, behaving very well without taking a single dive.  Between the swells we were able to confirm the lack of an anterior flank patch, comparatively small bill, very dark brown back, as opposed to black and slightly smudged boundary to the pale ear coverts and dark nape (unlike the clear defined boundary of Black-throated).  After having rested for some time it gradually became more buoyant and rose a little higher out of the water exposing the faint beginnings of a pale for-flank, apparently another feature that becomes evident as the bird rises higher above the water level.

 since I forgot to take a photo, here's a drawing to make up for it, all labeled the features were observable in the field, none have been added from ID books.  Drawn up with the use of notes taken in the field whilst watching the diver.

Content with our ID we watched it from a relatively close range for at least 20 minutes before finally deciding to head back to the car park.  At the Redruth River mouth, it only took a minute to pick out the ICELAND GULL before finally calling it a day and taking the bus back to campus.

Iceland Gull

What a day!  Many thanks Andy for helping jointly getting a positive ID on the Pacific.  Unfortunately, in the excitement of getting the bird I forgot to take any digi-scope shots, all the same still a great bird!  I'll do my best in future not to forget.

 St Michael's Mount

looking NW over the bay towards the diver

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