Friday, 24 July 2015

Whitburn Coastal Park - Stormies

Whitburn Coast Park
After last years success with the Storm Petrel ringing on Scillies I was hoping of a repeat trip this summer to try again. And it would also have been another excuse to go back to my favourite islands. Sadly it was not to be as the accommodation didn't quite work out and it would have been really expensive so John B kindly offered for Graeme and I to pop up to Whitburn and have a go with the guys up there.

The journey was an absolute nightmare and it eventually took us 8 hours to get from Sussex to Sunderland, not ideal but anyway after a look around the Observatory and the ringing mounds we grabbed some dinner at John's house and then headed back down to the Coastal Park. After collecting the bits and pieces from Kieran we headed down to the cove where the nets were to be set up.

Once the nets were set it was a waiting game for it to get dark. It took ages! I forgot how far north we were and also the cloud cleared after setting the nets which was frustrating. Soon enough we had some success and caught our first Storm Petrel at about 11.30pm. The lads had been catching regularly over the past few weeks so it was no surprise we had caught. In fact if we caught two birds tonight it would take the tally to 100 new birds for the year which was fantastic. We went on to catch 10 new birds and 1 retrap from earlier in the month.
European Storm Petrel
The petrels began to dry up about 2.00am and the wind had also began to pick up so we decided to call it a night. We headed back to John's for a well earned beer and whisky for the northern lads! Needless to say I did not partake in the amber nectar myself.
Lucerne - Medicago sativa
Yellow-wort - Blackstonia perfoliata

 The next day was spent birding around the headland which produced very little birdwise. It was nice to get a feel for the place though and I can see exactly why they catch so many decent birds in the nets. The mounds they ring on look fantastic and the habitat is perfect for drawing in any migrants. I had a plant tick in the shape Lucerne (photo above), a plant I have probably seen but just not noticed before and now I am getting into pan-listing a tiny bit these things all add up. The wildflower meadows at Whitburn are fantastic and were alive with butterflies and other insects.
Seabird Colony

 Just off the lighthouse and slightly north there is a fantastic small seabird colony which has tons of pairs of Cormorants as well as thousands of Kittiwakes with a smattering of Fulmars for good measure. I was reminded of the island of Hornoya which I visited earlier this year by the constant din of the Kittiwakes. It looked to have been a decent breeding season for all the birds involved with lots of young waddling around their respective rock ledges. From the Lighthouse I managed to spot a small pod of about four White-beaked Dolphins which was only the second time I have seen this species in the UK. There were also a few Manx Shearwaters heading northwards past the seawatch hide which was nice to see.
Over the whole weekend we enjoyed an excellent air show which was entertaining millions of people in Sunderland itself. I am no expert but some of them were huge, some of them were doing all manner of tricks and other even I recognised...
Red Arrows
Red Arrows
My thanks go to Sharon, John, Kieran and Jason for a fantastic weekend and to Graeme for organising the whole trip. Even though we spent about 16 hours in the car in two stints it was well worth the trip and to catch a few more Stormies is always welcome!

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