ANOTHER awesome day at Girdle Ness on Thursday. Here’s how it went…
Into town on the bus, added Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus to my Patchwork Challenge patch on the way past Lidl. Once in town I headed straight for the coast, passing the docks and stopping only to get my scope out my bag. The first year tick came in the form of some lovely Redshanks Tringa totanus by the River Dee, on which sat a Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis, my second year tick of the day already. Not hard to do I suppose, given I hadn’t been coastal at all before this trip.
In fact the year ticks kept coming at this point. Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus bickering, a Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus quite far before I usually see them, and a mammal year tick stuck its head up above the water as it swam past, a Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus. The day was going pretty well thus far!
More tideline ticks with Turnstones Arenaria interpres, Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, Curlew Numenius arquata and Eider Somateria mollissima all being pretty easy to spot chilling or feeding as the tide went out.
The Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo were joined by a couple of Red-throated Divers Gavia stellata and Red-breasted Mergansers Mergus serrator which had to avoid being hit by a ship coming into the docks.
Purple Sandpipers Calidris maritima remained out on the rocks where I could see them, but actually didn’t think I had photographed successfully when first reviewing my pics. Turns out they just have very good camouflage!
Dunlin Calidris alpina and Guillemot Uria aalge were added so after and I continued my way around to the headland where I planned on doing some seawatching for white-wingers and anything else that decided to pop by.
Getting along the paths was actually quite difficult because if there wasn’t a massive slab of ice in your way…
… then there’d be a landslide that you had to traverse to get to the other side.
Anyway, once that was all out the way I was walking along beside the coastal road when I noticed something moving about on the rocks below and brought my bins up to my face only to be greeted by this smiley character.
A Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina (I refuse to call them common) was my second mammal year tick of the trip, soon to be followed by another! I was taking pictures of this happy chap when another head pops up out of the water, this one much smaller than the seal’s blubbery noggin.
Whilst not terribly clear in that pic, it was my third ever Otter Lutra lutra. I watched this animal for probably around 45 minutes as it fished around the rocks, successfully caught what I suspect was a Cod Gadus morhua (check one of the pics posted below), and then disappear into the rocks, only reappearing once it had finished its meal. Afterwards it headed in towards the docks. And I followed because my hands were frozen solid and it was getting a tad dark.
Yet more excitement was to come though because I spotted a gull out on the walkway bit to the lighthouse at the Dee mouth. It stood out amongst the Herring Gulls Larus argentatus due to the darkness of its plummage and the slightly smaller body size.
I reeled off a few shots before my camera decided to run out of battery, at which point I resorted to my iPhone to get some record shots of what I thought was probably just a dark Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides, but later found out might’ve been something far more interesting after a discussion on Twitter with a bunch of people.
Turns out it probably wasn’t the Thayer’s Gull Larus thayeri that has been at the River Don mouth recently, but my gull hasn’t been spotted again since…
This one goes down in a new section on my life list…
After that I was treated to yet more mammalian brilliance as both Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus and Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena put on a show just inside the Dee mouth, one of the porpoises breaching almost completely! Awesome to see, and it makes me really want to get up to Orkney or over to the Hebrides in hopes of more cetacean stupendousness!
One thing I’ve forgotten to mention is the lichens I decided to grab pics of whilst at the coast, due to the fact they were coastal species that I wouldn’t see elsewhere. So I’ll leave you with the pics I got of those.
Oh and also, I picked up what turned out to be a Puffin Fratercula arctica wing from the beach which I’m going to attempt to make into some sort of display. The main problem being I haven’t found anywhere nearby that sells large bags of salt. It’s starting to smell a bit so I’ll be out tomorrow wandering off to Tesco I suspect… Cheers again @lizardschwartz for guidance on what to do!