Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Art of Prophecy - A beginners Guide


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Nobody likes a Smart Arse, but last night I couldn't resist acting like one. I know that Tony and Ray often go out birding on a Tuesday and so I texted the most adventurous of them (that's you Ray) and told him that if they hadn't got a plan, to head for Lesowes on the Dee where I was pretty sure that they would get views of Leaches Petrel and possibly Sabines Gull.
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Now I haven't heard from Ray but assume that like most people he treats my advice with the contempt it usually deserves. Apart from which the chances of either Ray or Tony standing on a shoreline in a seventy mile-an-hour gale are only slightly better than the Pope including Eid in the Catholic Callender or  that twit Milliband getting an overall majority at next years election - no, not being political, its just that I have genuinely found rusty coat-hangers with more charisma than that bloke. Its enough to make you vote Tory (no sit down, you haven't left the tumble dryer on. Its the sound of generations of my socialist ancestors revolving at high speed in their wooden boxes)!
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Anyway, that aside, if you go onto the bird guides website for today you will see that not only did they have quite a few Leaches Petrel on the Dee and Mersey but also several Sabine's Gull, including one that appeared to be lingering late afternoon.
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See if I had done this across a novice birder, they would have probably thought I was the Mutts-nuts but my esteemed birding friends are far too savy to be taken in by such obvious chicanery. You see any birder with a bit of knowledge of what moves when or even the nouce to look at previous years reports would tell you that strong north-westerly winds in October inevitably pick up the birds that are on migration at that particular time and push them in close to the shore where they need to re- orientate. And you can go and see them if you have the bottle to stand in the aforesaid winds and look for them. October in the north west equals Leaches Petrel and Sabine's Gull. If it had been North Easterly gales today I would have tried to persuade Ray to head for Flamborough or Filey and look for Long Tailed Skuas and Little Auks as those are the birds most frequently found along that coast in those conditions at this time of year.
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I suppose that  the point I am trying to make is that there is more to birding than knowing what birds look or sound like. If you bother to do your reading and pay attention to the prevailing weather you can significantly improve your skills and ability to connect with stuff.
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Now here's my next prediction. If its quiet and sunny tomorrow it will be worth checking your local lakes and pools for Grey Phalarope, Sabine's Gull or even common pelagic species such as Gannet, Fulmar and Shag as some will surely have been forced inland by today's weather and will need to re- orientate before heading back to the coast. I wish I wasn't at work as its what I would be doing.
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The twitchers will be watching Cornwall and South West Ireland in a few days time too as American birds that came in on the hurricane will gradually re-orientate and try to follow their instinctive desire to head south. Not prophecy - just common sense you see. Check the reports next week and see if I'm right - Chaz