Wednesday, 5 September 2012

It was a dark and Stormie night…

'Stormie' as in European Storm-petrel; the weather was actually really nice. It was also a starry, starry night, with the Milky Way putting on a good show over Flamborough Head during the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Moth and Storm-petrel night.

European Storm-petrel, Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire - Sunday 12th August 2012

I’d never seen a European Storm-petrel before, so this even gave me a good chance to see one and the opportunity to look round Flamborough Head or Spurn during the day. But, I threw that opportunity away because of the massive hangover I had, so I arrived around 18:00, not long before 20:00 start time.

I’d driven to the coast listening to Sparks’ seminal album Kimono My House, which is one way to get rid of a hangover. If you haven’t heard Sparks’ early stuff (this was their third album of 21, so far), it’s a bit like listening to Queen, Goldfrapp and Wild Beasts all at the same time. Which sounds a fair bit like their later stuff, too; but this album is probably their most “rock”. It’s pompous, loud, cheeky, ridiculous, and great – and it’s influenced loads of great musicians. The journey took no time at all.

I wandered aimlessly around the Head for a couple of hours watching the Gannets and gulls off Thornwick Bay, some Whinchats and huge flock of Goldfinch at Thornwick Pool, a lovely Linnet pair at the Lighthouse, and Curlews and Oystercatchers at South Landing.

After standing around at the car park at South Landing until 30 minutes after the event was due to start, the well-meaning but slightly shambolic YTW staff finally did their introduction. This was mostly about where their offices are, some stuff about other events, issues with printing brochures, some knowing nods to other YTW staff, etc. It then turns out the ringers didn’t want us to watch them catch and ring the Storm-petrels. Then, the moth-trappers said we were about 90 minutes early to start trapping, so we could do the stormies (if we could see them) or the moths – but not both.

Seriously, can’t these people (the YWT staff) get training in how to run an event? I run RSPB events (unpaid, not like this lot) and the first thing to remember is these events are for the attendees – and they are not interested in what the staff got up in the regional office last week. They want to know about the wildlife they are (hopefully) about to experience. Please, learn some customer service guys.

Okay, that’s enough ranting. As darkness fell we piled over to Thornwick Bay. Cue lots of comedic headless chicken activity until we found where we should go. We stood a short distance back from the beach and listened to the repeating sound of a European Storm-petrel song, which was sort of like listening to a distant, distorted Labradford album – not at all unpleasant to my ears.

Eventually a bird was caught in the mist-net. The ringers took about 20 minutes to remove it, and a further 10 to process it. Then they brought it up to the few of us still left waiting to have a good look. I’ve heard these birds are small, but I was really surprised at just how small. The ringer didn’t appear to have a bird in his hand at all until he opened his fist and there it was. A slightly weird chimera  of Fulmar, Pigeon and House Martin.

We all had another wacky-races dash in the dark back to South Landing, so the moth-trappers there could have a look. Then we walked down road/slipway to the beach, like a scene from Close Encounters, to let the little beauty go. It was placed on the concrete, and shuffled around on its weak feet that are set way back on it’s body. Then, with a flight action reminiscent of a Hammer Horror plastic bat on the end of a string, it took flight and disappeared into the night as we cheered it on its way.

European Storm-petrel, Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire - Sunday 12th August 2012

I spent a further 45 minutes learning about moths (so much to learn!) before remembering I had work in the morning and really should get going. Not a bad evening out.

No comments:

Post a Comment