Howling

Finally we got some rain, hopefully enough to keep the wells going a bit longer until normal service is resumed, weather wise. With the precipitation came a howling northerly wind (between 6 and 7 on the Beaufort Scale*), it was clearly time to look at the sea. I chose Baccaro as you can sit in your car and watch, and it is very relaxing the way the wind rocks you to sleep. But first, here is a late arrival yesterday afternoon, a yard Dickcissel. It is an unwritten law that a sparrow attending a feeder will always have a gob-full when being photographed.

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At Baccaro (10/10/16) I took up position, ears plugged with tissue to guard against the fog-horn sparking up without warning. I did 11:45 to 2:10 which was enough to confirm that, although there were birds out there, they did not include jaegers, skuas, very rare pterodroma petrels or even Black-legged Kittiwakes in their midst. The action mostly revolved around milling Northern Gannets and a steady procession north of Cory’s Shearwaters (52) plus a few Great Shearwaters (4) and some don’t knows (8).

I tried taking as many photos as possible, with the intention of checking the underwings for Scopoli’s, I know it sounds like some sort of STD but it is actually the extent of the white on the underwing that matters, at least as a starting point.

The images are dire I know, but what do you expect?

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*The Beaufort Scale, slightly modified for birders and as seen in my eBook, ‘My Patch’. Wind force number and description in bold.

#0 – 1mph – CALM – smoke from the grass fire lit to flush the skulking sparrows out rises vertically.

#1 – 1-4mph – LIGHT AIR – leaves rustle making that irritating shhhhhhhh noise, obscuring calls.

#2 – 5-7mph – LIGHT BREEZE – wind felt on face after drinking a can of energy drink in one gulp, but at least you can now focus on passage after a 12 hour visible migration watch!

#3 – 8-11mph – GENTLE BREEZE – leaves move, causing frantic scanning for that flitting warbler in every tree.

#4 – 12-18mph – MODERATE BREEZE – small branches move, thereby ruining your digiscoped shrike shot.

#5 – 19-24mph – FRESH BREEZE – small trees move making the horizon look like a choreographed dance and best ignored.

#6 – 25-31mph – STRONG BREEZE – large branches move and only birds with legs like a Russian shot putter can stay put. According to the official version of the scale, ‘umbrellas difficult to control’, no really.

#7 – 32-38mph – NEAR GALE – whole trees in motion, difficulty walking but you get like that anyway after standing six hours counting finches flying south.

#8 – 39-46mph – GALE – bits blown off trees, let’s see you creep around the canopy in this you ‘difficult’ fall warbler you.

#9 – 47-54mph – STRONG GALE – brilliant, so what if a few roofs lose their tiles, we are talking potentially seabirds inland here.

#10 – 55-63mph – STORM – wedge the car against the biggest tree and hope that it is experienced when it comes to standing up to the wind!

#11 – 64-73mph – VIOLENT STORM – everything grounded and easy to creep up on if you keep low. The trouble is you have to keep dodging debris but hey, there might be a patch tick.

#12 – 74+mph – HURRICANE – yeah baby, no point in going home, it’s probably been blown away but shearwaters, petrels, tropicbird, I might get a tropicbird, cool.

The beauty of using the Beaufort Scale is that you only write down the number in your notebook, thereby saving time needed for writing down all those counts of passage migrants as they go over.

Post gale there was not a lot to suggest it had brought us any goodies. A few warblers are creeping through but they are hard to find, most flocks are of Yellow-rumped Warblers although Sandra and I did find this nice, male Black-throated Blue near Lower Wedgeport. The other shots are a Golden-crowned Kinglet and a hiding Blackpoll Warbler from the same trip out. Further down are a couple of shots of a Baltimore Oriole from Kenney Road, CSI. Plus some nice loons.

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