Thursday, 3 August 2017

Wednesday 2nd August: Porthgwarra

Today and tomorrow were forecast to have a proper wind worthy of a sea-watching session. Now, I don't often actually have a chance to sea-watch in a decent wind so I was keen to have a go if possible. The main issue with this was that I was with the family and as the wind was almost due south it would have to be a Porthgwarra day which was a bit of a fag to get to and which would mean spending at least the whole morning away. I cautiously put the idea to the family and they didn't seem to mind too much so I decided to cash in my brownie points and made plans to get up ridiculously early in the morning.

I duly awoke at around 4:30 and was up and out the door by 5:30, heading south through the driving rain and howling wind as it slowly grew light all around me. "I must be completely mad to be doing this", I thought. I mean why would I want to go and sit on an exposed headland in the pouring rain in the teeth of a gale? Anyway, it would at least be an "experience" if nothing else and I girded my loins and pressed on southwards. I arrived just after 6 a.m. to find about a dozen cars parked up in the car park. As I got ready in umpteen layers of waterproofs I chatted with the guy next to me who had driven down overnight from Wiltshire. "We must be mad", I joked as we hurried along the coastal path towards Hellas Point where we found the birders all huddled behind the large protective rocks there. I spotted DP in the throng and installed myself next to him. A quick enquiry revealed that so far I'd only missed one large Shearwater so I got installed and tried to get my eye in. The rain fortunately had more or less stopped by this time but the visibility was rather poor and kept coming and going so that sometimes it was too poor to be worth watching. I soon found that my viewing spot was less than ideal: from where I was sat I only had a small angle of visability before the birds disappeared behind a rock and despite numerous things being called I failed to get on a single one in the brief time that they were available to me. I did manage to find a Storm Petrel of my own which I called out just before it too disappeared from view.

Porthgwarra Sea Aster

After a while, someone else vacated a standing position to return to their chair so I went to take their place. I found myself standing next to a relatively young but eagle-eyed birder whom I recognised to be one of the Punk Birders. He was pretty amazing at picking stuff out and I gradually realised that it was down to eyesight. These days my eyes aren't so great: my left eye is stronger than my right so it's my scope eye yet it's my left which has quite a lot of floaters in so it's not so easy to see. When trying to pick out a tiny distant Petrel in the murk I just couldn't see what he was finding. Still it was useful to be standing next to someone who was often "on the bird" as I could at least get a bearing from his scope. It was also useful to be able to ask what someone else had called. My hearing also isn't what it used to be and I often struggle in windy conditions to catch what's being called out but fortunately I could ask my companion in such circumstances and actually the hearing situation wasn't too bad in the prevailing conditions. 

Sea-watchers in the fog

Gradually as I tuned in I started to manage to connect with stuff so after a while I'd had what had actually been pretty good views of a Great Shear, several Cory's, a couple of Sooties, one close very dark Balearic Shear, the tail end of a Pom as it passed the Runnel Stone and a few Stormies. During the murky periods I chatted with my neighbour or wandered over to chat with DP. Time marched on and eventually I got the "when are you coming home" text from my VLW and it was time to head off. As it was pretty murky at the time and had gone rather quiet I didn't have too many qualms about leaving and it was with a fair feeling of satisfaction that I headed back northwards along what were by now pretty foggy roads towards Pendeen. This feeling of contentment lasted about an hour when news came over on RBA of a Fea's Petrel having gone through at PG. I must admit that was a bit of a kick in the n*ts though I was always going to have been able to do only the morning session so it was just a bit of bad luck with the timing. To rub salt in the wound, no less than four Wilson's were then reported on RBA over a period of no more than half an hour and I later learnt that these were relatively close and ID'able. I'd tried to be philosophical about it all as after all it had actually been a pretty enjoyable session but quite frankly it really hurt to have left just before such an amazingly productive period.

Anyway, back at base there was a certain amount of debate as to what we were going to do in the afteroon though in the poor weather conditions our options were limited and we weren't able to agree on anything. In the end I went off for a nap to make up for the lack of sleep whilst the others amused themselve in the cottage. Later on we went for a mercy dash up to Pendeen stores for chocolate and after dinner we went down to the lighthouse to stare at the sea for a bit and we even managed to spot a couple of Porpoises. Then it was back to the cottage and off to bed.

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